Saturday, February 19, 2011

mini spring

We're enjoying the end of a lovely February thaw here--it was 72 degrees today when I picked up the neighborhood kids at school (I carpool!). My friend Lydia was visiting yesterday morning and she and I and Reuben took our gnomie friends around the neighborhood looking for spring. Signs are limited to fat buds and greening moss, mostly, but we did spy a clump of snowdrops. Why have I not planted them in my yard yet?
Reuben is about to die with joy having "outside" part of our life again. He didn't much care for deep snow, but left-over slush is F-I-N-E fine for crunching. He stomped along this trail of snow several times back and forth until I tried to slip the camera out of his bag, at which he took great offense. Here he is coming after me:After watching Lydia and I stop and find small places to photograph, Reuben left the sidewalk to carefully scope out this nice icy patch: squat down, look at several angles, put down bag, take out camera, try to photograph, realize camera is upside down, try again...Lydia filled her sweatshirt pockets with last-season's nature bits. Displayed:

Then we made them into a mobile while Reuben was napping, because she knows my house = crafts.

Friday, February 18, 2011

wee porcelain

I still retain a little-girl's wonder at the marble-cool hard surface of fired porcelain. Every time I get new work from a glaze firing, I click my fingernails against the surface, or tap two pieces together--I love the vitreous ring. It's a glory and a marvel to me that the softest clay I work with, that will "sand" with just a soft fingertip when dry greenware, turns the glassiest and hardest of all.

Although it shows crisp detail and can be thrown very thin, I think porcelain is more difficult to work with on a tiny scale; it dries quickly and surface cracks as I work, and the fine particles just sort of smear. I leave smudgy fingerprints everywhere. Still, it's crazy rewarding. Although they didn't sell, I was crazy in love with the wee mice I made in December (eight on a quarter!).

I've had gnomes on the mind. Inspired by spring and little dear tracks and Gnomeo and Juliet, as before mentioned, I believe....

I twisted a handful of gnome-esque shapes from porcelain, and glazed a few to throw in with the university class' firing last week. I wasn't sure how the glazes would hold/flow, so tried (1) cap only, (2) cap & beard, and (3) cap, beard, eyes, & robe. And a hedgehog. I love the eyes. I think I might skip the robe, leaving that gorgeous raw porcelain for the base. It happily allows for a larger margin of error for glaze flow, too; that little sweetie with bright eyes stuck a bit to the shelf. The most excellent effect is the fleshtone face that magically appeared: just a bit of the surrounding glaze went gaseous and redeposited. I've seen the effect along the glaze margins of other pots, and it is so so perfect here. Fingers crossed for repeats!

(and I'm off to work a few more figures before bed...grinning in anticipation...)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

on our snow day...

We got the freezing-rain-only version of the BIG STORM, but was very slippery (and lovely crystalline trees-y), so it gave us a "snow" day on Tuesday. JUST THE NIGHT BEFORE our Blythe dolls finally arrived in a sweet tied-with-string package from Hong Kong. The girls were v. excited and so I just gave them to them (there had been some toying around with saving-'til-birthdays, but that was crazy talk). So the snow day timing was perfect, because we had the chance to do some happy sewing.

I'm eager to design-and-share my own Blythe doll patterns, but to start I purchased the handy Simplicity 2353, a Blythe-specific pattern released last July. Both girls chose to sew yoked skirts. I urged them to build their wardrobe by choosing new pieces that coordinate with the outfit their dolls arrived in. Our latest doll clothes deal is that they cut out the pattern pieces and the fabric and I'll sew them. We were very delighted with our results.

I designed my living room around the fabric Audrey chose for her Cassi's pleated skirt, and it matches shirt, leggings, and ballet flats perfectly.The pink calico Marian chose for her gathered skirt highlights the sweet stitching on the blouse that Marian's Violet Grace came with. In the original outfit, the vest hides the pretty smocking.
a couple of free pattern lists we'd love to try soon: (felt!)


I've been really charmed by everything at little dear tracks since a friend pointed me to her blog after receiving a couple of the author's Doodle Stitching books for Christmas. Her NOM series is so so cute, and coupled with the pending release of Gnomeo and Juliet and a favorite Phineas and Ferb garden gnome episode that's been in heavy rotation at our house...well, it was inescapable that gnomes were made. I started with some simple-form porcelain gnomes that will be done by next year (so slow, my clay these days! The babysitter--aka DAD--quit for February...), but was tempted to try paper clay and made a happy few with them much quicker.

It was my first time using paper clay and I'm very interested. It was similar to using polymer clay in some ways. It felt quite similar, though I couldn't do as much detail, and had a difficult time joining tiny parts. Couldn't, actually. It does rub/smooth nicely, but starts to dry a bit during use. Small cracks can be easily smoothed with a wet fingertip, and drops of water kneaded into stiffer paper clay. Of course, it air dries instead of needing to be baked, and yields a result that is lighter and I think harder, too. The finished result can be sanded and carved like wood. I bought a little 8 oz brick at AC Moore (regular price $5.99) and used a 40% off coupon, which makes it cheaper than polymer clays, too. I felt like it took paint (I used craft acrylics) well--it dried quickly with no risk of peeling, but Becci was painting her polymer ones at the same time as I was and the experience and results were pretty much inextinguishable. I did like that the paper clay left my fingers with little microscopic bits of paper flakes. For no good reason (the liking, that is). I've noticed that art doll makers use a lot of paper clay, but I'm not sure why that's the preferred medium. I'm thinking "hard, flexible, and finer than papier mache."

I sent a few off to my niece for her birthdayand kept a few on my nature table. They're pictured with the smaller of two wooden rainbows I made for Reuben for Christmas.(and a peek at Becci's from a quick photo I took when she brought them by last week):
I love their curly caps and rosy cheeks!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

for Marian: adobe oven

On the way out of Marian's room after kisses last night, I realized I had not yet photographed/posted one of the gifts I made for her for Christmas. She is American Girl crazy, and her little honey is Josefina, a historical character from 1830s New Mexico. I shamelessly copied the AG bread oven.

I made the oven dome and mano and metate from stoneware, corn ears from polymer clay, "baked" and "raw" loaves from salt dough, paddle and door from wood (Dremel and wood burner), and cut the door "hide" from some of the leather I used for wool slipper soles. I threw in some bird seed to "grind" and mohair curls for flames, and packed them in a muslin drawstring bag.
It was very fun. Marian got the lion's share of my Santa's workshopping this year, which might not seem fair, but she's the one who wants the sort of thing I love to make. Although, somewhat to my surprise, my oldest's note to me in our love advent today thanked me for all of the handmade surprises I offer them at holidays and other special occasions. She takes a moral stand of sorts against crafting herself, so it meant a lot to me that she feels the love when I shoot it her way :).