By Sarah Mellman, EKK Founder
The idea of Enchanted Kreature Kits (EKK) started at the very beginning of my reborning days. I started reborning in March 2011 under the name Enchanted Moments Nursery. As a “noob,” I had no idea where to find blank doll kits. I didn’t know that there were reborn doll supplies and kit dealers out there, so I found everything I started with on eBay. I was so excited to buy a lot of reborn dollmaking supplies for a hefty (to me) $100. It included three blank kits, a set of used paints, and a Bountiful Baby DVD tutorial on how to reborn. I watched the video three times before I was brave enough to paint my first one. My first attempt was on a Berenger play doll, and my son instantly fell in love with him.
As I watched it come to life using the steps demonstrated on the DVD, I fell totally and irrevocably in love with reborning. After my first store-bought baby-doll attempt, I turned to the first “real” reborn doll kit. It was the Aisha kit by Bountiful Baby. She was gorgeous to my new-to-reborning eyes. She was the first one I attempted to sell so I could afford to buy more kits. She was adopted by a hospice therapy worker who wanted her as a cuddle therapy doll for her patients. That spoke to my heart, since both of my parents used hospice during their final days with cancer. It made me feel that it was my calling to make these fantastic baby dolls.
The Search for Fantasy Kits
My third baby started as a Benjamin sculpt by Bountiful Baby, but I turned her into a little elfling baby with sculpted-on elf ears. In that first year of reborning, I made 27 reborns and turned nine into fantasy babies. As I learned and grew in my own skills (a lot harder to do back in the day because no one wanted to share tips and tutorials), I started looking for fantasy kits that didn’t need to be modified to make.
I found a few here and there, but they were really hard to find. Over time I became friends with several amazing sculptors. I would jokingly beg for them to sculpt a fantasy kit for us fantasy-loving reborners to paint. Every once in a while, there would be a new one here and there, but never anything with consistency.
Two versions of Booth, sculpted by Jamie Lynn Powers.
Around the end of 2016, I decided I wanted to try to sculpt a fantasy kit. Perhaps it was my stubborn streak; if no one else would make them, then I would have to do it myself.
I had just moved to New York, and trying to unpack took a lot of time. I was also still struggling with a neck injury at the time from a car accident back in 2015. It was hard to use my hands and arms to soften the clay, and it often left my arms tingling with shooting pains for hours after trying to sculpt. But I worked on that sculpt any chance I got. Then in March 2017, I had to stop working on my sculpt because I had surgery on my neck to try to fix the damage caused by the car accident. It took four months before I had the strength to sculpt again. I had to have my children help work with the clay to soften it so I could work with it. It took another eight months after that to finish my first sculpt. I had to resculpt the wings three times before the factory was able to mold them. Finally, in March 2018, Draken, my dragon, was ready to head to the factory.
Launching Enchanted Kreature Kits
I count Aug. 1, 2018, as the day I first opened EKK, because that was when I opened preorders for Draken. Even though that first factory was a struggle to work with, it was a dream come true.
Through all this time, I had been pondering a plan for the beginnings of EKK. I knew I wasn’t a very good sculptor, and I also knew that producing doll kits are super expensive. So I needed a plan for producing the highest-quality fantasy kits without having to sculpt them all myself. In April 2018, while Draken was at the factory in the molding process, I finally plucked up the courage to contact my dear friend Cindy Musgrove about EKK.
She had a darling little Fawn sculpt on display at the ROSE Internationals Doll Expo in 2017. It was so stinking cute! I was watching and watching and watching for it to come out, but it never did (at that time). Finally, I decided to pluck up the courage to ask her if I could buy the rights to produce it with EKK. Sadly, I had waited too long; she had already sold it to Bountiful Baby for production. I still asked her about sculpting for EKK. She was intrigued and became excited as I explained what I wanted to do.
