Reborn babies: Life-like dolls can frighten some, but to others they serve a purpose

·4 min read
Tina Summa is pictured with one of her life-like doll creations at her vendor shop located at The Treasure Trove in James City.
Tina Summa is pictured with one of her life-like doll creations at her vendor shop located at The Treasure Trove in James City.

Some say a James City vendor's life-like dolls have an eerie resemblance to that of a child and can be frightening. For others, the dolls serve a unique purpose.

As a young child, a New Bern woman's gift of sewing and creating crafts was instilled in her by her late great-grandmother. She was also taught to knit and crochet by the age of 7.

Tina Summa, the owner of Tina's Unique NC Creations, said she grew up in a 'somewhat dysfunctional' family and began finding ways to earn extra money starting at nine years old.

"My mother worked for the Sun Journal as a carrier," Summa said. "She traveled about 100 miles a day delivering 865 papers and I went on those routes with her often, so when someone else had to do the route I would ride with them and show them the stops and they would give me a few dollars."

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Summa said as soon as she was of age, she got her own paper route which she delivered with her bike. After she received her driver's license, she began driving a route and later became an inserter.

"Then life happened, I got married and started my own family," she said. "I really started doing a lot more sewing and making crafts which I had learned mostly from my great-grandmother."

Summa and her husband Billy own a maintenance company which she says has been hard to maintain due to the inability to find employees. They have two children, Jeaneal and Royce.

She creates handmade items such as pillows, home decor, and other crafts, but about a year ago she discovered the realistic-looking reborn dolls.

"I have made more than 40 since I started," Summa said. "I absolutely love making them and am always amazed at the finished product."

Reborn dolls are made from silicone and vinyl, then painted to look lifelike.
Reborn dolls are made from silicone and vinyl, then painted to look lifelike.

She has gifted several dolls to her family and friends which she said they absolutely love.

The process can be long and tedious.

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The dolls can be made of vinyl and silicone. Summa uses special paint to create lifelike features including the color of the dolls and says it takes about 12 coats to give them their distinguished look. Veins, pores, and other features are also painted on the dolls. Eyelashes are individually attached as well as hair, which can be a long process.

"Each strand of hair is attached individually," she said. "I have been working for about six months on a doll that I am putting the hair on."

Other features that can be included are glass eyes for the dolls that have their eyes open. Magnets can also be placed inside the dolls to attach accessories such as pacifiers and hair bows.

Summa said she can also take dolls that are damaged and reborn them.

They range in price from about $50 for a preemie and up to $600 for normal baby sizes which weigh about 7 pounds and are about 20 inches long, the approximate size of a full-term infant.

The dolls can have magnets inserted to attach pacifiers, hair bows and other accessories.
The dolls can have magnets inserted to attach pacifiers, hair bows and other accessories.

Summa currently displays her dolls at her vendor booth located inside The Treasure Trove, 1201 U.S. 70 East in James City. Along with the dolls, she also has a collection of handmade items such as pillows and other home decors.

The business is open from Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. They are closed on Monday.

Reports have shown that the dolls can be therapeutic to those who have suffered miscarriages, stillborns or have lost a child, but they are also considered a collectible by many doll lovers.

The dolls are often mistaken to be real babies. The police have been called upon several occasions where people saw the dolls locked in cars and believed it was a real baby.

According to an article by the Washington Post, believing he was saving a life, a police officer rushed to a Walmart shopping center in Keene, N.H. after receiving a report of a baby left in a car in the heat of July. The officer used his baton to break the window of the car and began CPR, realizing it was a doll after checking for an obstructed airway when his efforts to revive the child did not work.

It is highly recommended for those who own the dolls to keep them covered or out of view to prevent such occurrences.

For more information or to view dolls Summa has created, you can stop by the store or visit her on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on Sun Journal: James City vendor creates lifelike dolls to sell at new thrift store