Thursday, 26 October 2017

Blog comes back from the dead, the pumpkin store and other spooky tales...

I thought it was about time I resurrected this blog. I take lots of photos of the art I make with the intention of writing about it on here but so often I'm starting work on the next thing before I have time to write about the last thing. Making no promises this time about how often I'll post but I would like to try to share some of my art adventures with tutorials and walk-throughs if I can.

So to start off, and because it's nearly Halloween I'm going to share my latest creation - The Pumpkin Store and a little bit about how I made it - inspired by the 'A Vintage Journey's' October challenge of Crazy Autumn Colors and me finding a bag of polymer clay pumpkins in a drawer in my art room.

 I discovered a company called Calico Craft Parts a little while ago and bought a whole bunch of different bits and pieces from them, one of which was this cute little house or shrine - it's only 10 cm tall.  This is how it arrives then you just pop the pieces out and start creating.

First it's a coat of white gesso on both side and all the edges. Make sure it's not too thick around the little tabs because the pieces are a snug fit.

Next is a bit of texture. This Tim Holtz stencil and Ranger texture paste created a quick and easy stone wall effect.

I tried spraying these with spray inks but my attempts at creating a graduated Autumn color effect failed so I covered them in another thin coat of gesso and started again with acrylic paints.

And this is what I ended up with:

I also painted the base, front casing and roof pieces with Burnt Umber, then started on the roof tiles. These were the rounded ends cut from wooden craft sticks (lolly sticks). I've got a bag full of 'em left over from other projects so they got a coat of white gesso too, then I painted them - mostly using Burnt Sienna but a few red ones and Yellow Ochre ones as well.

Then I started layering them on the roof pieces until they were both covered. Once the glue had dried I added some shading with black acrylic then used some cast bronze Creative Expressions gilding wax to give the tiles a warm glow.

 Next I turned my attention to the insides and made my own background paper using Distress Oxides   (can I just say, for the record, and pardon my language but I f**kin' LOVE these inks and the effects you can get with them!!) . Using a mixture of the reds, oranges and yellows in the collection I covered some card stock, one piece to line the inside of the 'house' and a couple of others to cut leaves from later on.

Once I'd cut the lining pieces to size I stamped the back piece using one of Graphic 45's Enchanted Forest stamps and a clock face in Archival sepia ink then used the Walnut Distress Oxide ink to blend around the edges before gluing the card stock in place.

I added a cut out quote from Ray Bradbury's 'The Halloween Tree' then I was ready to assemble the little house.

Next it was Pumpkin Time  - Yay!! and I glued in some little polymer clay pumpkins I made years ago and still had in a drawer, interspersed with a few snippets of Finnish moss. I forgot to photograph that stage, but you get the idea, I'm sure.

After that it was all down to the little embellishments and here I used some more pieces from Calico Craft Parts. Bats, which come on a sheet with 16 different sizes and positions, and ivy garlands which are tiny and so delicate. The bats were painted with black gesso and had a coil of paper covered wire attached to the backs with Ranger's Glossy Accents.

And the ivy was coated in white gesso then painted with acrylics.

These were all added to the house with glue and left to dry. Meanwhile I went back to the Oxide inked papers I made earlier and used a couple of leaf shaped paper punches to cut of some Autumn leaves. These were inked around the edges with Knotted Wood and English Ivy Prima chalk inks and I drew veins on with fine tipped colored pens. These were glued around the roof along with some little black crystals and some red, gold and green micro beads. I finished it off by adding some more gilding wax to the stone work and set the whole thing on a wooden bobbin.

  Oh, and did I mention....the pumpkin faces glow in the dark :)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Month of Forgotten Projects

Its been bears all the way for the last few months as I worked towards a show at the end of May. Some of the bears who still need homes are now on the Ursa Minor Facebook Page The link should take you straight to the photographs. You don't need to be a member of Facebook or log in to see them. If you want to know more about any of them and don't have a Facebook account you can email me instead at ursaminor{at}blueyonder{dot}co{dot}uk.

