Celeste’s class visits Highfield

Last week, Celeste’s 3rd grade class from Mullen Hall School came to see my artwork at Highfield Hall in Falmouth.  She and her Mom, Deb, have shared photos of some felt dolls that they saw in Istanbul last summer in an earlier post here. I’ve just received word that Highfield will host the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit again near the tail end of its three-year tour in Sept./Oct. of 2013. Also, for those who live close by and haven’t yet seen the show, it’s up an extra day, Mon., Nov. 1st from 10 to 4pm. I’ll be going in on Tuesday to pack up the pictures and then driving them up to the Danforth Museum in Framingham later this week. The good news is that they’ve decided to hang the whole show, instead of half, which was the original plan!

Celeste and her Mom, Deb at Highfield
The class arrived with their teacher, Miss Paltze, and several parent chaperones. Deb had them sit on the floor, while she explained how they would be going on a scavenger hunt.
 Deb is a teacher’s dream of a parent volunteer. Not only did she come up with the idea, but she made all of the laminated treasure cards. She made color copies of illustrations from the book and cut out different characters and objects from the rhyme scenes for the children to find.
scavenger hunt cards

 The children traveled from one room to the next in small groups, searching for and identifying items on their cards. I answered questions as they looked closely at the artwork and found surprises.

It was great fun and we all had a good time! The children even brought in found objects from home to give to me as a thank you gift. Thanks to Deb for making the event so memorable!

thank you gift of found objects

On Halloween

There’s a poem by Aileen Fisher about Halloween in my 1997 book, You and Me: Poems of Friendship (see on my books page).

We mask our faces/and wear strange hats/and moan like witches/and screech like cats/and jump like goblins/and thump like elves/and almost manage to scare ourselves.

The book is long out of print, but used copies can be found on the internet. For the On Halloween illustration, I made a double page spread with children in costumes, holding trick or treating bags.

illustration from "You and Me:Poems of Friendship"

It’s pretty shocking to see the difference between the book’s printed illustration and the original 4×5 transparency below. The night sky is dyed velveteen, with the moon remaining white with the aid of painted hot wax. The poem’s title is hand embroidered in white on the dark blue velveteen. I don’t know why the brilliant blue didn’t reproduce on the printed page, or why I didn’t kick and scream about it.  At the time, I wasn’t even disappointed and recognized the limitations of translating my artwork into a printed book. Maybe it’s because of experiences like this, that I can appreciate how well the photos appear in my new book, Pocketful of Posies. The production team at Houghton Mifflin really did an excellent job!

On Halloween from "You and Me: Poems of Friendship"

This sketch shows how different the final piece turned out. Originally, I had a Dad with a large group of costumed children approaching a porch.

sketch for Halloween illustration

I simplified the scene by taking out the Dad and reducing the number of trick or treaters.

An owl was added and the house was put in the distance with a lit window. The pumpkin is made of felt, with embroidered features in yellow.

I stitched a bark texture of embroidered dots and dashes to the silk tree trunk.  All of the branches are made from thread wrapped wire. The background fabric is dyed with a spray bottle. See other fabric dyed this way in a blog post about my Noah’s Ark piece. I hope you all have a fun Halloween!

Woods Hole houses

Over the summer, I took these pictures of some of my favorite houses and rose bushes in Woods Hole. I’ve been riding my bike around these streets for 50 years, but am looking at the same sights with a new eye through my camera.  

Albatros St., Woods Hole

For the most part, the village has charming, modest sized houses on small lots. Many were originally built as summer cottages. With water on 3 sides, growth has long reached full capacity. Values are high and properties are kept in the family, rarely going on the market.

Albatros St., Woods Hole

Does this sound too much like a real estate ad? I just want to give an overview of the neighborhood. So far, the trend toward McMansions has been held at bay!

Buzzards Bay Ave., Woods Hole

Quissett Ave., Woods Hole

Pocketful of Borders: Bow, wow, wow

Last summer, in the rush to finish making borders for the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit, I forgot to take pictures while I was working on the border for this illustration. It’s for the rhymes, Diddlety, diddlety, dumpty, the cat ran up the plum tree… and Bow, wow, wow! Whose dog art thou? Original artwork from my book  Pocketful of Posies will be on display until Oct 31st at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, Mass. and then the show will open on Nov. 13th at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Mass. See future locations here.

illustration from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Here are some early layouts of the page, showing the progression of the design. Originally, there were three children, with the Diddlety rhyme positioned in upper left corner. I incorporated an island to make the tree and characters grounded, instead of floating around in  red space.  The mound was also big enough  to hold the Bow, wow, wow rhyme.    

Time went by, maybe a year or more before I started working on this page. I looked at the design with new eyes and was unhappy with the type placement.   So, I redid the layout, enlarged the tree and repositioned the Diddlety rhyme on top.                                       


The tree was inspired by some wrought iron gates I saw, with graceful interwoven branches. I added bead leaves and glass pear-shaped beads. Here are some details of the finished border.

