Interview by MacPherson Arts & Crafts
1. Where are you from and where do you live now?
I have lived in the Kansas City area (USA) my whole life.
2. Have you always been interested in dolls?
I have played with dolls since I was little, however I became interested in collectable dolls when I discovered the world of reborns. I have always been interested in arts, crafts, DIY, and any hands-on creative projects. When I discovered reborn and hand sculpted dolls, I was impressed by the artistry behind them. The reborn world seemed like the perfect creative outlet for me, the perfect mix of dolls and creativity.
3. How did you first encounter reborn dolls?
After receiving a collectable baby doll as a gift in 2003, I started researching them online. It didn’t take long before I found reborn dolls through Ebay. I loved the realism in these dolls and was impressed by the art form. I didn’t know of anyone making any type of dolls at that time, not even dolls of another genre like porcelain or cloth, so I was thoroughly impressed that they were handmade! I started by buying a reborn doll of my own, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to try to make a reborn myself, and in 2004 I reborned my first doll.
4. When did you first become interested in sculpting?
Through the reborn community I discovered OOAK (one of a kind) dolls and the sculptors who were sculpting them. I always loved playing with Sculpey brand polymer clay as a child, so I wanted to try sculpting babies for myself and it seemed like a natural progression forward with my art. I practiced a lot and a few years after my first attempt I began taking formal art sculpture classes as well to refine my dolls even further.
5. Have you sculpted dolls from the time you started sculpting, or did you start off with something else?
I started out sculpting baby dolls. I have sculpted monkeys on a couple occasions, but I realized I like the babies better so that is what I have stuck with!
6. How long have you been sculpting?
My first attempt at sculpting babies was in about 2005.
7. What medium do you use to sculpt your babies with?
I use polymer clay. I have tried a variety of brands, but my favorites are Prosculpt, Living Doll, and Cernit.
8. What inspires & motivates you to sculpt?
When I sculpt I am inspired by pictures of real babies. It is important for me to carefully choose inspiration photos of babies that I know will translate well into clay. Every baby is special, but not every baby will translate well into a clay sculpt and that is something I have learned over time. Secondly, I am inspired by other artists, both sculptors and reborners!
9. Do you sculpt full time & do you have other hobbies?
Yes, at the moment I make dolls full time.
10. Do you only sculpt for kit production or do you do custom portrait orders too?
I have sculpted for reborn kits, silicone, Ashton Drake Galleries dolls, and Paradise Galleries dolls. I don’t sculpt portrait OOAK babies.
11. When did your first kit come out and what was the baby's name?
I began sculpting in 2005, but my first reborn kit was Micaiah who came out around late 2009/early 2010. It took me a few years after I began sculpting to get to a place where I thought my work was realistic enough to have value to other people in kit form!
12. How many kits have you produced to date?
As of 2019, I am currently in production with my seventh vinyl kit.
13. Do you have a list of names of all of your kits you have produced as we would love to have an archive directory for your sculpts?
Yes! As of 2019 my vinyl reborn kits have been: Micaiah, Winnie, Sweet Cheeks, Adelynn, Sawyer, and Lilliana. These do not include the sculpts I have made for silicone kits, Ashton Drake dolls, and Paradise Galleries. Pictures and details about each of my kits and other sculpts are available on my website (www.babiesbyemily.com).
14. Which baby of yours has been your all time favorite and why?
For me it seems my most recent sculpts tend to be my most favorite because my sculpting keeps getting better and better! I tend to really love sleeping babies and preemie size babies the very best.
15. Do you plan to continue sculpting babies for kits?
Yes, I plan to continue as long as there is a demand for it and people are still interested in these babies!
16. How do you feel about the reborn doll industry? What excites you and what upsets you?
I always like following other artists to see what new kits other sculptors are putting out, what new reborns artists are putting out, and what new supplies and tools are on the market. Those kinds of things inspire me to create more! These dolls just keep getting more and more realistic and I keep seeing new things that haven’t been tried before!
What upsets me most about the doll industry is seeing people steal artists’ work by illegally reproducing their sculpts as kits or dolls. This practice has grown rampant in recent years. Many people do not care that this is illegal and hurts the artist and the doll industry in a very big and very real way. When people buy counterfeit sculpts it takes away from the real artists’ sales and so creates the illusion that there is not a big demand for artists’ sculpts. If this continues I can see sculptors begin to fall away from creating new sculpts because they cannot sell their artwork anymore and are afraid that any new sculpts will be copied as well.
17. How do you feel about the progression of the art of reborning over the past 10 years?
The art has progressed so much and reborns are definitely much more realistic than they were 10 years ago. I think back to the reborns that were around when I first discovered the art and wonder why I ever thought those dolls looked realistic! The industry and the methods and techniques just keep improving, and these dolls keep getting more and more realistic! There has been trial and error in this industry. Some products and techniques failed or they fell out of popularity. Things like that just refine the art so much more.
18. Do you think that this industry has a long term future or do you think it’s just a fad that will blow over?
There will always be dolls in the world as long as there are little girls and collectors to enjoy them! As for the reborn industry specifically, I look at the reborn industry the way it is now, I see how flooded the market is with Chinese knock-off mass produced “reborn” dolls and counterfeit kits. This is discouraging to see. Cheap knock-offs and counterfeits were the thing that made the porcelain doll art disappear. However, those collectors who value handmade art and who value quality will still choose artist made reborn dolls over mass produced baby dolls.
19. What are your plans and hopes for the future?
More baby dolls!
20. Do you have something new in the works?
Yes, I always have ideas floating around in my head and something in progress!