Saturday, March 22, 2014

Herbivore vs. The Mask Maker

Bunny Mask
Rabbit Mask

Ahhh, the dilemmas of the mask maker. I've made several animal masks,  most recently, a Bear Mask and a Rabbit Mask, simultaneously.  The simultaneous making of the Bear and the Rabbit highlighted one of the challenges of mask making.  We have forward facing eyes.  Our forward facing eyes make masks of carnivores and omnivores less challenging than those of herbivores.  Herbivores have spent their time on the evolutionary food chain with their heads down munching grass.  Their eyes are on the sides of their heads so they can munch away and still be on the lookout for what may eat them.  Eyes on the sides of the head present a special challenge for the mask maker. When you put forward facing eyes on an animal that otherwise would have side facing eyes they go from a sweet little bunny to vicious bunny...dare I say "evil bunny"... if you aren't very careful. 

And now pictures of the Bear and the Rabbit.  You decide, vicious or cute? ....

Grizzly Bear Mask
Bear Mask

Easter Bunny

Grizzly Bear Mask

Easter Bunny

Grizzly Bear mask

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A New Quilt

The last project of 2013 was finishing my son's quilt. A few days into the New Year design work began on my daughter's quilt.  One day early January, as we were sitting in the chiropractor's office looking through an interior design magazine together, I realized she really likes bold geometric shapes.  I was happy for this realization, because it probably would not have been my first choice for her.  A few days later I worked up a preliminary drawing that she like, and she picked out fabrics.  Before I began cutting out squares the two of us sat down and looked at different quilt boards on Pintrest...just to make sure she really liked the design. She found a quilt with an eight pointed star and asked if we could add stars to the quilt.  Who am I to deny the child stars on her quilt? The original design had red squares, so with a wave of the magic wand we added points to the squares and voila!  We have stars.  I think the stars were a wonderful addition to the quilt, it seems like a nice blend of traditional and modern.  She loves it.

Last night I finally began the quilting.  I wanted to quilt it with concentric circles, she wanted it to be quilted with fun things, like her brother's quilt.  So we compromised, I am doing concentric circles of fun things.  I've been "collecting" different embroidery stitches.  It is slow going...I'll post more later, but the early report is favorable.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Potato Print Snow People

So, my New Year's Resolution is to "finish unfinished projects," and I am careful not to say, "ALL unfinished projects," or "to not start new projects until the old projects are finished"...but, simply to finish unfinished projects. I wanted to finish these snow people before Christmas...last year. I found them today when I was looking for something else entirely. They seemed like a perfect candidate for realizing the resolution.

These are so fun and easy....

I began with black cotton velveteen rectangles. Why cotton velveteen? Well, I had just finished a holiday dress and it was handy.  Most any fabric would work, but I like the look of something with a nap and the black was a good contrast to the white of the snow people.

Next, cut some potatoes in half, I wish I had a picture, but really, this was a year ago, and I think you can handle a mental picture of a potato cut in half.  Then, dipped the cut side of said potato in white fabric paint mixed with a little glitter paint...the glitter is very important.  Press the potato paint side down on to the fabric to begin "building" snow people.  Doing a test run is highly recommended, you do need to apply a fair amount of pressure to the potato.  Making the potato print is great fun for all ages, definitely enlist the help of a wee one or two, if they are around.

After the snow people are dry...probably 24 hours or so...begin sewing features on to the snow people, to personalize them.  This part was a big hit with the younger crowd, sorting through and picking out beads and buttons, how could it not be fun? My lovely assistant did a smashing job.

I cut up some holey shirts to use for the hats and scarves (once upon a time, that red scarf was my favorite shirt).  The hems of the shirts make perfect hat bands. The red hat, on the shortest snow person, is from the sleeve an old sweater.

Here is how to tie the scarves...

First, with right sides together, sew two scarf halves on either side of the head.

After the scarf halves were sewn down, tie a simple knot.  To finish, tack the knot down.

At this point I let the project sit for about 13 helps the paint cure...not really, but if it helps,
you can tell yourself that.

Finally, find the project buried in a pile of unfinished projects, and turn the neglected, but still adorable snow people in to incredibly handsome pillows.  And don't worry, snow people aren't just for Christmas...Winter has barely begun here in the Northern Hemisphere...Go forth and make snow people....

...make a whole snow family...

