Tag Archives: dolls

The Tale of Donkey

(This is not so much art-related, but I thought I’d share a little story.  So if you’re up for it, just sit back, relax, snuggle up, and tuck in.  Here we go…)

People often wonder what it’s like to grow up in a military family.  Unlike the TV show trope, my dad didn’t march us around the house, barking commands at my sister, mother, and me.  After a long day of formations and the field, that was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

Being in an army family means lots of things, but most significantly, it means moving around.  A lot.  My husband once commented that our daughter at 3 years old, had flown more often than he had the entire first 25 years of his life.

I grew up around the army, and I was very outgoing…until it all slammed to a halt in about 5th grade.  I remember it distinctly, because that was when all the social awkwardness happened, and the things I loved (like drawing, reading, bugs, and sci-fi) suddenly became “weird” to the people that had so recently played side by side with me.  Being a military family meant that just as social awkwardness set in, we got into an unfortunate pattern of moving nearly EVERY YEAR.  So just as I was settling in somewhere, it was just about time to pick up & move.  I became a bit more introverted.  I stuck my head in my sketchbook and didn’t bother to get to know anyone.

Boohoohoo.  Believe me, it’s not a story of pity.  My parents took us to so many wonderful places and we did so many fun things.  I’ve seen amazing and wonderful parts of the world that my heart STILL aches for.  Yes, school was rough at times, but isn’t it always?  I lost & found my voice many times, and I’d be a completely different person if anything in it had changed.  Years later, I JOINED the army, and found my voice again.  I spent four years in that were some of the most important years in my life.  Now I’m married to a soldier, and we have our own “army brat” (that’s VERY loving term of endearment and respect, for non-military folks who may be unfamiliar with the term).

But one of the down sides of moving around so much is that we either hang on to things too much, or we let go of things too easily.  Maybe that’s also  true metaphorically, but I’m talking in this case about actual THINGS.  I’ve had friends who spoke of family heirlooms and things being passed down from generation to generation–an idea that fascinated me when I was younger, as we didn’t really have that sort of thing.  Moving a lot means the army gives you only so much weight allowance, so sometimes you have to dump the excess.

When I was around eight, I got a Steiff donkey (Steiff  is a German dollmaking company).  I was in LOVE with that donkey.  My sister got a teddy she called Molly Bear.  I tried to name my donkey, but he always ended up Just Donkey.  He was my go-to guy.  I cried many tears into his furry gray neck, and I cuddled with him on many happy nights for many many MANY years.

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Me in my Care Bears jammies with my Prince Valiant ‘do, and a brand new Donkey.

When I was old enough to go off to college, like Andy in Toy Story, I left Donkey behind at my parents’ house, and they eventually put him in storage in the shed with a few other of our childhood dolls.  Several moves later, he stayed forgotten in a Rubbermaid container, and when I thought of him, I thought of him with a smile.  And years later, when my dad retired, I asked about Donkey.  “Oh gosh,” my mom said.  “He’s probably in a container in the shed somewhere.”

Several MORE years later, not long after Myla was born, I asked again about Donkey.  Sadly, it was discovered that most of the dolls and boxes in the shed had suffered at the hands of a major mouse infestation.  Dolls and clothing had been shredded by them, paper and stuffing used to make nests in what was once assumed to be sealed-tight containers.  Quite a few things were lost or destroyed by mouse-droppings and nibbles.  It was a mousetastrophy.

I had heard (for a military family, especially) that it helps comfort a kid to have a doll that is a special “lovvie;” the one constant thing that your kid can connect with and keep, and with a new (and VERY fussy baby), I would have loved for that to have worked.  I am here to tell you, my friends, that in my experience, you cannot MAKE a doll be a lovvie.  I tried to make many dolls and blankets her lovvie, and nothing stuck.  I constantly put them by her in bed, I’d give one to her when she’d cry, and she could really not care less if they were there or not.

