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Friday, October 30, 2015

Dollies for Halloween

As I pointed out in my Liebster Award post, I'm a Christian who loves Halloween.  We made a big deal out of the holiday when I was small, carving pumpkins and decorating our house with appropriately spooky (and occasionally obnoxious) decorations.  We'd get a big bowl and fill it with candy a couple of nights before the main event, and my sister and I were allowed to take a piece every now and then.  The best part, of course, was Halloween itself.  We were rarely allowed to Trick-or-Treat, as Halloween often fell on a weekday and we'd all be worn out from school.  But we got to go to the parade and wave to our friends, and then we'd see more of our friends while our parents passed out candy.  Bottom line, I love Halloween.  If God has a problem with that then I know He will set me straight, but so far He's been okay with it.

I know it's a day early, but the weather promises to be downright lousy tomorrow, so I'm posting this today to give you a taste of how the weather is right now (lots of sun and a cool breeze).  Here's the star of my recent My Twinn review, Xenia.
Xenia is wearing an outfit that Mama got me for my birthday.  It consists of an orange handmade dress, a feather boa, and an unpictured wiglet that's constantly falling off.  As long as I hold Xenia still the wiglet stays on fine, but when I pick her up it falls off.  Bobby pins didn't work, so she just goes without it most of the time.

Next is Denise.
Denise has this cute pirate outfit, another gift from my mother.  The quality of this outfit is good enough that I thought American Girl had made it, but there are no tags anywhere so I guessed wrong.

Sadie is a cowgirl.
This costume is one I got from Hobby Lobby.  The boots are Madame Alexander boots that one can find at Wal-Mart.  Neither Hobby Lobby nor Wal-Mart had an appropriate hat; they did have cowboy hats, but the hats were pink or purple.  I'd need red or brown for the hat to match this, so Sadie is doing without for this year.

Gracie is a genie.
I originally wanted Xenia to wear this, but the pants were too tight for her so Gracie got it.  Since she's blonde she makes a convincing I Dream of Jeannie.

Smug little Alissa is a flower fairy.
Alissa wore this last year too, come to think about it.  Since dolls don't grow as they age, they can get away with wearing last year's costume this year.  This is one of my favorite costumes, by the way; not only is it green and blue (my two favorite colors), but it bears a passing resemblance to American Girl's modern dance outfit.  I never got that outfit and plan to rectify that.

Natalie is a witch.
This is an LTD Commodities costume, and I can't write home about the quality, but it sure is cute!  I crammed this onto Samantha last year, and let me tell you, I almost didn't get her out of it!  I even pulled out some of Samantha's hair (accidentally) while trying to pull the dress off.  This year I wised up and put it on a smaller body.  Natalie doesn't have the the witchy-looking hair that Samantha does, but she makes up for it in charm.

Speaking of Samantha, here she is.
I don't usually get my historicals in on the action, but as I mentioned above Samantha has witchy-looking hair so I wanted a costume for her.  This is the Spider Witch costume that American Girl had available from 2004 to 2006.  This was another birthday present from my mother, and it's so complete that it even still has its original box!  I'm not an American Girl purist by any means, but it's so nice to have a few brand-name things!  Needless to say, Samantha looks appropriately witchy in it, and no hair-pulling was required this time.

As you see, most of the costumes I've got are eighteen-inch scale.  However, three of my Barbie dolls got into the act.  Sophie, my California Dream-Wonder Woman chimera, is a witch.
This costume and the other two that I have came from Etsy, and were more birthday gifts from my mother.  The witch outfit is hauntingly similar to Natalie's, but it has one thing that Natalie's getup does not.  Every proper witch should have a broom!

Sun Jewel Shani is wearing a Jamaican-themed outfit.
I'm not sure if this is appropriate for Halloween, but I got it at the same time I got the others so Shani got it.  No way would I put this on a white doll, not when the majority of Jamaicans are dark and lovely.  Plus, the full skirt helps hide Shani's chewed feet.

