Happy Easter! Hyvää Pääsiänen!
I’ve been working on 8 cm dolls for the past week or so. I think part of the reason why I’m doing that is because I’ve also been experimenting with recycled plastics and painting techniques to create tiny sets of wings. Eight centimeters (approximately 3 1/8 inches) may not sound like a large doll, but I’ve been working on dolls between 4 cm (1 5/8 inch) and 6 cm (2 3/8 inch) for the past few months, making 8 cm seem huge!
I’ve also been working on a method of creating and attaching tiny hair buns for the tiny doll series. Annikki and Norma are the two dolls I created using the new technique. I was trying to find a solution to not having pre-made pom-poms to use for tiny doll hairstyles. I tried creating some truly microscopic pom-poms myself and they just did not work. I tried creating some kind of frizzy yarn that could approximate a bun or poof. Again, they did not work. I also tried using commercially made wool balls, but they were too large and proved too dense. This made trying to sew on them a pain in the neck. The doll that became Annikki was a doll that had ‘slipped through the cracks’. I had made the doll, but had not created any clothing or hairstyle for her. Her body is made with a 40/60 wool/acrylic blend felt that I had a very small amount of. I remember thinking that I wanted to see if a wool blend felt would work for these tiny dolls. Wool can be stiffer and more dense than viscose and acrylic felts, which are super easy to use for these tiny dolls.
While sewing the light blue yarn onto Annikki’s head, it struck me that I could essentially do the exact same thing on a much smaller scale. I’d done it with the 4 cm doll heads. The hair buns that I wanted to make would be a little bit smaller than the 4 cm doll heads. In a nutshell, I just made a tiny doll head, and then sewed around the entire spherical stuffed felt piece, until the entire surface was covered in yarn.
To attach the buns to the head, I used some small pieces of toothpick (around 5 mm) to anchor each bun in place on the head. The toothpick was first glued into the hair bun and left to dry. Once dry, I glued each bun to Annikki’s head. Little hair ties and bows conveniently disguise any glue that might otherwise be seen.
I also spent a lot of time creating the little white lacy edges to Annikki’s jacket, cuffs and dress hem. I used a 1mm crochet hook and a single strand of white embroidery floss for this. I have to say, this just about broke my eyeballs creating them. The embroidery floss strand was slippery and would just not cooperate sometimes. The edge of the skirt was easy, compared to the cuffs on the sleeves and the little collar for the jacket. GAH! My poor eyeballs! So, what do I do? I make another doll!
I guess that I thought that since I got through creating the crochet work for Annikki, that I needed to try the same techniques on a smaller doll? I’m not sure. Norma was all pieced. I just had to sew her together. There was so, much, cursing while I created the pink crocheted edges for Norma. I decided to be more elaborate with the cuffs of the sleeves and change around the collar of the blouse. GAH! So. Much. Cursing. Her hair buns were a cake-walk compared to the tiny crochet work. I decided to attach her buns without using toothpicks, and glued them straight to her head. It worked. I think that is due in large part to using Eri-Keeper (the Aleene’s Tacky Glue of Finland, only way, way, way stronger) and pinning them in place for the first part of drying.
I love the color I chose for Norma’s skin, but it never ever seems to show up well in the photos I take. I keep thinking that this may be due in part to my problems with seeing certain shades of purples, violets and browns. Many times, I cannot distinguish between those colors. It’s not a color blindness thing. I think it’s an ‘old eye’ thing. I only noticed this about six or seven years ago while teaching. Sometimes even pulling the color into the light doesn’t help, which leads me to believe it’s something to do with my age. Here is the color of the felt. It’s a delicious color!
The warming weather (3° C or 37.4° F) and longer, sunnier days (it was still kind of light at almost 20:00!) have gotten me thinking about flowers and sun and butterflies. It was only a matter of time anyway before I tried to create some little wings for the tiny dolls I’ve been making. I’d already created tiny wings from felt for the tiny bear series. My post on 6 April detailed my process of creating the wings. I’ve finished two tiny dolls with fairly wings. Here they are:
I created tiny hair buns for Inkeri, but I didn’t have enough of the purple yarn to make buns for Maija, so she got sweet little sticky-uppy pig tails. I purposefully put them each in pants because I didn’t want to make them overly fairy-like. I also think that a skirt or outfit with a ton of embroidery would make the doll a bit too busy, and district from the wings. I think they turned out very sweet. I’ve not given them antenna, because I’m not sure about them. Again, I’m not a ‘fairy person’. It’s not that I dislike them. They just aren’t my ‘thing’. The fact that I’ve made these two dolls and more sets of wings, would point to the contrary, so here we are!
