ROCK IT DOLLING
A Mixed Media Fashion Statement
Every fiber of the rocker girl in me is into what mixed media designer Joanna Coblentz of Dollface custom jewelry and apparel is doing.
For starters, it should be noted that Joanna is making a living through her craft. She does work for her mother (who owns an optical shop in Sarasota) three days a week but a few clients who get their duds custom deconstructed and embellished by Dollface make it a sustainable business…in more ways than one.
“I can’t throw anything away. If it can be used to make something beautiful to be worn, I’m going to recycle it,” Joanna says.
In a way, she provides a public service. “Nobody wants to throw away their favorite concert t-shirts. I find ways for people to keep things they love and don’t wear anymore.” And she’ll listen to The Pixies, “or some 80s hair band,” while she does it. “I’m really old school,” she admits.
Joanna started out doing Steampunk style seven years ago, revamping costumes for burlesque dancers. “I realized I love making costumes but it’s not practical. I can’t make a living off of costumes.”
A friend suggested she take her costume concepts and apply them to create jewelry. The idea struck a chord with Joanna. She could still mix leather and lace and hard and soft elements. “But you’re not having to wear it in this big outfit,” she says.
As such, her light as a feather leather bib statement necklace collection has swept me off my feet. My favorite one features soft, distressed leather and a fabric eye print with crystals, chains and a hinge. Some have grommets and zippers. Each is one of a kind.
“I’m inspired by punk rock, some Steampunk, Victorian, high fashion, and the 80s—big time.”
The name Dollface is a throwback to the 80’s film Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid starring Steve Martin. Her boyfriend thought Dollface was perfect for her and a Ringling student designed the logo—an animation of Joanna’s face complete with the blonde stripe in her hair that she can’t get rid of because it’s a signature now.
From tattoo conventions to indie markets, Dollface has a wildly varied following and Joanna is devising interesting ways to straddle the space between what she wants to design and what the marketplace demands. “I’m taking my mixed media style of my beading, my fabrics and leather and incorporating somewhat darker images of butterflies and dragonflies,” which she says, everyone from age 12 to 70 seems to adore.
Then there was the time she did an anatomy collection for the Spooky Empire horror convention. It yielded unexpected results. “I sold this spinal chord necklace to a 70 year old woman who bought it for her 35 year old daughter who’s a doctor.” In fact, she says 90 percent of that collection sold to doctors.
Found objects are the basis for all things Dollface. Antique belt buckles, beads and vintage buttons, fabrics and mismatched chains collide in the designs that are at once unexpected and yet fit together.
“I love that tattered look,” Joanna says. “It’s my signature on everything I do. That and my beading.”
Locally, you’ll find Joanna at the St. Pete Indie Market the first Saturday of each month (at 7th Street and Central Avenue) and at holiday shows (which she books solid from October through December). Revolve Clothing Exchange on 4th Street North in St. Petersburg carries Dollface clothing and the jewelry is sold at VLVT Salon on the 500 block of Central Avenue, downtown. Plus you can find her stuff online at misdollface.com.
It’s been a tough year for Joanna. She just passed the first anniversary of her father’s death from cancer.
“It changed something in me because it helped me realize what really matters in life. The only thing that really matters is that you’re doing things that make you happiest and that you love. I’m my happiest when I’m creating. I’m happiest when I’m creating something out of nothing.”
I’m happy she’s creating too. And what she’s creating is quite something.