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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rocky Bits

 
Yesterday I sculpted and began painting the arms and feet.  Today I finished them.  I only have two things that I'm disappointed in.  The toes are more pointed on the left foot than on the right, and the left hand is smaller than the right.  I look forward to the days when I get things totally right.  I wonder if that day will ever come.
 
Now it's time to refer to the secret plan and begin constructing Rocky.  Rocky may turn out to be a girl in which case I guess I'll neet a different name - Rockette?

The Secret Plan

 
Here's the (no longer) secret plan for constructing Rocky.  Supposedly it will meet all my requirements - a head that turns, movable and somewhat posable arms, and somewhat posable legs and tail.  The construction of the fabric under-body is complicated, so we'll see it I actually make it this way or if I can find something simpler when I begin.  Since this body will be felted over, it doesn't need much shaping as I can do that with the felting.  So stay tuned!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Rocky's Head

Today I put a few more hours of painting into Rocky's head and it's now done.  There's really not much to say about the painting.  I use acrylics - decorative acrylics, in fact - Delta Ceramcoat and Americana.  I like those paints because there are so many different colors so I rarely mix.  I think I must have 50 bottles of browns, grays, creams, and various shades of white - very handy indeed.

Now on to the paws!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nascent Rocky

I've been wanting to make some animal art dolls that will help me develop a method for creating them that I can pretty much settle on as a standard procedure for me.  I want the head to turn, the arms to move at the shoulder and be somewhat posable, and the legs to be somewhat posable.  I want the arms and legs completely finished so I don't need long sleeves and pants in the clothing.

With the beginnings of a plan in mind, I've begun on this little raccoon.  The size will be important - I'd like it to be about 9" tall.  So I began by sketching the outline in the size and shape I want, then I used that as a guide when I sculpted the head.

In this photo, I've just begun painting the head.  It's a bit difficult because I sculpted it last night and working with the dark clay in the low evening light, I didn't get the surface as smooth as I would have liked once I began painting.  With all the contours, sanding would be close to impossible.  So on with the painting anyway!  And there's a lot of painting to go - this is just the first layer.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Stargazer Gazing

This guy is just blown away by how startlingly gorgeous that star is!  Wow!

The last time I published Stargazer's picture, he didn't yet have an outfit.  I fussed around with several ideas but in the end couldn't bring myself to cover up a lot of his coat that I had felted so carefully.  So he just has this little stargazing cape which I made from a piece of felted lambswool sweater.  After making the sweater, I dressed it up a bit with some embroidery.  Then the last step was to add the closure - a button I made from a vintage glass star cabochon.  I added a tassle to it to make it reminscent of a shooting star.

"Punk Meets Goth" is Finally Ready!

It's been quite a while since I finished these two, but I hadn't gotten around to photographing them as I find photography to be such a big pain!  Actually, I have one teensy detail to add - I want to paint a black rose tatoo on Goth's rump.

I'm still very happy with these two, and demurely give myself an "A" for imagination!  My secret desire (no longer a secret, I guess) is to have a "DESTROY" t-shirt like Punk's.

Celestial Bear is Ready to Stargaze

 

I used many more different kinds of seed beads in this piece than I have in my others.  Where I needed consistent size - the peyote stitch bale and the trail of the shooting star - I used Delicas.  But elsewhere I had more free rein.  So I used Czech size 11s, which tend to be larger than the Delicas and somewhat uneven in size, cube beads, and bugle beads.  The cubes and bugles don't show much in this photo because they're very close to the bear.

Originally, I thought I would have many more dnagles streaming from the vertical lines underneath the bear, but in the end I thought three were enough.  There are 3mm crystal AB Swarovski crystals incorporated into these dangles for extra sparkle.  I added a short extention to each of the vertical lines beneath the bear, but then I took them out again because they detracted rather than added.

My beading addiction is definitely growing!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bear in a Meteor Shower

It took quite a bit of thought and trial and error to come up with a basic arrangement for this bear pendant that I was happy with.  The cabochon at the top is charoite - a purple stone from Russia with some chatoyance.  The star is vintage glass.  I glued the bear on, then worked a row of bead embroidery around her before I glued the cabochons on.  I find it very difficult to stitch beads between two large glued-on pieces because there's no give in the backing.  So this procedure solved that problem.

Before I settled on this design, I tried many combinations of labradorite, charoite, moonstone, and various agates.   But none of them worked for me.  And all of them were too similar to the two pieces I just finished - the wolf and the puma - with the animal head in the middle and a cabochon both above and below.

This design is going to be a meteor shower.  The glass star will be a shooting star with white rays curving downward against the purple sky.  Below the bear will be several vertical lines of beading with beaded strands dangling randomly from them.  At the tips of some, or maybe all, of the beaded strands will be tiny vintage glass star-shaped buttons that I was able to buy on Etsy.  It should make for both a beautiful and a unique piece.  At least I hope so!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Finished Not So Fierce Puma

 

I've finished the puma pendant.  It may be a bit overdone with all the dangles.  Over-doing is one of my design problems.  It's one of my goals to strike the balance between embracing it as part of my style but still trying to rein it in - at least somewhat!  I'm not sure whether I was successful here.
 
The frosted glass leaf beads are among my very favorite beads and I'm happy to have found a good use for them.
 
My next challenge will be to work on the bear pendant that I began last week but set aside while I waited for an order of charoite cabochons.  They arrived, and they're beautiful.  But I'm not sure the dark purple is the right pairing for the dark colord bear.  But that's tomorrow's problem.  For now, I'm enjoying the puma and glad that I finally used her in a piece.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Speaking of the Next One, Here It Is - a Puma



 

Here's my next bead embroidery pendant, this time with a puma.  I made this little puma head a year or so ago, so she's waited quite a long time to fully come to life.  She's sculpted from polymer clay then painted.
 
I selected two beautiful cabochons to surround her.  The top one is fossilized palm wood.  I've forgotten what the other one is, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were rainforest jasper.  I bought them both at bead shows and luckily I still had the receipt with the fossilized palm wood, and the receipt documented what the stone was.  Some stones I know immediately, but others are less familiar to me.  In the future, I'll have to label them.  If I sell them, the buyer might want to know what the stones are.
 
Anyway, this piece is in the initial bead embroidery stages and I thought it might be good to snap a photo of it at the point.  This piece is a first for me in that I've used these beautiful "maple leaf" Czech pressed glass beads.  They're lightly frosted and a beautiful color of green. 

Finished Wolf

 
This is the finished wolf pendant.  I wore it out yesterday and received several compliments on it, including one from the male clerk at the drugstore who said it was "awesome!"  Thanks!!
 
The dangles really add so much.  I've used both moonstone and labradorite beads in them, as well as seed beads.  I think the wolf looks a tiny bit mysterious, and both these stones have a spiritual connotation to me.  I'm happy with this piece.  On to the next one......

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wolf, Labradorite, and Moonstone


Here's another beaded pendant I'm working on.  I made the wolf head a year or so ago - I sculpted it from polymer clay then painted it.

My first step in making the pendant was looking through my stone cabochons to decide what to pair with it, and I chose a round rainbow moonstone and this very rounded triangular labradorite.  Once the stones were selected, they nearly self-selected the beads. 

My original bead selection didn't include the amber color.  It was only after I had been beading a while that I realized that the beading was way to cool given the tans and buffs in the wolf.  So I added the amber beads to my palette and added a few randomly throughout the design.

After making a few of these pendants, the process is becoming pretty standard.  After I'm done with the flat beading (in other words, all the beading except any dangles), I trim the backing as close to the beading as I can get without cutting through any threads.  Then I glue on the ultrasuede backing.  I get the ultrasuede from http://www.fieldsfabrics.com because they have a nice selection of colors and will sell in amounts as small as 1/8 yard which is particularly nice because ultrasuede is expensive!

Beginning with the mustang pendant that I finished a few days ago, I have added a stiffener between the beading and the ultrasuede.  I use a piece of plastic that I cut from a plastic lid.  It's about 3/16" smaller all around than the beading so that I won't hit it with my needle when I finish the edges.  I simply lay the trimmed beaded piece on a piece of paper and draw all around it.  Then I cut a shape from the paper that's smaller that the beading and use that as a pattern for cutting the plastic.  Alene's Fast Grab glue is a great adhesive for joining the layers because.....it grabs fast!

When the glue is set, I trim the ultrasuede even with the beaded piece and finish all the edges with tiny, closely spaced whip stitches using two strands of embroidery thread.  Then I'm ready to add any bangles as well as the peyote stitch bail.  It's a little tricky to add the dangles because I have to attach them to the existing beading without piercing through the piece.  So all the thread knots are hidden within the beading.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

No Fierce Bears

 
 
I don't think I could sculpt (or paint, for that matter) a fierce animal if I tried.
 
