Friday, June 26, 2015

My First Attempt at Doll Making

Had no idea what I was getting myself into. lol  I've been wanting to make some kind of dolls for some time now.  I think something in me was craving for 3D art after doing a lot of 2D stuff.  I started buying books on doll making on Amazon and started making a project in paper clay earlier this month, but it involves waiting the clay to dry before moving onto the next phase of the project, so I ended up starting on a cloth mermaid doll, with the intention of working on both in alternating phases.  What happened was that my clay doll head being left on the drying rack and my focusing on the cloth doll.  ^^;  I'll eventually finish the clay one.  I promise.

I took some pics along the way since it was slow-going.  Well, it's my first attempt, so I wasn't expecting it to go fast by any means.  ^_^  I've made dresses before, so I knew how the sewing machine worked.  And I have lots of patience, so I figured I could try my hands at this. :D

The books I was using for instruction are by Jan Horrox - "Introduction to Making Cloth Dolls" and "Making Fantasy Cloth Dolls".  The books include patterns at the end which are actual size for the projects demonstrated with text and photos in the books.  The body parts are also interchangeable between projects and books, so you can try different types of heads, hands and feet, and body.  I wanted to make a mermaid - also figured this would be one less limb to deal with as my family quickly pointed out - so I based the tail on Jan's mermaid from the fantasy book and used the body from a fairy from the intro book.

She recommended Pimatex, so I ordered a yard from an eBay seller.  The cloth needed to be dyed some shade of skin color, and the dye mentioned in the book had to be shipped from the UK, so I looked up Rit's web site, found formula for a custom shade, which required 3 bottles of different colors.  The Rit dye turned out to be available widely at stores, but never the complete line in one location...  So I ended up buying their "Camel" (shade of brown/tan) and eyeballed it with a scrap of Pimatex.  First test turned out too dark, so I went easy on the whole yard of fabric.  Amazingly, I got lucky and got what I wanted. :D

Head was harder than I thought. :(  My sewing machine is old ... like over 20 years, and I only have a very limited assortment of 'feet'.  So the process probably was harder than it could have been, but managed to sew up something that looked like a head.  Ears were fun.  And of course, drawing in the face was a fun part although my black Pigma, which shouldn't have reacted to water, actually ran a little bit when I was cleaning the purple 'disappearing ink' lines with a bit of water.  *Note to self: wait for it to air dry and disappear next time.

Then came the body and limbs.  The hands were tedious, trying to make all these tiny curves with a sewing machine.  Also difficult was sewing in curved lines - I was always just slightly 'off' one way or the other.  No two limbs are exactly alike, in my case, which I guess is actually also the case in nature.  ^^;  At least, the hands with webbed fingers did not require my to turn the fingers one by one, which looks like a total pain in the rear...

I did my mermaid's bust differently than the book, by the way.  I wanted her to actually have breasts, so I altered the instruction on one of the fairies that wore a bustier.  Instead of using print fabric, I just used the skin color to make the cups.  The tail was fun to make.  Actually, the whole thing seemed less daunting once the hands and arms were done.

Gave her a bra top, then beads and sequins all over.  I like this kind of work.  Tedious yet simple, so mind is free to wander off... ahem, ponder on all important things.  lol

Did some more painting with acrylics on her shoulders and along the spine.

Gave her pearl earrings. :)  The plastic bag behind her head is the dyed Tibetan lamb's wool I purchase from another seller on eBay.  It said "remnants" on the listing, but I got a lot of this stuff for as little as I paid.  I'll be going back to this seller for more hair in my future project, no doubt.

Anyhow, I made a mistake of attaching the tail to the body before attaching the arms to the body like the book instructed.  Getting disorganized by combining parts from two different dolls in two different books...  Nothing major.  Just a lot of things that get in the way of the thread when you're trying to attach the head to the neck between the limbs (BTW, I think I will shorten her arms' pattern in my future dolls... they're disproportionately long for my taste.) and all the beads and sequins on the tail.  ^^;

The hair was a bit of a mystery to me at first.  In the books, Jan used yarns, strips of cloths, etc.  And she also used lamb's wool, but attached the sheet straight onto the head.  I wanted to try the method shown by the lady I bought the hair from (She makes beautifully intricate polymer dolls and keeps a detailed blog with lots of pics.  Totally inspiring!).  She cuts the locks in small segments and glues them in one small section at a time.  First, I had to check if this was feasible with cloth head.  So I did a test attachment on a scrap of Pimatex.  It worked really well.  So I started out at the nape of the head, gluing the segment of hair one small bit at a time.  The Fabri-Tac glue is reasonably easy to work with.  It has a consistency, for a lack of better word, of nasal mucus, quite a bit stickier, of course, but if you get a little on your finger, you can just roll the glue into a little ball and pling!  lol

The mermaid's hair took me hours.  And the lamb's wool kept shedding even from just handling the remnant sheets.  This was, by far, the messiest stage of this project.  In the end, my mermaid ended up with more of a Troll  look (Remember these pudgy guys?) than what I originally envisioned for her, I like her wild fluffy hair just as much.  ^_^


I hope to take her to the park or a botanical garden one of these days and do a nice photo shoot.  This pic was taken mid day on a super hot day.  We're in the Wisteria vines for the dappled sun.