Last is Connie, formerly a Really Rosy Kayla.  She is a pirate.
That's about as far a cry from Denise's costume as you can get!  I love the different spin on this, though; this looks more like something a real female pirate would've worn.  That corset is ridiculously tight, by the way.  I wasn't a big fan of putting it on, but it adds an authentic touch.  Who's ready for Gasparilla Day???  LOL, what a pity I don't live closer to the Tampa area!

Happy Halloween,

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hujoo Berry review

Remember when I said I'd review my Hujoo when she got her eyes?  Well, they've been here since April!  That means that Ju-hwang (pronounced Joo-Hung, Korean for "orange") has been ready for a review since then!  I reckon I'd better get this show on the road.
I've played a lot with this doll in the time that I've owned her, so her appearance is going to vary quite a bit between pictures.  Anyway, Ju-hwang is a Hujoo Berry.  I purchased her shortly before Christmas and received her about six weeks later.  I don't remember why I went on the Hujoo site since I'm usually more drawn to Luts dolls, nor do I know why I was drawn to this tangerine-colored minx with an oversized head and oversized eyes.  All I can say is that I was drawn in, and since the price was reasonable I hit the "buy" button and settled in for the wait.  I ordered right around the time that South Korea has holidays, so it took a couple of months for my box to come.  When it did get here I received not only my doll, but a note apologizing for the delay and some free parts (rabbit ears and a cat tail).

Before the review, a little discussion.  The Berry doll is one of several 24-centimeter models that Hujoo produces; Berry's same-size companions include males Jake and Wings, and females Yomi, and...well, the other girl's name is Hujoo, just like the company!  These characters also sometimes come in different colors; the website once carried blue, chocolate, and lilac, in addition to the orange, white, and apricot that are currently available.  These 24-centimeter models are strung with elastic, and are made of ABS plastic.  This construction renders Ju-hwang off-topic for the Den of Angels forum, because she's not resin.
"What am I, chopped liver?"

Oh well, I'll share Ju-hwang here instead!  As I mentioned before she's 24 centimeters tall, which would translate into 9.45 inches.  This makes Ju-hwang taller than Pepper Parson (Bridge Direct), and a smidge taller than Kathleen, my Girls of Many Lands doll.  Kathleen doesn't look to thrilled about being photographed with these two, by the way.
Pepper, on the other hand, appears to be pleased that she's found a fellow freak.  Let's face it:  neither Pepper nor Ju-hwang are what one would call traditional dollies.
"Let's be friends, okay?"

For you older readers, here's how Ju-hwang compares to some of my vintage dolls.
Penny Brite (Deluxe Reading, far left) and Pepper (Ideal, second right) are both shorter than Ju-hwang, and Wendy, my beloved Little Miss Revlon (Ideal, far right) is taller.  Wait a minute...I'm just now realizing that I've got two dolls named Pepper!
Ideal Pepper doesn't look thrilled to be in the clutches of another oddball, but Pepper Parsons doesn't seem to notice!  LOL, this is a coincidence I never dreamed of; "Pepper" is not a name that doll companies tend to throw around.

Alrighty, back to Ju-hwang.  Starting from the top, her head is bald and comes in two pieces.  The headcap is dome-shaped and marked with the company's name.
Hujoo Berry takes a 7-8 inch wig, similar to those worn by MSD-sized dolls (and also MiM dolls, apparently).  I'll discuss wigs a bit more in a bit.  The headcap is held on by a series of pegs, and it's a bit tricky to take off and put on again.  Note the pegs inside the headcap, two just below the top and one at the bottom.
You have to line up those pegs with three corresponding pegs on the faceplate, which you'll see below.  It's fiddly but I've gotten the hang of it.  The rest of Ju-hwang's dolly brains are a little different from those of other ball-jointed dolls that I've seen.  Not much, but enough that I feel like explaining it all.
That looks like a lot in there, but it's really very simple.  In addition to holding the head closed, the large pegs at the top and center accommodate a pair of white rubber eye holders...
...as well as the elastic.  Each bit of elastic runs down through the body cavity and holds on one entire leg.  Notice that when inside the head the eye holders lie pressed up against two wads of putty that I'm using.  It just so happens that these holders can only hold full round eyes (the kind with the stem).  This is problematic because none of my BJD eyes are full round eyes.  I have hollow-backed half-round eyes from Ersa Flora and from an Etsy proprietor, and I have two sets of eyes that are flat like the yolks of sunny side-up eggs.  See?
Candy Kittens Emporium, 20mm Glittering Eden
18mm Oscar Doll

