“It doesn’t make me want to have babies, at all,” says Stephanie Ortiz, a maker and collector in her mid-30s. She and her wife Jackie ship the reborns they create in their Fresno, California, kitchen – where doll arms, legs and heads of all hues hang on the walls like surrealist cabinetry – to buyers in the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, Canada and New Zealand. The YouTube channels where they show off their wares have about 400,000 subscribers altogether.
With her forthcoming manner and faux-hawk, Ortiz describes herself as a lifelong tomboy. But for as long as she can remember, she’s had a fascination with dolls. “I remember when I was a kid, I just wanted the most realistic baby [doll] I could have,” she recalls. “Even as I was beating up my cousins who were boys.” To her, the dolls are about indulging her inner child and having fun; kids are a responsibility. As she wryly points out, a doll “doesn’t turn into a teenager who wants an iPhone 12”.
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