I don't live near a beach, so sea and sand are not easy to access for a photo shoot.  This mermaid will have to live in the trees for a while.  I decided to name her Adriana.

Here's the thing.  With this many parts and processes involved, there's bound to be mistakes and mishaps.  Sure enough, once everything settled, although I thought I was being very careful when attaching the body to the tail, she doesn't quite sit straight.  T_T  She kind of requires a wedge to support from both sides at the hips in order to be securely seated (Most likely her butt is not flat enough!).  I thought about what to do, and an idea came to me when I was watering my garden this morning.  I'm going to make her a swing so she can be properly balanced and also be displayed.  :D   Thinking I'll make her swing out of some natural fiber, crochet an open half-pod like swing and decorate it with shells and cheese cloth.  Sounds like a plan to me.

I already have a few doll ideas for the near future.  This was a lot of fun for me, so hopefully, I get better at it with each attempt, and learn even more about doll making.  ^_^

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Christmas in July

I can't believe this is already the 3rd annual "Christmas in July" shopping spree giveaway! *wow*  Since I opened my Etsy shop in late November of 2012, every summer, I've offered this $50 shopping spree giveaway.  I write the username of the customers who place an order on small strips of paper and place them in a jar every day during the campaign period.  It's always fun to be the bearer of the good news to one surprised customer at the end of the giveaway.

The first "Christmas in July" happened back in 2013.  I was just beginning to add digital stamp listings at the time, so the big win went to a customer who was collecting my art as prints.  The second year (last year) in 2014, I don't remember who the winner was (mainly because I was so busy with my digi business... and I had yet to become accustomed to the routine of it all), but I remember how full the same glass vase I used in 2013 was.  So many names were in there!  I was having to push down to keep them all in there.

This summer, I'm expanding this special event - one winner at AW Etsy shop and another winner at the digi shop at AW site - to have two winners who will win $50 shopping spree each.  It'll be a lot of fun, and I'm sure it will be two full vases.  ^_^

If you're a fan of my art, coloring book enthusiast, or digi enthusiast, any and all order through July 26 will earn an entry into the random drawing automatically.  You can multiply your entries simply by leaving reviews/feedback on your Etsy purchases during the same period.  Since I don't have the feedback feature at the AW site shop, entry there will be based specifically by orders.

Oh, and... AW Etsy now accepts Etsy Gift Cards and a bunch of other payment methods, including PayPal. Now it's easier than ever to give a gift of AuroraWings digis to your favorite crafter!!        

Friday, May 29, 2015

Take a Peek

It's been a hectic month!  And it's already at the end.  Started out strong, then got sick with flu, then was swamped with special events (award ceremonies, extra concerts, Baccalaureate, and graduation) for Jr., and then trying to schedule and host a special celebration event on Facebook for the digi business.  *pants*  That was a pretty full month!

Still playing catch-up with my drawing, while taking care of the garden - Spring is always busy as weeding and planting take a lot of time from my schedule.  Until the plants and yard are all set and can be on an auto-pilot mode, things are hectic.  I don't like working in a piece meal fashion with a couple hours here, run some errands, then go back for another hour, etc.  My preference is getting a drawing done in one big stretch and be done with it.  This approach works wonderfully when you're single or living by yourself, but as soon as you have a family and there are other people around (be it in an office situation or during summer or long vacation so kids are home), productivity generally goes down, and it's simply impossible to get it done this way.

I like the saying, "When there's a will, there's a way".  I find much truth in that.  These days, I just have to get it done with the attitude of "whatever it takes".  ^^;  Not getting set in ways helps.  Being flexible (in mind and body) is healthy.   Sometimes I doodle while I'm watching TV with family, and good ideas flow.  (Although there are times I just have to be at the desk to get things done.)  Sometimes I think about the next Sprites or fantasy art ideas while working in the garden - multi-task!   I'm more of a single-track mind and generally suck at multi-tasking (can't even comfortably drink water and drive, so wouldn't dream of talking on the phone and driving ).

