Bed Book Peek: North America (part 3)

In this Part 3, I will describe making all the miscellaneous elements in the children’s bedroom. Part 1 was about the little girl and her bed and Part 2 showed the baby, the crib and the dog.

The scene will be included in My Bed, 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 HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: 
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran.
To see a list of all my books, click here

Besides making the figures, my favorite part of creating an illustration is filling the artwork with elements that help develop the characters and tell their story. Most of the spreads in this book show the children’s environment both inside and out. In this one, the wholly interior scene was an opportunity to indulge my passion for miniatures, from the wall paper to the lampshade. Making objects in relief is a lot different than rendering mini replicas of furniture for a doll house, though. Since the maximum depth I have to work with is 1 inch, everything is pretty flat and is made to look more sculptural than it really is.

The lampshade is embroidered felt, with wire stitched to the top and bottom rims for structure. I added dangling seed beads to give it some personality. As you can see, the shade is just half a circle, with the flat back sewn to the wall. The lamp is a miniature turned wooden pot that I sawed in half and painted.

Even the kid’s drawings on the wall are embroidered on felt. Chain stitching is my go-to method for forming lines.

This is the first time I’ve made a basket with silk ribbon. In the past, I’ve woven them with thread wrapped wire, like the egg basket in Pocketful of Posies. Like the lampshade, it’s made in relief (about 1/2″), with a flat back. I really like the silk ribbon made by Silk Road Fibers. I used it other scenes for this book, including the palm fronds in North Africa.

I made blocks to fill the toy basket by coloring square wooden beads with different colored magic markers. It’s important to find parts with holes, so you can sew them in place. Just like with painting doll heads, I strung them on a pipe cleaner for support.

Then, I sewed the basket to the background fabric.

Through the window, you can see a thread wrapped tree branch. It’s inside a balsa wood box that I sewed in back, behind the background fabric. I’ve used this method in other scenes where I want to show receding depth. It’s a way to make use of the hidden space inside the stretcher.

This little toy car reminded me of the pins I used to make.

I may have reached my mini limit with this purple bear.

I hope you enjoyed taking an inside look at making this scene for My Bed.
Part 1 is about the little girl and her bed and Part 2 shows the baby, the crib and the dog.

I am happy to announce that the original illustrations for the book will tour the country after the book is published in the fall of 2020. The Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit and other venues will follow. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a traveling exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than looking at reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. You can help bring the show to a place near you by reaching out to your local venues and telling them about this opportunity. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country! 

To keep up with new posts, please 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 – North America (part 2)

In part 1, we were introduced to this little girl in her cozy bed and quilt. In this part 2, I will describe how I made her baby sibling sleeping in a crib and her pet dog lying on a rug. Part 3 will come next, with photos of all the miscellaneous elements in the bedroom.

The scene will be included in My Bed, 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 HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

I am happy to announce that the original illustrations for the book will tour the country after the book is published in the fall of 2020. The Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit and other venues will follow. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a traveling exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than looking at reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. You can help bring the show to a place near you by reaching out to your local venues and telling them about this opportunity. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country! 

When making the baby’s head, I was faced with the dilemma of how to deal with the bead hole on top. Normally, when making a doll from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, the hole is covered with hair or a hat. But in this case I wanted to paint on the hair. So, I glued a small scrap of black felt inside the whole, which blended in with the painted bead surface.

I must say that it felt strange to lay the baby face up, instead of on their stomach, which is what I did in the 80’s with my kids. But, that’s what you’re supposed to do now for their safety. This is just one example of the kind of things that come up when you illustrate a children’s book.

The head, foot and bottom of the crib are made of wood, but the sides are formed with wire, wrapped in embroidery floss. I love using wire for detailed touches because it’s cooperative and strong at the same time. I’d say, when you can’t figure out how to get something to hold its shape, use wire. I use non tarnish beading wire in a variety of gauges and Soft Flex wire for straight lines or wide curves.

I made a black and white mobile-like contraption from beads and wire to hang over the crib. Have you noticed the black and white products for newborns? The reason is that that the sharp contrast of black and white is easier for them to see when their vision is still blurry. So much for pastels.

