So, last week, I told you more than you probably ever wanted to know about our family trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida. Naturally, I came home with a fierce desire for all things Potter, and got right away doing some related projects.
First project: The Dobby doll! My big souvenir from our trip was this wonky little Dobby. I knew he wasn’t the greatest looking thing…
He looked pretty purturbed, actually. Like he just ate something sour and is a bit miffed by it. But I figured I could do something with him.
He’s got a wire poseable frame, and is made of a foamy sort of material, so there’s no chance of changing the face sculpt at all. All I could do was try my best to give him a new paint job and brighten him up a bit.
I tried turning his wonky lips into a bit more of a smile, and made his eyes quite a bit bigger. I also took off the nylon fabric they had wrapped around him, and exchanged it for some paint-stained muslin scraps I had in my craft room. And I love him! Myla likes to make him hold his arm up and say, “You must not harm Myla Hendricks!!” which is good for a giggle. I suggested we replace the Elf on the Shelf (which I got suckered into last year) with Dobby, but she didn’t think that was funny.
For Christmas, I had gotten almost the ENTIRE Harry Potter Funko Pop set (I have a bit of a Funko Pop problem), which I happily painted with a bit more detail (because I have a bit of a Funko Pop problem)…
In a geeky facebook group I’m part of, one member told us she used her Ollivander’s wand boxes as display shelves. WHAT. Mind. Blown. So, along with a snitch and a couple of other knick-knacks, my Funko Pops are housed atop ours, and they sit on our wall, making me smile a bit each time I pass them.
As for the wands, my dad (being pretty crafty himself) said he’d be willing to make us a scroll display, but for now, I built a temporary one. I took an oval natural wooden plank, screwed in several cool-looking drawer pulls from the hobby shop, added some cup hooks, and a string to hold it up (the rusty star isn’t part of it–it’s a wall decoration we already had, but it fits well with everything). I bought the leather pull hoops at the bottom intending to have three, but when I got home, I realized I had only grabbed two…and then decided it was perfect for holding the map of wand spells that comes with each wand! It needs some work (never mind those holes I mislined), but I love the basic idea of how it turned out. It seems very homemade, put-together and “Weasley,” and I’m pretty happy with that.
Most likely, I’ll re-do it with a nice piece of wood (and balance the wands BEFORE I drill), but for now, this works.
And speaking of my dad, I thought I’d give you an update on his backyard garden train Hogwarts he built by hand. If you haven’t seen it, I wrote a whole post on it here, but for now, this photo shows you the basic idea:
And now he’s working on Diagon Alley!!! Look at the figure for the Weasley shop! I’m so excited to see it. He sort of went off the map for Diagon Alley, enjoying putting his own little shops in there, but it’ll have the main shops, including Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and a Gringott’s with a dragon on top! I can’t wait to see it!
For Christmas, I made him a few signs he could hang from some of the storefronts he’s building…
Then I got a bit obsessed by making these tiny corked mandrake seedling bottle pendants!
I was inspired once again by a tutorial on one of my favorite blogs, Epbot, for building a large mandrake bouquet. These were SO much fun to make! I made teensy ones, and tried different versions that were a little more involved, and ultimately didn’t work out as well. But after a bit of trial and error, I came up with the more simple design above, and made so many that I put them up in my etsy shop. We couldn’t decide if we liked the moss or the dirt pebbles better, so I made several of each. Now I want to make other tiny things to put in necklace bottles! (But I get the feeling that’s been done for a long time by miniature sculptors much more coordinated than I….)
So there it is! Potter-brain for sure. Along with the Butterbeer lip gloss I found on Etsy, a couple of patches for our patch collection (this one and this one), I’m fairly sure we will never tire of wizarding things…<3
This week’s post won’t be so much crafty, but chock-full of Harry Potter goodness, as I take a LONG walk through the finer points of our magical trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida!
Well, it didn’t start out magical. Thanks to a ton of airline transfers, delays, cancellations, and all-out rude customer service (don’t get me started on my utter disappointment in American Air…), we ended up spending the night at a freezing cold Dallas airport, and spending the better part of ONE of our TWO park days of our first vacation in FIFTEEN YEARS waiting for stand-by flights to Orlando. But we made it, and once we FINALLY got there, it was AWESOME. I will tell you that we were not at all interested in Disney or any other part of Universal–just Harry Potter World…!
