Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Guitar for Star

Awhile back under the post for Star E Knight I said I would update you on making a guitar for her. Here is the story of Star's guitar.

I started  by cutting two pieces out of cardboard for the top and the bottom of the guitar. I am sure there are technical names but I don't know them. A circular hole is cut out of the top piece only.

For the neck I cut several pieces of cardboard and glued them together.

The top piece is cut longer so that it can slip over the front of the guitar while the other pieces butt up to the side.  You will see what I mean in later pictures.

Next a strip was cut and carefully curved so it would form the shape of the guitar. That strip was glued to  the bottom guitar piece.  That part was easy. Next came gluing the top on. Not so much fun and lots of glue squishing out. to be dealt with later. Might start with the top next time.
You caught me...yes it is made from the box that my Swiffer mop came in.

On the left you can see an extra strip glued on the top just under the hole. That is for attaching the strings later. 

Right: For the strings strong thread was glued to another piece of cardboard which will be glued on later.  

Below: To even out the rough spots I painted the body and neck with gesso and sanded lightly. Then I glued the neck on and painted the whole thing with acrylic paint. This is the first coat.

IF I ever do this again I will make the neck wider at the top and punch in holes for attaching the strings. At this point I am not sure how to attach them. But I will figure it out. The joys of making your own patterns.
When this dries I will streak on a lighter color to make it look more woodgrained.  Catch you later with the final product.  

Don't let me forget to put on the strap made from a strip of hand loomed Guatemalan fabric. Star will be so excited.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Look Ma - No hands

This just in.  An elderly  resident of the Shady Grove Nursing Home was apprehended late last night as she careened through a quiet suburban neighbourhood on a big candy apple red Harley.  

Police say they noticed what at first glance appeared to be an organ grinder's monkey astride the bike which was weaving dangerously from side to side. The figure often raised its arms in the air  and screamed hoarsely " Look Ma No Hands."

Gentle persons of the press have determined that the rider was an octogenarian named Rose who refused to give her last name. "Just call me Second Hand Rose." she said over her shoulder as police placed her in a squad car.  They were unable to put her arms behind her to handcuff her due to the stiffness of her joints.

This photo of her, caught in the harsh glare of the lights from the squad cars, shows her hat is askew, her pussy missing, her makeup smeared.  Rose informed detectives that she had "borrowed" the keys to a friend's motorcycle and pawned her mink stole for gas money.

A nursing home official says Rose's pussy cat Mojo (AKA Fluffy), has been inconsolable.  They have not yet determined whether her continued presence at the home poses a risk for the other residents. 

"Many of our residents have conditions that could lead to their demise if they have too much fun or excitement. We try to avoid serving spicy food, or encouraging rousing games of Scrabble. We try to keep everything as boring as we can in order to prolong their lives and get more money from the families and the government.

A highlight of their morning is a nice glass of prune juice to wash down their all bran cereal. Afterwards they all gather in the common room where there are several public washrooms. They usually discuss their aches and pains as well as their bowel movements. It promotes a healthy rivalry and gives them something to live for," the nursing home source said.

To date Rose's family members have not responded to repeated messages left on their ipods and answering machines.

Boomer, custodian at "The Grove," as long time residents call it, was not available for comment but sources say he was trying to raise bail money and mumbled that Rose could always come to live with him if the Home
"boots her ass outa here". "  It is rumored that Boomer often refers to the home as Shady GRAVE.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

...and now for something completely different...Hooked Wool Rugs..ctd

This is the last post on the rugs that I have made.  I was thinking of making another one this winter but spring is fast approaching and I have not even started one. 

On the right we have Irma smelling her wait. it is the tail of her avatar on the rug.  You can clearly see my process here. I first drafted this on paper and then transferred the design to Burlap.  I have started with the two cats.

This is a half moon shaped welcome mat full of symbolism. Cats for instance are considered guardians of the household. And what better cats than my own Irma and Reg.  The message on the border reads Merry Meet. Merry Part. Merry Meet Again which is a common way to address the Lord and Lady and other elementals in Pagan rituals. The pineapple represents hospitality. The bee is a symbol for the Goddess. The dragonfly is not only my symbolic signature but also a symbol of transition...a link between our own and the spiritual world. My rugs always evolve from the original sketches. So you may notice changes when we get down to the final photo.

