Please meet Izabel Mendes da Cunha, the most famous artisan of the Jequitinhonha Valley in the state of Minas Gerais. In the small town where she lived, the master artisan created and taught close to everyone to make clay dolls, and turned the region into a major producer of ceramic arts.
Daughter to a skillful craftswoman who made chinaware, Ms. Cunha started creating her famous dolls in 1970 at the age of 44. In the beginning the molded faces were only the heads of pitchers. Soon after came the breastfeeding mothers and brides figures, always copper-coloured mulattas with straight hair and in various shades of clay.
In 2003, the dolls of Dona Izabel, as she is known, ended up in the São Paulo Fashion Week, when designer Ronaldo Fraga honored the potters from the Jequitinhonha Valley. Mother of four, she received several awards such as the UNESCO Crafts for Latin America (2004), the Order of Cultural Merit (awarded by the Ministry of Culture, 2005) and the Popular Culture Award (by the Ministry of Culture, 2009). Dona Isabel was also honored by President Dilma Rousseff during the opening of the Brazilian Women´s Arts Show exhibited at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia.