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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Change of Pace

Our local art club had a paint-in yesterday sponsored by Richeson art materials.  Richeson donated 24 of their 5" x 7" gessoed hardboard panels as well as two nice gift certificates for Richeson products as awards for the paint-in. (Thank you very much, Richeson!) This is my painting.

The background is from a photo I took of the beautiful fall foliage on the crape myrtle in my yard.  The sparrow is a composite of a few various sparrow photos I found on line.

It was difficult to get started on the painting because I hadn't decided what I was going to paint until yesterday morning just before I left home for the event.  It was also a challenge because I didn't have as much time to spend on the drawing as I normally would.

But I am happy with the outcome.  I finished 90% of it yesterday then took about a half an hour this afternoon to finish it off.

The border is Lumiere gold acrylic paint.  It took several coats to cover the white gesso and in the future I will remember to underpaint with yellow ochre.  The rest of the painting is Liquitex soft body acrylics which I like very much.

I like, and highly recommend, the Richeson gessoed panels.  It is a very smooth panel, which won't be everyone's "cup of tea" but it worked beautifully with my thin applications of the soft body acrylics and the layering style I like to use.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Shepherdess Gains Weight

The Shepherdess looks more like a wolf now that she has her fur.  It's wool which I needle-felted over the armature.  It's tedious work, but I find it soothing, and also exciting to see the form emerge.

She's going to have quite a nice outfit and it will be a shame to cover up her lovely body.  But her tail will show.  It would be nice to make clothes than can be removed, but her arms and legs simply aren't moveable enough for that.

Her little sheep will be needle-felted as well, and they won't be wearing any outfits.  So that's where the needle-felting will show.

Fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beginning the Kindly Shepherdess

I'm starting my next project - a kindly shepherdess character doll.  She's a wolf and will have a small flock of two or three sheep.

Here's the first step - her head sculpted in polymer clay.  I didn't worry too much about the clay color because I'm going to paint the whole head.  The eyes are glass from

The teeth are also polymer clay.  Ordinarily I would have cured them first then set them into the uncured head.  But I worked with these teeth uncured and cured the head with the uncured teeth in it.
Here's the painted head.  I'm pleased with the way she turned out.  I think she's quite a beautiful wolf.
And here's the armature complete with head and paws.  I worked carefully on this armature to get the pose I wanted.  And only when I reached that point did I sculpt the paws.  That way I was sure to get them in poses that would work with the overall pose.

She's be holding a shepheress's crook in her right front paw.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Santa's Pastry Chef

This is Jada, the Senior Pastry Chef at Santa's.  Isn't she beautiful?  She's talented too.
This is the buche d'noel that she's made for a special Christmas Eve treat.

 Making Jada was an exciting adventure.  As usual, I sculpted her head, hands, and feet from polymer clay.  The cake is also polymer clay, sprinkled with glitter!  I've made one of these (real) cakes myself, and it's quite a job with the cake, filling, and meringue mushrooms.  But it is certainly a special cake.

Her sweater and leggings are made from a sock.  For the pantaloons, I reached back to my doily crocheting days.  After finding a vintage pattern, I crocheted the edging, then made the pantaloons from silk fabric and edged the leg openings with the crocheted trim.

The chef's coat and hat are made from cotton as I thought it would be more appropriate than silk for "work" clothes.  The red buttons are vintage glass that I found on eBay.  They're faceted and quite beautiful.  The "platter" that the cake is on is a vintage butter pat, another eBay find.
The skirt is red silk which I painted with gold dots once it was finished.  It has five gores and five rhombus insets.  Since the silk is fairly stiff it sticks out rather than draping.  I think it looks a little bit like a pointsettia!
I learned an important lesson while constructing Jada.  I had the concept from the beginning, but I failed to consider the "engineering" from the beginning as well.  It was very difficult to glue the platter and hands together, which was the last step in the whole process.  I tried two-part epoxy and also E6000, both of which I have found to be very strong glues.  But there just wasn't enough bonding surface.  I finally solved the problem by forming small balls of polymer clay, pressing them firmly between the hands and platter, baking them, and then gluing the pads to the platter then to the hands.  This gave me enough bonding surface.  If I had thought of this problem in the beginning I may have come up with a better solution.

By the way, the hair was fun to do and, I think, successful.  It's felted wool.  I first felted a thin (about 1/4" thick) disc.  Then I made each of the "cornrows" by separating a small bundle of wool, twisting it tightly, then releasing the tension to let it form a twist.  At that point, I felted the ends to the disc.  What I ended up with was a one-piece "wig" that I could hot-glue to her head.

Another "by the way" - the star on her cheek is a hot-fix embellishment from Kandi Corporation.  It has hot melt glue on the back.  All I had to do was press it in place on the un-cured clay and when I baked it, the heat melted the glue and set the star in place.  I also used these stars on her polymer clay boots.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I have been surprised at how many of my artist friends are interested in learning how to make these dolls.  So I'm going to teach a workshop at our local craft store late in January.  It will last three days. 

The first day we'll sculpt the head, hands, and feet - boots in this case.