We arrived late on the first day (after stopping by our hotel to deposit our suitcases and freshen up after our terrible ordeal), late in the afternoon. Despite it being mid-December, it was surprisingly not that crowded at first, and we were able to see much of the park in that first day.
The first step was walking through the broken brick wall into Diagon Alley, which filled me with as much excitement as Harry must’ve felt seeing it for the first time (yes, I realize he’s a fictional character, but just go with it…). All the wonky buildings and wonderful signs, advertising, and storefronts made me giddy.
(There’s me and Myla, bottom right, her probably thinking, “dang, mom’s more excited than me.”)
The first thing we did was head straight to Ollivander’s for wands. Surprisingly, probably because of the lateness of the evening, there was no one in line, and while we didn’t get chosen for the little show (only one person gets picked per “show”), it was fun to watch, and afterward, we chose our own wands out in the shop section (if you don’t mind missing the show, you can skip the line by going straight into the store side). You can also get wands in another Ollivander’s on the Hogsmeade side, as well as Gregorovitch’s wand stand in Diagon Alley.
You can either choose an interactive wand (that “opens” little spells throughout the park) or a plain wand, and one of either a famous wizard from the series, or a unique one from the wall. They’re quite solidly made, heavy, seemingly out of some sort of thick resin. We chose our wands based on the writing on the wall, and each seemed to fit us quite well: Myla chose one of Rowan, which mentioned the bearer might use their “powerful imagination and resourceful nature to make their dreams come true.” Mine was Vine, which mentioned someone who is prone to “burn the candle at both ends.” And my husband’s was Ivy, which has the power to “easily overcome obstacles.” They each came with maps of all the “spell” spots throughout the park, and seemed to match us well! (I only wish they had these descriptions inside the wand boxes! We went back later to get a photo when I realized they weren’t inside the box…)
We set about doing “spells” throughout the park. The markers on the ground (as well as the map) tell you what spell to use, and what gesture to make (see the marker on the ground by the fountain, on the right, by Myla’s feet?), and there was nearly always a park wizard around to assist.
The dragon on top of Gringott’s went off quite often, blowing a quick burst of fire, which was awesome to see.
We stopped by Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, where Myla instantly squealed over a purple Pygmy Puff. A lovely witch at the register performed a “naming ceremony,” which she had her put it on her head, announcing that Myla was the new owner of a Pygmy Puff named “Puff,” who eats earwax and small spiders, which made Myla laugh. (Similarly, some of the cashiers would say things like, “Here’s your muggle plastic,” upon handing your credit card back.)
It was late the first night, and we took the Hogwart’s express to the Hogsmeade side (you have to have a park-to-park pass to be able to go to both sides). The train personnel on the muggle side ACT like muggles, and react as if you’re crazy if you question them about platform 9 3/4 when they take your tickets. They ask things like, “what kind of dog is that?” about Puff (because they’re muggles, and wouldn’t know anything about wizard things, right?).
I had an app that showed wait times for rides, and since it was late in the evening, we were able to go fairly quickly through the Hogwarts castle line for the Forbidden Journey ride. It was such a short line, in fact, that we didn’t really get a good look at all the fun things inside the castle! (By the second day, that same ride was SUPER crowded, and we waited nearly 45 minutes in line, which was a good time, actually, and we could enjoy looking at the castle details, and hear the talking paintings.)
Since we had done so much the first day (despite spending half the day at the airport), we slept in a bit the second day, and took our time getting to the park. It was a Monday, the first “official” day of winter school vacation, so it was MUCH more crowded than the day prior, but we were able to spend a lot of time around the park.
Again, we started in Diagon Alley. We chugged many, many foamy butterbeers (which come in frozen, chilled, and hot forms–ALL of which are amazing). We revisited the little shops, and doubled back on some of the details we didn’t get to the night before.
We saw a few of the shows we didn’t see the night before, like Celestina Warbeck and her Banshees, which sang classic songs like “You Stole My Cauldron, But You Can’t Have My Heart.” Later, we saw a wizarding theatre troop perform the Tale of the Three Brothers on the same stage.
We stopped in the Gringott’s Money Exchange, just because you can ask the goblin questions like, “Have you seen Harry Potter?” and he’ll reply, “That’s not my area of expertise.” (He also gets testy if he sees too many cameras pointed in his face.) We rode the Gringott’s ride (whose line was SUPER long the second day–and quite an uninteresting wait until you get inside–but it was worth it!). (Incidentally, for the rides, you have to store your things in a locker room near the ride entrance, and they’re only so big (our wand boxes barely fit), so you have to keep that in mind if you have large items!).