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Bike Path: Porcelain-berry

All along the bike path is porcelain-berry, one of the most beautiful invasive vines in our area. The plant’s berries come in shades of blue not normally found in plant life. They look like hard candy or gum balls that turn tongues blue.

The Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA) Alien Plant Working Group has labeled it LEAST WANTED.


Originally from Northeast Asia, porcelain-berry was cultivated in the US around the 1870s as a bedding and landscape plant.

The PCA says, “The same characteristics that make porcelain-berry a desirable plant for the garden — its colorful berries, pest resistance, and tolerance of adverse conditions — are responsible for its presence in the United States as an undesirable invader.”

I was inspired to make this pair of fairies to match the berry colors.

Shona & Amy’s Wedding Cake

Shona and Amy’s wedding was as wonderfully unique, warm and loving as they are.  My friend Terry and I made their cake as a gift and they graciously left the details to us. We have worked together on many projects, including the Woods Hole Village Quilt. For the cake, we were free to create our own vision of our friends and decided to feature our local corner of southern Cape Cod. On Friday, Terry and I got together at her house to work on the decorations. The cake was going to have a raspberry filling, so Terry needed to cut the large cake sheets in half. Using a setup her husband Keith devised for the purpose, she sliced the cake with a saw rigged with a banjo wire.

I busied myself cutting parts out of fondant, while Terry spread the filling and spread the frosting.  I combed a wavy texture with a pointy toothed triangular tool. Then, I sprinkled blue shimmer dust on the waves through a fine strainer.

Woods Hole and the Elizabeth Islands were made of fondant and covered with green shimmer dust.  I spelled out Buzzard’s Bay and Vineyard Sound, using cute little cookie cutters. I also made the wedding couple’s house out of marzipan.

We positioned the boat and dolls heading southwest along the chain of Elizabeth Islands  in Buzzard’s Bay

Terry piped the cake edges with frosting and we started to add decorations. I had made a fondant banner with the wedding date 2 days ahead and it had dried enough to crack in places, so we had to do some patching.

Terry had found these worm shaped candies, which we used to make a wavy border pattern on the lower tier.

Terry fixed the banner, while I added candy fish, lobsters and octopi. This project was becoming more fun by the minute!

We made a candy stone wall along the base of the cake.

And added some walnut-shell sailing dinghies and another candy wall. Beeswax holds the masts on place.

Here’s the sea gull’s view.

And yesterday, Shona and Amy saw their cake for the first time. What a special day!

Wedding Cake figures

My friends, Shona and Amy are tying the knot this Saturday. Their wedding is looking to be more of a do-it-yourself type than the formulaic extravaganzas I’ve been to lately.  Their’s will be much looser, with lots of friends helping out, which reminds me of 30 years ago, when my husband and I got married.  My friend Terry and I volunteered to make their wedding cake. Terry has already baked the cake and she and I will be spending friday working on the decorations. We’ve been planning this cake for months and I’ll try to remember to take pictures as we add the personal touches. I just finished making Shona and Amy dolls to fit a toy boat, which will be on the cake.

To start, I found a wooden toy boat of the right size and type at Bella Luna Toys. I then made two 3 1/2 inch tall pipe cleaner doll forms, the same way as explained in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

This is what the dolls look like undressed. I wrapped some cotton batting around their middle sections and sewed small beads for breasts, which show that these are women, not girls. Just adding stuffing doesn’t look natural and the beads appear more true to life when they are clothed. I started using beads for breasts a few years ago, when I made my self-portrait, because I wanted to show maturing over time. See my piece, Self-Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion here.

Then, I dressed them in clothing that I thought fit their style and personality.

Now that the dolls had heads, they needed a trip to the hairdresser. I put glue on the top and sides of the bead heads and then draped felt over, using pins to keep the felt in place while it dried. I started devising this wig making technique when I made all of those dolls for my Self-Portrait.

After the glue dried, I cut the felt in the back to conform to the round head and glued the felt to the back. Pins hold the felt in place while it dries. I felt like giving the dolls little fashion magazines to read like women in salons, who sit and wait with curlers or foil origami on their heads.

I sewed the seams together and blanket stitched around the felt edges, using flower thread, which is thicker than embroidery floss. DMC discontinued making flower thread, which is too bad, because it’s great stuff. I still have some of this golden wheat color that worked for both Amy and Shona’s hair.

Shona has curls, so I twisted the thread around the needle and pulled it through, like loose french knots. I really felt like a hairdresser then.

Amy’s doll had straight hair.

I made a flag with their names that would fly above the dolls on the boat. Wire along the flag’s edge helps keep its shape.

I painted the boat and sewed the finished dolls to tiny screw eyes on the cabin. Amy loves to fish, so I made her a fishing rod and attached a bead fish.

Shona, who is a bit of a show-off, is ready at the bow, holding on to the flag pole. I’ll let you know how the launching goes.