One of the fun and challenging parts about illustrating for children is showing emotion and action, especially in fiber art, which tends to be static. To counter-act the stiff blandness, I like to bring forth emotion by exaggerating the poses and facial expressions of my characters. But there’s a fine line between evoking believable feeling and creating a grotesque appearance, much like the difference between acting well and over acting. I’ve seen some doll faces that are downright scary and bizarre. My goal is to portray emotion with a subtle firmness, without being too disturbing.
Nursery Rhymes are full of emotional and physical activity, so I had lots of opportunities to experiment with poses and facial expressions in my book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Here are a selection of close-ups from the book.
Do you want to see the original embroidered illustrations from the book? There are still several locations scheduled for the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit, which has been touring the country since 2010.
A few weeks ago, I posted this picture of my hand painted with henna on this blog and my Facebook page. The photo was taken at the opening of The Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods exhibit. Questions were asked about the garment I’m wearing, so here are more pictures of “that brocade peplum bodice”. I made it in the mid 2000’s to wear at the Fairie Festival in Pennsylvania. Rob and I would tow a trailer loaded with a canvas tent, all kinds of odd pieces of wood, display racks, tables, cloths and garlands. The crowd at this event was a perfect match for my fairy kits and cards, as well as my books and we really enjoyed being a part of the festival scene.
It was quite a job setting up the tent and arched doorway. We went for a few years and then I stopped making the kits in order to have time to work on my book, Pocketful of Posies.
The bodice is made from a heavy brocade fabric and the lining is striped seersucker. For embellishment, I embroidered a wavy chain stitch and added red soutache braid by hand to the black piping. I hand stitched the artificial leaves around the neck and machine sewed leaves to the tabs or piccadils. I can’t remember where the metal rings came from, but they worked well for the laced up red cord in front. Don’t ask how it holds up in the laundry, because, as was common in the olden days, I’ve never washed it.
If you want to make one yourself, the pattern is the Easy Peasant Bodice – front laced sold by The Farthingale.
Working in miniature, there are many objects available for wheels; buttons, washers, snaps, key rings, etc. This series of images are mostly from my earlier work, starting with a detail from a piece I made in 1986. The wire bicycle is less than 2 inches long. Looking at these, I’m amazed that I had time to do all of the stitching because I had a baby and a preschooler to take care of. I remember working every evening after they went to bed.
The button wheels in this detail (below) from “Fall”, 1987, are about 1/2″ in diameter.
Skip ahead 10 years for this detail from the Sidewalks poem in my 1997 book, “You and Me: Poems of Friendship“. The car hub-caps are fancy coat buttons and the tires are made from black insulated wire. The stroller wheels are 1/2″ buttons.
Here’s a detail from “The Hollyhock Wall”, 1999. The car hub-caps are made from regular sized snaps.
The bicycle wheels in this detail from “You and Me” are made from the smallest key rings I could find, about 1/2″. The bicycle spokes are metallic thread and the helmets are painted acorn caps.
This is another detail from the same Fast Friends illustration in “You and Me”. That’s my husband Rob in the truck.
16 years later and I’m still making ice cream trucks. This 2″ embroidered one is from a baby quilt I’m in the process of making for a friend. Stay tuned for more quilt images!
Poster – Birds of Beebe Woods
To mark the one year anniversary of my Etsy Shop, I will be giving away 2 Birds of Beebe Woods posters. Because of the cost of postage, the contest is just open to US and Canadian residents. To enter, please leave a comment saying something about your favorite bird from the piece by April 21st, 2013. Two winners will be picked at random on April 22nd.
I love all of your stories about why you’ve chosen a particular bird. Keep ‘em coming!
The original Birds of Beebe Woods is currently in the Fantastic Fibers show at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, KY.
Print – Humankind
I’ve recently added two new archival prints to my Etsy shop. I enjoyed researching lesser known inspirational quotes to go with my artwork. The first image surrounds T.S. Eliot’s remark with an array of fantasy characters from my how-to book Felt Wee Folk. The milkweed fairy below was originally used in the background of Felt Wee Folk’s title page and is now the focus of Emerson’s wise words. The watermarks will NOT appear on the prints. I’m am slowly adding identifying watermarks to my digital images on this blog. Aesthetically, I don’t like it, but with my images being shared all over the internet, I have to do what I can to protect my work from becoming just an anonymous picture with no trace of origin.
print – Adopt the pace
Today is the Spring Equinox! Let’s celebrate the coming of warmth and the promise of the growing season. Here are some spring-inspired closeups of my artwork, starting with a house and tree, which I guess is from the first grade. Skip 50 years, to a group of details from some nursery rhyme illustrations in Pocketful of Posies. If you have the book, you can look carefully and pick them out.
The Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit is currently on display until May 5, 2013 at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon, Illinois. The collection of 50 original embroidered illustrations from the book are divided into two groups of 25. One group is at Cedarhurst in Illinois and the other group is at this moment being trucked across the entire width of America to Fresno, CA.
I’ve heard from some people who are planning to see the Cedarhurst exhibit and go see my piece, Birds of Beebe Woods in the Fantastic Fibers show in Paducah, KY, which is an hour an a half away. If you’re in the mid-west, these are the places to see my originals.
The other 25 illustrations will be shown at the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno from March 18 – May 27, 2013. All are invited to the opening reception on Friday, March 22 at 6:00 pm. Rob and I will be traveling to California for the event and I will be giving a talk at 7:00 pm. I’ll be at Petunia’s Place, also in Fresno, Saturday, March 23rd from 11:00 – 1:00. I hope to meet some of you!
Jennifer Sarver, the curator at Cedarhurst, just send these photos of the gallery. Since I wasn’t able to go to the opening, I love seeing pictures of people pointing and scrutinizing the artwork. Look at the group of three young artsy looking types in the first photo. I imagine that they’re looking at a copy of my book, but they could very well be looking at a cell phone!