Hawaiian doll artist Bo Bergemann has been making dolls off and on for 13 years. She has tried various materials. “I hate to admit it, but my first doll was indeed made of paper mache! I tried liquache. Eventually took porcelain doll making classes, played a bit at cloth doll making and then discovered polymer clay! I was sure I’d found the end-all-be-all of doll sculpting mediums then. I still sculpt in it” Bo began to sell OOAK dolls. “I began sculpting miniatures next. I got down as tiny as a 1” naked newborn baby at my smallest. I found I liked 2” naked newborns better because I could fit in more detail in the fingernails, wrinkled toes and scrunchy faces!”
While researching tiny dolls online, Bo saw her first resin ball-jointed dolls. BJDs changed her entire approach to doll-making. “I discovered BJDs and was thrilled with the bodies and all they could do! Body language seemed to me to be a fabulous addition to doll making and my newest thrill!” Unable to easily find a resin baby doll, Bo decided to make one herself.
Creating a doll required learning by a trial-and-error. “I made my first BJD baby by sculpting a baby, head, torso, crooked limbs. Then I cut it up at each joint and added half balls and beveled out joints with eye bevelers. It was not even hollow until the first casting. Which was a good thing, because parts of the original sculpt crumbled in my first attempt at mold making!” Since she was more familiar with simply sculpting a single doll, Bo initially approached her new project the same way. “I began with form, aesthetics, and then moved toward function, and ended up losing some of the form in the process.” Sculpting the doll was only the first step. “I had to learn silicon mold making and resin casting. With the work I had already put into making my first BJD, I was not prepared for how much it would take me to learn and get decent at these two processes.” Despite numerous setbacks, Bo loved working on the doll, and with her family’s support, was determined to create her own dolls and open her own doll company.
Bo learned a few tricks for sculpting from doll artist Kaye Wiggs of KazeKidz in doll making discussions on doll forum The Resin Cafe. “I’ve learned to use straws in limbs (from Kaye Wiggs) and I discovered those plastic Easter eggs to sculpt the head around so everything starts hollow now. And I am far more focused on function first now. Then when the doll body does what I want it to do, then, I add the aesthetics.” While Bo learned to cast dolls in resin, she was not fully satisfied with the results. “I still do not really enjoy silicone mold making or resin pressure casting. But thankfully I only have to do it each time I make a new prototype.” The resin prototype of the dolls are sent by Bo to be cast in a factory in China. “They make far better finish molds, and send me samples to approve or refine and send back.” She adds, “I still get to do my most favorite part, sculpting! Just not quite as often as with the OOAKs I used to make. And I get to do something I’m loving nearly as much as sculpting now; re-inventing my own BJD with a dozen different personae.”
The first doll for the fledgling company, was inspired by a foster child Bo cared for years ago. She wanted to make a doll closer to the way a real baby looked, chubby and uncoordinated. Chelsea Rose can be dressed as a baby or as a toddler as she has flat feet and stands securely. More dolls have been added to the company website since then, another baby named Leilani and a new 18 cm tall doll named Sugar. Sugar is based on Bo when she was 4 years old. She plans to complete a companion for Sugar named Spice based on her adopted daughter Bree. Another baby BJD named Jade Blossom will also be available soon.
To Bo, BJDs are a completely different from her previous approaches to doll making. As an OOAK doll artist, she always created the entire persona of the doll, from the sculpting to the painting and costume. While she can do the same with BJDs, she can now take the same doll and re-interpret it as many additional times as she wishes. “BJDs are both – an heirloom quality doll for avid collectors to display and enjoy and a hobby canvass for the creative & artistic! Complete full-set, themed dolls are such fun to make as an artist. I can dream up the whole theme and personality of the doll. I can start sculpting and end up with a finished fine collectible doll. Then with BJDs I can also take the same sculpt and cast it in a different color resin, paint it with different painting techniques and colors and details and come up with a completely different and yet equally wonderful doll.”
While Chelsea Rose was made available for purchase from the new company’s website already this summer, Bo plans to “officially” launch her dolls and company at the Doll and Teddy Bear Expo in NC this October. OOAK and limited full-set dolls are being created for the show. Blank dolls of Chelsea Rose, Lielani and Sugar will also be available. Bo has commissioned doll costumer Jenifer of Spampy Stuff to create her own interpretations of Chelsea Rose. The first outfit created so far exceeded Bo’s expectations. “I’m so excited. I just LOVE it!” Bo also looks forward to seeing other interpretations of her characters. ” (Collectors) can purchase a sculpt and add their own paint, eyes, wigs, costuming to create their own truly original work of art that peeks into their own soul and shares a bit of themselves with the world!”
Photos Above from the top: Three Sugars, Jade Blossom prototype head on resin baby body.