Lifelike ‘reborns’ deliver joy to many
Rachel Smith’s little girl wanted a baby for Christmas. She found one of those lifelike dolls on-line. It looked very real in the picture, but when the much-anticipated bundle arrived, it did not look like the picture. So in February this year, Smith bought a kit and tried making one on her own.
“But that’s how I got into it,” Smith said. “I wanted to try, and my husband was very supportive. He told me to get one of the kits and try it. I think I’ve made 30 since that first one.”
Smith finds a great deal of satisfaction in creating her “reborn” dolls, as they are called.
“I do this for two reasons,” Smith said. “First, I think it’s fun, and I like to do it. And the other reason is my mom. It makes me feel close to her.”
When Smith’s mother was older, she collected every kind of doll you could imagine. She had cabinets full of dolls. But her love of dolls started at a very young age.
“My mother told me a story. When she was a little girl, there were nine in the family and they didn’t have a lot of money. A friend had a kewpie doll. She thought it was the prettiest thing she had ever seen. So one day she hid in the closet and held this kewpie doll. In the meantime, nobody could find her. Everyone was panicking, and the whole neighborhood was looking for her all day. When they found her she got into a lot of trouble! She said she would have done it again because it was worth it to hold that baby.”
From start to finish, it takes two full weeks or more to complete a doll. After the kit arrives, Smith completely washes and seals all the components.
“Then I start to build the layers of paint, starting with the flesh layers, then the shading, veining, modeling, and finish with a few more flesh layers,” Smith said. “And of course it has to dry between each layer. After it’s painted, it has to dry for three days, then I seal it. Finally, I add the hair, starting from the bottom of the hairline, then work toward the top of the head. When they’re all done, I also weigh them, so they not only look real, but they feel real when you hold them.”
Many people in the reborn community know when a new kit is coming out and they are excited to find an artist to create the doll for purchase. They typically place an order with Smith, letting her know what skin tone and hair color they want.
“It’s like Christmas for them!” Smith said. “Sometimes I just buy a kit, create the finished doll, and sell it on eBay, or people can contact me through Facebook at ‘Bunny Bundles Reborns by Rachel,’ or they can call me at 440-371-4476. The only retail place to buy my dolls locally is Funtastic Toyz in Medina.”
Smith also sells therapy dolls to nursing homes for dementia patients. Many times dementia patients lose their sense of purpose. But when they are presented these dolls, their sense of purpose returns.
“They think they are really caring for someone,” Smith said. “They start to talk again and are more active again. They feel like they have a sense of purpose. People won’t normally let them hold a real baby, so when they hold one of my dolls, it’s like someone is trusting them again, and you can see it on their faces.”
Like any artist, Smith takes great pride in her work.
“I will not sell a doll I am not excited about. If I wouldn’t want to show it off, I won’t sell it to you.”