Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Customized Portrait Dolls

As you may be familiar if you've read any of my other entries here, I design craft kits for the Columbia Museum of Art's monthly After a very successful, fun night of making our own portrait dolls (we sold out!), I began to wonder if this was a project that could have a wider reach/appeal, and a bigger purpose.

I've done some experimenting on my own and with friends, finding these dolls to be quite therapeutic with educational potential, as well as providing lots of laughs--  It's fun to color like children, making up our own outfits and personae! Below you can see a doll I made of my grandmother as a matador. This fit her personality to me-- she's spent her life wrangling children (and not taking any guff), but she also laughs a lot, and I felt this illustrated her humor (for the record, she thought this was hilarious!).

I can see these dolls being used in many different capacities-- as history lessons (children studying a time in history can explore clothing/costume of a culture, its purpose, design, etc), and as explorations of self-image and cultivating positive self-image. I can also see these being used in hospitals, schools, churches, camps. I'm still working on an angle here, but I think the possibilities are boundless.

To the left, you can see images of the steps involved. In each kit, a child would receive a personalized doll, much like the middle image, with their own face (or perhaps even the face of a parent, grand-parent, sibling, close friend, etc.), and a pack of fabric markers. In the last image on the left, you can see the beginning stages of personalization-- in this case, the matador. The last step is lots of color! 
As of now, you can find a your personalized/customized doll kit at my esty store. Though, I only have a listing up for one doll, I'm open to doing entire families, wedding parties, groups of friends--anything you can think of! What a fun group project!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Portrait Dolls!

It's January of the new year, and this means an all new Craft. Bar. Happy. Hour. at The Columbia Museum of Art! On January 24th, 2012 from 6-9PM, we'll be gettin' our craft on. Hope you can join us!

For this time around, I designed a super fun, super easy, super awesome craft-- portrait dolls!

If you come to the museum, all the necessary materials will be provided for you, but if you're doing this project at home, you'll need: a blank cotton doll; fabric makers (I used Crayola brand); an iron; ink jet transfer paper; and the ability to use a computer to re-size and convert your portrait of choice to black and white.

Below, you'll find an example/suggestions for portraits and directions:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In Memoriam...

Last weekend, I spent the day at Camp New Horizons with about 40 kiddos and young adults from ages 5-18. Camp New Horizons is a bereavement camp for children who've lost loved ones (usually a sibling) to cancer or a blood disorder. This particular camp, held at Camp Kinard in Batesburg-Leesville, was organized by some really wonderful people over at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital. You may recall a project I did there earlier this year, and every time I've interacted with anyone from the clinic, I'm blown away by how kind, generous and devoted everyone there is to the kids who need them. It really is a pleasure to work with these good people. I can't say enough about it.

My task was to teach an art project that might simultaneously help kids remember their loved one, but also speak of moving forward, and hopefully be fun to make. Brainstorming, I worried it could get too heavy, but not to worry-- kids will be kids! The tenor of the camp was warm, light-hearted, nurturing and...ENERGETIC! After all, these kids are getting to hang out with other kids who know exactly what they and their families have been through.Some of them have been coming to camp every year for years and they're reconnecting with old friends.

I've mentioned earlier in this blog that I do a lot of free association with my own work, so I did the same here when trying to come up with an interesting project. I kept coming back to the symbol of the egg. Of course, the egg is symbol of life, but I also kept thinking about the Chinese Century Eggs. It's a beautiful delicacy, though I can't say I'd ever really want to try one. I link to the Wikipedia page here if you're interested in learning more about how it's made, but essentially it's covered in layers of different ingredients (some which don't sound edible), left to age for a certain amount of time before all the layers are peeled away to reveal amazing color, sometimes some really beautiful snowflake patterns, and by some people's standards, a quite tasty treat.

Might seem slightly incongruous perhaps, but really, this is what I was thinking when I came up with this project for the kids to make their own memory eggs. I thought each child could record a favorite memory of their loved one on a slip of paper, roll it up, place it inside the egg and seal it up for a future time. Perhaps a time when they were older and could reflect on their lives, their family's, their loved one's-- and maybe remember with a sense of celebration the time they had together with that loved one lost. Viewing it from a vantage point of maturation (they are the century egg in a sense), noting that each of their experiences has made them who they are on that day. I hope, even though they might miss that person desperately and it might still hurt, they'll also read those happy memories and see that that person is still with them in a sense, and that that person had a hand in shaping who they themselves are. We're getting into deep introspection, the spiritual or the esoteric, but I do believe even though we may not feel like it all the time, we are lovely with our little and sometimes big scars, our secrets, our pains. And sometimes, though the moments are few and far between, sometimes you become aware and conscious of those things and you find appreciation for them.

Not that I expect everyone will consciously come to this sentiment, or that even most of these eggs will still be around on that far off day in the future (after all kids will be kids!) but this was my concept. And simply presented, the egg is life and we are celebrating a life by remembering someone we love. With that in mind, I think we were successful, and that's good enough for me!

