The Real Rebirth Doll
For many reborn doll collectors, their babies aren’t just toys. Rather, they provide emotional comfort. They treat their reborns like real children, even giving them birth certificates and heartsbeat sound devices. They also take them out on strollers and into public places.
For disabled Roane County resident Aleia, a reborn doll named Addallee provides companionship. She spends time with her reborn in her home and takes it with her on vacations.
Reborn dolls have gained popularity across the globe, with enthusiasts gathering in groups online and meeting in person. The hobby has led to the formation of magazines, books, organizations, and conventions. It has also spurred doll manufacturers to develop supplies, tools, and accessories to meet the needs of the community. The reborning process transforms mass-produced vinyl dolls into hyper-realistic dummies. The sculpting of reborns takes hours, and the finishing touches such as paint and hair can take even longer. The finished dolls look so lifelike that some people have mistaken them for real children.
For some collectors, reborn dolls are more than just toys; they serve as a form of therapy. They can help overcome issues such as infertility and miscarriage, and they can give a feeling of rebirth. This is because reborns are often based on an individual’s childhood memories and experience.
For Eldred Plancarte, who was unable to become pregnant naturally, reborns were a welcome alternative. She says that caring for the dolls is a way to soothe her depression, and she can finally walk past the baby departments at Target and Walmart without being reminded of her unlucky draw. The Kaydora Nap Lover doll features hand-rooted hair and eyelashes, and she has Real Rebirth Doll a sweet expression that will melt the hearts of all who see her. She exceeds special safety requirements, and girls of all ages can enjoy her.
Made in the USA
Known as reborn dolls, these hyper-realistic vinyl toys can cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. They are crafted by artists who specialize in them, and can feature veins, pores, tears, and even systems that simulate breathing and a beating heart. In addition to their physical resemblance to actual babies, they smell like one, and feel almost alive in the hands.
The reborn doll community is a tightly knit, international one. It features clubs for enthusiasts, Etsy-style online retailers, dedicated subreddits, and a robust culture of YouTube influencers who vlog with their dolls. For Kathleen Bohmer George and Julie Bohmer Crosier, owners of reborn business Until Forever Nursery, the appeal of these dolls is rooted in their ability to ease grief.
According to the sisters, many women who come to them seeking reborns are unable to have biological children for medical reasons. They say their reborns are an outlet for their need to be nurturing and motherly, and that they help them avoid the catatonia that can accompany grief.
While some reborn collectors, like Eldred, treat their dolls as if they were real infants, experts warn that the fantasy is dangerous and could lead to more serious problems. In the new Apple TV+ series Servant, a couple takes in an abandoned doll they name Jericho and treats as their own baby, and the actress playing the character describes the experience as “the closest thing to losing a child.”
Made with love
For some people, reborn dolls serve a more emotional purpose than simply collector’s items. Photographer Katarzyna Jonderko’s documentary project Reborn focuses on this aspect of the hobby. One of her subjects is a woman who “adopted” a doll after suffering a miscarriage and treats it as part of her family. The doll even goes with them to the park and on vacations.
The process of transforming dolls into lifelike infants is called reborning and it requires a lot of time and patience. Many of the reborning artists start with manufactured dolls or blank vinyl pieces and remove the paint before beginning the transformation. They also use different techniques to make the skin look realistic and may add hair or a wig. The result is an extremely detailed and realistic doll that looks more like a real baby than a typical Barbie or similar toy.
Emilie St Hilaire, a humanities PhD student at Concordia University in Montreal, has been researching the phenomenon for three years. She explains that while the reborn community is often perceived as substituting their dolls for children, that’s not necessarily the case. Most of the dolls are purchased for therapeutic purposes, including by elders experiencing cognitive decline and women who’ve suffered miscarriages or lost their own children. St Hilaire argues that these collectors don’t see their dolls as child substitutes, but rather as companionate props in a large-scale roleplaying game.
Made by a real artist
Reborn dolls are lifelike, hand-painted toys that resemble baby dolls. They can be made from vinyl or silicone, and some even have systems that simulate breathing and a beating heart. They are expensive and delicate, but they are also beautiful and cherished by a passionate community of collectors.
Rebirth dolls have been around for more than two decades, and are becoming increasingly popular. Many artists and sculptors specialize in this art form, and their works can be extremely realistic. They are made with a great deal of love and attention to detail. They are incredibly lifelike, and can be a source of emotional healing for their owners.
The process of making a reborn doll is lengthy and time-consuming. It starts with washing the kit and removing all oils from the molds. Then, dozens of layers of heat-setting paint are applied to give the dolls a mottled or veined look. Next comes the baking of the vinyl, followed by rooting the Real Rebirth Doll wigs and adding eyelashes and hair. The artist must then spend a significant amount of time painting, drying, gluing and sculpting to make the doll look real.
While the process is labor intensive, reborn dolls are not for everyone. While they are very lifelike, some people find them creepy and unsettling. Tavi Ferguson, who owns a reborn doll named Oliver, says that her partner has a hard time understanding her desire for the dolls.