bed book peek – Russia (part 2)

This post picks up where I left off in Part 1 of the series about the scene set in Russia. I’m working on a picture book that will depict a variety of cultures, each with their own style and decorative tradition, from textiles to furniture to architecture.

From the start, I wanted to feature painted furniture in the Khokhloma style, which is like Scandinavian tole painting. After doing some research, I designed a floral and striped pattern for a cabinet.

Lately, I’ve been using chain stitch more than ever to “draw” lines. This felt panel is embroidered with DMC flower thread, which unfortunately has been discontinued. It’s thicker, not as shiny as regular embroidery floss and has a sturdy feel that I find satisfying. I treasure my supply of flower thread and have enough to last a while longer.

Update: Catriona from Dutch Treat Designs contacted me to say, “We still sell DMC Flower Thread. We have available for purchase almost 1/2 of the colors DMC made. DMC discontinued the manufacture of their 180 colors of Flower Thread in 2003. We bought the remaining inventory from a large DMC distributor, and offer those colors here for your convenience to purchase while they last. We don’t have every color, but we have many of them.”

To make frames for the side panels, I cut out pieces of felt and sewed a blanket stitch around the edges.

Wire comes in handy for so many things. In the this case, I used it to create molding along the top edge of the counter top.

The feet are fashioned from tube beads.

I made the table and chairs out of pieces of wood, including small turned balusters that are sold to make doll house stairs.

I painted the chairs red and decorated them with a fine marking pen.

Stay tuned because there’s more to come! Part 3 in the series will show what’s outside of the house.

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Honeydew – Ltd. Edition Fairy

Please meet HONEYDEW, the newest Blossom Fairy! She is 3 3/4″ tall, with crimped blond hair, spiky acorn cap hat, embroidered wool felt tunic and petal skirt. I don’t sell one-of-a-kind dolls, but every once in a while I offer a ltd. edition of 25 dolls similar to the ones in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. You see, I only work on them outside of my studio, while traveling, so there’s no predicting when a set will be finished. This is my way of controlling the urge to make them all the time. As some of you’ve discovered, making wee folk can become addictive! That isn’t such a bad thing, but if I succumbed to the impulse, I would be less inclined to commit to long term projects like our animation Liberty and Justice or the children’s book I’m working on right now. To see previous ltd. editions in the archives, click here. Information about purchasing HONEYDEW is at the end of this post.

When painting their heads, I slide the wooden beads onto a pipe cleaner, so they won’t roll around.

Their felt tunics are small and portable, which makes them easy to work on while traveling. Airplane stewardesses are always curious about them!

Wrapping their pipe cleaner bodies is another portable activity.

I usually dress them in their petticoats at home because it requires room to spread out the petals.

Their wings are sewn onto the back.

HONEYDEW has a different variety of acorn cap than previous fairies. This collection of spiky burr oak caps were sent by a fan in Georgia. Of course, she will be getting a fairy as a thank you gift.

Each fairy will have a signed and numbered tag.

In an effort to be fair to everyone, the sale of 25 HONEYDEW dolls will be announced on this blog, Facebook and Instagram. They will be listed for $75.00 each in my Etsy Shop on Sunday, June 17th at 10 AM, eastern US time. That gives more of you a chance to read about it in advance, so you can plan on being ready to shop. I’m sorry if this hour isn’t convenient for other time zones around the globe, but I can’t figure out how to accommodate everyone. The last edition sold out very quickly, so if you really want one, act fast! Sorry, no reservations ahead of time. The dolls will be sold on a first come first served basis.

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bed book peek – Russia (part 1)

I’m illustrating a picture book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts about other illustrations for the book: South America, Japan and India and Afghanistan.

This scene shows the inside and outside of a house, with a traditional Russian oven as the centerpiece. Besides its use for domestic heating, in winter people slept on top of the oven to keep warm. I was first introduced to this kind of “stove bed” many years ago, when it was depicted in a magical stage set made for a Russian themed Christmas Revels performance at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, MA.

I started with the stove, using wool felt for the bricks and raw silk to convey the bumpy texture of masonry.

For some of the illustrations in this book, I’m returning to some tried and true techniques that I developed way back in the 70’s, when I made fabric pins. To make a film stove shape, I cut out a piece of acid-free mat board and covered it with fabric. As usual, hooks and eyes make size-appropriate hardware.

For roof tiles, I sewed together a string of bone beads that have been in my stash forever.

It isn’t often that I find a use for the lace from the vast supply stored in my attic. Most of the time, white lace comes across as lace. It’s hard to make it appear like something else, unless it’s dyed a color. But in this case, it could work as gingerbread style molding.

I made the head and half of the top portion of a sleeping child.

I created a recessed area for the child to rest on and sewed the stove and rooftop together. It was solid enough to stand on its own.

Stay tuned – more posts about this illustration will be coming!

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Polly – Scotland 2018

In her recent trip to Scotland, Polly walked the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. She fearlessly inserted herself into a battle scene in St. Giles Square and got close and personal with an owl she met along the way.

She went to The Writer’s Museum, which presents the lives of three of the foremost Scottish writers: Robert BurnsWalter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Royal Botanical Garden was a sight to behold.

Then, Polly journeyed west, to the Isle of Islay.

She could have stayed all day at the Islay Woolen Mill, stretching out on the soft scarves…

and climbing piles of caps.

She visited a knight’s grave…

and tried to catch a snail…

and walked the beach, which was scattered with sea weed.

