Rabbitat – part 2 (topiary)

Continued from Rabbitat – Part 1 (driftwood house)

Back in December, when I started making this new piece, I had no definite plan, but knew that the scene would include topiary of some kind.  I had so much fun using animal shaped topiary in the Molly my sister and I rhyme illustration in Pocketful of Posies that I wanted to make more.

Molly My Sister and I, from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

I thought about animals with distinctive forms that could be identified easily and envisioned a rounded, contained rabbit with ears poking upward. I cut separate parts out of dark green felt and started embroidering branches and leaves. The eyes, nose, mouth and whiskers are wire wrapped with embroidery floss. I also sewed wire along the scalloped outside edge, so that the pieces could be bent and shaped. Two glass leaf beads make the eyes.

The body, head and limbs are all constructed separately and stuffed on the back to raise them up.

While I was working on the  topiary, I decided  that rabbits rather than people would live in the driftwood house and started constructing a rabbit family.

I also decided to turn the scene into a vertical picture and enlarged the dimensions enough to create a yard in front. Since this is not an illustration with size and type placement specifications, I was free to change things around as I went along.

This is how the rabbit topiary looks in the finished piece.

To be continued.

Here are some opportunities to see the original picture:

Rabbitat will be hung in my show at the  Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro, Vermont from July 15, 2011 to March, 2012.

Rabbitat will also appear at this reception before traveling to Vermont:

Woods Hole Public Library, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Sunday, July 10th 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Reception to celebrate the Golden Kite Award for Pocketful of Posies. Original illustrations from the book will be displayed and Salley will give a brief talk. A short film about the making of her newest piece, Rabbitat, will be shown. See the film here.

Rabbitat – part 1 (driftwood house)

After working all winter long, I’ve finally finished Rabbitat! It’s large, compared to my book illustrations, measuring 24″ x 30″ , with a depth of 1 1/2″. I’m waiting for professional photographs of the finished piece, so for now I’ll just show pictures I’ve taken during the process. It’s got lots of parts, which I’ll be showing in several posts. This piece was unlike my book illustrations, which have to meet size and subject specifications and are planned out ahead. I let this project evolve by itself and just followed where it led.

To start, here are some drawings from my sketch book. My first ideas include a vine-covered house, which could be a topiary. A bunny showed up, too.

Then, the house became a structure made of driftwood pieces, with a rabbit topiary outside. I didn’t know who’d be living inside yet.

I combed through all of my driftwood and selected pieces which I could see as a roof and side beams and a doorway.

And carved them in spots, so that they fit together and lay down as flat as possible. I don’t know how the little chair appeared in this picture. Some of you may recognize it from another scene–the Driftwood Clan in my book, Felt Wee Folk.

I drilled holes at the joints and glued wire pins into the holes. That way the parts are held together, but the wire joints keeps the structure flexible. I don’t know if this description is clear, but I essentially use wire in place of dowel pins because I don’t want the joints to break while I’m manipulating and working on the house. I’m always adjusting things until the last-minute, so the joints need to be somewhat bendable.

I decorated the house walls with an embroidered chain-stitched vine pattern on felt. The green mossy patches have lots and lots of french knots.

At this point, I’d decided that rabbits live in the house, so I made a father and son to sit on the bench outside.

I told my husband Rob that I was making a habitat for rabbits and he immediately said, “Oh, it’s a Rabbitat!”

Continued at Rabbitat – part 2 (topiary)

See the Rabbitat film here.

See all of the Rabbitat posts here.

more Rabbitat

For the past 4 months, I’ve been working on Rabbitat, a large (24″ x 30″) fabric relief piece. It started as a simple driftwood house, then I added a rabbit topiary and over time it grew into a lush rabbit habitat. I’m not showing much yet, just peeks now and then, because I want to show it later, when it’s finished. Here are some detailed shots of some rabbit characters.

A team of local filmmakers are gathering material for a short 5 min. film (see film here) about my work and specifically this piece. You can see an earlier post about Rabbitat here.

We want to show a time-lapse of Rabbitat being put together, so filmmaker Daniel Cojanu locked the camera and tripod in place with duct tape. He took a series of photos, one for each bush, tree, rabbit, or felt background piece that I added, until it was all put together.

Here are some parts laid out and ready to be set in place for the time-lapse photo shoot. Now that we’re finished with that, I can sew everything to the stretched upholstery fabric background and Rabbitat will be complete!

We want music in the film, so I asked local musicians Jan, Tom and Lisa to play some traditional Irish and Scottish tunes. We chose bouncy, rabbit-like music for them to play. I’ve known Jan since childhood and she is incredibly talented on the recorder, pennywhistle and concertina.

Elise and Daniel recorded them in my studio and what a treat to hear them play! Making this film has been so much fun and I can’t wait to see what they put together. We’re planning on having the film ready to show this summer at the Woods Hole Public Library. They’ve been kind enough to organize a reception to celebrate my Golden Kite Award for Pocketful of Posies on July 10th, from 5 to 7pm. Original illustrations will be displayed during the event and I’ll give a short talk. I hope that some of you can come. I’ll also figure out a way for everyone to see the film online. Stay tuned!

Rabbitat filming session

There’s been lots of activity in the studio since the valentine pilot gave an aerial tease  of the new piece I’m currently working on. It now has  a name, thanks to my husband Rob, who called it Rabbitat after I told him I was making a habitat for rabbits. This is not an illustration for a book, but a stand alone fabric relief picture. I’m still sewing parts of the scene, like this lilac bush.

I’m also working with some local filmmakers, the husband and wife team of Daniel Cojanu and Elise Hugus. I’ve hired them to make a 3 to 5 minute film about my artwork, with Rabbitat as the subject. Here they are, filming and recording the interview portion in my studio. See the finished film here.

The film will show my process of working, with a voice over of me explaining and describing what I do. It won’t really be a how-to, but more of a glimpse into what I think about art and the creative process. Here I am, setting up a shot with Daniel.

Not everything is sewn in place yet, so we played with the dolls. Here’s Daniel filming one of the rabbit characters.

We had fun twirling the rabbit around on the tripod, while the camera rolled. Daniel and Elise will come back and film some more when I’m finished making Rabitat. I hope to have the film finished in a few months, so I can show it on this blog and when I give presentations about my work. Until, then, I’ll give little glances of Rabbitat, but save the details for when the film is completed and ready to show.