Some of the recent sketches.  The girl with pigtails with a bunch of kitties has already been made into a digi last week.  Now deciding on which one to ink next for the next new release.  ^_^

"Can I Keep Them"(aka "Lori, the Cat Lady in Training") was a gift-with-purchase digi.
Will not be added to the listing at the shops for a while.
I'm trying to add a designer to my AuroraWings Showcase Design Team.  Hoping to find a fantastic new member by the middle of next month, but this is yet another task that's been added onto my plate. Oh, and I have two FB contests ending on Sunday to finish up the month with a bang. :D

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lady Oscar Book

I'm so excited to be able to talk about what I previously referred to as "the Italian Project" (blog post March 10, 2015).  Call me superstitious, but I've had an exciting fantasy book project by major publisher go down the drain after all images had been submitted by all contributing artists, and ever since that happened, I've kind of developed the cynical, "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude (You know, for someone who tries to be a subscriber of the Law of Abundance/Attraction, this is really not what it's all about. lol).  So I'm extra psyched that this once came into being.

This Italian-language publication by award-winning journalist, Valeria Arnaldi, is called "Lady Oscar".  For those of you who are not familiar with the Japanese manga, and its anime adaptation that came later, it was originally called Berusaiyu no Bara (ベルサイユのばら) in Japanese, or The Rose of Versailles in English, by a famous mangaka Riyoko Ikeda, and the manga started in1972 with anime adaptation starting in 1979.  *Read the Wiki for more info right here for plot and other info.  It really was ahead of its time in so many ways, and was enormously popular in Japan and beyond.  Her book is an analytical look at this manga/anime - the main character of Oscar in particular - from history to social impact, and includes some artwork from various artists from around the world.

The fans of the anime series will recognize the cover art immediately as the vignette from the beginning of the opening theme.

I was fortunate to receive an e-mail from Valeria ealier this year about using my Marie Antoinette illustrations.  Imagine my delight as I read her e-mail.  After all, both the manga series and the anime series were one of my favorites from childhood.  I definitely had a doodle phase where every hair looked like Oscar's and every rose looked like Ikeda-sensei's. lol  It's amazing for me to see my childhood joy of drawing come full circle after so many years and to let me come across a fantastic tribute opportunity such as this one!  It's all the more amazing that art is my living now despite years of discouragement and derailment from friends and relatives about becoming a 'starving artist' (Somehow in their minds, these two words were inseparable and can only co-exist within this phrase.  Just horrible...  ^^;  )

One of my Marie illustrations.  This one obviously pokes fun at the "Let them eat cake" quote that historians say was wrongly attributed to her.  But oh, how fun to play with it anyway!

I can't wait to see the book in the mail.  Valeria is kindly mailing all included artists a copy of her book, and I'm so excited! :D  I don't speak or read Italian, but I'm sure I'll enjoy looking through the book.  So cool!

On another front, one of my favorite local shops downtown contacted me about carrying my coloring books yesterday.  We'll be figuring out the details in coming weeks, and I'm so happy about this, too.  There are lots of book stores and gift shops, but this one is really special.  I've been shopping there since before I got married to my husband even!  The place is stuffed full of all the cool, beautiful, awesome, wonderful things in gifts, music, art, books, etc.  Our most recent purchase from there was a beautiful Medicine Buddha statuette.  I feel I'm getting to work with people and companies that I love and enjoy working with more and more these days.  I think we all have the tendency of making mistakes when we first start out in art, or in any field for that matter, by jumping onto the first offers that come along.  I've had my share of regrettably bad decisions over the years, but learned from these to better sniff out what I really like from those I don't care much about.  One thing that has become much easier to do is the act of saying 'no' to things I don't like or wish to be a part of, and it's great.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Peony Pyrography Project Finished

I was finally able to take some pictures of this wood burn project (7.5 x 9.5 inches) this afternoon when we had a nice break from the rain.  The sky cleared up, the sun came out, and I was able to make use of nice indirect sunlight.  ^_^

Since the humidity was high all day due to rain showers since last night, I haven't had a chance to put clear matte acrylic coats on this wood yet, but the burning and tinting are done.  It's a nice little feng shui decoration for the wall as peony signifies beauty and love.  And this is an image of a "pair" of blooms.

Here's a close-up of the shading and coloring.  I mix my own colors out of paint that come out of tubes.  The paint was thinned a lot with water, very much like how I normally paint with watercolor on paper.  But I liked the way the basswood just drinks it all up very quickly.  It's probably a good idea for me to let the wood dry out completely by leaving this alone for a few days.  Western Colorado is usually very arid with less than 10% humidity for average, but because of the showers, the humidity is much higher at the moment.

