They are the first to admit some may find it creepy, but two friends in Leeds have turned the art of bringing plastic dolls to life into full-time, booming business.
Known as ‘reborning’, the craze began in America and results in incredibly lifelike dolls, specially painted and weighted to match the look of a newborn.
Now best friends Sheree High and Lisa Clark have tapped into the market and set up a shop on Cross Green Lane in Halton, from where they have so far shipped dolls to America, Canada and across the globe.
The business has gone from strength to strength since its early days in Sheree’s converted garage and now imports about 250 dolls every month from China.
Sheree, 48, said: “Their heads flop back so they feel really realistic. Little girls love them because everyone thinks they’re holding a real baby. They can dress them in real newborn clothes and nappies too - rather than with other dolls, which you can’t buy baby clothes for.”
It was Sheree, a former nursery nurse, who first saw the dolls on a TV programme and, having always been artistic, decided to try to paint some herself.
“As soon as I listed them for sale they just flew out,” she said.
She said Cherish Dolls make ‘reborns’ lighter and more suited to children, which means they can sell them for £99 - less than some of their competitors. They also make ‘top-of-the-range dolls which can fetch a lot more.
Sheree said: “£380 is the dearest of them all. That has everything including hand-rooted hair, where one hair is put in at a time. That takes 50 hours’ work.”
But she admits the dolls are not to everyone’s tastes.
“Men don’t like them at all - they are creeped out by them because they look so real.
“But the majority of people come into the shop and are amazed.
“You have to look after them like a real baby. That’s why people like them.
“Generally when people come in, they end up rocking them and patting their bums, they can’t help it.”