Everything was so awesome to look at! Even the building fronts that didn’t contain shops (like the House Elf Placement Agency, above right) were so beautifully designed.
We enjoyed Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream shop and got ice cream with crystals. We ate at the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron. We drank more butterbeer.
Next, we took the train back to Hogsmeade, to explore that side a bit more.
Since Myla’s a kid (and gets her clumsiness from me), she dropped her wand a couple of times (see the chip in the skull’s eye on the left up there?), and when it wouldn’t work anymore at one of the spell sites, a wizard helper advised us to swing by the Owl Post for a FREE wand repair! At no charge, the wizard there took it to the back and got us a brand new one, which (for a clumsy wizard like myself) I thought was AWESOME.
We waited in the super-hot sun under my tiny umbrella to see the Hogwarts Toad Choir perform songs like “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” (There were only two performers with toads, though–I thought they should’ve all had them!)
I decided that despite being a grownup (and despite his lackluster paint job) I needed a foam poseable Dobby, so that was my big souvenir. We rode the Hippogriff rollercoaster ride, which (because of the much bigger crowds) was a very long, hot wait–a bit over an hour, with not much to look at in line. It’s primarily a kid’s ride, but as we had a kid (and we’re big kids ourselves) we had fun.
The shops, much more crowded the second day, were similar to the other side, but one of the bookstores had a great window display of several caged and chomping Monster Book of Monsters books, surrounded by shreds of paper. Most of the spell sites were crowded with lines of kids waiting to do the spells, so often we would just watch what they did without bothering to stand in line.
And then, sadly, it was time to go back home. But–SIGHHHH–I loved it there. I wanted to LIVE there. Not in Orlando, exactly…but in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Myla and I decided we should probably just move in. No one would notice–we’d just sort of set up in Knockturn Alley (which is in a dark and cool shady tunnel of shops in Diagon Alley). People would just assume we worked there, wouldn’t they? …It could work, right?
Well, anyway. Goodbye, Weasley Shop. Goodbye, Gringott’s Dragon. Goodbye, Hogwarts. Goodbye, Harry Potter World. Hopefully we’ll be back again soon.
I, for one, have been in a renewed Potter daze since our trip. My husband and I once read the ENTIRE series of books ages ago, and I’m I’m revisiting them by listening to them again on audiobook while I do my crafts. I forgot how GOOD they are and how very different they are from the movies! (We read the majority of them before seeing most of the movies.) Did you realize that there are nifflers and bowtruckles in the Potter books?? After seeing them in the Fantastic Beasts movie, I didn’t realize I had already read about them ages ago!
So join me next week for some Potter crafts from after our trip–where I’ll update you on my dad’s backyard garden train Hogwarts castle, show you my repainted Dobby, and feature our wand and wand-box wall displays.
In the meantime, check out these grumpy little mandrake seedling necklaces I made, for sale in my Etsy shop! I’m pretty sure they keep bad things away. At least that’s what the shady dark-robed wizard in Knockturn Alley told me…. 😀
‘Til next week!
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve been away. I had lost my voice a bit. I needed to take a little time to remember WHY I was making art, because for some reason social media slipped in, and I started rating myself against others, and feeling down because of it. A little inspiration and competition is healthy, but when you start basing your entire self-worth on what other people think of you, that’s when it gets sticky.
So I took some time, and reminded myself that I love making things. I’d make things even if no one was looking, because it makes me feel good.
So I’m back now, and I’m happy for it! And I thought I’d share a bit about what I did while I was gone.
We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.
I’ll do a full post on this next week, but it’s safe to say I LOVED IT THERE. We had a day to travel, and two full days scheduled at the park. But thanks to some MAJOR messups on the part of American Air (not helped by their VERY bad attitudes), we had to spend the night at the airport and didn’t get to Orlando til the late afternoon of the first park day. Yes, that’s right–we had TWO DAYS to enjoy the park, and one of the days was spent getting there. Anyway, we had so much fun while we were there. We’ve decided we’d like to live there. Not in Orlando specifically, but in Harry Potter World itself. No one would notice us, I’m sure. We wouldn’t bother anyone. We’d dress in wizard robes and carry wands around, and people would just assume we were part of the ambiance. Please, can we make this happen?
We had family time.
My husband’s family came for the holidays, and we had such a great time! My little niece Sophie (who is 3 years old) even doodled some “magic” in my sketchbook drawing of Dumbledore.
