bed book peek – Russia (part 3)

In this third and last post about the Russian scene in my upcoming picture book, I will show the process of making a traditional cottage or dacha, as well as a felt and wire tree. Previous posts feature other elements of this illustration. Part 1 : the larger house, including the roof and stove bed and Part 2 : the inside furnishings.

My Bed will be a 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 showing other finished illustrations for the book:
South America, Japan and India and Afghanistan.

To get a clearer vision of Russian house styles, I researched dachas, which brought to mind Russian Folk Tales. Their distinctive color combinations, ornate window fames and top-heavy overhanging roofs were fun to replicate.

I added chain stitched snow-cover to the bottom.

After finishing this inside window, I realized that it also also needed some snow. It was tricky working around the wire muntin bar in the center.

I formed the tree skeleton with wire of different gauges and covered the trunk and lower branches with felt. This shows the messy seams on the back.

On the front, I embroidered a bark texture with fly stitches.

Then, I wrapped embroidery floss around the smaller wire branches.

No matter how determined I am, it always seems to take about a month to complete an illustration of this size (9 in. x 14 in.). In this photo, you can see a mat board frame with a green wire stapled across the middle. I use it a a guide throughout the process, so that the size and proportions are correct. The wire marks where the gutter (or fold in the center) will be.

I painted a tiny wooden matryoshka doll that kind of matches a set I made and used as props in my animated film Liberty and Justice.

As with many components in my bas-relief illustrations, the doll and pots sitting on the shelf are made from purchased wooden parts, which I cut in half with a saw before painting them. Instead of gluing them directly onto the background, I glue a small piece of felt to the back of each item and then sew that to the back fabric. Glue is so permanent and I want to be flexible up to the end and able to reposition them, if necessary.

I had fun embellishing a piece of lace for the table cloth and arranging cups and plates made of beads…

and decorating the felt curtain with diagonal slashes of thread.

I hope that you enjoyed this tour behind the scenes. Previous posts feature other elements of this illustration. Part 1 : the larger house, including the roof and stove bed and Part 2 : the inside furnishings.

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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.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

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!

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

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.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

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.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.