Sisters Labor of Love Delivers Reborn Dolls

A reborn doll crafted at " Until Forever Nursery" operated by doll artists Kathi George and Julie Crosier

Reborn doll crafted at "Until Forever Nursery"

Williamstown, MA -  Sisters Kathi George and Julie Crosier are filling their newly-launched “Until Forever Nursery” with hand-crafted artworks reflecting a contemporary version of a traditional skill: dollmaking.

“This is something that I love to do,” George said during a recent interview . “[Julie and I] have been dollmakers on and off for about 35 years. This is such a creative art form.”

A small home-based workspace hosts the tools necessary for creating dolls as well as a “nursery” populated with several baby boy and girl dolls. The dolls are placed in baskets, dressed in pajamas or dresses and accessorized with bonnets, hair ribbons or decorative headbands. The impression is of babies sleeping or laying awake and gazing at their surroundings.

Crafting the dolls is a labor of love and includes much detail work, George and Crosier said.

Doll artist Kathi George created this reborn doll

Kathi George crafted this doll

George and Crosier displayed about 10 finished, beautifully dressed dolls.  The term “reborn dolls” was generated when doll kits known as “sculpts” were not readily available, and artists boiled the paint from completed dolls to create a blank canvas for their own visions, George said. Sculpts include a head, arms, and legs with feet. Bodies are separate. Heads offer a variety of facial expression. Reborn dolls are exceptionally realistic and have been mistaken for living babies. The art is receiving much attention; both the “Today” show and the daytime talk show “Anderson” recently featured reborn doll artisans.

“These dolls are not childrens toys,” Crosier said. “They are collectibles.”

Dolls may designed to order, meaning hair color, eye color, and ethnicity may be chosen. George said she would like to try a custom doll and would be willing to work from a photograph to try and capture an image. The dolls may be ordered as singles, twins, or other multiples.

Initial doll design steps include mastering “veining,” a technique requiring a slender, finely-bristled brush and special blue paint. “Veining” means placing veins on the face, wrists, and knees of the doll. George demonstrated the technique and then used a makeup sponge to gently soften the paint appearance. The result is a faint line that will later be covered with special face paint. The effect is very subtle but adds a life-like dimension to the finished product, Crosier and George explained.

crosier george

Julie Crosier and Kathi George discuss "blushing" as they work on a doll.

“One thing is that you have to work in natural light [for superior results],” George said. “By the time we’ve completed the blushings [face paint applications], you will barely see the veins. Even though it is subtle, the veins are vital to create the realistic look.”

Purple and red “veining” follow the blue, and each paint layer requires an 8-minute baking  in a 265-degree Fahrenheit oven. Each doll requires about eight layers of paint. Lips are painted. Eyebrows are most often painted but Crosier said she intends to try “rooting” the eyebrows with mohair.  False eyelashes may be glued or rooted to frame glass eyes. Sea sponges are used to color the faces and bodies. The tools help give the dolls their lifelike appearance, George said.

“You have to be meticulous when applying color to the faces,” George said. “Too much paint and you’ll have little white dots after you bake, and too little won’t provide the skin tone that you need.”

Hair is placed on doll heads using a very fine barbed needle that punctures the surface and distributes hair strands piece by piece. George demonstrated the “rooting” process.

“It takes anywhere from four to eight hours to do a head,” George said. “I liken it to knitting. I can do it while I’m watching T.V..”

Once the strands are placed, George said she uses a hemostat and a makeup sponge dipped in glue to coat the doll head interior and secure the strands in place.

two dolls

The doll at right was created using a head like the one shown at left

The dolls have soft bodies created by filling doe suede with a fine glass material that resembles granulated sugar. The material adds realistic feel and weight to the dolls, George and Crosier said.

Each doll is designed as a one of a kind creation.  The business is selling dolls via Internet venues as well as accepting orders by phone or e-mail. George and Crosier said they plan to participate at seasonal events such as the town’s “Summer Sundays in Williamstown” endeavor. Dolls are priced at $200-$250 each, they said.

Creating the dolls is relaxing, Crosier said, but the business offers something else to warm her heart.

“This is quality time with my sister.”

Those who want to order a doll may contact George at  Kgeorge957@adelphia.net or by calling 413-458-8383. Crosier may be contacted at Julie.crosier@comcast.net or by calling 518-466-8655. “Until Forever Nursery” has a Facebook page as well.

About suebushreports

Freelance journalist Susan Bush spent two years as a reporter for the North Adams Transcript newspaper. Ms. Bush spent four years as a Berkshire Eagle writer and two years as editor/writer for www.iberkshires.com. Ms. Bush is a contributing writer for www.vtdigger.org and owns a photography studio in southern Vermont.
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11 Responses to Sisters Labor of Love Delivers Reborn Dolls

  1. Abby says:

    Hi Kathleen. I am new to making reborns and would love some advice. How do you make the blushing not look to blotchy? Also do you allow visitors into your nursery? I would love to see another persons work in real life.

  2. Judy says:

    Beautiful work, ladies! Absolutely incredible realism. I now know who will be a new member of our family this Christmas. I will be calling soon to inquire more about adopting one of these precious babies. I live nearby in Pittsfield. Thank you so much for the gift of your talent!

  3. wanda willoughby says:

    ur dolls are very lovely & life like. i bet you sell
    lots of them. when someone buys one, does
    it come with a basket? i wish i was multi
    talented. i have made ginger bread houses,
    written poems, made charecter cakes & I
    knit. i wish i could make things. well keep
    up th great job.

  4. Lulu says:

    Hey do you accept visitors at your nursery? Thank you :)

    • Kathleen George says:

      We will be in our booth on Spring St in front of TD Bank, in Williamstown, MA every Sunday in July from 2pm – 7pm weather permitting. We’d love to have you stop by!

  5. Kathleen George says:

    Thank you for your lovely compliments! This is all so much fun!

    • Dorothy behan says:

      I JUST COULDN’T BELIEVE THEY WEREN’T REAL WHEN I SAW YOU AT MAYFEST THEY ARE BEAUITFUL . YOU WOMAN DO A GREAT JOB.

      • just can’t believe the human babies when I seen them at mayfest you woman are so talentd to do that . I have never seen anything like it thought you had real babies you looked like you had twins the way you were walking down the street. thank you for sharing them with me .

  6. Sarisha says:

    The picture of the unfinished doll head next to the completed doll is incredible. One looks like a doll and the other a real baby!

  7. Sue says:

    I have seen these dolls, and they really do look like human babies. The first time I saw a photo of one that Kathi had made, I thought it was a picture of a live baby. They are so beautiful and these women are very talented artists.

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