Well, until his Mommy sends me photos of him in his new home, this will be my last update on Zachary. This evening, he left the Rocky Hill studio of CustomDollBaby.com to begin his long drive to TX.
So sad to see him go, but I know he's on his way to a place where he'll be showered in love.
My personal goal is for CustomDollBaby.com to have the best box openings in the doll industry. Its an ambitious goal, but I'm up to the challenge. When a baby comes into the world, we celebrate. My babies bring the party with them. I love stuffing toys, gifts and even decorations in my boxes as a way of celebrating with my customers. I look forward to someday being able to hand-deliver that package and see their joy first hand. Until then, I always beg for pictures. ;)
I don't want to spoil the surprise, so I won't post photos of the box just yet. Zachary will be home next Tuesday, so check back next week to hear about the celebration he and his mommy had. ;)
When it came time to start packing the goodies, I found a very eager helper in Zachary. He's so excited to be going home tomorrow. :)
For some reason, he insisted that his mommy was going to need my paint brushes. I guess after spending so much time with me, he's got a funny perception of what "mommies" do.
We put a lot of fun presents in the box. It feels like its already Christmas. Zachary's really looking forward to his long drive home.
I did his hair one last time so he'll look great when he gets home. The ladies at the hair store reminded me today that human hair - detached from a human scalp - is in constant need of hydration. Which is why I was getting so many tangles! So Zachary got to try some of his Aunt Kim's homemade, all natural shea butter hydrating cream - the same stuff I put in my own hair for soft, gorgeous curls. His hair was much more manageable this time.
Zachary also got to meet some of my friends today. Now they are his friends too.
I think I'll never forget seeing a little boy, who was not much bigger than Zachary himself, kiss Zachary on the end of his pacifier and ask me if he could hold the baby. I couldn't deny a request like that, so we sat the baby on a chair so Zachary could sit in his lap. Zachary is so good at making friends. He's going to make so many more when he gets home!
Both artist and baby are now exhausted, but we finally finished Zachary's photo shoot. He was so well behaved today that he even let me dress him as a girl!
Pictures are now on Facebook and YouTube. Our little guy is a star! Check out his Facebook feedback!
I talked to Zachary about his behavior. He now understands that the more he fights me, the longer it will take me to get him ready to go home. Knowing that his behavior was doing the opposite of what he was trying to accomplish, he's now become much more cooperative. :)
Today, we began the photo shoot. I love to photograph my babies in natural light. Usually, I'll set up a table with all my backdrops outside where the sun can kiss their little cheeks. However, it is literally freezing outside in CT. I was able to get a few outdoor shots, but Zachary and I were too cold to do the whole shoot outside. So, my husband's office became my little ad hoc studio. He has big windows that let in lots of reflected sunlight. But the sun went down before I was done. :( We should be able to wrap it up with an early start tomorrow.
I'm also putting together Zachary's accessories and all the goodies for his box. We started the milk bottle today - sealing the nipple with silicone - the kind used in fish tanks - so none of our "magic formula" will ever leak out. That takes 48 hours to cure. So Sunday night, I can boil and fill his bottle.
In the pictures I got today, you can really see how far we've come!
At first, I thought I had done something to make him mad. I wasn't sure what it was, but Zachary has been fighting me ever since we finished his gluing!
I tried to make his pacifier - he spat it out. I tried making him another - he spat that one out.
I tried to wash his hair - he kept me up all night trying to detangle his hair.
After I finally got his pacifier to work - he tried to throw it out of my car when I took him shoe shopping!
When I caught him trying to stuff himself into a FedEx box, I finally figured out why I have such a feisty little man on my hands. He's not mad. He wants to go home!
Soon, little Zachary, soon. I know you're Mommy's ready for your to come home too!
Today was Zachary's glue and goo day. I love finishing touches!
First, we used a water-proof permanent glue to seal in the roots of his hair. I'm expecting his hair to get handled quite a lot, so I used a ton of glue to set it in place. At the same time, I glued in the magnet that sucks his pacifier in his mouth.
Then, we started with the eyelashes. I used Bountiful Baby's wispy baby lashes. They are so fine and so much more natural-looking than regular doll lashes. The dark brown lashes were looking a bit too feminine to me, so I used light brown lashes for a beautiful yet subtle frame around his eyes. Lashes are the most fragile thing on the doll, so I like to use gobs of glue to make sure every hair is stuck in place. Thankfully, my glue dries clear.
Then, we used glazes and varnishes to create the illusion of moisture. I like to put a little glaze around the inner eyelid. This gives the eyes a lifelike moist look. It also seals in the eyes so water cannot get into the doll through the eye sockets.
For newborns, I like using the glaze for create a runny nose and a slobbery mouth. :) Zachary is a bit too mature for that look. So I only glazed his lips and a little in the nostril. As I mentioned, everything dries clear - so you can look forward to how great he'll look when everything is dry.
Right now, he's sitting in a dehydrator to help pull the moisture out of all the goop and glue. Then he can relax for 24 hours to make sure everything is completely dry. From there - its stuffing, weighting and fashion show!
