I discovered “reborn” dolls while surfing the internet one day about 9 years ago…probably looking for something for one of my grandchildren. Amazing dolls that looked like real babies! Not only did they look real but supposedly were weighted to feel real as well.
Of course, the price was more than I wanted to pay and the artist in me reminded me that, most likely, I could do that as well. I invested in all the numerous supplies and headed down to Toys R Us looking for just the right doll that I would turn into a baby! I found what I thought would be the perfect one and headed home with my wannabe baby and commenced work.
Back then, we “reborn artists” used Rit dye (not anymore!) to achieve the initial skin tone. For months, there were “body parts” all over the house…all in various stages of curing and perfection – little legs turned upside down on top of the fridge, lots of little arms on the counter tops and little heads in the process of having new eyes inserted.
Of course, the process of learning a new art does involve some trial and error….hmmm….a good bit of error. I’m not sure how much the initial learning process cost, but I don’t think it was cheap. One day my husband said he wondered what the trash collectors thought about all the “body parts” in the trash can!
In the beginning of the art of reborning, we used mostly wigs…now, these “babies” have micro-rooted hair…using some of the finest mohair in the country. Mostly, I buy my wonderful (but expensive) mohair from a goat farm in Arizona. It looks and feels incredibly like REAL baby hair and the colors are wonderful! I then micro-root using a fine gauge felting needle & lots of time. Some of the babies have just a little hair – much like a newborn. Some have enough to pull up into a little topknot with a barrette. The hair is soft and easy to style. It does look amazingly real.
In the beginning, we used acrylic paints. Now, most of the artists, including myself, prefer Genesis Heat Set Paints. Now I bake babies in the oven! That sets the paint permanently. The paint is applied in many transparent layers and baked after each layer.
Each “baby” is unique (since I don’t believe I could duplicate one if I tried anyway). Each one has a unique skin tone, blushing, etc. Amazingly, they develop a “personality” and a “gender” about 2/3 of the way through the process. I know, I know. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Once the head and limbs are complete, it’s time to give the “baby” the perfectly balanced & weighted body…usually made out of a soft ultrasuede type fabric. I use the finest non-allergenic “stuffing” and glass beads. Babies can’t travel around the world with sand in them, so no more sand! Now, it’s expensive glass beads… Part of the fun of traveling, is searching out baby clothing and finding great buys. I have a wonderful collection of baby clothes and once the Pat-A-Cake Baby is complete, I choose the perfect ensembles for a layette.
My Pat-A-Cake Babies are now in 38 states and a few foreign countries (more than I’ve traveled to!). One of my favorite stories is from a young lady in New York who bought several of my dolls to take for visits to a nursing home. She was only popular when she brought “the babies” with her!
I’ve been so busy with “life” these past few years that I have completed only a few reborn dolls, but I’ve been thinking about creating another Pat-A-Cake Baby one of these days soon…