....or just one rogue snow dude in red's SNOW much fun!  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Last Project of 2013

t-shirt quilt
I started a t-shirt quilt in April, as a sample for a class I was teaching.  It was suppose to be fast, fun, and finished a very long time ago. Those plans hit a snag right away...ironing the Pellon interfacing on the the backs of the t-shirt is neither fun, nor fast...but eventually I did finish.

Once the dread Pellon was on, I did have a lot of fun with the piecing. I added denim saved from holey jeans...denim being the natural complement to the t-shirt. I used the WHOLE t-shirt, not just the fronts...I even used the sleeves. My son has a certain affinity for the Italian flag, so I worked that into the piecing. Though the quilt looks fairly random, it is, for the most part, 18 inch squares.

The plan was to tie the quilt...BUT, as it turns out, I really don't like to tie.  I decided to do a mixture of different "ties." From the beginning the quilt included french knots, traditional ties, and "star" ties. However, even with the variety of ties, I quickly lost my steam and  the project sat for about 5 months.

In October I drug the quilt back out again, this time determined to finish.  I added a star, attached with a blanket stitch, and I decided to add my son's hand print, around which I this point I was about an eighth of the way done with the quilting, mostly in the bottom left hand corner, and still not very excited.

THEN, while cleaning out the garage, I found a large embroidery hoop I inherited from my grandmother! This was the game changer. I decided to add some hand quilting....and, as insane as it is, I really enjoyed the hand quilting.

I added more stars, more chain stitching, and more of all the ties. The more I did, the more I wanted to do and I fell in love with the project!

t-shirt quilt

Most of the work I did on the quilt was in the evening after the children were in bed.  One day my son made a suggestion that I add something of Star Wars to the quilt.  I decided to add the Death Star, but kept it a secret.  So the next morning when he woke up, I told him I added a moon to the quilt, just so I could hear him say, "that's no moon!"  He appreciated my humor.

death star

Even though tying is not my favorite, I could not resist adding ties around the mane of the lion.

tee shirt quilt

He is really excited about the pockets on the will definitely be used for "Rudolf".

jeans quilt

I finished the binding on the quilt at about 11:55 last night...I really didn't want to have to change the date!

blue jeans quilt
Add caption

Not to worry, that's washable marker I used to write "Mama".  I haven't washed the quilt yet.  I can't wait to see it when it gets that kind of bumpy, lovely, "quilt" look to it after it has been washed.  One last picture of the back...just so you can see all that handy work....

hand quilting

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Fairies DO Visit!

One day my daughter arrived home from preschool REALLY excited that fairies had visited her friend. I learned that, apparently, if you leave beautiful pictures for the fairies they will leave you a present.  Her friend received a book from the fairies.  This took some quick thinking on my part, but I explained that her friend lived in the city and city fairies could bring books, but we live in the country, and country fairies make their gifts. Good enough, she set to drawing....

Over the years the fairies have visited several times.  They have brought decorated rocks and shells, leaf hearts, hazelnut fairy heads, and even a magic wand.  Gifts are always made from natural materials found around the yard and woods, and sprinkled with "fairy dust"...which makes them extra magical.  The fairies do not give gifts for every picture. Fairies do not leave gifts when it is raining or snowing, they can't fly in the rain and snow.  They are also unlikely to bring gifts during busy times, for various reasons, like helping animals hibernate, changing the colors of the leaves, or painting butterfly wings. There is  much excitement when the fairies DO visit.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Making little things...

The clothesline we gave to the neighbor...I thought the goat was hilarious.  
Nativity scenes, or Presepi in Italian, are very popular here in Italia.  Before our arrival we did not know the joys of the presepio.  Here you can buy very elaborate pieces for your presepio, or the supplies to make your own.  We started simple several years ago with a barn, some animals, and all the essential figurines. A few years ago we found a beautiful ceramic river, and a haystack with a bowler hat in honor of Rene Magritte, while in Barcelona.  Last year we went big and added a waterfall.  I've wanted make some pieces to add to our scene for a while now, never found the time, until today.
Friday I bought supplies... some super green lichen, large pieces of bark from a cork tree, and a small amount of cork board.  This morning the kids and I gathered some sticks in the woods behind our house. After the sticks were gathered, I fired up the hot glue gun and we went right to work!  We made some trees, a fence and a clothesline. We had so much fun, we even made our neighbor a clothes line for her presepio. Now, I think we might need a model train track...making little things is fun stuff!

Our clothesline....the children would not let me add a poopers. 

Look at that great fence!  My daughter wove the little pieces in between the sticks. 
A view of the trees....

