Monday, July 30, 2012

Taking Shape – The Layout

If you have been reading along the last couple of posts, you know this one is going to be about the layout of my project. I started by trying to figure out the best place for the birch log sections. The simplest way was to use some paper stand-ins.


Once I had decided where they would go, I could plan the slate path that I wanted on one end and leave room for the planned section at the other end.


The last big portion to sort out was the end piece. I got so involved with it that I don’t have photos of its evolution. Just imagine that it began as a rectangular piece of Styrofoam which I chose because I wanted to avoid making the piece too heavy to lift and move. I sculpted the Styrofoam into the shape I was after and made a huge mess in the process. I didn’t take photos of the mess either. It is pretty well etched in my memory – I think you will be alright without it being etched in yours. I kept telling myself “Styrofoam ‘snow’ is the means to the end. Styrofoam ‘snow’ is the means to the end. Styrofoam ‘snow’ is the means to the end.”


My next challenge was adding the moss forest floor. This had been part of my vision from the beginning. In some ways it was easier than I had thought. Working in my favor from the very beginning was committing myself not to rush through the stages. Perhaps I should have just committed myself if you know what I mean.

ts_tl_4  ts_tl_5

Styrofoam has it benefits obviously but it also has its drawbacks. I elected to cover it in paper maché so I could cover it in moss more easily. It took about three days to dry thoroughly. Like I said, no rush. Yeah, right.


Finally, here is a photo of the base nearly almost practically just about but not quite finished. There was a bit of touching up to do at this point but you can see what it looks like before I added all the details.


At one point my husband came home to this:


It’s an antique table covered with a garbage bag (to protect it) sitting on top of my kitchen table (to get more height so I wouldn’t have a permanent crick in my neck) so I could work on the edges. Call me crazy. My husband does.

My next post will be all about the details. I love me some details. You know what they say about the details. Just for funsies, I’ll share just a few more photos. Let’s start with this one:


Nothing more appetizing than a plate full of loose moss along with various debris.

This is a photo of an attempt to arrange the leaves to my liking.


And these, well, it’s the only time you’ll see these. Since much of this project required new skills, I did lots of prototypes. These candles were trials. I mean trials as in pain, suffering, distress and misery. Nah, not as bad as all that. It’s just I had to acquire a little know-how. These little guys had a fine burial though. We played an upbeat jazz number as they went to their final resting place.


Like I said previously, the next post will show many of the details. Thanks so much for reading!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Trial and Error – The Next Bits

Following my last post, this one shows the next stages of my TBAI gallery piece. As a project, it required the most diverse tools and materials of any I have created.

First there was the wood of the base and the birch logs. Here you can see them cut to size.


Then there were some twigs that also had to be cut – much smaller. These little slices are about 1/8th of an inch thick and about ½” or so in diameter. Funnily enough, they were not the smallest ones.


Many of the bits and pieces of this project required some new technique or a serious review of one learned long ago. I spent some time reacquainting myself with polymer clay. I could hardly wait to do some practice runs. As you can see in the following photo, I started by trying to see how some small berries would turn out.


Then I tried some chocolate covered strawberries – not so happy with these first ones. Eventually, I made some that worked out pretty well.


From there I experimented with making some leaves using a leaf shaped cutter and a few strawberry topped tarts. There was definitely a learning curve.


I mixed some clay to come up with a blueberry color for blueberries. I had blue hands for a time,


but I ended up with lots and lots of blueberries.


I think I had the most fun making cherries. Maybe I will put together a tutorial for them. Quick, easy and fun – you know, stuff I can handle. While I’m no expert, I think the cherries were probably my most successful berry.


As you can see, I had several things going at once. I also spent a lot of time looking at the timer while things baked or dried. I tried to count the different tools I used and gave up after I got to about thirty. That was most of them anyway.


When I summarize these steps, it looks like it should have taken about half a day but in reality it took days and days and days. I finally gave up trying to keep the bits picked up off the floor. In fact, I’d almost be willing to bet there are still some teeny tiny little blueberries rolling around in some far corner of my kitchen.

Next up: The Layout.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dream and Do!

Coming in three weeks is the TBAI (Teddy Bear Artist Invitational) in Binghamton, NY. Every year each attending artist is challenged to create a special, one-of-a-kind gallery piece interpreting the theme. This year’s theme is “Any Occasion Will Do” – special occasions – don’t you love them?!


I learned my choice at the end of last year and started mulling it over. I repeatedly asked myself how I should go about representing this special occasion. After a few weeks and then a few weeks more, I decided I must put pencil to paper. That’s where I started.


I had a few ideas – some of them might have been pretty good even, but I wanted one that would challenge me and keep me interested. I wanted one that I could get excited about. (Reminder to self: Be careful what you ask for.)


So I pitched out those first ideas – or so I thought. I decided not to decide. I would wait. Some people call this procrastinating but that’s just putting off doing what you know you have to do. I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted to do – yet.


After even more time, I came up with an idea I rather liked. Then the ideas came fast and furious – and so many ways to go with it that I got to the point where I decided I must act. This is where the Dream and Do bit comes in. I read about that in a book called The Imagineering Workout. By making a start, I would commit myself to a plan even if it evolved into something else as I went along.

d&d_5_p    d&d_6_p

Do you remember this photo of these birch logs? They were the beginning – the linchpin to everything else that would follow. I don’t know why it seems my ideas always require me to go to the far reaches of the earth for parts and pieces – or at least have them delivered!