For those of you interested in the project itself, I think it could presented outside the sphere of bereavement, as well. The eggs could contain  wishes or goals for the future, small keepsakes, etc. Originally, I was going to have the children seal the eggs by decoupaging pretty papers over them and I saw some wonderful examples of that here, but I felt it was a little too difficult for younger children when I sat down to make the project myself. Instead we used enamel acrylic paint (which is great for non-porous materials such as plastic and glass) to decorate our eggs. I found gift boxes we could decoupage with all of those pretty papers I'd found and some raffia for our "nests".

All in all, I think the project was success and looked great! And I was finally able to put to use those hundreds of plastic eggs left over from this project!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Still in progress...

...but coming right along! I like it. I waffled. I second-guessed. I was non-committal. But I'm announcing it now. I like it. I really do.

I bought a rotating Christmas tree stand she'll soon be affixed to. She will rotate slowly, dragging her "other" along with her.

I'm still not finished embroidering brains on her skirt, but I'll take some detail shots of that soon.

Until recently, I've never worked or even thought about working with the human form. There's something about it, though. Perhaps I'm just an animist, but these two feel imbued with something. It's kooky talk but I think I've sewn into these ladies my frustrations and pain and hopes and everything. So to me, they are a little bit "more".

Friday, August 26, 2011

Creepy... in a good way?

I thought I'd share my most recent sculptural work. It's definitely a work in progress, and I'm working in a such a way I normally don't. Typically, I start out with a concept I'd like to explore, and then I free associate with the imagery. Or I'll make lists, free associating with words, seeing where these ideas take me. More often than not, I end up picking around in the subconscious, bringing to light dream-like imagery, concepts, ideas, issues... When I have a particularly compelling image or concept, I meditate on it and let all the kookie Lynch -esque imagery swirl about a bit, and percolate.

Then, something happens. I have all this amazing stuff floating around in my head. My conscious brain takes it, strips it, organizes it, discards the bits that don't make sense. And because of this, I think there could be an element of intimacy that I desire lacking from my finished work. I'm sometimes caught up in asking myself, "But, why?" and if I don't have an answer, I think it must not be important. So, I struggle with knowing what's pertinent and what's not. What's extraneous? What's editable? What's the meat, what's the fat? Problem is, if I don't know what something means to me, I lose steam on it. It no longer holds the same allure. Part of me wonders if this is the pitfall of being an academically trained artist--- you're used to being asked why. And you kinda need to have an answer.

I've started to wonder what it would be like to just work, without thinking too much. So, that's what this project is about. It's much slower in coming to fruition, and there's a clumsiness to it I'm trying to decide if I enjoy. Now, I've done my a bit of deconstructing with it just so I'll have some direction to take, but everything's up for debate. And who knows, maybe I'll become too self-conscious and scrap the whole thing. Maybe it's not creepy in a good way... maybe it's just... creepy. In that Silence of the Lambs sort of way. (shudder)

So, with that in mind, meet my girl. I have a strange affinity for her. After all, she is me-- sort of.

I started out with a packing tape-cast figure of myself. I cut her up to make a pattern of her, traced those parts onto unbleached muslin and scrap fabric and sewed her together. She has rough seams and loose strings. She has articulated joints. She's a little lumpy and marshmallow-y. She remained blank for quite some time. I sat her on the couch, I hung her from the ceiling, I threw her on the floor. I made two of her. But nothing came from it and she lay discarded in the corner for some time. My dog would constantly rub up against her hand making the tips of her fingers a little dirty.

Then one night I got this wild hair. I decided she needed eyes, lips, fingers and toes, and bright pink bubblegum nipples-- never-mind that they stare out from her torso somewhat cockeyed.Oh, and a belly button.
But she just sat there limply. I asked her what she wanted-- several times, but she her gaze is intense and mute.

I said to her, "A hoop skirt. That's what you need. Something heavy-duty, and maybe you're on wheels." She didn't protest, so I got on it. I recycled hula hoops from the You Are Here installation, covered them with plaster gauze, rubbed in powdered graphite, affixed some castor wheels.

Now what? I kept along this same theme and built a cage like structure for her torso and neck. The back isn't done yet, but she'll essentially be encased when I'm done.

She seems to like it. Her expression is still serene and accepting, so I'll take her compliance as approval. If, however, I awake to her standing over me one night, I'll know we've got a problem. Thank god her wheels will only allow her to go in circles.

So, now we're at a crossroad. She needs something else. I have some ideas percolating, but I keep wondering if I can sustain it. Right now, I am working on a sheer, powder blue tulle skirt, embroidered with colorful little brains.
I'd like to have her on a circular track, motorized, so that she'll very slowly turn in circles. I'm thinking I want her to hold something-- maybe disembodied hands. A friend suggested a lamb (but I don't know what this means to me). I want something scattered at her feet... maybe skeleton keys. Maybe one of them could fit old, big padlocks that lock her inside her cage? Or maybe that "other" her doll is cowering at her feet, reaching for her hand.... I dunno. Breasts bared or covered? Hair, no hair?