The hardest part of creating these dolls was attaching thing wings to the doll body. By the second time attaching wings, I’d figured out how I needed to do it without becoming too frustrated. I’m using rigid flat plastic from packaging that I’ve saved for the wings. Part of the difficulty of sewing them on is that the plastic is soft and thin enough for a sewing needle to go through it. I’ve made holes where I want to sew the wings on, and I need to pull the needle through those holes, not make new ones!
I think you can see the stitches a little better on Maija. I cut a slit in the back of the tunic so I could sew the wings directly onto the body. I wanted to make sure that they were firmly anchored to the torso. When I had them pinned for placement, I hated how the wings would wobble from side to side. I had thought that I might make the wings something that could be removed from the doll. Attach the wings to a little vest or jacket perhaps. Nope. I don’t like the wings wobbling about. Nope. Nope. Nope.
The two sets of wings pictured above I created using the same technique as the wings that Inkeri and Maija have. An intaglio/monoprint printmaking technique, without actually creating a print. The intaglio holds the paint in place, and then I can wipe off successive layers of paint. Once dried, I seal the side of the wings that I’ve painted. The shinier side is the outside of the wing.
For the last set of wings I created, I sanded the plastic prior to scratching into the plastic sheet. This is similar how certain plastics (#6 polystyrene plastic) can be used to make a shrink plastic. Sanding the plastic allows colored pencil to adhere to the plastic, much like the commercially made Shrinky-Dink plastic. I wanted to see if I could retain a bit of the paint on the areas that I sanded. A certain amount did stay, but I think in the next try, I will sand the plastic with rougher sand paper to create a more interesting pattern.
I have three dolls for these three sets of wings. I need to think about what kinds of clothing I want to design for them. Before any of that, I’ll need to get their hair started. The sequences of construction are different from the tiny dolls I’ve been making that don’t have wings. I usually create the hairstyles near the very end of overall construction. With these dolls, the hair is done before the clothing is finished and the wings are attached.
All four of the dolls pictured, Annikki, Norma, Inkeri and Maija are listed in the ‘Artwork for Sale’ page of my website. If you are interested in purchasing any of my artwork, many of your questions can be answered on the ‘How To Buy’ page.
Thank you for reading,
The traffic for my site has just tanked over the past few weeks. (I just actually looked at my stats and it’s more than tanked. I’m at zero people visiting my site for several days in a row now. Even with several regular weekly postings.) I have some days when there are no views at all, even on those days in which I post written material or photos of my work. I’ve had absolutely no interest from any potential customers in either one of the patterns I’ve offered for sale. There’s a part of me that just wants to yank down the patterns from my website and delete them completely from every hard drive I own. With the zero interest shown in them, I feel as though history is repeating itself, and these patterns are plague-ridden garbage that I never should have created in in the first place. These responses are coming from an incredibly tender emotional place within my psyche. My more logical side feels that I need to do some thinking about the problem at hand, well, the two problems/questions at hand: 1.) why is there a lack of traffic on my website? and 2.) why have I had no sales (or even any interest) of the patterns?
Is the Lack of Traffic to My Site Due to not Having an Easy-to-Use Storefront?
I know it would be better if I had a website that had a storefront that allowed customers to simply point and click to purchase items. I totally agree. I wish that were something that I could afford to do right now, but it’s not. WooCommerce was recommended to me by a friend, and it looks great, but I would be in the red every month just paying for the storefront. Gumroad is another site that’s been recommended by a friend who publishes his own zine. I think it might work for me, but not if there is no market for my downloadable patterns. Gumroad also would be taking a small portion of the sales. Etsy is the same way. I would be paying them for the service of running the storefront I cannot afford to run myself. I don’t fault these online services for needing to take their cut for the services that they offer. They aren’t running altruistic organizations. They are running a business and they need to make money.
My husband and I talked about the lack interest in or sales of the Monster Doll and Easy-Peasy Doll patterns. He made an interesting observation. I have asked potential customers to contact me directly via email, Messenger or Instagram DM to ask questions about, or to purchase the doll patterns. I asked potential customers to reach out and send me an message and actually talk to me regarding what they may wish to purchase. I’ve asked them to do this instead of clicking a button and entering their payment information. What I’m asking potential customers to do is to do something that’s not how e-commerce is done today.
