Ivelisse Designs Owner Stephanie Bernard shares the inspiration behind her new woman-centric art collection.
By Courtney Runn, Photos courtesy of Stephanie Bernard
While watching Tiger King alongside the rest of the country, Stephanie Bernard started sketching on her iPad. As the lines took shape, a new project was born. While a pandemic might have blocked creativity for some, it provided the time and space for Bernard to finally tackle dream projects.
“[The Mujer collection] wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the stay-at-home order,” she says.
The collection, based on her own self portrait sketched during quarantine, features five other women in her life. Delicate swirls and lines form the outline of each woman, but the figures’ faces are intentionally blank.
“I wanted to highlight the complexity of a woman in general,” she says. “The whole reason for the Mujer collection is to empower women as they’ve empowered me in my life.”
Her aunt noticed an additional layer of meaning in the abstract faces. In the Dominican Republic, faceless dolls are a popular toy and souvenir, representing the diversity of cultures present in the country. “The dolls are faceless because the Dominican woman has no one face,” Bernard writes on her Etsy shop. While unintentional, or maybe subconscious, she sees this cultural tie as another way to honor her Latin roots through her art.
In another nod to her heritage, each portrait has a Spanish title, named for a quality she admires in the woman featured.
“If I’m not having a good day, I look at one of those six women and I have to choose, ‘Who am I going to be with? Who do I need?’” she says. “If I need ‘Ambitious,’ I might put her on my desk and remind myself there is a reason that I am inspired by other people in my life and [the art] just being close by keeps me going.”
A second Mujer collection is already underway and, in June, Bernard launched a new collection of Black Lives Matter T-shirts. Feeling financially powerless, she created the shirts to collectively raise more money than she could donate alone. 50 percent of each sale goes directly toward an organization that her social-media followers vote on and is then matched by a friend’s company.
In one week, Bernard says she was able to sell enough shirts to donate $7,500, calling it the “most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Bernard launched her business, Ivelisse Designs, in 2019, after reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and feeling the conviction to live a more artistic life. She started with calligraphy, focusing on the wedding industry, but with her recent collections, she’s giving herself the freedom to expand artistically. She has a notebook full of ideas; now she just needs more time.