Today’s post is something a bit different. I’m going to talk about a type of doll that I don’t collect. Reborn babies.
Reborn dolls, for those of you unfamiliar with them, are dolls which are created to look as much as possible like a real baby. They are made from a vinyl kit and the doll artist paints their skin to look lifelike, they have cloth bodies, stuffed with polyester fibrefill and cleverly weighted with glass beads for a realistic feel. They are usually several hundred dollars to buy. I’ve seen many of these dolls at the Hobart Doll Show. There is a competition for them every year and I usually photograph some for the blog. They really can be very lifelike. I’ve seen people carrying dolls that they have bought at the show and had to look twice to make sure they were not actual babies.
I admire the doll artists who make these dolls but even if they were cheaper I wouldn’t buy one because they are really not my thing. I’ve always been more attracted to toys than to dolls that are just for display. It’s the reason that I debox my Barbies. I always want to play with them.
I decided to write about Reborns today because I was browsing through the WordPress Reader and came across a post about Reborn dolls. I read it and then I read a few others and decided that it would be an interesting subject for a post.
The first posts I read were about people who had ordered Reborn dolls online and been shocked to find that the doll that they received was nothing like the picture they had been shown. The author of one post had included photos of the dolls people thought they were getting and the actual doll. The customers photos are not great but even so you can see that the dolls delivered are not what was shown online. It is a bit of a cautionary tale about doing your research when buying online. Apparently there are a lot of websites offering these dolls, most of the cases that were described were from the USA but a couple were from Canada or the UK.
There are commercial businesses who have got interested in the Reborn doll market. Some are reputable like Ashton Drake Galleries for example. They have been around for years but I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of factories in China and elsewhere turning out mass produced “Reborn” dolls for a cut price. A real Reborn should be unique. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the mass produced ones. It’s a bit like modern porcelain dolls I guess. A lot of people look down on these dolls and say they are worthless. You see loads of them in Op Shops. However, many of them are very pretty and nicely dressed and if you love them that’s all that matters. Same with these mass produced babies. What I am saying is that if you are after a real lifelike baby doll expect to pay big dollars for it because those dolls take a lot of time and effort to make. You know the old saying “If something looks to good to be true it probably is.” A bargain priced Reborn you buy online may not be what you expected.
I also read posts about how some people buy reborn babies to help them over a difficult time like the loss of a child, a miscarriage or an inability to have children. Possibly some people might find it a bit creepy to see an adult using a doll as a child substitute but I think that if is helpful to someone who is grieving then we should not be judgemental. I imagine that for most people the doll would be a transitional object and that in time they would not need it as much.
Another use for these dolls is that people who suffer with autism or dementia can often relate to these lifelike dolls. I’m sure that some of you have heard of dolls being used as therapy in nursing homes for example.
If you have some stories about Reborn dolls, or perhaps you are a doll artist yourself please share in the comments section. I hope you have enjoyed the photos which were all taken at the Hobart Doll Show over the last few years.
Here are links to the blogs I read prior to writing this.
I like that the Re Born doll are not your thing and they are really not mine either (I actually find them creepy full stop) but I do agree that we shouldn’t be judgemental of others for enjoying them or using them for particular needs. I worked in Aged Care Facilities and also continue to volunteer with the elderly, particularly people with Dementia. It is beautiful to watch women (and many men) nursing them. It is something that just comes natural, perhaps they do remember doing this many years ago. It sometimes could bring me to tears that it could evoke such memories for them that they didn’t have of anything else. Regards, Sharon
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These are very emotion evoking dolls. I know my Granny and a sister would have been in awe of them.I see great artistry in them. I think that my daughter would have loved one.(Not that we could ever afford one). I would be thrilled to see one in person.
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Many years ago I went to a doll show where there was a Reborn department. I remember that walking around there was like being in a nursery, the babies looked so incredibly real. It’s a form of art that requires a lot of skills, that’s for sure! I have a thrifted Berjusa baby, I took it home with me because of the high realism of the sculpt, it’s very impressive. And, because someone scribbled over it with ball point, and I wanted to make that baby doll lovely again. 🙂 Reborn babies are a step too far for me, however – it’s not the kind of doll that I want to collect. People who get comfort out of Reborn babies should not be judged at all, if they feel better with such a baby that’s only a good thing (unless they feel more grief by having it). There’s also a mechanism that imitates breathing, that’s also too realistic for me. Great article about a very interesting subject!
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I’ve read about those animatronic dolls that some companies make. Berjusa babies are very detailed and I have read that some doll artists use them as a base for their Reborn. They keep the heads and lower limbs and make a cloth body.
I have a variety of dolls in my collection, starting off with BJDs, then Sylvia Natterer and Disney Animator dolls. I also have some baby dolls. One is a genuine reborn (bought on ebay, but far from perfect) and the others are simply toy baby dolls, some of which I’ve given new cloth bodies and weighted. I have no pretentions of being a reborner though lol. What I enjoy with my baby dolls is being able to make clothes, following “human” patterns. It’s a great way to learn new crafting skills without projects taking forever to complete.
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Giving a damaged vinyl doll a cloth body is also a great way to save it from the trash.
My first ever experience with a reborn doll was in a gift shop. They had two but the first one I saw was displayed in a baby carrier. I’ve heard of them but never seen one in person. I legit was concerned that someone had left thier baby- and that it wasn’t moving. My nerves were on edge, all wired up. As I got closer, I finally realized it was a doll. What a relief! I touched it just to be sure. The price was up there, and I can appreciate the art that goes into making these dolls, however I would not personally want one.
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