Here Reg gives his very own stamp of approval. This image evokes another tangential thought pattern.  If you are not interested in why Reg has a sore on his cheek skip this next bit.

If you are interested read on.  Poor Reg has suffered for several years with weeping sores around his head, neck and mouth. Four different veterinarians didn't know the answer so I spent years of biopsies, examinations, medications, injections, searching the net, changing food and water dishes, changing food, changing litter, changing water, worrying, wringing my hands, tearing my hair, making a fresh grain-free food called the BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw food) all with no success. finally a vet said try allergy pills. I did and they didn't work.

So Reg and I suffered for another year when in desperation I tried them again...but a different brand and THAT new generation of pill was the solution. (She crosses her fingers and knocks on wood here) I give him about half a pill only when I see him start to scratch and he is almost totally free of problems now.  Other than the scars he has from constantly scratching for several years. But enough cat chat and back to the task at hand.

A rather foreshortened photo of the mat as it appears at the entrance to my dining room.
If you check the original drawing in the final version I have relocated the date and eliminated the word "and"  from between the Merry Meet etc.  The less lettering I have to do the better.  Yechchchc.

Next is a rug I call Once in a Blue Moon (written on the left hand side border in red).  We hookers like to do the odd geometric rug so we can use up little bits of our left over wool when there would not be enough of that color for a normal rug. they are relaxing and fun to do.

It still needs to have the border filled in and the raw edges turned under before it is whip stitched with yarn.

Here are some close ups ...yes they are dragonflies in the second picture.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

....and now for something completely different - Hooked Wool Rugs cont'd

More Shibui.  I just realized that try as I might to post things in an orderly fashion I always seem to miss something. This time it is a small round rug made in 2003.  I call this one Fat Cat. 

And this one also from 2003....a very traditional design usually done with two mermaids. I made it my own by using only one siren and designing a snazzy wave border. I fell in love with the very quaint saying on the rug, "Over the bounding wave. What could be more delightful to the eyes of a lonely sailor man. Altho thir snares are spiteful" (sic)

This one is a great favorite of mine.  It is based on a work entitled Storm is Coming by  Cuban painter Agusto Bordelois. 

The white buildings and red tile roofs remind me of the town where I lived in Ecuador.  I love the quirky touch of the cats in the clouds. Can you see them?

I tried to get in touch with Mr Bordelois to get his permission to copy his painting on to the rug but I got no answer from him.  
I hope he understands that it is only out of pure admiration for his painting that I have tried to reproduce it .

Wanting something requiring a little less commitment than a large rug I made a couple of small pieces and turned them into purses. These 8 x 8 inch purses are very fun to use. I made the strap by braiding together complimentary colors of yarn.

The piece on the left was inspired by works of Paul Klee. I have not actually done anything with it yet. You can still see the burlap backing. I am not sure if it will be a purse or what.  Thank the gods it does not have eyes - the better to accuse me with!
Then I got back to the larger rugs and did one based on a Matisse painting called Goldfish. The colors are so vibrant.  Monsieur Matisse was not available for comment either.

Okay gotta close this post too even though I have more rug hooking examples. I think my computer is about to crash as its poor old memory is like mine. It can't hold as much as it used to.

....and now for something completely different - Hooked Wool Rugs

I took up rug hooking sometime in 2002. First let me clarify that this is not the kind of rug hooking that you do with short pieces of wool and a special latch hook.

The kind I am talking about is called Traditional or Primitive Rug hooking. It is done with a very simple hook and a long strand of wool that is woven in and out of the backing material

In her book  "Rag Rug Making" Jenni Stuart-Anderson, ISBN 978 1 900371 53 7 states that the most recent research indicates "...the technique of hooking woolen loops through a base fabric was used by the Vikings, whose families probably brought it to Scotland." (source Wikipedia).

Until the present day it was considered a craft of the poor or country folk. In Canada, although the hobby is wide spread,  the best known rug hookers hail from Nova Scotia.  The well-known Cheticamp hooked rugs used finely spun yarns and the highly collectible Grenfell mats were meticulously hooked with recycled jerseys.

After 1850 women would make "mats" from burlap feed sacks and worn out clothing of any sort. These mats were thrown down at the back door for men to wipe their boots on. Today these rugs are prized and rare. Collectors of folk art have driven up the prices of even half rotten mats to dizzying heights.