Now, let’s look at the dog making process. If you follow the other posts about animals for the book, you’ll see that I use pipe cleaners to form their basic shapes. I wrapped the dog’s legs with wool tapestry yarn, so the color and texture would blend with its wool felt body.

For my illustrations, I make all of the parts in shallow relief – characters, animals, furniture, architecture, foliage and everything. After the parts are made separately, they are arranged and sewn to a background fabric. For photographic and framing purposes, nothing should stick up more than an inch from the surface. With that in mind, this dog was made to lay flat on a rug. It didn’t have to be able to stand up or have its back viewed.

I then covered the legs and formed the body and tail with felt.

Looking at this photo, it’s hard to see how the dog’s head was attached to the rest of the body. There is a seam at the neck, but I smoothed the felt fibers a bit with a needle, to cover the stitching. The finishing touch was a stitched fur texture on its body and ears.

Then I stitched a circular felt rug for the dog to sleep on.

After the dog was sewn in place, I added a knotted rope chewy toy, made with beads and perle cotton. Please stay tuned for part 3, which will conclude the series and show all of the miscellaneous elements in the bedroom.

To keep up with new posts, please 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: North America (part 1)

This illustration features a little girl and her doll, tucked in and cozy under a quilt. She’s looking at a book in bed, in her bedroom, someplace in North America. The scene will be included in My Bed, 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 HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

I’m steadily making progress on the book, with the intention of meeting the deadline in a few months. This kind of work can’t be sped up and just takes the time it takes, kind of like children growing up. It’s important that my art have a handmade quality that shows that a real human being labored over it. If I can’t be in my studio, I stitch during every possible moment – in the car (in the passenger seat) and while waiting for appointments. Of course, I sleep, cook dinner, go to exercise class and occasionally pay attention to my husband. Winter is speeding by too fast, but then I’ve come to the age where it seems like my life is going by in a blur. There’s no such thing as boredom.

The quilt is embroidered with pastel colored cotton flower thread on wool felt. I chain stitched the squares from the outside in, around and around, like a Greek key pattern.

I’ve been using the chain stitch a lot in this book, as a way to fill in areas. After the squares were finished, I noticed that they needed more definition, so I outlined them with a darker purple and rose color.

I made the girl’s body out of pipe cleaners and her head from a wooden bead, using the same basic doll-making techniques that are in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

Her doll has the tiniest wood bead head that I could find.

The book she’s holding is felt, edged with blanket stitch and wire to give it form. Otherwise it would be too floppy. I built the bed’s head and foot board of wood, gluing the parts together.

Her room has furnishings, too, such as this chest of drawers.

And there’s wall paper, which I decorated by stitching a vertical leafy vine on gold striped upholstery fabric.

This is the first in a 3 part series about making the scene. There are many more elements to show, which you can get a glimpse of in the photo below. Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for the book. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication in the fall of 2020. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a touring exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than seeing reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country!

To keep up with new posts, please 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 : 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.

To keep up with new posts, please 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

small things around the studio

smallthings

I wrote this post 2 years ago and don’t know why it stayed in the drafts folder all that time. It was clearly written during a period of procrastination or when there was a gap in my work schedule, because it mentions cleaning my studio, which rarely happens. Right now, I’m engrossed in the process of working on a new children’s book, which you can follow here. It’s a calming break from earlier this fall when my Liberty and Justice exhibit caused a ruckus because of its political satire. So, let’s take a little detour and visit some small things around my studio!

But first an UPDATE on last week’s offer of special discontinued cards. Even though they sold out quickly, there are other designs available, like this 8 card sampler of wee folk babies and fairies.

— While cleaning up my studio, I came across the elephant pictured above. Her name is Savi and she is the main character in The Way Home, my first book. This attempt at an elephant wasn’t up to my standards (I think the bumpy trunk bothered me), so she never made it into an illustration. She’s been hanging out in my studio for 25 years. I took her picture and posted it on Instagram and Facebook.

