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Di's hand-crafted 'reborn babies' filling a sales niche

Di McGavigan with one of her realistic reborn dolls. Photo: Adam Hourigan
Di McGavigan with one of her realistic reborn dolls. Photo: Adam Hourigan

THEY may look exactly like real- life babies, but don't be fooled, these beautiful dolls have been crafted by the loving hands of South Grafton's Di McGavigan.

Known as reborns, each one takes about 50 hours to create - thankfully far less than the 6500 hours it takes to make a real one.

Ms McGavigan said the moment she first laid eyes on one seven years ago she was captivated.

"My sister turned up on my doorstep with a baby in a shawl - I asked her who's baby have you got?" said Ms McGavigan

"I saw this little thing and thought, oh my God this is beautiful - just like a real baby."

Occasionally Ms McGavigan enjoys taking one or two of her "babies" with her while she runs errands and says sometimes when people see them and realise they are dolls, they get startled, but everyone is curious.

"I know some people say it's freaky but I think they are beautiful," she said.

After spending months researching and talking to other doll makers through online forums, Di purchased a kit and began making her own.

Finally she decided to enter a competition and began sculpting them from clay and recently created three original babies of her own, from which she makes her own kits.

Although Di kept the first one, she prefers to sell them, with many of her babies having found new homes all around the world.

"I've got to a point now I'm established, I can make them and sell them as a source of income when I retire," she said.

"I know it can be very expensive for some people; they are an heirloom doll, but for many, once they have one they want another one.

"I know some people have a massive collection."

Like the lady in Western Australian who ordered a sleeping baby and returned soon after for a toddler, and another lady in Perth who now has 40 of Di's dolls in her collection.

A handful of babies have also found homes locally, with the South Grafton Newsagent now displaying a selection.

Di also sells them from her home, Cottage Lane, where she works part-time as a hairdresser.

She estimates she has made about 300 dolls over the years, mostly in her spare time.

Each one is individually crafted with incredible attention to detail.

"I like to imagine them opening the box," she said. "I try to make it a special experience."

She said sometimes the cost and time it took to make her reborns could leave her out of pocket, but she loved the art and couldn't imagine giving it up.

"It's an expensive hobby, but a very rewarding one," she said.

Fast facts

  •  Each doll is carefully hand painted with real-life skin tones, blemishes, veins, even little scratches.
  •  Each hair is micro rooted, one at a time, using mohair
  •  Each reborn doll has its own tiny fingernails and toenails.
  •  The dolls are then assembled and weighted, including a floppy head, fully poseable limbs, and a soft cuddly body.
  •  Finally they are dressed and swaddled in a bunny rug, before being lovingly wrapped in tissue paper, packaged and shipped ready to meet their new owners, complete with a birth certificate and dummy.

Topics:  di mcgavigan, reborn babies, south grafton


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