Monday, October 31, 2005

3 Weeks of Eye-Strain Headaches Later...

It's done. I never ever ever have to make another one. Ever. Yahoo! I just don't have what it takes any more to do counted cross stitch, though I enjoyed working on this. The optomotrist says I simply need to wear my bifocals, or reading glasses with my contacts. Aghhh! I hate glasses, which is why I wear contacts in the first place. Nobody with a face as asymmetrical as mine should ever have to wear glasses. They just don't stay on.

So, five Christmas stockings later, my family's collection is complete, and my career in counted cross stitch is closed.

What will I do with all my leftover floss??

Thursday, October 27, 2005

More Clay Play

I got to play with my clays yesterday. Nobody had to be anywhere so I had the whole day at home to myself without having to watch the clock. The doll I made in Angela Jareki's "Makiera" class was first up on my list to work on. All she needed was her walking staff and she is ready to roam. The staff itself is a little out of proportion to the doll -- I should have used a thinner dowel as a support -- but I am not going shopping. NOT!

(...not going shopping... not going shopping...)

I think I will add some embellishment to her boots yet, and perhaps another dangle on the staff. I also need to tame her hair somehow. The back view is very flyaway.

On the whole though, I am very pleased with her, especially her pretty face and her clothes! I think I will make a bag like hers for my own some day. The color orange is really growing on me.

And then there are these 2 little guys. A while ago I bought some glow-in-the-dark Sculpey to play with. It sounded like fun, though at the time I had no idea what I was going to do with it. An artist on a Yahoo! polymer list posted some photos of some little ghost beads she had made out of the same stuff. They were so cute I had to try some myself.

The one on the right is my first attempt. I'm not crazy about him, but in the interests of full disclosure, here he is. Gads, a close-up photo isn't doing him any favors here either. Sigh... His facial sculpt is pretty crude; I tried to rescue it with some paint, but... it isn't working for me. (My husband thinks everything I make turns out wonderfully; I tell him that's because I don't show him the duds.) Maybe I can rescue him with some embellishment. I am thinking a chiffon drape along the lines of the Grim Reaper's cowl. Otherwise he will just have to retire to the "parts" basket.

The little guy on the left is the result of my second attempt. I am much happier with the way he turned out, though he's more cute than scarey. I really really need to practice sculpting faces. If I get some time this aftgernoon, I'm going to string him into a necklace to wear on Halloween.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Finished Object #4

This is the Celtic Dragon pattern from Soft Dolls & Animals January 2001 issue. I began working on him almost as soon as he was published. I finished him this morning.

This finishing business is both fun, and a drag. It is absolutely delightful to posess this special creature at last, AND get him off of my studio floor. On the other hand, in the end it became a matter of just doing the work. (OK, I admit, working with the Lumiere paints was fun. )

Once I learn what I want to learn from a pattern, well, the motivation to finish goes right out the window. As much as I love this little guy, I don't really feel as if he is truly *mine*. Anyone who knows dolls will look at him and know instantly that he is Melinda Small Patterson's, even though every stitch was done by me.

One down, too many to think about right off the bat left to do. I wonder if it would be motivating or discouraging to actually make a list...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Finished Objects

"Finished Objects" will (hopefully!) be a recurring theme of this blog throughout the next weeks. I have committed too many resources, both material and spiritual, into too many piles of unfinished business that are now simply clutter. Clutter that obscures my work table. Clogs my mind, and certainly my creative processes.

We won't even mention the "G" word.

Sigh... can't avoid it. I feel G*U*I*L*T. Until the carpet cleaner forced me to pick everything up off the floor of every corner of the house, I had managed to fool myself into believing that it "wasn't so bad". Oh dear. It's bad. Really, really bad.

When I picked up Alice's Christmas stocking (dormant since at least 1997, when we moved into the Farm House) I had no idea that I was within 2 weeks of finishing the thing. Sheesh... If I had finished it then, I would not now be suffering torments of eye strain because I am simply not up to the challenge of this level of fine needlework anymore. And Alice wouldn't have been sighing for the last number of years over the fact that her "temporary" stocking faces the "wrong way."

There are a number of dolls sitting naked on my "to be completed" shelf that could be dressed in a day if I weren't too lazy to do so. I'm afraid I also have to count the 2 skirts that need hems, and Jake's jeans that only need a small patch to be wearable again.

Thinking of the space that completing these jobs would free up in the studio ought to be good motivation to doing them. Alas, there is always the siren song of the new project or upcoming class that I need to shop for.

I guess I also ought to confess that I am addicted to my "stuff". Paper, fabric, books, beads, paints, powders, books, brushes, pencils, pens, scissors, stickers, glues, glitters, fiber, yarn, books, sheet music... did I mention... BOOKS?

SOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooo... I have taken stock of the situation, sat myself down, and told myself that I will buy NOTHING until I have finished these projects. Not buying art supplies in and of itself ought to fund most of my Christmas shopping this year. OK, not really, but it will help!

So, to inspire myself, I am going to record the 3 "Finished Objects" that are worthy of note from this weekend.

Let's call this one "Out of the Ashes". The center panel of this quilt is a piece I made when Jake's little sister was pregnant with her first child. As you can probably guess, it was intended to be a baby gift... That child, my nephew Nathan, is now... um... 10?

Last year when I downsized my fabric stash after deciding that I don't want to quilt anymore, I gave yards and yards of fabric to my church's new quilting group. This panel was in that pile. The ladies in the quilting group added the borders and turned it into a twin size quilt to raffle off as a fund raiser. I think they did a marvelous job on it; it is much prettier in this incarnation than it ever would have been had I finished it. It is even HAND QUILTED.

I am also within hours of finishing several dolls. Details to come!

I have 8 new girls on this year's Worship Dance Team. We presented our first offering yesterday to The Newsboys' "Joy". The congregation enjoyed it very much. Posted by Picasa

The billow cloths were a new addition to our repetoire of props. The girls had a lot of fun playing with them! Hopefully, as we begin our preparations for a Christmas presentation the new young ones will settle down a bit. I would give just about anything to be dancing myself, but that just isn't in the cards at the moment. I don't want to believe that I am too old to dance, even though I am the oldest member on the team by over a decade. On the other hand, I get a lot of satisfaction out of preparing the choreography.  Posted by Picasa

I saved the best for last! This isn't one of my "FO's", but I still have to mention it because it really is a big deal in our family today. About a year and a half ago, I taught my youngest daughter how to knit. She made a few small items, but yesterday she completed her first large project. It is a simple shawl in varying shades of blue and purple. There were a few small and easily fixable errors in the main body of the knitting, but the lace edging is flawless. I am so proud of her. She's pretty proud of herself as well. Tomorrow, as promised, she will get to cruise eBay for a pin to wear with it as a reward for finishing. Posted by Picasa

It is a beautiful shawl, a treasure I hope she keeps forever. I ordered her a silver shawl pin to go with it. I can't wait to see her face when it arrives. A major accomplishment like this deserves some acknowledgement, especially from me, who knows what it took to keep on plowing through when she thought it seemed as if she would never finish. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sudoku: An Addict's Tale

It started innocently enough... a puzzle in the daily paper. Just a little pencil play to pass the time, right? Sigh...

I solved the first puzzle easily. Feeling smug, I tackled the puzzle in the next day's paper too. Oh oh, not so easy this time. OK, that's fine. That's why we invented White-Out after all, right. I mean, nobody types anymore. (Do they??) I solved it. Eventually.

I let it go. For a few days, I did no puzzles, being busy with the rest of my life and all.

The day came when I was able to solve a puzzle with a more advanced difficulty rating. Triumph!! Sweet! (See previous post if you need to read more bragging...)

You have to know what's coming next, don't you?

I discovered Sudoku... ONLINE! (Miniclip:Sudoku) Birds sing soothingly while I play. Not only that, it keeps my time and records my stats. My record for solving the "hard" puzzle is 11:47. That's right. I keep track.

Unfortunately, Sudoku is not a pass time one can discuss in public. People don't like it. I get the feeling that they would almost rather that I correct their grammar. So, I keep Sudoku and my opinions on proper speech patterns to myself.

However, before I burst, I will allow myself this one last tiny public mention of my secret hobby. Today's paper included a puzzle rated at a 5 star difficulty level. It was difficult alright. Fiendishly difficulty. It took me several false starts and 2 pieces of scratch paper but -- duh duhduh DAAAHHHH! -- I did it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

It has been a long quiet day here today. Jake was up 3 times last night to attend to cows in labor. 3 times in one night! I am so grateful that he doesn't have to do that often. But, oh, I am not quite myself today.

Last night I did the stitching to create the fiber collage for my Flat Stanley Goddess. The needle lace turned out beautifully. I used several different colors of threads so the piece blends with both sides of Goddess's body. I still can't make the scan pick up the sparkle of the angelina; believe me when I say it is much prettier than it looks here!

Here is the lower body with the overlay pinned in place. I am amazed at the amount of shrinkage that occured when I released the needle lace from the stabilizer; I would estimate a loss of between 30 to 40 percent. It's a good think I made the piece bigger than I thought I would need.

Unfortunately, this means that her flukes are smaller than I wanted them to be, but they still look OK. There is no part of the doll body inside of the flukes, so I did some more machine stitching to stabilize the shape. Even so, there is some distortion; you can see it on the right fluke. I like it though; I think it makes it look a little more natural.