It seemed we had Potter on the mind, as Myla turned herself into a wizard in this doodle, surrounded by several characters from the various wizard movies. (Can you tell who they all are?)
Here’s Myla using a stick as a wand while she holds her pygmy puff (which she got at the Harry Potter park), while we wandered around our favorite walking area back home (which is also Bigfoot’s stomping ground, we’ve decided).
Here’s another little doodle we did together, of Myla the animal adventurer, taming some wild sloths. Like one does.
Myla and I also entertain ourselves back home by making on-the-spot stories about a long-bearded goat named Clyde, and his best goat friend Amie, who came from a science lab and can teleport.
We filled our patch shirts.
Myla and I have been collecting patches, and we’ve finally decided these shirts were fairly full, and we each started another jacket, both of which are olive green.
I made tiny Mandrakes
You know those ideas where you just have to run directly out to the craft store to buy all the supplies to make them happen? That’s where these little mandrake seedlings came from.
This first batch had loose dirt inside, which I found got sort of stuck on their tiny faces so you couldn’t see their grumpy expressions, which didn’t work for me.
It took some tweaking, but I finally figured out to put glue in the bottom so the sand would stay put, and sealed the corks so they wouldn’t come loose. I made them mostly for friends & family, but once I make a few more, I was thinking of putting a few in the shop. They have real dried plants on their heads and rough string “roots” on their arms and legs. They’re frustrating but so much fun to make!
I sewed. A LOT.
Okay, I always sew. But this time, I’ve got a goal. I think I’m going to try for a large convention this year, and sell the Dream Creepers. It’ll be fun.
I put some things in the Etsy shop.
I even painted a color version of the Newt doodle from Fantastic Beasts…
They’re all in my Etsy shop…have a look, if you like!
I did some projects I’ve been waiting to do.
Since I was busy with commissions and requests and gifts, I didn’t have time to do a few “me” projects. So I used this time to do projects like this Tiefling plastic sculpture kit by Dark Sword Miniatures that was sent to me by Tony DiTerlizzi. It was so much fun gluing the tiny pieces and painting them. I finally displayed it by gluing it to a clear frame with a print of the painting the sculpt was inspired by. So much fun!
Hm. Jury’s still out on this one. Just because I learned how to needlefelt by watching YouTube videos doesn’t mean I’m an instant pro. I’m not sure I even have the patience for it. But it was fun trying! After finally learning not to jab myself repeatedly, most of the things I needlefelted I wanted to burn with fire afterward. Thankfully, Myla’s not as critical, and was excited to wear the moth clips I had made for her. (Hopefully my terrible felting won’t traumatize her for life.)
I learned a new (old) thing.
You know how I hate pencils? Maybe you don’t. I always HATED the way rough pencils felt in my hand, and on the paper. Somehow, the grating of graphite on paper was like nails on a chalkboard with cold hands–it’s a textural thing that’s always made my spine shiver.
Aren’t they BEAUTIFUL?!? From time to time over the years, I’ve keep TRYING to enjoy pencils, but I just couldn’t get past the feeling. But when I got these, I decided to give it a really real try. I got a blending stump and an electric eraser (thank you, Christmas gift cards!), took a deep breath, and gave it a go.
And can I tell you, it was like realizing there was a little magic door right in front of you that you hadn’t noticed before, and you happened to have a little proper key, and it opened up into a lovely little forest fairy pixie world you always suspected was there.
It was so much fun, I filled a sketchbook full of little doodles of Myla with monsters, and decided I’d make a book of it, calling it Making Friends With Monsters.
It’s just in the doodle phase for now, and it won’t be anything fancy, but maybe I can make something fun of it. In any case, these pencils have been the magic keys I needed to open up that little door and I’m so grateful to Mab that she sent them to me. So I’m going to keep visiting this little world. I like the things that live there.
But never fear! I will never give up my trusty ballpoint pen. Ballpoint is and will always be my “true love” of art supplies. It’s not going anywhere. It’s been my loyal and faithful magic wand for the doodles I like to make.
So that’s what I’ve been doing! The break has been quite nice, and I’m happy to be back. It’s been such a gift not to place so much mental value on sharing with others, and just draw and create what makes me happy. I need that from time to time, and I need to remember that for the future. So thank you for sticking by me, and giving me the time to grow, and the time to rest. I appreciate that you all read these words and look at my doodles, and I’m so glad to have you around!