And then, just before Myla’s first birthday, mom sent a package to us in Alaska.  It was my DONKEY!!  And he was FINE!   He had somehow survived the rodent apocalypse unscathed!  Mom had washed him and sent him to us when they cleaned out their shed.  I happily gave my beloved Donkey to Myla, who I assumed would simply cuddle him for a bit and toss him aside.   But for some reason, out of ALL the dolls that have ever come and gone, THIS one stuck.

donk

From the minute I gave him to her, he has rarely left her side.  So Donkey has been with her since before she could walk, and though other dolls have come and gone, she always goes back to Donkey.  New dolls are the occasional favorites sometimes (I may have mentioned she has a stuffed animal addiction), but she always goes back to Donkey.

Donkey has been there for doctor’s appointments, shots, airplane rides, hotel nights, and was a MUST the time she had to stay overnight at the hospital after a bad flu.  He has been puked on, accidentally painted on, and had food and drinks spilled on him.  His fur, once fluffy and soft, is now matted and course.  His neck flops from years of constant cuddling.  His mane and tail are nearly threadbare.

And if you ask her if she’d like you to open him up and add a bit more stuffing to make him less floppy, she would tell you “NO, PLEASE.  I love him JUST the way he is.”

He is hers, and she loves him.

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I can’t change the fact that we move so much, and as an army brat myself, I think it actually ends up making you strong.  You appreciate what you have, and enjoy the people around you.  You have friends from all over, and even when it’s hard to keep in touch, you can be miles apart, and still feel close to them if you’ve been lucky enough to find some good ones.  So in her world, it makes me feel good that something so loved in my life has been so well-loved in hers.

So do you or your kids have a special doll?  Some sort of  “lovvie” they can’t part with?  Do you have something special you’ve passed down to someone else?

The Kiwi Incident

Have you heard of Kiwi Crate?  It’s a fun little mail-to-your-doorstep program, where every month, a cute little box comes to your mailbox, filled with all the tools and supplies you need to do a couple of art projects.  (They totally don’t give us any freebies for saying so, but we think they’re pretty awesome, especially for crafty ladies like us.)

So recently, Kiwi Crate finally named their little kiwi character “Steve,” and Myla was excited.

KIWI design-process-top

“I’d like to make a Steve doll!” she said.  Since this usually involves basically ME doing all the work, I sort of brushed it off for another time.  “But I think I can make it all by myself!” she said excitedly, digging through her craft box with all the giddy anticipation of a newly hatched idea.

Allright, I thought.  I’ll help her with the basic sewing.  She’ll get a chance to see the sewing machine in action, and she can do the rest herself.

Carefully and meticulously, she cut shapes out of the felt that came with one of the monthly project kits, along with a few extra supplies from my sewing box.  She quickly and furiously drew the shapes out herself, cut them out herself.  It was HER vision, and she was so EXCITED.little kiwi work

And when the time came, I had her place her hand next to mine on the machine, and I had her help me guide it to sew on the little beak.  I had her help me pull the little needle and thread through the button eyes.  And things were going well.  How cute!  What a great learning experience!  I thought…

Until we put the stuffing in.

kiwi endAs we filled up the tiny kiwi with stuffing, she excitedly said, “So when does it get bigger?”

…Um.  What?

“When does it get bigger?  I wanted it to be the size of a pillow to cuddle with.  Isn’t it going to get bigger?”

…Uhhhh.  Oh my.

It was then that I realized that in all her furious anticipation, she had a goal in mind of exactly what she wanted this little kiwi to look like, and this tiny blue thing was NOT living up to those expectations at ALL.

As this reality hit her, she became instantly inconsolable.  Those of you who have spent time with kids this age might be familiar with the complete and utter irrationality of a kid-tantrum.  They’re these things that are unexpected, unexplainable, and completely bewildering.  There’s no use saying, “But you cut it out!  You must have KNOWN how big it was?!?”  There’s no use saying, “How would it possibly get BIGGER?!?!”  These things mean nothing to a small child.  All they know is that Thing A was in their head, and Thing B does NOT match up.

And OOOOhhhhhhh the tears.  Oh the crying.  Oh, the dramatic frustration.  It was safe to say that we were done with the kiwi for the day.

Later, when the tears had finally stopped flowing, we had a chance to talk.  “You were upset because you thought when you stuffed it, it would get bigger?”  “Yes,” she said.  “Do you understand that freaking out about it doesn’t change anything?”  “Yes,” she said.  “Can we do something about it?  Can we make a bigger one?” she asked me, hurriedly.

