During the 1990’s doll collecting took on new life with the introduction of “reborning”. Reborning started as a method of taking pre-fabricated dolls and making them appear more life like. Since then, reborning has evolved into a new art form.
Artists who reborn dolls begin by stripping dolls of all factory paint and hair and then applying new paint in multiple, ultra thin layers. Hair is then rooted, or micro-rooted, using mohair or human hair and felting needles. While it is true some artists use wigs or paint the hair on, most root the hair by hand. Many dolls are then stuffed and weighted to make the doll feel more life like as well.
Reborn dolls became so popular that companies began to emerge that produce doll parts… simply for the purpose of reborning. This is also called “newborning” (since the parts have never actually been assembled into a doll prior to being “reborn”). The techniques used for newborning are the same as reborning… only the stripping part is skipped since the doll parts come in vinyl/silicone free of paint.
Several layers of paint are required to achieve the depth necessary for the look of real skin tone. Each layer is painted and allowed to set, or be heat set, before applying the next layer. If the paint is not set between each layer the paints will run together and the effect will be lost. Some artists use air dry paints, but most prefer to use heat set oil paints by Genesis. With these paints you can heat the parts to 260 and then continue to the next layer. If you use traditional oil paints you have to wait several days between each layer. With air dry paints you run the risk of the paint curing before you get it just like you want it. These are the reasons most artists take matters into their own hands and use the heat set oils. Artists usually require at least 7 layers to complete the process, but many take upwards of 12 or more layers to achieve the look they desire.
Hair rooting is another skill that must be mastered for the baby to look as realistic as possible. Some artists choose to use wigs, but wigs are not natural looking and as such are used rarely by true reborn artists. Rooting is the process of taking mohair or human hair and inserting it into the dolls head using felting needles. This process can sometimes leave the dolls looking “plugged” (like poor barbie). With thick hair this is not really an issue, but to get the thin newborn hair look the hair must be micro-rooted. Micro-rooting is the same basic process, however, the hair is rooted one to two strands at a time. This creates a very natural look, but can take days to complete.
With so much skill needed to create a fine collectible baby, you can see why the art of reborning has gained such ground in the art world. Very few people can master all of the elements needed to create a genuinely realistic looking doll. To add to that, many artists have begun sculpting their own dolls from clay to get an even more precise look they are after. Silicone dolls poured from such molds are in high demand recently. It is easy to see this art form taking yet another pathway in the doll market.
Many dolls come with letters of authenticity which raise the value of said dolls in the collectors market. For instance, an artist can make only a limited number of a certain mold and those dolls quickly become rare and therefore much more valuable than a mass produced kit. Some of the earliest artists to gain recognition for their art, have recently become very valuable and highly sought after. Since reborning is s relatively new “invention”, no one dares to venture a guess at just how valuable some of these can get in time.
Reborns and newborns are no longer just dolls collected through eBay, but a league all their own.