Added: (Sat Jan 12 2008)

From across the room one can see the clusters of women several cuddling infants swaddled in blankets. “She is soooo cuuute one woman exclaims, what’s her name?” “Shhhh, she’s sleeping, you’ll wake her!” “They look so real,” exclaim by-passers, and the other women coo in agreement. Taking in this tender motherly exchange, it's easy to picture new mothers taking a leisurely Sunday stroll through a park in suburbia. However there is one small distinction; although these interactions are genuine, the babies are not. They look, feel and smell like real babies, but they are dolls. Expensive, stunningly realistic dolls. Joshua’s mother paid $650.00 for his “adoption fees”. Some dolls of this kind cost as much as $2000.00These unsettlingly life-like babies are not your typical vinyl play dolls. These are eerily authentic works exquisitely re-painted and re-designed by artists, such as Michele Barrow-Bélisle, who used to be a preschool teacher but is now a modern-day surrogate. In this strange world of baby-making that convincingly captures the look and feel of actual babies, she reins queen. It’s the newest do-it-yourself craze, and the good “artists” can fetch hundreds, if not thousands, for their creations. They’re called “reborn dolls,” baby dolls painstakingly re-created to look and feel as much like real babies as possible. Many are sold on eBay and through the creators’ websites, often including adoption certificates and genuine hospital id bands. Barrow-Bélisle’s babies have fetched as much as $2600.00, and have found new homes around the globe including Canada, United States, Germany, UK and Australia.Upon closer inspection, Barrow-Bélisle’s dolls look surprisingly true-to-life, from their detailed little fingers and toenails to the rashy skin tone hand painted on their little cheeks. These babies weigh the same as actual babies, need the same neck-support as real babies and wear actual baby clothing right down to the diaper. While creating her reborn dolls, Barrow-Bélisle often uses pictures of newborns and infants for reference (which would explain the meticulous painting techniques to make the skin appear veiny to the freakishly realistic-looking, umbilical cords with the clamps still attached…ewww) For the hair she uses mohair, inserted strand by strand with a felting needle. The eyes are either glass or optical grade acrylic. On average, it takes four days to a week to complete the rebirth process. To an outsider, the first word that comes to mind: bizarre. Women are carrying and caring for fake children, but even though these children are imitation, the love is real. One woman is holding a baby over her shoulder tapping his back the way a mother would after a feeding. You want to walk over and say: “Ok lady, you do realize that you can keep tapping, but he is never going to burp.” But that would take away from what's happening: the incredible intensity of make-believe. They become mothers, even if these children don't dirty their diapers or cry…you simply have to recognize the sanctity of motherhood. These exquisite little babies with their tiny noses and their soulful eyes somehow give something special back to their owners; many are even moved to tears. Spend about 10 minutes watching these women at Barrow-Bélisle’s booth, smiling and talking to the little baby they fell in love with, and it becomes believable. At the end of the show, the women stroll into the lobby, receiving disapproving stares from others, shocked that a mother would take her baby outdoors without a hat in this weather. Most of the new moms don’t even notice. Elated the women exit the show, with their precious little bundles of vinyl.“I saw these babies and I knew that I wanted to create them,” says Barrow-Bélisle who has created close to a hundred children. “I told my husband I have to start making them! I just adore babies, there’s something so magical about new life.” A little experimenting combined with her background in doll making and decorative painting, it all came together. In addition to playing creator and running her sudo-adoption agency, Barrow-Bélisle teaches classes instructing curious pupils on reborn doll making and has published a series of how-to books called Beautiful Babies: The Art of Reborn Doll Making. “The adoption fees may be out of some people’s price range, and many others are into the whole do-it-yourself thing,” states Barrow-Bélisle. “This is one of the main reasons for creating the books, to provide beginners with the basics to successfully create lifelike babies of their own.” Reborn Baby Dolls seem to appeal to not only doll makers and collectors but also people from every walk of life. Like scrapbooking, this fad crosses over into the new and fashionable craft trends of altered art and memory keeping, and it might be here to stay. You can get an up-close and personal look at these babies when you visit http://www.mbbcreativedolldesign.com/ for the details, or contact Michele Barrow-Bélisle by email at achildsworld@gmail.com or by phone at 519-691-0746 for information. Creepy or the next scrapbooking? You be the judge.

Submitted by:Michele Belisle
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