It’s easy to purchase items from a mega-monolith site like Amazon. You just point and click. Your payment and shipping information is already stored on the site. You don’t have to re-enter them. It makes buying an item so incredibly easy to do. You don’t have to talk to anyone directly at all. You don’t even have to talk to the delivery person who brings the items to your door. The only time that you might talk to someone is if there was something wrong with the items you ordered, items missing, or if the package was never delivered. I use Amazon as an example, because it’s the most ubiquitous. There are literally thousands of websites on the internet in which you can purchase items in almost the same exact way.
Point. Click. Wait. Receive.
For those of us who are still in the beginnings of business-building, having a polished internet storefront isn’t always a feasible option. Good grief! I’m still trying to figure out so many things like, what sells and what doesn’t, what to post and how to post it, pricing, mailing, etc. My business is in its infancy. But I’m expected to be able to (at least on the surface) look as though I’m just as big and established as other artists and crafters that have been in the game longer, have more sales, and a much larger target audience? It doesn’t seem fair, but business isn’t necessarily fair. I suppose I should just buck-up and spend the money I don’t have for the online tools that I think may at some unknown point in the future generate a satisfactory amount of business income so that I can contribute to the household expenses.
Or…I could rely on my solidly midwestern American up-bringing and engage my inner reservoirs of pure, undiluted, vitriolic sarcasm to aid me in weathering my incredibly poor sales.
Either way, I feel like I’m going to turn-off potential customers.
Am I Just Too Weird and Off-Putting as a Person for Potential Customers?
I tend to use sarcasm to deflect things that I find emotionally painful. It’s a knee-jerk reaction that I developed in childhood I’m fairly sure. It doesn’t make me special. It makes me one of the millions of people on the planet who had to deal with emotionally unpleasant or down-right emotionally debilitating circumstances and had to come up with some manner of coping mechanism. Using sarcasm for me is the emotional equivalent of throwing a handful of dirt in a perceived attackers face and then running away so I can tend to my wounds.
Couple my tendency to use sarcasm as a crutch and my unbelievably odd sense of humor, then add a dash of my love of all things Dada and Surrealistic, and you can see why I fear that sometimes I come across as weird, off-putting and hard to approach. Which then leads me to another question: Am I presenting myself as mean and weird and that’s the reason no one wants to contact me to buy a doll pattern — and for that matter, anything else that I have for sale on my website?!
Wow. This entrepreneurial post just took an unexpected psychological turn. But I’m nothing if not painfully honest about my personal psychological challenges.
So, if I’m presenting myself in a weird and off-putting manner as an artist, creator and entrepreneur online, how do I fix that perception?
I feel as though it would be deceptive to present myself as anything other than truly myself here on my site. It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable in my own ‘Katie-ness’ and I don’t have any wish to give that up any time soon. I was once told by my older brother that I ‘needed to tone-down my intelligence‘ when it came to dating, because I was ‘intimidating‘. I was shocked and frankly, hurt when he said these things to me. I needed to be something other than who I was so that a man would like me enough to potentially date me? Really? It felt deceptive and wrong and I didn’t follow the advice.
I do think that I can better manage perceptions of myself. I just don’t know exactly how to. Again, I feel like anything other than being myself, my entire weird, surrealistic, mess-up self, is just making myself into a liar. And that feels so incredibly wrong to me. I suppose that the answers to these questions about myself and how I present myself to the public and customers requires further examination and subsequent discussions.
My questions have been been partially answered, perhaps merely explored to the extent I can at this given moment. I want to have a storefront at some point for my website, but until I make enough money, that cannot happen. I’m still rather emotionally defaulting to “My doll patterns are total and complete crap and that’s why no one wants to buy them.” as the key reason why they aren’t selling. I hope that I can learn from the mistakes I’ve made with them, so I don’t make the same mistakes in the future. As usual, I need to wallow about a bit in these kinds of thoughts before I can then start coming up with possible solutions to the problems I’m encountering.
Until next Wednesday, thank you for reading!
Helpful Links I’m Using Right Now:
I have had the refrain from Peter Gabriel’s song, I Have the Touch ping-ponging around in my brain for the past two weeks.
