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Saturday, July 26, 2014

A New Avatar

I'm working on my etsy shop and trying to improve my marketing.  The first part of that effort was creating an avatar for my shop that I could also use on my business cards.  So here it is - a fox in a rather wild garden of ferns and violets.  It turns out to be a bit busy and detailed for the avatar when it displays small, but it should look good on my business cards, which should arrive from the printer in a few days.  It also looked great on the heading of my newsletter.  So - mission accomplished!

By the way, this is watercolor pencil and sepia ink (with a crowquill pen tip) on Strathmore mixed media paper.  I really like this paper!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the spring several large linbs came down off one of my digger pines and I harvested the needles.  Also, around the same time, I made three sets of stoneware centers for pine baskets.  And the other day the urge just struck me to make one.

I enjoy making pine needle baskets, but it's one of the lowest pay-off activities (what you get versus the time you put into it) I know of.  Nonetheless, here is the result.
I very much like the little rabbit.  But the color combined with the dull tones of the pine needles really doesn't do much for me.  I thought about washing over the basket with thinned down acrylic.  But I used artificial sinew to sew the basket and it is very waxy.  So it's likely that it would have repelled the paint - altogether not an experiment to do on a finished piece.  So I livened the design up by adding the "nest" of pine needles and some stone dangles.  After I took these photos, I painted small runes on some of the stones - runes whose meaning fits with the symbolism of rabbit.
 
All in all, not a highly successful piece, but at least I finished it!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Next -- a Rabbit

Then it was on to a rabbit!  Once again, I began with an armature made from an image of the skeleton.  But this time it was even more difficult because the skeleton indicates much more going on with a rabbit body than what we actually see - which is basically a ball of fluff with feet sticking out.  But I wanted the rabbit posable, so had to proceed this way.

There was an awful lot of filling space with wool, and I often worried about how much wool I was using.  It's not just the expense, but also that it seems a shame to "bury" perfectly good wool deep inside the body where it will never be seen.  I've wracked my brain trying to think of an alternative.  I've come up with a few but have rejected them.  One was wrapping with strips of old felted wool sweaters.  But those aren't either easy or cheap to come by - at least not here in California where they're not worn regularly.

So I persevered and here's the result.  For once, I found feet actually fun to make!  I'd like to make many more rabbits.  There are so many different breeds and colorings - an artist's playground!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Squirrel is Next

My next felting project was a squirrel.  I just had to do one, given my history as a proud member of Sierra Wildlife Rescue's Squirrel Team.
 
It could be a Fox Squirrel or a Gray Squirrel, but I decided on a gray because the colors in a fox squirrel's coat are so complex.  That would be a project beyond my skills at this point.
 
The little fingers were tedious but worth it.  I'm still not good at wrapping those tiny tips and often have some of the underlying wire show through.  The wire for the fingers is 26 gauge cloth covered floral wire and it's white, so if any shows, it shows quite a bit against the black wool.  I used black wax on the tips, but it hardens with a bit of whitish translucence so isn't quite the best solution. I'll have to give further thought to that problem.
 
Despite making an armature that I thought pretty closely followed the squirrel skeleton images I found, the tail turned out to be too short.  So if I make another one, I'll plan to lengthen the tail armature by two inches or so.
 
But, all in all, pretty good.
 
An Albert's Squirrel would be fun to make with those long black ear tufts, or, now that I'm thinking about ear tufts, a linx.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Stab, Stab, Stab - More Needle Felting

This time, a cat slowly emerged from the needle and felt.  I had a really hard time with it though, to the point that I nearly threw it away!  But then I remembered that you don't learn anything by giving up.  Plus, I believed that somehow I could make it work.

I began by finding an image of a cat skeleton on the internet, then drew the main bones to the size I wanted my finished animal to be.  From there, I assembled the wire armature.  I think my problem was that it just takes so many layers to add enough wool and it looked weird for so long.  Plus, after a bit I focused on the head.  So the head got really large in comparison to the body, and it looked even weirder.

I think the method of starting out with a more-or-less real skeleton armature may cause problems through the process, but in the end it gives an animal that is nicely posable.

