Sunday, 30 March 2014

Dolls Coming Together

There's nothing nicer than when what you see in your head starts coming together in your hands. All the worries and niggles falling finally into place to make what you wanted it to be. And for once my doll is starting to look exactly as I first saw her in in my imagination.

I've spent this week dividing my time between sculpting, sanding and painting a custom order doll and working on my Storyteller in the gaps while things dry. And now she's really starting to look like herself.

I've added embroidery and tiny beads to the applique motif for the front of my Storytellers skirts, building up the design with a mustard colour chain stitch and a mix of silver lined and burgundy red beads. And I'm planning some sort of trim for the edge or the over-layer.

I'm trying to decide between a hand crochet edge, embroidery or more applique. But I think I'll use a mix of the crochet and applique so I can make her look as rich as possible. I want to keep her looking as if she's spent a long time making her clothes herself. I don't want anything too fussy or regal, but as a skilled travelled lady I'm sure she has learnt many skills throughout her life.

It took me a while to get used to crochet with such a small hook and fine thread, but I managed to get her shawl finished this week too.
Blocking something in my size has always been really hard so was something I always ignored. So of course I ended up with wobbly wonky edges and uneven stitches. Now I've made something so small I wanted to do things properly. So once I'd attached the fringe I stretched and pinned the shawl to a cork board and sprayed it all with water until it was damp evenly. I was so happy to see that once it dried it looked to neat and even. It's not like something I've crocheted anymore it's so tidy. And my Storyteller looks really pretty with it draped around her shoulders.

I'm now working on attaching her underskirt and finishing up her quilt, which I'm decorating with the same embroidery as her skirts.
I'm hoping I'll be able to work on her more next week if I get any time between work at the day job and working on my custom Siouxsie Banshee doll. I'm really in love with the silk I've used for her gown and will have to see if I can find any more of it anywhere. It's just so pretty with such a mix of colours and a wonderful texture.

Siouxsie is now ready to be strung together and start getting her clothes now that I'm sure that the varnish is completely dry. T get the right look I had to work on getting her blush quite harsh and red, just as they wore it in the eighties. And looking closely at the photos I have I could see she had three little dots painted on each cheekbone.

Making Siouxsie a kimono is going to be really interesting, and I'm hoping I can get the cut and fall of it just right. I guess it's time to break out Google and get some research done :)


Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Story Teller & New Sculpts

My Sundays tend to follow the same pattern, and it's a good one. Once up it's either chores like ironing (hate it), tidying up, bit's of cleaning, changing the bed etc., or we head out to a car boot sale to rummage for lovely vintage things for Hubby's shop and bits I can use for my doll. After that it's a bite to eat and maybe a walk in the woods before I start on my dolly work; taking photos, catching up on my e-mail and writing here for my blog. In the afternoons once everything is ready we all pile up on the sofa, under a blanket if it's cold, to cuddle kitties and watch a film while I sew. And I wouldn't change a thing :)

Today is no different, and now it's almost time to relax and cuddle (Meanna is already at my side leaning warmly against my leg while I type) I'm looking forward to getting back to work on my Storyteller :)

After a few weeks of not getting much done, or so it felt, this week has been amazing. I've designed a applique pattern for my Storyteller's gown and a quilt she can sit on based on the beautiful shapes found in my Mucha print. And got them transferred to paper pattern pieces, attached to fabric, and now mostly sewn. Once all the pieces are attached I'm going to add embroidery and beading to finish the designs and add richness and detail. And I'm thinking that I may need to add something more around her skirt hems to tie everything together.

 I've also sculpted a whole new batch of dolls, 8 medium and 8 small ones, and all are now drying with their arms and legs pinned to racks on top of my living room radiator. Unfortunately I ran out of clay before the small ones got their bodies, but I have a good selection of Medium ones for Caron to choose her Siouxsie Banshee from for me to dress :)
I think I may have even found someone who'll be able to write in Japanese on the white lawn fabric I have for Siouxsie's kimono to make it as close as possible to the original outfit which has made me really excited to see this doll come together.

I like to leave them to dry for around 4 to 5 days to make absolutely sure they are totally dry before I start to sand and smooth them ready for painting. So by the middle of this week coming I'll be spending my nights covered in clay dust and paint which I always love. It's just a shame it always takes so long :)

One other little thing I've started is a shawl for my Storyteller from fine burgundy red wool and a miniature hook, and it feels good to be crocheting again. Years ago I'd make myself winter wooly things and bits and pieces to decorate things I was making, but I had never joined it with my doll making by making it in miniature. It's taken some practise and will take a while more before I pick up my speed to what it is on bigger work, but after finding some beautiful thin wools at a local dollhouse shop I thought I'd give it a go.

