TALLAHASSEE — Since 2005, Miss Florida Seminole has received a special gift to cherish and remember her reign – a realistic bronze statuette of herself in the traditional outfit complete with beadwork, patchwork, crown and sash. This year’s princess, Tia Blais-Billie, began the first phase in creating her statuette by visiting the artist at Bronze by Cooley in Lamont, Fla.
“It’s very weird,” Blais-Billie said of having a statue creating in her likeness. “[It’s] something I never thought would happen, but it is very cool to see him working on it and see him craft my face.”
Bradley Cooley Sr. and Bradley Cooley Jr. have used their sculpting talents to create detailed life-size sculptures for the Tribe for more than 20 years. Their pieces are prominently displayed at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Hollywood Headquarters and the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium.
The Miss Seminole statuette is a fraction of the size of those sculptures, which makes the process more difficult and time consuming. Cooley Sr. uses precision tools to mold each Miss Seminole’s unique features into the clay. Using photographs and live sittings, the clay mold takes about six months to complete.
“I have to get the face structure just right,” Cooley Sr. said.
Blais-Billie will visit Tallahassee in November for the Florida State University Homecoming game to crown the new Homecoming chief and princess. Because Bronze by Cooley is only a short distance away, she will have another opportunity to meet with Cooley Sr. and check the progress of her statuette.
Tribal Council will present the completed statuette to her at the next Miss Seminole Princess pageant, when she steps down and crowns another Miss Seminole.