As you probably already know, a tremendous amount of work is involved in taking a generic vinyl or silicone baby form from kit to Lifelike Nuborn. Many folks ask the preponderous question; “Why are these dolls so expensive?!” Well, there are many factors that contribute to the various levels in pricing. The first factor is the cost for the raw materials. How much does a specific doll mold cost? For a solid silicone blank the prices generally start at around a $1,900 and go progressively higher as the realism of the sculpt and the popularity and rarity of the mold itself is increased. For the vinyls, which always involve a cloth body either on its own or inserted beneath a vinyl torso overlay the prices are equivalent to the level of detail in the sculpt, the popularity of the sculptor and the type of vinyl the artist prefers to work with.
I’m sure everyone has seen the extremely cheap kits and likely wonder why we don’t just use those and charge less for our dolls. Well, the sad truth is that many times the cheapest kits (manufactured in China) have been found to be made with toxic chemicals that are not only dangerous to the artist’s health but also to the recipient’s health as well. Please don’t ever think you’ve stumbled onto a goldmine when you find a surprisingly cheap reborn doll kit. The chances are very high that what you may be getting is a poor quality doll that is possibly even toxic. Not ALL inexpensive babies are dangerous or substandard, but it is always best to do some investigating to be sure the kit is safe and authentic.
Last, but not least another determining factor in pricing for dolls is artistic skill level. It’s not about boosting our ego as some may think. It’s about artistic value. It’s about the time and work involved in acquiring the skills, developing a style and practicing that style until it is perfected. You wouldn’t expect a newcomer to a field or industry to be paid the same amount as a professional who has been with the company for years and has worked their way up the company ladder, would you? It’s sort of the same way with reborn dolls. Developing the skills required to make a breathtakingly lifelike doll takes a lot of time, energy, dedication and yes, money. Few of us in this field are blessed with raw talent that does not need to be sharpened over time.
Another question we get asked a lot is “Can you lower the price for me so I can buy it?” This is absurd. Would you want to go into work one day and be asked by your employer “I know we normally pay you two-hundred dollars for a day’s work but how’s about you do it today for an even hundred?” What would you say to that? How would you feel? Can you understand now that it’s not unreasonable that an artist becomes offended when a buyer asks them this? We are also asked to make dolls “for free” because someone deserves to have one and can’t afford it. The vast majority of us do provide our services to worthy causes such as donating dolls to nursing homes, etc. I love to make dolls for this purpose but not so much to give to someone just because they want one and can’t afford it.
So, we’ve talked about the pricing. Now let’s get into how they’re made. Below is an outline of the basic 25 steps I use to create my babies. Please keep in mind that some of these steps must be repeated 3 to 4 times before moving on to the next step, depending on the goal for the doll, the vinyl and how well the paints are adhering during the baking process. There is also a “resting phase” for the vinyl to allow it to settle from being baked a number of times before you can work it again. The doll parts may also need to be “washed” to remove any excess paints that have begun to build up during the layering of the skin colors.
My Artistic Process
- Begin with a beautiful, high quality & detailed doll canvas.
- Make sure all vinyl pieces are clean and dry.
- Neutralize vinyl color to a base tone that is workable for the doll I am creating. (3-9 layers of paint)
- Begin mottling layers at the deepest layer of skin.
- Add overlaying skin tones.
- Balance the tone, if necessary. (2-6 color washes)
- Customize additional color washes to enhance depth and remove unnecessary redness.
- Begin crease, eyelid and lip detailing.
- Add a layer of subtle veining with deeper color in areas of thinnest skin.
- Re-balance skin tone.
- Add more dimension with uppermost mottling layers.
- Neutralize any unwanted coloring that has developed. (1 to 4 color washes)
- Enhance details to create three dimensional appearance to the skin.
- Create eyebrows & nail tips.
- Enhance creases and wrinkles.
- Add dimensions to lips and eye areas.
- Complete setting paint to canvas by double baking & sealing the paint.
- Install eyes on awake baby.
- Create blueprint for hair mapping & draw it onto the scalp.
- Root or paint the hair.
- Glue hair into scalp.
- Root/apply eyelashes.
- Weight, scent & assemble the doll.
- Dressing & Photo Shoot.
- Package doll & any accessories to await his/her trip home.
Here is a breakdown of cost to make ONE BABY.
Low End $125
High End $295
Low End $17
High End $25
$10-$15 per baby
Hair, Eyes, Paints & Needles:
Hair (Kid Mohair) $40/.05 oz
Hair (Long Human/Synthetic) $65-$145 per doll
Glass Eyes $50 per set
Compound Rooting Needles $10 for 5 needles
Heat Set Paints $7-$17 per jar of paint (one jar will make several babies)
PolyGlass Eyes $9 per set
German Glass Eyes $42.00 per set
Hair Adhesive $5-$9 per can
Coming Home Items:
Hospital Blanket $7.50
Hospital Formula Bottle $8
Hospital Bracelet $3.00
Thank You Gift & Printed Materials $4.50
Nylon Fillers $2
Nylon Fasteners $2.50/set
Labor Cost Per Doll:
Total Labor cost for an average doll is $630-$800 when billed at just $10/hour
Painting Skin Layers 15-17 hours
Detailing 7-9 hours
Hair Painting 4-7 hours
Hair Rooting 32-40 hours
Assembly/Gluing 1 hour
Newborn Photography 4-6 hours
70-90 hours is spent on average per doll and that is not including any possible complications with the processing. (which does happen from time to time.)