Polly’s packed and ready

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Polly’s going on another adventure tomorrow! It took the better part of a week for her to figure out what to wear on this trip. She’ll only have one outfit, so it has to work for everything. Polly looked through her clothes from Antarctica, Ireland, California, China Town (San Francisco) and Cuba, but they were not right for this trip.

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Polly decided to get something new that was a little more practical and nautical; a simple blue skirt and striped top. An acorn cap beret fits nicely on top of her head, too. Among other things, she’ll be helping navigate a barge along the Canal du Midi in southern France. There will be so much to share when she returns in a couple of weeks!Pollyhousefrancedetail

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“Picking Peas” repair job

"Picking Peas" fabric relief 1986

“Picking Peas” fabric relief 1986

Do you ever think about how your creations will hold up in the future? Recently, I learned a lesson in the importance of using quality, archival materials. Back in 1986, when I made “Picking Peas”, I didn’t think about those kind of things. I used wire that was the right thickness and was not concerned about what kind of metal it was. It’s my style to use materials I find around, instead of buying everything new. Over the years, using found materials has helped me explore new ways of working. Odd pieces of this and that have pushed me to make bolder design decisions that I would otherwise have made if I just used thread and cloth. But, I learned that if you want your artwork to last beyond a few years or even a generation, you should be more careful about what kind of materials you use.

This summer, I borrowed the “Picking Peas” for my show at Falmouth Museums on the Green. When I picked it up from its owner, I noticed that some pea vines were an orange brown color instead of green. The owner hadn’t noticed the change, but I could see that rust had reared its insidious head! It didn’t help that the piece had been hanging for almost 30 years in a house right on the ocean, with salt air flowing through every open window.

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It was clear that something had to be done before the corrosion spread further and parts started crumbling apart. I promised the owner that after the show was over, I would fix the damage before it was returned. This is my first experience with textile conservation, so I proceeded slowly and cautiously.  I worked on one section at a time, peeling the pea fence, one side at a time and removing the rusted wire vines. I decided to take the dry approach, and vacuumed away any fine particles.  Luckily, the background was made of dark upholstery fabric, which held up pretty well and camouflaged the stains a bit.

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I remade the vines, this time using copper jewelry wire and wrapped them with embroidery floss. I did my best to cover the rust stains.

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I added the glass peas and plastic leaf beads to the vines.

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This is how it looked after everything was put back together. You can hardy see the rust stains, which blend in with the brown background fabric. “Picking Peas” is now back with its owner, hanging just around the corner from a beautiful view of Vineyard Sound.

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Hither and Yon travels 99 miles

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Earlier this week, we tied Hither and Yon onto the truck and drove 99 miles northwest to its next location in Harvard, MA. To make sure it made the trip in one piece, I wrapped the more delicate, dangling parts with fabric and duct tape. Linda Hoffman, Old Frog Pond Farm’s owner and exhibit coordinator had selected a tree to install my piece. It was at the beginning of a fork in the wooded path, making a natural spot to entice people to walk in the direction of Hither and Yon.

Linda took Rob and me around her amazing property, which includes acres of lovely lily pad ponds, orchards and woods. Her annual sculpture walk at Old Frog Pond Farm was the inspiration for this summer’s Portals and Passageways exhibit at Highfield Hall in Falmouth. Linda and I both had pieces in the show and met at the opening in June. That’s when she asked if I’d like to be a part of her event this fall. I told her that I’d love to and offered Hither and Yon, if the schedule worked out.  Well, it couldn’t have worked out better. We took it down one day and installed it in its new location the next day. Despite being outside all summer, the piece is in very good shape. You can see a video about the making of Hither and Yon here.

I encourage everyone in the Boston area to make the trip out to beau-colic Harvard (the town, not the college) to see this show! I hope to meet some of you at the Opening Artist Reception on the 21st.

Around the Pond and Through the Woods ~ Sculpture Walk at Old Frog Pond Farm, Harvard, MA. Opening Artist Reception, Sept. 21, 2014, 1- 5 pm. (I’ll be there!), Open weekends, 1 – 5 pm until Oct. 5.

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Closeups: leaves

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With autumn quickly approaching and the leaves close to falling from the trees, I thought I’d put together a group of leaf closeups. These images are all details from Pocketful of Posies illustrations. If you already have the book, you can have some fun picking out which pages they come from. The first image is about life size, but the others are blown up so you can see the stitching better. And yes, it’s all hand done. I’ve also got a leaf theme going on my Facebook page this month.

