Now that my featured artist show has come down, it is time to turn attention to my holiday show inventory. Beyond more “gift-able” items like my original design needle felted ornaments, I also enjoy creating a few one-of-a-kind seasonally themed sculptures. The first for this year is Powder Bear.
Powder Bear is a ski themed anthropomorphic polar bear figure with a vintage look. This art doll sculpture stands 12 inches tall. He is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting form. I crafted his ski boots and goggles from recycled leather from an old used journal book. His ski’s are glue laminated card stock and patterned paper, and his ski poles are repurposed chopsticks, faux-leather, and metal gear embellishments.
Powder Bear will be soon be available at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. The holiday show installs on November 15th when the OCAG studio tour preview ends. For now, it is time to get back in the studio and finish up Powder Bear’s holiday friends.
Passes Through the Looking Glass One Too Many Times
My work travels through Alice in Wonderland’s looking glass every once in a while. Alice makes a number of appearances, and the White Rabbit showed up once as well. My latest trip through the looking glass appears to have taken a number of trips. “Through the Looking Glass One Too Many Times” is a mashup of several of the Wonderland denizens. Alice, the White Rabbit, the March Hare, The Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, the Cheshire Cat, and Absolem all lend elements to the piece.
The sculpture not only brings together several different characters, but several types of media as well. The rabbit figure is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting frame. Her eyes are iridescent black glass beads, that give the illusion of eyes of many different colors. I created her long eye lashes by fringing black denim, and sewing them in place. Her apron is white cotton and lace with needle felted wool pocket, heart appliqué, and novelty heart button. The “Drink Me” bottle is a compilation of beads with a small paper craft tag. I made Abselom’s hookah from a wooden ball, glass and metal beads, leather chord and metal findings. Her curly Alice locks are dyed wool roving from Susan Hope‘s (HGA artist) sheep.
Take Two, Take Three
Some pieces emerge fully formed in the sketchbook on take one. I create some on the fly with just a concept in mind. Through The Looking Glass was a fully formed concept that I needed to sketch. The first drawing was just too much, and felt forced. My second try also missed the mark. I felt that the figure had to try to accomplish the challenge of combining the figures without getting drowned in costuming. My third sketch served as the basis of this final piece. I hope you’ll agree I found the balance I was looking for.
At The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts in September
Through The Looking Glass One Too Many Times will also make her debut at HGA in September. I will be sure to share when she and all her friends are available.
Perhaps she is sleeping with one eye open? I’m not exactly sure. I started out wanting her to be sleeping, but couldn’t resist the temptation to have her peek at the viewer with one of her bespectacled eyes. Depending on the angle, the cat appears to be either sleeping with one eye open, or winking knowingly.
Like a predecessor named Literary Cat, Journal Cat is a calico. For some reason they strike me as the cat that hangs out in bookshops, libraries, or one’s favorite reading nook. She looks like she would be equally comfortable curled up in your lap as you read as well.
Journal Cat isn’t actively reading or writing, but rather reclining on a fabric covered journal. The journal is no longer operational. The pages and cover have been glued together providing a comfortable base for our feline to rest on. The journal, hand formed “pince nez” specs, and fishline whiskers create a more multimedia piece. The primary media is still needle felted wool. You can view a short video from my last post to see how needle felting works, and how I incorporate it into my sculptures.
As is the case with most of my anthropomorphic figures, Journal Cat expresses her human-like characteristics in minimal fashion. Her bright scarf, glasses, and literary perch tell you what she is about. The viewer is left wondering exactly what this cat’s journal entries would look like. I would suspect a lot of naps among the prose and poetry.
Another Show Reminder
Journal Cat will be at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts‘ September featured artist show, Unmuted, along with all my other new works. The show installs in the gallery on 9/20 and will having its Last Friday reception and will go live online on 9/24.