❤ ❤ ❤
Only one week away from our trip to Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, and we’ve got Potter fever!
At some point, Myla and I were talking about the creatures in the Harry Potter movies and books, and I mentioned how I stumbled across this pattern kit by Mieljolie for a Cornish Pixie–One of the little creatures from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that Gilderoy Lockheart releases in his Defense Against the Dark Arts class.
Myla even carried it around in a little wire birdcage we had…
But then I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and I fell in love with the niffler. I told her all about it, and showed her video clips and pictures, and she fell in love too.
The niffler, for those who don’t know, is a little platypus-looking creature from the movie, with a bottomless pouch, who is very much attracted to shiny things.
They even have niffler Funko Pops! We found these adorable Pocket Pop keychains and had to snatch them up:
“I bet he’d make a CUTE doll,” Myla said. But when it came to dolls, I couldn’t find a single pattern online. I heard from a reader that Harry Potter World / Universal doesn’t even have the rights to the characters yet, so they don’t even have plush dolls in any of their shops.
So like I often do, I rolled up my sleeves, and made my own.
It’s a big wonky, and a whole lot strange, but Myla LOVES it.
There’s a great scene in the movie, where Newt Scamander catches the niffler, and shakes him so all the gold coins and jewelry fall out of his pouch, and land in a giant pile on the floor. So fun!
I haven’t made a pattern because I’m like one of those cooks that add a little of this and a little of that and can’t explain to you how exactly they prepared the food? Yeah. Like that.
But its arms are hinged, and can move up and down, and mine even has a little pouch!
Myla LOVES bringing him places. She even took him when she found the nerve to go to the movie, and see the niffler herself, and she LOVED it.
The unfortunate part is that none of the other kids know who or what the niffler is, so they can’t really appreciate it. But Myla’s a bit used to that. She’s learned that she comes from a long line of weirdos, and that even though they’re not always understood by other people, weirdos are the best kind of people. And that just because you’re the only one who knows what something is, it doesn’t make it strange or uncool, it makes it SPECIAL.
One more week til Potter World!
The thanksgiving holidays got me thinking about Hogwarts.
Oh, that’s weird. I should explain… Maybe it’s because of the full-scale Hogwarts my dad built by HAND in his garden train village off of their back porch…
Or maybe it’s because for the first time in our 14 years of marriage, we’re going on our very first REAL VACATION to HARRY POTTER WORLD in Florida!
What? You mean we’ve never gone on a vacation in fourteen years of marriage??? Nope. NEVER. And Professor McGonagall is silently judging me for it.
Being an army family, finding time and planning for a vacation is very tricky. The husband has been deployed three times in our daughter’s seven years. There are field exercises and training to work around. Most of our leave has been used relocating to new duty stations, trying to squeeze in visits to family along our way there. Fun, but not a “vacation.”
Once, when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, he got two weeks of R&R, and we met up in Hawaii with our 2-year old Myla (who was in her very “terrible” phase then)… and then I returned with Myla to the frozen temps of Alaska, and the husband went straight back to Afghanistan. But I’m not sure that counts as a real “vacation,” does it?
Yeah, I didn’t think so either, Mad-Eye.
My husband and I have been pretty big Potter fans for ages. Early in our marriage, when we were kidless and waiting for our new home to be ready to move in, we spent hours in the hotel room, devouring all of the Harry Potter books. We didn’t do much else. But we had so much fun reading them all. Because we’re adults and we CAN.
Thank you, Professor Trelawney. I don’t think it sounds crazy at all, either.
Myla is seven now, and has excitedly braved her way through the entire series of Harry Potter movies (despite our warnings that they get darker and darker), and she LOVES them. (Snape is her very favorite…)
Honestly, it’s been a rough year, this year. A terrible, no good, very bad year. It seems to have been unusually unpleasant for a great deal of people.
I know, Voldemort. I get a headache just THINKING about how rough this past year’s been.
So I decided that now was the time. We were going to go. I was going to plan it. We’ve had the money saved for ages. We’ll need money for the bumpy road ahead next year, sure, but THIS money has always been saved for a vacation we’ve never taken. So we’re taking it, and we’re not going to feel a stitch bad about it at all.
(Don’t worry, Dumbledore. Don’t worry, McGonagall. We’ll be okay. We got this.)
