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Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Reborn Baby Renaissance

The last time we wrote about the phenomenon of artist-made, startlingly realistic baby dolls, in the post Hauntingly real “reborn” babies, readers were divided on whether these collectibles were creepy creations or beautiful (and sometimes personally meaningful) works of art.  Since that time, the interest in these dolls has not waned, at least if you use eBay listings and sales as a barometer of popular opinion.
In fact, today’s first listing has garnered a surge of interest and bids, for a doll that looks so real, from the dimpled knees to the variations in skin tone, you would probably have to pinch its cheeks just to make sure.  See the baby pictures here for **A Romie Baby**SOLID Full SILICONE DOLL***LENNOX***#5 by Romie Strydom -reborn:

The fans set us straight last time, instructing us to do our homework and distinguish between true reborn dolls and silicone dolls, so we only quote the listing title, which perhaps uses the term “reborn” to attract collectors’ attention.  And it has, to the tune of 28 bids and a high bid of $10,700. Last week, another Romie baby, the LENNOX #4, sold for $15,100. Incredible!
If you fall on the “this might be creepy” side of the spectrum in regard to these realistic dolls, watch this video of baby doll Lennox #1 being moved about by the artist, Romie Strydom:
What mostly seems strange here is to see a baby handled so much, especially as the disembodied laughter loops in the background but, the longer the video goes (and it goes over six minutes), the more real Lennox seems, to the point where at least this viewer began to worry: maybe even real babies are a little creepy, while also being cute and adorable?
Here is everything else you need to know about Lennox, from the listing:
“Lennox is a full bodied silicone baby, with a ball jointed neck.  She is flexible and moves like a real baby…
I sculpted her from a ball of clay, which I am reproducing  into a small edition of soft platinum silicone babies.  Her body is poured in ONE piece for realism and strength.  The limbs are not joined on afterwards, so no seam lines.
Lennox has been painted with the recommended silicone paints, with beautiful coloring and mottling.  No detail has been missed on her.
She is totally adorable,  very realistic and is totally solid.  Nothing has been hollowed out, she is solid silicone.  For this reason her hair cannot be sealed inside her head, so extreme care must be taken with his hair as it can come out with brushing etc.”
Another intriguing listing is for this Boo boo FULL BODIED SOLID SILICONE preemie ooak BABY doll GIRL not reborn NR!. Take a look at this collage:

Again, this is silicone creation not a vinyl one, made by Sherry Bowden.  She has a solid legion of fans, garnering 37 bids and a current high bid of $3,050 for what the artist describes as a “Lil’ early bird preemie girl baby.”
Last time we wrote about these realistic dolls, we focused on the dedication of collectors, but this listing is striking for providing a window for looking at the experience of the artist as she labors on her dolls. Last week, Sherry also had another micro preemie named Gracie up for sale (sold for $765) and describes her nicely in the listing. Read below, it all sounds quite maternal:
“I enjoy painting my silicone babies very much and go the extra mile to make them as realistic as possible!  Different lighting situations (day, night, evening) have been employed during the photography of this baby so you can see her coloring under different conditions.  Many many hours alone when into her painting alone and many weeks into bringing her to life for you!  All photos were taken before her eyelashes were delicately rooted, but she will have wispy eyelashes upon arrival for her new mum.”
The experience of creating the silicone doll sounds more than a little like pregnancy, although without all the discomfort.
If you find this boundary-blurring between humans and silicone depictions of humans produces feelings of uneasiness, you are not alone.  The Wikipedia entry on “Reborn doll” describes this reaction as falling under the “uncanny valley” hypothesis, which states that as an inanimate object looks more lifelike, our empathy toward it increases, until it reaches a point in which our response changes to repulsion.  So some people’s turning point from interest in to distaste for lifelike dolls occurs at a far earlier point than others’.  And for those passionate collectors, that turning point never arrives.  Where do you fall on the spectrum?

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