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Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Been a Good Art Year

Overall it's been a good art year for me.  (But then, any year that's filled with art would be!)  There have been successes and disappointments, enjoying new techniques, and returning to old ones.  And through it all, there have been those happy get-togethers with my art friends.

I was thrilled to have a piece accepted into the prestigious Bead and Button Show - my third piece to have been accepted in four tries!  I was planning to travel to Milwaukee to see the show but last-minute problems with my house stopped those plans dead in their track!  One of my gourds go an Award of Excellend in Placerville Arts Association's Mother Lode Show and I also won several awards in the member shows.  And most exciting of all, I completed four murals for the county fair Agriculture building in Bloosburg PA and took a trip there to see them installed.  The highlights were meeting new friends Dave and Sharon and seeing Alan Jackson's concert at the fair.  I even got to go backstage for  "Meet and Greet" with the country music super-star.  I didn't know I was capable of such excitement!

On the disappointment side, my book proposal "You Can! Sculpt Animals in Polymer Clay" was rejected by Kalmbach Publishers.  They were quite complimentary about the work but didn't think there was a market.  I wonder if that will end my wishful thinking about publishing another book, or if I'll follow a different publishing path?

Of course, making Art Dolls has been a great new adventure for me.  And I would say I'm firmly sucked in!  Strangely (or maybe not) I find myself returning to some old techniques for me, such as sewing, knitting, and crocheting, in completing these pieces.  I really like hand sewing.  It's so relaxing.  Though I know that though may not be "normal!"

And I always find myself returning to drawing which, I suspect, may be my favorite medium of all.

Thanks to my sister, daughter, and son-in-law who have encouraged and supported me so much, and to all my art friends whose comradery means the world!

So 2012 comes to a happy close and I look forward to a new art year...

A Golden Beginning

The NIADA convention that I mentioned a few posts ago is also having a challenge and the theme is "the golden one."  My concept is a little tricky to explain, but it's a combination of a fairy and a bear.  The bear will have baskets on her back that are filling with the flowers the fairy is collecting.  She will be holding a very special one she has just found - the golden one.

This is the beginning of the bear.  As usual, I sculpted the head and paws from polymer clay and am now neeld-felting the bear over the felt-covered wire armature.  I'm using white "core wool" to begin with, saving the brown more expensive wool for the outer layers.
 
The needle felting is tedious but also satistying work as you see the creature slowly take shape.  But I think I need to fashion some sort of thicker handle for my felting needle as my hands cramp after a time of holding onto such a narrow needle.

Lady Elaine

Here is Lady Elaine, from the King Arthur legend.

As with the Kindly Shepherdess, I sculpted her head and paws from polymer clay and then painted them.  From there, I made her like any other doll with a felt-covered wire armature and cloth body.

Lady Elaine would have lived much earlier than this costume indicated.  This costume is more of a twelfth century English style.  But, to tell the truth, I originally set out to make Maid Marian from the Robin Hood legend.  But part way through I realized that silk would have been the wrong fabric so I switch to Lady Elaine.

The only touch that really identifies her is the lily she's holding.

I most enjoy making the animal dolls.  I'm contemplating a Robin Hood group for a project in the not too distant future.

Ursula as Titania

 
Ursula, my little Black Forest bear, finally emerged as Titania, Queen of the Fairies.
 
She was actually one of the very first dolls I made, but for a long time I couldn't decide on her costuming.  Finally it just came to me.  Ursula would dress up as Titania.
 
I made her fairy dress from silk chiffon and edged the hem with beads and hanging crystals.  Making the ribboh flowers was a new and fun venture.  I made her wings from glittery fabric stretched and glued over a wire frame.  To hide the wire, I stitched a border of sparkly hex-cut seed beads, and added a few flat-back Swarovski crystals for more "fairiness."  Her wand is a toothpick coated with glitter and tipped with a glitter-covered polymer clay star.  Tiny star-shaped flat-back crystals brighten the center of the star.  The ribbon is very fine metal mesh.
 
I think she is very fun.


The Prize Piggy

I wasn't able to carry out the concept I had for this piece.  The idea was that the little girl would have just finished cleaning her pig but that she - who started out all clean and dressed up - was now the dirty one.  I even have a little scrub brush that I made from the end of a toothbrush for her to hold in her hand.

The problem was that once I had spent all the time on her clothes - hand-crocheting the trim on the slip and knitting the little sweater - I couldn't bear to smear mud (brown paint, actually) on it!

I really like, and enjoyed making, the clothes.  The dress has a Peter Pan collar and it, as well as the waistline, are embellished with tiny ricrac.  After knitting a gauge swatch I was able to design and knit the sweater which came out amazingly good!  The only problem with the sweater is that is was difficult to find tiny enough yarn.  You'd think there would be plenty of fingering weight baby yarn, but not so!

The shoes were really difficult.  And, in the end, not successful.  Her legs are, obviously, polymer clay.  I made the socks from some old thin socks that I had.  But then how to make the shoes?  Polymer clay would work except that I couldn't have cured it (although I see now that if I had done the socks as I did and then shoes in polymer clay I could probably have cured the legs complete with shoes and socks before I put the legs on the doll - I'll have to remember that for next time).  In the end, I made the shoes in place with air-dry clay.  It's the first time I've worked with it and had a terrible time.  The fact that they clay was probably about five years old and dried out (I added water and let it sit for several days) may very well have made the task harder than it needed to be.  Then I had to paint the shoes because the clay was white.  They look OK from a distance, but they just aren't quality work.

But I like the pig!

I think I need to muster up whatever it takes to put the "mud" on her.  That way, the whole thing will make more sense.