These mats range from the traditional and charmingly naive representations of flowers and pets to finely executed works of art. Inspiration can come from any source. A photo, old rug designs, or anything your imagination can conjure up. 

When we think of material "wool is king" as my first teacher said. Apparently this guideline was set in the 1930's by a woman named Perl McGown, who is credited with saving the art.  Wool has a resiliency and strength that far exceeds that of other materials especially synthetics.  Some artists dye their own material, others search for just the right color in their own cupboards or in  second hand stores, still others buy fine wool flannels carefully dyed by others.

Some "hookers", as we love to call ourselves, shun the old burlap feed sacks as a backing and instead buy expensive scottish burlap, linen or monks cloth whose weaves are regular and strong. 

I guess I am old fashioned as I stick to burlap with a relatively tight weave. Exercising my strong hunting and gathering instincts, I scour thrift shops for just the right colors of wool. Although sometimes I have been known to dye or over dye some thrift shop finds.

There might have been a day  when I would have gone as far as to raise sheep ( wait a minute - I did do that!) and shear them, card and spin the wool but I think I am past that now. 

This is just a tiny bit off topic but is my blog!

I did once try to spin some of our sheeps' wool when I lived in Ecuador. I also tried to spin some of our Malamute dog's woolly undercoat  but was largely unsuccessful on both counts.

It is not as easy as the Cholas make it look as they walk along the street, baby slung over their back, chatting with friends as they spin wool using a drop spindle. At left is a very unhappy Cholita with her spindle.

Usually  the steps in making a rug go something like this: inspiration, drawing, transfer to backing, choose colors, estimate amount of wool needed (approximatedly three times the area you want to cover), cut  wool by machine or hand. On your mark, get set, go!

Some hookers use special frames that are on a stand, others use the more portable embroidery hoops. I just sort of free syle it on my lap.  I am told that in the old days the ladies sat on one end of the mat to make a taut surface on which to hook. I seem to do okay without that and do most of my hooking in bed. Yeah, yeah I have heard all the jokes.

There are two basic genres of hooking. Primitive which  uses the wide cut strips of 6/32 up to a half inch in width and fine hooking where strips of 1/32 to 5/32 of an inch wide are used. Designs of the fine-cut hooking genre use more fine shading accomplished by overdyeing wool in gradated color swatches.

So enough blathering about history. Here is the first rug I made in my hooking class at Loyalist College. The teacher designed the rugs and sold them to us along with swatches of wool.  In order to individualize the design you could add elements by the use of templates for birds and animals and put them anywhere you liked. The teacher was annoyed with me when I said but the animals and birds are too big for the picture.   I didnt realize at that time that that is a feature of the primitive style where these rugs were often made by non-artists. I got around it by placing them on an inside borde where to my artist's eye they did not conflict with the size of the rest of the objects. Can you imagine a squirrel that size sitting on your roof!

There is what appears to be a dragonfly on the bottom right beside the date.  I discovered one day  while doodling that I could squeeze my initials EJB closely together and make them into something that resembled a winged creature. I fooled around with it a little more and came up with a dragonfly. The E and the B are stretched sideways to form wings. The J is the body.

Some people stare at me incredulously when I explain this but others, the smart ones like you, get it right away. You want to be in the smart group right?

It is my symbol signature and if you look carefully you will find it in one form or another on all my work....except the dolls. I still have to sew some little dragonfly charms to each of them.

Above is my second rug. It is my own design  inspired by myriad chicken-themed rugs that have gone before. Hookers and chickens go together like ham and eggs it seems. Did you find the dragonfly?

Eyes left now please.....don't look at my messy room. This rug is a little hard to see properly when it is not hanging on the wall.  The theme is very personal, representing  my interests, places I have visited, favorite books and authors etc.

I made it for a specific space at the top of the stairs. It represents a tall bookshelf. The black cat on top is fishing in the goldfish bowl.  One of my venerable hooking group ladies said, "You broke all the rules, but it works." 
By that she meant that purists don't use artificial eyes in animals, nor do they put real dog collars on the dogs or mix cut wool strips with yarn.  But the rules are changing in rug hooking just as they are in quilting. Many rugs are not meant to be used on the floor but rather as wall art.

