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Confessions of Doll Designer Jen Printy

Many people have asked how I stumbled into such a profession as doll design. I wasn’t someone who said, “I want to sculpt dolls when I grow up.” Although I love what I do, this wasn’t my plan. I was quite happy with my chosen career—a colored pencil artist. However, as life often does, it had a different plan.

Throughout college, like most students, I worked to pay for books, classes, and the occasional fun night out. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but my part-time job was going to be the nail the coffin of my colored pencil career. The repetitive motion of cashiering caused Tendinitis.

My love for dolls started when I was a little girl, I had two very special Lee Middleton Dolls. One day I came across a reborn doll, its realistic look just amazed me. Eventually I purchased a reborn doll for myself. Shortly thereafter that I was inspired to try and reborn a baby doll myself. I never imagined that what I thought was going to be a hobby turned into a career. I have been making reborn dolls for five years now and I have just finished my 196th reborn baby doll! My reborning business keeps growing and I keep imagining new ideas for each baby doll. I love creating and making people happy with my creations. Whenever I see someone open a reborn I created, their smile is priceless to me.

Throughout college, like most students, I worked to pay for books, classes, and the occasional fun night out. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but my part-time job was going to be the nail the coffin of my colored pencil career. The repetitive motion of cashiering caused Tendinitis.

Eventually, I wasn’t able to draw anymore. The repetition involved in creating a colored pencil artwork caused too much pain. Art has always part of my life, it was a way to express myself and deal with my emotions, and I wasn’t willing to give it up. For about a year, I was lost, not knowing which direction I should go. One afternoon, I stumbled across a website of one-of-a-kind dolls. It was definitely a God thing. I found it fascinating how artists could make dolls look so lifelike. With my colored pencil artwork, realism had always been the goal.

I purchased a few bars of clay and some tools that very afternoon. As soon as they arrived, I got started. My first dolls looked more like ugly little old men or aliens than the pictures of babies I was using for reference. The phrase “a face only a mother could love” comes to mind. Unattractive is putting it mildly.

Sculpting is not easy, and I quickly found out creating a realistic baby doll is downright tricky. Jack Johnston—a man I’m lucky enough to call a mentor—told me once that on a scale of one to ten of difficulty, a baby doll is a ten. I can’t argue. So, how did I move from sculpting ugly old men to realistic baby dolls? Unfortunately, there is no magical combination to create the beautiful doll of your dreams. Expect hard work and practice. Lots and lots of practice. Even though this journey was not my plan, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m able to create collectible dolls enjoyed by the very young to the very old. I’ve made friends all over the world. Clearly, fate knew best.

Visit the Jen Printy Collection.


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