This wood piece had pretty routed edges, and I just couldn't resist expanding the image past the surface area onto the edge - but only on the right side of the image.  ^_^

I had so much fun with this project.  I like working with wood, and I most definitely like the smell of burning wood.  I also love drawing, so I feel it's only natural that I enjoy wood burning so much. :D  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Peony Pyrography Project Part 2

WIP 4 - burning complete
This project went faster than I expected.  :D  I'm finished with the wood burning of this 7.5 x 9.5 inch panel.  Between going to the store and running other errands after writing today's earlier post, I was able to finish shading the petals of the flower #2 (on the right) and shade the leaves as well.

WIP 3 - flower #2 (on the right) finished
I mulled over different options for the shading of the leaves, and finally decided to do crosshatching.   I will be giving the flowers transparent tint tomorrow, so hopefully, the leaves will be dark enough for now.

The leaves kind of 'wrap' over the edge to the right.  It was tricky to burn these lines since the surface is curved. ^^;  Something different and fun.

I'm done for the day.  I'll get my watercolor out tomorrow and give transparent color - hoping for red and pink - to the blooms.  ^_^  And once that's done, I'll take better pics during daylight hours in a brighter room.

UPDATE (April 24, 2015) - Finished giving the two blooms tints of watercolor.  I like the way it came out.  This is just a quick snapshot in poor light as it is past 6:30 pm and sun is way low in the western sky.  I'll take a better pic during the mid day in indirect sunlight (That is... if we don't get hit by a storm tomorrow. ^^;   *fingers crossed* )  This is only my second wood burn project and the first one that I colored.  I think it's fun to add color, although I love the look of burned lines on wood the way it is very much.  I've worked some more on the colors after I took this photo, so the final image is  going to be a little different.  ^_^   As an Asian, I grew up looking at drawings of peonies and chrysanthemums.  So this piece feels a little nostalgic - strangely enough, considering I just finished it.

WIP 5 - with watercolor tint on the blooms

Peony Wood Burn Project

When I went supply shopping the other day after finishing the rooster project, I needed to get me a can of clear matte acrylic finish to put on my first project.  I also went looking for additional points for my Versa Tool since I really wanted the flow point in a smaller size.  The one that came with my Versa Tool is nice, but a little too thick for my drawing style.  ^^;  The local shop had an assorted pack of 5 additional points, and luckily for me, one of which was the 'mini flow point'.  *score*  Even though I ended up with four extra points that I didn't have immediate need for (or duplicates), it was still a good deal.   I was able to finish the rooster project and wood burn my signature and year on the back with the new mini flow point.  *happy*

Now I'm working on the second wood burn project.  This time, it's a nice rectangle piece of basswood with beveled edges.  Main burning surface measuring 7.5 x 9.5 inches (I'm guessing that the back side measurement would be 8 x 10.).  I originally sketched out a design on a piece of scrap paper.  Realized it was a tad too big for the project piece, so I scanned the image and reduced the size by 10%.  Then really needed a carbon paper - the good old-fashioned carbon paper that used to be used copies of receipts and whatnot.  I had to do a shopping search online and found out they sold it at nearby Office Max.  Off I went.  I was looking in the regular office supply zone where they sell different kinds of paper.  Finally I had to ask for help of a store associate.  ^^;  He took me to the far wall past computers and printers where they actually had typewriters in stock! I couldn't help but blurt out, "Oh, wow!  Didn't know you guys still sold these things.  Now it makes perfect sense that you'd carry carbon paper right here.".  The guy told me they sell almost one a day!  Who knew?

With the carbon paper in place, I was able to trace my sketch onto the piece of wood without making a huge mess with graphite.  No smudging, and it didn't require excessive pencil pressure, either.  *nice*

It was getting kind of late, but I went ahead and used my new 'mini flow point' to do the outline.  This baby is so smooth.  It was fun to burn the outline. :D  The tiny details in the center of the flowers were burned with a 'mini universal tip'.

Replaced the tip to the regular universal tip to do the shading of the petals with stippling technique.  ^_^  I'm liking the way this is turning out so far. :D  After I write up this post (thus have a break), I'll get back to the flower to the right, and off to do the leaves.  Haven't decided how I'll shade the leaves yet, but I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to think about it as I work on the second flower's shading.  Will be back with more WIP shots either later today or tomorrow.

Oh, and while I was shopping for the can of clear acrylic and a set of burner points, I did pick up a wooden trinket box. :D  It was ridiculously inexpensive, but I saw potential in the shape.  Yes, lots of potential! :D