I used yarn for both the dog and the cat to give them the furry texture I wanted. I think you can click on any particular photo to enlarge it. Then you will see them more clearly.

The last photo is part of the middle shelves of the piece. I had this hanging briefly in its appointed place when I made it in 2003 but then Reg and Irma, mere balls of fluffy kittenhood at the time, took to playing hide and seek behind it and ripped a good chunk of it out. 

It has sat for over 8 years waiting for me to mend it. This time it is the cat's eyes that stare at me accusingly when I unroll it from the towel it is stored in.  What? I haven't found the wool I used so that I can mend it. Organized hookers keep books with folders for each rug they make and samples of the wool used in case repairs are needed. Obviously I am not one of those organized hookers.

This post is getting really slow to work with so I will continue the rest of the rugs in another post. See you over there.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Star E. Naight

I still had a series of patterns I had bought that I had not explored.  They are from a doll maker by the name of Sandra M Blake. The S.O. Dollightful Dolls are just that...a family of dolls that are delightful in their perfect proportions.
Here, in pictures, is my journey to a Star E. Naight using Ms Blake's pattern for the body and my own pattern for the rather quirky little face. The hair is chenille yarn this time.

Now Ms Blake's doll is made from muslin. Mine is made from that same fluffy blanket from which I made Rose. So the proportions do come out differently depending on the give of the material. 

My Star has rather thick legs but we will cover up that figure fault with a nice long skirt made from men's silk ties. I just cut them in strips about an inch or so wide and sewed them together. Then I trimmed the bottom into points, shirred the top and added a waist band.
She has already begun to let me know her clothing preferences and she is a demanding little thing.  She made me cut out little 1/2 inch squares of velvet and silk fabrics and sew them together to make her a vest.   That is them above being run through two at a time on my mother's old Featherweight Singer Portable machine that I use for most things.

Here is the final product of sewing all those devilish little squares together. I did some free style oversewing afterward with metallic thread.

 I made a plain black t-shirt to go under the vest, gave her a headband and a flower and you guessed it.....a hippy chick emerged.

But by the time she gets to Woodstock she will need a guitar. 

See my next post for that ongoing nightmare. 

Boomer - Living and learning

Next up was a bag lady.  At least that is what I set out to make.  The Fates had a very different idea.

When I sewed the face onto the head I realized I had sewn it on inside out.  Now, there is something you gotta know about me. Something I am not proud of.  I am not a patient person. I try my best to do it right the first time and would rather discard something than go back and correct it.  This is a trait I am trying to correct but in the meantime here I was faced with a face with the seams on the outside.

What oh what could I do?  I decided that it looked like a beard. Then it came to me.  Make the bag lady into a man.  A bag man. A bag man with a beard to hide the raw seam.

There was just one problem. He looked more like an Elizabethan actor than a bag man.

I got kind of fancy with the ears. Making large ones and then curling them around someway to sculpt them. Don't ask me how now.

I also put tiny black beads in for the eyes and pulled the cloth face around them to make eyelids....hmmm beady eyes.

Okay. I draw the line at Elizabethan actors.  Lets put some sun glasses on him and see what happens.

 Better but.....let's try a bandanna.  Yeah. Now he looks like a biker.  Friend Joan said..." He looks like a Baby Boomer."  And thus his name...Boomer.

And so began a several months long quest for a motorcycle.  I saw plenty of them but they were either too small, too big or too expensive. Till yesterday that is. Walmart (yeah yeah I know...we hate Walmart) had their Valentine's gifts and candies marked way down.  This little baby was marked down to a quarter of the original price.  Yeah, yeah. It IS made in China. I promise not to eat it or rub any part of body against it.

Naturally the monkies will have to go. In fact I did manage to remove them this morning but didnt take another picture.

Did I mention that it plays Born to Be Wild?  The other one plays Love Machine.

Speaking of bodies. I cannot show you all of  Boomer's photos since he is well....a man in every sense of the word.  And he does not have any clothes yet... except for a tiny leopard skin thong.  I need to make jeans and a shirt and chaps and a vest and all those bikery type things.

I can however show you his hand. I am still practicing hands but have a nice pattern now from the master doll maker Judi Ward that I mentioned in the previous post on Online Classes.

So not just the arm but each and every finger is pose-able. Not so fun to make but once they are done they are bitchin'!

