Jo Ann Bernard is a self-taught artist.
Born Jo Ann Gonzales daughter of Larry and Evelyn Gonzales.
As a child raised on the bayou of Delacroix Island, Louisiana, with an
Islenos heritage that stems back to Spain's Canary Islands.
Louisiana Character Dolls
Her love of the beautiful State of Louisiana has inspired a line of Louisiana heritage character dolls. Through research, she has reproduced Louisiana ancestry; African American, Cajun, Islenos and others in life-like forms as they were seen years ago. Jo Ann has created a complete original collection. She sculpts the original pieces and reproduces them in clay using plaster molds. The face of each character is hand-painted, dressed, (clothing and jewelry may vary) and positioned on handcrafted wooden pedestals and chairs to recreate photographs and sketches of the 1800's. The body designs are unique in construction and design. All wigs are hand-made by the artist using mohair strands. The artist developed original clothing designs and patterns. Props were designed and created for each individual character doll. All clay pieces are limited editions of 500 and are numbered and signed by the artist
Jo Ann began painting in 1975 and has developed her painting methods by simple trail and error. Her paintings are also a reflection of the State she love's so much.
In 1987 I was inspired by a 90-year-old women who was still working in the
picking cotton. Every line on her face seem to tell her story of working
in the cotton fields of Louisiana. Her face was my first attempt at doll making.
It consisted of a face sculpted of sculpey (a clay substance that harden in the
oven) a pencil for her torso and a stuffed stocking for her legs.
She sat in a chair with a basket of pralines on her lap. If you purchased this Praline Seller at Aunt Sally's Praline Shop in The New Orleans French Quarter you purchased the first character doll
made by me that was sold to the public. (Today, her face is the Cala Lady.)
Next, I created a mold from her face, this was the beginning of reproducing my pieces in clay using plaster molds, which were then fired in a kiln. This phase of doll making combined individually sculpted arms/hands, legs/feet of sculpey, reproduced heads, and a wire body. The body was stuffed and wrapped with cloth simultaneously, a very time consuming method. Each doll was signed but not numbered. I remember one of my favorites was a doll serving coffee. In one hand I sculpted an enamel blue and black spotted coffee pot and in the other hand she held a cup and saucer. Hair was not used in the beginning stages, I place a tignon (scarf/bandanna) on their heads. These dolls were my first body design endeavor. The primitive qualities of the first few dolls made are dearly missed.
Plaster molds were eventually made for the hands and feet. I designed cloth body cylinders that attached to the extremities. The hands/feet were then connected to the wire and the cylinders were stuffed with fiberfill. This method was a big improvement from the first doll sold at Aunt Sally's Praline shop in 1987. Yarn strands were used to make the first wigs, then the wigs were eventually made from human-like mohair.
Each character doll has a set of master molds. All clay pieces are limited editions of 500, a Certificate of Authenticity accompany each doll. Finishing techniques are a combination of airbrush painting, detailed brush painting, and pastels. Although the fired clay pieces were produced from the same sets of plaster molds, no two-character dolls are identical. The unique characteristics of each doll are attributed to the hand-painted faces and handmade bodies.
Satisfied with the construction of the dolls, I decided to portray historical characters and events of New Orleans and Louisiana in a line of character dolls. I researched sketches from the 1800's, it was these sketches that inspired my collection. My husband, Brian is an extremely talented carpenter, he designed props and stands to add to the authenticity of each character. I wanted to add one more distinguishing feature to the line, a short story connecting the character doll to a New Orleans or Louisiana event, character or folklore.
The end result of my time and labor concluded with a line of lifelike character dolls that could be positioned on wooden pedestals and props to recreate photographs and sketches of the 1800's.
Presently the African American Heritage Doll Collection consist of; The New Orleans Voodoo Queen-Marie Laveau, The Mammy and Baby, The Cotton Picker, The Tignon Law of 1792, The New Orleans Quadroon, The Creole Gumbo Queen-Zabelle. The collection also includes The New Orleans Vendors of the 1800's; The Praline Seller, The Vegetable Lady, and The Cala Lady. Last but not least is the Creole Mardi Gras Masquerade Collection. The American Heritage Collection, Louisiana edition consist of The Louisiana Cajun, The Creole Lady, Southern Belles, and The Steamboat Captain.
When the character dolls were complete my only aspiration was to be acknowledged by collectors and other artist for the quality and originality of the collection. If you purchased one of my character dolls, I'd like to say a special thank you. I am optimistic that one day we will both be pleased to find out your purchase was a good investment and I created something of value. In any case, I sincerely hope you share and appreciate the love, time and effort I have given to creating the character doll you purchased.
Each completed character doll has a special place in my heart. That may sound strange, maybe it is because of the labor involved in producing the character doll; All I do know is each character doll that leaves home takes a little part of me with it.
NOTE: I do not claim to be a professional doll maker. The character dolls were a result of trial and error. I am not aware or do not conform to any doll making rules. Body designs and compositions are totally my own creation. The character dolls were a work in progress, meaning the doll making techniques improved with the number of dolls produced. The clothing and jewelry varied for each character depending on availability. The doll collection is for decoration only. They are not toys. Each doll piece and accompanying story are copyrighted and protected under copyright laws.
Thank you to Yahoo, for this platform to display my lifework. I was fearful, the character dolls, paintings and the other artwork I created would become hidden forever where no eyes could see.
Thanks for the visit, I hope it was an enjoyable one.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org