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).
Brenda communicated with me throughout the entire process and made the experience fun and worry-free.  I told her that the baby could be any gender, any age, any ethnicity, any mold...and have any name.  I felt pretty sure that I would get a sleeping, bald baby though, because rooted hair and eyes add to the price of a doll (also, Brenda makes it very clear that her surprise babies will be bald).

Anyway, this box arrived on my doorstep about two weeks ago:

The box is not at all what I expected, so it didn't even occur to me right away that this was my doll.  First of all, the box is really heavy!  It must weigh six pounds.  It's also square, which is a funny shape for a doll box.

I wasn't sure if all of the surprises would be revealed right away, or if there would be some un-wrapping to do, so I opened the box very slowly...

And I slowly peeked inside...

The baby is all curled up and completely wrapped in a blanket.  The blanket has pink and peach on it (girl?) but also some light blue and lime green (maybe boy?).  I think it's safe to say that this is meant to be a gender-neutral blanket.  The secret is still in-tact!

But when I peeked a little further into the box...

I saw a flower.

It's a little peach-colored flower headband:

Girl time.
Despite the fact that there was also a blue hospital wristband included in the box...

Boy band?
...there's also a pink magnetic pacifier, so I think it's safe to say...

It's a GIRL!

It's strange because the whole time the unopened box was sitting in my studio, I felt sure that this one would be a boy.  I had very strong boy vibes.  Coming from a box, that's a little weird, but still. Eventually one of them has to be a boy, right?  But the thing is, I was so sure it was a boy, I actually got a pretty good surprise when I saw all of the pink!  So it's all good.

I was strangely nervous as I was unwrapping this baby.  I was thinking to myself, what if I don't like it?  I mean, it's a lot of money to spend on something I've never seen.

I gingerly pulled back one flap of the blanket and revealed a little hand!

It's a wrinkled hand with open, separate fingers:

It's alive!!
The style of the creases is very different from what I showed you on Saskia.  This hand looks realistic from a distance, but up-close it's easier to see that the kit was made from a hand-sculpted doll.

As I pulled the wrap open some more, the little feet were uncovered:

The legs have a slightly bowed shape--and a lot of wrinkles and creases.  This is going to be a very newborn baby!

I could tell at this stage that the baby has full vinyl legs and at least partially full arms:

And a cute princess onesie.
I was really hesitant about seeing this baby's face for the first time.  Ah!!  I hope it fits the ultra-newborn look of the rest of the body.

There's a cute little chin...that's a good start...

...oh!  And look!  She has an open eye!  Yes!

Most surprise reborns are sleeping.  I love awake babies!  This was a really great surprise.

At this point, I hastily pulled off the rest of the blanket because I wanted to see!  

Here she is:

A baby this young would never sit up, of course, but I sat her up so that you could get a better look at her head:

I like her!  Phew.  She's sweet, squidgy and wrinkled--just like a new baby should be.

She also came with a birth certificate, but the name was left blank.  I was a little disappointed by this, because as fun as those online name generators can be, I prefer getting a baby with a pre-selected name.

But then, as I was going through the box to make sure I hadn't missed anything, I noticed a name written on one of the flaps!

Paisley!  That's an unusual name, but it's interesting.  The word refers to an intricate fabric pattern, of course, but it also seems like a cross between the names Paige and Lesley.  I'm going to stick with it!  I guess this baby did bring her own name with her after all.  Yay!

Paisley has great coloring.  Her vinyl is very pale, and Brenda has accented that with what I think is just the right amount of blush.  She doesn't look ultra-splotchy, but has the hint of some healthy-pink coloring over perfect baby skin:

Looking at Paisley's head makes me think that I was too impatient with Saskia's paint.  I really should have stuck with a "less is more" approach.

Paisley has small, dark eyes that are either brown or hazel...I can't quite tell:

She does not have any eyebrows or eyelashes (which I like), but Brenda would have happily added brows and lashes at no extra charge.

Paisley has a closed mouth with thick lips.  I love the way the mouth is painted.  It's very subtle and delicate--with little bit of gloss.  It doesn't look remotely like this baby is wearing lipstick.

I wish I could do that.
I'm really glad that I rubbed away as much paint as I could from Saskia's mouth.  When I try to paint the mouth again, I'm going to use this level of color and gloss as my guide!

The back of Paisley's head shows off the light mottling effect on her skin...and also has the sculpting artist's mark:

This is a 2006 Denise Kunz-Pratt mold (called Paisley).  Denise is the co-owner of Bountiful Baby.  The Paisley kit is one of many very reasonably-priced reborn kits offered at Bountiful Baby.  For anyone tempted to try their hand at reborning, I'd recommend browsing the sale page for some pretty cute little kits for under $30.  I probably should have chosen one of those!