The second day we'll make the armature and construct and pad the doll form.

Then on the third day we'll make the clothes and add the hair.  The jeans are simply made from denim scraps and a pair of fuzzy crew-type socks is perfect for making the sweater.  We won't have time to knit the scarf and cap, but I'll give directions and for those who can't knit, I'll show how to make a cap to match the sweater from another part of the sock.  By the way, she's holding a snowball made from polymer clay and coated with glitter.

I hope people sign up because it will be fun to teach. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Reindeer in His Finery

My little reindeer is now finished - all dressed up for the big day.  Notice the Swarovski crystals on the tips of the antler points.  The under-blanket is simple fleece with a blanket stitch embroidered border.  The top blanket, though, is silk.  It's padded and lined and also decorated with silk applique.  I edged each silk applique piece with tiny glass seed beads.  There are also seed beads around the edge of the silk blanket, and a small jingle bell hangs from each point.  I think he's feeling quite proud!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Polar Bear Bits Becomes a Polar Bear

 Today I got back to work on my polar bear.  I wanted her to have a felted body rather than a cloth one, being a fuzzy bear and all.  Most likely her clothes will cover her fur, but just in case, there is fur overlapping her neck and paws.

The first photo shows the wire armature on the right.  And on the left, I've added wraps of plush wool felt and whip-stitched them in place. 

After covering both sides with the felt, I began adding the wool.  Just as I anticipated, the wool stuck much better to the wool felt than it did to the acrylic felt I used on the armature of the reindeer.  So from now on, I'll use this plush wool felt over any armature I'm going to needle-felt over.

The second picture shows her completely needle-felted.  I used a less expensive "core wool" from for most of her.  But I used Merino around the neck, wrists, and ankles because it's closer in color to the polymer clay.

My next step will be to dress her.  But now that I see how lovely her little bear body is, I kind of hate to cover her up!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Long Tall Sally is now Eveline

This costume was inspired by scraps of silk that a fellow artist was kind enough to give me.  She had planned to make a silk quilt and her mother took pleasure in finding used silk blouses and dresses at thrift stores and disassembling them for her daughter to use in her quilt.  The quilt project never quite got off the ground and after several years, she got rid of the silk pieces in a de-cluttering effort.  I was the lucky recipient of some of them.  This was the design I came up with to use several of the different colors and textures together.

I outlined each petal shape for the skirt with tiny marcasite Charlotte beads and added beaded dangles with a quartz faceted drop at the points.

I especially like the sleeves which are puffed at the shoulders but slim at the wrists.

The shoes are polymer clay dusted with green interference mica powders for the shine.  The hair is Cotswold wool curls.  Her earrings are amethyst beads, and she's holding a colored marble.

The lesson I learned from making her is that I should make the armature and body first, pose it like I want it, then make the head, hands, and feet in positions that work with the pose.  It wasn't till I was nearly finished with Eveline that I decided I wanted her sitting.  If I had known that from the beginning, I wouldn't have made her feet so flexed.  The flexed feet would be approriate for standing, but for a sitting Eveline they would bend slightly downwards at the ankles.

By the way, "Eveline" is the name of the heroine in Sir Walter Scott's novel "The Betrothed."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Long Tall Sally

This is going to be a somewhat smaller doll, medium size actually, smaller that the Stable Elf but larger than the Elf with the Corgie.
After I glued the feet on, she looked sooooooo long and tall to me!  Perhaps she will seem to shorten up once she's dressed.  I have a costume in mind with a multi-colored silk skirt, silk velvet top, and lots of beading with tiny marcasite beads.
But though I have the costume in mind, I don't yet have a theme.  Who is she?  What is she doing?
Perhaps she should be a peacock elf.  The colors I've chosen for her costume are definitely peacock colors and I just remembered that I have several small peacock feathers that could work into her costume somehow.  But if she's a peacock elf, what is she doing?  I'll have to think about it and see if I can develop that theme.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Polar Bear Bits and Pieces

When I went to the doll class my purpose was to learn how to construct them so that I could make animal dolls.  So, after several elfs, here I am finally beginning an animal doll.

This little polar bear will be fun to dress.  I have several patterned socks that I am considering for a sweater.  But first I need to make the armature and felt him nice and fat - a task perhaps for tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Wayfarer

I showed a few of my friends how to construct an art doll and they wanted to make Santas.  I'm not really into that and planned to make a Sherwood Forest - Anglo/Saxon times, that is - Santa.  But once I put the hair on it, it became a she.  So the plan changed.

 I dressed her in clothing that I hoped would evoke Sherwood Forest, but upscaled a bit with the embroidery on the sleeves and the fur-trimmed cloak. 

This cloak turned out really well except that its quality doesn't really show like it should.  I lined the hood and pointed details on the back (trimmed with rusty bells) with red silk, but it doesn't show.  I should have lined the rest of the cloak as well and then I think it would have been pretty spectacular.  Lesson learned.  No skimping.

The walking stick is a branch from one of my climbing roses, de-thorned and with the bark whittled away.  The little birds are polymer clay.  Her hair is wool roving.  I used tiny eyelets for scrap-booking on her bodice for the cording.  I still want to add an ivy branch twining around the walking stick.  Maybe I can make the leaves from silk stiffened with Mod Podge.  We'll see.