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Wedding dolls: Max and Beth

 

max-bethblogWMMy friend Terry’s son Max got married a few weeks ago. Over the years, Terry and I have worked together on so many fun projects, including these: wedding cake, baby quilt and community quilt. So, Terry and I conspired to make a special surprise for the wedding couple.

I couldn’t wait to make little Max and Beth dolls for the wedding cake. Max and Beth met when they both worked as engineers at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. Since they helped design parts for NASA’s Mars Rover, it became their obvious prop. Terry found a set of Lego directions for making “Curiosity” and enlisted the help of Max’s cousin to put it together.

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Beth’s dress was one of those strapless jobs. Way before the wedding, Terry sent me a photo of the gown, so I could replicate it in miniature. The biggest challenge was to make a smooth transition between the doll’s felt torso and floss wrapped arms. Usually sleeves or shoulder straps provide a break that hide any raw ends. You can see a couple of stitches on the top, where I fastened the top in place. I don’t know how real life women can wear this style, without the help of magic! In this close-up, her felt chest looks a bit fuzzy, hairy even. But that’s wool felt for you! Fortunately, it’s not so noticeable on the 4″ doll size.

I’m glad that Max insisted on wearing a blue blazer and khakis, which gave the wedding a relaxed Cape Cod feel. They both looked spiffy!

Before we go any further, I want to mention that my upcoming how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures ( March 2015) will have many examples of wedding cake toppers for you to make. You can see other wedding dolls I’ve made here.

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maxbethdolls2Terry was originally going to make a Mars cake for the rehearsal dinner, but decided to simplify things by constructing a non-edible “Mars” stand from an inverted bowl covered with fondant. It was tricky to get the color right and she ended up using beet powder, cinnamon and cocoa. Terry rolled out the colored fondant and made impressions with a celestial patterned sheet of plastic and a rolling-pin, both with raised texture. She then spread the dough over the inverted stainless steel bowl. At the dinner, Max and Beth were totally surprised to see their likenesses lounging on the rover. The pair of dolls also made an appearance atop the wedding cake the next day.

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mars2Both the rehearsal dinner and wedding were lovely events. Congratulations, Max and Beth!

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walk around Edgartown

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The island of Martha’s Vineyard is just a few miles off the coast of Woods Hole, but it seems far away, like a separate, insular territory. People are often surprised by its size, 30 miles long, with a half-dozen towns. We like to drive our motor boat over at least once a summer. This time we went to Edgartown, which usually has moorings available for a few hours and the added bonus of a public launch service that takes you to and from your boat in the harbor.

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Each town on the island has its own character, from pastoral to gritty. Edgartown is sort of upscale touristy, with lots of high-end shops and manicured properties. It’s pretty, but almost too well-kept up to feel real.  Edgartown5

We watched the car ferry make its way across the narrow channel to Chappaquiddick Island. Imagine having to travel this way every time you want to go to the main island.

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That’s Chappaquiddick, where the ferry docks on the other side.

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There are bicycles everywhere! Car traffic is bad, so traveling by bike is preferred. It was a beautiful day and we had a nice time before getting back to our boat and heading home across the water. I hope that you enjoy this little photo tour of our visit!

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Antieau Gallery in Edgartown

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Earlier this summer, I found out that fabric artist Chris Roberts-Antieau opened a pop-up gallery in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. Having her work so close presented an opportunity as well as the motivation to make trip. My goal was to get there before they close Oct 13th. So a couple of weeks ago, Rob and I picked an absolutely beautiful day to drive our boat across the sound to Edgartown harbor. We easily found the gallery on a quiet side street, not far from the bustling tourist shops.

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I first saw Chris’s work a few years ago at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. I was immediately attracted to her style and design sense, not to mention her use of fabric.

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We talked with the lovely woman who’s managing the gallery for the summer, while Chris spends time in her Michigan studio. I can hardly believe how prolific Chris is, keeping the walls here and in New Orleans full of art. We learned that she has the help of assistants, who cut out many of the fabric pieces. Chris picks out the fabric and does the sewing machine finish work, though.

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I love her sense of humor and the storytelling quality of her pieces. Her work defies categorization and I can see that she’s benefited from going out on her own and not necessarily trying to fit into the art (or craft) world, quilt world or fiber art world. I also get the idea that she’s focused on creating her own vision and presenting it to the world. Now, that’s inspiring!

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