Dolls for grownups: Fresno "reborn' doll artists talk about their work

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Stephanie Ortiz of Fresno and her wife Jackie create reborn dolls. They spend hours every day mixing colors, glazing, and coming up with different personalities for what will become a doll for someone somewhere in the world.

Ortiz has always loved dolls, but making reborn's is now her full time job. Five years ago she was managing a landscaping companies and Jackie was studying neurobiology and psychology.

Ortiz got laid off and Jackie graduated college, and they turned their hobby of painting dolls into a full time business.

"I've always been hard working when I take a job and I want to be the best at what I do and get it done the quickest," said Ortiz.

The vinyl dolls come in kits and after 40 hours of paint, and lots of TLC, they turn out looking very realistic-- and they sell anywhere from $600 to several thousand dollars.

Jillian Wynne is a traveling neo-natal intensive care nurse currently working in Fresno. She is with real babies at the hospital almost every day, but she has six reborn's at home-- Paisley, Frankie, Dawson, Emma, Maggie, and Stella Rae.

"I just enjoy shopping for them, I enjoy changing them, sometimes just holding them-- there's just something about them."

Wynne said collecting reborn's is just a hobby, but they travel with her when she re-locates every six months.

Ortiz and her wife have eight dolls at home, but at least 500 have left for other homes over the last five years. Those dolls and their owners have formed a sort of online community where they post videos playing with their reborn's.

Ortiz regularly posts videos of her own and she said that is where her business has really paid off.

"I didn't realize that YouTube could change my life and that's like-- YouTube pays all my bills."

Ortiz and her wife take the dolls out in public and at a local target store and the reactions were priceless. Grandmother Julie Tjerrild had no idea that baby Liam was a reborn doll.

"Oh I think this would be a lot easier than the real thing. Boy do I feel dumb!"

Christian Mendez, 11, called his mom and sister over to look and touch the doll

Not everyone has been so supportive; there are some detractors who surface online from time to time.

"People tell me to go have a kid all the time, I'm like, 'I have a kid.' They think I'm crazy, like, look at you playing with dolls," said Ortiz.

Ortiz said there are a few who take playing with reborn's to the extreme that give the rest of the doll community a bad name-- and she's met them. She says she doesn't do business with them, but for the hundreds of others worldwide reborn's are a hobby and maybe just a little bit of child-like enjoyment.

"Adults tend to let the child in them die. But you can let your child live and I think it keeps you younger longer. You don't have to, per se, be a child but still enjoying things that you enjoyed when you were 10. What is wrong with that?"
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