Protest Songs is my newest original needle felted wool art doll creation. This seated figure is a look back at an earlier art doll figure sculpture of mine titled “Janice“. That piece was purchased years ago by one of my very favorite people, so I still get to visit her from time to time. In this newest incarnation I decided that my vintage songstress needed a floppy felt hat, and a bright orange paisley shirt. She is of course wearing bell-bottomed blue jeans, and they are coordinated with a pair of funky red boots.
For Protest Songs, I additionally constructed a miniature balsa wood acoustic guitar. This tiny instrument is complete with metal strings, tuning knobs, and a scratch plate. The Protest Songs art doll figure is also an homage to the late great Janis Joplin, as was the earlier, “Janice.” This sculpture has her eyes closed and her head tossed back as she belts out her tune with deep feeling.
My Protest Songs art doll is wigged with unraveled yarn instead of me utilizing hand curled wool roving. I find I prefer the scale of the hair and curls of her coiffure with this method. Obviously, some of my future art doll sculptures will still call for the thicker more dreadlock look of the hand curled roving. I want to explore this untwisted yarn method for a bit. The plan Is to do a bit more experimentation in this area. I would like to see how different types of fibers look and react using them in this manner. Who knows? Perhaps a new art doll sculpture will have truly flaxen or silky hair.
I made two new art doll figure additions to my gallery inventory this week. Summer is always a strange time work wise for me because my schedule is much more variable. I find I do not have as many strings of multiple days in the studio. This can be a blessing at times. Many sculptures need a bit of breathing room incorporated into their creation. Time allows me to back away, look at what I’ve done so far, and plan my next attack. My work is definitely not the type that is created in broad quick strokes of the brush. It is more like a collaborative dance between me, the materials, and the piece itself.
“…And Away” is a colorful and fun art doll figure flying a kite. I played with the balance of this sculpture to create as much movement as possible. I love the challenge of capturing a moment of movement. This not-so-static figure sculpture is frozen in time at the moment a breeze has just caught Away’s kite. I had quite a bit of fun creating her brightly colored polka dot dress and coordinating leggings. Additionally, I received a couple of inquiries if I could produce life-size versions of the tights from fellow artists.
The Game Begins
The Game Begins is a piece comprised of two figures. This art doll sculpture features a kneeling figure holding out a ball to her canine friend. This introduction is the precursor to their very first game of fetch. I’m guessing the first of many.
Both “…And Away” and “The Game Begins” are now available at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. It is also the last Friday of the month and that means that there is an opening and reception for our current show Local Color. Local Color features the newest art by Nell Chandler, Evelyn Ward, Ali Givens, and Michele Yellin.
I think that to date I have created four different interpretations of Alice from her adventures in Wonderland. One of my newest sculptures, “Alice is Late”, is my first attempt at capturing her companion the white rabbit. One of the stars of my recent feature show, he is now catching glances and keeping time for passersby in the gallery front window.
Take a look around
Several of my needle felted creations from “April Showers, Art Flowers” have already made their way to new homes. A few, like “Alice is Late” can still be seen at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, but you will have to stroll around the gallery a bit to find them.
Alice and Some Buzz
Another of my personal favorites from my recent feature show is “Honey Dance”. Honey Dance is a queen bee figure that hangs from the ceiling. She holds a bit of honeycomb and sports a small crystal tiara. She is one of those playful sculptures that both evoke a smile and provide a sunny pop of color.
Some Other Things to Look For
I also have a fair number of new needle felted jewelry items available in my glass tower at HGA. I always like to create jewelry that reflects what is going on in my sculptures. You will find pieces from simple felted hearts on leather chords, to some more complex and colorful flower forms with hand forged closures. I find these pieces of jewelry unique and playful, and quite fun to create.
I did remove the remaining needle felted hanging ornaments that I had returned to the gallery for my show. Never fear, I will return them to the gallery in the fall with plenty of time for gift giving.
Before something different, I think I will start with a schedule reminder. If your calendar looks anything like mine this week, a reminder might be a welcome thing. This Friday is the first official Last Friday of the season in Hillsborough, NC. That means that the Art Walk will be accompanied by music on the court house lawn, vendors, outside activities, and more. But, most importantly, this Last Friday is the opening reception for my featured artist show April Showers, Art Flowers. I hope to see you there Friday from 6-9!
A few years ago when my work was more mixed media of a steampunk flavor, I created a little steampunk bag for the holiday season. I fondly recall that piece, and how happy I was that it was purchased for a friend as a gift. I am enjoying my creative play with needle felting so much, that I though that I’d include a couple of sculpted bags along with my cast of figurative characters for this show. The first bag I created is a fantastical evening clutch being “Clutched” by a aqua octopus. ”
I titled my second sculptural bag “Lush.” This shoulder bag features bright blue butterflies and sunny yellow flowers. Tendrils and leaves complete this bag that looks as though it grew, rather than was made. Both bags have a large glass bead and loop as their closures, and hand sewn linings. I really enjoy the idea of creating items that will be a wearable pieces of art.