But to avoid the bandaid trapping of instant gratification, I insisted we would need to wait.  From now on, if we were going to do this, we would take our time.  We would draw out a design, pick the fabrics, take a couple of days, and make a PLAN.

And now, this is our new word for projects:  PLAN.

Several days later, after many talks about calming down and using our words, we drew pictures, we picked out fabrics, and we started working on another Steve.

We drew pictures.  We picked out button eyes.  We talked about his beak and his wings.  We chose which fabrics to use from my fabric stash.  She helped me sew him.  She helped me stuff him.  She drew out what kind of legs she imagined he’d have.

big kiwi workingWe took our time with him and planned him out.  And when we were done, Steve came out looking pretty darn good.

KIWI

It’s a hard lesson, when your imagination doesn’t match up with your reality.  It’s amazing to keep your imagination in the stars, but you also have to be aware of what’s actually within your reach, and when you’re totally and completely off-track.

Another thing that’s so hard for a kid to grasp is that if you take your time and plan something out, it makes for a MUCH better project with a much better plan.  These days, when everything is available at the touch of a button, it’s easy to forget that there’s also legitimate value in WAITING.

Myla’s five, and I’ve only just begun to try her on a chapter book at bedtime; one of my childhood favorites: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.  “I think I’ve already seen that show,” she said, “and some of the creatures scared me.”  “But that’s the great thing,” I said.  “It can be totally different in  your imagination.”

Every night when we read a chapter or two, she asks me, “Will we go ahead and just finish it tonight?”  And every night I tell her that we just have to wait to see what happens.  Of course, she’s impatient, but she accepts it with excitement.  I thought her attention would dwindle, but so far she seems to be hanging on.

Later, we set the kiwis side by side, and I asked her to look at them with me.

final kiwis

“They’re both beautiful,” I said.  We talked about how when you have a great idea, it’s great to want to get it out as quickly as possible, but that sometimes when you take your time and plan it out, you have a chance to make it better, make it stronger, make it more like what you had in mind, maybe do things you hadn’t thought of before, or do them in different ways.  When you rush, you might get the idea out quickly, but planning it out helps you figure things out that you might not have done with the rushed version.  Since we took time to plan out the second kiwi, we made its wings flap down, so they could lay down to his side (instead of stick out to the sides) and we were able to make his beak stick straight out, like a kiwi’s.

It’s got to be hard for kids, growing up in our new world of on-demand tv, DVR, instant downloading, live streaming, wifi, and online shopping to understand the process of having to wait for ANYTHING.  I have to remind myself that that waiting is something that kids today are much less familiar with.  It’s not a skill they have ever really had to use.  It’s not better or worse than when I was a kid, it’s just different.   There’s no use pining for the past.  It’s how we live now, and there’s no use trying to completely change the world and live in a cabin somewhere….

….But I think slowing things down a little is a pretty good habit to make from time to time…

Monster Kittens

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In my ongoing experiments with sculpting, molding, and resin casting (like this one), I wanted to try out a more functional use for resin casts….Could I maybe make some kind of doll with a resin-cast face?

After a few rough sketches, I got some Sculpey out on an index card, pushed marbles in for eyes, and played around to see what I could come up with.  Of course, since Myla loves to be involved, I let her have a lump, with which she made the little figure on the top left, and I came up with these two monster faces on the right (people on Instagram said they looked like monster kittens):

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I still have some tricky times with molding and casting, and have wasted more than my fair share of molding rubber and resin…So I let Myla have a few of the wonky ones to paint herself…

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And I added some color to a few molds that actually came out well…

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(Initially, I put resin on the mouth and eyes for a “wet” look, and only sealed the faces with varnish, but later ended up sealing the whole face in ModPodge Dimensional Magic for better wear & tear).

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Aside from painting them, the most fun part was trying to figure out what sort of fabric to use.  So many options that completely change the look of each face!  And I just used scraps of things I had in my fabric bins, including fun fur, industrial felt, mismatched fabrics, and excess pieces of a patchwork quilt I once made.

I learned from talking to other artists (have I mentioned how much I love Instagram??) that the best way to affix the heads to the fabric is to use E600, and put them under a heavy object overnight.  Granted, they smell like chemical warfare afterwards, but if you let them air out awhile, the smell eventually goes away.