We’ve only got a couple of days there. And we’re not going to Disney. We just want to go to Harry Potter World. We’ll get wands. We’ll get butterbeer. We’ll do all the fun “hidden” trivia things my friend Cathy told me about, since she goes all the time. I can’t wait! Just a couple of days there, but we will be wizards, and we will have so much fun. We deserve a little fun.
(I know, I know–Don’t worry, Dumbledore! Don’t worry, McGonagall! We’ll be okay! …I’m sure we’ll be okay…)
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of wonderful characters. And it seems JK Rowling has filled this magical, wonderful wizarding world full of them. I love to draw them. I love to paint them. I’ve done tiny portraits of them. I’ve done larger portraits of them.
And I think our love for that world has spread to Myla…and I’m okay with that.
The husband and I recently watched Fantastic Beasts, and loved it. (Myla hasn’t seen it yet–a few things in there she’s not ready for, but she’ll get there at her own pace.)
So we’ve only got a couple of weeks until our Harry Potter vacation. Our first REAL vacation. I’m so excited! Aren’t you?
So I’m going to celebrate. See that Newt Scamander doodle above? He was so much fun do draw! So I’m going to put 20 signed and numbered 8×10 fine art prints up in the Etsy shop. They’ll be waiting for you there, if you think one should live at your home. Or at a fellow Potterhead’s home. Just because.
So enjoy your fantastic beasts, and I’ll try to patiently count down the next couple of weeks until our Harry Potter Vacation! It’ll be difficult, but mischief will be managed…
I’ve loved painting blank Munnys for a long time (see my old post on it here)….
It also gave me the perfect first opportunity to try out apoxie clay (a 2-part clay that you mix together, that becomes SUPER hard once it’s dried).
To me, this little guy looked like a vintage tattooed sailor, so I used the apoxie to sculpt a little sailor hat, some bellbottoms, ears, and some buttons for his pants. You have to work fast with apoxie (which starts to harden within two hours), but a little water gives you a little more time (And don’t forget to use gloves!! Apoxie’s very irritating to the skin).
I gave him a quick basecoat and waited for him to dry.
I started with his little face. He seemed like he wanted to be a mustachioed fellow, so I gave him some fancy face-hair. Next up, I pulled out some of my vintage tattoo books as starting reference, and played with some little designs to start filling him up.
Then I started with his back side, which was fun. I thought it’d be sweet to add a little laced corset tattoo, similar to one I found on a vintage female tattooed model.
Little by little, he was coming together. I mostly filled him with sailor-style traditional tattoos, like mermaids, anchors, and fish. His fingers say “LET’S SAIL”.
And finally, after a bit of paint and whole lotta love, he was all full and finished…
…and so handsome!
If you don’t already know the work of Alex Solis (the guy who designed this handsome Chunky blank), you can give your eyes a happy time by hopping over to his Instagram page, or by browsing his website.
He even just completed a TED talk about his work, called Art as a Second Language:
So check it all out! Take a look at Alex’s site. Give his blanks a try. And feel free to share any of your blank projects with me–Munny, Chunky, or otherwise–I’d LOVE to see them!
Do you know we’re technically still at war? Like right now. Like for quite a long time. And despite your feelings about it, whatever your politics may be, while it may not change your everyday life, it truly affects military families every day.
My husband’s in the Army, and has been deployed three times in Myla’s 7 years of life. The first deployment, she wasn’t quite two years old, and communication to Afghanistan was limited to occasional emails.
There are tons of posts online, hundreds of Pinterest Pins, (I even wrote a post) all full of things to do to keep your deployed spouse in your kid’s memory. We recorded videos of him reading stories to her. We made a paper chain for every day he was gone (we only made it to 100 days, because: LIFE. WHoops). I made a laminated book of photos for her to chew on, we had a Daddy Doll, and we tried phone calls from time to time. But it’s difficult with kids…if it’s not right in front of them right here, right now, they don’t always understand. It was hard when he came back, as she had once been so cuddly with him, and was suddenly treating him as if he was a stranger.
And then a couple of years ago, my dentist told me her husband had a doll that he took with him when he had to leave, took photos of himself with the doll during the deployment, and sent them to his daughter. I thought that was such a wonderful idea! It reminded me of the Flat Stanley project my niece did when she was younger. And wouldn’t it be fun to have one of MYLA?
My husband was on board, and took photos on every deployment after that–when she was 4, 5, and 6 and had to be gone, I’d send him a Flat Myla , and he took tons of photos with her. When he flew a helicopter, when he visited new cities, when he had coffee, or lunch in the chow hall….you name it.
