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A growing number of collectors are cuddling, changing and caring for ‘reborns’ – individually crafted baby dolls that can cost up to $20,000. For some, it’s about rekindling their baby-rearing years. For others, it’s about dealing with their own inability to birth real human babies. Despite the finger-pointing from outsiders, it’s a subculture that’s thriving globally.
While the first thing you might look at when choosing a reborn doll is the details in the face, for many, it’s the whole package that matters. With this in mind, we included choices with two body styles to satisfy the preferences of different collectors.
Many prefer a cloth body like the Ashton-Drake Galleries Little Peanut because it’s weighted with soft fill so that the doll feels heavy and realistic in their arms. For buyers who want a more anatomically correct choice like the Berenguer Boutique La Newborn, while smaller than the typical newborn, the body is realistically proportioned, even when undressed and can even be bathed, making this style ideal for users who might let children play with it.
The process of “reborning” consists of a number of time-consuming steps that typically include hand-painting a vinyl doll, applying the strands of hair, and adding filler to the body and head to provide a realistic, lifelike weight. This meticulous process is often carried out by artists who sell their wares in person at fairs or through online stores. No two of these handmade collectibles are exactly alike, and each is priced commensurate with its craftsmanship. Factory-produced dolls made to resemble real babies are commonly sold by large online retailers, often at lower prices and with a quality and attention to detail that match.
Reborning a doll is a time consuming and laborious process involving a number of steps. First a doll is taken apart so the factory paint can be removed, giving the artist a blank base to work from. Next a blue wash is applied, which helps to enhance the appearance of realistic baby skin undertones, before adding multiple layers of flesh-colored paint.
f the artist uses heat set paints, the parts of the doll are baked inside an oven to cure after each layer is applied. This process can also be completed with the use of a heat gun if preferred. Lighter skin tones can take anywhere from 15 to 30 layers, with darker flesh tones requiring a little bit less. The combination of the blue undertone with multiple layers of paint creates an exceptionally lifelike look, including veins and the mottled look of newborn skin.
If starting with a doll with an awake appearance, the eyes are usually replaced with ones resembling the droopier eyes of a newborn. Then the nose holes are opened and the nails are manicured. After the painting and stylizing of the facial features are finished, hair is applied in one of two ways; microrooting or wigging.
After all of this has been completed, the dolls body is weighted with soft pellets to correspond with the weight of an actual baby of the same age. The head is often weighted as well, requiring the owner to support it just like holding a live baby. Some may also have magnets included inside the mouth for attaching pacifiers, electronic devices inside the chest to simulate a heartbeat, or heat packs to make the doll warm to the touch.