The first creature I made was a basic doll-shape:

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…And Myla loved him.

Then I made a body for the one she painted herself:

6 monster2

…And Myla loved him.

I tried a more “pillow-like” one, with octopus-legs…

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…And Myla wasn’t crazy about that one.  (Don’t worry–it’s found a good home at my friend Corrie’s house.)

I did what Myla describes as a flying fish-fairy:

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And a sort of dragonfly-dragon:

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But by far, my favorite was when I tried something completely different, and made a more 3-dimensional body, with three little legs on each side.

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7 monster puppy

It was my first time making one that wasn’t just a flat front & back without using a pattern, so it’s a little wonky, but I quite like it.

Annnnnd, of course, Myla loved it.  She calls her “Midnight” and carries her everywhere lately. I realize these things are not necessarily made to be ‘toys” (how much they hold up to the wear & tear of kid life is still being determined), but she treats her dolls pretty well, so why not?

Thankfully, the horrendous glue smell has gone away.  And after repairing her chipped little resin face a couple of times, I think a good coat of the ModPodge stuff has really helped keep her shiny & new.

It’s a funny thing, though, when she takes her little monster places.  Other little girls will look at Myla and smile sweetly, and Myla will smile back…then they’ll look down at her fuzzy little monster, and their face will inevitably change to a mortified “what the HECK??”  When she takes Midnight anywhere, the comments she gets stem from either complete disgust, or absolute fascination.  And when people ask where she got such a doll, she says, with her sweet little 5-year old voice, “my mom sculpt it and cast it in wesin.”8 monster puppy

Listen, I know we like weird things.  And I know most people won’t “get” the same things we’re into.  So we could teach her to either hide what she likes to be “normal,” or take it as an opportunity to share our weirdness with someone else.

We teach her that when someone doesn’t like something, or doesn’t “get” it (like maybe her references to characters she has heard stories of and loves, like Gamora and Groot, or Storm, or Star Wars), it might be because they just don’t UNDERSTAND it, or haven’t heard about them….but that it doesn’t make it wrong.  It might just mean that they don’t know, which would be a good chance to teach them something new.  People don’t always like the same things, but they shouldn’t try to make someone else feel bad for liking what they like.  And no matter what, you should never EVER feel bad or ashamed for liking what you like, no matter how weird, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else.  If they don’t like it, that’s okay–that’s their business.

So far, she’s done pretty well with that, thankfully. She doesn’t go out LOOKING for a conflict, but so far, she handles it with grace when she does.

On a side note, people have asked if I sell these, and so far, there are many reasons I haven’t.  I quite like doing them just for fun, and as much as I’d love to share them, the thought of doing them to order is quite intimidating!  (Not to mention, the effort that goes into sculpting, molding, casting, painting, and sewing might be worth a bit more than people are willing to consider.)

I have trouble with that–the thought of custom work and getting rid of the things I make.  It really is daunting.  I worry that it might lose it’s “fun” or its spontaneity. Also, I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up.  Maybe one day, when things aren’t so busy, and I’ve got this whole resin-casting thing down pat/ Maybe I’ll make a few and put them up in a shop as-is.    (I keep saying I’m going to do that….)

Until then, have any of you tried resin casting?  Have you tried making dolls from them?  I’d love to see your creations and hear from you about your resin-adventures!

Playing with Mermaids

Inspiration comes in strange places.  With the excitement of Austin Wizard Con looming, I have been playing with all kinds of ideas for the table display and the idea of little knick-knacks to show.  And since I follow a ton of very talented artists on Instagram, I was inspired by them to try something completely new for me:  molding and casting.

So I watched a few videos on YouTube, and now I’m an expert.

I won’t do a full DIY step by step, since I don’t really know what I’m doing and this is all new to me anyway (trust me, this is one of those situations where you have to just jump in and try it).  But I’ll give a rough rundown of the basic steps, just to show you what was involved…

Step 1: Sculpt something.