She was double laminated, and he carried her everywhere he went in his cargo pocket, and she even traveled through the laundry a couple of times on accident, and I’d have to send him a new one.
And since it’s really difficult to find things like this for army kids, my army friends asked for some…
The kids had one of their dad to carry around and take to their games and events, and dad had one for his travels.
It’s so awesome to be able to be part of a family’s story…
And I find that things like this are hard to find for military families. Or for that matter, any family that has a traveling parent, really.
In the Army, “battle buddies” are your friends that you stick with, wherever you go. So I’ve decided to sell custom Battle Buddies in my etsy shop, because I always find that there isn’t much out there for military kids, especially to help them cope with deployments at different ages. I found that when her Daddy was gone this last time, Myla LOVED seeing new photos of where he’d take her, and laughed when he’d do things like stick her flat face in a slice of pizza for a laugh, or pretend to feed her a piece of pie. My friend says her son used to carry around his Flat Daddy all the time when he first deployed.
It’s hard to find something that works for your family. So if you know anyone who’s facing a deployment, or has a family member that travels a lot, and you think this might be something that helps, please contact me on Etsy for a custom! I’d be happy to help them with a Battle Buddy, and be a part of their family story…
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I LOVE making costumes for the kid. So far, the biggest, most in-depth one was Furiosa to go with my Immortan Mama, which we took to a convention to properly walk it around.
But Halloween is always tricky. When she was old enough to choose herself (age three?), the first costume she ever asked for was Max from Where the Wild Things Are. So I found a pattern and lovingly worked on the costume for over a month or so (I had never made a full body jumpsuit before), and then the week before Halloween she said, “Well, maybe I just want to be a bee.” Um…no, kid. It’s too late–you’re Max. Hahah! And so she was Max, and she had fun, and all was right with the world. So I always ask her to REEEEALLY think about it. And then I give myself plenty of time to start. And once she decides, there’s no changing.
The next year, I used cardboard, paper clay, knee pads, and gold spray paint to turn her into her favorite droid, C-3PO, and it was WAY cool. Then she learned about Falcon from the X-men, and freaked when she saw the pre-made costume in the store…so I decided to compromise (because it was on sale), and let her wear it to a convention we were going to near the end of October (Even though I reeeeeeeally wanted her to wear the C-3PO I worked so hard on). But Halloween, she was all droid.
The following year, she was all about teenage Nightcrawler from the cartoon Xmen Evolution, and I threw together a little 3-fingered and 3-toed costume for her. I glued simple blue ears to some hair clips and clipped them into the wig. I used red duct tape over cardboard and flip-flops for the boots, and I just traced around her hand and sewed a simple shape for the 3-fingered gloves.
Last year, she was Pokemon-obsessed. Well, more like James from Team Rocket-obsessed, and dressed as him. I used her old karate uniform, her rain boots, and a purple wig, and sewed her a simple Meowth doll with a painted face. Simple, but so much fun!
This year, she’s been all about the Giant King. We’ve seen the movie a million times–it’s a foreign film dubbed in English, and she’s in love with the big green robot Zork (which she insists on calling “Zorp”).
I let her think about it for months, and she settled on him for Halloween. No matter what came and went, she still chose “Zorp.” She even finally saw all the Harry Potter movies, and said she wished she could dress up as Harry some time at a convention or something, but she still insisted on “Zorp,” and he is her Halloween pick no matter what. “Maybe we can save Harry Potter for my birthday,” she said. (Oooooh, YES.)
So I got started by raiding our cardboard from the recycling bin, and roughing out a chest piece shape with masking tape and hot glue. Looking back, I could’ve probably done without the masking tape and just used the hot glue, but–live and learn.
Then I built the head like a little hat, and sprayed it with green spray paint, and adding details in acrylic paint.
I painted up the details on the chest. The chest piece just slips over her head, and the headpiece has a bit of liner inside it to cushion her head a bit.
And finally, the arm pieces: The husband picked up one of those accordion-style dryer vent hoses, and I spray painted them green. I also had her try on the chest piece again (I’ve learned that it’s super HARD to get my kid to try on and size things!), and had to add some cardboard to the neck hole so it didn’t fall off her shoulders. The tricky part will be attaching the vent hose “sleeves” to the chest piece so they don’t just slide off her arms. I haven’t figured that part out yet (it will most likely involve a lot of duct tape), but I’ll figure it out in the next couple of days!
