I have a friend in Utah who collects dolls. In July she sent me a text that simply stated, “I think you should paint reborn dolls.” Little did I know the chain reaction that one sentence would set off. Let me once again indulge in a little bit of back-story…
I have been an artist for most of my life, not always making a lot of money, but selling custom artwork here and their. I didn’t really find it enjoyable, mostly because of the painstaking time it took to create the amount of realism I liked to see in my work. Curious? Here’s my other website https://claredfineart.ca/
My friend had recently been scammed more than once while trying to get a Reborn Doll, and decided that she’d ask “the most realistic artist she knew” to paint her one. I had never heard of Reborn Dolls, but told her I’d look into it. Two weeks and hundreds of hours spent reading about these dolls and watching YouTube tutorials, I was hooked… and so was Blanket! We wanted to make our own, both to keep, and maybe even to sell. Along with the excitement of creating these dolls, we also realized it opened another market for our current business. Reborn Doll owners buy real baby clothes and supplies for these dolls. Oh, we were in!
So, what is a Reborn Doll?
Sadly the word “reborn” is being used more and more frequently for baby dolls that are painted to look more realistic than traditional dolls, but are still manufactured. True Reborn Dolls are hand painted one-of-a-kind dolls that sell anywhere from hundreds of dollars well into the thousands. These dolls are painted with exquisite detail, and are weighted to feel like real babies. They are amazing to look at, and to hold. The most typical Reborns are a soft vinyl, but lately silicone dolls have also made its way into the market (feeling more like a baby, but much more expensive). The kits that reborn artists paint are made from hand sculpted models that are made into moulds for vinyl or silicone to be poured. Just like any work of art, some sculpts are limited edition runs, making them even more valuable.
As with anything worth collecting, there are also fakes. Scams. Sadly the reborn market has been hit hard. Manufacturers are illegally using popular sculpted kits to mass produce cheap alternatives and selling them using the realistic photos of dolls other artists have painted. Some websites have gorgeous photos, but the doll you get is nothing like the photo (this happened to my friend twice). Other websites don’t even send you a doll at all. It’s sad that this is hurting all of the artists who are truly talented, but don’t have the power to stop it.
Our First Reborn!
After all our research, we discovered that the only brick-and-mortar reborn supply shop in North America was only an hours drive away (plenty of online options, but no other in-store options). It was like it was meant to be! And so it was, that we took a drive down to St. Mary’s, Ontario to visit https://macphersoncrafts.com/ to spend a few hundred dollars on supplies. They were fantastic, helped us find what we needed and answered our many questions. Well worth the drive.
Everything else got put on hold. While I’ve painted plenty, the style of painting you use on a reborn doll is nothing I’ve ever done before. There was lots of trial and error. I quickly learned how to “strip a kit” to start over. I watched more videos. I tested out techniques. I slowly progressed through well enough to continue.
While I tested my painting skills to their limit, Blanket focused on learning the art of micro-rooting (using a needle to push 1-2 strands of hair through the vinyl at a time). Seriously! She started on an orange, just trying to find the technique. After a second trip to MacPhersons, she was able to work on a practice head we picked up for her. Eventually, she got to work on the first painted head that I finished.
Here’s hoping we will soon be able to show you a completed doll.