We interviewed Bo Bergemann… Bo’s amazing talent to make life like dolls is simply AMAZING. We were first drawn in by her amazing Wonder Woman doll then the realism of all her creations took over. You may have missed her at WonderCon this year but please check out her website and her panel at SDCC 2018!
Q. Your art is obviously very different… when and how did you realize you had a talent for making dolls?
A. That is is very long story. But in brief, I have always been artistic and creative. I love all kinds of ‘making’. At age 9, one Christmas, I decided I wanted to make Santa and his sled and reindeer. I only had sticks, twigs, some glue, bobby pins, old newspaper paper, and cotton and I made Santa and his reindeer so well people kept asking my mother where she bought it. All just on a whim one Saturday afternoon.
For 15 years I took care of Hawaii’s most medically fragile foster babies. When the first one was reunited with her extended birth family it was very hard to let go, so I made a doll to remember her by. It was a sort of self help therapy as much of my art has always been for me. This began a tradition of making a doll of each foster baby after they left. It took intense focus which helped me not fall apart. By the time I stopped taking in foster babies, I had a beloved hobby which my quest for excellence had lead me to become very good at. Then once I lost that truly rewarding and purpose filled life. The only thing that pulled at my passion enough to consider doing next was making dolls. My family agreed and I gave it a try professionally. Won a bunch of awards and magazine covers very quickly, so my new career was born.
There is nothing quite like the feeling I get when I finish a fine art doll and take photos. Often when I’m editing and promoting, I think, “Wow! Did I really make that?” I like to have something I can point to that is real, in the physical realms, and know I did that. I paint, do photography and handcraft all kinds of stuff all the time. I always have. I love making dolls because I can actually use all of these skillsets and many more in each project. That way I never get bored, I just switch to a new technique or start work on another project! I often have several projects at different stages going at any given time.
My art is always rooted in my life. I love people. Faces fascinate me. Personality shining through in body language is also fabulous fun. Being able to portray both in my art adds to my enjoyment and for me, enjoying the process is everything~! Whether I’m shooting for a Real look, fairy-tale, sci-fi or surreal, I can do so much to flesh it all out in my interactive 3D fine art dolls that is just not possible in 2 dimensions.
Q. Your creations have an insane amount of detail and look life like… how long does each doll take and are they based on real people?
A. My original fine art dolls all start with me dreaming and imagining. Some are inspired by something I see. For example a movie, like with my Anne – The Trapeze Artist from The Greatest Showman. The movie inspired two dolls actually. But I did not sculpt Zendaya or anything. It was just serendipitous that I happened to have my newest sculpt ready who looks a lot like her as portrayed in the movie. I had these sculpts already and used two different sculpts. But the pieces are about an artistic vision of beauty. For me both pieces were about passion. The first is about dreaming big and reaching for those dreams against all odds. The second is about loving beyond all barriers. Both are concepts I believe in. Part of the reason I loved the movie and it inspired me to make these two dolls.
As to timeline. I’ve never figured that out, sort of on purpose. It would probably depress me to figure out I earn like 20 cents an hour. Or I may actually even lose money if I divided the prices I charge by the hours in. I tend to price by actual expense of parts and product in as well as the last few weeks worth of work hours in along with what I asses as the value of the doll. Or I just price by what I know it will actually sell for in a reasonable amount of time. But, like I said, I’ve never figured out ALL the hours I actually have in. So, what I don’t know can’t hurt me.
I can say that I sculpt the originals in clay, sometimes piece by piece and other times in whole then cut up and joint and fine tune. Once all the engineering is figured out so the doll will take many poses and balance well, then everything is sanded smooth. After which, I make silicon molds of every little piece. The average doll has 24 pieces to her ball jointed body. Each piece is cast in resin, then strung up. The whole doll is painted and costuming can begin. Although if I already have a similar or same size body, I often work on costuming before making the actual doll. Some costumes take as much effort as making a doll body & face. Others much less. But sewing and crafting everything (costume wise) in such small scale is far more difficult than making clothing, shoes and wigs for humans. Thankfully the way I work is on inspiration not coffee but with passion pumping through my veins. I avoid deadlines and just enjoy creating about half the time. Then usually the next show, convention, event or article comes along to put some kind of deadline out there that I must aspire to by which point I have several projects at least halfway done and some near done. I’m a crammer by nature since school days. So, then with a goal deadline in sight, I cram to finish the top several projects I’m working on in time. Since my art tends to grow out of stuff going on in my life, I usually have several works in progress on a cohesive theme, that then becomes my theme for that show or event. Sometimes when I’m really into it, the theme can last for a whole year’s collection like my 2018 collection which just recently debuted at WonderCon: Fangirl Fine Art Dolls.