This little black bear will be part of another pendant.  His face is about 1 1/4" across.  I sculpted him from dark brown polymer clay then painted him.  He has 3mm glass eyes from http://www.glasseyesonline.com.
 
In this next picture I'm trying out various cabochons with him.  The top one is labradorite and the bottom one is chaoite (?).  Another variation uses a labradorite teardrop at the bottom instead of the purple stone.  And yet another version uses an oval amethyst cabochon at the top instead of the labradorite. 
 
I wisely haven't glued the stones on yet.  I find that it is very difficult to work bead embroidery between two large cabochons (counting the bear as a cabochcon), so I'm going to work a round or two of beading around the bear before I glue the stones on.
 
In this trial arrangement I have the bear's head at a jaunty angle.  I like the humor and personality of it, plus it gives a bit of surprise from the expected symmetrical design.  I'm looking forward to beading this one. 



A Beautiful Palomino

 
The beading on this pendant took about 6 hours.  That's more than I've done on my other recent pendants - the owl, fox, and wolf - and I wonder if it will look overdone on a braided leather cord.  I'm thinking of a dark brown cord rather than the tan cord I've been using.  So I used dark brown beads in the peyote stitch bail to facilitate the transition to the color of the cord.
 
The alternative to a braided leather cord would be a beaded necklace, perhaps a groups of individual strands of the seed beads I used in the pendant embroidery studded with moonstone beads, and rhodocrosite beads if I could get them.  I'm aiming for the braided leather because I think it would make a more wearable piece.  But the beaded necklace would be beautiful.
 
In the bead embroidery I used four sizes of seed beads, and I think it gives a nice effect.  Mainly, I've used Delicas.  But the ivory colored beads ringing the cabochon, the pearly beads in the lower portions, and the gold beads forming the outer ring around the cabochon as well as the outline of the teardrop shape containing two of the moonstones are regular size 11s.  The pink beads around the other two moonstones are 15s.  And I've also used a few other colors of 15s here and there to fill holes between the larger beads.  The larger beads at the ends of the dangles are either 8s or 6s, I don't remember which.  I like the variety in size, and there is also a variety of finishes on these beads.
 
The symmetry of the shape is not perfect, and I didn't try to make it so.  I like a bit more of an organic look - an attempt at symmetry, but not obsessively so.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mustang Pendant - a Palomino

Here's the beginning of another bead embroidery pendant.  The horse head is a polymer clay one that I made a few years ago.  At that time I put them away, each paired with a beautiful stone cabochon.  This cabochon is rhodocrosite and the beautiful pink color is echoed in the horse's nose.

If I were sculpting the horse's head today I would do a better job, especially with the nose.  But still I think it's a pretty nice horse and should make a stunning pendant.  As always, although the bead embroidery is tedious as I sew the tiny glass seed beads on one by one, but I mysteriously find the process soothing.

Badger Bits

I'm starting on another small animal doll - this time a badger.  The head and paws are polymer clay which I've painted with acrylic paints.  I'm really liking this approach.  I do the sculpting simply and with an untextured surface then create the texture (hopefully) with the painting.  The eyes are glass from glasseyesonline.com and they add a sense of life. 

For the claws and nose, I painted interference blue acrylic over the black clay to give a sense of shine on the former and wetness on the latter.

I'm considering having my armature wire go all the way through the feet to anchor in a wood base.  More thinking is required on that.  But I seem to always have a problem towards the end of the project with figuring out how the doll will stand.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Fox is Felted

 

The felting went smoothly and here's my handsome fox.  He's the Star-Gazer, but besides that, I need to find him a name.  "Simon" just suggested itself to me, so perhaps that will be it - I'll decide by the next post when I'll have him dressed.

I like the way this little fellow's pose turned out, and that was all a result of seemingly endless fiddling with the armature And the tail is nice and fluffy.  Felting right up to the polymer clay head and paws worked out well because the ends of the polymer pieces where they meet the armature are flat.

It will be difficult to decide how to dress him, partly because I am reluctant to cover up much of the felting that I worked so hard on.  But also it will be quite difficult to make kind of jacket for him as the front legs are so far forward on the body.  I guess it's natural that the ease of constructing human type clothes for a creature will be in proportion to how closely the body resembles a human body.  So the clothing design will take quite a bit of pondering before I proceed.

