Realistic sleeping baby doll.
Prototype Ruby, sculpted by Mayra Garza.

By Pam North

A summary of Veronica Lale’s background gives no clue that she would become a talented reborn artist. She worked as a freelance journalist for a local newspaper for a few years and is now a part-time employee for the regional government of her country. She lives in a small village in northern Italy, on the border with France and Switzerland, with her husband, Stefano, and her two children, Corinne and Joel. Rounding out her family is their cocker spaniel, Maya. Nothing in her early life served to guide her to the craft she pursues now; she had no background in art — but she did have a passion for dolls.

Realistic baby doll with eyes shut and mouth open in a yawn.
Prototype Maria, sculpted by Sabrina Hergarten.

Entering the World of Reborns

Lale started her journey into the reborn world in 2018, and it was a bit by chance. It was the Christmas season, and she was looking for a doll to give to her daughter. “I saw reborn dolls for the first time on the internet,” she said, “and it was love at first sight! I had decided that I would buy one for myself soon. I started looking for a trusted artist who would work on commission, and I chose my first kit, Fleur, to be made by Sheila Michael. It was difficult to choose just one, because each was more beautiful than the other! I realized, however, that I couldn’t afford to have dozens of kits made, so I decided to try making them myself.”

A Facebook friend advised her to take an online course with a well-known Italian reborn artist, Elisabetta Monari, and thus began Lale’s adventure. She gave the first doll to her daughter, then the second and third, and then started keeping some for herself. “I’m very fussy,” she explained, “so I still didn’t have the courage to sell them, not even to recover my expenses. I preferred to invest in my training, aware that this would involve a significant cost.”

Realistic sleeping baby dolls, sitting upright in a colorful wrap.
Tia, sculpted by Bonnie Sieben.

She currently makes vinyl reborn dolls, mostly prototypes, although she recently took a silicone class. “I decided not to work on commission, with a few exceptions,” she said, “because I prefer to work calmly and without stress, and above all freely, without conditions. I would not be able to give life to an idea that I don’t feel is mine. When I look at a kit, I already know immediately how I intend to work on it and what I want to achieve. I don’t think I could transfer another person’s idea into a kit.”

She bought a dozen tutorials to learn as much possible. She spent her first year experimenting with colors and techniques — but only in her spare time, because she also had a part-time job and a family to manage. She joined several artist groups to test her work before she offered any on the market. “I knew that I only would start selling when I gained a certain dexterity and confidence. However, another artist asked me to make a doll for her, and I accepted the challenge. I charged her very little for that doll, because it was the first one I had made for someone else. I then made another on commission. In the meantime, I participated and won the contest for a reborn called Dallas by sculptor Dawn Murray McLeod. It was the first time that I had featured a doll on my Facebook profile. Shortly afterwards I made my first prototype. It started as a hobby, but slowly this passion has become a second job for me, and I dedicate myself to this art every free minute I have.”

Realistic doll depicting a sleeping baby.
Zori, sculpted by Dawn McLeod.

Finding Time for a Second Career

Lale said she often works on rooting hair on her dolls at night, while her family sleeps. She prefers to paint during the day, to take advantage of natural light. “Each doll I make is a challenge, to be honest,” she said, “because I keep pushing myself a bit forward every single time I work on a new kit. My goal is to achieve the ultimate realism. Not every single kit is the best canvas, though, and some are very challenging. Also, my photography still needs improvement, as I’m self-taught, and I’m still trying to learn more. Most of all, however, my biggest challenge is time. I have another job, so I need to be able to juggle my family and work commitments with the deadlines for the prototypes.”

Realistic baby doll looking at the camera, with his tongue sticking out a bit.
Prototype Sebby, sculpted by Cassie Brace.

Her formal training in her reborning craft consisted of a painting class with her friend, Elisabetta Monari, who introduced her to using air-dry paints. Then she bought several tutorials and also signed up for Shaylen Maxwell’s Reborn A to Z course when she decided to switch from air-dry paints to Genesis oil paints. She spent a year practicing and experimenting with many techniques and materials, absorbing everything useful to develop her own special style, which she says is still a work in progress. “Using Genesis paints has probably been my turning point,” she said. “I am a perfectionist, and very firm about dedicating myself to what I love. I use oil paints and my own techniques, which I’ve been building since the very beginning.” She only works on vinyl kits at the moment.

Realistic sleeping baby doll.
Prototype Theodor, sculpted by Lenka Hučínová

One aspect that Lale loves and is important to her is the happiness of her customers. “It is the most rewarding thing. I love reborn dolls because they know how to convey emotions, thanks to their resemblance to real babies. Holding them in my arms and cuddling them allows me to partially experience the sensations of when I held my own newborn babies in my arms.”

She has just one room in which to do her reborning work. “I have two big wardrobes full of props and baby clothes. I’m addicted to baby clothes!” she said. Because of the small space available to her for doing her crafting and photos, she described her workroom area as “a true mess.”

Realistic baby doll, looking at the camera.
Prototype August, sculpted by Dawn McLeod.

For inspiration, Lale has a folder on her computer where she saves photos that might be useful, including not just pictures of real babies but also works made by other artists that she admires. “I always have tried to retain my own style, however. I never have followed a tutorial from start to finish. I tried, but in the end, I always followed my own mind. I never could repeat a doll exactly the same, because I can’t remember the colors I used or the various steps. I let myself be guided by the inspiration of the moment. My own children are also a great source of inspiration for me. I often draw inspiration from them when I paint my dolls. In fact, there are some of their details that I always tend to reproduce in my dolls, such as the position of some milk dots they had as newborns.”

Realistic sleeping baby doll.
Prototype Alessia, sculpted by Gudrun Legler.

Lale sells her reborns by posting her work on Facebook and Instagram. Her schedule for 2023 is full of prototypes. “I enjoy doing them, but I’d love to find the time to paint some kits I have in my stash. Sometimes it’s very hard for me to fit in everything — family, job, dolls.

“I think these dolls have something magical and extremely powerful, because they manage to deeply touch people’s souls, so I don’t think people will stop buying these collectibles. The times we are living in are very challenging, though, and the market is getting slower nowadays. I know that some collectors have decided to give up collecting because of tough times, but I prefer to stay positive. I’m sure there will be room for each and every artist in the market, and this art field won’t end overnight. The world still needs the magic of this art as a refuge from the difficulties of life.

Veronica Lale, smiling at the camera
Veronica Lale

“For the future, I certainly will keep creating these dolls, along with improving toward even more realism,” she continued. “I always strive for perfection, and I’m very strict with myself. Every time I complete a doll, I always dwell on what I could have done better. This allows me to not repeat the same mistakes, or at least to minimize them. I really hope to be able to make this passion my main work in the end, because this art gives me more satisfaction and stimulus every day to go on.”

Veronica Lale
A Touch of Heaven