I used Super Sculpey, and tried to come up with a little sculpted version of the mermaid girl Myla & I made.  (I realize she looks very little like the original, but Myla said she was cute, so I think it’s okay…)  Since kids have a natural magnetic attraction towards clay, I sacrificed a handful of Sculpey and let Myla make her own mermaid.  (She modeled her after a character on Doc McStuffins, who is not, in fact, topless–but she couldn’t remember what her top looked like, so she just gave her breasts.  I’m not sure if I should put a censored black bar over kid-sculpted breasts?  I just go with it)…

1 sculpt

Step 2: Make a mold.

I got my kits from a company called Smooth-On (who have TONS of great videos on their site).  I won’t give you every little detail on this, since the directions are really easy (and on the box)…but the basic idea is mix This with That and pour.  (Plus, if I told you everything, I’d ruin all the messy fun for you.)  The main thing I learned during this step:  make sure you mix it REALLY well.  If you don’t, it doesn’t set right.  I made mine from silicone rubber in a plastic cup.  I nearly didn’t mix enough for the tail, but it turned out alright.

2 sil mold

Step 3: Cut your sculpture out

You know that bit of instructions that you think, “Ah, that’s not a big deal, I’ll just sort of wing it”?  Well, turns out sometimes they tell you those little tips for a good reason.  When I put my sculpture in the cup to mold it, I forgot to mark on the cup where the back side of her was.  So when it was time to open her, and I “guessed,” I guessed wrong, and sort of sliced up her face.  The stubby arms were apparently a little too weak for the whole process and broke off.  And the body crumbled because I hadn’t fully cooked her.  But the mold itself turned out fairly good.  And Sculpey can be touched up a bit, so I patched her up and fully cooked her, and she was just fine.

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Step 4: Pour plastic/resin into the mold.

The first go-round, I tried a liquid plastic kit from Smooth-On.  And along with my repeated advice of making sure you mix everything the right way, I’ll add a couple of pointers I learned:  First thing is that it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves.  Initially, I gave that bit of advice a big ol’ “Pshhhht, whatever.”  But plastic nearly ALWAYS gets on your hands, and it feels super creepy, like when you get superglue on your fingers.  Blecch.  And later, when I tried pouring resin, I had a bit of a leak in the silicone mold (it was a different mold, and I had two “air holes”), and it leaked hot resin ALLLLLLLLLLL over my work table.  Trust me, that’s not fun at ALL.  So my bit of advice there?  make sure you don’t have a spot in the mold that might leak.  And lastly, GIVE IT TIME TO CURE.  I’m very impatient.  But hot plastic hurts.

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Step 5: Plastic mermaids!

So I messed up quite a few mermaids, but after some trial and error, I was able to get a few decent-looking plastic mermaids!  Fun!  I couldn’t figure out why their faces were bubbly, though, until I looked closely at the mold, and realized that the mold itself had bubbles set into it.  Whoops.  Later I made a better mold, and made it smaller and on its back, so I wouldn’t waste so much silicone rubber.  That helped clear up any bubble issues, and gave me a much clearer mold.  Apparently, having her on her back, and pouring the silicone in the corner and letting it sort of “seep” into the face on its own is the big trick with that. (I HAD done that the first time, but she was positioned upside down, and all the details of the face were on the bottom, leaving lots of chances for air to get trapped in there.  Whoops.)

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Step 6: Paint that junk

So with a handful of funky mermaids, I decided we should go ahead and paint’em up.  Why not?  And since they came out wonky, I let Myla have a go at them, too.  7 myla painting

I had a little trouble painting on the actual plastic with acrylic paint.  (Myla had no complaints.)  I even tried a basecoat of brown primer for plastic, but it just didn’t look so great.

6 paintMyla had an awesome time painting them, though.  She painted her McStuffins mermaid, along with a yellow-haired one (modeled after a Monster High doll), and a green-skinned Ariel.

8 mermaidsLater, after making the bubble-free mold, I tried casting in resin, instead of the plastic…and despite MANY failed attempts (note the mutant mermaid army in the background) I finally got some good ones!

photoApparently, again–the trick is very careful mixing.  In my very limited experience, I’ve learned that if your mixture is off, it can do all sorts of wonky things to your cast.  I haven’t tried painting these resin casts yet (I’ll try that later), but I’ll be sure to post the outcome!