Did you spend any time in a Zoom or other e-meeting during the last year? If you did, you understand the phrase “unmute yourself.” Unmuted is the title of my upcoming featured artist show in September. The show title is a reference to the recent COVID lockdown. I spent time this week thinking about all the meanings of muted and unmuted while writing my statement for the show. You can mute a voice, mute a color, or mute a message. I try to look all the different interpretations in my pieces for this show. Some are bright and colorful, and some appear to be speaking or singing. Hopefully, one or two have something more to say.
Speaking Seriously and Playfully
My latest piece has something to say about this past year. We lived this last year through what might be referred to as a plague in history books. Looking at historical references we encounter the image of the plague doctor. Accounts place these figures anywhere between physicians and record keepers. Whatever their role, they have a distinct appearance, one that conveys the seriousness of their job. Most often we see a figure wearing a long beaked mask. I decided to go with something a bit different than the expected bird beak. My Plague Doctor is a rhinoceros in a spiked mask.
This anthropomorphic figure is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting armature. I hand stitched his mask and hat from faux leather. His stick staff supports a glass bead lantern and finial of his trade. Additionally, his staff provides a third balance point that allows this art doll sculpture to stand on his own. I also created tiny sandbags within his feet that supply additional stability. Plague Doc has an oxpecker assistant riding on his shoulder.
My intent is the plague doctor juxtaposed with the absurdity of a rhinoceros conveys the seriousness of the past year in a playful manner.
Into the Process
Colleagues and collectors have asked questions about how my sculptures are constructed, especially the needle felting process. I took some work-in-progress images and video clips, and cobbled them together in this short video.
The felting is done with flat surfaced needles that have notches along their edges. As the needle(s) pass through, the wool gets pushed and pulled by those notches. The wool fibers have overlapping scales along their length. The scales catch as wool fibers are drawn across one another. This is what felts the fibers together.
See you in September
Plague Doctor joins the friends I’ve already introduced (and a few you’ve yet to meet) at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts in September. The show also features the art of Ellie Reinhold and Marcy Lansman, and installs in the gallery on September 20th, and goes live on the HGA store site on the 24th. The official show opening is during the Last Friday Art Walk also on the 24th. Mark you calendars, and keep an eye out for additional pieces before then.
Hi reader. I was working on a commission piece. I can’t write about that yet, because it’s a surprise. As a result, you haven’t heard from me in a while. After I put that work to rest, I was able to get into the studio and start working from my sketchbook again. This is now a bit of a crunch. I need to get together the body of work for my featured artist show. I’ve shared a few pieces already that will be in that show, and will continue to do that until the show opens. I’ll save you the full litany of the things aside from creating the art that needs to happen between now and then (photography, editing, inventory, writing statements, social media…) I will just say it is a lot, and get to work.
My newest piece is titled, Roll. She is a young elephant who appears to be having a great time on her trike. She is the latest in a line of art doll figures on bikes that I’ve created.
Roll brought me back into my garage work space for a while. I fabricated her handlebars, and bike frame from heavy gauge copper wire and brass tubing. The bike seat is hand sewn purple faux leather. The wheels are caster parts. The trike’s back deck is a piece of painted wood trim. Once the trike was finished, I knew how big to make the wire armature for the figure.
Roll herself herself is needle felted wool over a quilt batting wrapped wire frame. She has iridescent black glass beads for eyes. I finished this figure off with a small pink bow on her head, and light turquoise colored skirt.
The intention for this piece was to both capture motion, and to be able to provide motion. Yes, the sculpture does actually live up to her name and rolls.
I also wanted to make sure that Roll conveys the joy of her movement. Her bright expression as the wind blows back her trunk and ears says it all.
I’ve mentioned before that I try to imbue my anthropomorphic figures with human traits as simply as as possible. I find it a challenge to make them appear human without merely dressing them up in clothes. My latest piece takes this to the limit. Friendly Debate shows a sparrow couple locked in discussion. Or, are they singing to each other? Perhaps it is a little of both.