I’ve also been listening to Rush’s album Signals a lot over the past month. It’s my favourite album, and one of the few that I don’t ever seem to skip tracks on while I’m listening to it. It’s also got cool cover art. I think I had this on vinyl, but it could have been my younger brothers copy. I know I had the poster.
I’m a huge Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fan. (I love B horror movies and in general, just really bad movies in general) There are some episodes that I’ve seen many times. I’ve been listening to (and sometimes watching the super-good bits) while I’ve been working recently. Well, more than that, but you get the idea. You can go to Shout Factory TV (they have lots of other fun stuff too!) and watch MST3K, or on YouTube. It’s not every single episode, but it’s a lot of them!
I started experimenting over the weekend. I didn’t intend to create a bunch of sets of fairy wings. As with most of my artwork, it started out with a me asking a question. I wanted to see if I could take pieces of rigid plastic packaging and make something approximating insect-like wings for the tiny dolls I’ve been working on for since January.
I’m limiting my time out of the house to once a week, so I had to use the art supplies that I have on hand. I didn’t want to order any art supplies, or have to figure out how to combine several errands into one trip that would coincide with the opening hours of a shop, or the specific errands I needed to run either. So, not only have I asked myself one question, but then set up several additional parameters for the project as well.
I like setting up different problems (challenges?) for myself. I feel like it keeps me from getting too stale in my thinking or in the artwork that I produce. At least I hope that it does. It never seems to take the route that I imagined in my head, and it always teaches me something new. Sometimes what it teaches me is that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do.
In the case of these fairy wings, I did arrive at a product that I like quite a bit. What I found surprising was the fact that what I thought would be a ‘quick and dirty’ method of creating some okay looking wings, turned into a much more complicated and involved creative process that had me reaching into my knowledge of fine art printmaking.
I took a lot of printmaking while I was in art school. I have experience with stone lithography, wood and linoleum cut, etching, and monoprinting processes. I loved the physicality of stone lithography. There was an element of flying by the seat of your pants with wood and linoleum cut, especially since I did a lot of ‘suicide prints’. I was poor and couldn’t afford a separate piece of wood or linoleum for each color run. Etching seemed like magic to me. I loved everything about printmaking. I loved that you could make multiples of the same piece. I loved that you could alter the image or create separate monoprints that you could work back into with other mediums. It was a lot of fun and the processes all made sense to me. They seemed logical and orderly.
Once printing process I never really got into was intaglio. I just couldn’t physically handle the way in which the drawing is created on the matrix. The scratching on the metal or the plastic just makes me nauseated! It feels like the scratching and scraping are being done inside my stomach. Yuck! So it makes perfect sense that intaglio, crossed with a little scrimshawing is the way in which I think I can create fairy wings.
I thought that what I would do is take some of the plastic packaging that I had pulled from the trash for this. My initial idea was that I would take a metal needle tool and quickly scratch some wings onto it. Then I would use paint (in this case, acrylic, because it’s what I have) and paint it onto the surface of the plastic. Then I’d wipe off the excess. The paint would stay in the scratches below the surface. Then I could cut out the wings and attach them to a doll. Easy! Right?
Here is the first set of wings. More of less a ‘proof of concept’ construction. This was to answer the questions: will the plastic I have work? Does the paint stick to the places I scratched? Can I sew the wings together easily?
The first wings were wonky and frankly, sucked. So I went on to the second set of wings. For this set, I created a drawing to work from that was placed beneath the plastic. I taped the plastic down and then scratched the lines on the wings onto the plastic.
This second try was better in that they looked more like butterfly wings, but I just couldn’t get the paint to stick inside the areas that I scratched. I think I’d applied paint and buffed it off three separate times and there were still spaces where the lines were thin and scraggly looking.
On to the third try. This time, I decided to add two more colors. I thought by adding different colors, I could add some dimension to the wings, while at the same time hiding some of the areas where the paint would not adhere to the plastic scratches.
The third try was wonky. I got some better coverage, but the way in which I was removing the second and third colors (robins egg blue and a yellow) were just cruddy. I used too little paint and it dried more quickly that I thought it would and it was hard to wipe down with either paper or even to get off with at a q-tip.
On to the forth try! I used a different plastic for this set of wings. I think the container held some kind of refrigerated pasta salad or something like that. It was slightly thicker, almost spongy compared to the other rigid plastic I had used for the previous three wing attempts.