Padding the Armature

 

I have now padded the wire armature with strips of wool felt that I wrapped around the wires and stitched in place.  I chose wool felt so that the wool fiber that I will felt with will stick to the armature.  As I worked on the padding it occurred to me that it would be easier to just wrap the wire with thick wool yarn and tie the ends.  Presumably, the wool fiber would needle felt to the wool yarn just fine.  I'll have to try that and see how it works.  Another advantage might be that wool yard would be easier to find than wool felt.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Small Fox


 

I would like to create a "product line" of small art dolls - a theme, style, and size that would unify a series of one-of-a-kind animal dolls that I could put in my Etsy shop.  So my idea is small (about 8" tall) animals with polymer clay heads and paws, felted bodies, and rustic "up-cycled" clothing.  I would include foxes, raccoons, badgers, and rabbits and maybe some others.

Although these won't be easy or quick to make, they'll be easier and quicker than the art dolls I often do and they'll give me practice for the more complicated pieces for my NIADA application next year.  I especially need practice on poses and expressions.

So here's my initial attempt.  This fox will be star-gazing.  As planned, her head and paws are polymer clay.  I just used scrap clay in a non-descript gray then painted it.  I get much better details by painting than by trying to use the colors of the clay.  You can see the details in the top phoro of 'her head.  I used 4mm glass eyes from www.glasseyesonline.com.

The armature is number 12 single-strand electrical wire which I glued into the polymer pieces with two-part epoxy glue.  I also used two-part epoxy for gluing the three main strands together - after wrapping them with thin gauge craft wire.

So far, so good.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Shooting Star and the Fox

I sculpted this little fox a year and a half ago at a polymer clay retreat and have always thought he was something special.  But I didn't know what to do with him until a few days ago.  Working on the wolf and owl pendants - using polymer pieces I had made a while ago in simple bead embroidery pendants - I kept wondering how I could use this fox.  Unlike the other pieces I was working with, the fox is not in the form of a cabochon but is a fully rounded sculpture that I had put a vertical hole through angling from the top of his head to the middle of his back.

Then for some reason I was looking through my vintage glass cabochons when I came across this star and voila!  I teamed the star with bead embroidery to make a shooting star and suspended the little fox from it, like he's reaching for the stars.

My intention has been to list these pendants in my Etsy shop, but this little guy has always been a favorite of mine, so I just may keep him.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Finished Owl Pendant

Here's the finished owl pendant.  The only thing that's really changed from my last post about this piece is that I finished the peyote stitch bail, backed the pendant with ultrasuede, stitched around the edges, and added the woven leather cord and clasp.

Actually, the color seems different, but it actually isn't.  It's the difference in lighting in the photos.  This one is nicely bright, but too blue and not purple enough....

I like this way of making necklaces - with the leather cord, that is.  It allows me to do a bit of fancy beading without having the necklace overdone.  I think!

Finished Wolf Pendant

This pendant is so darn difficult to photograph.  I sculpted the wolf head from polymer clay then painted it with a paint made from finely ground copper in acrylic resin.  After the copper paint dried I patina'd it with a chemical compound made by the same manufacturer as the copper paint.  The chemical actually oxidizes the copper to a beautiful verdigris.  It's a gorgeous effect, but difficult to capture with the camera.

I've done bead embroidery to complement the wolf, using turquoise beads at the bottom and a flat faceted piece of Peruvian Opal at the top.  The little bit of bead embroidery uses size 11 (eleven beads to the inch) Delica tube beads - a very consistently sized Japanese glass seed bead - in copper-lined glass, bronze, and a few shades of turquoise and green.

I finished the bead embroidery by trimming the backing close, gluing on a piece of ultrasuede, trimming the ultrasuede, then covering the edges with a tightly spaced whip stitch using two strands of embroidery thread.

The bail is peyote stitch worked along a straight row of seed beads at the top of the bead embroidery.  I threaded a beautifully supple piece of braided leather through the bail and finished the necklace with copper cord ends and clasp.

Aelfwynn has a Body


Aelfwynn now has a body and is all ready for her clothes.  Unfortunately, I'm not quite ready for the clothes as I'm still awaiting some vintage fabrics I ordered from Etsy and I still have decisions to make.

Nonetheless, here she is.  Her body is cotton broadcloth stuffed with regular ol' synthetic stuffing.  Three wires are going through her body - one for the left leg and arm, the second for the right leg and arm, and the third for the neck/spine/tail.  The wires are not attached to each other.  Her feet are glued onto the wires with two-part epoxy glue.  I've stopped using hot glue for a couple of reasons.  First, I can't seem to control the strings and I often end up with a mess.  But also I've had glue joints fail after a year or so - unacceptable!

