bed book peek : duck

Let’s start the new year with a duck. It’ll be a spot illustration in my new picture book, MY BED. Each double page spread will have a text panel with a corresponding animal. The duck will appear alongside the scene with a houseboat in Holland, which you can see here.

As with the other animals I’ve made so far (elephant and goldfish, parrot and sheep, rooster, cat), I start with research photos. In this case, I searched for pictures of a classic rubber ducky, with webbed feet. I was so interested in figuring out how to make the feet, that I tackled them first. That turned out to be a mistake because they ended up being too small and out of proportion to the body that came later.

I want to use this duck as an example of how I really work, which is not in a straight line, but here, there and everywhere. My creative process is full of experiments that may or may not end up in the finished piece, but they are essential to getting there.

The second pair of feet (pictured below) are a little bit larger and more neatly defined. It’s not unusual for me to take several tries to get something the way I imagine it. There’s a lot of ripping out and starting over, which is one of the advantages of using thread. For the feet, I devised a kind of weaving stitch that created the webbing between the 3 toes.

The body and wing are made of 2 shades of yellow felt.

The beak was a bit tricky to get to look right and took several attempts. It started with a thread wrapped piece of wire that’s bent into two V shapes for the top and bottom of the beak.

I then stitch the thread wrapped wire onto the head. The round shape of the head is from a wooden bead that is covered with felt, which I forgot to document with a photo. I wasn’t happy with how this beak (below photo) was coming out, so I ripped it out and started over.

I’ve had practice making bird beaks for the Birds of Beebe Woods and the Twitter Bird in my animated film, Liberty and Justice, but it’s like a new experience every time. When faced with a new challenge, I let my hands guide me, trusting that a solution will appear. That’s what keeps it interesting and never boring!

This is the second try at forming the duck’s beak.

After stitching the top and bottom beak in place, I wrapped thread around the wire. I then added a seed bead eye and stitched on the wing.

It looks like I opened up the bottom of the duck’s body to make room for it’s legs. They were the last to stitch in place, with the first pair lingering in the sidelines.

After looking at the duck for a while, I decided that it need more personality. The plain rubber ducky look just wasn’t enough! So I added some details, like the embroidered feather texture and the distinguishing lines on the wings.

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22 thoughts on “bed book peek : duck

  1. I’m so glad you are making these little ones for the text pages! It is so helpful, as well as inspiring, to see your photos of how you work, from the meticulous research and planning through letting your hands take over, seeing what’s not working and experimenting until it does ‘work’ for you, to the Finishing Touches of a master in her craft! And I’m so focussed on the felt and thread that I don’t notice your fingers until PING! I take the size of them in, and am startled by how TINY this little thing is! which then impresses on the mind what fine work you are doing. Stunning, Salley – thank you so much.

    • Thank you Ushashi, you the most attentive fan out there! There are more photos with my fingers showing since I started using a cell phone camera to document what I’m working on. One hand to hold the object and the other to press the button. It does help create a sense of scale, which isn’t always obvious.

  2. Oh, and I loved you bringing in the birds of Beebe Wood to illustrate your beakwork alongside your cute little rubber ducky for tiny children to fall in love with! Same mastery of the medium, different ‘audience’. Those older birds were awe-inspiring – each one so intensely accurate as well as beautifully sewn and embroidered – the finished composition just taking the breath away. I cannot imagine what seeing such work “in person” would feel like … but I do feel I could make your little ones my own way. Maybe 2019 will be when I do!

  3. Over Christmas I stayed with the family whose little girl I made a small Wee Folk girl and a tiny little sister, to help this young madam adjust to having to welcome such an invasion of her Only Child world at the age of 4. She is now almost 7 (the young one 2) and a truly sweetly loving older sister – but I was amazed at the delicacy and loveliness of my own work, not seen for two years! Do you have that experience? one does tend to remember the compromises made that fell short of the initial vision – yet there they are, lasting little bits of utter perfection! And my heart so warmed by seeing that the two tiny figures are not only ‘on display’ in the castle they share with plastic figurines, but are regularly played with by both children! For this I wish to thank you immensely, Salley. Your new Wee Folk book got me back into creating little people again, which stopped after I lost the use of my hands completely (to severe rheumatoid arthritis for two years, and then for decades of taking great care). In the past few years I have been delightedly astonished – and astonishing the experts who maintained such gloomy prognoses – by a steady return to complete recovery. I’d swear that using the hands to do fine work is easily as good for their longterm health, as doing a little too much of it for too long at each sitting might be ‘dangerous’!

    • These little girls will remember the dolls you made for the rest of their lives. It’s wonderful to hear your story of your recovery from arthritis. I often receive messages from people who can no longer do handwork because of pain in their hands. I can’t imagine what a loss that is and luckily have not experienced anything of that kind myself.

  4. My sister, now aged 67, recently sent the whole family photos of the young couple (about 4 or 5 inches tall) I made her so many many many years ago, before even your flower fairies came into the world; this young couple are on display high on her bedroom wall tucked in on a ‘shelf’ just under the eaves – she says they have been in her various bedrooms all her life since I gave them to her. I had no idea! We live thousands of miles apart on opposite sides of the world.

    I somehow think what I make and give will assuredly be lost, discarded, or be worn to a frazzle; I am now 70 and never had any children of my own (if I’d had a few, they too could have gone astray or become worn to a frazzle!). But slow-work-fine-work seems to LAST well, and be surprisingly appreciated over time. So, well worth all the time and care taken.

    Thank you so much for keeping alive in me what I have not made my life’s work, as you have. It has been a source of such quiet pleasure – and now such a joy to encounter unexpectedly!

  5. Sally-
    My heart leaps when I see an email with your name. It’s your process but it expands my creative experience along with you.

    I will be on the East Coast the end of February. Where will your exhibits be on display. Thank you for being generous in sharing your knowledge and examples and being brave to help stretch our minds too

  6. Thank you so much Salley, for the tutorial on making this little duck. I am plotting what decorations to send to Australia for the 2019 xmas tree, and your help is invaluable. I wonder how long my work survives in the hands of my grandchildren there! It is so lovely to know that Ushashi’s work is treasured and looked after.

  7. Hi Salley!
    When you thread-wrap the wire, do you glue it as you go so it won’t just slip off and unravel?
    Also, what type of thread do you use for wrapping?
    As always, thank you for sharing your process! Have a good day!

    • Thanks for asking Kathy. I hardly ever use glue because it’s messy and seems to cause more problems than it solves. The thread is embroidery floss, which is wrapped tightly around the wire and knotted at the end to keep it from unraveling.

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