I feel like I figured out what I wanted to do with the wings by this set. I don’t like the plastic itself. The way the painting turned out, as well as the sealant, I liked very much. I also learned that I need at least two holes poked through the center of the wings so that when I sew them together, they hold well and don’t wobble back and forth too much.
I decided that for the 5th and 6th sets of wings, I would change up the color schemes. One was done with red, orange and yellow(s) and one was done with blues, purples and pinks.
I used four colors; red, orange and two different yellows. With the 5th and 6th attempts at these fairy wings, I realized that I needed to scratch the stylus into the plastic much deeper than I had previously done. The plastic is thin, and there are a few places where I kind of started a repoussé technique with the plastic. It’s only visible when you’re really looking closely though.
With the 6th set of wings, I used blues, purples and pinks. I left much, much more of the color on the plastic than I did in in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th sets of wings.
You can see how much paint I left on the reverse side of the 6th set of wings. I sealed the sides with paint on them with a sealant, which is just Eri-Keeper, slightly modified. I like how it begins to make the see-through portions of the wings look like glass from windows prior to the turn of the 20th century; wavy and uneven. These last two sets of wins I think are the ones that I think I will be using on the two tiny dolls that I intended to have wings.
I had a lot of fun creating these sets of wings. I already have ideas for other techniques I would like to use to create wings for dolls, or just to create interesting surfaces for larger, more complicated pieces of art that I would like to create. I think there is a lot to explore using plastics and paint, as well as the intaglio/scrimshaw treatment of the plastic sheets.
The one thing that is kind of gnawing at me a bit is the fact that I’m not a big fan of fairies per se. I mean, I don’t hate them or anything. They’re just not my thing. Same thing with angels. I tend to root for the monsters and creatures other than fairies. ANYWAY…I’m not sure what possessed me to create fairy wings. The wings I made looks more like butterfly wings, but since they will be attached to tiny dolls, it makes them fairy wings by default.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.
In my previous entrepreneurial post this week, I talked about selling doll patterns that I’ve created. I have patterns that I am working on that are not ready for release yet. I had put them on a back-burner while I was working on the art workshops I wanted to teach. Everything is flipped around due to circumstances beyond my control, so it’s all doll patterns a-go-go here in my world right now!
I have five separate monster doll patterns; Harold, Cubby, Clarence, Ginger and Beady. Each single Monster Doll patter is priced at 4€ each ($4.35 USD). I’m not selling a physical product. The Monster Doll patterns are download only! You will need an email account to receive your purchased patterns.
Included in the price of the Monster Pattern is an additional 26 page PDF with more detailed, step-by-step instructions and photographs. Because many people around the world right now are social distancing and/or are under isolate-at-home orders, I have included additional ideas and information for materials usage if the Basic Fabric, Notions and Supplies listed for each doll pattern are not immediately available for the purchaser. The PDF Monster Doll instructions will be sent via email to everyone purchasing a Monster Doll pattern.
For those who wish to use this pattern with school aged children, you’ll find it quite easy to do so. Children 10 and older can work more independently with this pattern, while younger children will require more direction and assistance by an adult. There are multiple instructional possibilities that could be utilized with the Monster Doll patterns. At the very minimum, creating a Monster Doll could be part of a child’s on-going visual arts instruction. These Monster Doll patterns can also be utilized to instruct children about recycling and up-cycling of the materials they already have at home. It can also be used as a means of teaching critical thinking for students, especially when substitutions for the listed materials needs to be made. The finished Monster Dolls could be used as a writing prompt for puppet shows or fictional stories with illustrations.
Easy Peasy Doll Pattern:
I’m also offering my Easy Peasy Doll Pattern. It’s 2€ ($2.17 USD) This pattern is also download only!
The Easy Peasy Doll Pattern is four pages with pattern and instructions. The construction methods of the Easy Peasy Dolls are similar to the Monster Dolls.
If you wish to purchase any of the Monster Doll or Easy Peasy Doll patterns, please contact me via email at Katiekinsman.email@example.com or via Facebook Messenger (Katie Kinsman) or by Instagram DM. I will give you the payment details at that time. You will receive your patterns and directions files via email. They can then be printed out and used.
All of the patterns for sale are for individual use only and not intended for resale.
