Reborn Doll workshop brings dolls to life

After finding the art form during a difficult time in her life, Baby Bella Reborns owner Madeleine McColl has shared her unique skill set with the Esperance community.

Ms McColl travelled to the region from Perth to host a week-long workshop to teach budding artists how to bring the vinyl dolls to life.

The workshop was the first Ms McColl had hosted outside of Perth, persuaded by a past student that now resides in Esperance.

Related stories:

Ms McColl said she began the course with a raw kit and taught students, layer by layer, to make the dolls look more realistic.

“There are many, many layers,” she said.

“Normally, it takes two weeks to paint but this has been a one-week crash course.

“We then stuff and weight them with glass beads appropriate to the doll.

“When you pick it up, it feels like a baby.

“Some in this kit are 3D images of real children that have then been created using a plastic mould and vinyl, others have been sculpted and then poured into vinyl.

“Every one of them is completely different based upon your skill and what you can see.”

Ms McColl said she began creating reborn dolls more than 15 years ago, using the artform as an outlet during her depression.

For Ms McColl, what started as an outlet soon grew into a business before morphing into an opportunity to meet new people and socialise.

“I’ve always been artistic but I wanted something to do that would take my mind off something that was happening at the time,” she said.

“It worked and it just developed from there.

“I have 40 women come to me over that six day period, so it becomes a social thing as well as a business.

“It becomes a social thing where you get together and learn the art.

“It was definitely an outlet for me – it’s an outlet for a lot of people.

“It’s not just weird women making dolls.”

Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Beyond the artistic side of creating reborn dolls, Ms McColl said she donated and supplied dolls for everything from emergency response work to therapy.

Stuffed animals and dolls have been shown to lower the blood pressure and decrease stress in those suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia, instilling a sense of responsibility and structure back into the lives of those affected by the illness.

“There is a real purpose to this,” Ms McColl said.

“Some of my dolls go off for emergency response work and disaster relief.

“When they’re so realistic, they [emergency services personnel] tend to respond better.

“They’re [Dolls are] used for therapy as well.

“I have donated some to Alzheimer's and dementia patients because they tend to focus on that.

“It takes them back and can generate some memories even in the worst of patients. 

“We also do an annual drive where we donate some [dolls] to homeless children.”

Ms McColl said meeting new people and sharing her experience had been the most rewarding part of holding the workshop.

“It’s really about meeting new people, new ideas and forming new friendships,” she said.

“I’m used to the reactions but all I see is the art in it – I can’t see the creepiness.”

The West Australian Reborn Doll Show will be held at the Cannington Exhibition Centre on Sunday, May 12. from 9am until 4pm.

To find out more, or to follow Ms McColl, visit Baby Bella Reborns on Facebook.