I propped Paisley's head up on a blanket to achieve a more natural-looking pose for her:

I'm not very good at posing babies for photographs.  They're really different from the dolls I'm used to; they don't have articulated limbs and they can't stand on their own!  

Paisley can move her hands near her head in a variety of ways...

...and she can have the pacifier stuck to her mouth or not...

...but because she represents such a tiny baby, she mostly just lays there and looks cute.

For some strange reason, my camera hates it when I photograph pale pink or turquoise, so I was anxious to get little Paisley out of her pink onesie.

This doll was assembled on a sueded body with articulated shoulders:

According to Brenda's description, the body is stuffed with glass beads and Poly-fil...but what surprised me is that the limbs and head are also stuffed (with more glass beads).  It had not occurred to me that I would have to stuff Saskia's vinyl to give it weight, but I guess that's the way it's done!  Some quick research has already taught me that neck and leg plugs might be required for this process (to keep the glass beads in place), so I definitely have some more material-gathering to do.

The blushing on Paisley's hands is subtle, with most of the creases shaded and a small amount of color on the palm of the hand:

The back of the hand has some more blushing and a few little veins drawn in (with some kind of special pen, maybe?):

I have to say, the little veins are the one thing I don't love about this doll.  I've mentioned before that I don't require my dolls to be that realistic, and the veins don't look natural up-close.  Still, this is a really small complaint because the veining is very faint, it's only in a few discrete areas, and it's almost impossible to see from any distance away.

The foot is very wrinkly, and most of the creases have some color applied to them:

In fact, the bottom of the foot has a few more wrinkles in the mold than I would have thought was normal for a little baby.  Maybe it's just that I've grown used to looking at Saskia's feet?  Here's a reminder of what Saskia's (unpainted) foot looks like:

The realism here is uncanny.
Also notice that Saskia's vinyl has more yellow in it than Paisley's.  Maybe not as much yellow as appears in this photo, but the difference is noticeable even in real life.

The tops of Paisley's feet also have more wrinkles than I would expect to see on a real baby:

I love the shape and look of Paisley's legs, though.  Here's the right leg:

And this is the left leg:

Here's another look at her full body:

I think all of the vinyl parts look good together, and they've been put on a body that's just the right size.  The Paisley kit does not come with a body, but Bountiful Baby has recommendations about which bodies will work.

This might be a good time to evaluate the value of this particular reborn doll.  The Paisley kit cost $35.95 originally, but is now on sale for $25.17.  Her body costs $10.  

Other things that Brenda needed to complete this kit are (and I'm guessing a lot on prices here!):
1. 20mm eyes: $7.00-$10.00
2. Poly-fil and glass beads: beads are about $4.00 per pound, Poly-fil is super-cheap.  Brenda might buy in bulk, but let's say 4lbs of beads plus a bit of Poly-fil: maybe $10-$15
3. Paints and sealant: for someone making a lot of reborns, these probably come out to a few dollars per doll
4. Neck and leg plugs: $2.50 (it's also possible to use pantyhose to contain the beads, but these aren't cheap!)
5. Magnets (for the pacifier): $2
6. Extras (pacifier, blanket, hospital bracelet, onesie, hat, headband) $7-10
7. Shipping for all of the supplies: $10-15

Again, that's a lot of guessing, and I tried to be conservative, but it all adds up to somewhere between $80 and $100.  That means Brenda is only charging $30-50 for her time.  Since I've clocked about 15 hours on Saskia already and have only (partially) painted her...I'd say the price is more than fair!

Anyway, here's a look at Paisley and Saskia together...or at least Paisley with Saskia's head:

The Saskia mold has more fine-tuned detail than the Paisley mold, but keep in mind that Saskia's kit costs about $70 more than Paisley's right now.  I actually like the color of Paisley's vinyl more...but that could have something to do with my painting skill (or lack thereof).

Saskia is going to be a larger baby than Paisley.  Paisley is about 20 inches long and clearly represents a very new, squinty, wrinkled baby.  Saskia will be more like 23 inches long, and her features are mostly those of an older baby--perhaps several months old.  Except for those odd skull sutures.  I still don't know what to think about those.

I found Paisley some BabyGap clothing to wear--in colors that don't anger my camera.  

I dressed her in grey and white for the cover shot of this post, so that I wouldn't give away her gender right off the bat.  Here are the pictures from that mini session:

Toy Box Philosopher

The more time I had to play with Paisley, the better I got at finding new poses for her.  I have to say, this is a really fun baby doll to hold and pose.  She weighs over five pounds, and this substantial heft is very satisfying.

Toy Box Philosopher

Toy Box Philosopher

I love how this baby looks in neutral colors.  She would have made a really cute boy, too. :)

We've had an awful lot of cold and rain here in Maine lately, so it's been tough to get outside.  Fortunately, though, there was one dry afternoon last week that made it safe to venture into the backyard with Paisley.  