Next the Reindeer Needs Her Raiment

Wow!  This was quite a needle felting task - seven hours of poke, poke, poke.  But it was worth it because I think she turned out pretty cute.

Now I need to decorate her.  I'm planning Swarovski red and green crystals topping the tips of her antlers, a bow with bell for her neck, and a gorgeous beaded and embroidered blanket in red, white, and gold.  I'd like to also add leg wraps but I'm in a bit of a quandry as to what to make them from.

The only thing I wish I had done differently was to make her antlers a bit more delicate.  Next time...  Also, as a potential improvement, next time I'll try wrapping the armature with wool felt and see if the felting sticks better to it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beginning the Reindeer

This is the very beginning of the reindeer I'm making to accompany my stable elf - just the armature so far.

I made the antlers from polymer clay, and included a base with a hole that the armature wire could go through.  For the wire I used 12 gauge single strand insulated electrical wire.  The insulating is a nicer surface to work with than just bare wire.  As you can see from the picture, I then wrapped the wire with strips of felt and sewed them in place.  Now I'm ready for the felting.

By the way, I also formed the polymer clay antlers over an armature.  I made that one from 16 gauge copper wire and wrapped the wire snuggly with florist's tape so that the clay would have something to grab on to.

Stable Elf

This was a really fun project - an elf who works in Santa's reindeer stable.  The most fun was the clothes. 

I made the body with the same fabric I was planning to use for the sleeves so I didn't have the make a blouse.

The jodpurs are dupioni silk with ultrasuede patches to reduce chafing when she rides!

Her vest is faux fur and in the back has two long tails - split to spill nicely over the reindeer's back - ending in gold bells.

And for the jeweled decoration, I finally found a good home for a treasured but broken Christmas pin that a friend gave me about 20 years ago.  It really feels good to be using it here.

Her hair is essentiall a cap I made of faux fur - the same faux fur I used to trim the Wayfarer's cloak.

Oh, and the buckles on her riding boots are salvaged from an old pair of shoes.

My favorite detail is the pearls I glued on the puffed part of the sleeves to echo the tiny pearls on the pin.  I think it's really elegant.  I've ordered two vintage red glass drops for her earrings from an Etsy shop that I like very much, Yummy Treasures.  Can't wait till they arrive!

Market Day Bunny

After working with the art dolls for a bit I remembered that I made a rabbit head and paws about four years ago, intending to make a cloth-bodied doll from those parts.  But I never got around to it.  So I found them and constructed this little girl.

I felted the body around a pipe cleaner core.  That worked well enough everywhere except where the felting joins the polymer paws.  I glued the pipe cleaner ends into holes in the wrists and ankles, but no matter how much I compacted the felting around the joints, they just flopped around.  The only way I could think of to solve the problem was to completely encase the joints in lots of hot glue (which dried stiff).  So now those joints aren't floppy any more, but they're ugly.  Fortunately they're hidden under the clothes, but I don't like ugly details even if they are hidden away.  So no more pipe cleaners.  I'll use stiff wire from now on.

I made the hoodie from an old sock with a really cute tiny garden pattern.  The pantaloons are made from a vintage hankie with hand-crocheted lace trim.  And the skirt is made from an old shirt that I match-stick pleated then aged in a bath of strong tea. 

I made the purse from Ultrasuede and the button on it is made from polymer clay (a very handy tool for making tiny buttons in any color you want!).

Corgi Gets a Treat

After completing the class witch and the Wayfarer, I knew I would like to try working smaller and so I made this little elf.  She is just 7" tall and I enjoyed making her quite a bit.  For whatever reason, I just like working small.

Her hair is a cap I crocheted from Lion Brand Fun fur, an eyelash yarn that comes in lots of nice colors.  Its unkempt look is a favorite of mine and, I must admit, mimics my own hair "style!"

The bulge you see around her middle is the gripper part of the stand.  I just got this cheapie stand from Michaels and I need to find (or make) some nicer ones.  These just detract from the quality of work on the doll herself.

Anyway, the vest is ultrasuede that I did a lot of beading on.  The points are tipped with tiny gold bells.  It's closed with a beautiful vintage glass cabochon that I glued on. It has a lovely knotted design in gold that is reminiscent of a Celtic knot.  So, of course, she needs a Welsh Corgi and a star would surely indicate the dog's magical powers.
The elf is holding a tiny dog biscuit in her hand.  The dog biscuit, as well as the Corgi and the elf's head, hands, and feet are polymer clay.  The Corgi and biscuit are Fimo Soft and the elf parts are Puppen.

When I work with light color polymer clay I have a lot of trouble with transferring dirt and dust particles to the clay, but the Puppen seems to magically "lose" them during the curing!  Yea!

By the way, the pants are a gorgeous deep red silk velvet that I bought as a fat quarter on eBay.  And the final touches were the ankle bracelet made from tiny gold Charlotte beads and the two feathers in her hair - feathers from my very own ducks!