Meet Zuri, the debut baby from Kool Image Dolls, a Pittsburgh-based, woman-owned company

Photo above from left: Kiki, Zuri and Tika. Courtesy of Kool Image Dolls.

Figurative sculptor Dominique Scaife is looking forward to introducing her sweet baby to the world this summer. Zuri is the first baby doll to be launched from the woman-owned, Pittsburgh-based Kool Image Dolls.

“For years, I’ve wanted to make my own doll,” says Scaife, who lives in Morningside.  She began working with polymer clay about 12 years ago to make dolls that more closely resembled her daughter and nieces, “who run the gamut of all shades. Darker-skinned girls don’t get dolls that really show their skin tone in a way that kids will look at it and say, ‘She’s pretty. She looks like me.’ “

Positive self-image for young Black girls is the idea behind Kool Image Dolls. Scaife aims to affirm and reinforce the beauty and value of Black and Brown girls.

Figurative sculptor Dominique Scaife. Photo courtesy of Kool Image Dolls.

The company launched in 2020. Over the past two years, Scaife worked on designs, found a manufacturer and — oh yeah — dealt with the pandemic and supply chain interruptions.

“It was a huge feat getting this doll designed,” says Scaife, who invested her own money in the project.

“I’m such a detailed person as a sculptor,” she says. “I never wanted to have a doll that is just a browner-colored replica of a Caucasian doll in the features. So we went through with the nose, the lips. If you look at a darker person, its skin tone, the palms of our hands and the bottom of our feet are not the same tones as the rest of our body.

“We wanted to make sure that, from head to toe, whether it’s the texture of the hair, the palms of the hands and the feet, the features of the nose, the lips, are really celebrating little girls and boys out here.”

Scaife’s long-term goal is to introduce a new doll character every year to capture the diversity of Black girls and highlight specific features so girls can choose a doll that looks like them. She is currently working on a clothing line for the dolls, as well as matching items for girls.

“It’s been a labor of love,” Scaife says. “I am literally learning as I go. But you just get to a certain point and a certain age, and you remember certain things that you want to do on this earth, and you just go for it.”

Kool Image Dolls is currently taking discounted pre-orders for Zuri, priced at $119.

“Our estimated delivery time at this point is late July/early August, if everything goes well. But we’ve been having a little bit of ups and downs,” Scaife says with a laugh. “We’re praying and crossing our fingers.”