With new projects, there’s always a level of intimidation for me.  That casting kit sat in my art room for about 5 months before I actually got the courage to try it.  But you know–when you do, it feels awesome to have finally figured it out!  Even if you end up with an school of mutated fish-women, you can’t really consider it a failure if you’ve learned something.

So jump in and try something new!  I promise, it’s worth it.  Wonky mermaids and all.

A Creative Epiphany

Oh my gosh, we just discovered a new show.  And in kid-world, anything that keeps the same goshdarn show (whichever it might be) from being on repeat over and over again is definitely something to celebrate…

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We have Amazon TV, and they just released a series called “Creative Galaxy,” about art and creativity for kids.  I’d love to say that they gave us money to blog about them, or at least a stuffed animal or a visit from a character or something, but they didn’t, so this is all our own experience.

So Creative Galaxy is about a little alien named Arty (of course), and his sidekick Epiphany (which, I told Myla, means “a good idea”), and they go around the galaxy “solving problems with art.”  Okay, it’s just as perky as any typical kid’s show, but the cool thing about Creative Galaxy is that they introduce the style of certain artists (sort of like I’ve done with Myla with our own projects   in the past), and explain what the artist was trying to do with their art.  They talk about Pollock and his “action painting.”  And they have lots of clips of real kids showing how to do simple fun crafty projects.

The only down side to this show in OUR house is that it gives Myla a million crafty ideas that she wants to try ALL RIGHT NOW!  But that’s okay.  We pick and choose, and then we get crafty.

Recently, I expanded Myla’s craft area, since it had started completely taking over both the living room and kitchen tables.  We used things we already had around the house, and now it’s easily accessible to her, and right next to my office area (since I work from home on my computer).  She loves that there is enough space to sit on top (she REALLY gets into her artwork!)  so we don’t even need space for a chair.  There are office organizers for her pens and paper, as well as the bins next to it for other craft supplies like paper plates, foam, stickers, and paper bags.  Perfect for all sorts of craft time!

art area

There’s nothing more that Myla likes than a stuffed animal.  I think she may actually be addicted.  I may have to look for some sort of help center for wayward stuffed animal addicts, actually.   So inspired by the show, Myla decided one day that she wanted to make her own “Epiphany” doll.

Epiphany is Arty the alien’s little sidekick.  We’re not sure what he…or she…really is, exactly, but Myla thinks he’s cute.  She started by drawing the shape onto a piece of felt.  Since she wanted it to be stuffed, I showed her that she had to have a front and a back piece.  Then she cut little arms & legs out.  I had her help me sew a simple stitch around it on the sewing machine (I often have her put her hand on it to help guide it), and then came her favorite part:  the stuffing!

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When we do spontaneous projects like this, the rule is that we have to use things we already have, or we can’t do it at all.  I happened to have some little pompoms on a string, which were a bit wonky, but worked well for the little puffball on his head.  Thankfully (despite being a perfectionist) she seemed to like it just fine.  It bothered me a little, but I always let her have the last word on when it’s “done.”

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She wanted him to look a little more like the photo, so we got the paints out to color the eyes and spots.

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And there he is, the final little Epiphany character!  Created (almost) entirely by a 5-year old!

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Sure he’s a little wonky and imperfect.  But the fact that she made him (almost) all by herself is something she’s VERY proud of.    There are some times that the final piece doesn’t look like how she imagined and a wailing pitiful freakout ensues (we’re working on that), but I think it’s good for her to see the outcome of her decisions, whatever they may be. Simple decisions, when she can make them, make her feel more involved, like she had some sort of say in what we’ve created, and makes her more emotionally invested in it.  Sure, I could’ve made her a doll, but would she learn how it was made?  No.  She’d just get the benefit without the effort.

I don’t always indulge her in dollmaking–actually I often steer clear of it, or we’d end up making a dozen dolls a day.  But on occasion, and with some boundaries, it’s fun to see where her creativity takes her!

Unusual Dolls

Sometimes, inspiration is found in strange places.

There are some children’s books that are so dull and obnoxious that every word irritates you as you read it to your wide-eyed kid. These are usually the same books that your kid is madly in LOVE with, and therefore insists you read them over and over and over again until the grumble inside your head starts to show on the outside of your face. But there are good ones, too. Sweet ones with beautiful drawings and lovely stories and poetry, charming and funny and endearing.

