The Married Couple Making the World's Finest Sex Dolls - OZY | A Modern Media Company

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because you’re never too old to play with dolls.

Entering the 9,000-square-foot warehouse, I’m greeted by a collection of silicone bodies suspended from the ceiling by chains. It could easily be the setting for a horror movie — except that the dolls’ creators, Matt Krivicke and his wife, Bronwen Keller, are artists who treat them like anatomically perfect canvasses to be painted and then enjoyed (passionately) by their clients. Airbrushing nipples and hair-punching eyebrows is just another day at the office for the husband-and-wife team. 

“People said we should make her a MILF, but honestly, I couldn’t think of anything more boring,” says Krivicke, 46, as he hands me the head of a silicone mannequin made to resemble a middle-aged woman. I may be standing in an East L.A. warehouse surrounded by disembodied breasts, but I’m mesmerized by the hand-painted laugh lines framing her mouth, and her glass eyes, which are indistinguishable from the real thing. “She looks back at you, doesn’t she?” he asks, knowing the answer.

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Matt Krivicke and Bronwen Keller, artists and founders of Sinthetics

Source Savannah Fortis

“We started writing a story around her, and now all of the mannequins are a part of it. They’re more than toys to us,” Krivicke says, with an arm slung around the shoulder of a male mannequin. “The minute it stops being interesting and challenging, I’m out of the business,” he insists, leaning in to examine the stubble on the mannequin’s chin.

Sinthetics, which Krivicke and Keller started on Valentine’s Day 2011, is the world’s top-of-the-line artisanal sex doll manufacturer because the founders’ goal is to create not only a sex doll but an object of affection. “Anyone can go on a website and buy a $200 piece of latex that will ‘satisfy’ them,” says longtime friend and virtual reality experience developer Greg Edwards. “Sinthetics makes art that can affect their customers emotionally.” 

Much like a sex surrogate, ‘love dolls’ give the customer a feeling of privacy, safety and security.

Hudsy Hawn, educator at Stockroom University

The process starts with a conversation between Keller and a potential client. The 42year-old neon redhead moved to the States from her native South Africa to pursue art school. Since then, she’s worked as an interior designer and a textbook editor — and now as a curator of love dolls. She met Krivicke in 2005 at a Burning Man party. Back then, he was a commercial sculptor specializing in toys and Halloween masks. They kissed at midnight and have been a couple ever since.

“The most interesting thing to me is the psychology,” she says. “[We’re] trying to find something [the client] can have an actual connection with.” From that conversation, she develops a profile of the perfect companion for their client. Then, Krivicke, together with two other artists, will spend four to eight months molding, designing and hand-painting the mannequin to the customer’s exact specifications — from eye color and facial expression to the size of, well, everything. The dolls can be male, female or transgender, and they can be modified to look like vampires, angels or aliens. 

 

There was a time not long ago when sex-toy manufacturers operated under the radar — their products considered too taboo to be mainstream. But in 2016, the industry passed the $15 billion point, according to adult-entertainment industry news source Xbiz, with Forbes projecting it’ll hit $50 billion by 2020. Sinthetics has been in the business of making clients’ fantasies come true for years, but in the face of a booming market, their $6,400 starting price tag often sends customers shopping elsewhere. More players means lower price points, and small manufacturers like Sinthetics are finding it hard to stay competitive against overseas operations selling dolls for hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars. “The only way we can compete is by making a better product,” Keller says.

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Inside the Sinthetics factory

Source Savannah Fortis

Sinthetics may peddle fantasy fulfillment, but logistically, making the most lifelike sex doll is anything but. Krivicke and Keller live in an apartment above the warehouse, and they are chronically understaffed due to the difficulty of finding qualified painters — which means working around the clock to stay on top of the 16 dolls in production at any given time. Lately, however, they’ve found market share in an unexpected place.

“The trans community is keeping us alive right now,” Krivicke says, gesturing to a wall of penises behind me. While the business is predicated on full dolls, the various body parts are made to be interchangeable or used separately. When Sinthetics entered the market, a client in the trans community saw a penis Krivicke had created and asked that one be specially crafted to work with their body. Not only did the piece have the feel of the real thing, but Sinthetics customized it to the client’s specifications, even matching the proper skin tone.

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A Sinthetics doll in the making 

Source Savannah Fortis

“They said they felt whole for the first time while wearing our piece,” Krivicke says. He and Keller agree that their relationship with their clients is what separates them from bigger manufacturers like RealDoll and Mechadoll. It’s also what keeps them in the business.

Keller mentions a disabled customer who purchased a doll for company after it became impossible to leave the house. This is more common than not, according to Hudsy Hawn, who runs adult education at Stockroom University. “Much like a sex surrogate, ‘love dolls’ give the customer a feeling of privacy, safety and security,” she says. And as technology has made the world more solitary for many, love dolls can offer more than sex.

Krivicke and Keller say they plan to continue creating the highest-quality product for their clients while challenging themselves artistically, betting that, as new competitors enter the field, there will always be customers who love their work. “You have to find beauty in imperfection,” Krivicke says as he takes the mannequin head back from me.

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