More on Boomer when the whole package is complete.

Sadly I think he may have to be remade quite a bit smaller to fit this great motorcycle.  There is always the risk that I will end up with another box of Boomer parts and his beady little eyes staring accusingly up at me.

On line Classes

There are many on line classes available for doll makers. I signed up for one one (called Whatever, Whatever) which was developed by Judi Ward and may still be available through Doll Net.  I learned some very interesting techniques which I hope to be able to employ.

I guess essentially I am aiming at some sort of hybrid pattern which will encompass favorite aspects or parts of all the different ones I have tried. The fingers for sure  I would borrow from the Judi Ward doll even though I found them difficult.  I learned later that it was because my material was too thick and unyeilding. 

This was the first hand and I think it could use a good cream to get rid of those rough parts.  You can get an idea of the size from the glasses. 

Other body parts below:  head on left, shapely torso in the middle and a whole arm on the right, pink chinese tea cup on the far right!

I have to admit that I have not finished this doll. I ran into problems with the legs. Judi advised that this was because I did not have the proper stuffing.

It is designed to stand alone but mine stubbornly refused. 

So I moved on to other projects but am still working on this problem mentally .

I have used the rotating head design which I learned in this class for Heather and Rose and Boomer.  Meanwhile the un-joined parts languish in a box. Sometimes I come across the box and find her staring at me accusingly. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Heather Experiment

Next came one of my favorite dolls so far...Heather. 

I decided to split the front part of the head in two and give this doll a nose! Also I wanted to try a neater way to attach the legs rather than just having them dangle from the side of the body. Oh and her head swivels around too...sort of like that kid in the Exorcist if you are not careful.

So here are my processes in creating Come Hither Heather as her clients...oops...I mean friends call her. She has lots of friends.

As mentioned I split the face into two parts so that I could give her a nose rather than trying to sculpt one in later or to embroider it on.  Her head is separate and sits on a long neck that extends into the head cavity.

Using acrylic paints I created her mischievous eyes and parted lips that show her perfectly straight little teeth.  The better to bite you with my dear.

Below is Heather looking for all the world like a hapless working girl who has fallen victim to a serial killer on a Criminal Minds episode

On the left she is lying on her stomach so you can see the cleft in her buttocks. Still not enough definition for the sculptor in me.

You can see the attachment of her legs this time is from beneath the body not on the sides. It gives a neat look but limits movement somewhat and she does not sit with the same ease as the others.  Note the shapely foot created by adding a heel and arch. On the right is the front view. I made the hands larger so I could get more finger defninition but instead they just came out big and beefy. Perhaps Heather is a transvestite? With that straight as a board physique anything is possible.
In lieu of the disastrous plastic surgery attempt on poor Marijane, Heather was given a shirred bust. It isn't much but it is all hers. I am still working on improving the next girls.

Also the nose looks quite shnozlike here as I have not yet done the face sculpting that will refine it and the eyes.

Originally I envisioned Heather as a gypsy so I parted with some precious locks from a Halloween costume to make what was the first of many wigs.  Not too hard using hot glue and a light piece of fabric which I glued on her head later. What a lovely halo of shiny black curls. 

But look as we might through my extensive stash we just couldn't find any fabrics befitting her gypsy look.
You can do so much with long curly hair. Here she has it tied up with a small scrunchy.

I did find a lovely robin's egg blue wool sweater that made her a nice dress though.

The final version looks like this. A conservatively expensive wool dress, discreet 18 karat gold chain and pendant with matching bracelet as would befit a Mayflower escort.  A girl any out of town business man would be proud to have on his arm. Only her smile and the whimsical little purse suggests her mischievous personality.

But Heather is not a one dimensional personality. She is a girl that enjoys physical exercise so sometimes she strips down to her colorful underwear and goes to the beach where she swims, plays beach volleyball and lounges with a cool drink.  It is a great place to meet mean people.
Here Heather reapplies her sun tan lotion. She has learned how to  protect her assets from watching Dr. Oz.
Her shades are Dolce and Gabana. Beachbag by Vuitton. Bathing suit/underwear by Cavalli. Towel by Walmart.

Paper Mache Clay Experiment - What I would do differently

This is so typical of me to just jump in where angels fear to tread and make up my own rules.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn...