Making dolls look as lifelike as possible has become a growing passion for arts and crafts expert Jeanette Neaton. But even she was surprised at the international demand for her handcrafted Reborn Babies that have suddenly become a global success. The popularity of her realistic dolls is causing the Cleveland artist to create a more diverse collection of newborn baby dolls to include more ethnicities, according to Neaton, who said she is pleased with the demand for her true-to-life creations.
With her dolls in demand in Thailand, Australia, Turkey, England, France, Sweden, Canada and across the United States, Neaton has made a name for herself as an artist with a remarkable eye for details. She is currently creating lifelike Asian, Caucasian, African-American and multiracial babies upon request to the delight of satisfied customers around the world.
“I strive to get better and better and better,” Neaton said. “My goal is to make a doll so real that it blows you away — that it just shocks you to see it’s not a real baby. I basically can do any race that anyone wants. In this area alone I have around 10 dolls purchased. And their owners will come back and buy again and again and again.”
Her sales and interest on eBay have been nothing short of phenomenal, according to the retired mother of two and grandmother of three. As collectors items, the value of her handcrafted dolls will only go up as collectors purchase them at reasonable rates.
“They are selling like hotcakes — I mean, like hotcakes!” Neaton said. “There are times when I’ll take two or three special orders, and then I’ll have one that I have to get on eBay. Then my hobby becomes a bit of a stress at that point. This is something I do because I love doing it, but I can get so backed up — and people want their dolls right now. They don’t always realize that one of these — depending on the size from preemie to toddler — could take 80 hours to make. To root the head, every hair goes in one hair at a time with a needle. That takes me 60 to 80 hours to root a head, one hair at a time.”
Neaton said she made one African-American doll that stood around 3 feet tall, which she was very proud of.
“It was the size of a 2- or 3-year-old child,” she said. “It was a special order for a lady who lives in Chattanooga.”
With her reborn babies increasing in popularity as well as the demand for more diverse reality babies, Neaton said she totally understands the mass appeal of her lifelike creations and feels blessed to work at something that brings so many people such joy as well as allows her to work on something she truly loves.
“I feel that reborn babies have such an appeal because they are so lifelike and everyone loves babies,” Neaton said. “When you see a beautiful newborn baby your heart just melts. They are so sweet. You just want to hold them. My reborn babies make you feel the same way because they are so real looking.”
Neaton said she names each baby she “brings to life,” giving them an ID bracelet, hospital ID band and a reborn “birth certificate.”
“If her new mom wants to change her name, that is fine with me,” she said.
Neaton, who started her craft three decades ago by creating Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1980s, said when she heard about the art of crafting reborn babies she wanted one for herself, but was not willing to pay $2,500 for a doll.
“So I decided to try my hand in making the doll myself,” she said. Neaton discovered she had the talent, patience and care to create reborn babies with amazing lifelike details.
According to Neaton, the result has been one of the most exciting endeavors of her life. By honing her craft with customized babies she eventually made perfect likenesses of the real thing. She said her hobby became a labor of love that is as rewarding as anything she could have imagined after retiring from her secular job.
“I feel you can be good at anything you enjoy doing and I really enjoy making these dolls and sewing,” said Neaton, who started Jeanette’s Little Blessings Nursery in 2009.
“I really enjoy bringing these dolls to life,” Neaton said. “I can get very close to what a baby looks like in a photo. I can use the same skin tones, hair color, dimples, birthmark — things like that. Not only is each hair inserted by hand, you can even see their veins. They even weigh the same as real babies!”
Her meticulous attention to detail gives each Newborn Baby a look as individual as real babies and, if made in the image of a family member, can be a constant reminder of how beautiful an infant was in their childhood.
While not considered a toy, reborn baby dolls have given some females the opportunity to role play and experience certain aspects of being a mother on a temporary basis.
“I have gotten a lot of compliments on my babies from around the world because they appreciate the details and can see it is a labor of love. When people call or write me to say how much they are enjoying their new dolls — that is my reward. That makes me very happy,” Neaton said.
Experts say such realistic babies are considered an effective treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, being credited with “the reduction of patients’ dependency on psychotropic medications,” according to www.seniorhomecareinformation.com.
For further information, email Jeanette Neaton at email@example.com or call 423-479-5586.