Since then, I’ve found more small things to photograph and post. I’m holding some of them, so you can see the scale in relation to my hand. There’s Humpty Dumpty, 1 inch wee folk characters, a house and leaves that were used as spot illustrations in Pocketful of Posies. There’s a chipping sparrow that wasn’t included in the finished Birds of Beebe Woods. And at the end is a yellow telephone I made while in art school over 40 years ago.

To keep up with new posts, please 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

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Bed Book peek – Holland (part 3)

This is the third and final post about making a book illustration with a houseboat on a canal in Holland. To see other posts about this scene, go to Part 1 and Part 2.

Eventually, all of the sewn originals will be photographed and printed in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world. Each spread will depict a child in a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: 
AfghanistanRussiaNorth AfricaSouth AmericaIndia
Japan and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

For the stone dock, I sewed felt rectangles in place with blanket stitch, interspersed with flat polished stone beads. There needed to be something to tie the boat line to, so I looked through my collection of miscellaneous old metal objects and picked an appropriately weathered looking one with a hole. How was that attached, you may wonder? I glued a piece of felt on the back of the metal piece and then sewed it to the dock.

Since glue is permanent and I like flexibility, I glue felt to the back of the object, instead of directly to the background. That way, you can play around and adjust things until the last minute. The glued on felt provides something to catch the thread when you do sew it in place. And it’s always possible to rip it out and try a new position.

The architecture in Amsterdam is a colorful array of tall narrow buildings with interesting roof treatments.

I embroidered blanket stitch with flower thread around the outside of the felt windows and a door. DMC flower thread is no longer available, but Dutch Treat Designs  has some of the discontinued thread  in stock. 

From the images I found, the stepped roof style looked the most distinctively Dutch. I like the way its zigzagged shape stands out against the blue sky. The research photos made me want to visit Amsterdam!

For door hardware, I sifted through old hooks and eyes, until I found a matching pair of the tiniest eyes. A generous admirer recently gave me a box full of them – what a treasure! 

Tube beads worked as architectural details above the windows.

And how can you make a scene set in Holland without a bicycle? 

The bicycle frame is wire, the wheels are betel nut beads, the handlebars are an eye (from hook and eye) and the seat and gears are metal snap parts. In the photo below, you can see what it looks like in the back, with wire and thread holding everything in place.

I found a cord that looked like a well used dock line and fed it through the hole in the metal part on the canal wall.  Then the houseboat could be tied up safely.

I hope that you enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes at making the illustration with a houseboat on a canal in Holland. To see other posts about this scene, go to Part 1 and Part 2

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum will be hosting the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for MY BED: Where Children Sleep Around the World. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the fall of 2020. Like the traveling show for Pocketful of Posies, I hope to schedule other exhibits, so that more people can see the “real thing”. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the illustrations make their way across the whole country!

To keep up with new posts, please 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: Holland (part 2)

Back for another peek behind the scenes at making an illustration with a house boat set in Holland. To see Part 1, click here. It will be included in My Bed, 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 HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia, North Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

In the research photos of house boats, it seemed that practically every example showed potted plants on deck. So, I constructed little “terracotta” containers  of felt and made flowering plants with beads, felt and wire.

Wrapping wire with a single strand of embroidery floss is tedious work, but a satisfying process for those of us who are detail obsessed. The leaves also have wire around the outside edge, which makes it easier to position and arrange the plant in the end.

These glass leaf beads have spent years packed away in bags and boxes, waiting for a chance to be useful.

They were the perfect size and color for a hanging plant resting on the house boat roof.

And what house boat doesn’t have a cat? I made a felt hood to put over its wooden bead head, kind of like a Halloween costume with ears. I added wire along the outside edges of the ears to make them extra pointy and firm. Sometime felt is too soft and floppy and needs a little cartilage to hold its shape.

The body frame is made with thread wrapped pipe cleaners, just like the legs and arms in the human dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

After adding a felt body, I sewed the cat to the deck at the bow of the house boat, where it keeps a lookout.

Please stay tuned, because there’s more to come in Part 3. To see Part 1, click here.

To keep up with new posts, please 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