Almost all of the plans that I had created for the upcoming year in my entrepreneurial plan have gone sideways. I don’t feel as though I should be whinging and whining about the fact that teaching must be put on hold for me. It’s not as though my art lessons will go moldy while waiting for a date in the future in which I can have at least ten people in a room who can be closer than two meters apart. They’ll keep.
I have two other ways at my disposal to further grow my business: my artwork and patterns.
Presently, physical product, my artwork, is what I have been advertising for sale. I have many pieces up for sale on this website. I am selling some work here and there, but not at any type of consistent rate. Every sale is celebrated, but I would really like to have some consistency regarding the amount of artwork that I sell. The infrequent sales could be due to many different things that are out of my control. The current situation in the world regarding COVID-19. Potential customers being wary of spending money on something that isn’t a necessity. The fact that I live in Finland and shipping outside the EU can be a little lengthy and expensive. There’s always the possibility that there aren’t a lot of people who like my work, but that’s a different more wibbly-wobbly-emotional-artist-thing for another time and another post entirely.
I’ve talked previously about why at this point I’m not having a sale on my work. This decision isn’t carved in stone and at some time in the future may be up for change.
I have also looked into adding onto my website, creating a store front with a check-out and more typical online store presence. At this point, I’m just not selling enough art to do that. I cannot afford it the upgrade. This leaves me with the selling of patterns.
I’ve never been abject to selling patterns. I suppose what I worry about most is that there are people out in the world who will use a pattern that is not of their own design to create work and then sell it as their own creation. That does bother me. Which then brings me to another challenge; do I make patterns for work that I have already created (20 cm and 10 cm cloth dolls; 6 cm Little Lady dolls; tiny animal dolls?) or do I design a completely new and different doll specifically geared toward pattern sales?
I do have some patterns ‘in the can’ so to speak. These are patterns that I can easily offer for download. My hesitance is offering them for sale again is due more to the abject feeling of failure I felt when these patterns did not sell well when they were first created. What were those reasons? Was I attempting to market these patterns at the wrong time? Was I simply in the wrong place? Were the patterns just really horrible and bad and that’s why no one wanted to buy them?
As an artist and as a budding entrepreneur, there are many things I like about being both. The feeling of control that I have regarding what I make, how I make it and when I make it being first and foremost. When I do sell work, I know that I have worked hard for what I have earned. It even makes the small amount that I earn from my artwork feel immensely gratifying. As I have detailed above, there are always things that are out of my control. These situations require flexibility and the ability to change course quickly. It’s interesting that these qualities are also ones that I utilized a great deal as an art teacher in the public schools!
I feel as though I’ve been trying to talk myself into selling patterns here on my website throughout this entire post! To be honest, I suppose that is in small part, true. I have a few ideas in the fire and I think I need to finally make some decisions and move forward with them.
(Inhales deeply through the nose)
Okay. Let’s get this pattern thing going.
I feel rather uniquely well-suited to remaining at home and limiting my time outside of the house to one grocery store trip per week. I do have some things coming up that require me to leave the house this week. It makes me a little nervous, but I’m confident that my chances of becoming ill are significantly less here in central Finland than in other parts of the world. It seems like every morning, the numbers of people diagnosed with COVID-19 just keep going up and up and up. The virus seems to be galloping through the population. It’s scary.
I’m trying to keep my own anxiety down to a dull roar. Making art has always been my preferred method of therapy, so that’s what I’m doing. I made two elephants yesterday. I’ve never had any reason or need to make elephants. I just wanted to see if I could. I basically created a problem for myself, and then made attempts to solve it. Making a tiny elephant or two was something that I could be in complete control of. There were no other people outside myself that were controlling it. It was all me. I called all the shots. I was the one who made the decision to use the materials that I thought would work the best. I’m the person who decided how to alter the pattern for the second elephant so that the ears would fold and kind of droop the way I thought they should.
When I’m making something, there is something about the act of creating. It’s the opposite of destruction. It’s ordered. Methodical. On the surface, not at all chaotic, or at least not the worst parts of the concept of chaos (panic, fear, non-thinking). This brings to mind “I thought I could organize freedom, how Scandinavian of me” from the song Hunter by Björk. Somehow, I always change the word ‘freedom‘ to ‘chaos‘ in my mind. There must be something Freudian about that, I’m sure. But I digress.
