Christine Woolley painted both the body and hair of Lou Lou, a sculpt by Joanna Kazmierczak-Pietka.
Christine Woolley offers hair-painting kits for purchase through her website. Woolley will be flying from Australia to Layton, Utah, to teach an in-person class on hair painting at the 2024 Rose Doll Expo.

Painting Lifelike Dolls Becomes Christine Woolley’s Silver Lining

Lifelike baby dolls have always been of interest to Chris­tine Woolley, but it wasn’t until late 2014 that she became personally involved in their creation. Unaware she would soon experience life-altering events, the beginning of her re­borning journey could not have come at a better time.

Path to the Present

Born in South Australia, Woolley moved to Tasmania as a young child. It was there she started her own family at the age of 18 and made raising her four children a top priority. By age 24, she was running a family day care out of her home, allowing her to bring in extra income while also looking after her own children. She contin­ued in this profession for close to 20 years, but her health eventually forced her to find a new career. At that time, she took a job as a nail technician, which she said she really enjoyed.

While juggling her responsibilities as a parent and child care provider, Woolley still managed to dabble in numerous crafts. She attended classes focusing on topics such as ceramics, em­broidery, sewing, and painting porcelain dolls. “I guess painting reborn dolls, once I found it, was a natural progression from these crafts,” she said.

Woolley had her first in-person encounter with a reborn doll while at a local doll show. “Luckily there was a class being held to learn how to make them, so my eldest daughter and I went along and made our very own doll,” she said. “After finishing that doll in early March of 2015, I was totally captivated. I couldn’t believe that I had made my very own baby doll like the ones I had always admired in the magazines.”

With the satisfaction that came from completing her first doll, Woolley was eager to start work on a second one, but life had other plans. Partway through painting her next doll, Woolley suffered a stroke. Her left side was impacted, as were her speech, vision, bal­ance, concentration, and memory. Given that Woolley is lefthand­ed, the impact of the stroke was even more devastating, but she took the setback in stride and put forth the effort needed to continue with her new hobby. She said, “Painting was all I could manage to do, and even though I could only sit at it for a few minutes at a time in the beginning, it was a lifesaver for me. It gave me something to concentrate on and look forward to doing, as it was something that I enjoyed, so it became a challenge for me to see how much I could do before tiring too much.” Although her doll painting started as a hobby, it quickly progressed into a form of therapy.

Christine Woolley painted hair on Marita Winters’ Khloe sculpt.
A full-body silicone doll, Mimi is a sculpt by Maissa Said.
Reborn Chloe is a sculpt by Natali Blick. The painting and rooted hair are the work of Christine Woolley.

When it came to rooting doll hair, however, Woolley found she was unable to carry out the task at her stage of recovery. Fortunate­ly, she recalled seeing an alternative option posted in a couple of the reborn groups she had joined online: painted hair. This seemed much more manageable, so she gave it a try. Woolley approached it from the perspec­tive of just needing to do one stroke at a time, and as a result, painting the hair also turned out to be relaxing and therapeutic.

Christine Woolley’s granddaughter Evie Polley holds the hand of full-body silicone doll Susie Q, sculpted by Bonnie Sieben.

As Woolley gained more strength, her production of reborn dolls increased. She said, “My husband, Paul, would joke with me about our letterbox always having ba­bies (doll kits) in it, and he named it ‘the uterus.’” All joking aside, she said, “Paul was an avid supporter of my newfound hobby and was always very encouraging.” Just 18 months after Woolley started down the path of a reborn artist, Paul passed away unexpectedly. “My world was turned upside down. Now not only was my life partner of 31 years gone but I had to support myself financially as well, and while I was selling a few reborns, it wasn’t enough to sup­port myself,” she said.

After experiencing a stroke and the loss of her husband in such a short span of time, Woolley chose to focus on something within her control: reborning. She worked hard to improve her painting skills and eventually reached the point where she was able to run a class on hair painting at a doll show in Adelaide. Her work was so well done that she was receiving multiple requests for tutori­als, which prompted Woolley to act. She said, “I wrote a tutorial on hair painting, collaborated with Lisa Sylvia to have her make up the colors I use in her air-dry paints, Ultimate Fusion, started a Facebook group called Reborn 3D Hair Painting with Christine Woolley to gauge interest in a tutorial, and after a lot of work and effort, I finally released my first blond hair-painting tutorial kit on July 16, 2018!” She released a tutorial for brown hair in May 2019. Her kits started off being sold on her website and then branched out into retail stores around the world. Woolley said, “Painting had now become the ‘silver lining’ in the dark clouds in my life. I had now created an income from my therapy and my passion.”

Having accomplished so much with vinyl reborning, Woolley decided the time was right to try her hand at a silicone reborn. “In April 2019, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Adelaide and participate in an airbrush silicone painting class with Lorriane and Enrroke Yophi,” she said. “This was my first experience painting silicone. I was in awe of the process and thoroughly en­joyed the experience.” And like with her first experience painting vinyl dolls, Woolley was eager to create more silicone reborns.

Bear is a full-body silicone sculpt by Izzy Zhao. Christine Woolley earned a Dolls Awards of Excellence Industry’s Choice Award for her work on this doll.
Briar, sculpted by Alicia Toner, is shown with light, medium, and dark shades of brown hair.

Just three months later, Woolley was launching her newest hair-painting tutorial at the Rose Doll Expo. Susan Gibbs happened to be hosting a silicone painting class, so Woolley enrolled. “After that, there was no stopping me! I wanted to learn more, so I started tak­ing as many classes as I could to improve my skills before I started painting them to sell,” she said, noting she still has the silicone doll she made during Gibbs’ class.

Woolley explained that although the mediums differ, the pro­cess for painting silicone and vinyl dolls is similar. She said, “I start with blues and purples for veins and undertones. Then the skin tex­ture is achieved by layering lots of different colors that I mix from the primary colors to keep the skin tone clean and clear. Then I do the mottling and the finer details like capillaries, lanugo, milia, nails, and finally the hair, which is my favorite part to paint.”

This full-body silicone fantasy doll, Mistletoe, is a sculpt by Laurie Sullivan Roy.
A significant amount of detail goes into Christine
Woolley’s hair painting.

For her silicone reborns, Woolley said she most enjoys the mat­ting process and the bathing for the final reveal. “This step is the most challenging in my opinion but is also the most rewarding, as it brings the whole doll to life,” she said. When it comes to vinyl reborns, she said, “My favorite part is when I get to painting the fine details and you see the doll come to life — that, and putting it all together, is most rewarding for me. I can both root the hair as well as paint hair, but I enjoy painting the hair the most, so the majority of my dolls have painted hair.”

In 2023, Woolley earned a Dolls Awards of Excellence In­dustry’s Choice Award for her silicone reborn Bear, an accom­plishment about nine years in the making. “I have looked at all the beautiful entries in the magazines over the years from all the amazing artists I look up to and never thought my work would be good enough to enter,” she said. “It has been one of my goals to strive to be good enough to enter alongside them.” Having achieved this goal, another is on the horizon. She said, “A goal I have for the future is to sculpt my very own vinyl kit and also a full body silicone. Hopefully with time and perseverance, I will achieve it or at least have fun trying.”

Woolley finds inspiration in her seven grandchildren, of­ten seeing their features come through in her work, and she is further motivated by the knowledge that Paul would encour­age her to continue doing what she loves. For those just starting out, Woolley said, “Never give up and keep on trying. You can achieve anything if you set your mind to it. Don’t be too hard on yourself — we all had to start at the beginning. Time and practice will help you achieve your goals.”

Silver Lining Art Dolls

by Christine Woolley