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Archive for November, 2010

I’ve been having a really good time today playing with a new present I got myself.

black apple paper doll primer

This new book is by artist Emily Martin aka Black Apple. The book is divided into three parts.

Part One is her original paper dolls and their clothes. Each doll has a personality profile including likes and dislikes, for instance, here’s Alice’s list: Likes: Cats, Books with pictures, Her usual height; Dislikes: Boring Lessons, Disorderly tea parties, Egomaniacal Monarchs. Here’s my favorite personality list item . . . Dislikes: Being Poked (Baby) and yes, before you wonder, Baby is just that; a little rosy-cheeked human baby who looks like the kind of tiny baby doll that sort of slumps warm and cozy in the palm of your hand. Part One also includes a section of background paintings, and a toy theater.

Part Two is “Paper You” which is exactly what it sounds like. It has a bunch of customizable paperdolls with equally customizable clothing. You pick the doll that looks the most like the person you want to make a doll of and well, fix it up to include the right color eyes, the correct hair, shoes, etc. Then you make it some clothes. Hours and hours of fun. Here’s the doll I made:

black apple paper doll my version

I had bunches of fun working on this. I did what the book suggested and used my scanner/copier to make color copies to work on. I used colored pencils, clip art and a sticker to decorate the clothes, you know, the sort of stuff that is always lying around the workroom. Most of the clothes are extremely plain, the idea being that they are sort of blank slates for you to build on. For instance the underwear, the green top, the purple/black/white faun dress, and the yellow neck scarf were originally totally white. The yellow dress was just a plain yellow dress, I added the elephant bag (which is NOT in the book, it’s picture I had on file). I colored a hat band on the top hat and added texture/color to the green dress and blue jeans. I added the owls, the faun panel and the bug lady. I did customize the doll itself, adding rosy color, darkening the brows and eyelashes and giving it brown eyes. I also drew the shoes and then made a pair of wicked cool boots out of a practice doll’s feet (her face didn’t work out — oops).

Part Three is projects make with/for the dolls including a storage armoire (to keep the extensive wardrobe of clothing in don’ cha know), play sets, display stands, jointed dolls, flip books, stationary, and a mobile. It also gives directions for playing “Exquisite Creature” which is a more kid-friendly name for “exquisite corpse”; the old funny tri-fold collaborative draw-a-picture game.

This is a particularly nice book. I wish there had been a book like this when I was a little kid. Edith Flack Ackley’s old battered paper doll book borrowed from the library was the best I had back then and this is in color and has better dolls and more projects. Well, better dolls if you’re very into conjoined twins, bears, goth girls and onion-headed creatures . . . which I am. So there.

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The Popover Family

Among the many things I like are books about dolls and their houses (and their people). The Popover Family is such a book, a collection of short stories arrayed as a novel, telling of their many adventures. Comforting adventures with much love and friendship with a dash of excitement. Like many vintage books (this is from 1927) the language is delightfully dated. I’m also inordinately fond of decorated endsheets. Like these:

popover family endsheet

What I find particularly charming about the Popover Family is that fully half the family are improvised dolls. The mother and daughter are regular manufactured dolls; the mother is said to be “a little china doll” and the daughter is stated to be “a little girl doll” which might indicate she’s a bisque doll. But Father Popover and Baby Popover (whose long name is Loo-Loo) are improvised, that is, made of found or as is currently fashionable upcycled objects.

“Mr. Popover was a clothes-pin, tall and slim and brown. His head was small, but his legs were long, and of them he was very, very proud.”

“Baby Popover was a chubby glass bottle, smooth and long and round. He wore a little white cape and a white pointed cap tied over the cork that made his head. He lay in a little wooden cradle, as snug as could be, and he was never so good and quiet as when someone was rocking him to and fro.”

the popover family

As you can see from the above illustration, there are also fairies in this book. Only in one story but that story is rather atypical for a fairy story, involving a domestic crisis wherein the Fairy Queen’s baby won’t stop screaming unless she holds him so she can’t dance at the ball. Mother and Loo-Loo Popover come to the rescue, the crisis resolved and a jolly time is had by all.

There is a decided emphasis on the power of the imagination in books like these. As an example, look closely at their house.

popover family dollhouse

There are no internal doors, no stairs, and overall a general disregard for having things be in the same scale. So the imagination takes over and then anything, anything at all becomes possible. Tea parties with a feast of crumbs, midnight rides on a mouse named Brownie, and a baby who gets colic after his head came off in the bath and he filled up with water. And that is truly magical.

My copy of The Popover Family is battered and worn, the binding is loose, there are copious pencil marking on the text and it’s missing one of the four illustrations (the last, which I think might be of when Santa visits). I love it just the same.

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One of the things I liked best about art school was color theory. So when (several years ago) I was sent a link to a video clip showing the process of mixing useful color scales in polymer clay I got interested and starting making a few. As too often happens I got involved with other things and the project got put aside. Then I found that the artist in the video clip had published a book:

polymer clay color inspirations

Wow! If you are at all interested in color and you use polymer clay, you should buy this book. If you’ve never studied the science behind color and it’s use this book will open doors to a new world. If you already know color theory and how/why it works this book will inspire you to push yourself and your work further. There are a number of color mixing exercises which result different types of color palette tools. Here are the results of the tool I made:

polymer clay rainbow beads

A Rainbow hued group of color scale beads.

polymer clay chromatic beads

And a Chromatic gray (or muddy) hued group of color scale beads. My personal favorites.

I used Kato clay to make these beads which are mixed in a geometric progression of one color to another. Using the geometric progression proportional method covered in the book saves a lot of clay and results in very usable color palettes. I used Kato exclusively because it is formulated specifically for mixing colors and doesn’t experience the hue impurity and color shift problems encountered with other brands.

Here’s what I learned while making these scales.

1) A pasta machine is an absolute necessity. I’d already bought mine years ago to save my hands/wrists from the trauma of conditioning clay but personally wouldn’t even attempt this project without one.

2) Get all the really tedious bits done first. Condition, sheet and cut all your clay into measured bits (I used a 3/4″ square cutter at the thickest sheet setting). Stack all the little squares, wrap up and store in zip-lock baggies. Do this in lightest to darkest color order. Then when you’re ready to mix a few strands everything is ready and measured.

3) Pierce the beads as you finish each mixed strand; I left a few strands until the next day and several beads cracked. Place them on the baking sheet in the mixing order and string them directly from the baking sheet. Order must be preserved! Otherwise you won’t know the correct proportion of colors to mix and that is the whole point of making them in the first place.

4) Choose something very strong to string them. I used a doubled strand of black waxed linen thread from the jewelry department of the local craft store with a double jump ring header so I could bunch them on split book rings to keep them organized.

My beads are made using an onlaid color dot of 50/50 white and the color of the base bead instead of the inlaid color dot technique used in the book. Again I conditioned and sheeted (at a thin setting) all the white I needed then stored it between waxed paper on paper plates to be used as needed. I used a section of plastic drinking straw as a cutter for these pastel onlays.

While the initial purpose of making these color scale beads was to end up with a tool for selecting color mixes I have to say that the end product is a very satisfying and aesthetically pleasant handful of science. Beautiful, colorful science.

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Less Than Fantastic

spooky chick

Ever feel like things just aren’t going the way you’d hoped? Perhaps this next week will be better.

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