Get yourself a sleepin', walkin', livin' doll

The art of making real life baby dolls

07 July 2019 | People

Walvis Bay • Leandrea Louw



In what can very much be described in the words of Cliff Richard and The Young Ones 1959-hit, “Living Doll”, this mother of two from Walvis Bay, creates dolls from scratch that look and feel like a new-born baby.

“My daughter wanted a real life baby doll, and we began searching in Namibia as well as in South Africa for one,” says Magdel Enslin. “While we found one in South Africa that wasn't as expensive as the one in Namibia, it was during this search that I stumbled across someone who gives training to people to make their own real life baby dolls. My husband encouraged me to go for the training, which I did.”

Training done and dusted, she says it now takes her about a month to make a doll. “You order a kit that contains the head, arms, legs, paint, brushes and sponges. What makes these dolls unique is how they look and feel. Thus the painting process is very important. Your ordered kit is bright orange, so you have to paint the head, arms and legs over a series of days for it to replicate the skin of a new-born baby.”



Attention to detail

The attention to detail is amazing. Each body part is painted with skin folds, veins, and the tiny purple-red spots on a baby's skin days after birth.

An interview with Magdel and the inspection of dolls at a coffee shop in Walvis Bay, drew many side glances and gasps from people walking by. The dolls look so realistic that one woman approached us and asked what we were doing to the poor baby placed on the table!

“The most challenging part of the doll is the hair, as each strand needs to be weaved in with a special needle. The hair is usually made from goat hair which at times can also be quite expensive.”

The doll's body is made from fabric to which Magdel adds fragrance to give the doll the real baby-like smell.

“Depending on the order I receive, which ranges from premature baby dolls to three-month-old dolls, the weight of the baby differs from 2 to 4 kg to give the doll a more realistic feel.”

While real life baby dolls range from N$2 500 to N$4 000, Magdel says she is not in the business for the money, but for the satisfaction she gets after completing a doll. “The look on my daughter's face when she received her doll was priceless. The joy and excitement she expressed was immense. It's not an easy, overnight project, but seeing how this doll comes to life through the entire process, is a great feeling.”



Taking orders

Magdel first takes an order before she starts making a doll. These orders are usually from parents for their children, the elderly and even from women who have lost a child.

“In the case of the elderly, children grow up and make their own lives, leaving grandma and grandpa alone at home. The realistic feel of the dolls gives such persons the feeling of having to take care of another person, and helps with the loneliness that usually comes with old age.

“It definitely also helps women who might have lost a baby, by helping them heal.”

Magdel says she would love to train other woman in the art of making real life baby dolls. “You don't need to be an artistic person to create these dolls. Lots of patience and time are basically the only requirements.”

She adds that she hopes to venture into creating black dolls soon. “There's no one that caters for black dolls at the moment, and I would love to serve this market. However making them is a bit more challenging.”