Q. You have some dolls based on Wonder Woman or Belle… can we expect others?
A. Yes, I’ve recently moved part time to CA for my daughter’s sake. She is deaf and attending a special high school in Northern California. Since my life always shows up in my art, Fangirl Fine Art Dolls has become my theme for 2018. I was a Comic-Con San Diego panelist the past 4 years running and that has been inspiring at least a couple original fine art dolls on pop culture fan culture themes these past few years. This year, spending even more time here in CA, the inspiration has grown out of control! My daughter, Bree and I love Cali and everything that goes with it. My whole family have always been huge Star Wars, Marvel, Disney and so much more I’d needed pages to list it all, fans. So, the possibilities really are endless. I feel like I have ADHD as I jump from this to that amidst the sea of inspiration in the fan & pop culture realms!
Q. What’s your creative process? Do you go see a movie and then fall in love with a character and get to work? or do you just sit down and let it come to you? or both?
A. I actually dream and think a lot. Mull things over. Think through tiny details long before I ever try anything. I tend toward perfectionism so I tend to think it all through inside out and back again on some level before starting. Sometimes for years before siting down to begin an attempt. Other times I’m just soooo excited and passionate I just dive in headfirst. Wonder Woman I wanted to do for 4 years and it took seeing the movie and absolutely loving it for me to actually begin. Sometimes when my theme is not fangirl oriented as it is now, some dolls are ones I just start making and see where I’m lead step by step. Some of my best work has resulted from this process. A good example is Sassafrass, a fairy with tons of personality to go with her huge asymmetrical ears.
Q. Is it hard for you to sell your art? You’ve spent so much time working on one doll is it heartbreaking to see it go?
A. Yes! My newest work is always my current favorite. So putting any price on his or her head is always difficult. But then, I also want to get to work on “what’s next” as I have 10 ideas for every one I find time or money to invest in actually creating. So, that momentum pushes me forward. When my stock ready to ship is low, and business is brisk, I often have one favorite or another I’ve been holding back that my desire to move on to the next project will push me toward offering at that time.
Q. What advice would you give to young artists?
A. Create what YOU love! Everyone will have their own ideas and many will tell you they want this or that. But, your best work will always be what you are most inspired to work on. And every doll I’ve ever made has found someone else who loved it enough to pay me good money for it. Some take a little longer to sell than others, but eventually, they all sell. It’s just a matter of time until the right person sees the doll and buys it, sometimes. Usually my favorites end up winning awards and magazine covers too. Other than that, take your time and enjoy the process. I love what I do and THAT is half the reward!
Q. Have you ever wanted to venture out into other mediums?
A. I have actually painted in every medium, done photography, created dolls in paper mâché, porcelain, paper clay and do digital artwork. Recently, I’ve begun messing around with digital sculpting too. I’m not sure there is a medium I have not tried. Each foray elsewhere leads me back here. Usually with something or another grown or improved in my techniques, abilities or a new artisanal skill to add to my arsenal. Like I said I seek perfection so striving for excellence and persistent growth are inherent to who I am. At the same time, sometimes further experimentation leads me elsewhere for a bit as well. I’m currently working on a very special project inspired by the HI-CA connection Bree and I have felt this past year. I’ve created a character who is the personification of this connection inspired by our experiences. His name is Rainbow Bair, and he is sort the “the super hero within” us all. I’m working on turning his story into a beautiful children’s book now and creating a plush line based on him.
Q. Is it hard to get work done when the Hawaii North Shore beach is right outside your doorstep?
A. Well, I have lived with the beach right outside most of my life, so not really. In fact, the beach has often inspired me to work, or recharged my battery. I love natural beauty as much as I love creating art. Sadly we do not go to the beach often enough. My husband still plays with trucks and I still play with dolls making us both still children at heart. But, on the other hand, we are also both always working. Both very passionate about what we do. I sometimes tease him saying we really should move to Hawaii so we can go to the beach more often! However, when you are able to earn a living doing what you love, it makes working easier wherever you are and I am grateful.
Q. What do you love/hate about cons?
A. I love seeing other people’s creativity. I love meeting my collectors in person. I love the excitement and feedback I get from my collectors and fans. I love seeing the costumes at Comic-Con and WonderCon. I work in peace and solitude a lot. So, it’s a wonderful change of pace to be amidst the hustle and bustle of a crowd. Finally, I really do love people which is at the root of the fact I make dolls. So, people watching is always something I’ve enjoyed. I don’t like the packing, airport security, the quick setup or tear down, standing on my feet all day . . . Who does?
Q. Where can our readers find you next?
A. I just got back from WonderCon where I debuted my brand new collection: Fangirl Fine Art Dolls by Bo Bergemann, at the Anaheim Convention Center March 22-26, 2018. Anyone can always find me online at BoBergemann.com or http://www.BoBergemann.gallery anytime as well as on Instagram and FB under Bo Bergemann. I will be a panelist again at Comic-Con San Diego 2018 this July.