Tuesday, March 15, 2016

1031 Witch Way Part 2: The Spooks

Yesterday I shared a very long post about the building of the haunted house.  Today, let's chat about the dolls. 

We'll start with the witch.  The whole idea for this project began with trick or treaters and a wicked witch passing out candy.  I'm not exactly sure how wicked she really looks, but who can really tell for sure? 

This is Verdi, so named because of her green hair.  Instead of doing a green-faced witch, which I normally associate with a wicked witch, I decided to do a very pale-faced witch.  She still has warts and a long, pointed nose, but she also has dark shadows beneath her eyes.  Her clothes look black in this picture, but they are really dark grey.  The skirt is made from cotton and trimmed with black cotton lace.  She has striped clay stockings, a black fringe shawl, crepe paper collar and a tall witch hat.  Her big purple bowl is filled to the brim with tiny clay sweets. 
Opal and Onyx.  When I was sculpting this piece, she was intended to be a spooky little girl, trapped in the attic of the haunted house, with no one for company but her black cat.  I think the white hair made her look older than I intended.  So maybe she's one of those people that you really can't tell their age!  HAHA!  I dressed her in pale grey and white, so she would stand out against the dark house.  Her skirt is three layers of sheer, silky fabric with a bit white satin bow.  I added Swarovski crystals to her grey slippers.  She wears a pearl necklace and crystal earrings.  Even her loving cat, Onyx, has a crystal on her collar.  

This is Humphrey Boogart.  He is a hunch-backed old man who likes to collect skulls.  Where does he get them, I'm afraid to ask!!  He is dressed all in shades of grey, with Swarovski crystal buttons and a crepe paper collar.  I chose to leave him completely bald.  I've never done that before.  In profile, you would see his hunch back better, and how long his nose is.  He is a little bit creepy, but that's OK by me! 
And now for the trick or treaters:
This is Hallie.  What little girl hasn't dressed up as a witch at least once in their childhood?  For me, it was 3rd grade.  Hallie is dressed all in black with a pleated grosgrain skirt, a velvet cape with matching hat.  She has striped clay stockings and a crepe paper collar.  I glittered her boots and added orange Swarovski crystals.  There is also a green silk ribbon tied around her hat that you don't see here.  I love her strawberry blond curls.  Her black cat bucket is filled with tiny treats.

I love this little guy!  His name is Bonz.  I sculpted him in a black body suit and then painted the skeleton on.  I only wish I would have done his hands as well.  I trimmed his suit with chenille cuffs and a crepe paper collar.  I wanted him to wear a mask.  First I sculpted his normal face and baked it.  Then, to get the mask to fit well, I formed it right over his face.  I had intended to make it removable, but in the end I chose to have it stay attached.  I gave him blue eyes, and I used black pastels to darken around them.  He has a few blond curls.  A skull bucket filled with handmade candies is the finishing touch.

Caspar really is a friendly little ghost!  I made plain grey pants and a white shirt, then layered pieces of white, wispy fabric over that.  I even made a little hood with eye holes cut out of it.  He has big green eyes--he looks like perhaps he has seen a REAL ghost.  I love his little sneakers with their striped laces.  For a bit of color, I added a pumpkin bucket to hold his candy.  

Last, but certainly not least, is Katniss.  She is adorable, if I say so myself!  I sculpted her in a black jumpsuit, intending to just give her a chenille tail, some sort of buttons down the front and a crepe paper collar.  When I was adding the tail, I started winding the chenille around her body, and it struck me that she should be furry all over!  She's a cat!  Then I made a hood with little felt ears to finish off the cat-ness of it.  A tiny bit of auburn curls pokes out beneath the hood.  When I was a cat as a kid, my mom painted whiskers and a nose on my face, so that's what I did with this doll.  I debated about giving her a bow around her neck, even tried it a couple of times, but I decided I liked her better without it.  She had a little pumpkin pail full of sweets.

In dreaming of this project, I had visions of more costumed kids.  And of a witch with a cauldron in the yard, and and and.....but time takes its toll on big plans sometimes.  In the end, I think this project worked out just right....with the perfect number of spooky characters. 

I'm hoping to be able to make another haunted house or two.  It was so rewarding, to work on something so different from what I do day to day, and have it turn out even better than I envisioned it.  It was a TON of work, and so many hours were logged, as well as sleepless nights working out details in my head. 

I'll leave you with one last look at the whole scene.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 14, 2016

1031 Witch Way Part 1: Building a Haunted House

Hello fans and followers!  Remember me??

I know it's been a really long time since I posted anything, and I'm sorry for that.  Sometimes life happens!  I've had a lot on my plate for the last few months, and work just got pushed to the back burner for a while.  Now I'm back....hopefully here more regularly! 

