TDmonthly Magazine!
September 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 9


Sugar, Snails and Silicone: Today´s Doll Materials

Secrist started making realistic baby dolls and kits in response to requests from reborners — craftspeople who buy realistic baby dolls, then take them apart and refurbish them…
What are little girls and boys made of? These days, if they’re collectible replicas, a soft vinyl and silicone mix. From sculpting to manufacture, new materials are revolutionizing the look and feel of baby dolls (see: "Girls Get ´Real´ Babies").

Three years ago, doll maker Sheila Michael switched over from the polymer clays such as Cernit, Sculpey and Super Sculpey to a polymer resin called Pro-Sculpt for her one-of-a-kind dolls. She still uses traditional polymers for her manufactured work.

To create the New Baby Skin for their Breath of Life babies, Lee Middleton Original Dolls created a vinyl mix that was “softer and more cuddly,” said Mark Putinski, vice president of marketing. They opted not to add silicone, which is often used by one-of-a-kind doll artists to get a super-realistic look.

“We chose an all-vinyl mixture because of its long-term stability,” Putinski told TDmonthly Magazine. “Nobody knows how silicone will hold up.”

After six months of experimenting with silicone and vinyl mixes, Shirley Blackall, founder of Blackall Associates Inc., believes she’s found one that adds realism while remaining stable over time. There’s just a small amount of silicone in the mix, said Blackall, but it’s enough to lend a realistically soft and “squishy” feel to the babies’ arms and legs.

“For the face, we put a layer of silicone-vinyl over a hard vinyl head, so it has a soft feel to it,” Blackall continued. A silicone-vinyl “tummy plate” is available in some models, and is sewn directly onto the baby’s fiber-filled cloth body.

The Secrist Doll Company designs and manufactures its dolls in its own Midland, Mich. factory, utilizing a team of 12 cross-trained, synergistic workers. They even produce their own optical-quality acrylic doll’s eyes.

“The vinyl that we use is chosen carefully by us to be so safe that a baby can chew on it without any concern,” founder Pat Secrist told TDmonthly Magazine.

Secrist started making realistic baby dolls and kits in response to requests from reborners – craftspeople who buy realistic baby dolls, then take them apart and refurbish them, painting in such details as the tiny blue veins that pulse underneath babies’ temples. The reborned babies may sell for as much as 10 times the cost of the original doll. Secrist make a "blank canvas" kit that allows crafters to "newborn" their babies without renovating previously made dolls.

Secrist uses a semi-translucent vinyl mix and places the pigment underneath the “skin,” giving it a more realistic appearance. The heads are 1/8” thick and are soft enough for reborners to hand-root hair through the scalp without preheating in an oven.

Most of the lifelike baby dolls have cloth bodies, which give a “cuddly” feel to the dolls. Manufacturers and reborners often add plastic pellets to the babies’ bottoms to weigh them down and add to the realism.

The following are a few products that reflect the realistic baby doll trend.

MSRP: $69.00
Launch Date: January 2005
Category: Dolls

Secrist Dolls is the first American doll company to offer specialty doll kits for the "newborn" market. These doll kits come completely blank and ready to bring to life according to the doll makers imagination. Secrist also offers a complete line of supplies and tools to make this process even more fun and easy. Pictured here is their incredibly life-like Teddy doll kit already "newborned" by a local doll maker. Teddy is 22" long. Secrist has also begun offering craft kits to help new reborners and newborners get started. Launch date: 2005.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4374      (added 8/31/2005)

MSRP: $85
Category: Dolls

This newly born preemie is ready to be “newborned” by an adventurous crafts person. She comes unassembled with vinyl arms, legs, cloth body, joints and tywraps. She needs to be painted and have eyelashes added. The photo depicts a finished “Jamie.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3917      (added 7/11/2005)

MSRP: $139
Category: Dolls

Sculpted by Laura Tuzio-Ross for Masterpiece Dolls, this 20” baby has lifelike silicone/vinyl limbs and head attached to a cloth body. A human hair wig and a red satin outfit designed by the artist’s mother marks this doll as a true collectible.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3919      (added 7/11/2005)

Alison MarekWriter's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on Watch her nefarious villains in the web series Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author


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