I've wrapped her arms and legs with strips of felt for bulk.  They won't show when she's dressed.

Her tail is wool felt which I sewed to her body at the base, then began stuffing and stitching together from the tip upwards.  I painted the markings on it with Jacquard Textile Paints.

The neck of her cloth body is tightly gathered around the groove in her neck so her head can turn.

I haven't glued the front paws on het.  I'll put the sleeves on first in case they aren't wide enough to slip over the paws.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Elfwyn - Maeve? - Gets More Fur

 

I may rename this cat Maeve.  Elfwyn would have Anglo-Saxon costuming and I'm not sure that this cat's costume will turn out to fit that bill.  So her name will have to wait a bit.

Today I worked more on painting her head - about 4 hours, I'd say.  And here she is.  I got a bit tired of painting tiny lines with my 00 liner, but I'm dedicated to detail!  I may need to darken some parts but I'll wait on that until I have her paws painted too and then I'll make final adjustments to everything.

This paper clay, sprayed with workable fixative, makes a wonderful painting surface.  The acrylics glide right on.

As I painted her I noticed more and more that the symmetry is off here and there.  But I think that's OK.  After all, human faces are not perfectly symmetrical and they're more interesting for it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Back to the Cat, Who Will be Elfwyn

I sculpted the head and paws for a cat art doll a while ago but then got diverted onto other projects.  Now I'm back to it.  When I got it out of the box I had it stored in I realized that I wasn't happy with the sculpting on the head so I made some changes - primarily puffing out the sides and adding a bit to the top of the head so that the ears didn't look so big.

After letting it dry for a few days (it's air-dry paper clay) I started painting today.   As always I began with the eyes.  I'd like to be able to dome some resin over them to get them really shiny but I'm not quite sure how I'd do it as there are no sculpted depressions that correspond exactly with the shapes of the eyeballs.  But I'll do some testing on paper clay scraps and see what I can do.

The colors here are just the under-paintings, plus I've begun to sketch in the position of the markings.  She will be a European Forest Cat - a rare wild cat about the size of a house cat and with markings very similar to a tabby but with more brown than gray.  So here's the beginning, and I look forward to getting back to it tomorrow.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New from Old

 
I'm reinventing some older pieces of jewelry I made to make them more wearable, and here's the first piece, in progress.
 
Previously the owl pendant hung from a rather complicated necklace with many purple polymer clay beads.
 
The new necklace will be a pendant hanging from a simple braided leather cord.  The owl and purple background disk are a single piece of polymer clay.  I sanded the back flat, removing a polymer clay bail and roughing and evening the back surface.  I then glued it to a piece of Lacy's Stiff Stuff, a backing for bead embroidery, and added the rings of beading and the beaded dangles.  In this photo, I'm gluing a piece of ultrasuede on the back to cover the stitching - the first step in making a nice finish.
 
The tiny "moon" is a mother of pearl antique button.  I sanded the shank off the back so that I could glue it to the polymer clay.  This "moon" covers a hole that a beaded dangle hung through on the original piece.
 
There is a hole sideways through the two feet so I could add something for the owl to be grabbing or sitting on, but this way he just looks like he's in flight.  So, the jury's still out on that design decision.
 
Tomorrow I should have the piece completed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foxes Complete!

I finished my fox painting today.  In addition to finishing the right fox, I did a bit of refinement on the other one, worked the snow in front of them, added more weeds and the left foreground shrub, and, most importantly, added a tail to the rear fox.

After I finished the painting I photographed it and took a horizontal sliver of it for my new banner in my Etsy shop, The Foxes Garden.  (A link to my shop is in the right margin of this blog.)  My plan is to do a new painting every quarter until I have a banner for each season of the year.

I'll offer this painting for sale in my Etsy shop, but if it should sell, it will be difficult to part with it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Working on the Foxes...

 

After a wonderful trip to see my daughter and her family, I'm back to my painting.  As I prepared to get back to work so many other project tempted me, but I vowed to continue on this one until I finished it.  So here's what it looks like after painting today.
 
The first thing I did was bring the pine tree closer by eliminating the strip of snow between the pine tree and the weeds to the right of the foxes, and I think this was a plus. The bright spot in the weeds far to the right was an accident, but I like it.  It seems to be where the light would be hitting beyond the fox's shadow. 
 
