Tiffaney Hill Joiner and Melissa Harville have always been artistic. During the two friends’ childhood, Melissa enjoyed painting, and Tiffaney immersed herself in dance and the performing arts.
Fast-forward a couple of decades, and the lifelong friends are now business partners. Five years ago, they launched an art business called the Pink Glitter Nursery. Their product of choice? Realistic-looking dolls called reborns.
While the concept sounds unusual to those who aren’t familiar, reborns are actually a
popular phenomenon across the country and around the globe. Reborn dolls are hand-painted to resemble a human baby as much as possible—and can even be painted to resemble a portrait of a specific baby. The realistic details are important to artists and collectors alike.
“They may freak you out a little—we get that a lot—but once you hold one, you may also find yourself rocking and patting it, just like a real baby,” Melissa says. “They are weighted and poseable, so they are heavier than regular dolls. It’s very close to holding the real thing.”
For Pink Glitter Nursery, Tiffaney and Melissa create their dolls from their homes and ship them all over the world. In this world, “reborning” is the process of creating and painting the special dolls, while the artists themselves are referred to as “reborners.” The special magic that creates a bond between reborn dolls and their proud owners is rooted in imagination, fun, and artistry.
“Most people assume they’re children’s toys, but these dolls aren’t intended for young children,” Tiffaney says. “They must be handled gently as if you were holding a real baby. These are handmade works of art.”
But the Pink Glitter Nursery isn’t all serious business. Fun is something that comes naturally to these free-spirited, joy-loving professionals. In fact, that sense of fun is clear in the very origins of Pink Glitter Nursery.
“Our business started because Tiffaney saw an episode of Dr. Phil where a woman had a reborn doll who treated it like a real baby,” Melissa recalls. “I was living in Texas at the time. She called me and said, ‘Melissa these things look crazy real, and I want you to try to make one.’ I thought she was nuts!”
But the more the two friends discussed the idea, the more sense it made. “Next thing we know, we are learning how to make them and started a business!” Tiffaney says.
When it comes to business ownership, the pair have a leg up. For starters, they’ve worked together many times over the years; this fact coupled with a strong friendship makes them the perfect team.
Their past career experience, too, plays a part in their success. Tiffaney has owned several performing arts businesses over the years, for which the majority of her customers were women and children, while Melissa has also worked for many charitable organizations that benefit children. These past roles made the process of starting their own business much easier.
However, the reborn business is a little different from anything they’ve done before. Before getting started, Tiffaney took a class to learn the art of reborning, but it only taught the basics. Melissa, on the other hand, used her inherent artistic talents to teach herself.
“We quickly learned that reborning is nothing but a giant experiment and no one paints the same,” Tiffaney says. “Every doll we paint is truly one of a kind. No two are ever alike.”
For the Pink Glitter Nursery doll artists, their passion is largely about creating a special experience for customers. They love receiving photos of people when they receive their dolls. “Seeing their faces… there is nothing better!” Melissa says. They also love to hear people say their dolls look real. “That,” Melissa says, “is the ultimate compliment.”
How Reborns are Made
Like real babies, every single reborn crafted by the Pink Glitter Nursery is 100 percent unique. Here’s what the process entails.
1. The dolls are crafted from vinyl kits. They are filled and weighted with premium polyfill and micro-glass beads. Each doll includes a baby-scent wafer inside to produce a natural newborn scent.
2. Each doll is hand painted using very thin layers and heat set after each layer. This can take days or even weeks. “This process is not only tedious, but very time consuming,” Tiffaney says.
3. The dolls are finished with a layer of varnish for protection and realistic texture.
4. Bald heads are standard, but for adult collectors who want to upgrade to delicate hair, Melissa and Tiffaney use tiny needles to micro-root silky strands of mohair one or two at a time.
5. The dolls are then packaged with love—and extra surprises. “Our dolls usually arrive in a cute outfit with a matching bow or hat. They also come with a blanket, magnetic pacifier,
diapers, birth certificate and a few extra surprises. We want the ‘box opening’ to be fun and exciting for our customers,” Tiffaney says.
Why Do Adults Love Reborn Dolls?
Think dolls are just for kids? That’s not the case. For many people, reborn dolls are a true passion. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Babies Are Wonderful: For people who love the feeling of snuggling a newborn baby, reborn dolls offer a very similar feeling. Reborn dolls are even used in Cuddle Therapy for Alzheimer’s patients and can offer an array of benefits.
2. Reborns Can Alleviate Grief: For parents who have suffered a miscarriage or are dealing with infertility, holding a baby doll can help ease the sense of loss. In fact, people who have dealt with any sort of grief can find comfort cuddling a reborn.
3. Role-Playing Is Fun: Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a simulation-style video game knows the fun of truly becoming a character. Some people who own reborns become the dolls’ parents, caring for them, changing their diapers and clothes, and even bringing them places.
4. Collecting is a Popular Hobby: Like paintings, sculptures, or any other type of art, reborns are unique and beautifully crafted works of art. Collectors value these unique traits and enjoy showing off their dolls.