Happy Hibernation

I thought I’d come out of my blissful hibernation just long enough to show a few pictures of my studio in its current state of messiness (productivity). For some people, winter is to be endured, but I love this time of year, when I can spent hours working on projects, with less distractions. Last winter I spent 4 months working on the Rabbitat piece. See the short film and posts about it here. This winter, I’ve started constructing scenery and characters to use in stop-motion animation, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. My husband, Rob and I are working together on the project and have started experimenting. We’re not ready to show anything or describe the story yet and are still in the early learning stages of the production. The process is incredibly time-consuming and we’ll be happy if we can put together a 2 minute film. I guess I wanted to show that I’m busy working!

Horn Book poster giveaway

The Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine is out, with my illustration on the cover. This issue has many wonderful articles and book reviews, including the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award speeches, which were delivered at the colloquium on Sept. 30th. Subscribers will soon be receiving their copies. You can read my “Pocketful of Posies” speech in the magazine or on the Horn Book website, which includes a close up photo of my hands making a tiny hand. They’ve  also printed a poster that will be given away at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas, TX, Jan. 20-24. So, if you’re a librarian who will be there or know a librarian who’s going, have them pick up a poster at the Horn Book booth. At the end of this post, I’ll announce a Poster Giveaway and also give information about ordering magazines or posters through the mail.

Read on to see the process of making the cover illustration, which I worked on for about 6 weeks this past summer. I first found a twisted vine to use as the central tree and made a sketch with the Horn Book logo and child characters. The original size is about 12″ wide and 18″ high. I drilled holes on the vine where wire branches would go.

To form the branches, I covered wire with felt and embroidered them to match the real vine/tree trunk. This coiled branch has thread-wrapped wire thorns attached.

The Horn Book logo was rendered in wire branches and found objects. For one of the O’s, I sawed the back of a walnut-shell, so that it would lay flat and not stick out too much.  The O in the word Horn is a nest-like acorn cap from an oak tree in Iowa and the B’s spiky acorn caps are from northern California.

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For the background, a solid color looked too plain, so I stitched together scraps of naturally dyed wool felt to make a more interesting field for the action.

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I made a little fairy to fit in the walnut-shell.

I didn’t want the characters to be animals, but children dressed in animal costumes. So, I made every effort to make them look like children by giving them bangs, ponytails, hands and shoes.

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During the process, I changed some of the characters in the original sketch and substituted a boy in a dinosaur costume pulling an acorn cap wheeled wagon full of books.

I printed out the words on acetate, so that I’d be sure to leave enough room at the bottom edge. I then embroidered plants and leaves to the felt background.

This little child/mouse is having red shoes made.

The Horn Book staff suggested I include a reading child, so I made a felt book for the face-painted mouse.

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All of the parts piled up as I worked. It’s a miracle nothing got lost!

It was really fun thinking up costumes to make for these kids. I wanted to create a scene of children immersed in imaginary play and story.

I added a sun to the upper left corner and embroidered a wavy chain-stitched border. Then, I sewed the felt background to a sheet of foam core board, pulling it flat and straight.

Then, I stitched the tree, characters and other props in place, right through the foam core board. After everything was in place, I took it to the photographer, so he could take its picture. After that, I removed it from the foam core board and remounted the felt background and all of the parts on a cloth-covered stretcher. It is now framed behind glass and was recently bought by a collector. It was a joy to work on this project with Lolly Robinson at the Horn Book Magazine! Having my illustration on the cover will be a great opportunity for many people to discover my work for the first time.

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UPDATE: Obviously the poster giveaway is past and I’m not sure if the Horn Book has any more posters.

OK, so here’s the scoop on the (signed) Poster Giveaway: Please leave a comment on this post (international, too) by midnight, Friday, January 6th, 2012 and a winner will be picked at random.

Magazine Orders: To special order the January/February issue of the Horn Book Magazine, go here.

Poster Orders: Please call Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-325-9558 ext 7942 (US only),  614-873-7942, Monday-Friday, 9:00 to 5:00 EST or write  info@hbook.com .  They accept MasterCard and Visa.  Or send your check or money order (made out to Horn Book Inc.) to Customer Service, 7858 Industrial Parkway, Plain City OH 43064. Be sure to specify which poster you want.
Price: $7 (includes shipping and handling) within the US, $10 outside the US

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Close-ups (winter solstice)

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.

Salley, age 8

They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.

detail from “One Misty, Moisty Morning” in “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!

detail from “Little Jack Horner” in “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.

detail of balsam pillow in “Felt Wee Folk” 2003

And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

detail from “Little Jack Horner” in “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Autographed copies of Pocketful of Posies are available from my Esty Shop.

Rabbitat – part 6 (rabbit characters)

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Originally, I was going to make human characters living in the drift wood house, but I kept imagining long ears sticking up from their heads, so they changed into a rabbit family. Hence the name Rabbitat (see film here). The mother and father dolls are about 4 inches tall and made with a bendable pipe-cleaner armature. The heads are made from wooden beads covered with wool felt. There’s a seam down the front of the face, under the embroidered nose.

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As soon as I added front teeth, they lost their bland cuteness and took on personality, or should I say rabbitality?

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Maybe I just identified with them more, having been a buck toothed child.

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The faces are embroidered, with glass bead eyes.

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The ears have fine wire sewn around the outside edge, so they can be bent expressively.