The Kindly Shepherdess with her Flock

Effie the Shepherdess is so happy now that she has her flock.  And she takes such good care of them, keeping them nice and clean and dressing them up in pretty bows.  About all I have to say about her is that she's my favorite.

By the way, when I described this and the polar bear piece to my friend Patty she suggested that I call them the "world peace" line since I have animals that are natural enemies in friendly juxtaposition.  I think instead that what I am depicting is the true spirits of the animals, "Spirits" in the sense of what they truly are without the burden of survival in this world.

A Polar Outing

 
I've written about this polar bear before, but here she is all finished.  She and her two seal companions are headed out across the ice for some winter fun.
 
The costumes in this piece are quite understated.  The bear's hoodie is made from a fuzzy sock and I crocheted her scarf from some recycled cotton yarn.  The seals are only wearing scarves - knit from cotton yarn and secured with pretty vintage buttons.  I just fell in love with the orange and pink combination on this sock.  I carried that color scheme through to the seals by using a variegated pink/white yarn for their scarves and then using an orange button to secure one and a pink button to secure the other.   Those colors add a nice bright tropical touch to the otherwise wintry scene.
 
I made the snowball that the one seal is balancing from polymer clay that I coated - after curing - with Art Glitter's Faux Snow glitter.  If you've never seen their glitter, you should really check it out - the gorgeous colors and choice of finishes will take your breath away.  Here's the link: http://www.artglitter.com.
 
Making the sled was the biggest challenge in this piece.  I made it from think strips of oak, and brass strips and tubing available from hobby stores.  I bent and cut the metal strips into the runners and cut small lengths of tubing for the struts to attach the runners to the wood sled.  For that task I used E6000 glue, which is one of my favorite products.  The rope is a twisted cord I made from thin satin cord.  Tiny dots of velcro on the cord and the bear's paw allow the bear to "pull" the sled.

Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

I've already written about the first four - the little elf with her Corgi, the stable elf, the pastry chef elf, and Eveline.  Here's the fifth one, "Bee Girl."

My favorite part of Bee Girl is her clothing.  It's all silk, with the exception of the under-skirt which is a beautiful soft cotton brocade, a luxurious quilt backing fabric, actually.

Her skirt is supposed to resemble a flower.  It's made of six separate pieces, three pink petals and three green/gold sepals.  Each of those pieces is, in turn, made of four pieces, two for the right side and two for the lining.  They're cut so that when a pair is sewn together it's shaped like a petal.  As on all the dolls, it's all hand-sewing.

Her sleeves are a delicate light pink and her bodice is a sage green with a bee design woven in.  The ruff is ribbon that's sheer with ruffled satin-y edges.

She's holding a bee I made from polymer clay wrapped with fuzzy shiny embroidery thread for the black and gold stripes.  In her other hand, she's holding a flower stem for the bee.

Her hair is curly wool and the ornament is a vintage enameled and jewelled bee pin.  I formed her legs from green polymer clay and painted them with gold designs.

Not a Vacation!

It's been a while now that I've been silent on this blog.  But I haven't been on vacation!  I've been working hard to complete ten art dolls to submit for an event at next June's NIADA (National Institue of American Doll Artsts) 50th annual convention in San Francisco.  Since the convention is relatively close to where I live it seems like a great opportunity to educate myself on the current status of an art form that I have newly discovered and so much enjoy.

The event is called "Ten by Twelve."  It's an opportunity for twelve "visiting artists" (i.e., not NIADA members) to show ten of their pieces, talk about them briefly, and hopefully receive feedback.  The twelve visiting artists are simply the first twelve to sign up, so it was important for me to get my nose to the grindstone and get into that group.  I inquired in mid-December how many they already had and mine was the second inquiry.  I finished all the dolls and submitted the photos last Friday, so I assume I'm in!  I sure hope it won't turn out to be an embarrassment for me!  Some of us are too cricital of our work, but I sometimes err in the other direction.

NIADA appears to be a pretty exclusive group, at least judging from their process for accepting new members.  It's a three-step process that takes two to three years to complete.  At the moment, I'm thinking of beginning it (deadline for phase 1 is the end of May) but I'm leery of entering into another deep disappointment like my attempts at getting into the Society of Animal Artists.  But, as the old adage says, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Assembling the Flock

Today I took the first step in assembling the little flock for my kindly wolf shepherdess.  I made the polymer clay heads and legs and put the armatures together.  Then I covered the wire with plush wool felt so I'm all ready to start felting tomorrow.  I have some lovely cotswold curls wool which I'm hoping will give a nice sheep fleece.  Working with this type of wool will be new to me. My plan is to "flesh out" the bulk of the sheep with core wool then add the curls.  I have two different curl colors and will used one for the black-face sheep and the other for the white one.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Shepherdess Clothing

 Her clothes are almost finished now.  The pantaloons just need a bit of lace trim.  I ordered some vintage cream lace from Etsy and when I arrives I'll sew a row at the bottom edges of the pantaloon legs.

The hardest part of her clothing was the shawl.  It took a bit of trial and error to find a size of crochet thread that would give a reasonably correct scale.  This is size 20 and I used a #8 steel hook.  After struggling to hold onto the thread, I can better appreciate those who have successfully worked with the tiny thread - size 80, 100, or even thinner!

I constructed the bodice differently this time.  I finished all edges of both the sleeves and the bodice and whip-stitched them together in place.  It seemed to work better.  Also, for creating the pattern I started by cutting a curved band that fit properly around the waist then worked from that point.  Paper towels are great to use to develop patterns.

Her shepherdess's crook is a little branch of willow that I have bent and am holding in place with some wire.  My hope is that when it's dry it will hold this shape.  If not, I'll have to make one of polymer clay.  I like the wood better, so I hope this one works out.

Her little sheep are next.