I still have a long way to go on this doll but I'm really looking forward to seeing her finished. I hope you like how she's coming together too xxx

Monday, 17 March 2014

When Art Work Goes Slowly

These days I feel things are taking much to long to get done. I spend many hours on making my pieces, but sometimes I just feel it's all to little. Especially when my day job gets busy and leaves me drained when I get home.

I pick up me needle or pencil just as I always do just after dinner, but by the end of the night I haven't got as much done as I wanted to. So now is the time to sort this out before I grind to a total halt. It's time to clear my mind, take a little time to make some solid plans, and get myself back to creating as I want to. After all, if I don't do something creative each day I know I'll go mad :S

This has always been one of my favourite prints of Mucha's work. I love the colours and movement he's managed to create inside the confining circular shape. The amount of detail when you look at it closely is amazing. And it includes so many distinctive shapes and styles that I associate with his work that I can look at it for hours.

The ladies gentle far away look always makes me think that she's imagining far off things she can't see with her eyes. As if she can see into the future and the past and far far away. I chose this as the inspiration for a Storyteller doll. And as I fight with my own slowness these last few weeks I feel I've neglected my character, so I'm determined now to focus on what she will become.

I want my doll to have the richness of my Mucha print, and somehow include the wistfulness and detail of it too. I'm not making a copy of what the lady wears or the jewellery in her hair. But I know my doll will have the style of the original. She'll be a part of the aesthetic design values held by many of my favourite artists and will be carefully hand made with the best quality materials I can find for her.

So far my Storyteller has a half finished gown that has been layered and shaped to create an arching hem to her skirts and a bell like shape. I embroidered her petticoat in the hopes I could have them seen in her finished costume, but looking at her now I think she needs a panel of the same marbled silk in the arch so that her skirts have the shape they have now without the lightness of the under-layer breaking up the overall look.

I know she'll have a cloak or cape when she's done. And I'm planning a headpiece for her hair with jewels and pearls entwined in a pretty Juliet style cap.
I want to bring in more of the highly valued handmade skills that another of my favourite artists held very dear as well. William Morris brought back the importance and highlighted the quality of the handmade traditional crafts with his designs. And I want to add details to my doll that can show this with applique and embroidery on my dolls gown and cloak. She needs the weight of this kind of look. She needs to look warm and comfortable, rich but still homespun in a way that suggests she's used her own hands to make what she wears. I'm hoping I'll be able to make her a miniature quilt and cushion that she can sit upon as she looks off into the firelight and she's the things that no one else can.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Story Telling & Embroidery

This week I've received some wonderful parcels, all containing fabrics and pretty things I've been waiting on for my Storyteller.

It doesn't feel like I've got much done, but looking back now I guess I have. I've done more of the French knots for my Lilith in Sunflowers applique, but it's taking me ages to fill in all the flower middles and it's hard going on the hands. It's looking really pretty and I'm hoping to get it finished, framed and mounted by next weekend. One of my parcels contained a book called More William Morris in applique, and once Lilith is finished I might try a small Morris applique project of my own. I've always loved his patterns and designs and I might be able to make myself a nice backdrop for when I photograph my dolls. Or maybe a nice miniature quilt for one of my ladies to sit on...

My storyteller now has a cream cotton petticoat under her under-dress of soft pink silk that reaches to the floor. It's a lovely soft colour that fits really well with the marbled multi-colour silk I have for her robes.

After gathering the pink silk into tight gathers around the neckline I added a bodice or short corset to help hold it all in place around her high waist. I use wide elastic that I can stretch tightly and sew into place to make my corsets, which I cover with fabric and decorate when I have them as underwear. This one will be covered and edged at the top with lace as it's the bodice of her robes which will be seen.

You can see here that her sleeves right now are huge, much too big for her little arms. But I'm planning on binding them together at different points along her arms with the patterned silk to create a series of puffs and fitted sections.

I'm really in love with this multi-coloured marbled silk, and it reminds me of the paper marbling we did at school when I was young. I always loved dripping the ink into the water and carefully swirling it around before ever so carefully laying the paper on the surface. All those sheets of wet paper strung up in the supply cupboard on string with pegs and the smell of paint, ink and school supplies. Always a smell of dusty paper and pencils :)

When I found this fabric I was struck immediately by the mix of colours and the beautiful textures. the fabric is quite soft and falls very nicely, even thought it's not as thin a fabric as haboati or china silk. I can't wait to see it come together into the robes I'm planning. And I'm looking forward to finalising the ideas I have to add decoration and detail.