With my bear-making frenzy over and the 'craftermath' dealt with (sort of) I decided that June should be The Month of Forgotten Projects. I scoured every box, cupboard and drawer for unfinished and forgotten things, and found, well, LOTS. Everything from these Mister Finch inspired toadstools that had been waiting for the embroidery on the base for over a year, (definitely going to be making more of these to scatter around the house)

to cushion covers, some of last year's Christmas decoration designs that never got finished in time and numerous bears, cross stitch and needlepoint pieces, brooches and wall hangings.

In truth there were too many to reasonably finish in one month, not least the pile of unfinished embroideries I got from my Grandma earlier in the year, so I've worked on the things that were closest to being finished and I've managed to complete quite a few:

A birdie applique cushion cover

Little hessian heart decorations

white felt Christmas decorations

A Christmas THING!!

Now July is almost here and I've named it The Month of Experimentation. I'm so excited about the idea of spending the whole month trying out new techniques, crafts and ideas. I've got loads of things planned - wire and beady things, faery wing things, needle-felty things, embroidery things, polymer clay things, wand-making and lots of new bear and rabbit pattern ideas. It's a very long list.

I'm also continuing to scavenge for bobbins and other needle craft bits and bobs from markets and vintage shops. I found this poor mousie pincushion and scissor holder at Tynemouth Market .

 Missing both her eyes and looking a bit grubby round the edges I just had to take her home and get her restored to her former self. I tried sponge cleaning her dress and hat a little with not much success but at least she now has some eyes and whiskers. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

it was a crazy idea...

I get ideas all the time. I never know when something will just pop into my head so I have numerous notebooks scattered around the house, in hand-bags and coat pockets so I'll always have somewhere to write them down. If I don't write an idea down as soon as possible it's all too easy to forget what it was or to recall it with clarity later on.

Some ideas stay in my notebook for years before I finally work on them. Others I lose enthusiasm for and just forget about. And some of the more bizarre or massively complicated ideas are dismissed immediately with a "I'd never be able to do that" or a "that'd take far too long" or a "I don't even know where to start making that!". But once in a while one of those instantly dismissable ideas just plain refuses to go away. It just sits there in my brain gnawing away, poking the inside of my head with a stick and generally interfering with everything else I might be thinking about.

That's what happened to me about 18 months ago. I don't remember now what I was doing at the time but suddenly 'bink!' an idea just popped in there and wouldn't leave. It sounded simple on the surface - make all of the Avengers from the Marvel comics and films as miniature teddy bears. I've been making bears for over 18 years now, so that wasn't really so much of a challenge. But the bear I could see in my mind's eye, the one that set the whole thing rolling, and my particular favourite character and super hero, was the Iron Man bear. And in my mind, just like in the films, he lit up. "That's bonkers", I thought, and tried to forget about it. But I'd set myself a challenge now - figure out how to put lights into the eyes, paws, feet and chest of a 3 inch bear...

Like Deep Thought my brain had to chew all of this over for a very long time. I made Captain America first, so that I could get the project started. The only problem I had there was finding some metallic red paint that wasn't just all pink looking.

The hulk came next with a chance to do a little bit of toe and finger sculpting. The first one I made looked too small so I made a bigger 6 inch bear.

Then I went back to Iron Man. I had worked out some things fairly quickly - all the easy stuff. The basic pattern pieces were done and tested on some scraps - that was Iron Bear MkI. But as I hit each problem I just left it to stew in my head, hoping answers would come to me in time. I discovered some tiny micro LED lights. I figured out I could sew little clear polythene discs into the paws, feet and chest for the lights to shine through - that was Iron Bear MkII.

I realized that I was going to have to line the whole of the inside of each piece with black felt to stop it all just glowing through the fabric, which made sewing alot more difficult.  That was Iron Bear MkIII.
Then I had to work out the route of the lights and wires through the body, and especially how I was going to put the eyes in place. All of these problems turned my usual bear-making routine on its head. I could witter on for hours about needle-sculpting, neck joints, how many packs of lights I ruined....but I'm sure if you've read this far you're getting bored now and just want to see the pics. This (and as a geek-girl, it makes me so happy to say it) is Iron Bear MkIV. :D

I don't mind telling you when I finally switched those lights on on the completed bear I was bouncing off the walls and grinning like a loon.

I was on such a high finishing this piece that I just sailed through making Thor's costume in a matter of days - it all just seemed to fall into place.

So, 18 months in the making and my four main guys are all completed. Hawkeye and Black Widow are nearly ready to be photographed and now I'm really looking forward to Age of Ultron opening in a few weeks time so I can see the new characters (I've been avoiding all the trailers and clips cos I hate spoilers) and I'm also working on an Agent Coulson because he may only wear a regular suit but he is totally cool too. :)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Still Alive

I had hoped to bounce into 2015 with the same energy I had as we finished 2014 but I was flattened by a cold virus in January that put me off my stride a bit. But I'm feeling much better now and working on all sorts of new things. As usual I'm flitting from one piece of work to another and only have 'work in progress' shots to post.

I'm sketching lots of mice, building up a sketch book of poses and ideas for more Little Mouse paintings

My bobbin collecting frenzy continues. The old Silko threads are so much nicer to sew with than modern ones, and the 'Bobbin Man' at Tynemouth market always smiles now when he sees me because he knows I can't resist adding to my collection every time I visit.

I'm working on lots of new bears for the Teddy Bearzaar show in May (the site is currently showing last year's details but I'm sure they'll update it soon). I didn't realize quite how many bears I had 'on the go' at one time until I lined them all up to be jointed and have their noses varnished.

That's all for now. I hope to get some painting done this month. It feels like an age since I last finished a watercolor so I'm treating myself to some new quinacridone colors to inspire me back to my brushes. I've also got some 'experiments' planned for new things I want to make, and what has turned out to be the most difficult single bear I have ever made - more of that next time, assuming it doesn't fail in the final stages. :)

Oooh, nearly forgot!! I've listed 10 THINGS for sale in my new Etsy store. Each one is unique and labeled with its own number. These are some of the first THINGS I made including number 001 so get 'em while you can :)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Busy, busy, busy (no, really I am...)

So very long since I last posted anything here. You could be forgiven for thinking I'd disappeared in Faeryland but I have been working on a whole lot of things. A whole lot of things that I just haven't quite finished yet. And a few things that I have. I'm so rubbish at keeping all these web pages updated. I had a little exhibition of paintings at the MADE Cafe in Whitley Bay throughout July. I probably should've mentioned that. Told you I was rubbish.

I've started making THINGS and set up a facebook page for them HereBeThings I probably should've mentioned that too. They look like this (though as you can see, every one is different)

But I seem to have spent the best part of the year thinking about what I want to create and trying to gather around me all the tools and materials I might need. My workroom is bursting at the seams but I'm hoping my strategy is going to work because there's nothing that kills my enthusiasm for a project more than not being able to try out my ideas straight away to see if there's a chance they'll work. So if I just absolutely need felting wool or florists' wire at 2 in the morning, I know now that I've got it.

Now it's time to really start work. I've got lists, scribbled ideas, construction notes, patterns and sketches all waiting to go. No sleep till bedtime for me.

First up, as it's only 6 weeks away I've been making some new bears for the Hugglets show in Kensington next month. Following on its heels is Miniatura in Birmingham. Now I make small bears - usually between 3 and 6 inches tall - but at Miniatura they like them as small as we can get 'em. So, with this in mind I decided to miniaturize my current pattern. I was aiming for an approximation of this little fella. He's called Little Blue and he's 3 inches tall:

So I shrunk the pattern down a bit and created Littler Blue who is 2 inches tall:

Then I shrunk it down again and created this guy. He's 1.5 inches tall and at this point I ran out of talent so he is called Littlest Blue because I can't make 'em any smaller that this:

And here are all three of them together:

Just another half dozen to make - if my eyes last that long :)

Finally, and most importantly, I've opened an Etsy store. I'm just getting started and have only listed one item so I can get things set up but I'll be selling paintings, bears, polymer clay sculpts and all kinds of random sewn stuff there from now on. I hope you can stop by and have a look. I'll get the link added to the side bar soon but for now its at TheWildwoodArtCo (yes, I know, but all the best names were taken already....)