Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The human cost of recast dolls

As some of you know I love ball jointed dolls. Until not so long ago they were known as Asian Ball Jointed Dolls because they were mainly sculpted and cast by Japanese and Korean artists and later by some Chinese companies. Only 8 years ago it was very difficult to get these dolls outside of Asia, then the Asian artists began to sell to the West through their own websites and the hobby opened up. Now the whole scene has blossomed and artists the world over are creating stunning dolls and producing them in their tiny studios and selling direct to the public through their own websites too. It is a wonderful way for an artist to create and express themselves and sell direct to those who love their work and cut out the middle man.

These beautiful and expensive dolls cost a lot of money to produce as the artist has to perfect and experiment with each new sculpt (sometimes for several years) before they can even get to the casting stage. As someone who has dabbled with trying to learn to make one of my own, let me tell you it is a time consuming and exacting process. One I have yet to master! BJD are sold at a high cost perhaps but at a very low profit margin. That cost makes wanting to own a particular doll something you think carefully about and then scrimp and save for. They should not be a whim purchase unless you are seriously well off. I am not well off and have always thought long and hard before buying any doll.

The hobby has changed almost beyond recognition in the last 2 years or so and not for the better. Take a look on Ebay right now, type in BJD in the Dolls and Bears section and you will find a flood of people openly selling 'recast' dolls. In case you don't know, recasting is theft, plain and simple. Someone takes one of these beautiful legitimate high cost dolls and takes a cast from it and then reproduces it. As they have had to put in very little time, effort or expense to get that copy, they sell it  on undercutting the original artists price. Sometimes the cost of a recast can be a mere fraction of the original, sometimes I am guessing the thief expects to get handsomely rewarded for their minimal effort and charges almost as much as the legitimate artist does. I am just guessing there because some of the recast secondary sellers on Ebay are asking not much less than the price of the legitimate doll.

When this issue first came to light it seemed as though it would just be a small blip, and that recasters would target only the most popular sculpts. A few years on, the sheer number of people willing to knowingly buy recasts has grown to a frightening proportion. They have face-book clubs and are very vocal and aggressive at asserting their RIGHT to own recasts and to not give a damn about the artists who create them. Their tastes are changing and they are requesting specific sculpts be recast. They seem to exist in this topsy-turvey world where those of us who support the original artist are greedy and aggressive for not accepting them into our forums, for speaking out against "their hobby" which they incredulously claim is harming no-one. We are all elitist rich snobs because we are trying to keep these poor 'art lovers' from being able to have a beautiful doll that they simply cannot afford to buy legitimately, where is the harm?

For anyone out there still sat on the fence, for anyone who thinks there are no victims in this crime or that all BJDs are created by vast Asian companies who can write off the dip in their profits (completely false, a lot of Asian BJD companies are just 1 or 2 people)... read this and put a human face to the story. If you support recasts then read that statement and think long and hard about what you are doing Here is just one of the many people you are hurting; she happens to be French, but could just as easily be Korean or Japanese, that still wouldn't make it OK to crush her dreams. The vast majority of artists are ordinary people trying to scratch a living from their talents.

This is a link to Lillycat's (Rachelle) shop where you can see her stunning work. 

Please support artists like Rachelle and say no to recast dolls. The pic above is Ellana, I think the recast doll was Constantine.


C said...

This is an area I know nothing about but it was really interesting and educational to read this. I'm definitely with you. I'm trying to imagine an equivalent in my own field - like for instance if it was ok to trace my illustrated books and sell them as cheaper versions (forgetting copyright for the moment), it would be awful, so devaluing...It's just not right. Hmm.

Yve said...

C it is yet one more way that if you have artistic or creative talent and try to make money from it then some talentless SOB comes along (just picture Simon Cowell, he is a good example in the pop dross world... what does he DO?) and thinks of ways they can leech off you. You find that with all types of creative ways of making a living... think about it, do you, as an illustrator, make the most money from the books you create into a thing of beauty? I doubt that even the writer earns the most, it will be some publisher and the agents, etc, etc...all taking their cut and dictating what you do because as the artist they just see you as a necessary evil.

The same has happened to designers, back in the 80's it was a well paid profession but has degenerated into a pretty average paid job. I have no idea why young people chose to go into graphics because a lot of design groups just think of them as Mac operators who don't even get to choose the fonts or colours they work with. It is insane! All the power has been drained away and all the salary with it, companies think if they have to pay out a fortune on all the tech you need to produce design/art work these days then they are only willing to pay peanuts for a monkey to operate it.

Thank god that I am old and bolshie enough to get to work for clients who value creative talent and are willing to pay well. I would long ago have abandoned design otherwise for something better paid.

Illustration has been through some serious work droughts over the length of my career and all those Image banks have come along that expect illustrators to provide them with a constant flow of fresh images for which you get a few cents royalties... and younger artist accept that as the norm sadly. Ok, so a lot of what you find there is quite poor quality but there are some seriously talented artists out there who are dependent on the BULK of images they sell on to have a decent month and pay the flipping rent.

Urgghhh, my Mac broke last week, had to buy a new one, feeling grumpy! ;o)

Sunshine B said...

Hi, i couldn't say it better. I am just a beginer making soft dolls. For the last 6 months i have been searching the internet for bjd lessons because i did fall in love with them. It is absolutely colossal work. One day i will make my own. I have verry strong opinion about recast is pure stealing for me and unfortunately very fast growing business. It needs to stop.