Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Plush from books - Ellie!

A pair of paws balance on a book, while I needle sculpt their toes. This book is perfect for anyone who’s about to expand their family, or recently has. It’s relatable for anyone who ever suddenly found themselves a big sister or brother to be. As a three year old I can recall the chaos in the house starting the night my sister was born at home, and snippets of memories like tip-toeing past a pram, or the poo landing on the carpet, one nappy change! Oops! 

I was excited to receive an early copy of Since The Baby Came  by my good friend Kathleen Long Bostrom, and illustrated by Janet Samuel, because I knew I was going to be making a plush from this lovely story, told in poems. The family is adorable, and I’m sure my sister and I both identify with the children's gorgeous curly hair. However, I made their dog. 

This is Ellie. Can you see the E on her collar? The awesome publishers offered to include Kathleen’s dog, when they discovered the sad loss of the real life Ellie, and sent photographs to Janet. Just like in the story Ellie has a sweet tag on her collar with the letter E. I carefully embroidered this on thick felt. I also enjoyed making those expressive ears. 

Soon I will send plush Ellie across the pond, and I will miss her company. I like dogs a lot and I love that our protagonist has a faithful companion in every spread. There are 16 kinds of poems in the book, with helpful back-matter explaining and naming each kind. I usually do learn from each picture book I read, but there was a lot I didn’t know about poetry. Maybe I’ll write in rhyme for a change. Haha. 

Ellie dog is posing on a quilt I made in my 20s from an idea I had when I was 16. I shaded her ears with chalk and set them with a short spray of fixative. I think about the artist at work on the illustrations when I do things like this. Most of all I love Ellie’s toes and her gentle smile. She also has wired legs and tail so she can enjoy many author-visits and stand firm. I hope you enjoyed meeting her, I know I did. 

Thursday, 18 May 2023

Goose, Goose Goose!

Well, they weren’t too keen on me but my friend Lesley has two lovely geese. While they complained about my presence in the garden, I took pictures for Mary. 

They sang me the song of their people, but they did not attack. 

Inspiration arrived in the form of a wee goose. She is button jointed with some especially appropriate buttons I picked up on sale, in town. 

Her beak and feet are camel coloured fleece - yes, Doug the camel coloured - and her feathers are white minky. And Mary, loves her. 

Honk! Honk! 

Saturday, 13 May 2023

My old film camera …

I haven’t seen a box of 35mm film since about 2003 when I finally had access to a decent digital camera. A camera I recently passed to Mary for GCSE Photography. And her lovely tutor sent home this box of film as he discovered we had a working old fashioned camera.

 Mary took photos as we opened up the case of this beautiful old thing. It was my fathers camera, from my early childhood. My dad took many of our pictures and printed them himself. We lived alongside the enlarger and the chemicals and trays were shelved away from us, and any bulb in the house could be swapped out for red on a dark night.  When I was 18 and doing art A level, the old camera became mine. 

Like riding a bike, I hadn’t forgotten how to load it. The digital camera from 2003 buzzed in Mary’s hands as she documented the process. I took these on my phone. 

All ready to go. Who used empty film canisters to store other things in? I remember going camping with matches stored in one. The Prinzflex M-1 is ready to play. Did I mention it’s a screw mount lens? I have three of them. Where’s my tripod? 

Does anyone know what that little black button near the winder does? I haven’t used it yet! 

Thursday, 9 February 2023

I do like pigeons!

I like pigeons a lot. We sometimes hand feed the ones near the RSPB reserve here in Weymouth. Look at those feathers. That sheen. Could I make one? 

So I gathered together an old (clean) sock, toy filling, string and wool, duct tape and pipe cleaners, and cobbled together this maquette. It’s a bit of a mess. But my daughter Mary adopted it after I’d finished using it to make patterns. 

Made my first pigeon using felted woollens cut without a seam allowance and oversewed with wool thread. Wings are added after the body is complete. The legs are wire covered in small pink woollen pieces and over stitched. I used beads from my stash for the eyes. 

