Skylar, Cheyenne and a few of their kin occupy a small house with cheery yellow walls in the heart of Dickinson. They are in cribs, lying on quilts on the floor and even in a hospital bassinet. Dressed in sleepers and onesies with matching bows or caps, they are the epitome of fashion cuteness.
It’s hard to believe that these lifelike creatures are mere dolls — all creations of Kristy Walker.
“As a little girl, I could never find a baby doll that looked real and that bothered me,”
With no interest in Barbies, Walker continued her quest into adulthood when one day, while surfing the web, she ran across an artist in the United Kingdom who made lifelike baby dolls. She quickly ordered one.
“I knew from the moment it arrived that I had to figure out how to make these,” she said.
After owning and operating a day care business for 15 years, Walker’s new journey began. With no artistic background and no training, she started her business. That was six years ago.
Today, she has created more than 300 dolls and has an international client base, as well as 19,000 followers on Facebook. After the babies and supplies began to consume the home Walker shares with her husband and two sons, she began construction on the dollhouse.
The doll-making process is tedious, requiring a lot of patience and a steady hand. Walker orders the head molds, arms and legs from specialty artists. The bodies are made of soft-touch vinyl, which she stuffs with polyfill. Limbs and heads are weighted with tiny glass beads to give the dolls a realistic feel. The hair and eyelashes are hand-rooted one tiny strand at a time.
But before assembly begins, multiple layers of paint (up to 15 coats) are required to build up skin tone. After each layer, the individual parts must be heated in a special oven.
“Overtones, undertones, skin mottling, veins and blushing all have to be hand painted,” Walker said. She also hand paints the fingernails, toenails and eyebrows. The finished dolls are so realistic it’s almost impossible to distinguish them from the real babies.
Walker also makes primates because they are more affordable and children love them. Primates start at $250; baby dolls start at $500.
“My babies bring a lot of joy to many for different reasons,” she said. “Children practicing for a new sibling, parents wanting to copy the look of their children as newborns, or those who have lost a child and want a memory doll.”
Walker gave a doll to an Alzheimer’s care center near her home. The owner told her that the residents find a lot of comfort in holding and rocking the baby doll, she said.
Despite all the hard work involved, each creation holds a special place in Walker’s heart, she said.
“It’s hard to part with them,” she said.