Then I began working on the left fox.  The lost edge on her chest was a challenge for me, but I think it was important to leave it and not try to define it more.  There are still refinements to be made, such as better defining the left side of the chin and face.  But I got it to the point where I could begin on the other fox and I'm still in the process of getting that first phase on him done.
 
It felt good to get a brush back in my hand, and so far so good.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Mistake - What to Do?

When I looked at this painting yesterday something seemed wrong but I couldn't quite figure out what it was.  Now I think I see.  The depth and scale are off.  From the size of the foxes they should be close.  And from the size of the deciduous tree, they should be far.  The pines would be mid-way.  But it doesn't look like that.  Distance is indicated not just be relative size but also by how high up vertically an object is.  The further the object, the higher it will be.  But those deciduous trees are about the same height as the pines.  That means they should be the same distance back, but their relative size says that the pines are closer.  So we have conflicting information - and that's confusing.

Also, the dead weeds look like cat tails.  But they're also in the same distance plane as the foxes.  So that either makes the foxes huge or the cat tails teeny.

I've got real problems here, and I'm not sure how to solve them.  But this is an interesting lesson.  At least I think I did a pretty nice job on the snow...

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Beginning for the Foxes

 
I'm starting a painting of two foxes.  Aside from just wanting to do the painting, when it's finished I'm intending to use a detail of it for my Etsy shop banner since my Etsy shop is named The Foxes' Garden.  My plan is to do a different fox painting for each season and change the banners as the seasons change.
 
So here is step one.  Actually, I guess it's more like step one-and-one-half.  The first step was toning the canvas with blocks of color that would serve as an under painting.   This is still visible in the lower half of the painting.
 
After that I worked on the sky and background trees, undergrowth, and pine trees.  There is still work to be done there but I've done enough to be able to move on to the other areas of the painting.  The tan strip under the foxes will be the grounding for a rather thick area of snow-covered weeds.  I can see now that this strip is too curved and follows the shape of the background tree line too closely, so I'll change that.  I'll shift the left end upwards so it's more of a level band and so that it doesn't end in the corner of the painting.
 
At this stage, the composition seems flawed as the eye travels out of the painting to the left.  I'll have to watch that as it develops.  I'm hoping the strong band of reeds and the detail in the foxes will counteract that.  I've noticed that I seem to favor very still compositions.
 
By the way, my support is canvas adhered to hardboard with acrylic gel medium.
 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coyote Pine Needle Basket

 
 

I listed this pine needle basket I made on Etsy and thought I'd write about it because I don't think I did so when I was making it.  About three years ago I took a one day workshop on the basics of constructing pine needle baskets and found that I enjoy it very much even though - or maybe because - it's so tedious.
 
 The needles in this basket are from my own property here, from large Digger Pine branches that came down in a big snowstorm in December 2009.  I like that I harvested and dried the needles myself. 
 
 When I began the basket I didn't really know where I was going - except round and round of course!  I knew I wanted an oval but that was about the extent of the "design" process.  Once I was done I knew it needed something on the top so I made this little animal out of polymer clay.  It appears that I was a bit confused about what kind of animal it was to be.  It looks a bit fox-like but the coloring is more coyote.  As always, I couldn't resist a bit of beading.

The closure is an antique copper button that I bought on eBay that has a fox's head on it.  Those types of buttons were made for hunting jackets, hunting being an activity of which I strongly disapprove.  But I buy them because I like the foxes so much.

I found it difficult to actually use the button when I made this piece (rather than keep it in my collection).  And now I've found it even more difficult to list the piece.  But of course listing it doesn't mean it will sell.  And if it does, hopefully the new owner will appreciate it.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Birth of Venus

 
Last weekend I gave a demo on polymer clay mosaics, so of course I needed a bit of a head start on a piece.  I decided on my theme first - "The Birth of Venus" after Sandro Botticelli's painting.  But this time Venus was to be a lovely frog arising from the seashell, and her surroundings were to be based on her pond home.
 
One of the things I like so much about polymer clay is the rich colors, and for this piece I picked one of my favorite color schemes - turquoise, yellow, and yellow-orange.  It turns out that I have quite a few mica powders and metallic pastes that enhance this combination of colors.
 
Before the demo I completed the frog, most of the fish, and the background tiles for the entire piece.  Then after the demo it took me a few days to finish it up.  Originally I had planned to use a large Czech glass button with a golden dragonfly as well as a brass stamping of a bird and more pearls and stones.  But in the end I thought it was better without so many different materials.
 
