A decade ago Liviana Sirmans flew across the world from her home in Georgia to Australia for her son’s wedding.
It was a trip that would change her life in a way she could not have possibly imagined.
While Down Under, Liviana spotted a doll so life-like it resembled a real baby. Blown away by the doll, known as a Reborn, she spent the next ten years dedicating her life to them.
Safely home, she trained to become a Reborner – defined as someone who transforms a manufactured vinyl doll to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible.
Since then, Liviana, an Italian native, has made 428 dolls which cost her between $80 and $250 to make.
Dolls with special effects can come with birthmarks, blow bubbles or have tears on their faces.
Research into Reborns has found that a lot of people who buy the dolls, which can cost up to thousands of dollars, are women who cannot have children or those who have lost a child. The dolls can even come with fake birth certificates or adoption certificates.
In her interview withThe Valdosta Daily Times,Liviana did not disclose whether any of her customers had brought the doll for these reasons.
However, she revealed one of her customers to be 8-year-old Brianna Burt, who she made a doll for using the girl’s own hair.
When Brianna got her hair cut, her mother saved the hair and gave it to Liviana to microroot into the doll’s head.
And, to make the doll a true mini me, she sourced doll’s eyes from Germany to match those of Brianna’s.
Uncanny: Since 2002 Liviana has made 428 dolls which cost her between $80 and $250 to make
Often described as creepy and with most retailers refusing to stock them, people’s aversion to Reborns can be linked to the ‘Uncanny Valley’ hypothesis.
The hypothesis sets out that as human replica objects become more lifelike they attract an increasingly empathetic response. However, at the point when they become ‘too lifelike’ the response changes to repulsion.
Detailing the painstaking process of making Reborns, Liviana told The Valdosta Daily Times, that it takes between two weeks and two months. The most anyone has ever paid for one of Liviana’s dolls is 500 euros – $613.
After cleaning the vinyl bodies, Liviana paints on tiny veins. The arm and leg veins are painted on the outside layer while the head veins are painted on the inside.
‘Each layer must be baked in the oven at 265 for eight minutes. Then I paint the nails,’ she explained to the Times.
She then paints on lips and laboriously microroots the hair strand by strand before adding the eyes and eyelashes.
‘I make the body from skin-colored material stuffed with plastic pellets for weight and then the rest with polyfill,’ she said.
After attaching the arms, legs and head, which must be suitably weighted, Liviana dresses the baby either in clothes she has made herself or brought.
Any dolls that don’t turn out as ‘pretty’ as they meant to are given away to residents at a local nursing home.
As well as making dolls of all races, Liviana has also made two baby monkey dolls.
Unsurprisingly, the married mother also collects dolls from around the world with 40 currently residing at her home.
A car accident five years ago resulted in Liviana having neck and back surgery. Last year’s neck surgery forced Liviana to give up making the dolls.