By Patti Light
For Hometown News
Every little girl has a favorite doll, and often that love carries into the adult world of collectors of antique and handmade dolls.
It was 2010 when Ormond Beach artist Crystal Bernard began looking for a new focus for her art, primarily oils and watercolors. She became intrigued with porcelain dolls. Today she sells them globally on eBay and was recently featured in "Doll Magazine" as an Artist of the Year and a winner in the 2013 DOLLS Awards of Excellence Industry's Choice competition.
The doll is a 13" porcelain ball-jointed doll named Spring Butterfly, which took about three months to create. "I don't think people realize what a long process this is," said Ms. Bernard, who moved to the area from Chappaqua, N.Y. to be near her father in 2009. "I don't buy the commercial molds. I design my own dolls with polymer clay and then make the molds and pour them in porcelain."
Ms. Bernard said she only does a limited number from each originally crafted mold, but even then each doll becomes totally unique as she paints features and creates expressions. It begins by shaping and refining the parts, including body and limbs, after they come out of the first kiln firing. Each layer of china paint also requires a kiln firing. The process can take up to three months of 40-plus hour weeks of work, she said, but once the mold is done, each subsequent doll takes about a month to complete.
"Doll Magazine" is the most prestigious publication of the genre, and the competition is stiff and plentiful and includes 20 categories. Ms. Bernard said there are up to four winners per category, but they are not ranked. Doll lovers can now view and vote online for the People's Choice Awards, which will be announced in December.
These creations are masterpieces; and there are some surprising categories such as licensed pop culture dolls like "R" from Warm Bodies, a Prince William and Princess Katherine wedding couple and Scarlett O'Hara. There are entries for baby dolls, children's play dolls, miniatures and even fashion and mythology in both collectible and art categories. There also are categories for specific entries over or under $1,250 and a one-of-a-kind line.
When asked if she has any particular attachments, the admitted perfectionist smiles and says the first doll she was happy with sits on a little couch in her studio. "I always feel like I'm developing and trying to improve," Ms. Bernard said. "I've sold about 15 already, and that doesn't sound like a whole lot. But there are a lot that I make but don't put up for sale because they're not as perfect as I'd like."
She said she gets inspiration everywhere she looks -- the internet, magazines, even mythology books. Her company, Orenda Doll, includes a few mermaids and some elves; and she would like to do a series on American folk stories. Her average price is $300-$400, but she said as she gains in reputation she is able to increase prices and has shipped to Australia, Russia and England, among other countries. "Thanks to eBay, I've gone global," Ms. Bernard said.