Since none of my eyes have backs, the rubber holders end up lying idle.  Luckily, Ju-hwang has shallow eye sockets inside her head.
They alone won't hold the eyes in, so I treat her like any other ball-jointed doll and use putty.  The two types of eyes I've got take two different types of putty, due to the composition of the eyes.  Ju-hwang requires large eyes, by the way.  20-millimeter eyes are recommended for the Berry model, though 18 millimeters will also work.  This has proven to be a bit problematic, because not all BJD companies make eyes that large.  I've found two suppliers that are very nice; Ersa Flora is one, and the other is an Etsy shop called Candy Kittens Emporium.  Both shops will take custom orders, both offer their wares for reasonable prices, and both are very pleasant to deal with, so if you're having trouble getting nice eyes for your ball-jointed doll, I recommend either store.

Now...on to the flipside of the head, more commonly known as the face.  Ju-hwang has her factory faceup mostly intact.  She has brown eyebrows that are painted in a light, feathered manner, and black eyeliner.  Her upper eyelashes are inset and her lower eyelashes are painted.  
The eyebrows and lower lashes are intricately painted; I detect no gaffes anywhere.  If I had any complaints it would be that the upper lashes do not match either the eyebrows or the lower lashes.  I'm unsure of the reason behind this; since Ju-hwang is a girl Hujoo may have been trying to emphasize this aspect of her femininity.  Either way the mismatched lashes are not a huge gripe.  I will have to re-glue the left lash, however.  It's come loose at the corner.

Ju-hwang's lips are probably either pink or nude, but they're painted in a pale translucent paint so I can't make out the actual color.  The detailing is great, though it's difficult to photograph; she has little lines on her lips, plus painted dimples.
Both of Ju-hwang's cheeks are supposed to be blushed, but notice that her right cheek is lighter than the left.  I'm not sure why that is.  I can't tell whether that occurred at the factory, or if it was some sort of mishap on my part.  No worries though, since ABS Hujoos can be repainted just like our resin friends.  I may do that in the future, if I can pluck up the courage to do it.  Faceups are often a daunting task for beginners.  LOL

Ju-hwang didn't come with any clothes, so there's nothing to review in that department.  Thus I'll move on to the body.  This is where things get fun; Ju-hwang is small, but her body is highly articulated.  The number of joints is comparable to those of a LIV doll, but the construction is completely different.  As you saw when I pulled apart her head, Ju-hwang is strung, and this renders her harder to pose than Daniella and her LIV friends.  Well...okay, maybe not harder.  I just had to get used to handling strung joints before I could get Ju-hwang to do what I wanted her to do.  It's been a learning experience!  But before I go into posability, let's look a little closer at the construction of Ju-hwang's joints.  Check out her ankles!
She's got little dome-shaped pieces in her ankle joint, sandwiched between the foot and the lower leg.  This enables Ju-hwang to rotate her ankles and flex them back and forth.
I like these joints, but they make it a little tricky to get Ju-hwang in a proper standing position.  I have to tinker around with her feet before I can get her to stand.  Once I've found the proper position she's good to go!

