Monday, April 03, 2006

Spotlight on: Wilvera J. Johnson

Our display case currently features baskets and dolls handmade by Wilvera J. Johnson.
Photos truly do not convey the detail and beauty of her work, stop in and see for yourself!
See the photos we posted online.

Wilvera provided us with a brief biography:

Wilvera was born on April 15, 1910. She is celebrating her 96th birthday by sharing with the neighborhood, her love of the creative arts.

She and her husband Bernal were married in 1934 and spent 66 happy years together sharing their interests in the creative arts. For many years they worked side by side in their sign and truck painting business located first in their home in Dolton, and later in Calumet City.

Wilvera's first big project over several years was to weave the cane seats for all 15 chairs used in their home. This was after many weekend visits to flea markets, where the chairs were purchased for a few dollars, hauled home, repaired and refinished first by Bernal.

During much of this time they also created many oil paintings in the evenings, and often worked at their craft into the late night hours.

When retirement time came, they spent their winters ar Big Pine Key, Florida. Church and neighborhood groups provided many opportunities for both of them to learn new crafts and develop their own styles. Bernal did many bird carvings.

Clothespin Dolls
Originally uploaded by lansinglibrary.

Over the years, Wilvera learned a variety of needlework crafts, made many stuffed dolls and patchwork quilts, and used much of the fabric scraps to create and hand stitch the clothes for the clothes pin dolls which Bernal made for her.

Basket Detail
Originally uploaded by lansinglibrary.

Creating the pine needle baskets is quite a task. After being supplied with the pine needles gathered by friends at rest stops in Georgia while en route to Florida, classes were held regularly where a variety of stitches, designs and shapes were practiced and many baskets made. Soaking the pine needles and raffia in water to keep them soft and pliable makes the process go more smoothly.

Over the ensuing years, Wilvera created duplicates of many of the basket styles on display, and at least 25 of the diamond point baskets. The latest one was finished in February 2006. Almost all of the baskets have been given away to friends and family.


Dennis said...

On April 15, 2009 Wilvera celibrated her 99th birthday. With eyesight that is almost gone, she can no longer do the art/crafts that have been a large part of her life. During the 1960's she painted about 15 oil paintings; mostly they are portraits of American Indians of a wide range of ages, and a few landscapes. While she had no formal art training she was coached by her husband Bernal who made his living with the brush and came from a long line of artists (1500's)whose art can still be seen in some churches in Sweden.

With the help of her children she still lives at home, and enjoys a daily trip to Taco Bell for Lunch.

By Her son Dennis

Kelli said...

Thank you for the update! This is awesome that Wilvera's story continues online!