Life-like vinyl dolls are helping women cope with anxiety and even come to terms with the loss of their own child.
The dolls, known as reborns, are painstakingly crafted to look like real babies, with up to 30 layers of paint to depict human-like veins, and mohair rooted in one strand at a time to create silky baby hair.
Dozens of the dolls, which can cost up to $1,000 and take 70+ hours to make, will be on show this Sunday at the Ipswich Doll Gala, as part of the Ipswich Festival.
Ipswich resident and reborn doll-maker, Annette Kravchenko, said the dolls are like therapy dolls and have a healing effect.
“Many of these women have lost a baby, or miscarried, or they might have anxiety, and these babies really give them some comfort,” Mrs Kravchenko said.
“Some people are just collectors, but many of them are beautiful people with sad stories, and having this community and this connection with their babies really helps them to feel free.”
The mum of three became interested in the reborn doll movement after the birth of her youngest son.
“I wanted to have more kids, and my husband said it was a big no,” she said.
“I came across these real life-like babies.
I know they’re only dolls, but it does fill the void,” she said.
Mrs Kravchenko started making and selling her own reborn babies, and turned her hobby into a business.
Her YouTube channel now boasts 15,000 subscribers from around the world, and shares tutorials to help people craft their own reborn child.
While Annette has made and sold more than 100 reborn babies, she has kept 10 for herself, with two of them holding a special place in her heart.
“I have two favourites- Matilda and Matteo. I’ll have Matteo with me at the Ipswich doll fair this weekend, but Matilda is off on a world adventure,” she said.
“I couldn’t afford to go, so I sent my baby.
“She’s been staying with foster families in Japan, Italy, Canada and all around America.”
Annette said the best thing about Matilda’s trip was the close friendships she has developed across continents with other members of the reborn community.
But although it’s a tight-knit group, Annette is quick to point out that not everyone understands it.
“Not many people get it. Some think we’re crazy,” she said.
“But I’d really ask them to see reborns in the same way as a therapy dog.
“They can really help people.”
Ipswich Doll Gala is asking festival-goers to make a donation if they want a photo with a reborn doll, with proceeds going to Ipswich Hospice Care.
A range of bears, vintage prams and different types of dolls will also be on display, including one doll valued at $4,000.
Ipswich Gala Doll Fair is part of the Ipswich Festival and is on at the
Ipswich Civic Centre
Sunday 14 April
9 am – 2:30 pm
There’s lots of other things to see and do as part of the Ipswich Festival. Watch the Festival Parade of Light, enjoy a day of music at Saturday Sounds, and see the latest entries for the Ipswich Art Awards. There’s also Honk! showcasing vintage cars, and a range of free workshops and youth events. Click here to find out more.