The hip joints also threw me for a curve, for they too have separate pieces to aid in posing.  I call these her "hip capsules."  The tops of Ju-hwang's thighs have four little prongs that fit into slots on the undersides of these capsules.
In order to get the legs in this position you have to pull on a leg so the elastic is showing at the hip joint, like I've done above.  Then you rotate the leg into the position you want it and let it pop back into the joint!  Make sure that the prongs line up with the grooves inside Ju-hwang's hip capsule or it won't stay.  It's not super-duper hard.  However, if you want this doll to sit, there's something else you should know.  Since Hujoos are strung they can't rely on Barbie-type hip joints for sitting.  At the top and front of each hip capsule, there's a groove like this:
On the back there is a much smaller groove like this:
To make Ju-hwang sit, first rotate the hips into the position that you want them using the instructions I provided above.  If you want her to sit cross-legged, rotate them so the knees are facing outwards.  Next, line up the forward grooves with the elastic and bend the leg upwards at the hip.  Reverse those directions if you want the leg down again.  If the leg doesn't lock into position, it's probably not aligned properly.  I always have to play around with these joints before they'll stay where I put them, so if you get one of these dolls you'll likely have to do the same.  Oh, and if you want a doll like this to sit cross-legged you'll obviously have to bend the knees.  Ju-hwang's knees are double-jointed and have the "peanut" piece that ball-jointed doll collectors know so well.
These knees have superb mobility.  Ju-hwang can kneel...
...and she can sit cross-legged, something few of my dolls can do.
Ju-hwang isn't very steady in this pose, so I usually either prop her up or place her on a flat surface and hope she stays.  Any sitting position is a bit of a balancing act, in fact.  Remember this picture?
It took me forty-five minutes to get that one picture, because Ju-hwang kept tipping over.  This next picture was no better:
Even before she got her wig and eyes I was determined to have fun with this doll!  As you can see, she's sitting on the dashboard of the family car, and she's having to use one hand to brace herself.  Her position was fairly solid once I'd gotten her in it, though; she didn't slide off the dash until Mama hit the brakes to dodge a pothole.

So Ju-hwang's legs are a bit tricky to master, but posability is great for the most part.  The rest of her joints are more simplistic in nature.  The shoulders are double-jointed, possessing a capsule similar to those found in the hips.  They have average-good motion.
The elbows are single-jointed and have very good motion.  They even rotate a little.
The wrists are a letdown.  They're double-jointed like most of Ju-hwang's other joints...
...but they just don't have the motion that a joint like this should.  They rotate just fine, but this is as far as they bend.
Both the arms are strung on a single piece of elastic, separate from the leg elastic.  I'm willing to bet that if I loosened the knot a bit these wrists would free up.  But such an endeavor would involve disassembling Ju-hwang altogether, and I'm in no mood to do that again.  I went through that little ring-around-the-Rosie when I put her eyes in the first time; the leg elastic slipped off my finger and Ju-hwang's whole body came undone.  It wasn't insanely hard to get her put back together, and if I had the right tools the job would probably be a cinch.  Unfortunately I have no forceps, and thus I had to rely on a crochet hook that kept slipping out of my hands.  Not fun.

Oh yes, I forgot that Ju-hwang has two other joints.  Her torso has a joint where the bottom of her rib cage would be if she had ribs.  This joint flexes forward and back.
She can also accommodate some side-to-side torsion, but the joint pops out of alignment and looks a little odd.  
The neck is also jointed, but it can't hold a pose.  I'll need to find a way to suede it without using hot glue.  Hot glue is not advised for ABS ball-jointed dolls, because it apparently gets hot enough to melt the plastic.