And then there’s Calef Brown. He’s a different sorta bird.

We discovered “Polkabats and Octopus Slacks” quite by coincidence, but the fact that the poems are so strange and lovely, combined with the use of the words “polka turds” cracked the Kid up, and we were hooked. I had never seen a kid’s book like that before. I’ve read them all tons of times, and I have yet to be bored by them. He’s a whole lot of funky, a little bit full of one of those giggles you cover with your hand, but all kinds of fun.

One of my daughter’s favorites (especially, I think, since we like to combine animals and people in our own doodles), is in a book called “Flamingos On The Roof.” I was reading one of her favorites, called “Allicatter Gatorpillar,” when she said, “I sure wish I could see an Allibutter Gatorfly.”

ABGF 0

You know what? I would, too, kid. That sounds like fun.

So I decided to sew one. Challenge accepted.

I’ve made a few dolls before…..thing is, I can only follow a very simple pattern, and can’t really do anything fancy. But this shouldn’t be THAT difficult, right? I’ll walk you through what I did for your own amusement, but I’ll have you know I’m no perfectionist when it comes to this sort of thing. With things like this, I sort of frantically jab and tie and cut everything together and glue it and tape it and bandage it up and say (dusting my hands off), “whelp, that should just about do it.”

So I sketched out a little shape of the gator part, and just sewed the top seam, from the tip of the tail to about the bottom of the…”chin?”

ABGF 1

I wanted the wings to be bendable, so I dug in my wire drawer for some very flexible wire I have used in sculpture before, and laid it out on two separate wing shapes. There was a front & back to one side, and a front & back to the other. I sewed them together without the wire, right sides together with the end open, and turned them two make two top wings. Then I did the same for the bottom wings. (PS, from the looks of my desk, I should probably make better use of my cutting board.)

ABGF 2

I wanted the wire to go all the way across to span the top two wings for strength and the bottom two wings the same. I pushed the wire into the open wings, and held the wire in place with machine stitches. I also stitched the top set of wings to the bottom set, so they’d sort of stay in place. Now I had a pretty cool pair of wings…with no way to attach them together. I decided to at least get some embroidery floss and sew the open ends to each other to sort of hold the wire in place and keep the wings from just sliding off. This is where all hell broke loose.

ABGF 3

So now I’ve got all these exposed seams on the wings. How the heck do I get it on the body? I can’t sew through wire. So I made a little green “belt,” wrapped it around the open seams (which covered them fairly well) and then stitched that onto the back of the gator’s body. Pretty sloppy, and if you look at it closely, the wires will pop out. Good thing I bent the edges so they don’t totally cut you like a brassiere underwire.

ABGF 4

So with the wings shoddily attached to the gator skin from both the outside and the in, the time for stuffing had come.

ABGF 5

After what seemed like 18 hours of hand-sewing the bottom of the gator’s body (a good tutorial for hidden stitches here, by the way), it was time to paint the eyes. I got out my acrylic paint, and risking my daughter’s critique for putting both eyes on the same side of the head (it’s like that in the illustration!!), I painted them on. I wanted to add some antennae as a final little touch, and found some bendable wire floral rope that I had lying around that I can’t for the life of me remember why I own. Do I have any clue how to attach it to the head? No. In hindsight, I probably could’ve just used embroidery floss to tack it to the back (Yep, I probably should’ve done that). Instead, I cut a couple of tiny snips in the back, threaded the wire through, and glued a fabric panel down with fabric glue. This did actually keep the antennae standing upright, but I suppose a few good stitches could’ve accomplished the same effect without making this fella look even MORE strange.

ABGF 6And so here is the final result in probably the weirdest little doll I’ve ever made. The thing is, though, I think he sort of matches the style of the one in the book, which is sort of what I was going for. I mean, an allibutter gatorfly’s not SUPPOSED to be “cute”…right?

ABGF 7

Well, it’s okay if he’s a little creepy. When I picked my daughter up from school and presented her with it, she sighed with delight. “He’s so BEEEAAAUUUUTIFUL!” she said.

And that’s all that really matters.

ABGF 8
So have you been inspired by weird art to make something in tribute?

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