The act of creation, breathing life into something that on the surface, seems lifeless it’s a divine act. Rooted in the past and looking, hoping, striding towards the future. Acts of creation come in as many different forms as there are individual people on the planet. I make art. What I create perhaps seems to some people as trivial. I make dolls. This is where I have to start internally fending off “Katie doesn’t make friends. She “makes” friends.” that at times in the past has gotten the better of me. Is this an attempt to make my acts of creation seem childish, meaningless, small and inconsequential? No act of creation is too small. Small things have a way of growing into larger things over time. At least, if they are carefully nurtured.
Times like the ones in which we are currently living is a time in which all of that nurture can begin to pay off. Not necessarily pay off in the monetary sense, but more in terms of the mental and emotional sense. I’ve said this so many times before; making art keeps me intact, mentally and emotionally. I feel fortunate that my personal methods of self-soothing and self-medicating are potentially far less destructive than alcohol or illegal substances. (Okay. I do want coffee. I’m a huge fan and require two cups prior to 12 in order to function without a headache. Here, go listen to the Descendants sing about coffee, live and from the album I would think that the entire country of Finland might feel the same?)
COVID-19 is scary. At times, it can be huge-Godzilla-sized-scary. An individual person can feel helpless and without control of their life. They can’t go to work. They can’t get together with friends and family. Some are in full quarantine, while other people are dealing with being in isolation, either state or self-imposed. Children are out of school and at home. There are bills that need to be paid and perhaps no money coming in. Or even scarier, you are one of those people deemed ‘essential’ and you are at work, serving the public by doing your job. (Thank you for doing this. You are an amazing person and you deserve more consideration and compensation for your service to the communities in which you live and work.) This is all weird and scary and dangerous.
Take it all in. Acknowledge what is going on. What you are in control of and what you are not in control of. Be honest. Look inward. Find yourself. Make art.
I’m not at all trivializing the danger that many people are in, especially those essential workers. It may seem like I’m saying, “Hey! Make some arts and crafts and everything will be okey-dokey! All your worries will just vanish!” No. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that being creative, making art can help a person deal with all of the scary-weird-crazy that seems to be happening in the world. A person can find one tiny area of their life in which they have control. No one else can tell them what to do or how to do it or where to go, or where to stay…it’s just them and the art. It may be only for a few minutes per day. Singing a song. Take a picture. Writing down their thoughts. Drawing a picture. Cooking a meal. Dance a dance. Planting some seeds. These small acts of creativity can grow into larger ones that help keep a person intact mentally and emotionally. COVID-19 will still be there after the art is created. Your mind will be different. You will be more yourself and feel as though, even though things suck right now, that you can get through it. You will get through this and it will change you.
So, I make tiny elephants. After I post this online, I’m going to make a third tiny elephant. I feel as though the pattern and the sequence of construction will be in the final form once I’ve completed it. Who knows what will come of my tiny elephant dolls and pattern? Maybe they will grow larger?
Thanks for reading, and I will see you next Monday.
A song by The Double Clicks, “Tiny Paper Elephant” seems to be a good song for everything that’s happening in the world right now. Listen to their other songs too. I love the Double Clicks! They’re amazing!
I know that the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear has become quite popular right now. I’m a sci-fi fan and have actually read all six Dune books. (You can stop after the third book.) Here are two different versions. One from the really not-so-great David Lynch version, (some great casting, especially Sian Phillips) and one that’s a musical version from Akira the Don and Comic Girl 19. It might also be a good time to read the books, but remember! Stop after the third book! I mean it!
I’ve been watching/listening to a lot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 over the past two weeks. It’s wonderfully funny and goofy. Right now, some people need that more than anything.
I decided to try my had at making an elephant today. I like everything except for the ears. The size and shape are a little too Topo Gigio for my liking. I changed a few things around, including making the torso and limps thicker. I also made the arms and legs flat on one end to look a bit more elephant-ish. The trunk has a wire and can be posed. At present, she’s standing on my pin cushion holding a rose in her trunk. She needs a little tail and I think I will call her finished!
I’ve spent the past few days experimenting with the most recent tiny doll pattern I’ve created. It’s the same one that I used to create bunnies, bears and ducks. One of the great things about being a visual artist is that I can go from idea to physical object in a relatively short span of time. Revisions and streamlining of the art production process can sometimes take a bit longer. Sometimes, I have to simply put a piece aside so I can think about the problem for a while, and that takes time. At present, I’m still not sure about Stanley’s top hat. It’s merely pinned to the top of his head, instead of being permanently attached. This is because I want to be completely sure about something before committing to it totally. Nothing sucks quite as much as not listening to your creative gut instincts, rushing through a decision, and then having to come up with a way to fix the solution that you thought would work.