Even with drawing and painting, I've found cats to be the hardest animals.   And the tradition continues with needle-felting!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Spectacled Bat

This was my next felting project - a spectacled bat.  He is a type of "flying fox" which is a group of old world bats.  The old world has cuter bats than the new world.  And they're also bigger - at least some of them.  I read somewhere before that 1/4 of the world's mammal species are bats, and now I've read it in one of the bat rescue hospital websites, so I assume that it's true - an amazing!  I was inspired to do a little research on bats after seeing bats in the dusk sky here several days in a row.

The hardest part of this project was designing the wings.  I ended up taking my first effort apart and redesigning the armature.  It would have been nice to use a more luxurious fabric for the wings, such as silk or silk velvet.  But I ended up using "performance fabric" - a fabric that I assume is for sports clothing - for two reasons.  The first was that it stretches along the selvage, across the selvage, and diagonally.  I thought that the "give" would be necessary in posing and re-posing the wings.  The second reason was that I knew I would be stabbing through it with the felting needle since it is attached to the body all along the sides.  I considered a jersey, but rejected it because I thought it might run if I stabbed it wrong.  And I rejected the silk because it didn't stretch.

The performance fabric has a subtle sheen which I think is appropriate for the skin covering the wings and, all in all, I'm happy with the choice.

One thing I wish I had done was provide a way to hang him - something that would attach to the armature for strength.  If I make another bat, I'll have to solve that problem.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Fennec Fox has a Buddy

I made a second fennec fox today.  I wanted to see if it was repeatable from the diagram I had, and it was!

The second one was easier because I knew more of what I was doing.  Even though I began with the same full-size drawing for my armature, of course she turned out a bit different from the first one.  For one thing, I knew to make the ears bigger.  Also, though not trying to do so, her nose is pointier. 

All in all, I think the second one looks more like a fennec fox.  But, believe it or not, the ears are still too small!

This is FUN!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Desert Fox

Today I felted this little fox.  She's supposed to be a fennec fox.  When I was adding the armature for the ears they seemed way too big.  But now that she's done, they're actually too small!

Thanks again to Sara Renzulli for putting her wonderful instructional videos on her site, www.sarafinafiberart.com.  She sells supplies at her etsy shop, SarafinaFiberArt.  The burlap bag my fox is leaning on is the felting surface I bought from that shop, and much of the wool is from her shop as well.

Where I depart from Sara's method is with the eyes.  Sara felts them, but I like to use glass eyes.  I just snip the wires off, tightly felt a tight flat spot where they're going to go, and glue them in place with Alene's Fast Grab glue.  I felt over them a bit (eyelids) and I like the way they look.

I searched online for an image of a fennec fox skeleton and, surprisingly, I found one.  It seems that if you get the proportions of the armature to match the proportions of the skeleton, you will be in pretty good shape.  

I have temporarily added whiskers of black fireline which is a strong beading thread.  But I think they're too thin.  I'm going to ask my sister if I can have a bit of hair from her horse's mane.  It's 50/50 what the answer will be!
 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Springer Spaniel

Alpha Ceramics, a ceramics supply store in Sacramento, is having a juried exhibit entitled "Dogs Days of Summer" to benefit the Front Street Animal Shelter.  So I'm making this dog piece for the show.  It's supposed to be a springer spaniel.

I started by sculpting the head, beginning with a cone which I formed from a portion of a circle cut from a slab I rolled.  Then I added other shapes, like for the upper lips and eyebrows, and continued sculpting.  I added a second piece cut from the slab for the back of the neck.  That was day 1.

The next day I formed a large cone for the body and legs and attached the head.  I began to form the legs by cutting into the cone and rolling the leg pieces back.

After a lot more fussing and adding clay for the shoulders, hips, and to close the belly, I finally got to add the ears.  (You can see the piece I'm adding for the shoulder in the first photo.  Of course I have to remember to cut a hole in the piece I'm applying it to because the shoulder piece is domed and hollow.)  The hardest part was waiting until last to add the ears, but I knew that if I put them on sooner I'd be likely to mess them up as I sculpted.  As always, the most fun was the texture.

I wish I had a nice warm dark brown so that I could glaze the dog a liver and white like my sister's springerSunny.  But I don't.  So most likely this little dog will be black and white.