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Fountain Spotlight: Meet Reborn Doll Artist Amy Karich

Amy Karich

Amy Karich

Consultant on Fountain LA Premiere ‘Reborning’

In our upcoming Los Angeles premiere of the edgy comedy/drama Reborning by Zayd Dohrn, a young woman makes lifelike baby dolls for a living.  This is actually a true occupation and a real phenomenon.  In the play, a customer seeks a doll to represent the child she lost years ago.  In real life, customers buy reborn dolls from reborn artists for a variety of reasons.  When the Fountain needed to learn more about this fascinating art form and the artists who create it, who did we turn to?

We asked Amy Karich. Amy is a professional reborn artist in Southern California. Her online nursery, Amy’s Dollhouse, can be found here.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Texas in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. I have a BA in English Literature from San Diego State University. My art training is mostly self taught. I have been married for almost 22 years and I have four children.

How did you get interested in making reborn dolls? 

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

I made one for my daughter in 2009 to see if I could. When other people saw her doll, they began asking me to make one for them, too. I then started selling them at doll shows and eventually eBay and Etsy. I’ve been selling them under the name Amy’s Dollhouse for about 5 years now.

How long does it take to make one doll? 

I finish and sell about 1 doll per month.

How much do they sell for?

They range in price from $500 for micro preemies to $2500 for larger babies. The average selling price for my dolls is $1100.

Made by Amy Karich.

Reborn doll made by Amy Karich.

How are the dolls made?

It takes me a full month to make one doll. The painting process takes about two weeks and the hair rooting takes another two weeks. Each doll has between 25 to 35 layers of paint (baked after each layer is applied) in order to achieve their realistic skin tones, undertones, mottling, capillaries and veins. I then work on details such as fingernails and toenails, shading wrinkles, painting eyebrows, stork bites, and birthmarks if any are desired. After the final layer of varnish is baked, I begin the hair rooting process. After the hair and eyelashes are rooted, I seal it on the inside of the head. If it is an open-eyed doll, I insert the eyes and then weight the limbs and body. Finally, I assemble the doll.

Amy's work table in her studio.

Amy’s work table in her studio.

What are the reasons why customers buy your dolls?  

Most of my customers are collectors who appreciate the artistry and realism of reborn dolls.

Has a customer ever asked you to make a replica of a child they’ve lost? Like in the play ‘Reborning’? 

I have done one custom order for a client who had a miscarriage but none to my knowledge that have had a child pass away after birth. Most of my clients are not trying to replace a baby or pretend to care for a baby. As with most collectors of any type of art, there is an emotional element that compels them to buy a certain piece for their collection or gallery.

How often do you actually meet your customers face-to-face? 

I rarely get to meet my clients as 99% of my business is online. I am looking forward though to exhibiting at the Rose International Doll Show in Denver this July where I do hope to meet with some of my clients. I’m really looking forward to it as I rarely have enough inventory to participate in doll shows. With an entire year to prepare however, I’ve been managing to create some dolls to sell at the show and still be able to handle all of my custom orders.

What gives you joy and satisfaction in your work?

Amy Karich

Amy Karich

For me, the joy and satisfaction is in the process of creating them and even photographing them. Once I have completed a doll, I am very happy to send it to a buyer who will appreciate and enjoy it. Many of my clients stay in touch with me and send photos. I am always so delighted to hear from them.

Is it ever hard to part with a doll you’ve made?

I will admit, that I have not been able to part with any of the small baby elves or fairies that I’ve done. I fully intended to sell them when I started them. When I finished them, I just couldn’t part with them. I have a difficult time parting with the miniature babies that I finish as well.

How would you describe the reborning community?

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

I think the artists who create lifelike dolls are a relatively small and close knit community. We have forums online where we talk to each other and share our work with each other. We share news about articles and events related to our field. We warn each other about difficult clients or non-paying bidders. This type of work can be very isolating so it’s refreshing to communicate with with other doll artists.

People are  fascinated with the folks who buy reborn dolls and why they buy them. 

In general, the media tends to focus on an extremely small percentage of collectors who may treat their dolls like actual babies. In my experience, however, most doll collectors are just like any other collector … they simply display (most often in locked glass cases) and appreciate their collection. For some reason the media targets doll collectors to portray them as crazy. They don’t target men who collect and spend insane amounts of money on cars, guns or even action figures. They say that the doll collectors are caught up in a fantasy or are role playing but one could say the same about people who attend renaissance fairs or participate in civil war reenactments dressed in period attire. I don’t think the media should make any group of collectors or hobbyists feel uncomfortable about what they choose to collect. I believe that, as long as the media continues its bias stories interviewing only the few collectors that do treat their dolls like real babies, most doll collectors will shy away from speaking about their collection with people who are not doll artists or fellow collectors.

When you first read ‘Reborning’, what did you think?

I thought the play was very entertaining and very much enjoyed it. I was intrigued that there was a play even written about what I do.  So many people have never even heard of the art form.

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The Los Angeles Premiere of Reborning by Zayd Dohrn, directed by Simon Levy, stars Kristin Carey, Ryan Doucette and Joanna Strapp. It opens Jan 24th and runs to March 15th. Don’t miss this funny and compelling comedy/drama about creating family and the power of healing.  More Info/Get Tickets

What is ‘Reborning’? The Answer May Surprise You

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This is not a real baby.

LA Premiere of Fountain Play Explores True-Life Fascination with Lifelike Baby Dolls

In the Fountain Theatre’s upcoming LA Premiere of Reborning by Zayd Dohrn, Kelly is a young artist who creates reborn babies. What is a reborn baby? What is reborning?

A reborn doll is a manufactured vinyl doll that has been transformed to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible. The process of creating a reborn doll is referred to as reborning and the doll artists are referred to as reborners.  Reborn dolls are also known as living dolls.

Ryan Doucette, Joanna Strapp in 'Reborning'.

Ryan Doucette, Joanna Strapp in ‘Reborning’.

The hobby of creating reborn baby dolls began around 1999 when doll enthusiasts wanted more realistic dolls. Since then, an industry surrounding reborn dolls has emerged. Reborn dolls are primarily purchased on EBay and the internet and on artist websites, often called “nursuries”. Purchases are not called sales but “adoptions”. There are trade shows for collectors nationwide. Depending on craftsmanship, dolls range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars

Some consumers of reborn dolls use them to replace a child they once lost, or a child that has grown up. Others collect reborns as they would regular dolls. These dolls are usually taken seriously and are cared for like an infant. Because of their realistic appearance, reborn dolls have often been mistaken for real babies.

reborn doll parts table

Many women purchase a reborn doll to fill a void of a lost child and may treat reborns as living babies. Some customers order special dolls that are exact replicas of their own children who died at birth or in infancy. These are individually made from hand-sculpted clay forms made from photographs of the child.

“It fills a spot in your heart,” says a woman on the Today Show as she cuddled “Benjamin” and “Michael” in her arms. 

‘The Today Show’ Explores Reborning

Creepy? Bizarre? Or a positive source of comfort and healing? A work of art?

In the edgy comedy/drama Reborning, Kelly  comes to suspect that a particularly demanding client  may be her own long-lost mother. The lines between art and life begin to blur as Kelly tries to unravel the mystery. This funny and compelling play takes a riveting look at work, motherhood and the power of healing. Don’t miss it! Opens Jan 24th.

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“A comic setup that spins into deeply affecting territory.” San Francisco Chronicle

More Info/Get Tickets