Another view of the trees.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Interview with Fellow Creative Compulsive and Mask Maker, Donna Prentice

elephant mask
Ebony Shae Designs Elephant Mask PDF Pattern
Donna Prentice is a mask maker in Glenrowan, Australia. She has been making masks for the last 10 years, and since 2011 has been selling mask patterns in her Etsy shop, Ebony Shae Designs. In her shop you will find a fabulous collection of all kinds of animal masks...native Australian animals, Africa animals, farm animals, and much more!  I asked Donna to share a bit about her Creative Compulsive tendencies and her mask making processes, she has graciously agreed...

panda mask
Ebony Shae Designs Panda Mask PDF Pattern 
How did you get started mask making? What was your very first mask?

butterfly mask
Ebony Shae Designs Ulysses Butterfly
Mask PDF Pattern
I started making leather masks after falling in love with Ryl Mandus' work on the computer. (My love affair with masks began as a 16 year old when I went to see the Phantom of the Opera for the first, second and third times). I don't even remember how or why I was looking at masks on the internet. But being a creative compulsive I thought - I want to have a go at that. I initially used some suede I had, and used the same process I had learned many years previously for stiffening artificial flowers. That first mask was in brown, gold and bronze and was half covered in autumn leaves. 

After some playing, I went to the local leather worker and grilled him for an hour. He ordered me my first hide and I used what he had taught me to make masks. 

Unfortunately with the addition of our first daughter I found I could no longer spend the hours it took to cure and work the leather, let alone paint it! 

Once she finally got to the age where dressing up began to become part of our play, I started sewing simple masks using some of the leather working skills and some dress making.
Friends started asking for masks and I just couldn't keep up with the demand. So the idea of helping them to make their own masks was born.

blue macaw
Ebony Shae Designs Blue Macaw Mask PDF Pattern 
What fuels your mask making compulsion? What ignites the inspiration?

Unfortunately anything and everything can spark the 'oooh, I could make a ______ mask' thought process. I have a list that if I made 2 masks a month, would currently take me 4 years to work through! Animal and nature documentaries are particularly dangerous for the compulsion. Reading stories and playing with the kids also result in either them or I saying the above statement over and over....!

reindeer mask
Ebony Shae Designs Rudolf the Reindeer Mask PDF Pattern
Tell us about your process, how does a mask go from idea to pattern? 
bat mask
Ebony Shae Designs Bat Mask PDF Pattern

When I decide to make a mask, I usually google pictures of the real animal and try to get pics from every angle. I take those pictures and draw what I would like the finished mask to look like. If I can't get that to a place where I am happy with it, I don't start making the mask because I know that it will look wrong.

I then take the standard pupillary distance for kids and adults and make sure that my eye holes will work for both.

I then take the drawing and create pattern pieces from it. I use scrap paper for this and keep making the pieces until I know they will fit nicely. 

I then cut my first pieces of felt and sew it together, taking pictures as I go and writing down what I do. If a piece doesn't work, there is a lot of scribble, re-drafting, and deleting of photos from the camera.

I then type all this up, and using Corelle Draw, trace my pieces onto the computer and add them to the pattern. Turn it all into a PDF and voila, you have a finished pattern.

Then I have to bribe the kids to wear the mask so that I can take pictures!

lion mask
Ebony Shae Designs Lion Mask PDF Pattern
When you are not making masks, what are some of your other creative endeavors? 

When I am not making masks, I am knitting, sewing, crocheting, making cards, cooking, gardening (which goes hand in hand with the cooking). 
t-rex mask
Ebony Shae Designs T-Rex Mask PDF Pattern 

Do you have any new projects in the works?

I am waiting for the school holidays (we home school, so during the term I don't get much done on masks) I have a list of another 4 or 5 dinosaurs that I want to tackle. The way I am imagining them at the moment, they will be the largest in size in the collection...

Which pattern would you recommend for a beginner?

The best beginners masks would probably be the koala, penguin, bat, panda, bear and wombat. There are more that are fairly simple to sew, but they take more cutting out (like the lion or hedgehog). I do try to make most masks easy enough for someone with just basic sewing skills.

bear mask
Ebony Shae Designs Bear Mask Pattern 
To view the rest of Donna's creations please visit her shop, Ebony Shae Designs on Etsy....and make a mask or two...I am absolutely certain you could find some willing wearers!  

Thank you so much for sharing, Donna!  I think your masks are absolutely wonderful and look forward to seeing the new additions!