Pigeon number 2 is made using dyed wool cloth, and embroidered thread to hint at those shimmers of magenta and green. 

I feel like their shape is better than the maquette form, and also surprisingly slightly larger. I was really pleased with them. 

This lead to a commission, to make Angus. A bit of a character by all accounts …

The wing markings were created using small fabric shapes and needle felting them. Needle Felting is like magic. 

And just so you know, here is the real Angus. 

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Plush from Books …

In 2022 I entered a season of making larger plush, to help authors promote their books. I sort of lived that author life a little bit, sharing their excitement as a plush WIP was shared on social media and even hearing about new characters before everyone else gets to! 

Sometimes I would stumble upon the perfect fabric in my stash, and sometimes go on a hunt for just the right shade of blue. This long shaggy white fur was perfect for Gertie. have it on good authority that sharing her progress along with my copy resulted in some purchases of The Littlest Yak for little ones to enjoy. 

Gertie was a delight to make, as she’s deliciously cute and her strong character shines through every page. For her photoshoot I took her to tout quarry and found sweet, little rocks that only the smallest of Yaks could balance on! 

Next, the Pooka demanded to be made. Shortly before he demanded lots of tea and chocolate biscuits. Luckily I’m part Irish so know all about a decent cup of tea. I always read the books when I make characters and really enjoyed this adventure, I couldn’t put it down. Both Gertie and the Pooka have covered buttons for eyes, and do he ears remind you of anyone? I make Edward Tulane’s the same way. 

Who doesn’t love an old teddy bear? In The Witchlings Wish he helps the main character with her quest, so he’s super important. He only has one eye so I made a dent where his left one would be. Other touches the illustrator used where repair stitches, stains and sparse threads for the nose. I really enjoyed adding those but was a little nervous of the staining. I used pastels for that. 

Finally there was One Camel Called Doug! He was really challenging because his legs are so slender. I made his leg warmers from football socks and I used chalks to tint his fur and face. Oh, and fixative for that hair do! 

Most of these large toys incorporate coated wire or they would never stand. And there’s a jaunty wire in Doug’s tail to give it some bounce. I love him. 

If you are an author looking for a plush, look for @raggyrat on social media and let’s talk! 

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Two drawings and a chunky rat

An ink and pencil sketch I made recently from a photograph seen on Facebook. I doodled this spontaneously and gifted it, this lovely girl was saved from the meat trade. 

This detailed pencil drawing became a Christmas present, to the now grown up girl sitting with her beloved dog. Sadly in 2022 he crossed the rainbow bridge. 

And a rat made from a chunky cardigan and some denim off cuts that I gifted to a friend who is a self confessed lab rat, taking part in medical research. I think the rats face turned out well, his body is rather rotund. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

40 Days with Labyrinths ...


When author and friend Fay Rowland asked me to join her blog tour, I said yes please, just so I could look at all the lovely colouring in her new book. She wont know until she reads this, but I actually have a proposition for her. A proposal. A collaboration ... 

Devotionals are often very grown up things to read, but this one (did I say there's colouring?) also feels like a sit down and a chat with Fay. 

The useful Blurb from the back of the book goes like this ... 

"Labyrinths have been a treasured part of Christian spirituality for centuries. The journey along a winding path, with twists and turns, unexpected obstacles, and the satisfaction of reaching journey’s end, creates an ideal opportunity for mindful and prayerful reflection upon our lives and God’s plan for us.
In this book, Fay Rowland presents a brilliant modern take on Bible study and labyrinth-walking. She offers forty short, biblical meditations on the challenges and blessings of daily life, each accompanied by a labyrinth illustration which you can ‘walk’ – just with your finger, or perhaps with colouring pens or pencils – as you reflect on the reading.

As in life, some of the labyrinth journeys are simple, while others present a more complicated path!

40 Days with Labyrinths is ideal for personal reflection during Lent or at any other time of year."

So you could save this for Lent, or get going now to celebrate the chinese new year?

Grab a copy here and find out more about Fay Rowland on her website x