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June Goodnow...the Story of a Doll Artist

by Dolores Hannan


The Eldest daughter of a migrant farm family, June laughs and tells how she was born on the side of the road when her young mother and father were on their way to South Texas to work in the onion fields. No one was in attendance, until after birth, when an old 'doc' from a nearby village finally showed up to fill out the necessary papers. He evidently didn't inspect the new baby too closely, because when he got back to town, he registered the child as 'male' on the birth certificate. It wasn't until adulthood that June discovered the mistake and had to go with a relative to get herself listed as a 'female' so she would be drafted into the army! That could have been quite embarrassing.

June attended no less than three different school each year and yet still managed to graduate high school among the top in her class. Times were hard and families didn't have money to spend on trivialities, so pleasures were simple. When prodded, June tells about how her mother lovingly sculpted small dolls out of Ivory soap and fashioned babies out of the red clay that covers much of the Southwestern part of the country. June and her sisters loved to go down to the river and gather the clay with great anticipation of an afternoon of watching their mother sculpt little people. Seems like June came by her doll sculpting talent naturally.

Her mom didn't sell these folkdolls, instead she gave them away to grateful friends and neighbors. June thought none of them could possibly have survived, as her mother had no kiln to fire these dolls into antiquity, but surprisingly one did survive and it was returned to June a few years ago. Needless to say, it is a treasure that resides in a special place in her home and her heart.

Back in the sixties, most girls married after high school and June was no exception. she and her husband moved to South Dakota to farm and run a cattle ranch and feed store. They settled down to work and raise a family that included their beautiful daughter, Robin.

Managing a home, family and business is usually enough for anyone, but June was also learning the art of making dolls at the same time. No studio back then, just the dining room table when it was not in use for other family needs. As the years went by, June perfected her methods and personal style.

Since the farm was quite near a Sioux Indian Reservation, June decided to specialize in portrait dolls of Native American people. She purchased as many books as possible and visited museums to study the culture of the various tribes so that the costumes would be as authentic as possible. "Seems as if I spent all my income from doll sales investing in books those first few years of doll making" says June. "But I am glad I did, because now I have a beautiful collection of great books."

photo A hallmark in her life was when in 1976 she was invited to become a member of the prestigious "National Institute of American Doll Artists". Her outstanding portraitures of Native Americans have won her world wide acclaim and many of these works are on display in museums, including the Louvre in Paris, as well as many private collections.

In the '90s, June started teaching art doll sculpting, mold making and resin casting. Her seminars are always in demand not only because she is a fine teacher and doll maker but because she is an extraordinary person whose Irish wit and charm leaves you feeling like you are in the company of an old friend. "I really love teaching." says June. "When I arrange a seminar in another part of the country, I combine my love of travel and adventure with my love of dolls." June is currently arranging to teach a series of doll sculpting seminars in Paris, France in the Fall of 1998. If you would like June to travel to your city to teach a class in doll sculpture or mold making/resin casting, you may contact June through Mann Gallery.

Mail June Goodnow at Mann Gallery(

Article copyright 1998 - Dolores Hannon Author

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