Ashley Wolff @ Kettle Cove

RISD classmate and the talented and prolific children’s book illustrator Ashley Wolff came to visit last week. It was a beautiful day, so we decided to take the boat over to Kettle Cove on Naushon Island. After we rowed our dingy ashore, Ashley strolled the beach with her border collie Tula. We made a funny face with the stuff Ashley collected. There’s always art to be made!

My husband Rob and Tula sat in the shade of the umbrella and Ashley painted …

this scene of our lobster boat Mary Lou and the Tabor Boy, which comes from across Buzzards Bay in Marion. A whole pack of Tabor Academy students swam ashore from the ship.

Ashley did this wonderful watercolor in her sketchbook in about 15 minutes. We had a great day! Read the post about her visit last year here.

Close-ups (chairs)

It’s been a while since I’ve shown some closeups, so here’s one about chairs. See the archived posts from the Close-ups Series here.

I use chairs as perches for my little dolls. The trick is making the chairs in shallow relief, so that they don’t stick out too far in my pictures. The first photo shows a girl sitting on a chair made from milled wooden pieces that are used in doll house miniatures.

detail from "The Storyteller" 1998

detail from “The Storyteller” 1998

George’s chair is made with old worn upholstery fabric. The chair’s feet are sculpted with Fimo. Read about and see more pictures from “The Storyteller” and “George’s Chair” in another post here.

georgechairLresWM

Detail from “George’s Chair” mid 90’s

Mary’s mother sits knitting in this detail from Mary Had a Little Lamb. I only had to show a board in the back and one chair leg to achieve her pose.

MHALLchairLresWM

These little women from The Hollyhock Wall are about 1 1/4″ tall, so their chairs are tiny. They were made of wire wrapped with grey embroidery floss.

HHWchairsWM

The yellow high chair is made from miniature doll house wooden parts. It’s in the kitchen scene in my picture book In the Heart. I was able to get some copies when it went out of print, so I’m offering autographed books for a good price in my Etsy shop.

detail from picture book “In the Heart” 2001

Here are a couple of details from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. The girl is sitting in a wicker chair made with floral cloth wire.

mollychairLresWM

Detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Scallop shells serve as a hat and chair back for this character in “Posies”.

Detail from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

Detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Wedding Banner: Kat & Devin

Last Sunday, we had the pleasure of attending Kat and Devin’s wedding.The bride’s family and my family have been closely connected through several generations. Kat’s grandparents and my grandparents were next door neighbors in Woods Hole in the 1940’s and our families have shared our love of folk dancing, folk music, sailing, and art ever since. Kat is an artist and her husband seems to be a free spirit. Here’s a picture of the dancing wedding couple.

As usual,  I made them a wedding banner for a gift. I really lucked out with the felt  colors I chose, since the wedding’s predominant color was purple/lavender.  I bent wire into the letters of their names and then picked out some decorative objects and beads. The pinkish square object in the center, between their names is a cool leather button I bought years ago.

I then wrapped the wire letters with embroidery floss and stitched the square wavy edged name panel with variegated pima cotton.

I sewed the wire letters and objects to the felt piece.

Then I stitched around the outside edge of the felt  banner piece and sewed the square panel in place. I added some fun “dalmatian” stone beads in a zig zag pattern.

I added some bead  and shell embellishments to the scalloped bottom edge and sewed the wrapped wire wedding date to the felt.

I picked some metal beads from India that I thought would bring an interesting texture to the hanging part of the banner.

A section of a strangled bittersweet vine serves as a hanger. I screwed in tiny metal eyes and hung the banner. I hope Kat and Devin like the banner. It was a lovely wedding and I wish the bride and groom many years of happiness!

Baby Banner (Eliza Jane)

eliza9WM

My cousin John and his wife Mariana had a baby girl on March 1st, so I had to drop everything and make a baby banner for Eliza Jane. I took photos along the way, which give an idea of my process. It’s like the wedding banners I’ve been making for a few years. You can see all of them here.

I first made a simple pattern, with her name, birth date and weight written out. Then I cut out a smaller felt square and bent wire to form the letters and numbers.

I wrapped the wire with 2 strands of variegated embroidery floss, hiding the knots behind the curled ends. In this case, wire had to overlap to make the Z. I tried making the fancier lower case script Z, but it was hard to read, so I went with the simpler zigzag style. Below you can see how I made an orange stripe with another thread on top of the embroidery floss in JANE.

eliza3WM

I like using variegated thread to edge the felt.

eliza4WM

I made a narrow panel for a sheep button and some leaf beads.

eliza5WM

Glass leaf beads and a chain stitched vine fill the space between the words.

eliza6WM

I’ve had this ceramic sheep button for about 30 years. It’s so satisfying to put it to use in just the right place.

eliza7WM

eliza8WM

I braided some Greek leather that I bought at a bead show and made a strap to hang the banner. Working with the leather reminded me of making gimp projects at camp. Remember gimp? What a weird material!

eliza11WM

eliza10WM

eliza12WM

Welcome to the world Eliza Jane!

eliza13WM

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.

hornbookCWM

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.

hornbookDWM

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.

hornbookHWM

hornbookGWM

 

 

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.

hornbookOWM

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.

hornbookQWM

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

hornbookcoverWM

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.