Before I move on I present...what else but a digression!  Y'all may or may not have heard of the Makies, British dolls that were once fully customizable.  Nowadays they come with 3D printed heads on plastic bodies, but in the beginning they were 100% 3D printed, bodies and all.  Miss Emily has two of the older versions (Glythia and Effie), and she says they pose like a dream.  I'd love to find one of these dolls with the older body and compare it to Ju-hwang's.  I have one customized on the site, though I haven't bought her yet.  Here's what I want her to look like.
As I said above Ju-hwang didn't come with any eyes, wig, or clothes, nor did I order said things since I was confident I could supply these things myself.  I'd seen online that Barbie clothes could fit Hujoo dolls, and that turned out to be true...with a few limitations.  Tops and shorts work nicely, as you saw when I first introduced Ju-hwang:
Skirts that are short or mid-length on Barbie will work, as will some dresses, like the two pictured below.  Penny Brite is wearing a dress that I knitted, and Ju-hwang is wearing a Fallen Angel dress from Mattel's short-lived Stardoll line.
Note that I said SOME dresses.  Anything that's too tight or too long in the arms won't work, and super-long dress and skirt hems won't work either.  And forget Barbie-sized jeans and slacks!  Shorts will work, but jeans and slacks are too skinny and too long for Ju-hwang's stubby little frame.  None of Barbie's shoes will fit either, since Ju-hwang has...well, for a doll she has very realistic feet.  I neglected to show these in the body review, so here's what her feet look like.
That's a lot of detail for plastic feet!  They're not ridiculously big, but they're large enough that most of the shoes I've got won't fit.  Old-style Ken shoes fit, but getting them off again was so hard that I abandoned that idea after the first try.  I do have some cute patent leather ankle boots, but Ju-hwang doesn't seem to mind going barefoot.

According to what I've read online, Neo Blythe clothes fit the Berry body quite nicely.  I don't have any Blythe clothes yet, but I do have some things that I've knitted from Blythe patterns.  Most of what I've made fits Ju-hwang like a charm, though I did accidentally make one dress too short.  No worries, since I wanted a pair of leggings for her anyway!  If all other clothing options fail, Etsy has a few things that will fit a Hujoo Berry.  My favorite store is Sammy's Treat Shop.  They are a lot like Candy Kittens Emporium, only they offer a wide selection of clothes rather than eyes.  You can request something specific or you can get a grab bag of stuff in the size that you want (sizes range from Pukipuki all the way up to 72-cm boys).  The items can be knitted, crocheted, or sewn.  I ordered two grab bags and I couldn't be happier with the contents.  The prices are great and the proprietor is a pleasure to talk to.  She even included two little cookies as freebies! 
Well!!!  That's quite a bit to mull over, innut?  And I still haven't done the good and bad stuff yet.

*Doll is elastic-strung.  This wouldn't be a bad thing, except that you have to know a thing or two about restringing a doll if you have one with strung joints.
*Some of the joints have poor mobility.  The wrists and neck are a letdown.
*Faceup is a tad uneven.  Not much, but enough that I'm including it here.
*Requires large eyes.  Not all eyes come in 20mm or 18mm gauge, which is a bit of a downer.
*Off-topic on Den of Angels.

*Sturdy.  Instead of resin, which can break, these dolls are made of ABS plastic.  Keep acetone away and the plastic will hold strong.
*Easy to maintain.  No worries about breakage, chipping, yellowing, staining, or problems that plague resin ball-jointed dolls.
*Easy to afford.
*Customer service was good.  I had to wait awhile for this doll, but the lady running things was nice about it.
*Excellent starter BJD, for reasons I mentioned above.
*Unique!  I couldn't pass up that orange plastic!
*Posability is good.  It's not perfect, but it's good.
*Highly customizable.

In short, I've heard some nasty things about how plastic ball-jointed dolls are looked down upon by hardcore dolly lovers.  Apparently it's thought that if it's not resin, why bother?  I've got news for those folks:  it is just as easy to love and be satisfied with a plastic doll as it is a resin one.  Ju-hwang is a rewarding doll to own.  In the short time I've had her I've learned how to restring a doll, learned how to navigate Asian doll websites, learned about dolly sizes, and I've sharpened my people skills by dealing with the folks who run the Etsy stores.  No, that knowledge isn't going to find a cure for cancer, but it made me feel a little less inept when it comes to the ball-jointed doll hobby, so that's satisfying enough for me.  If you're looking for a low maintenance ball-jointed doll and don't yet want to take the dive on a resin one, I highly recommend the Hujoo Berry model.  If Berry didn't light your fire, keep in mind that there are other characters available.  Hujoo dolls can be found at their own website, and special models can also be purchased from Junky Spot.