Woman Defends Viral 'Reborn' Baby Adoptions as Cost Runs Upward of $1K: 'A Healing Journey' (Exclusive)

Maria Trigg explains the process of sculpting the silicone babies to PEOPLE in an exclusive interview

<p>Coly Trigg/TikTok</p> Coly Trigg (left), one of her reborn babies

Coly Trigg/TikTok

Coly Trigg (left), one of her reborn babies

A woman is going viral on TikTok after sharing the lifelike dolls she makes herself — shipping them worldwide so others can "adopt" the babies.

Maria Trigg, 36, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview that she's been a doll collector nearly her whole life, and began making various dolls as a child growing up in Colombia.

"At a very young age, my mom taught me how to sculpt in clay," Trigg, who goes by Coly or "Mama Coly" on social media, tells PEOPLE. "I fell in love with the possibility of making my own dolls pretty early on."

She adds, "As a kid, I used to make so many kinds of dolls — paper dolls, fabric dolls, clay dolls — but once I found out silicone could feel so much like a real baby, it was over. I knew that’s what I wanted to do."

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In 2010, Trigg says she discovered reborns, handmade dolls that have been created to resemble a realistic human infant.

"I was immediately obsessed," Trigg says. "Looking back at myself as a little girl in Colombia, I dreamed of having a realistic doll and remember how impossible it seemed to ever have one made for me."

She learned how to sculpt and paint silicone dolls in 2013, from watching YouTube videos, and began selling the dolls she created by hand in 2020, when they went viral during the pandemic.

Trigg explains that there are two processes to reborn dolls: to paint silicone molds that already exist and add more intricate details, like lifelike skin and hair, or to create them from scratch.

"[To create original dolls,] I start literally with a lump of clay and a picture of a baby for inspiration. I try my best to do with my hands what I am seeing with my eyes," she says.

When the sculpture is finished, Trigg then creates a mold out of silicone and fills the mold with a different, softer type of silicone to cast a replica of the sculpture.

"Once the silicone sculpted baby is 'born,' we then paint the dolls with silicone paint; this process is done with a mottling sponge and many intricate layers to create the lifelike skin effect. Finally, we add our baby soft finish. This is done by finishing the doll with the silicone paint and adding silica powder to it," she says.

<p>Coly Trigg/TikTok</p> Coly Trigg

Coly Trigg/TikTok

Coly Trigg

Once the doll is finished, she even gives it a bath in order to find areas that are in need of repair.

"Once the doll is fully ready, we then micro-root hair and lashes, which means we insert mohair one by one to make it as realistic as possible. We finalize the doll by glossing the lips and any other area upon request," she says.

Reborns are most often collected by adults, in a process often referred to as "adoption." In some of her videos, Trigg can be seen getting the newly-purchased babies ready for their adoptions, measuring and weighing them before putting them in a diaper and a new outfit.

The price range for the dolls varies widely. A pre-manufactured reborn doll starts at around $50, Trigg says, while a hand-sculpted original finished silicone doll can cost upwards of $5,000 or even $10,000, depending on the artist.

"Personally, my silicone dolls start at $45 for my miniatures and can go up to $1,500 for the larger dolls," she adds.

And while they are dolls, they aren't toys and are geared toward adult collectors — in part, because they are "extremely delicate," Trigg says.

As for why they've become so popular and resonate with her social media audience, Trigg chalks it up to her passion, "A lot of people are very private about their doll collections so me being so loud and proud about it is something that I think has inspired a lot of people to truly do what makes them happy," she says. "I get a lot of people telling me that I have inspired them to not be ashamed of their hobby."

Trigg also acknowledges that many of her followers and collectors have turned to the dolls as somewhat of a coping mechanism. "[Some] have told me the dolls have helped them during a healing journey — whether they are going through the grief of having lost a child or anxiety/depression/dementia."

<p>Coly Trigg/TikTok</p> silicone baby doll accessories

Coly Trigg/TikTok

silicone baby doll accessories

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Still, there is occasional pushback from those who don't understand the dolls, or write negatively about them in the comments on Trigg's videos.

"There are a lot of people that are afraid of dolls or completely repelled by them, immediately deeming anyone who collects dolls to be mentally unstable," she says.

She continues: "I'm here to show the world that we are allowed to collect dolls just like other people collect anything else; some people have closets full of shoes they will never wear or are too afraid to wear because they might get dirty. Some people collect stamps, and while I don’t understand that, I don’t judge it ... What makes dolls any different? To me, that nurturing spirit is a gift, and I am not ashamed of it."

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