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The baby carriage is made from this wire, which is covered with a bark-like natural material I found at a florist supply business. The wheels are acorn caps with holes drilled in the center.

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I embroidered a carrot motif on the clothing.

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And let’s not forget the biggest character of all — the rabbit topiary.

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To see more posts in this series and to view the Rabbitat film click here.

Rabbitat – part 5 (garden gate)

I added the garden gate about half way through the process of making Rabbitat. Since I changed the design from vertical to horizontal, I needed something in the lower right to balance the rabbit topiary on the left. I also wanted to create  a transition from the foreground to the background and make an an entrance into the rabbit world.

I selected some driftwood and carved joints into the pieces. I then drilled holes in the joints and glued the pieces together with wire in the holes for reinforcement.

On a jig saw, I cut out a wooden rabbit shape to put on top of the gate.

I wanted bars in the gate, so I bent some 32 gauge cloth-covered wire and wrapped it with embroidery floss.

Then I had to figure out what to use for hinges and a latch. I got out my collection of little metal do-dads, but wasn’t satisfied with how they looked. Shiny metal didn’t seem to fit in the rabbit’s world. I ended up using clay tube beads for the hinges and wrapped wire for the latch.

I worked around the gate for many weeks, sewing the tree and constructing parts of the scene’s landscape.

I created a felt stone pathway leading to the gate, with french knot moss. Thinking ahead, I stitched my initials into the design on the right hand corner.

To see more posts in this series and to view the Rabbitat film click here.

Rabbitat – part 3 (title animation)

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Now that summer activities have slowed down, I can get back to writing about the making of Rabbitat.  This post will show the letters that I made for the film’s title animation. See  the completed film  here.  I was originally just going to spell out the word Rabbitat in found objects. Then the filmmaker (Daniel Cojanu) and I decide to try our hand at some spot action animation.

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I formed the letters with driftwood, adding embroidered felt vegetation to complete the shapes. One “B” features a roving, rounded vine made of felt covered wire. The thorns are thread wrapped wire.

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And a “T” is crossed with thread wrapped wire branches laden with felt leaves and bead berries.

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I found just the right beach stone for the other “B” and used a green mushroom, which is a florist product, for the rounded top of the “R”. For the filming we used a solid black felt background.

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We started with the word Rabbitat spelled out and then moved each piece about a 1/4 inch for each shot.

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Every piece had its own path to follow, so the 2 of us had to keep track of several objects at once. Instead of trying to construct the letters from a pile of objects, we deconstructed the word and then reversed the order of  the hundreds of photographs, so it looks like we built it in the film.

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When we were ready to shoot, I bought some vegetables to include; a carrot, a parsnip and a peapod.  It took us many hours to move and photograph the letters for what would become a 15 second title sequence. After working side by side for most of a day, moving little objects a tiny distance at a time, Daniel and I weren’t frustrated at all. We said to each other,”That was fun!”.

The next post in this series will be about my animated stitched signature from the Rabbitat title. For other posts in the Rabbitat series click here.

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wedding banner: Andrew & Mary

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I made this wedding banner for my son Peter to give to his good college friend Andrew, who was married last Saturday. The wedding was in Biddeford Pool, Maine and since the couple met sailing there, I gave the banner a nautical/seaside flavor.

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I wrote out their names in doubled up 32 gauge florist wire, since I ran out of thicker stuff. Then I picked out some variegated embroidery floss to wrap the letters.

I added 2 purchased red ribbon roses and then stitched some leaves around them.

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The had a whole bunch of shells with holes that came from a necklace my grandmother got in Hawaii about 50 years ago. The blue piece of felt is edged with metallic thread, which is nasty to sew with, but the sparkle looks good.

The felt banner is hung from a piece of driftwood, which was probably part of an old wooden lobster pot.

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I found some anchor buttons and a fish in my stash to add and some more shells to hang from the scalloped edged bottom. Best wishes to Andrew and Mary!

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See posts about making other wedding banners here.

wedding banner: Sky & Daniel

It’s wedding season once again. For a gift, I like to give the bride and groom a felt banner with their names and the wedding date. Sky is an old family friend and we’re off to her wedding tomorrow. I’m sure that the day will be as unique and wonderful as she is!

There’s a lot of showing and no telling in this post. I’ve explained more about how I wrap the letters, etc. in earlier post about other wedding banners I’ve done. See the banners for Karen & Graham and Leigh & Brendan .

Closeups (barns)

Houses are my favorites, but I also love to add barns my scenes. This first one is a detail from Picking Peas, which I made in 1986. I  used the sewing machine to applique the door and window, but hand embroidered leaves along the ribbon tree branches. See the full fabric relief picture on this post.

detail from "Picking Peas" 1986

These barns are on the title page of the first edition of Mary Had a Little Lamb from 1995. At this point, I sewed everything by hand and no longer used a sewing machine. The “snow” is an old linen table-cloth.

detail from "Mary Had a Little Lamb" 1995

Jump ahead 9 years to this illustration from the 2006 board book, Jack and Jill. I’m using wool felt, so the look is softer and more fuzzy.

detail from “Jack and Jill” 2006

The last two barns are from Pocketful of PosiesThe roof is a piece of bark and the door is driftwood.

detail from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

This barn from the Mary Had a Little Lamb rhyme makes use of hook and eye parts. The lamb is about 1/2″ long.

detail from Pocketful of Posies" 2010