Armed with my fancy new wrist brace - to keep my hand in "functional position" - I am back in business! No more tingling fingers.
Not only that: I'm done rooting! I mean, Done done. All of his hair is rooted. I added more hair to the top of his head. I finished all my touch ups. And I rooted his eyebrows.
The only thing left to do hair-wise is to seal the deal. Literally. I will use a water-proof glue to glue down the roots of his hair. That way, it will be better prepared to withstand years of braiding, combing, washing and overall loving. :) What a beautiful little guy!
I consider rooting eyebrows one of my specialties. I never intended to specialize in it, but I've observed that few artists attempt it and even fewer do it well. So I root eyebrows on my babies wherever possible so they stand out in the doll crowd.
The key is to root the hairs at a very shallow angle so they follow the direction of a natural eyebrow.
Now Mom's got to decide what we do next. She's got two options:
1. Eyebrows that are Neat
I can set his eyebrows in place with a matte varnish. They will be a little stiff and flat, as if they were painted on, but always neat and in place.
2. Eyebrows that are Lifelike
These eyebrows are soft to the touch mohair left varnish free. Like a real baby, you'll need to occasionally hit them with a little water, hair gel, or Momma Spit to get them to lay down properly. They look and feel nice, but are much higher maintenance.
I'm personally a fan of leaving them natural - I suppose because my own eyebrows have always been high-maintenance. I remember the days of my mom trying to use a freshly licked thumb to slick them down every morning before school.
On the doll, the hair gel does fine until you wash or scratch it off. It will flake if it gets brushed. But I like to let the customer decide how much they want to deal with. ;)
That last little spot of Zachary's head is almost filled in. I thought I was going to finish it today. But I was interrupted by a troubling tingling sensation in my fingers and left arm. I've never had carpal tunnel syndrome, and I'm not about to start now. ;)
We're still on schedule, so we'll take a little break and let that hand get some rest.
I'll be back soon with more updates!
As the kids say, "Its about to get real," my friends. We are in the home stretch. And when I get in the home stretch, I get intense. Long rooting sessions - no snack break, no bathroom break. Its worth it. We're now two sections down and four to go filling in the back of the head.
Of course, we're not finished when that's done. I want to fill in and darken the top of the head with more of the brown hair. That's where the hair is thickest on most people. Then, once the head is perfect, we'll start rooting the eyebrows. Lifelike babies are not a sprint. Like a real baby, its a marathon!
p.s. - I'm very proud of my new reading glasses. Especially looking at these tiny hairs, I need all the resolution I can get. I was so excited, Zachary wanted to try them on. Of course, he was disappointed that he couldn't see a thing! :) At least he can look sophisticated.
I stayed up a little late tonight rooting that section. Its just so motivating when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We're just filling in the back of the head - which is a huge area, but not as complex as the area framing the face. Five sections to go!
As my favorite Disney princess would say, "I'm almost there..."
I know Zachary told me to stop messing with his hair. I respect that. But WHO could resist playing with THIS??? All these glorious curls! I can't help myself!
Besides, it was for a worthy cause. We are HALF WAY done with the rooting. The hair, the highlights - everything is looking gorgeous. So excited!
We're still steadily making our way around the back of Zachary's head. Of course, the more we root at the nape of the neck, the longer his hair gets! Any Michael Bolton fans out there? :)
Today, I snipped my first knot out of Zachary's curls. Then I snipped my second. Then,. I came to a critical realization - his hair is getting tangled while I'm rooting. The solution: Braids! When his Mommy told me she was going to keep his hair braided, my oh my was she right!
For the record, I do not braid well. But I'll broadcast my bad braiding to the world for the sake of keeping all this gorgeous hair tangle free.
This was my view of Zachary for most of the day - at 2x magnification in high definition. I often work under a lighted magnifying glass to reduce the eye strain associated with looking at individual hairs for hours at a time. I love that lamp.
We're still rooting in strips. Today, we made it around one ear and down to the back of the neck. I'm still adding the highlights, but only light and medium brown. He's looking really good. And he's much happier now that I stopped combing his hair. :)
Today we reached 25 hours and 25% complete! All these glorious curls...I don't believe I've ever seen a doll with so much hair! Which is right - because Zachary had a ton of hair as a baby. So we're certainly moving in the right direction.
Zachary brought to my attention this evening that I should stop playing with his hair. You see, until the hair sealed, only the vinyl is holding each strand in place. Too much manipulation puts him at risk of unnecessary loss of strands. So, he's requested that I only gently finger-detangle his curls in a diluted leave-in conditioner going forward. He's right, of course. <Sigh> No more perfect spirals until he's done. ;)
I love every baby I create. But sometimes, they make me laugh. A partially rooted head looks so funny!
When I first started, as any knitter/crocheter would do, I used to root the head in rounds starting at the hairline and eventually working my way up to the crown. But my husband would call my babies "Friar Tuck" because they were bald on top for most of the process.
Now, I start at the crown and head straight for the face. But that path turns into a Mohawk. Not just a Mohawk - a Bobbed Mohawk! Cowabunga little dude. :)
Today, I finished the hairline on his right side. Its coming in very nicely. Love those golden baby hairs!