I bundled her up in more pieces from her BabyGap outfit before we went out, though:

I don't have any baby chairs or infant paraphernalia left in my house, so I brought out a big bean bag so that Paisley could stay safely off the damp ground:


I don't think newborns can see very far away, but Paisley certainly seemed interested in her surroundings:

In the natural light, I made another attempt to figure out what color Paisley's eyes are.  They look very brown from most angles:

But they also have some lighter areas that peek out every now and then, like this:

I'd guess that they're hazel, but Paisley's squinty eye shape makes them look darker.

I tried Paisley in some different positions on the bean bag...

...and I even tried to get her all folded up into a compact pose--like what all of the baby photographers are using these days.  Apparently Paisley is not as compressible as a real baby, though, because this is as compact as she gets:

And she doesn't look very happy about it.
She was much more content when I let her relax and stretch out on her back:

Toy Box Philosopher

The sun started to peek out towards the end of our session, so I removed some of Paisley's clothing layers:

With no hat (and no hair) she reminds me a lot of my beloved Madame Alexander Victoria doll:

I tried to get her to at least keep the adorable bear hat on, but she was having none of it:

Toy Box Philosopher

Here's my little bald cutie enjoying a few rare peeks of October Maine warmth:

Bottom line?  I know that baby dolls (and reborn dolls, in particular) are not to everyone's taste, but for me, this purchase was delightful for a number of personal reasons.  First of all, Paisley brought back a lot of fond memories from my baby doll collecting days.  I rarely venture into the baby doll market anymore, and so it was fun to re-live the unique emotional thrill of seeing and holding a realistic-looking newborn doll for the first time.  Purchasing Paisley has also proven to be educationally valuable for me as I attempt to complete my own reborn kit.  I re-learned the value of subtlety by inspecting Paisley's delicately-applied paint.  I will try to follow Brenda's example of letting the paint show off the mold--not overwhelm it.  I also learned that I'll need to look into limb and neck plugs (?) or find some other way to stuff and weight the vinyl parts of my kit.  I want Saskia to feel as nice in my arms as Paisley does.  Last but certainly not least, I loved the suspense of waiting for this baby to arrive...and then the exhilarating thrill of slowly unveiling her gender and appearance.  

All surprises are fun for me to some degree, but I'm learning that some surprises have a post-reveal letdown that can leave me with a tinge of buyer's remorse.  Happily, this sweet little newborn delivered an excellent series of surprises and left me with no regrets.


  1. She looks a little like a Bye-Lo Baby. Very pretty.

  2. She is adorable! It always amazes me how realistic these dolls look!

  3. Thanks for your review Emily. The point about her being weighted and requiring plugs so that the filling stays in the head and limbs was very useful information.
    Congratulations, she's a lovely doll.

  4. She's really sweet Emily, thank you for another great view. It makes me want a reborn now.....but no, I really mustn't go there!!!!

  5. Aww she's cute! that bear hat is adorable, I want one in adult size lol.

  6. Adorable although I would have thought a new born baby was supposed to be blue-eyed.

  7. Oh!!! She's so beautiful! And as always, your photos are fantastic! <3

  8. Congratulations, she's darling! And thanks for the excellent outdoor photos!

  9. I had to keep telling myself she's not
    The last photos were hard for me to see a doll and not a real kid. She's so cute. But I doubt I could ever have one.

  10. Now I'm wanting to get back into reborning!

    A good way to do veins, if the vinyl is translucent enough, is to paint them INSIDE the body.

  11. Hi Emily! I loved this review, you are so lucky so own such a gorgeous baby doll!

    I was wondering, would you be inclined to do a review on that Descendants: Carlos and Evie two-pack that you mentioned in your previous Descendants doll review? I would love to know your thoughts on Carlos especially, him being a boy doll, but if you'd rather not, please don't feel compelled to, I love reading whatever you have to say!

  12. Oh i love Paisley!! I thought for sure you would get a baby vampire LOL!!
    Fun little fact...There are five destinations named Paisley. Three in the USA. (One is here in Florida!). One in the U.K. and the other in Canada.

  13. Thank you so much!! I have wanted a reborn for years, but just don't have the budget of $500 and up. Thanks to this post I already have a surprise baby coming my way as an early Christmas gift. So excited!!

  14. Oh I just love Paisley in the neutral colors! I just knew that your surprise baby would be a girl (many are girls probably for the sole fact that girls are thought to be more fun to dress up!). She and Saskia are going to be cute siblings! It's very interesting to see the difference in molds. Saskia has a sort of goofy/sleepy look while Paisley is very thoughtful. Paisley also reminds me of a cute little bany boy I've babysit before. I just love how the molds capture the look of a real baby.

  15. She's very cute. The white onesie and grey cap is my favorite of her outfits, but love the pink sweater too.

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  17. It kind of looks like the Never Grow Up doll from Paradise Galleries! I like these rather serious looking baby dolls.