The two ribbon inscriptions both say "The Birth of Venus" - the top one in English and the bottom one in the original Italian.  With both due respect and apologies to Botticelli, I'm happy with this piece.  And I've listed it in my Etsy shop.
 


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Back into the Etsy Swing of Things

After several months with nothing listed in my Etsy shop I finally got back down to business by listing this little polymer clay polar bear totem and two other pieces.  I think this bear has a very sweet face and an engaging pose, but I'll just have to see what potential buyers think.

I'm renewing the look of my shop in a couple of different ways. 

First, I created a series of backdrops that I plan to use for all of my photos.  They're simple sheets of poster board that I sealed with spray primer then painted.  For each backdrop I used two colors - a base color and a slightly lighter tint of the same color with which I added overall texture with a large fan brush.  So many Etsy sellers use plain white background and I know that there are several advantages to those, but I prefer something with a bit more color than the stark white.  So I have made six background from which to choose - taupe, gray, gray-green, purple, dark brown, and off-white.  Those colors provide a wide range of value so that I can find a ground that any piece - light, dark, or in-between - will show up against.  Also I've chosen colors that suggest nature which is the source of my inspiration.

Second, I'm going to rework my shop banner.  My current one is too visually weak.  I'm going to do a painting of foxes then take a detail from it for the banner.

 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

An Inspiring Experience

 
 
 

The arrival of the new issue of Country Magazine inspired me to do a painting.  This is a scene in Pennsylvania which was pictured in the magazine, and I adapted it for a journal cover.  It is acrylic.  It amazed me how well the painting came together, and with no struggle whatsoever.

I purposely didn't do a lot of detail in the background trees towards the middle because they will be near the spine of the journal. I also didn't do much detail in the reflections because I wanted the reflections to be less prominent that the objects themselves.  Since reflections are also slightly duller in color, I painted them more transparently than the trees themselves.  I had under-painted the water blue, so the transparency of the yellows, oranges, and reds allowed the blue underneath to dull them somewhat.

I only used five brushes on this painting: a #20 flat, a #8 round bristle scumbler,  #2 round bristle scumbler, and #s 00 and 1 script liners.  I have far more brushes than I need or use!

I'm happy with this painting, and it will make a very nice journal.  The experience makes me want to do more landscapes although that is hardly my "subject of choice!"

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Few Totems

 
Here's my first group of stoneware totems, including three bears on the left, a weasel in the middle, a hare in the back, a fox on the right, and a seal in the front right.  You can see their size by comparing them to the container of Chapstick.  Stoneware is a ceramic clay, and I fired these pieces to cone 6, or about 2185 degrees F.  The pieces are all different kinds of stoneware.  The beautiful black is Cassius Basaltic.  It's dark chocolate-y brown in its unfired state, then turns black with the heat.
 
To finish them, I'll wax them then wrap objects around them, totem-style.  I've actually finished the fox, black bear, and seal.  But they're at a show and I forgot to take photos of them before I took them in.  The embellishments on the black bear include an elaborate beaded tassel and a few other beads.  The seal has a drilled sea stone, drilled seaglass, and some stones.  The fox has stones and little chicken feathers.  I think the fox is my favorite.
 
I burnished the seal before I fired her.  Burnishing is rubbing the leather-hard greenware with a flat metal surface like a burnisher or the back of a spoon.  The rubbing aligns the tiny particles in the clay and gives a beautiful shiny surface.  The rest of the pieces are textured with tiny all-over marks to resemble fur.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tea-Birds

For better or worse, here are my finished pieces for our club's 3D and 3x3 show.  Or, actually, these are my 3x3 entries - I will be entering several 3D pieces as well.

I'm not particularly happy with these, but at least I finished them.  And even that was in doubt for a while.  As late as the week before the show I considered starting all over again.  But then sanity stepped in!

My start was a good one.  I worked the collage backgrounds on all nine before continuing, and I was very happy with them at that point.  But then I got stuck.  My original concept was to do portraits of teacups over the collage (which has many tea-related elements) but the collage portion was just too strong for that to work.  I glued a piece of torn rice paper over the centers to tone down the collage where it would be directly behind my images - whatever they might turn out to be.  But, although it was an improvement it wasn't much of one.