From there I needed a base. My husband said he could cut whatever shape I needed so I decided to go with an organic free flowing shape.


Luckily we had the perfect piece to cut it out of already.

d&d_9_p   d&d_10_p

I also came across these acorns which would come in handy. I collected them a couple of years ago walking around the neighborhood in the fall. I’m going to stop questioning why I keep some of this stuff around!


As my creation began to take shape, both literally and figuratively, I took over more and more areas of the house. I spread out beyond the studio and into the kitchen, then into the dining room and the garage – even to the deck out back. It was my own personal occupy movement – of a different sort. As you can guess, we didn’t have dinner on a real table for days and days and days.

I took lots of photos of my progress which I will share in upcoming posts. This was just the beginning. So what IS in the box at the top of this post?


My project – all finished and ready to be photographed! I guess I better do that pretty soon so you can see it all put together. I think this calls for a celebration. It is – after all – a special occasion.

Monday, July 23, 2012


The weather forecasters have been saying that we would get some rain.  Many days it looked like it would but not so much on our little patch of ground.  We had cloudy skies and a maybe a sprinkle or two. You might even venture to call it rain.  Then – last night – in the middle of the night, a thunderstorm arrived.  Loud claps of thunder rattled us from our dreams. Flashes of lightning lit up the sky. And the rain.

The rain poured down.

In spite of all that terrific rattling, wind blowing and torrents of rain, nature surprised us this morning with a show of resiliency and art.



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sebastian, the Great Swami?

Hi all. Sebastian here. I thought I would tell you about the part-time job I am applying for. This ad in the classified section of the newspaper caught my eye.


It didn’t take me but a second to realize that it was the perfect job for me. I am very good at paw/palm reading, but I thought I should brush up a little before I went for the interview.


The only humans around here that I could practice on are you-know-who and you-know-him. Even though I had to pull her away from cutting out a new bear friend, she agreed and asked me if I could also paint her nails while I was at it. I had to tell her that wasn’t part of the job description. Paint her nails! Humph!

Here I am taking a close look at all the lines. First there’s the heart line. “Uh-huh. I see” I said. “What does that mean?” she asked. “Sh-h-h” I replied, “I’m in the middle here.”


Next, I read her life line. “Yes, m-m-m-m.” I muttered. “Sebastian, what are you seeing?” she demanded. I guess I had to tell her. This is what I saw. She had a somewhat questionable life line. I said her life would be very short unless she kept a big stash of cookies in the cupboard. I also could see she had a very big heart which meant she was very content to have cookies and milk for dinner.


I couldn’t really tell if she was pleased with the reading. She walked away mumbling something about 5 minutes of her life gone or some such thing. I don’t know where she got that from. I wasn’t really specific about how much time she had left.


“Next!” I called out and in came You-know-him. “Ah-ha! Very in-ter-rest-ing.”


I could tell that he had a very long life ahead of him if he shared his evening snacks with a very cute little bear that resides in his house.


Then something startled me a bit. I took a close look. “Oh, the horror!” I exclaimed.


Of course I had alarmed him. I had to explain myself immediately. “I see you have been in the kitchen and come back empty handed! And yet, I smell . . . I smell . . . chocolate! This you must fix at once or a dire future is in store for your love life. Go! Go! At once and repair yourself to the kitchen and return with chocolate!” He walked away saying something about ‘definitely, your bear’ whatever that means.


As for the fortune teller part of the job, I need a few more subjects to practice on. Maybe you can help. If you have a question about your future, you could leave it in a comment for me and I will do my best to tell your fortune. I’ll be here all weekend and I am happy to impart my wisdom.



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What flies?

I was browsing through my ‘bears&boxes’ picture files when I decided to see if I could find a date for the first piece I had made for the series. It took me a bit by surprise to see it was way, way, way back in 2003.

I wasn’t blogging then so I am fairly certain these photos will be new to bearbits. I remember being excited about this new idea – combining bears (in most cases) and boxes. I also remember being totally immersed in the project. That still happens.


It was my gallery piece for TBAI and I called it The Flying Pig. The theme that year was nursery rhymes. This one was the one I chose for some very strange reason:

Dickory, dickory, dare,
The pig flew up in the air;
The man in brown soon brought him down.
Dickory, dickory, dare.

The fun bits are the details in my opinion. Here’s the left side. My concept for this section was a take-off (oh, bad pun!) on the side shows at fairs. I designed the crumpled sign in that style. The man (in brown) a sepia toned old photo – maybe even a relative of mine? – reminded me of a barker that draws the crowds in.


Here is the right side –


I included lots of references to flying here with a nod to Charlotte’s Web with the ‘Some Pig’ spelled out in the spider’s web. The bottle labels read: Anti-Gravity Matter, Buoyancy Pills, and Liquid Lift! You can also see a visual reference to Da Vinci’s wing drawing.


Below that is my idea of text from a children’s book about flying pigs. I think the inspiration for it comes from the Dick and Jane books. Does anyone remember those?


I also included a headline from a fake newspaper about the oddity. Do you know I had a hard time ripping it into a little snippet after spending time to make it look real?

I think my favorite section of the whole piece was this part with books. I had such fun coming up with the titles. The blue one references that wonderful quote, “Flying is the second greatest thrill to man. Landing is the first!”


Here’s the little flying piggy all by himself.


It’s mind-boggling for me to realize I made this nine years ago. It seems like only yesterday. Wow! I guess it’s not only pigs that fly, eh?


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