I took my inspiration for this piece from a image I found online. The photo showed three house sparrows on a branch. The three birds appeared engaged in a heated debate. I loved the interactions shown, however, I decided to concentrate on just two of the birds. As a result, I created a sculpture that I’m not sure would still classify as an art doll, but it is definitely anthropomorphic. I find that result intriguing.
Friendly Debate is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting armature. I approached the bird’s feet and legs differently with this piece. In the past, I have felted a bird’s feet too, but the result is usually thicker than I like. For these bird’s feet I wrapped the wire with thread. I like the more proportional result. I was able to leave the end of the foot wires exposed, and then glued them into holes I drilled in their perch. The end effect is more realistic looking feet that really appear to grip the stick.
Also for Unmuted
Friendly Debate is also intended for my feature show at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts in September. This piece definitely fits one of the definitions of the word Unmuted… To produce sound again. You can almost hear the two sparrows in their Friendly Debate. Do you hear squawking or something more melodious?
Last time, I introduced you to a new piece, Too Familiar, that you’ll have to wait a bit to see in person. That is the case this time around too. Let me introduce you to Sheltered Harvest.
This little anthropomorphic chipmunk is sheltering his acorn harvest under the umbrella provided by a toadstool cap. His sketch started out a bit differently in my sketchbook, but I’m happy with the changes I made. The rain and the toadstool were not in that original sketch. Their addition turns this sculpture into a complete little story.
Where will Sheltered Harvest be?
Sheltered Harvest will also be sticking around in my studio until my feature show in September. In addition, I also submitted him for the same publication as Too Familiar as he has an autumn harvest vibe. Holding back pieces is as hard for the artist as it is for the viewer. Generally, the last piece completed (assuming you’re happy with how it has turned out) is an artist’s current favorite. Some are even a special favorite. I have to say I feel that way about the charm of this particular sculpture. So, since we have to wait a little longer to enjoy him together, here’s a second view.
Sheltered harvest is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting armature. His eyes are iridescent black glass beads. The acorn features some thread detail on the cap to create texture. The raindrops and the toadstool stem are attached by both felting and careful stitching onto the figure.
Sheltered Harvest will be with Too Familiar and several other new creations I will introduce over the coming months. They all will make their debut at my scheduled featured artist show at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts in September. We all hope you will come and see us then.
“Too Familiar” is the latest creation to exit my work table. Her genesis came from an external source. You may recall my last post, where I described a couple of pieces that weren’t exactly born in my sketch book. This latest sculpture was born on those pages, but in response to some thing I came across.
I saw a posting regarding a new issue of a defunct art publication. The post announced a new issue in the fall, and included a link to info for a call for submissions. They were looking for art dolls that fit either a Halloween or autumnal theme. As my feature show this year is in September, and I was in the midst of sketching ideas, I decided to play with the idea of animals that are known as “familiars”. They are the animal companions of witches and wizards… cats, owls, etc.
Too Familiar Taking Form
I first started my sketch of “Too Familiar” animal as witch, as a cat. The cat just appeared a little too precious to me. So, I refined my idea as an owl. Owls hold mystery and the appearance of wisdom. They are also a symbol of truth which fits in nicely with one of the many interpretations of the title of my September show “Unmuted”… to speak up.
Too Familiar is a barn owl who is busy simmering a potent looking brew of some sort. She holds the viewer in a direct gaze. The owl stands next to a clump of toadstools that look as though they may be part of her potion recipe.
The anthropomorphic art doll sculpture is needle felted wool over a frame of wire and quilt batting. She features glass beed eyes, and Swarovski crystal embellishments on her satchel. Her hat is needle felted wool over a synthetic felt base.
We Have to Wait
As I plan to have this piece in a show that opens at the end of September, you will have to wait a while to see Too Familiar in person, or for her to be available for purchase.
I don’t know about all artists, but I prefer to get in a groove in the studio. I encounter periods where my sculpture seems to flow from one to the next, and though each is unique, there is a connection between them. With luck, these periods precede an upcoming featured artist show, and the result is a cohesive body of new and exciting work in the show.
