I’m of a vintage to be able to remember ‘Save the Whales” as being a thing. I know that the global moratorium on whaling isn’t complete, and doesn’t block all whaling. But, it has allowed many species of whale populations to rebound. Why did I find my self thinking about this the past week or so? It might have some connection to watching my daughter doing some fundraising for Ukrainian refugees at school, and working an internship at a non-profit that deals with poverty issues. It is inspiring to witness empathy and caring. In recalling this rallying cry from youth for people to care about something, I was inspired to bring my own whale to life.
I’m not sure if some would count him as anthropomorphic or not. I do not have this humpback whale doing something overtly human, and he’s certainly not dressed up. However, I find a certain intelligence expressed by most species of cetaceans. My whale seems ready for a conversation. His bright blue eyes sparkle with knowing, and he is propped up on his fins to look the viewer in the eye. A conversation with this humpback might prove quite embued with humanity
Remembering Whales is needle felted wool over wire and batting. HIs upper coloring is a hand blend of grey and blue fibers. Blue glass beads are sewn and felted in place for his eyes. He will be available at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts the last week of May.
It is impossible to filter out all that happens in the world, and just create sculptures that depict cute happy little creatures. So, I’ve responded by creating some cute happy little creatures trying to say or do a bit more. “Helping Sunflower” is the next piece that will be available during my feature show in May. In this sculpture, three woodland creatures are working together to help a sunflower stand tall and straight.
The whole world is now aware of the sunflower as symbol of Ukrainian national identity. We are also painfully conscious of that nation and its people’s need for help right now. I decided to depict that need and hopefully the resulting aid through this piece. My blossom is being aided by a trio of woodland animals.
The raccoon at the base of the sculpture is doing more than holding up the stem of the sunflower. I filled his bottom with a small pouch of glass gems so that he provides ballast to this taller than average sculpture. His construction is needle felted wool over foam, batting and wire. His glass bead eyes are sewn and felted in place, and his whiskers are fishing line knotted in place. The fur is purposely felted in with ends loose to provide a fluffy fur coat and tail.
Mouse Has The Leaves
A field mouse is perched on one leaf while he steadies another. His construction is felted wool over quilt batting. The mouse eyes and whiskers are the same as his raccoon friend.
Robin Provides Sunflower Air Support
At the very top a robin in flight grasps a petal in his beak. The robin was the trickiest element construction wise. I wanted to make sure he appeared to be pulling the flower upward. The wire armature travels up through the petal edge and on into the bird. The wing edges are left purposely loose to give the illusion of movement. The robin features needle felted wool over wire and batting with hand sewn glass bead eyes. The sunflower incorporates recycled chopsticks and wire in its stem, a machine stitched center that provides the illusion of seeds, and individually formed petals.
Next week a new show installs at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. Entitled, Stirrings, the show will feature new work by HGA member artists. For my contribution to the show I thought about the first few anthropomorphic pieces I created. Though I had sculpted animal inspired art dolls before, this was a whole new direction. High Fashion, was one of the first of these creatures, and she has remained one of my personal favorites. Dare to Clash recalls her predecessor. This giraffe is displaying her own unique style.
Perhaps she is over doing it just a bit with the animal prints, but her purple flats are on point. She also seems quite happy with her visor and large hoop earrings. They show off her long slender neck.
“Dare” stands a little over 13 inches high. She has bright glass bead eyes capped off with long black lashes. Her custom footwear is hand sewn from faux leather.
This piece really a represents a labor of love. I fully recall how labor intensive adding all of the giraffe spots to High Fashion was. Now I added leopard spots, and tiger and zebra stripes to mix! Needless to say, she took quite some time.
Dare to ￼Clash will be at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts starting Tuesday, February 22nd. Come and check her out along with all new the “Stirrings”.
This is the latest anthropomorphic offering from my work table. I’ve been fortunate. The holiday creations that I introduced you to over the past few weeks: Powder Bear, Emperor Coco, and the Caroling Mice all have gone on to their forever homes. Seeing as I had some empty pedestal tops in the gallery, I thought another holiday offering was in order. A new mother-child polar bear art doll sculpture is that piece. This work recalls my sculpture, Winter Ride, from last year. That mother and child polar bear pair were enjoying a sleigh ride.
Happily Hauling has the smaller bear perched atop the Christmas tree they are bringing home. The mother bear is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting frame. She has hand sewn glass bead eyes, and a custom harness of bright red chording and steampunk embellishments. The smaller bear is needle felted wool over felted quilt batting. The minature tree is constructed of felted wool over a narrow dowel (chopstick) core.
Rerun From Last Year
Time did not allow me to create a bit of stop motion animation of this sculpture. You may recall, that I produced a couple of these videos last year. You can click here to enjoy Winter Ride in motion again.
Happily Hauling is already available at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. Stop in to see all the art and holiday offerings by the HGA member artists.
I hope your holiday season is cozy, merry, and bright. Now, I must be off to work on more little holiday trees!
Monday morning the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts was buzzing with activity. The artist/owners were busy installing the holiday 2021 version of the Art of Giving show. We completely reinstall the gallery for the holidays. Twinkling lights on white branches appear in our front window with a wide variety of ornaments. Blown glass orbs, ceramic bells, and hand painted miniature paintings are a few examples you will encounter.
I’ve already shared a couple of my new holiday themed pieces. They, along with others are now available in the gallery.
Emperor Cocoa is my newest original sculpture for our holiday 2021 Art of Giving show. This anthropomorphic penguin is holding a mug of steaming hot chocolate. He stands about twelve inches tall. Constructed of needle felted wool roving over a wire and quilt batting frame. The art doll figure stands on his own with help from his tail for balance. He is intended for the holidays, but he can bring cheer all year long.
Other Holiday Offerings
Along with the original art doll sculptures, I also produced some holiday exclusive items. This year I’ve again made Lantern Houses. I created them last year in response to the Hillsborough Solstice Lantern Festival. Each year Hillsborough has a Lantern Walk along the Eno River. Last year’s was altered due to the pandemic. Instead businesses and downtown residences displayed lanterns. I created these little needle felted structures to house an LED light. At night the light shows through the windows and doors, and makes the translucent walls glow. Additionally, I created miniature Christmas trees on natural wood bases this year. These stand between 8 and 12 inches tall. They are accented with hand sewn glass and crystal beads.
I do still have my original design puffin and polar bear ornaments available as well. Stop in at HGA to check them out, and do a little holiday shopping.
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.