An artist from Oleśnica has been named by the BBC as one of the 100 most “inspiring and influential women” in the world for her lifelike baby ‘therapy’ dolls.
Formerly a musician and cosmetologist, Barbara Smolińska was picked out by the BBC alongside acclaimed authors, Nobel Prize winners and a female Prime Minister.
Justifying their decision, the BBC wrote: “[Smolińska’s] hyper-realistic ‘reborn’ dolls help some women process a miscarriage or the loss of a child, and for some they assist in dealing with anxiety, depression and fertility issues.”
Speaking to TFN, Smolińska said: “It’s a great honour to be recognized by the BBC, and also a surprise. I never thought my actions and work would be appreciated this much so I am incredibly happy and touched.”
Made from soft vinyl and defined by their eerily lifelike features, reborn dolls were first popularized in the United States in the 1990s.
Still something of a micro niche in Poland, Smolińska stumbled upon the phenomenon eight years ago.
“This passion found me by accident,” she tells TFN. “I was looking for a gift for my daughter’s birthday and happened to discover reborn dolls. I immediately fell in love with them.
“At first I just started out by collecting them, but then I dared to actually do them myself. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else in my life.”
First fashioned by a sculptor, Smolińska then paints the casting to lend the dolls life.
“Every vein and vessel is awarded reverential attention,” she says.
“After painting the skin colour, I then implant the hair with a thin needle, before loading the doll with a special granulate and assembling it all together.”
Stunning in their detail, the customized dolls feature moles, scratches, birthmarks and other realistic blemishes, with some even fitted with a special mechanism that gives the sound and effect of a beating heart. Scents, too, can be added.
Used in films and photoshoots, and even by trainee doctors and midwives, Smolińska’s creations have won a raft of admirers, not least among women dealing with loss or trauma.
Using the dolls as a tool for comfort, an increasing number of people are learning the value of this alternative form of therapy – according to some converts, the dolls have even saved them from suicide by providing such a powerfully realistic substitute.
Starting from EUR 400, Smolińska’s dolls have now been shipped to countries as far afield as Canada, Brazil, Bosnia & Herzegovina, England, Germany and the Netherlands.
With interest and enquiries surging since the BBC published their list on Tuesday, Smolińska now hopes to expand her business – called Reborn Sugar Babies – whilst simultaneously furthering research into the therapeutic value of reborn dolls.