She’s so excited! So yeah, she’s probably spoiled with custom-made costumes, but I really do love making them, so it’s a lot of fun for me, too. I always think of it as a fun challenge to see what I can come up with to make it work. It’s a great way to keep the creativity flowing, and make something unique and fun! But really–whether you’ve got a store-bought or homemade costume, the whole point of the thing is FUN. It’s gotta be fun for everyone, right?
Myla asked me what I’d be, and I told her I’d probably just paint my face, robot-style. That’ll be fun. So keep an eye out on Facebook and Instagram for a Halloween update. And have some good, clean, safe fun out there!!! Happy Halloween!
Have you ever looked at other artists’ media feeds, and just assumed that everything they touch turns out perfectly?
I have. And aside from a few magical unicorns for which that may be true, I am pretty sure that all artists suffer from bad starts, and art block.
Mine has been going on a while now….I’m not sure if it’s related to the fact that I’ve had a massive headcold that later turned into a sinus infection for the past three weeks, and has been totally clogging up my brain, but it sure shows in my sketchbooks, which are FULL of bad starts.
The thing about bad starts, is that sometimes all it takes is the beginning of an eyeball for me to realize it’s not worth holding onto. And then I get discouraged about the bad start. And feel bad for wasting paper in my awesome sketchbook. And then I feel like nothing I draw has been turning out right lately. And I start completely re-thinking my whole style and technique, and everything that has made sense to me in the known universe up until that particular moment, because WHAT AM I DOING I TOTALLY FORGOT HOW TO DRAW.
…And then a decent doodle will show up. It’s not GREAT, but it at least gets the idea out.
Sometimes I go back to my comfortable spaces, where I feel the best, to try to pull something out from there. I always let Myla join me, because she always makes it better, and reminds me that it’s not that serious.
And sometimes strange things make for decent doodles…
Sometimes, I re-work an older idea for some inspiration, and try to update it…
And sometimes, outside prompts (like this month’s Inktober suggestions) help get me out of my regular mindset…
And it takes some time, but then things start coming back around eventually.
And soon, it’s not as much of a constant struggle, and starts to come out in an easier, more enjoyable way…
The thing to remember is that it’s part of who you are, when you have a passion like drawing. Whatever your passion is, you’d still do it if no one ever saw it, right? You do it because it makes you feel good. You almost NEED to do it. It’s not this yearning for a title, it’s not a status, but drawing is like skin to me, it’s just there, and I’m grateful for it.
…So why does my confidence in it waver so much? If you struggle with the same things, try to remember what I keep telling myself: It’s not gone forever. It will come back, and you will be better for it when it does. If it takes a hundred bad drawings to get back to your groove, then by all means, start sketching!
I’m telling myself that right now. Hopefully when this stupid flu leaves, it’ll take my art block with it. Until then, I’ll keep making my bad starts and pushing forward! 🙂
I hate chalk. It’s a texture thing. It’s the same reason I dislike graphite pencils–it’s like dry hands on rough paper, and fingernails on…well…a chalkboard. I’ve seen people do AMAZING things with chalk, and I’m always super impressed. But it’s just not my medium.
Myla loves to chalk! She makes it fun. Once, when I had a terrible headcold (much like the one I am currently trying to evict), we went outside to chalk. Trying not to seem like a total weirdo, I put on a garden glove and chalked. “Can you turn me into a monster?” She asked. She lay down in our driveway, and I drew a shape all around her. It was a fun way to pass the time with very little energy output on my part (because: headcold).
We made monsters and mermaids…
And when it was my turn? Ahhhh, sweet relief for a sick mama–I lay down and closed my eyes to the sun and relaxed while she happily chalked all around me.
So that’s become our thing, and sometimes when the mood strikes, we pick up the giant container full of chalk we keep in a planter by the front door bench, and chalk chalk chalk, turning ourselves into all sorts of little beasties.
It came in handy when my husband was deployed, and we’d send him pictures. We made a soldier…
(I’m pretty sure that’s the same face I made when I was enlisted…)
We made helicopter pilots…
And since he couldn’t be there for father’s day last year, we chalked a great big “daddy.”
We’ve been chalking “daddy”‘s for a couple of years…
And it comes in handy as a nice “hello” when he came home from deployment…
So yeah. I hate chalk. I hate the way it feels.
But it’s fun, and it sure does come in handy for the memory-making, and that’s definitely worth a little discomfort! And that’s why I love it.
(….But yeah…I still sort of hate it, too. Hahah!)