The bird and duck dolls contain the most individual pieces of each of the dolls I’ve been creating lately. It’s strange, because it doesn’t seem like a lot of parts to me. They seem to come together quite quickly. The additional hats, dresses and collars feel like they take a lot more time to me. The dress for the little ducky doll Edwina was actually made twice. That was about four hours of work, and I only used one of them.
I took some photos while creating a blue bird. I wanted to try out a new method of attaching the heads to the dolls that wouldn’t require them to be sewn on. I wanted to try this out, because if I ever created a pattern to sell for these dolls, I wanted an easier method than the one I’m employing. That’s not to say that how I sew the dolls heads to their bodies is insanely hard. It’s just tricky. A novice doll maker might become frustrated with the method. I think this is the ‘art teacher’ part of me at work. I want everyone to feel successful when creating art.
I’m still being lazy and not creating a pattern piece for the wings or the tail. It’s just so much easier to cut them out free-hand for me. Each of the pieces that are pinned are two-layers of felt. I used a medium and a dark blue felt to make it more interesting to look at. The yellow pieces, in the shape of U’s are the feet. The kind of longish pieces that’s tapered at each end are the beak pieces. I use a single strand of regular sewing thread, and a blanket stitch, to hand sew all of the pieces together to create the feet, wings, tail and beak.
The picture above shows what all the cut pieces look like once they’ve all been sewn together. I think the only piece I didn’t show was the little pink tongue. It’s about two and half millimeters long and about a millimeter wide. I only cut it out when I have the beak sewn onto the head of the doll and it’s ready to be glued in. For the more easier method of attaching the head to the body, the arms and legs are sewn onto the torso first, then the head is attached. When I sew the head on, it’s sewn to the torso first, then I add the arms and legs. All of the sewing on the head is completed before it’s attached to anything. It’s so much easier to hid knots inside the head on the underside.
I think I’m okay with the new way of attaching the head, but I still think it needs some work. I don’t like how there’s a visible bump between the top of the torso where it meets the head. It really bugs me. The head is securely fastened. I think I’ll crochet a collar to hid this, otherwise it will drive me nuts!
I also made a little pig, because I found a few tiny scraps of some wool felt and I wanted to see how it would work for such a tiny doll.
The felt was harder to work with. It’s a 40/60 acrylic and wool blend. It was a little thicker than 1mm as well. Honestly, I hated this doll when I got to the point of putting the snout on. I was so close to just scrapping it completely. Then I added the ears and the doll started to look ‘right’ to me. Any future piggies will be made with a lighter weight felt, and have a shorter snout I think.
I tried out making a little strawberry head doll next. She went well. I used a 1mm felt for her body and head, but don’t like how her body came out. I may have just been working too fast though. The second attempt at the strawberry head I think was much improved.
I like the dark green for the body better. I also added some stitches for the ‘seeds’ that should be on a strawberry. I like using yellow for this, making the strawberry more ‘cartoony’, but it didn’t look right. I changed to a slightly darker red and it looks much better I think. The new method of attaching the head worked out well for this doll. I think due in large part to the fact that I added a green ruff to look like leaves around the neck.
And what goes with strawberry? Banana! (I love strawberry and banana flavours together!) I like how this little guy turned out. What really kills me is that I had to stop and create a pattern for this little banana, but I can free-hand cut more complicated wings and have them come out almost identical. I suppose it’s because I’ve made thousands of wings over my lifetime of being an artist, and this is the first time I’ve ever made a banana!
The size of these dolls, between 6 and 6.5 cm or so, makes it fairly easy for me to change things around once I feel like I’m getting a bit bored. I always feel like a bit of a lout when I say that, but it’s true. I like solving the problem, and once it’s solved, I want to go on to the next problem. These problems always start with, “I wonder if I could do that?” or “Would this work?” Perhaps it’s not true boredom, but impatience. Or perhaps a combination of the two? I’m not sure. I’m just thankful that I don’t ever seem to run low on ideas for artwork that I want to create. Time is something that I never seem to have enough of though.
That’s what I’m working on this week. What are you working on?