See you at the gallery
If you have the chance stop in at HGA this Friday night from 6 to 9 pm. You can see these one-of-a-kind bags, my new sculptures and have the chance to say hello. You can also check out the amazing new work By Chris Graebner, and Susan Hope.
Any regular reader here might predict that my newest works are created utilizing needle felting techniques. My most recent felted wool creations will be featured at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts starting this coming Monday, April 22nd.
April Showers, Art Flowers
“April Showers, Art Flowers” is the title of my upcoming feature show with painter Chris Graebner, and glass artist Susan Hope.
“Rain or Shine” is the first art doll sculpture created for this year’s Featured Artist show. I like to start with a piece that speaks to the title of an upcoming show whenever possible. This sunny little figure popped straight into my head and onto the page of my sketchbook
As you can see, I took a a departure from the almost monochromatic look of many of my paper and book based art dolls. I embraced the vibrant color available in wool roving fiber. The wool allows me to use the same materials for the sculpting, costuming and wigging of the figures.
I have a few surprises for this year’s show, but I’ll save those for next week’s post after the show is installed. For now, here are a couple of other figure pieces heading to HGA on Monday.
Create art that takes you out of your usual display space. This is the challenge we gave ourselves for the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts group themed show, “Other Dimensions”. The initial idea was for 3D artists to create wall hanging art, and 2D artists make pedestal top pieces. However, each artist interprets the challenge in their own way. The results will go up on the walls and pedestals of HGA’s Featured Exhibit room this Thursday. Opening reception for Other Dimensions is this Friday, February 22nd from 6-9pm.
My Other Dimensions
I decided to take this themed show challenge at face value and create some wall hanging art. Currently, I am working on several needle felted art doll pieces for my upcoming featured artist show in April. I shared in earlier posts how much I am enjoying working with this new and versatile medium. The results are two felted “tapestries” that I am calling my “travel photos.”
I took a “slice” out of a couple of photographs from our family’s recent trip to Iceland, and used them as the basis of needle felted hanging relief panels. The result of the first of these is “Travel Photo #1.” I took the original photo for this piece at the first of many waterfalls we encountered. There were several more dramatic falls along our itinerary route, but something about the moody sky and bright wild lupins in the foreground drew me in. The finished hanging is approximately 12″x 22″.
Travel Photo #2 Collaboration
My second “travel photo” is based on an photo by my talented student photographer daughter, Alexcina. Alex’s original image is of an Icelandic horse who appeared to be very aware of just how magnificent he looked with the wind blowing through his mane.
This diminutive hanging is approximately 5.5″x 10″. Both of the “travel photos” are muslin backed and wired for hanging, and you can see them at HGA starting this Thursday.
At the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts (HGA) we start the turn of the calendar year with several special art shows. The North Carolina statewide juried art show, “Resolutions”, is wrapping up. Next, we mount two group themed shows of work from the HGA membership. “It’s All About The Story” is the first of these shows.
“It’s All About The Story” takes advantage of the the notable literary community that exists in Hillsborough. The artists of HGA create art in response to the work of one of the town’s many local authors, and this year we are doing something a bit different. This year’s author is long deceased.
Elizabeth Keckley is best remembered as dressmaker and confidant to Mary Todd Lincoln. Elizabeth was born into slavery, and it was during her teen years in servitude that she lived in Hillsborough as a slave in the Burwell household. The Burwell School historic site has marked the 200th anniversary of Keckley’s birth this past year with a number of events surrounding its most notable former resident. For our inspiration we drew from Elizabeth’s memoir, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. My piece is titled “Fashioned Freedom”.
Looking at Elizabeth
I took a step back from my art doll sculptures for this piece. Mrs. Keckley’s true story required something more than a depiction of a character or envisioning a theme from her book. Her life was one of both subjugation and emancipation, though neither as we typically see them. Elizabeth Keckley eventually purchased her and her son’s freedom, but she later became bound in a different way to Mary Todd Lincoln. I found a sense of irony contained where a woman is labeled as “free” in a society where she was anything but free, and she creates garments for other women that literally incorporate a cage structure.
I based my sculpture on a purple velvet dress that Elizabeth Keckley made for Mrs. Lincoln for the 1861-62 winter social season. This dress was a two piece garment with two different bodices, one for day wear, and the other as an evening gown. I reimagined the evening gown form in copper wire and chain around a miniature soft sculpture dress form I created. My intention was to express visually the contradictions of freedom and bondage I encountered in Elizabeth’s story.
It’s All About The Story will show at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts from February 1-20th. There will be a reading at HGA by William L. Andrews author of Slavery And Class In The American South on Sunday, February 10th from 3-4:30pm
I have been busy keeping up with my inventory of needle felted holiday ornaments the past few weeks, and neglected to share the newest art doll figure sculpture in my collection. Her name is “Eirlys” which is Welsh for “snow drop”. She is my first completely needle felted figure piece.
