The art of making real life baby dolls

Realistic looks

07 July 2019 | People

Magdel Enslin; Baby doll creator; "The most challenging part of the doll is the hair, as each strand needs to be weaved in with a special needle."

Walvis Bay Leandrea Louw

Humankind never ceases to amaze when it comes to innovation, with the latest creation being real life baby dolls.

Magdel Enslin, mother of two residing in Walvis Bay, creates from scratch dolls that look and feel like a newborn baby.

“My daughter wanted a real life baby doll, and we began searching in Namibia as well as in South Africa for it. We found one in South Africa which wasn’t as expensive as the one in Namibia. During our search I stumbled across someone who gives training to people to make their own real life baby dolls. My husband encouraged me to go for the training, which I did.”

She said it takes about a month to make a doll.

“You order a kit which contains the head, arms, legs, paint, brushes and sponges. What makes these dolls unique is how they look and feel. The painting process is thus very important. The kit ordered is bright orange so you have to paint the head, arms and legs over a series of days for it to replicate the skin of a newborn baby.”

The attention to detail is amazing. Each body part is painted with skin folds, veins, and the tiny purple-red spots on a baby’s skin days after birth.

An interview with Enslin and the inspection of the dolls at a coffee shop in Walvis Bay drew many side glances and gasps from people who walked past. The dolls look so realistic that a lady subsequently approached us and asked what we were doing to the poor baby placed on the table.

“The most challenging part of the doll is the hair, as each strand needs to be weaved in with a special needle. The hair is usually made from goat hair which at times can also be quite expensive.”

The doll’s body is made from fabric to which Enslin adds fragrance to give the doll the real baby-like smell.

“Depending on the order I receive, which ranges from pre-mature baby dolls to three-month-old dolls, the weight of the baby differs from 2 kilogrammes to 4 kilogrammes to give the doll a more realistic feel.”

While real life baby dolls range from N$2 500 to N$4 000, Enslin says she is not in this business for the money, but for the satisfaction she gets after completing a doll.

“The look on my daughter’s face when she received her doll was priceless. The joy and excitement she expressed was immense. It’s not an easy, overnight project and seeing how this doll comes to life through the entire process, is a great feeling.”

Enslin first takes in orders before she starts making a doll. These orders are usually from parents for their children, the elderly and even from women who had lost a child.

“In case of the elderly, children grow up and make their own lives, leaving grandma and grandpa alone at home. The realistic feel of the dolls gives such persons the feeling of having to take care of another person, and helps with the loneliness that usually comes with old age. It definitely also helps women who might have lost their babies, by helping them heal.”

She said she would love to train other woman in the art of making real life baby dolls.

“You don’t need to be an artistic person to create these dolls. Lots of patience and time are basically the only requirements.”

Enslin said she wishes to venture into making black dolls.

“There’s no market that caters for black dolls and I would love to penetrate this market. The kit to make them is a bit more challenging.”