Entering “Reborn Baby” paradise

August 13, 2013

La Louviere, Belgium

By Yves Herman

“I would like to adopt please,” “I would like to buy a life-like baby”, or “I would love to adopt Mathilda or Stefy” are sentences you hear from clients entering the workshop of Belgian artist Beatrice Van Landeghem in La Louviere in the south of Belgium. “La nurserie des Tis Lous De Bea”, which can be translated as “The nursery of Bea’s babies” (Bea for Beatrice) is a very atypical store, situated in the small town, a 45 minute drive from Brussels. Welcome to the Belgian “Reborn Baby” paradise.

Everybody can buy a “Reborn Baby”-kit and try to make their own life-like baby but not all of us have the skills to make them appear real. Belgian artist Beatrice Van Landeghem knows how to make her customers fall in love with a beautifully made doll. You have to see it with your own eyes. It’s hard to believe how realistic it can be. Lying in his cradle, “Loan”, a one month-old baby doll, carefully crafted in vinyl and wonderfully hand-painted by the artist looks as if he is far away and sleeping.

“Let’s adopt him, he is ours!” The customers seem to think as if preparing themselves to become virtual parents.

The dolls are created by the artist from a kit consisting of the limbs and a head made from vinyl and a torso made from fabric. The items are painted several times to create the skin tone of newborn babies. Then Van Landeghem adds hair and eyelashes which look like the real thing. The dolls are then filled to make them feel as heavy as human babies when carried. It takes around 25 hours to make a baby with a level of precision that makes them look almost like a real baby.

Why would you buy such a doll? Some “Reborn Babies” found a second life thanks to the internet. Some saw their value increase with collectors. The dolls sold by Beatrice cost around 300 to 400 euro but some rare pieces have reached a value of several thousands of euros.

It might look quite creepy but it is not. The “Reborn Baby” artist I met did not appear to me to be searching to create something that might become scary. Her goal is to create the most beautiful baby dolls with minute attention to detail.

“I like to dress her up,” says Stacy, a 19-year old posing for me with Stefy her newborn life-like Baby doll. Stacy added that she already has three dolls and that she really enjoys playing with them.

The artist sometimes receives requests to create “Reborn Babies” from photos and make them look similar to the pictures. Whether from grieving parents or nostalgic grandparents, she stayed discreet and avoided commenting on the issue. Many online articles testify to the fact that some people seek solace in the arms of a baby that they will never have or who tragically disappeared.

We are all concerned with human sensibilities. Yes, it might appear scary but it is all so beautiful and very well done. This is the complexity of the human being. I tried to stay objective. When you see photos of the original kit of a “Reborn Baby” to the final result when the doll is ready to be adopted, it appears confusing – it is so real!

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