Another of my reborn-related articles got published today, and I’ve took my time to translate it. This is the one I’m really pleased with. I believe I’ve covered everything from doll-making to the meaning these dolls have for different people. I’m very thankfull for your help with this article you’ve gave me a few months ago. It helped me better understand some things
This time there were 6 BB dolls featured on the photos: Shyann, Cozy, Tayla, Eden, Honey and Kadence. Please share your opinions if you read through the whole thing
Here’s the link to the original capture:
MAKING “REBORN DOLLS” IS RELAXING**
The “rumor” that these dolls are only bought by women who need comfort because they’ve lost a child or they can’t have children is actually exaggerated by the media. There are such cases, but a person should really be mentally ill not to perceive the difference between a “hyperrealistic thing” and a real child.
28-year old Martina Gulin from Zadar will speak of herself as someone who “wants to please all with her “wacky” creations - boys and girls, mums and dads, brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas”. She is a senior of comparative literature and czech language at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, and a free-lance photographer. She also writes, draws and plays the guitar and piano. This “handmader” is never at peace because she always juggles her many creative hobbies. With one of them, she has recently raised quite the public interest, especially since she is the only one in Croatia practicing this “unusual” hobby – creating so called “reborn dolls” that look very realistic.
How did you get started with this “unusual” hobby?**
I began painting dolls about eight months ago. It all began by chance – I’ve discovered reborn dolls while I was looking for new polymer clays. The realism of these dolls thrilled me, and since I’m curious and love trying out new things, I wondered whether or not I could make something similar. First, I’ve spent some time researching the various techniques of doll making and reborning, read the experiences of others on several international forums and began to inquire about the materials I needed. It took me about three months to find a few online stores on eBay, and sellers who were willing to send their materials to Croatia. It all started with one doll – a basic playdoll, although a bit more detailed; a few felting needles, one pack of angora wool, a few basic oil paints, three brushes and a package of soft cosmetic wedges. With these reduced materials I began to work on my first doll, and was pleasantly surprised - the techniques I have read about came naturally to me (and I’m not very fond of painting and working with colors), so I’ve purchased several vinyl kits and began to build my collection of materials and more professional tools for creating “real” reborn dolls. By the way, the term “reborn doll” is here frequently mistakenly translated as “re-born baby.” Specifically it would be “hand-painted doll” or "retouched doll”.
So, I’ve soon developed my own techniques of painting and rooting hair, learned a lot from my mistakes (I managed to melt a doll or two in the oven), and I’m still learning and enjoying it! To create a high-quality doll a minimum of twenty hours of precise work in small steps is required (and more for rooting hair), but I must admit I enjoy it. Rooting and painting are relaxing, and there is a very special feeling when an empty, blank piece of vinyl suddenly starts to resemble a living creature after few coats of paint. I don’t know how the doll will look like until that final layer of paint. That’s the beauty of the whole process.
Is the material is expensive?
Prices of materials for reborns vary, but the shipping costs are sometimes the most expensive part. I order all my materials from USA and Great Britain, and since these are often larger packages, I spend a lot on shipping. Not including the postage, for creation of a complete doll - with open eyes and rooted hair, I minimally spend around 400-500 kunas ($65-80). And my greatest expense so far – I’d rather not tell!
What materials is a doll made of, how do you achieve realistic appearance and skintones, what colors do you use?
A standard doll kit is made of a special, soft, beige colored vinyl – kit usually consists of a head and a set of arms and legs. Then I need a sewed body made specifically for that kit (sizes vary because there are replicas that look as premature babies, replicas of newborns and older children to almost life-sized Santa Clauses). The body is made of doe suede-like material, or simpler cotton fabrics. Then I need the eyes (which may be glass or acrylic), a set of eyelashes, hair (human or specially processed Angora wool), and of course, special oil paints with which I can achieve those realistic skin tones. The paints “bind” to the vinyl in the oven, and after curing at a particular temperature they will not fade, flake or change their intensity. The manufacturer promises that the dolls painted with their colors have longevity which "can be transferred from generation to generation”. The great thing about these oil-based paints is building thin, transparent layers. With that, I can mimic thin, blueish undertones, veins and vessels, realistic nails, depth, texture… The most basic colors are beige, red, blue, white and brown. It’s possible to get all the tones and colors required for a realistic doll while mixing these basic paints. The most important part is to determine the right balance and quantity of the paints. It is, however, very easy to overdo it.
What determines the value of the doll among collectors, such as the one that recently sold on E-Bay for $8,000?
The value of an individual doll depends of the realism, material, the “rarity" of the kit and how much the artist behind the sculpt is famous in the reborning world. Behind every doll there is a lot of people - the author who created the original sculpt in polymer clay, the factory that created the mold and reproduced it in vinyl, animal breeders who have processed their wool, glass blowers, tailors, and finally - the reborner who has painted the doll and gave it it’s final, realistic look. When you combine a good quality kit and skilled reborner, you can get true works of art. The doll that recently sold for a record price of $8000 was fantastically made. It had rooted human hair, beautiful turquoise eyes made of hand blown glass, and has been presented very professionally with a series of high-quality photos. It was also the kit that was just launched on the market, and that usually results in higher prices and greater customer interest. Otherwise the cost of quality doll in the world market is about $450 and higher.
What is the primary use of these dolls?
These dolls can be used for many things. In particular - as mannequins for children’s shop windows, film props, photography and theatrical props that replace real babies, as collectibles and decorative objects, as well as unique “3D portraits” of children. They can also be playdolls for older kids. In USA they are even used for therapy for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Some think that hyperrealistic dolls are mostly used by women who have lost a baby, as a consolation. Is there some truth in it and who actually buys these dolls?
The “rumor” that these dolls are only bought by women who need comfort because they lost their child or they can’t have children is actually exaggerated by the media. There are such cases, but a person should really be mentally ill not to perceive the difference between a “hyperrealistic thing” and a real child. However, I’ve met several women who have lost a child and found comfort in working on their own “memorial doll”. It may sound strange, but they’ve told me that working on such doll became some sort of therapy, and they have experienced a kind of “goodbye” to the child they’ve lost once completing the reborning process. Many with whom I talked about it - why are making and collecting dolls gave me similar answers – the main reasons are childhood nostalgia, making (having) 3D portraits of their grown-up children, or simply enjoying to be a doll collector. These dolls do provoke divided opinions and are often wrongly perceived by the media and have a “bad” reputation mainly because of exaggerated stories about the "dead vinyl children”. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who respond to them affectionately and can not help the urge to rock them and hold their little heads.
Is there any interest in Croatia, or all your buyers are from other countries?
There certainly is a growing interest, and there are no rules - people who come to me with their inquiries and orders are coming from all age groups and are interested in them for different reasons. Recently, for instance, a production house “hired” six of my dolls for shooting a scene in the hospital maternal ward. The second doll is currently at the second movie set, and it will be used in a few dramatic scenes instead or real baby actor. Third went to a girl in Slovenia and others are in Croatia - some as children playdolls, and some as adult collectibles. Basically I get queries to make a 3D portrait of someone’s child, playdoll for girl, gift for a young couple who is expecting a baby, or some totally “wicked” project that would be used in art photography. To me, they are all equally legitimate and interesting.
Although each doll is unique (even those that are made of same vinyl parts can’t be the exactly alike), I don’t consider myself to be an artist, but a craftsman with a decorative, but very interesting hobby. Even if there was no interest here, I would probably continue reborning just because I enjoy it so much.