So Momma can see how long his hair will be, here are some pictures of it wet.
Fluffy dry spiraling curls!
That cowlick is starting to take shape.
Today we finally finished filling the top of Zachary's head with bouncy, curly hair.
We'll continue to work the hairline once the rest of the head is filled in. Its a bit easier to see when he's got a full head of hair.
He's coming along quite nicely. :)
Now we're starting to get fancy!
Zachary has brown hair with light brown and blonde highlights. Today, I started adding in the darker brown low-lights at the crown of his head. His hair will gradually get lighter as we reach the hairline.
I love the color of these golden brown swirls! Perfect compliment to his green eyes and golden complexion.
I'm having a lot of fun with these curls!
We've got a long way to go...
As I may have mentioned, rooting is very time-intensive process. I root hair individually from the tip so the cuticle of the hair is all laying in the same direction - creating a smooth and tangle-free experience.
I'm also making sure that I root hairs close together so they will look nice braided. I'm very picky about the hairs I root. If one doesn't look right, I do not hesitate to pluck it back out. Its a lot of time, but well worth the investment!
Starting with Zachary's dirty blonde hairline...
Rooting is the process of adding hair one strand at a time to the doll's head. The creates the appearance of hair growing out of the doll's scalp just like a real baby.
Rooting is very involved and can take anywhere from 20 to over 100 hours. So, before I invest the time, I want to make sure I have the right hair at its highest quality. This is the Pre-Rooting process.
First, I draw out the hair growth pattern. Every good process has guidelines. I paint the shape of the hairline and the direction the hair grows so that I root the hair in a natural growth pattern. I pay special attention to the crown to make sure I capture that swirl or "cow-lick" shape.
I even outline where I think the eyebrows will be. We will root those last.
Don't worry, all these lines will wash off once the rooting is done.
Next, I root a tiny test section to make sure I have the right color, length and texture.
Zachary had beautiful long, curly hair when he was a baby. So I purchased hair that would recreate that look.
Finally, I thoroughly treat the hair. Since this is human hair, I can use the same salon-quality hair products I put on my own hair. I start with a thorough sulfate-free shampoo to remove any excess dye and that "wig smell."
Then I do a deep conditioner with a Keratin-based product to restore luster, softness and shine. Finally, I let the hair air dry with a little leave-in conditioner. Now Zachary's locks will look great and smell good.
We are ready to root!
Here at CustomDollBaby.com, we have a process that we have come to call the Interim Review.
Once the painting is done, the babies are assembled and photographed to make sure the painting is perfect.
At the end of his painting, this little guy is looking gorgeous!
Mom says he was a big fan of the pacifier back in the day, so I'm making sure we keep one of those handy at all times. :)
Before finalizing the painting, I decided to scrub off those lunulas and redo them with a different medium. (I can be a little OCD at times, but I'm much happier with how the nails look now.) Once all the nails were set, it was time for the gloss.
Air Dry Gloss Vanish looks and smells a lot like glue. I haven't tested its adhesive properties, so the jury is still out on whether or not it actually is glue. Whatever it is, after just a few coats of it, I have beautifully shiny nails, moist-looking lips, and even a little moisture in the nose. This is truly the last painting step. Time for interim reviews!
When I went to my eye doctor this afternoon, I have no idea that she was going to dilate my pupils.
Now me and Zachary both are wearing sunglasses!
Trust me, nobody wants me working on their baby while I can't see. Check back soon for more updates when my vision has returned! :)
We are quickly approaching the end of the painting phase!
Since I love the blushing, I had to do another layer to make those rosy areas really pop in the hands and feet, face and cheeks. Our little guy is looking pretty cool!
The very last detail painted are the finger nails - half moons (I just learned those are called "lunulas.") and nail tips. I call this one of the asphyxiation details because I literally hold my breath while I paint! Its easy to create babies that look like they just got a French manicure. So with a very steady hand and extremely tiny brush, I make my nails as fine and detailed as appropriate for a natural baby look.
Once the color has been cured, we'll seal it in with a glazing medium so they can't be scratched off.
Today was all about Zachary's creasing, shading, and blushing.
Shading adds depth and definition to the baby's skin. Creasing, does a similar function but on smaller areas. By darkening the creases, the artist is creating the illusion of depth in a skin fold or wrinkle. This is especially important for separating fingers and toes. You can really see the difference between the two hands in the photo. The creased right hand (on top) looks much more lifelike than the left hand before creases were painted.
Blushing is indeed my favorite part of painting. Nice rosy toes make for very kissable feet! I did one generalized blushing today. I also went ahead and started blushing the finger nails with a glazing medium. More to come on those nails!
To achieve Zachary's gorgeous complexion, I added 3 more layers of Flesh 03. Since he also has golden undertones in his skin, I created a custom Raw Sienna blend for a warm, sunny look.
Mommy's happy with how he looks so far. So I'm happy too. :)
Reborn Doll Babies
Reborn Doll Artist
Hi! My name is Kim. I am a reborn artist based in NC. I have been creating dolls since I was a child. I discovered the art of life-like baby dolls in 2011 and have been reborning ever since.