She asked what I’d like her to sculpt first, and I asked her to sculpt Manor Elves. I told her I wanted them to be similar to how House Elves are supposed to look. There was a significant pause on the phone before she asked, “What are House Elves?” She was not familiar with the story they are from, having never read the books or watched the movies. So I sent her pictures of what I could find and told her to make them not look anything like the book characters but make them unique looking using the general descriptions available to us. A few months later, at the 2018 ROSE show, she met me in the hallway and handed me a teeny tiny bundle with Beesley the baby Manor Elf in it. I cried ugly tears of joy! He was absolutely perfect!
After that show, Cindy sculpted Bipsey as a twin to Beesley and Tinky as a bigger sister Manor Elf, and all three were sent off in August 2018 to make their journey to a new factory. It was a much better experience, and all three were back only five months later as beautiful blank kits. Since then, I have continued working with my amazing “Queen of Fantasy” friend, Cindy Musgrove. She has sculpted 18 out of the 48 kits I currently have through the production process to date. We often joke that we must have played in the same enchanted sandbox in heaven before we came to earth.
EKK’s Vampling line is a popular, and extensive, series of kits by various sculptors:
Without Cindy Musgrove and my other outstanding sculptors — Sherri Williams, Melissa McCrory, Wendy Dickison, Pat Moulton, Lauren Jaimes, Jodie Lombardo, Jamie Lynn Powers, Dawn McLeod, Valerie Kruger, Doris Moyers Hornbogen, and a few others who are still working on sculpts for me — Enchanted Kreature Kits would not be as successful nor as desirable as it currently is if I had only relied on my own sculpting abilities, which are nothing to write home about.
Expanding the Business
Now that EKK has had a few years to mature, we have made 2022 the year to start growing EKK into the next phase of our business plan. It has been my goal to make Enchanted Kreature Kits more than just a place for fantasy kits. I have been trying to expand EKK into a company that produces high-end fantasy clothing and accessories in a product line I’ve named The Enchanted Wardrobe. I am constantly looking for top-of-the-line seamstresses, artists, and crafters to work with to bring this to pass. Additionally, I am working to provide a line of fantasy paint. My goal is to have it up and running around the summer of 2022.
In addition, some exciting changes are coming to EKK. We have decided it’s time to expand EKK from just fantasy kits and welcome in a line of human sculpts. To keep the same acronym, EKK, I have decided to call the human line of kits “Enchanted Kradle Kits.” In November 2021, the first of the Enchanted Kradle Kits headed off to the factory to start the production process. We are very excited about adding a human line and look forward to each and every little one, whether it be human or fantasy, we bring through the production process.
The Struggle Against Counterfeits
Unfortunately, like many other sculptors and producers in the doll world, EKK has had six of its kits stolen and illegally reproduced so far this year. It is beyond discouraging. After a lot of consideration, prayer, and talking with mentors and some loyal customers, I have decided that the biggest thing I can do to fight back against these pirated kits is to change how I sell my EKK kits. These changes will include:
• I will be adding new certifications to the Certificates of Authenticity (COAs) that will be harder to duplicate.
• As an incentive for artists to buy authentic EKK kits and not support the knockoffs, we will be transitioning to a new selling format and giving all customers dealer pricing on new release timeless or regular editions starting in 2022. Since I have to compete with my own stolen kits, I want there to be absolutely no reason why anyone would feel like they need to buy fake EKK kits. Sadly, this cannot be retroactive with earlier kits, because I have made commitments to the dealers who have purchased the early kits and cannot, in good conscience, drop prices and hurt their sales. But we are heading there with all future kits.
If it is successful, EKK will continue to grow. If not, there may be a time down the road that EKK decides to close up shop. So I’d like to ask all my Enchanted Kreature Kits and Enchanted Kradle Kits supporters to only buy authentic kits. We are at a pivotal point in the doll world with the “war” against the fake kits. I hope and pray that there will soon be a way to fight back against these pirating kit companies and get them shut down.
Lastly, EKK eagerly desires to support new and emerging fantasy and human reborning talents. We look forward to having prototype contests for fun new sculpts, host drawings and giveaways, and we look forward to going to both ROSE International Doll Expo 2022 and Kansas Doll Show 2022. Next year, 2023, we hope to join a few Comic-Cons and fantasy fests across the USA. I hope I get the chance to meet EKK supporters and build friendships wherever EKK takes us.