Back on the mainland, she headed to Linlithgow Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots was born.

Polly didn’t really need her Fair Isle vest in Scotland, since the weather was uncharacteristically sunny and warm. She’s back at home now, resting patiently until the next travel opportunity comes up. To see Polly’s complete travel wardrobe and other places she’s been, click here.

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Polly’s Fair Isle vest

Polly just returned from a trip to Scotland, where she wore a new travel outfit. Her vest features the distinctive bright and bold horizontal patterns found in the Fair Isle style. She hopes to eventually make it to the Shetlands, where the knitting technique originated, but this time she went to the Isle of Islay, in the Inner Hebrides. To see Polly’s complete travel wardrobe and other places she’s been, click here.

Before being fitted for her new clothing, Polly removed the previous costume that she’d worn ever since her trip to Ireland last fall. The Irish knit sweater and cap came off easily, with the help of a seam ripper.

She held still, while a new skirt and sleeves were sewn on. Then a vest began to take shape.

It took rows and rows of chain stitch, blanket stitch and fly stitch in different colors…

and then seed bead buttons.

Polly had a wonderful time in Scotland and will be sharing photos from her trip in future posts. Here she is in Edinburgh, climbing the sculpture in St Giles Square.

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bed book peek: elephant and goldfish

Now that our movie LIBERTY and JUSTICE is finished and being entered into film festivals, I’m resuming work on MY BED. It’s a picture book about children’s sleeping places around the world that will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. 

It will be a crunch to get the artwork completed by the deadline, so I’ll have to work even more obsessively than usual, if that’s at all possible! In addition to creating 3/4 spread illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that’ll be spot art, appearing on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

The page set in India will show a little elephant.

To get ideas, I researched traditional decorated elephants from India. After cutting the elephant shape out of grey felt, I embroidered a blanket with cotton floss and metallic thread. I just love the Indian sense of color and pattern!

The trunk has a wire inside to help it curl.

For the eye, I cut a slit in the felt and stitched it like a button hole for the bead to fit inside. Then, I chain stitched a head covering and added a tassel.

To make the legs, I rolled strips of felt into tubular shapes and embroidered toes onto one end.

The wrapped wire tail came last.

The Japanese scene will have a goldfish icon.

Beside all the yellow and orange tones, the fish needed just a hint of glimmer, so I added some metallic thread to its scales.

To see other animals (parrot and sheep) I’ve made for the book, click here.

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Liberty and Justice – the movie!

LIBERTY and JUSTICE: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free

What happens when a pair of lost citizens wander in the deep dark woods in search of a new leader? In this satirical take-off of the traditional folk tale, “Hansel and Gretel, the wordless story follows protagonists Liberty and Justice as they negotiate the challenges of today’s unique political landscape, while being shadowed by a persistent Twitter bird. The 13 min. movie is at the end of this post.

The film features an ensemble of old and new cast members from the Wee Folk Players theater troupe, who formed soon after the 2016 election. Other posts about the Liberty and Justice animation project include “Liberty and Justice” in process, All that Glitters, America First Ladystop-motion in action and Animated Film Logo. In this interview, I reflect on my foray into political satire and describe how speaking out through art has affected my work and life.

After about a year filming in the basement, where our animation stage is set up, my husband Rob Goldsborough and I are thrilled to share the fruits of our labor! It’s the first large joint artistic/technical venture we’ve undertaken in almost 40 years together. We used stop-motion animation to create the narrative, spending countless hours manipulating and photographing the characters and props so that they appear to move on their own when the series of frames is played in fast sequence.

We each had our field of expertise – I made all of the dolls and scenery and did the animating, while Rob contributed his talents in photography, lighting, computers and editing. Rob, a retired engineer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has had a life-long interest in photography and film-making. He and I have wanted to bring my wee folk characters to life through animation for many years – we just needed a compelling reason to jump in.

For a framework, I drew a basic story board that grew and developed over time. Every night at dinner, we discussed ideas for different camera angles and how we were going to film the next shot. What was supposed to be a fun summer adventure, ended up becoming a big part of our lives for a whole year! The more we learned, the more invested we became in the project. Luckily, we are both detail oriented and not very chatty, so spending hours on end in silent concentration, filming what would become 5 to 20 sec. scenes was not a problem. I calculated that at 24 frames per second, our 13 min. 32 sec. animation is made up of almost 20,000 individual photographs. Even though the project was incredibly time consuming, we loved working this way and would like to make more animated films in the future. But right now, I have to get back to working on a new children’s book, which you can see progressing here.

A highlight of the project has been finding and working with the musicians who produced the original score for the movie. Rob and I filmed about 100 silent scenes, knowing all along that music and sound effects would be an integral part of the finished film. Through friends, we were lucky to connect with Matthias and Carlaa local Woods Hole couple who specialize in this kind of work. I mean, what are the chances of us living just a few miles from each other in a small town on Cape Cod?

We are thrilled with what they’ve created for the soundtrack! They took our movie and ran with it, blending together many layers and styles into a carpet of sound that propels the story along, creating the right mood for each scene. Their sound production company, Stellwagen Symphonette, creates evocative instrumental music for radio, film and computer games. Drummer and pianist Matthias Bossi, violinist Carla Kihlsted and guitarist and engineer Jon Evans bring together many years of experience writing, performing and recording music. If you listen to NPR, you’ve heard their music embedded in stories from time to time. Their clients include This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, Atlantic Public Media, Transom.org and Frontline Dispatch. 

We hope you enjoy watching the movie!

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