Now listen, I'm not making a statement on feminism. My work is about me, and I'm a girl. So deal with it. Just because I sew, just because it's the female body, just because she's wearing a cage-like dress--- Not about BEING a girl--it's about being THIS girl.

What I'm getting out if it so far is that it's about feeling trapped by my own shortcomings, which are just thoughts. Just gossamer. But they seem very tangible. And that's about it so far. 

Suggestions or comments are welcome, but if you mention bondage sex stuff (unless it's really thoughtful or insightful), I'm putting my fingers in my ears (or eyes, in this case). 

You can see more of my work at my website: 
You might see what I mean, my usual work is much more production oriented, a bit tighter-- constricted even?

Some food for thought... Mmm.... Kiki Smith:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Craft.Bar.Happy.Hour and Iron-On Transfer Collage Tote Bags

Say that 5 times fast!

So, it's that time of the month again-- the Columbia Museum of Art is once again gearing up for another next week. On the evening of August 23, come on out, grab a drink from the bar, and sit around and gab with the other ladies (and the occasional gent) while working on your favorite craft. No craft? No problem! That's where I come in. For each, I've designed art kits you can pick up at the door with a nifty little craft inside. Next Tuesdays' craft will be exactly what that mouth full of a title says it is up there: Iron-On Transfer Collage tote bags.

Before I get into what exactly that is, let me first mention that Tuesday night's featured crafter will be Laurie Aker. Her profile on the museum's website says that:

"Laurie Aker is the Community Relations Coordinator and Marketing Manager for Earth Fare- The Healthy Supermarket. Laurie conducts all cooking classes at Earth Fare and is a reoccurring guest on ETV’s hit television show Making It Grow, showing folks how to make healthy meals in 30 minutes or less. Laurie is passionate about teaching others the importance of eating healthy and is very active in local elementary and middle schools teaching kids how to lead healthy lifestyles. In addition to her cooking classes and catering business, Laurie has many other hobbies including soap making! Laurie only uses all natural and organic ingredients straight from Earth Fare! From essential oils to oats and lavender bits, Laurie makes wonderful soaps that are great for any skin type"  

Can't wait!

Okay, so now back to our craft in question. I think everyone here has most likely made an iron-on t-shirt using iron-on transfers you can print at home using your inkjet printer. Most of the time, we feel like we gotta have an interesting image to print and do most of the design work, if any, on the computer before printing it out. But not all of us are gifted in using programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, and may not have access to those types of design programs. This method is an easy and fun way to create unique, one of a kind images ready for transfer on t-shirts, tote bags, anything made of cotton...

You can get iron-on transfer paper just about anywhere. From your local Target or Wal-Mart to Amazon, you should be able to get the hook up fairly easily. Just be sure you pay attention to the following when purchasing: 1. What are you transferring to? It must be cotton, but what color is it? Transfer paper comes in two types allowing you to transfer to white and other light colors, or to transfer to dark fabrics. Be sure you read the labels carefully and purchase the one most suitable for your project.
2. What sort of printer do you  have? An ink jet or laser? You can find transfer paper suitable for either.

You've got your paper, you've got your garment. Where do you get images? If you don't already have a stock pile of digital images at your fingertips, visit All of the images I've used are images I've gotten from this site. It's an open site, meaning all the images are free to use. If you are getting images from elsewhere on the web, or other artists, please observe copyright laws.

I like using silhouettes and line art with this project because they're simple and clean, but also because there will be continuity between the different images I choose. If you know exactly what design/vignette you want to create, you can print out just those images. But I wasn't sure and wanted to experiment a bit, so I printed out full sheets that look like these, with lots to choose from.
Remember that your images will be reversed when transferred. Follow the directions on your brand of transfer paper when printing. A lot of printer software actually comes with the option to print transfers and will flip the image for you.

Below you'll find excerpts from the kit I designed for the museum, and this will walk you through the remainder of steps. Follow ironing directions on your specific brand of transfer paper. They are all pretty similar, but it's best to follow the manufacturer's directions to a T. Over ironing can cause discoloration and under ironing can cause your transfer to peel off the fabric.

I kept it pretty simple with my designs, but you could go crazy and have stuff morphing out of and into other shapes or create a story of sorts with cause and effect.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My favorite photography on etsy!

I just wanted to share with you some of my favorite photography on etsy from two of my very favorite photographers--in fact, they're like family to me. In fact, one of them is and the other might as well! I'm familiar with their work and I can't stop looking at. I'd like to introduce you to it as well. So, sit back, relax and take in the beautiful sights...

Visit Beth Berg's esty store, and Kim Wingate Deslandes etsy store for more beauties!

Beth Berg
Kim Wingate Deslandes

Beth Berg

Kim Wingate Deslandes
Beth Berg

Kim Wingate Deslandes
Beth Berg
Kim Wingate Deslandes