Here is the finished tail with the embellishments added. I suppose I shouldn't have done so much, but each step just seemed to ask for the next to be added. And so on and so on and so on!

I am especially pleased with her asymmetrical belt. The little pearl at the base of her tail looks a little lonely and out of place. Perhaps someone else down the road will add something to make it seem more integrated into the piece.

I still have to add to the artist's journal. That's the part I find the hardest. This particular journal is on it's way to becoming quite a piece of art in and of itself. I don't want to be the one to mess it up!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

October Flat Stanley Doll

This is my Flat Stanley round robin doll for this month. Her "mom" is Denise Dodd, who created the basic goddess form in honor of her Russian great grandmother, and sent her on her way. "Goddess" is now 6 months into her 18 month journey, which will cover the entire United States, and include stops in Canada, Great Britain, and Israel!

It is becoming more challenging to add to the dolls as they pass through the hands of more artists, but this lady let me know the moment she arrived and in no uncertain terms that she is a mermaid, if you please, and just where is her tail!? "A mermaid in a Babushka?" I asked her. "Of COURSE a mermaid in a babushka!" she replied. She is, after all, Russian. Are there not oceans in Russia?

I am duly humbled by my ignorance. Isn't playing with dolls fun?

There was a package of fibers included with her. I am going to use a bit of each and combine them with some fibers of my own to create a fiber collage. Free motion machine embroidery will hold the whole thing together. I intend to use the resulting "fabric" to create an overlay for her lower body and a tail to add to the bottom. Perhaps a few beads and pearls... now if only my hands can recreate my vision!

This is a scan of the fibers laid out on water soluble stabilizer in preparation for stitching into a collage. The stabilizer is clouding the colors a bit; you can't see the angelina sparkle at all in this scan. I am pretty happy with the distribution of the colors and textures though. Now for the stitching. I am a bit torn over what to use for thread. I only pictured the front side of the doll; the reverse side is all cool blues and greens. Quite the contrast! I want the stitching to be reversable... Hmmmmm...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Introducing my first OOAK Polymer Sculpture

Yes! I am finally able to post a photo of my first polymer sculpture. Blogger is still a little tempermental on me this morning...

Isn't he cute??! I LOVE this little guy. He has a few "moonies" (oh, the vocabulary you learn when you pick up a new medium ) and I overdid the gloss varnish on his eyes so that he looks a little teary eyed, but I am still quite pleased with my work. I learned a lot in the making of him and I can't wait to get him dressed and accessorized.

Yesterday I bought a magnifier lamp to clamp to my work table. I believe it will help me with the detail work as well as give me a little more direct light. I work in front of a north window which is wonderful, but doesn't do much for me in the evenings, especially now that the days are getting so much shorter. I am going to concentrate on improving the surface texture of the clay before baking.

I also began a new sculpture, this time of a unicorn. I've got the proportions about right; now I just need to get the clay in the right places on the armature. I also need to think about how I want to do the horn. I wonder if making and baking it first would be the best way to go. And then do I want a clay or a mohair mane...? Leaning toward mohair at the moment, I think.

The girls had me sit through "Lost" on TV with them last night. Thank goodness for handwork or I would go mad with boredom. Not that it isn't a fairly decent show - for TV anyway - but I just don't have the attention span for it. At least I got a bit more done on Alice's stocking.

Dare I try to upload a progress photo?

Yes, it worked! I love it when things do what they are supposed to do... I had to actually re-scan the work as the original scan was simply not uploading for whatever unknown reason. There are a couple more hours of work completed in this photo. Sigh... I really wanted to do a process series to keep myself motivated. This will have to do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ahhh... success is sweet. I have spent way too much time on this today, but I am actually a little proud of myself and anxious to share my work with somebody.

So here is another view of my little dragon. Her name is "Rubiel" and I have given her to Lydia. Alice is now jealous, though she has never shown an interest in dragons before. Sheesh... Teenagers! Now she wants one in black and silver. I already have it planned out in my head and this one will be more... more... well, just better!

HOOOOKAAAAAY... it looks like this is going to be my limit for today. I keep getting error messages while trying to upload photos. I'll try again tomorrow!

I am having a bit of trouble today uploading photos to the blog. Darn -- I have a lot to show. I've already lost 2 drafts of today's entry, so I will just keep typing and see if I can publish at least this one lonely photo!

This is my project from this past weekend. I wanted to do another sculpt, and I found the instructions for this little guy at Polymer Clay Express. The instructions said he would take about half an hour. BWAAAA HA HA HA HA...! I should have known better. I am getting a real feel for the clay now though, and a more instinctive understanding of which tool I need to grab for which job. It still took me several hours to make this little guy.

Speaking of tools, I have way too many tools. :-) Seriously, I need to edit my carving collection down to the tools I actually use so that I am not fumbling through a whole pile. Sometimes my magpie tendencies can get in the way of my efforts. It's so much fun to collect them though!

I also want to post a progress scan of Alice's Christmas stocking, another view of this dragon, and a progress shot of my polymer wood elf. The wood elf has a head, face, and hair now. He still needs a loin cloth and some accessories. I am thinking an armband, a headband, and some earrings. I'd love to put a dagger on him somewhere too, but acquiring one is the difficulty. Where would I ever find one to the proper scale?? (wailing pitifully...)

I am going to publish this now though because I honestly don't think I could face having to type it one more time!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Goal Achieved!

I did it -- I solved a 3-star puzzle! The Oregonian, our daily paper, started carrying these things a few weeks ago. I haven't been able to solve anything more difficult than a 1 star level puzzle until yesterday, when I completed my first 2-star. And today, a 3-star!! Woo Hoo!

In case you couldn't tell, I am quite perked up about this. I had started to worry that perhaps my brain was turning to mush now that I'm not working anymore. It's comforting to know that the brain cells can still put out a bit of work when called on to do so.

I should be embarassed about spending so much time on a silly game, but they are quite addicting. Oh dear... On the other hand, spending all day every day alone gives me lots of time to play. Fortunately, the corn harvest will be finished by this weekend and Jake will be around more. I miss the man these days!

I got Lydia started on her cross stitch project last night. I haven't done that type of needlework in... can it really be 10 years? So I dug out Alice's unfinished Christmas stocking to demonstrate on, and to keep her company. The delight on Alice's face when she saw what I was working on made me feel a little guilty for not finishing it sooner. After all, everybody else in the family has one of this series made by me. If I settle down to do it, I should be able to finish it easily by this Christmas though.

It's just that my eyesight is simply not what it used to be. I've always been able to talk myself out of buying a magnifying lamp, but the time may be at hand when I won't be able to get much more done without one. And think how much more detail I will be able to add to my sculpts and repaints! Besides, the nice ones look pretty good, and the living room is too dark anyway.

I enjoy finding my justifications where I can.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rediscovering Polymer Clay

My first "pure" sculpture (no molds used of any kind") is going well... so far. This is the class exercise from the sculpting class I took a while back on Doll Street. It is my intention that it be a male doll, but as he will be wearing clothes I am not stressing over anatomical correctness. I am having enough to do just to create this much form.

Accomplishing even just this much has taken me several days work already. I had no idea what a labor intensive process sculpting was! It's an absorbing process though. I set a kitchen timer for myself to make sure that I come away from it in time to cook dinner. He needs to cool now before I start working on his head. I've already managed to damage one of the fingers. Drat!

Doesn't he have the cutest butt though?? I'm pretty proud of the overall shape -- it's only a first attempt after all!

I thought I was being careful, but I still managed to let the clay get a little dirty. Sigh... So many things to pay attention to! I am learning though. I picked up some more tools today at Michaels and I am getting used to using them. Though a few of them I have no idea what they are for!

I'm not sure where this sudden urge to sculpt came from. I haven't liked working with the poly clays in the past. Fimo especially was way too much work to condition and by the time I got to the fun part I was already sick of the process. I am using Premo Sculpey for this guy and it works up fairly quickly.

While I was waiting for the little dude to bake, I dug out some of my old push molds and made this "green woman" head. I wish the photo was a little clearer -- it's much prettier in reality. I think I will use it to make one of the pin dolls I will be sending to a swap on Doll Street. I just need to decide what to embellish the bottom with.

I had a lot of fun experimenting using some of the techniques I have gleaned from CForiginals. I love her work. It's so lively! She's got a book coming out in November with more detailed instructions for one of her dragons. I have it on pre-order and I can't wait for it to come.

There has been so much going on here this past week with the farm and the family. The corn harvest continues after having been interrupted by rain. The high school had its Homecoming festivities last week. Both of the girls went to the dance, and Alice had her first date. They have been talking and talking about it for days, so I think it is safe to assume that they had a good time. I was actually a little jealous -- I want to go dancing too!

On the other hand, I'd rather stay home and play with my clay and my yarn and all the other cool things I can't keep my hands out of than go back to high school.

I've got one more project to share. Darn -- I need to learn how to get these ultra close up photos of small projects into better focus. Argh! At any rate, this is another pin doll for the swap. I need to do just a little more beading on her yet. This one is going to be hard to part with.

I'm not sure about the dangling crystal over her forehead yet. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I just think it's too out of scale. Hmmm...