There are also times where the work comes in from widely varying directions. The last few weeks have been one of these periods. In fact, I would go as far as saying that I didn’t have much of anything to do with the origin of my last few creations. I have instead worked on a couple of commissions, and made a couple of not-for-sale original versions of existing characters.
High Fashion Giraffe Offspring
My anthropomorphic giraffe sculpture from my last feature show, High Fashion, was purchased last year. The owner asked me to create an offspring to accompany her. The finished version sports a pink hair bow, and vintage beaded ID bracelet. The image here is a work-in-progress photo. She will be off to join mom her new home shortly. This commission was fun. It allowed me to revisit a piece I truly love (High Fashion is currently featured on my gallery bio-cards) but look at it in a different way.
This was not the case with another recent commission. One I almost declined. With the exception of my puffin and polar bear ornaments, I prefer to not recreate any of my designs. Though, I will revisit an idea or theme and take a new look at it, I prefer not to simply reproduce something I have already made. To me it lessens the original. I had someone contact me and ask if I make them a new version of a piece that had a red dot (sold) in the gallery. Try as I might with questions about different colors and numbers of items in the piece… The customer was undeterred, and wanted one exactly like the piece they were unavailable to purchase. I’m not exactly sure why, but I did create the piece. In the end it made someone happy, so I guess that’s a positive.
A Real Sculpture Departure
In a real departure for me, I spent a little time making a couple of anime characters. These two pieces were not to be sold, but rather helping out with a club project. Fans might recognize my versions as a needle felted Totoro, and a hand sewn stuffed Pikachu with needle felted embellishments. They were an enjoyable diversion and challenge, as I was going for a definitely handmade while still true to known character aesthetic.
Before anyone asks… Sorry, but no. This was a one time, and not for sale thing.
Back To The drawing Board
Now I guess it is time to take out the sketch book, and see were the next flow of work all take me. At least I hope so.
I’m asking “what now?” because I find myself with a very different schedule this year. Normally, I would have finished helping with our annual juried show and made pieces for our group shows. Then it’s Valentine’s jewelry items, and start pieces for my featured show. For the past two years I had a feature show in April, and had two months to get all my new work complete. This year my show is in September. You would think this space would provide freedom, and it does creatively speaking. The trick is deciding just what to do with the work as each piece is completed. Do I make the new piece I’m excited about available on Etsy, in the gallery, or the gallery online shop? Or, do I hold it back as part of a new body of work I’ll present in my feature show?
I’ve completed two new pieces since my last posting and have no Idea what I’m doing with either Just yet. I’ll just share them both with you and figure it out later.
A baby elephant to be exact. I think we all could use a bit of optimism right about now. This piece is titled Looking Up, and and seems happy with what she sees. “Looking” appears quite pleased with the bright red ballon she’s holding in her trunk.
I sculpted the elephant figure’s body from quilt batting without an internal wire skeleton. There is a wire hidden within her balloon’s string that allows it to hover above her trunk. The elephant sits abut 7 inches high, and the top of the balloon measures just below 13 inches.
A Puffin Is What Now?
I become somewhat done with puffins following the holidays. I crank out quite a few of my puffin ornaments, and am not ready to even think of them again until maybe August. But this puffin figure was just asking to be made. He’s based on a photo I shot when we visited Iceland. One puffin landed quite near, and stood for what seemed an eternity showing off his catch. I created a relief sculpture panel of his photo, but felt he needed to become a fully fleshed figure.
Titled, Proud Fisherman, this anthropomorphic piece captures what we felt the tiny bird was trying to communicate to us. He was so happy with his catch. Proud Fisherman is needle felted wool over a quilt batting and wire frame. His bucket style fishing hat has beaded lures. His glass bead eyes are sewn in place. The hat, large beak, and fish make the proud fisherman a little top heavy, so this piece has a needle felted “rock” sandbag that serves as ballast. This art doll figure stands about 9 inches tall, and has the same comical charm of his real life inspiration.
“What now?” for these two anthropomorphic art doll sculptures? Don’t know, What do you think?