My custom doll Katrina is almost finished, and she's looking very Punk Rock Glam in her new black organza ruff. I've added tiny silver lined seed beads around the edge of the folds in the ruff to add more sparkle. And I want to add some silver chains around her neck and bodice too.
Once that is all done and her shoes repainted (wrong colour) she'll only need the replica of Ashley's head piece that my dear friend Linda is making for me from wire. But I can't tell you what that's like yet or it'll spoil the surprise :)

Yesterday I spent a long time doing something I haven't done for ages. Preparing and mounting an embroidery ready to start sewing.

During the week I photocopied a William Morris design and blew it up to almost it's full original size. And some of my parcels contained the Irish linen and cambric as the original used for me to sew it on to. I've no idea how my Hubby managed to convince me this was a good idea, but somehow he did. But as I rarely make things for myself these days it's all just sort of happened.
Something for me to do on lazy Sunday afternoons and to get a change every now and again. It's quite an intricate design and I'm going to need to practise my satin stitch as I'm usually too tight on that and get nasty puckers.

I'm sure you'd agree that I've not been easy on myself here. This is photo of the original taken from a large book on William Morris I own shows how detailed it is.

It took me ages yesterday afternoon stood before my dining room window with the design and linen taped to the glass so that I could trace the design through. It measures approx. 52cm across and is almost square. I need to find myself a good gold silk thread for some parts of it.

I've promised myself I'm not setting a needle to this until I've got all the knots finished on Lilith. So while the rugby is on this afternoon (Come On Wales :)) I'll either be working on that or on more of my Storyteller so that I can make a start on this next weekend hopefully.

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend, and I hope this beautiful weather lasts for everyone :) xxxx

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A Custom Doll Katrina Work In Progress

This week I've been busy sticking. Glue and sticky fingers and over 1100 crystals all added to my doll Katrina's gown. She's a custom order doll for the lovely Ashley, and she's been a joy to make. I can hardly believe that she's almost done now. To come she has a black organza ruff that I'm hoping I'll be able to add tiny beads to, and a miniature version of one of Ashley's fantastic head pieces that's being made by my wonderful wire artist in America.
I contructed this gown from a stiff silk taffeta overlaid with a web of black lace. Underneath she wears drawers, a shift and a number of petticoats to help hold the gown's shape. Her sleeves are double layered with a lace ruff at the elbow on the overlayer. And I've decorated her with glass seed beads and crystals. Her hair is a mix of black and cream feathers.

The bodice of Katrina's gown sits just off her shoulders in a wide early Victorian neckline, and her skirt shape is both a Victorian style and Elizabethan and earlier. It's a shape that's been used many times and always looks very feminine. These big dresses I make are heavy on their own, but with all the added beads and crystals she's become quite heavy and feels lovely to hold. I used a random pattern to create a vine like trailing design on her bodice with the beads and added the crystals scattered around and concentrated around the beads.
I used the same design on the over-layer of skirts, which I made in two layers, with a concentration of beads and crystals twining down from the right side of her waist to the hem of the top layer. The bottom under-layer has a sprinkling of crystals to tie it all together. There are three sizes of beads, and both 3mm and 2mm crystals.

I really hope that Ashley loves her as much as I do. She's coming along just as I wanted her to, and I'm really looking forward to getting her finished. Hopefully we'll get a sunny day one weekend soon so I can catch all her sparkles in photographs.

I've also been working on another applique piece of Lilith sitting among the sunflowers, and I'll be back to adding the thousands of French knots to the centres of the sunflowers just as soon as I'm done here :) I have ideas I'm still working out for a fabric wall piece that looks like the paper doll books as I had as a child. And hopefully, if I can, I'd like to make some hangings in Victorian styles like William Morris and Macintosh, pre-Raphealite and the heavier rich decoration of the earlier period in applique and fabric that can be used as a backdrop to display my dolls. I think they'd make a good addition to my photos and will maybe add some interest. Maybe I'll start small lol :) Have a great week everyone :) xxx

PS - Here's some photos of the wonderful new addition to mt doll collection family. The beautiful Werepup Maelgwn (Welsh, meaning Prince, Hound and Wolf). I really love his grumpy little face a fat freckled belly. He really makes me smile. And he's sat here on the little miniature crochet blanket I made him to sit on. Please visit Asia on her Facebook page here and see all of her amazing work - As soon as I can save up I'll be ordering Maelgwn a big sister :) xxx