CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new artwork is joining the distinguished line of West Virginia first lady ceramic doll creations.
The First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin doll was unveiled during a ceremony Thursday in the Culture Center Great Hall. The doll is the most recent addition to an exhibit of dolls resembling West Virginia's first ladies throughout the years.
The newest doll will eventually be displayed along with others in an enclosed glass case in the Culture Center second floor balcony. From now through the end of March the doll will be on display in the theater gallery on the first floor of the Culture Center.
The first lady is amazed with the replica of herself created by Washington, D.C., artist Ping Lau.
"It is such a strange feeling to have something created in the likeness of yourself," Joanne Tomblin said. "It is also an honor. It represents history. West Virginia first ladies play an important role when their husbands are governors."
The first lady doll project began in 1976 when Charleston ceramic artist Edna Henderson created 28 first lady dolls for the inauguration of the Culture Center. The West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs commissioned the project. Henderson died in 1999.
In 2006, Randall Reid-Smith, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, enlisted Huntington-area elementary art teacher and doll maker Joanne Gelin to create the Gayle Manchin doll and bring the collection up to date. Gelin finished the Manchin doll in 2007 but declined to continue the project.
The missing dolls include former first ladies Sandy Wise, Rachael Worby, and Dee Caperton. Ping has been commissioned to create those dolls to complete the collection.
In 2012 West Virginia Division of Culture and History Museums Director Charles Morris contacted museum and artist groups throughout the state in quest of a new doll maker. Eventually, Ping was recommended by Barbara Stone, doll collector and secretary/treasurer of the United Federation of Doll Clubs.
The first lady met with Lau for the first time last October.