Finally I came up with the bird concept, which I came to call "tea-birds."  Each bird is interacting with a tag from a tea bag.  The black brushwork outlining around the birds helps them hold their own against the background.  I much prefer working with a brush than with a marker, and it's always good practice.

At least they're colorful and the whimsy is fun.  But definitely not among my best work. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dragon of the East

In the interests of not focusing too much on any one thing, I made a dragon in stoneware.  She's small - about 2" tall.  For whatever reason I usually find myself working small.

Right after I took these photos I was fooling around with her and broke her tongue off.  Of course I know better than to handle greenware too much, but that doesn't mean I follow the right course!  I decided not to reattach the tongue because I figured it might be equally fragile after firing and then I wouldn't be able to clean up the break.  So I smoothed out a hole in her mouth and maybe once she's fired I'll glue a pearl or other stone in her mouth.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Cat Begins to Fill Out

Now the cat has a second layer of clay.  As you can see, I've built out the nose and muzzle, added thicker eyelids top and bottom, and filled out the cheeks.  It doesn't show in this photo but I also filled out the back of the head.  It's just a matter of looking at a real cat and adding blobs of clay corresponding to the large muscles in the face.  There's more to do tomorrow, but that may be the last of the clay work on the head.

I now know that this is a girl and I need to find a good name for her.  And I also need to nail down what time period she's living in.  I want her to wear a long dress and a hooded cape and be carrying a lantern.  Perhaps early nineteenth century will be good.   So I could research Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters for names.

How to make the lantern is a puzzle.  I'd like to have it light up, so I'm thinking of starting with a small glass bottle and building the lantern around that with a tiny battery-operated light inside.  I found - and ordered - some small amber bottles that has been frosted by ocean action last night on Etsy.  I'm thinking that the amber color along with the frost will give a nice glow and also disguise the tiny LED inside.  Then today I noticed that I have a nail polish bottle that's the right size and shape so I may practice with that.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A New Art Doll - this time, a Cat

I just can't help myself - I started a new art doll.  I don't know yet whether this cat is a boy or a girl or who he/she is or what he/she is doing.  But that will emerge of its own accord as I work on it.

I began yesterday by cutting a rough head shape from Styrofoam, then wrapped it with gauze (the stretchy kind used for bandaging) and coated the gauze with Mod Podge.  Once the Mod Podge was dry, I had a surface that paper clay would stick to, and I covered the entire surface with paper clay.  I made two half spheres of the clay and put them in place for the eyes.  Unfortunately I didn't take a photo at that stage.  But take my word for it - it was pretty crude and there wasn't much to see.  Oh, and I stuck the skewer in the bottom so I could stand it in a piece of Styrofoam to dry.

Today I worked on the next layer of sculpting.  I added a bit of volume to the upper sides of the face, then added upper and lower eyelids.  Next came the nose and muzzle, then the ears.  The ears are cardboard triangles, cut in a concave curve along the bottom to fit around the head.  I curled the cardboard ears to form nice curved (the ears attach to the head in shallow 'C' shapes) and lined the insides with a thin layer of clay.  Next I stuck them in place and added rolls of clay at the base of the backs to hold them in place.

Once the ears dried for a few hours and stiffened up somewhat, I was able to add clay to the backs.  Now it's ready to dry until tomorrow. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Frog Fairy in the Garden!

Fiona doesn't seem to notice the frog fairy that's come into the garden - good thing for the fairy!

As you can see, my frog fairy doll is finally completed.  In the other photos you'll be able to see the details better.

Her wings are chiffon stitched over wire.  Her antennae are beads on wires glued into (I'm sorry to say!) holes drilled into her forehead (ouch!).

I might ordinarily have decorated her outfit even more.  For instance, I tried to find little silk roses the coral color of the bodice to dot over the skirt.  I couldn't find any locally, and ordered two batches off Etsy, but neither of the colors were quite right.  In the end, I decided it was OK because this fairy is for my infant granddaughter and the fewer little pieces that might conceivably come off and find their way into her mouth, the better!

By the way, the sequined flower motif at her waist is from an old pair of flip-flops.  When they wore out and it was time to toss them I cut off those decorations and saved them  You never know when bling is going to come in handy...

My favorite part about this piece is the splaying fingers and toes.  When I researched frogs I found information that they have seven toes on their front feet and three on the back feet.  I really had my doubts about seven toes.  Can that be right?  Anyway, I had trouble just fitting five, so I guess she's anatomically incorrect.  But then, frogs don't usually fly!!!