Bed book peek: Iran (part 2)

Let’s get back to the illustration that I introduced last week in Bed book peek: Iran (part 1).  I had so much fun choosing fabrics that reflect the design and color palette in Persian Miniatures. Over the years, I’ve amassed enough bits and pieces of cloth that I can usually find something that works, without buying anything new. For storage, I use the ubiquitous plastic boxes, as well as clear zipper bags that bedding and sheets come in. The bags are most handy, because you can glimpse what’s inside without sorting trough the whole lot.

For the rooftop wall, I used tube beads for posts, sewing matching large seed beads to one end.  As you can see, basting helps hold pieces in place until the final stitching. 

Even though the perspective is not realistic, I still had to convey a believable sense of space, with receding and advancing planes.

Every window, door and wall presented an opportunity to embellish and add another set of colors to the mix.

These bead heads are some of the tiniest I’ve painted.

This couple will be looking out the window. The woman’s dress is felt and her head scarf is silk from a collection of triangle shaped remnants I was given at a tie factory 40 years ago. The silk is cut on the bias and every once in a while a snippet is just the right thing to use. I keep thinking that one day I’ll make a silk quilt…

.

In a nod to convention, my first impulse was to make the woman shorter than the man.  I reconsidered and decided to make the woman taller. It’s funny how a little thing like that can feel revolutionary.

For the courtyard tiles, I chain stitched outlines on a warn piece of upholstery fabric.

The courtyard will be surrounded by a wall in the foreground. As an accent, I added parts of an Art Deco necklace from a deceased relative. For me, inherited jewelry holds the most promise of being used and passed on through my artwork.

Please stay tuned for Part 3 in this 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 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistan and Russia.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

Bed Book peek – parrot and sheep

Today, I am excited to share a couple of animals, which will be used as spot illustrations in my new book. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

These little animals bring back memories of the late 70’s, when I made a line of fabric pins. Of course, what I’m making today is much more intricate, but they are similar in size and concept.

This green parrot goes with the South American scene .

After doing photo research and drawing a simple parrot shape, I cut out pieces of felt and began embroidering feathers.

I formed the outline of the parrot’s beak with wire. Its eye is a glass seed bead, set inside a cut out hole.

I wrapped the beak with embroidery floss.

Then I added bird’s feet made of floss wrapped wire.

The sheep will go with the scene set in Afghanistan. In my research, I found pictures of local breeds with particularly long faces and ears.

The sheep’s legs are made with a pipe cleaner, using the same basic technique that used for the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. It’s face is embroidered wool felt, with seed bead eyes.

Luckily, I had some wool yarn of the right natural shade for the fleece. It was fun to make a tangled mess of french knots.

Then, I sewed on it’s ears, hiding the ends on the top with wool yarn. I’ll be sharing more animals (and scenes) as the book progresses. 

Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: AfghanistanSouth 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.

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.

 

Bed Book peek – Afghanistan (part 1)

As soon as we finished filming scenes for our animated film, Liberty and Justice and handed it over to the musicians, I resumed work on my children’s book. It feels strange and wonderful to be engaged with only one project and a non-political one at that! But, it’s also like snuggling into bed and pulling up the covers, knowing that they’ll be yanked off come summer, when the movie is out.

I’m illustrating a story written by Rebecca Bond, which is a tour around the world that focuses on where children sleep. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: South America, Japan and India.

This scene, set in Afghanistan, has a pair of children sleeping on a family made rug, which features prominently in the verse. While researching carpets from the region, a photo of one with birds and trees caught my eye, so I adapted it to fit on the page. I don’t usually use color in my layouts, but in this case, I filled in the sketch with red and blue pencils to see what it looked like. Luckily, My son Ian had given me a gift of yarn he dyed for a class project – blue indigo and red rose madder

Along with the indigo and rose madder dyed yarn, I added other colors of tapestry wool. I chose a piece of dark upholstery fabric for the background, figuring that little bits of fabric would be visible around the stitches and a dark color would show off the colors better than a light fabric. The black and dark red pattern would add a richness and I could draw the rug’s patterns with white chalk, which would fade away with handling. 

I honestly don’t know what one would call this kind of embroidery. It’s just a lot of seed stitches crammed together, making a stipple effect. I wanted to give the impression of a woven rug, without actually using a grid format. Perfectly straight lines would look odd when everything else in the book is a bit wobbly.

This was the perfect project to work on in winter, staying warm in front of the wood stove.

As you can see, I don’t use an embroidery hoop. I usually work with fabric pieces that are too small or thick (like felt) to fit in a hoop, so I don’t even think about using one. I also prefer working with a pliable piece instead of a taught drum. That way you can make the needle go in and out in one stitch, instead of separate down and up moves.

It’s hard to estimate how long it took to stitch the rug, because I worked on it off and on for a month or so, between filming sessions, in waiting rooms and sitting in the passenger seat while traveling. It was closest to filling in a coloring book that I’ve experienced since childhood, but there were times when I couldn’t just follow the pattern and had to adjust the design to fit into the page dimensions.

I love how the unevenly dyed yarn gives a variegated appearance, like you see in authentic rugs.

The best part is the texture of the closely stitched surface, which feels like a real woven carpet. The process of making it was soothing and calming, for sure.

It’s important to keep in mind that this rug is part of an illustration that will have characters and bedding on top of it. Yes, it can be valued alone, as a textile, but that’s not sufficient enough for me. My hunger for a narrative compels me to add other elements. I liken it to the difference between a garment draped on a hanger and that same piece of clothing worn on a person who is alive in the world.

Here, you can see the 3/4 page layout inside the frame. The vertical green wire indicates where the gutter, or page fold will be located. And the two blank areas are sleeping spots for the children, who will be the subject of Part 2.

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.