Reborning is the art of transforming a vinyl doll (either whole doll or kit) into a realistic looking baby doll (usually of a human baby- but sometimes elves or chimpanzees may be made). The person who makes this transformation is called a ‘reborner” or reborn artist. The more realistic looking the doll is the more successful the artist is considered. Once completed the doll is called a ‘reborn’, ‘reborn doll’, ‘reborn baby”or ‘fake baby’. There are artists all over the world who do reborning. Some reborn artists will take a factory made doll, take it apart, repaint it and reassemble it.
In more recent times artists use a manufactured vinyl kit made especially to be reborn. The manufacture of kits has become an expanding industry with more and more talented doll sculptors having their creations turned into vinyl kits. Kits are sometimes limited editions and in demand worldwide. Some reborners and collectors or reborns collect kits as keep these as prized possessions only giving them up when personal financial pressure necessitates it or they trade them for even more desirable kits. New kits come out regularly and they are more and more detailed and varied. In very recent times we have seen some kits resold on eBay for up to 10 times their original value as they are limited editions, sold out worldwide and in much demand.
‘Reborning’ begins with washing and then painting the vinyl parts with oil, acrylic or water based paints. Paints are being developed especially for the art. Paints are applied with brushes and sponges to get as realistic skin tones as possible. This is the ultimate goal of the artist and the range of techniques used is large and an individual develops these techniques over time. The paint sinks into the vinyl and tints it (like water colour paint does on paper) rather than sitting on top of the vinyl. The paints are somewhat unreliable in their behaviour so the process required judgement to add a paint layer, check outcome against what is desired then repaint another layer. The reborner needs to have a strong idea of what skin tone or affect they are trying to achieve.
Some paints require baking and there has been controversy over the health effects of the fumes to the reborner. Artists paint on veins, capillaries, birth marks, 3d eyebrows, scratches and newborn red patches (ie stork bites) to get the most realistic affects. Hair (usually mohair) is then micro-rooted into the dolls head a few strands at a time so that the head looks natural and realistic. For toddler size dolls high quality wigs may be used. Some artists may paint the baby’s head one hair at a time to get a very realistic look.
Micro-rooting a newborn doll size head may take more than 40 hours to ensure a realistic appearance. Some artists can create exquisite skin tones on the vinyl and some who can create wonderfully realistic hair rooting pattern (painstakingly one hair at a time) including crowns and parts. Eyelashes are either applied by gluing to open eyed dolls or micro-rooting on sleeping dolls. The vinyl legs, arms and head are then weighted, filled and connected to a similarly weighted and filled cloth body. Once the head is connected the doll is considered to be ‘reborn’. Belly plates, magnetic newborn belly buttons and other body parts can be added for realism. Reborn dolls are used in movies and advertisements and as clothes models.
Physiotherapists use them for their patients and they are used extensively in old age homes as older people find holding a baby very relaxing and soothing (you only have to see what happens to the general population when someone brings a new baby to visit great grandma in a nursing home- everyone wants to see the baby and touch it- to understand the wonderful value they can have here. Most of them can’t believe they aren’t real. ‘
I personally am not overly maternal, don’t collect dolls (except for my daughter) but when I pop the head on a reborn for the first time- I will always have a chat to its little face- exactly the same way I do to the dog. Just as it’s proven that pets are therapeutic in nursing homes- so are reborns. They generally aren’t considered as suitable for children. I disagree with this by the way!!! There are people who collect reborn dolls cheap because they love babies, dolls or art. Some people are really potty about the dolls and the comraderie that the various forums that like minded people and artists frequent, provide them.