Eirlys, has been on display in the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts since we hung the holiday show in November.
A New Face
Following the completion of my Aurora Dancing piece, and producing a few dozen animal ornaments you can imagine that I was beginning to make up my mind about working with needle felted wool. It was Eirlys, however, that had cemented my infatuation with the medium. As I have created more and more art doll sculptures I have worked to breath additional expression and personality into each little figure. I was pleased with the increased detail when I switched to paperclay from my original hammered copper faces a couple years ago. Likewise, I love the surface contour control and color mixing I was able to achieve with wool fibers. I love the wistful and magical look she has with the addition of her iridescent black glass bead eyes. I have not worked to have my art doll pieces possess overly natural looking eyes. Sometimes, I have to admit that I find dolls with overly realistic glass type eyes just a bit creepy. Besides, a frost faced snow fairy with blue hair, would just naturally have to have magic eyes that appear to glow from within.
So Put Together
Eirlys is constructed over a wire frame that has been “fleshed out” with quilt batting. Some elements, like large sections of her clothing are first needle felted off the doll. I created the large round portion of her coat/dress skirt, and her snowy wings in this manner, and then felted them in place on the doll. Likewise, for the scrolling blue pattern on her dress I formed the basic shapes and then felted them appliqué style so they could follow the contours of the sculpture’s form. Other parts such as her face were felted/sculpted in place
More to Come
As I alluded to earlier, I really enjoy the results I am achieving sculpting my art doll figures in wool. So much so, I have decided to create all of my pieces for this year’s feature show in April in this manner. I have already completed a piece or two, but you will have to wait a bit to see them. I have to get them ready for early copy deadline images for the show, but then keep most of them under wraps until the show opens. But, don’t worry, I’ll share some of what you can expect to see over the next few months.
I am often asked where I get ideas and inspiration for my art doll figure sculptures. My quick answer is, “anywhere, and everywhere.” Boleyn’s Ghost took her inspiration from a book. I pulled from a Degas painting for Local Star. The genesis of my latest sculpture was travel.
This past summer we had an adventure in Iceland. We chose a “you drive” tour. For eight days we traversed Iceland’s surreal and otherworldly landscape. Mountains, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and icebergs were some of the breathtaking sights we encountered. We also passed what seemed to be a never-ending supply of sheep grazing wherever they pleased.
The beautiful wool products and the inspirational scenery of Iceland percolated in my head following our trip. The result of this marriage is Aurora Dancing.
Aurora Dancing art doll
We visited in the summer, and therefore did not get to experience the northern lights dancing in the night. As a result, my figure’s felted coat employs an imagined interpretation of the aurora borealis over a snowcapped landscape. Aurora is papier mâché and paperclay over a wire armature. I needle felted this art doll’s coat, mittens, boots, and flowIng hood by hand, as well as the cover of the base. I aimed to integrate my material and visual inspiration with the magic of Icelandic lore.
More Needle Felting
Aurora will find that she is just the beginning of a number of art dolls that will have felting techniques incorporated in their construction. Needle felting is like painting with fiber. It provides an opportunity to add another dimension to my sculpture. Needle felted wool lends itself to completely different creations as well. I wrote earlier that I have already created a small herd of Icelandic inspired animal ornaments. Those ornaments will be making their way to the gallery in a couple of weeks as the holiday shopping season begins.
Some may find being home bound for several days as a slow moving hurricane passes very frustrating. I am fortunate enough to currently have power and materials close at hand. This presents an opportunity to sit down to some extended workbench sessions. This time of year part of my attention turns the coming holiday season. In addition to my art doll sculptures, I create handcrafted original ornaments and some extra jewelry for the gallery.
Iceland Inspired Ornaments
Usually, these ornaments reflect what is currently occurring in my sculpture. One influence on the items populating my sketchbook is a recent trip to Iceland. A charming addition to the amazing and other worldly landscape one encounters is sheep everywhere. In response to this, I have planned both art dolls and this season’s ornaments utilizing the technique of needle felting. I am still very much in the design phase, but thought I’d share a couple of works-in-progress images.
Polar Bear Ornament
I snapped both of these quick shots in my studio with my phone. There is one more arctic inspired creature, a reindeer, that I’m designing. I will refine each a bit for production efficiency, and have a selection in the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts starting in mid November.
I was also finishing up a small completely sculpted little figure piece this week. In stead of wigging and costuming as I do with my art dolls, I sculpted minimal clothing and hair from paperclay. I decided to do a bit of experimentation with the surface treatment of this piece. I created a “faux bronze’ finish with the layering of metallic bronze paint and a moss patina glaze.
Seated figure with faux bronze finish
With any luck Hurricane Florence will allow me to get a bit more accomplished today as well.