Bed book peek: North Africa (part 3)

This is the third post about the North African illustration for my new children’s book. To see more, click the links for Part 1 and Part 2 in the series. The scene will be included in My Bed, which 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 HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia. and Iran.
To see a list of all my books, click here.

After constructing the houses with felt, wire and clay beads, and stitching the landscaping, I made this child to sleep on the rooftop terrace. With the exception of the fingers and toes, she is made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. Her bare feet are similar to the hands, but it’s a bit more tricky to make them look natural. (Sorry, the hand and feet technique is proprietary.)

Hair styling with thread brings out their individuality.

Her nightie is made from an old monogrammed hankie that was part of a relative’s trousseaux. I took advantage of its white edging while cutting out pieces of fabric for the garment.

Here she is, settling down for a cool night’s sleep on the roof deck.

I made my first palm tree for this scene, which required some photo research.

The tree trunk texture was fun to replicate with lots of fly stitches. I played around with light and dark colors to give it definition and dimension.

To give the right appearance at the top, just below where the palm fronds fan out, I sewed a clump of glass leaf beads.

And then there was the really fun part, when I got to use variegated silk ribbon thread! It’s one the few new needlework products I actually buy. I really like the selection of straw silk from Silk Road Fibers.

A felt moon appeared from behind the leaves.

and started to shine with the addition of some metallic thread.

So, that’s it for this illustration. I’m working hard to complete the whole book by next winter’s deadline and will be sharing more scenes in the coming months.

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Costuming despots and innocents

If you’ve watched Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, you’ve seen the history lesson near the end with morphing costumes of iconic authoritarian figures through time. Later in this post, I’ll show process photos of some of the costumes. But first, I want to say a little something about the Woods Hole Film Festival, where our film had its film festival premiere last week.

Thank you to all of you who came out to see Liberty and Justice! The sold out crowd sat through over an hour of serious, heavy and powerful short films, in sweltering conditions, before our movie came on. It was an endurance test, for sure! The sense of relief was palpable when the Wee Folk Studio animated logo appeared, with cheering loud enough to drown out the sound effects. Other than showing the movie to friends at our house, we had not yet experienced a live audience’s reaction in a theater setting. As the story unfolded, there were bursts of laughter, even at some of the more subtle jokes. Rob and I whispered to each other, “They got it!”. It was fun to hear giggles and gasps of recognition at the various characters as they played their parts. We came away feeling that the year we spent filming in the basement was worth it and that we are very honored to be a part of such a prestigious film festival right in our home town. My favorite comments were that it was “fun and deliciously weird” and “the darkest cute movie I’ve ever seen.” 

I am also excited to announce that our film received an Audience Award for best animated short at the festival awards party last night. Rob and I almost didn’t go because it was past my bedtime, the music would be too loud, etc. But, I’m glad we pushed past my old lady complaints and went anyway!

And now the costumes. Let’s start with the innocent protagonists, Liberty and Justice, who are modeled after Hansel and Gretel. With a few exceptions like their hands and feet, their bodies are made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

This is the title set, where I animated Liberty dropping bread crumbs (stone cut oatmeal) in the shape of letters. The dolls’ wire armatures help articulate movements with tiny bends and adjustments. Their heads are loose, so they can swivel back and forth on their pipe cleaner necks.

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It was very helpful to refer to the monitor during filming, so I could see the camera view. At 24 frames per second, I moved the figures about a 16th of an inch or less for every shot.

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And now for the despots.  After researching various kings and dictators, I picked ones with clearly identifiable uniforms, mannerisms and ruthless reputations. Researching and making their costumes was a liberating experience, as I confronted and engaged with these iconic strongmen. There’s something satisfying and even subversive about having bad guys cut down to size. We loom large over them, as they are exposed and held captive in miniature scale and for a moment, their power is diminished. I’m sure you can guess who some of these are. Please see the rolling credits at the end of the movie for a list of characters in order of appearance.

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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.

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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.

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Bed book peek – Afghanistan (part 2)

Children, bedding, slippers and an ottoman take center stage in this 2nd part of the series about making an illustration of an a scene set in Afghanistan for my new picture book. To see how the carpet was made, click here for Part 1. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world was written by Rebecca Bond. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

When creating characters, I start with painting faces on bead heads. Based on past experience, I think painting their features is more nuanced and emotive than anything I can achieve with stitches and fabric. It works best to paint a bunch and pick out the ones I like, kind of like an audition. Then I add hair, using the same wig-making technique shown in the new edition of my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures

To check the scale of this slumbering pair, I positioned them on the layout sketch and then the actual rug.

For a miniature quilt, I stitched and embellished a piece of printed blue fabric.

It took awhile sorting through piles and piles of fabric to find some that were not only appropriate and compatible, but also distinctive enough to contrast with the rug.

These green pajamas are made from a silk remnant.

For this coverlet, I gave up on finding a print that I liked and added embroidery to a simple grey and white print.

I made mattresses and pillows and put the children to bed.

Afghanistan (1 of 1)-2It was so fun making these wee slippers to place by the bedside.

There was also some mini upholstery to do, with this little ottoman.

Each of the illustrations has its own patterned strip, which will be used in the book design phase of the project. To keep it rigid and straight, I stitched Soft Flex beading wire along the edge. It feels good to have finished this one and I’m excited to move on to the next scene, which will be from a very different part of the world.

Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: South America, Japan and India.

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.

 

America First lady

For the past 6 months, my husband Rob and I have been making a film starring characters in the Wee Folk Players theater troupe. We’re working in stop-motion animation, where you basically take a series of photos, moving figures and/or objects in between shots, in itsy-bitsy amounts. When the photos are played in sequence at 24 frames per second, it appears like fluid motion. This process has got to be one of the most time-consuming art forms out there. In some ways, it takes the same patience and attention to detail that embroidery work requires, with the added bonus of seeing your creations move!

I’ve wanted to breath life into my figures through animation for a long time, but felt unprepared to take on the task, especially the technical parts. Now, with Rob’s help, I am able to advance my art into a new realm. We are very happy with how it’s coming out and hope to have a 10 minute film some time next spring. It will be a wordless story exploring our current and very unique political environment. At the very end of this post, there’s a peek at our animation stage, with the scene we’re currently filming.

UPDATE: The 13 min. movie can be viewed and readily shared on YouTube here.

I can’t show you much yet, but HAD to share this latest member of the cast, who will have a cameo appearance alongside the leading man. Thread extensions were useful for her tri-colored hair and I had fun with her spiked heels.

After her shoes were sewn in place, she and her sole sister Barbi commiserated about foot ailments.

This is one of the final fittings for her custom made suit.

Here she is, flashing her rock, while waiting to perform.

The animation stage is set up in the basement, with lights and a camera on a slider. The scene bollow is made with real candy, so everything is pretty sticky. To give you an idea of the time involved, we’re currently filming a 10 second shot that totals 240 photographs. There’a a lot of action with many moving parts and I’ve already had to start over 3 times because of bumping props during the process. One could think of it as 6 hours of wasted effort, but every time I redo it, I learn something new and the results are more nuanced. Tomorrow, I will try again, being extra careful to move only the parts that need animating!

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