VALDOSTA — Sitting down in the doctor’s office next to a woman with a baby carrier, I looked over to see one of the most precious “babies” I had ever seen. I was just about to tell the woman how beautiful her “baby” was with her delicate features when another woman opposite her began talking about the “doll.” Incredibly, this baby with “moisture” under its nose and tiny blue veins was not a human baby but one made by Liviana Sirmans of Valdosta, who had brought it to show her doctor. Liviana is a doll artist or “reborner,” one who transforms a manufactured vinyl doll to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible. Some dolls have special effects such as “stork marks” (birthmarks) or tears on their faces or they blow bubbles. Depending on how well dolls are crafted, they can sell anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. when Liviana put one of her dolls on display in a store in her native Italy, a customer offered to purchase it for 400 euros ($500 at that time), bringing the highest price Liviana has ever received. Liviana has made 428 dolls since she began the craft in 2002, giving some away. her church, Queen of Peace Catholic in Lakeland, is building a new church in Ray City and is hosting a drawing for one of the three dolls she crafted. the winner will get to choose from an African-American doll, Hispanic or Caucasian doll. Each doll she makes comes with a birth certificate. Liviana became intrigued with the art when she saw a life-like doll in Australia, where she attended the wedding of her son, Larry Sirmans, in 2002. “I came back to the U.S. and bought a doll from a lady in Canada through eBay,” Liviana said. “I liked it, so I emailed her and we became friends. I started doing doll bodies and making baby clothes for her. in exchange, she taught me how to reborn.” Liviana purchases the vinyl head, arms and legs and makes the body herself. she described the lengthy process which transforms them into incredibly real-like dolls. the vinyl head, arms and legs must be washed to eliminate the grease and accumulation from being touched. after they are completely dried, she begins painting the veins. While the veins on the arms and legs are painted on the outside, the veins in the head are painted from the inside. “the arms, legs and face are an orangey color so they must be painted in very thin layers,” she said. “Each layer must be baked in the oven at 265 for eight minutes. Then I paint the nails.” she opens the nose so there will be dimension and paints the lips. “I microroot the hair with a very small felting needle, so only one or two strands go in at a time. I glue the hair from the inside after the strands are secured.” she then adds the eyes and eyelashes. “I make the body from skin-colored material stuffed with plastic pellets for weight and then the rest with polyfill,” said Liviana, who repeats the process for the head so it will be weighted down. she attaches the arms, legs and head, and dresses the baby with clothes she has made or purchased. These clothes include a delicate cathedral-length Victorian-style christening gown, which fits a 9-month-old doll. it takes from two weeks to two months to make a doll. Sirmans said some dolls don’t turn out as “pretty” as she would like, and they end up in the arms of nursing-home residents “who love them.” her costs for making a doll range from $80 to $250. “I don’t make money on dolls — sometimes I don’t break even,” she said. one of the dolls she gave as a gift had the recipient’s own hair in the doll’s head. when 8-year-old Brianna Burt of Valdosta got her hair cut, her mom saved her hair, and Liviana microrooted it into the doll’s head. From Germany, Liviana purchased eyes for the doll that matched Brianna’s eyes. when asked if she ever made a doll she couldn’t bear to part with, she replied, “I cried when I sold my first doll.” Among the many dolls decorating her home is one in a fancy white lace dress lying on bedding edged in lace (that she also made) in a Silver Cross baby carriage from England in the ’60s. “If my husband (knew) how much I paid for this (carriage), he would divorce me, but I’m addicted to dolls,” she said. the dolls she has made are a reflection of the different races, with Chinese, African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian, and a Hindu baby with a jewel in its forehead, bracelets on both arms and an anklet “which they believe will ward off the evil spirits,” she said. the Hindu baby is named Aamani, which means “Spring Storm.” her collection even includes two monkey dolls that she made. Liviana also collects dolls (and masks) from all over the world, including those given to her by her son, Larry Sirmans, who travels overseas with his job as a mechanical engineer. There are dolls from Malaysia, Mexico, Indonesia, Venezuela, new Zealand, India, Thailand, Korea, Sumatra, Ireland, Korea, Poland, and Africa. Liviana’s daughter, Crystal Sirmans of Daytona Beach, Fla., a nurse who went to El Salvador on a mission trip, brought back a doll for her mom. Hariklia Sirmans, wife of Liviana’s son Shawn, brought a doll from her native Greece for her mother-in-law. a big smile breaks out on Liviana’s face when she says she and Hariklia are getting their American citizenship. “we are going to Jacksonville where we will take the test and then be sworn in,” she said. of all her dolls, her favorite one is a porcelain Capodimonte boy dressed in navy as a page that husband Rogger purchased for her in Venice when they toured Italy for their 25th wedding anniversary. the former Liviana Canciani of San Vito Al Tagliamento, Italy, met her husband in Casarsa, Italy, while he was in the Army as crew chief with the Hercules missiles. was it love at first sight? “for him,” she replied. “I fell in love with his dog first — a big German Shepherd named Rebel.” Rogger and Liviana met on Dec. 31, 1964, when she was working in a hotel restaurant, and he came in to get a beer. she lived at the hotel and only went home every couple of weeks. “I was 17 and not allowed to date,” she said. “There was a big room with a TV (in the hotel) where everyone went in the evening. the hotels and bars were not like those in the U.S. where people pick up dates. These were a family thing. “he started coming to see me in the evenings, and we would sit down and watch TV. about two weeks later, I quit the job and went home.” when Rogger found out she lived in San Vito, he went there and asked someone if they knew her. As fate would have it, that someone was her cousin, Silvano Cordenos, who brought him right to the door of her house. “we lived on the third floor,” she said. “when I looked down and saw him, I almost had a heart attack. my brother liked Americans and brought him in, and Mama invited him to stay for dinner. he and my brother became friends, and he was there about every night. “I didn’t want anything to do with him as far as dating until I found out he had a dog,” she said. “he was more my friend than boyfriend. Then we started liking each other.” Liviana said a girl upstairs liked soccer, and Rogger would take her and Liviana to soccer games or out with Liviana’s brother. “one day he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.” Liviana, 17, and Rogger, a month from 20, were married Aug. 8, 1965, and will celebrate their wedding anniversary next month. in addition to their three children, they have two grandchildren. after Italy, Rogger was stationed at an underground missile site in Chicago in 1968. “the hippies were trying to tear down the fence to destroy the missile site,” Liviana recalled. “Rogger was called at home, and he went in. the hippies were told to go away, but continued shaking the fence. the military sprayed them with a gas … and they started jumping in Lake Michigan … a bus with MPs came and dispersed them.” Rogger’s next station was in Germany. “it was a bad time in Germany — the riots between the U.S. black and white military. a 13-year-old got killed in our building. her dad, a first sergeant, had refused a pass to the GI nine months before.” Rogger left the military after a total of 10 years, and they moved to his native Lakeland. Rogger worked for a railroad until he retired as a railroad car inspector. when they “lost everything” in a house fire, they moved to Lowndes County in 1973. Five years ago, Liviana was in a car accident which would eventually require both back and neck surgeries. With her neck surgery a year ago, she had to quit making dolls, with the exception of those which are bald or have only a few strands of hair. but she has 40 dolls in her home, some in boxes, to remind her of the craft she loved to do for a decade, including a dark-haired beauty with pigtails sitting in a little chair.