Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Surprise: A Mystery Reborn Baby!

I mentioned last week in my Saskia Project post that I've been anticipating the arrival of a surprise reborn baby for the past month.  I ordered this baby because I adore surprises, of course, but also because I was curious to see another reborn doll up-close.  I thought it might be helpful for me to see a reborn artist's work as I struggle with Saskia's paint.  This mystery baby arrived a few weeks ago and I finally opened the box on Wednesday.  It has definitely been helpful to look at how this baby was completed.  I'm also very grateful for the tips and encouragement from all of you!  I feel re-energized in my efforts to make Saskia as nice as possible.  Thank you.

For anyone arriving late to this party, I'll quickly explain what a surprise reborn doll is.  A reborn doll is a made-over play doll or a doll assembled from a kit.  Typical reborn kits include a blank vinyl head and limbs and perhaps an unfilled cloth body.  That's it.  Artists and collectors paint these kits, add eyes and hair, and assemble the parts onto stuffed, weighted bodies.  A surprise reborn baby is a completed doll offered for sale by a reborn artist, but all of the characteristics of the doll are left up to the artist to decide.  These qualities are kept secret from the add a fun element of mystery.  So, I did not know this baby's gender, size or appearance until I opened the box!

I searched high and low for just the right surprise reborn doll.  There are many different options out there--both on eBay and on Etsy.  I spent a lot of time looking at artists' past work and reading their customer reviews.  I finally found a shop with good prices, good reviews, and a light-handed painting technique that I admire: Brenda's Reborns over on Etsy (Brendasreborns).  Brenda charges $130 for her surprise reborn babies, and also offers a large selection of custom dolls ranging from $130 to $300 (for a set of twins).  I told Brenda that there was no hurry, but I still received my baby quickly--about three weeks after I placed the order.

Surprise reborn doll by Brenda's Reborns ($130).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Saskia Project

It's time for another project series!  I'm looking forward to this particular project because it addresses my very earliest adult doll interest: babies.  When I began to pay attention to dolls in my early twenties, it was the realistic baby dolls (from companies like Lee Middleton, Gotz and Zapf) that grabbed my heart--probably because I was ready to have real babies of my own.  I collected vinyl art baby dolls for many years, and even accumulated a few precious one-of-a-kind clay babies.

Right around the time that my doll preferences started shifting towards child and fashion dolls, the "reborn" phenomenon emerged.  The process of "reborning" (terrible word, if you ask me) originally involved taking an inexpensive play baby, like a Berenguer, and making it over to look more realistic.  The makeover could include a new coat of paint, new eyes, new hair, or even a new weighted body--many of the things I attempted in the My Twinn Project.  However, as reborning became more and more popular, several well-known artists and doll companies began offering unpainted doll kits (basically just vinyl heads and limbs) to replace play dolls as the starting point for this process.  I've re-painted and re-wigged a few $15 Berenguer play dolls in my day, but I've never purchased one of these premium doll kits...until now!

My mission in this series is to complete a popular doll kit--the "Saskia" sculpt by Bonnie Brown.  I will attempt to paint this doll, find her some nice eyes, micro-root her hair (ahh!  I am so nervous about this part!), assemble her onto a weighted body, and dress her to look cute (that part will be fun).   I can tell you already, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

"Saskia" by Bonnie Brown.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Surprise: Magic Nursery Toddlers by Mattel!

My goodness, Sundays come around quickly, don't they?  This used to feel like a bad thing because Sunday symbolizes the dwindling weekend.  While Saturday morning is filled with possibilities, Sunday morning is time to clean the bird cages, vacuum the dog hair, and get ready for another week of work.  Sundays have transformed a bit in my mind recently, though.  I have a new-found appreciation for Sunday because this is the day when my son calls home from college...and also because it's the day when I get to look at another surprise doll!

The Sweet e.Baby that I reviewed during the last Sunday Surprise had a secret gender and a secret name hidden with a that was new enough in 1999 to feel magical.  In 1990, about a decade before the Sweet e.Baby, Mattel came up with a doll whose gender was hidden within another seemingly-magical concoction: a dissolving hospital gown.  Yes, that's right--a gown that completely disintegrates in water to reveal the gender announcement (and a new outfit).  Mattel called these babies Magic Nursery dolls.

The idea might sound far-fetched, but it was wildly popular.  My parents should thank their lucky stars that I was not a child of the 90s, because this kind of toy would have been completely irresistible to me.  It's even irresistible to me now, almost thirty years later, when unopened Magic Nursery dolls--with all of their surprises still hidden--can cost a small fortune.

Magic Nursery Toddler doll by Mattel (1990).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens 1:6 "Jakku Rey" by Hot Toys

I was nervous about watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as I imagine many children of the 80s were.  The original Star Wars trilogy was such an important part of my childhood, I needed this continuation of the story to be good.  And it was good, I thought.  A bit predictable, certainly, but an awful lot of fun.  I laughed and cheered and even gasped a few times.  The thing on my mind as I was walking out of the theater had little to do with the plot or the well-loved older characters, though.  I was focused primarily on Rey, the new female protagonist.  She is awesome.  I think Daisy Ridley's  spunky and intelligent interpretation of this mysterious girl from Jakku transformed Force Awakens into much more than the simple nostalgia-ridden adventure than it might easily have been.  Because of Rey, I'm impatiently eager to find out what happens next in this new saga.

My reaction to the Rey character might be exaggerated, but it compelled me to immediately start scouring the internet for Rey paraphernalia.  I bought several of the less-expensive action figures (a few of which I'll show at the end of the post), but found their resemblance to Ms. Ridley disappointing.  When I saw the promotional pictures of Hot Toys' Rey online at Sideshow Collectibles, I wasn't convinced that she was the perfect tribute to the character, either.  However, after a few days' reflection, I decided that she was easily the best option out there, and so I placed my pre-order.  I ordered Rey in January--a few weeks after I saw the movie--and she arrived in mid September.

Let's dig in and see if she was worth the wait...and the price:

1:6 scale Star Wars: The Force Awakens "Jakku Rey" from Hot Toys, $224.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Surprise: Sweet e.Baby From Playmates!

I've been having an incredible amount of fun hunting around for surprise dolls.  The really good ones are rare, but exhilarating to find.  I think the most intriguing examples I've found so far have been vintage items, many from the mid to late 1990s.  Today's doll, the Sweet e.Baby from Playmates Toys, is no exception to that rule.  This baby is from 1999 and features a computer CD containing...wait for it...the baby's secret gender and name!  Oh, yay!

I have no idea how I got lucky enough to find this gem.  I was browsing eBay for a Magic Nursery doll (coming soon!) and I stumbled on the auction for this little one.  I'd never seen this type of doll  before and I haven't been able to find another one for sale anywhere.  I paid $45, which seemed like a fair deal given the doll's scarcity.  I couldn't find any substantive information about this brand online.  There are two pictures of dolls in their boxes--but that's it.  It's almost like they never existed.

So, to put yourself in the mood for this review, think back (those of you who are old enough...) to 1999 and try to remember what the computer world was like back then.  That was the iBook "Clamshell" era for Apple laptops--when portable computers weighed 7 pounds.  It was before Stardoll, before Webkins, before Facebook.  1999 was also the heyday of Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin and Eminem.  It was the year The Matrix came out--along with Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace and The Sixth Sense.  It was before reality television, and in an age when kids were still excited about vinyl Pokemon figures.  With all of that in mind, let's travel back in time and uncover this mysterious baby's seventeen-year-old secrets:

Sweet e.Baby doll and CD from 1999.