This is Part 2 in a series of posts about how I made the stitched bas-relief scene set in the West African country of Ghana. The piece will be reproduced in my upcoming picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World.
Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, Japan, India, Afghanistan, Russia, North Africa, North America, Scandinavia and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.
In Part 1, I showed the process of making the house and the small figure in the background. Now, I will concentrate on the house and child in the foreground.
Way back in the beginning, after my sketches were approved by Houghton Mifflin’s editorial team and before I started working on the finished scenes, I made heads of all of the children who would inhabit the pages of the book. I wanted to meet the children before embarking on what I knew would be at least a 2 year commitment. After falling in love with them, it didn’t matter how long it would take to make the places they call home.
Except for the fingers and toes, the children’s bodies are basically made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. I painted their faces on wooden beads and made wigs by gluing on a piece of felt to the crown of the head, which acts as a needle friendly surface to sew on thread hair.
I dressed the Ghanaian boy in cotton shorts and a shirt.
He needed a woven sleeping mat, so I blanket stitched rows of “weaving’ on a piece of felt with variegated pima cotton thread.
To help make it look like the boy is inside the porch, I built a 1/2″ deep box out of balsa wood that I covered with felt. I’ve also used this method in other scenes for the book to create more depth, such as the inside of the house boat in the scene from Holland. It takes advantage of the space inside the stretcher, behind the background fabric. The box is inserted in a hole cut out of the stretched fabric. Objects recede (about 1/2″), as well as protrude (about 3/4′), making the piece more spatially dynamic.
To replicate the stone and mud texture on the house, I appliqued pieces of felt with blanket stitches. For extra structure, the window frame is outlined with wire.
I also chain-stitched spirals to look like stones in the wall and sewed a row of over-lapping bone bead shingles to the roof.
I stitched silk ribbon on felt to create the texture of a straw roof for the porch.
I made a mud and stone wall out of felt to go along the back of the property.
This photo gives an idea of how the box in the porch area recedes.
In future posts, I will show the process of making plants, the shade tree, the bird, and other parts of the scene.
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