Dolls are not only playthings for children—in fact, many grown-ups collect and create dolls as an art form. Collectors enjoy original, one-of-a-kind, and high-quality pieces that are purchased only through art shows, usually for thousands of dollars each. These dolls are often realistic to begin with, but there is one Russian artist who takes that realism to the next level.

Michael Zajkov‘s dolls are often considered eerie because of their accuracy. Constructed from polymer clay and hand-painted with extreme detail, Michael gained international fame after premiering his work in Moscow’s 2013 Art Doll exposition.

The accuracy of Michael’s art dolls are so amazing, in fact, you may need to do a double-take when you first see them…

Russian sculptor Michael Zajkov may have begun his career in the craft shop of a puppet theatre, but his extremely lifelike dolls are what gained him fame after he debuted them at the 2013 Moscow Art Dolls exhibition. Michael’s masterpieces always begin with sketches like this one.

doll1Michael Zajkov / Instagram

So, how does Michael actually sculpt these pieces? You might be surprised to learn that each doll’s head begins with a simple ball of tin foil. Michael then adds layer upon layer of the polymer clay, even creating anatomically correct skeletal structures for a more authentic look. Here, he adds teeth behind the lips in order to make the doll’s mouth look more like that of a human—even though only a small portion of the teeth will show in the finished piece.

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Each doll features 13 individual parts, and the joints are moveable so the doll can be adjusted in different positions. Michael keeps adding more clay and sculpting it down, working tirelessly until he’s satisfied with each piece.

doll2Michael Zajkov / Instagram

After all 13 parts are shaped, Michael uses wires to suspend them from an oven rack. He bakes them until they harden and are ready to be put together. Without context, this looks a bit frightening, doesn’t it?

doll3Michael Zajkov / Instagram

Once baked, Michael takes great care to paint a realistic complexion and features using thin brush strokes and a variety of paints and glosses. This way, the skin looks supple—almost as if it’s real.

doll5Michael Zajkov / Instagram

The hands begin as wire frames. Michael carefully positions the fingers before adding the clay and baking the pieces in the oven. It’s important to get this part right, as the positioning helps create a natural and delicate look.

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Michael adds gloss to the fingernails to make them look shiny, and the rosy paint on the knuckles and fingertips almost makes it appear as if the skin is warm to the touch. He even paints faint freckles!

doll7Michael Zajkov / Instagram

Each doll’s eyes are made of custom-cut German glass, while the hair and eyelashes come from the French mohair of Angora goats. Michael paints brows, too. Of course, you can never have enough freckles!

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Michael also makes the dolls’ clothing by hand. In keeping with the Victorian theme, he uses silk, batiste, and antique lace for the garments and leather for all of the shoes.

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Michael doesn’t skimp on any detail. He even created a teddy bear for this particular doll, complete with its own ribbon tied around the neck. The hands of this doll are crafted to perfectly hold the teddy bear in place.

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A pre-owned doll in mint condition goes for as much as $4,000 on eBay. It’s hard to believe that Michael made his first doll in 2010—his masterful technique is so advanced and intricate!

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Michael learned how to sew clothing from working with fashion designer Irina Kuzyomina after he graduated from Kuban State University in 2009. Not surprisingly, he majored in sculpture while attending school.

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Michael’s dolls are far more realistic than most of his competitors’ works. He admits that he enjoys seeing the looks on peoples’ faces when they first lay eyes on these ultra-realistic dolls.

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Since making a splash at Moscow’s Art Dolls exhibition in 2013, Michael has accrued over 578,000 loyal fans on his Instagram page, where he often posts short videos of his process.

doll14Michael Zajkov / Instagram

These dolls are so lifelike that they’re kind of intimidating! Even so, they are true works of art, and extremely original in their precision and beauty. It must be absolutely stunning to see these dolls in person. For more of Michael’s work, visit his Instagram page.

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