As she sculpts the molds and designs the costumes for Goodreau Doll’s American Ball Jointed Dolls (BJDs), Paulette Goodreau is surrounded by pets she and her sister, Annette Goodreau, have rescued. The two share their home with 17 very loved animals. They even call their home “Whisker Woods.” With such an animal attraction, it’s no surprise Paulette is now creating critter companions for the company’s dolls. The collection of poseable resin bears and other animals—aptly named the Ball Jointed Critters of Whisker Woods—pays homage to the Goodreaus’ home and their love for animals.
“Sometimes I think animals see the possibilities, and we see limitations. I try not to see limitations when I am creating anything, just the possibility of what it can be,” says Paulette, who has been designing teddy bears and other animals non-professionally for about ten years. She’s been the artist behind Goodreau Doll since the company was founded, and the critters are the Goodreaus’ foray into the animal kingdom.
“I would describe them as different, unusual, whimsical and appealing,” doll collector Paula Kagan of Orono, Maine, says of the Whisker Woods critters. “They are easy to handle and bring childhood thoughts to mind.” Kagan first became acquainted with the BJCs at IDEX 2008 in Orlando, Fla. During a dessert social, she was the lucky winner of a one-of-a-kind “Snow Queen” doll, along with a ball-jointed critter (a bear). “They adorn the center of my doll room together and I adore them both,” she says.
While BJD fans will want to add the animals to their doll collections, they aren’t the only ones who will discover the unique appeal of the ball-jointed critters (BJCs). Teddy bear fans and animal lovers will find them to be interesting additions to their collections as well.
“You have domesticated and wild animals to appeal to many different collectors,” says collector Tina Gaunt of Pikeville, Ky., noting that the diversity of the BJC line is what she finds most attractive. “I think the fact that they are [ball jointed] will appeal to doll collectors, and the fact they are bears will appeal to bear collectors. It offers something for both markets.”
Carol Graham, owner of Bearzabout, a bear and doll shop in Duvall, Wash., agrees the critters will have crossover appeal. “We just did a doll show in Puyallup, Wash., with Paulette, and she introduced her new critter line there. It was as enthusiastically received as Paulette herself was. The critters are extremely cute and also seemed to appeal to the teddy bear collectors,” she says.
Soft-sculpture artist Karen Lyons of KJ Lyons Design in Seattle, Wash., had a chance to see the Goodreaus’ Alice in Wonderland critters created for Disney’s 2008 Teddy Bear and Doll Weekend. “What I loved about them was their dreamlike expressions, almost surrealistic in detail. They fit perfectly with the Alice in Wonderland theme,” Lyons notes. “It’s very unusual to see fine resin characters. They are difficult pieces to create. The Goodreaus do a wonderful job. They are finely crafted pieces with their own artistic style.”
Whether creating storybook characters, wild animals or posh pets, Paulette lets her imagination—and her love for animals and collecting—be her guide. More than 20 different designs are in the works (her personal favorite being a yet-to-be-released bat). Debuted in May 2008, the 8-inch critters sell for around $160 while the 5-inch animals are around $120. Each BJC is manufactured in a limited edition of 150 pieces and then retired.
Not surprisingly, the animals have a doll-like quality to them. The critters come dressed in little fur suits (complete with a tail) and boots, and they are articulated in 14 places for maximum poseability. Complete with painted faces, realistic eyelashes and changeable eyes (so you can switch the animal’s eye color depending on your preference), they can be dressed in costumes created especially for them. The possibilities for play are particularly attractive to people who enjoy dressing and posing their bears and other animals.
“I happen to love the BJD dolls, and I change clothes and poses whenever I feel like ‘playing,’” Kagan says. “The Goodreaus in general are wonderful people with whom to associate, even if you don’t collect their products. They are warm-hearted, generous, fun-loving individuals with great intelligence and good humor!”
In business for just over two years, Goodreau Doll is a fairly new company, but the family-run business is already seeing success. Each member of the family does her part to put smiles on collectors’ faces. “My sister Mary does all of our charity pieces, Annette actually owns the company, and Mom Eloise is the mascot,” explains Paulette, who grew up in Michigan with her single mother and five siblings.
Paulette does the designing and sculpting and her family helps out with some of the fine details. Art has always been a part of her life. “For as long as I can remember I have been drawing—there is not a day that goes by that I do not have to draw. It is just me,” Paulette says. “I have always been a doll collector, and I have every doll from when I was young. I also collected stuffed animals…I love art in any form, and I see toys, dolls and bears as art forms.”
Supporting art and collecting is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for the Goodreaus. They also do their part to support animal charities and the environment. “We would like every endeavor we embark on to make a positive contribution to the world, and not just take resources,” Paulette shares. “When we had our catalog done, we gave personally to a re-plantation of trees organization. We donate our time, money and energy to local and global nonprofit organizations, and also give many personal gifts that do not fall under the tax-deduction area. So each time someone buys a doll or critter from us they support our causes also.”
The Critters of Whisker Woods may not be your typical collectible critters—after all, they are not stuffed or furry—but they can add a new dimension to a teddy bear collection and bring a little more love into the animal world.