The first attempt I ever tried at making my own reborn doll resulted in a tiny little beauty that a friend snatched up so quickly I didn’t even think to take pictures before she was adopted into her new home. Since then, I’ve made several reborn dolls. Almost invariably, I use Berenguer dolls to reborn, because they aren’t as costly to start with.
I can also guarantee one other thing: upon seeing a reborn doll I’ve finished, friends either want to know how much I’d charge to adopt her, or how I went about creating the baby.
Let me say something from the start. This process is simply my process, the one that I use because it works for me and I’m comfortable with it. There are nearly as many processes as there are reborn artists. No way is the “right” way – it is simply “one” way. This may be one of the easiest ways, though.
So I’m going to assume that you’ve never made a reborn doll before. If you have, much of this article will be second-nature to you. There’s always something new to pick up in someone else’s work, though, so I’m continuing on with my assumption.
Materials to Start a Reborn Berenguer Doll
I’m a big believer in starting out with a bare minimum and working your way up from there. Why? Because if you jump in and spend hundreds of dollars (very easy to do with reborn dolls!) only to find out that you don’t enjoy the hobby at all, you’re stuck. Also, if you start out small, you don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Revitalizing dolls is like any other hobby – it takes time and practice to start feeling like you’ve done a good job. If you have a small amount of money invested in your first projects, you’ll be much easier on yourself.
So with all this in mind, what’s the bare essentials? I’m going to suggest a doll to start with, in addition to the tools – it is an inexpensive Berenguer baby that will get you going without stress.
14″ Lots to Love Berenguer Baby Doll (these only cost about $7 at Wal-Mart)
Pair of doll eyes (18 mm for the Lots to Love doll) – Darker eyes look best on “newborn” baby dolls.
Craft Glue (Aleen’s Tacky Glue is great – just get the kind that dries clear!)
That’s it? Yup, seriously, that’s all you need for this first bit of work. In all, a budget of about $25 is perfect if you have to buy everything (assuming you don’t already have craft glue or a craft knife). To purchase the eyes, look for “Real Eyes” or “Masterpiece” eyes that are sized 18 mm at www.rebornsupplies.com or www.bountifulbaby.com.
First Steps: Preparing a Berenguer Doll for Revitalizing
There’s a reason to do the basic steps in a certain order. For instance, I’m including the changing of eyes in this article rather than a later one because you need to change the eyes before you paint just to make life easy. Rules are made to be broken, but if you practice the steps in order a time or two, you’ll get a feel for what you can deviate from without messing yourself up.
Very first, no matter what order you eventually do your own steps in, you have to prepare your doll for renewing. This is one of those things that reborn artists all have different opinions on – exactly what preparation should entail. Some people will strongly advocate that you strip all factory paint from your doll before you do anything else. Other people will say that a good bubbly bath to remove any factory impurities is good enough.
Which camp am I in? Well … I like things to be easy. I see no reason to remove all the factory paint as long as it isn’t done up like an antique porcelain doll with rouge and lipstick. In fact, if you leave the basic Lots to Love Berenguer paint on, you have a beautiful base for your later work that will save you a ton of time.
So … if you have any small children around banish them from your workspace. This will save a lot of trauma. Then, take your doll’s head off. The Lots to Love doll has a particularly tight head, so you’ll need to wiggle it a bit to get it off. Don’t worry, though – you can’t break anything.
Next, you need to make room for the work you’re going to do later on down the line. With the Lots to Love doll, this means opening the cover over the neck so that you have access to the body, arms, and legs for painting. Use your craft knife and be very, very careful with your fingers. You will want to start in the middle of the neck, the center, where the vinyl is most thin. Cut a small circle out of the center, so you can see what you’ve got to work with. Then, slowly widen the circle until you have a large hole.
DO NOT cut too near the “rim” of the neck, or you’ll never be able to get the baby’s head to stay on again! In the example pictures attached to this article, you can see how close I cut to the rim … and it was a tad too close. It is harder than it should be to reattach the head because the rim is weaker.
With the neck “hole” cut, you are ready to make your first design decision: nose holes, or no nose holes? It all comes down to what you think will look most realistic. If you opt for nose holes, use a very small drill bit or a super-thin phillips head screw driver. Carefully twist the tool as you push so that the holes are evenly cut. Be very, very careful about the face – if it gets scratched, there’s nothing you can do to fix it.
If you don’t want nose holes, there’s no need to worry. Just continue on to the eyes.
Second Step: Replace the Factory Eyes
The purpose of a reborn doll is to end up with a baby that is so lifelike it will fool almost anyone at first glance. It’s very hard to achieve that level of realism with the factory eyes baby dolls come with. When you reborn a doll, don’t skip the eyes – it will make a huge difference in the finished look.
Replacing Berenguer eyes is super easy, too, which makes it seem silly to not do it.
For this step, you’ll need to have the new doll eyes, the craft glue, and your craft knife ready to use. Working on a level surface, tilt your doll’s head back so that you can see inside. You should be able to see the eye sockets easily – they’re vinyl “bulbs” that poke out on the inside of the head.
Here’s the tricky bit … because the Lots to Love doll has a smaller head, it will take some patience to cut the bulbs without cutting the doll’s face. Use a steady, even pressure to cut a circle around the flat part of the bulb inside the head. You can’t hurt the eyes you’re about to take out, so don’t worry about that. Instead, just concentrate on creating a smooth hole that you can easily pop the original eyes out of.
Once the flaps are cut off, you can gently press against the factory eyes and they will pop right out inside the head. Set them to the side or toss them – you won’t really need them again.
Now, you’re ready to test the look of your new eyes. Without glue (this is a test run), place the new eyes inside the sockets. This can be a bit frustrating if you have larger hands because you can’t hold the eye very well while your fingers are inside the head – deep breaths are key. If you have the right size of eye, you should be able to press gently and look at your doll without the eyes falling out. They’ll be loosely rooted in place.
What are you looking for? First, you’re checking to make sure the size of eye you’re using will work. Second, you’re trying to see how you want to place the eyes – what sort of positioning. Doing all this without glue saves you a lot of headache.
Once you’re happy with how you’re going to place the eyes, pop them out and place glue in a ring around the eye near the back. You’ll see in the pictures that I’ve used a LOT of glue. You really need to. If it is clear-drying glue, you have nothing to worry about.
With the glue ready, carefully place the eyes back in the head. It will take a few minutes for the glue to start drying – but because it’s “tacky”, you can move the eyes around a bit and line up the pupils beautifully.
Now, you can set the head aside overnight (or about 9 hours) to let the glue dry thoroughly and you’re set!
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