I'm so excited to share what I've been working on in the studio for the past few weeks.  It is my most ambitious project ever, and I'm thrilled with how it turned out!  I hope you like it too! 

Last year, while sitting at a particularly slow show, my brain started spinning about new pieces to do for this year.  The brain never stops, I tell ya!  I came up with the idea of having a few trick or treater kids, with a wicked witch passing out candy.  Well, that turned to wanting a haunted house backdrop of some sort.  You know, just a flat something or other giving the illusion of a house.  Well, then I decided it might be fun to add a spooky character peeking out an upstairs window, so the two dimensional idea was tossed to the curb in favor of something that would hold a doll.  Well, one thing led to another and suddenly I was wanting to build a full blown haunted house! 

Sometimes it is both a blessing and a curse to have a creative mind!  HAHA!  But honestly, I didn't know how much work I was really setting myself up for.  In the end, of course, it was worth every second, and I had a load of fun in the process of creating this house and its accompanying characters.

So, here it is......1031 Witch Way.  (Be prepared for a long post and photo overload!)

This is the finished piece.  Pretty awesome, huh? 
Well, here is how it started:
I started by building the structure with cardboard and foam core board.  I actually had a salvaged box that had that lower arched 'window' already cut out, and it was my jumping off point to building the house.  I wanted to make this easy to construct and, more importantly, since I was planning to ship it, light weight.  So wood was out of the question.  Armed with lots of heavy duty shipping tape, a very sharp cutting tool, and a straightedge I spent pretty much a whole day getting this assembled.  

Next I wallpapered the interior with scrapbooking paper.  I wanted something fairly dark, because the dolls I planned to put inside were going to be pale.  I also wanted a pattern, but nothing so busy it would detract from the dolls.  The paper in the upper room I used as is.  The lower paper was originally black and white, but once I got it glued in, I realized it was too bold of a contrast for my vision.  Seriously....AFTER it was glued in, I got out a plum colored marker and colored over the white!  Sometimes I have to go the hard route to get where I'm going!  

I wanted 'hardwood' floors, but not natural wood tones.  I wanted to keep with my spooky grey, black, purple color scheme.  So I made these faux wood floors from foam core.  I 'drew' in a wood grain pattern with a stylus tool, sort of embossing the foam, and then I dry brushed over them with a pale grey paint to give them an aged look.  I think they turned out perfectly!  YAY!

Another view of the finished interior space.

I didn't need the door to really function, because my plan was to just have a witch standing on the porch, but I did want a door of course!  I just cut this opening on three sides, and left the fourth for the 'hinge'.  I added a piece of the cutout to the bottom to give the illusion of a paneled door, painted it purple, dry brushed on some black to age it, and added a cool big brad for a doorknob.  I also added plexi-glass in the window.  (You will also notice that the cardboard structure got painted black at some point.  No photo of that.  I base coated it so if there were gaps in my siding, they would show black and not brown.  Thinking ahead!)  

Peeking inside the front door you will see I wallpapered with a text patterned paper, and I found a cool diamond checkerboard for the flooring!  LOVE this little detail, even though in the end product it doesn't show that much. 
Then it was time for siding.  I bought the biggest craft sticks available.  They are about an inch wide and about eight inches long, give or take a bit.  I lapped them, just like you would a real house.  Lots of hot glue sticks for this!  The porch floor boards and your average sized craft sticks.  I found some very flat 1/2" wide basswood to do all the window and door casings.  (I didn't mention that the upper roof is removeable.  Two reasons behind that....1) it makes the house a bit shorter, therefore possibly a smaller shipping box, and 2) the back of the tower side retains that hinged opening you see in the above pictures, so you can put the dolls in.  The overlap on the roof wouldn't allow that to happen.)

Then, of course, there was shingling to do.  I used somewhere close to a million doll house shingles to cover this.  Ok, slight exaggeration, but there are a LOT of shingles there!  This photo also shows the addition of the porch columns.  These are thick dowels set into bases that are meant for clothespin dolls.  (That idea popped into my head one sleepless night at about 3:00am when I was trying to figure out how I was going to attach my columns!  I just so happened to have those peg bases in my stash!  You see, you never know what you are going to need, so hoarding craft supplies is sometimes a really good thing!)

All ready for paint.  You will notice here that the arched windows are gone.  Well, as much as I loved the idea, in the end I scrapped it because they were going to be far too tricky to trim.  I also had planned to put 'glass' in the windows too.  David pointed out that it would produce glare in the photos.  Not only that, when I tried it anyway, they wouldn't stay in, AND when I tested a doll inside, the glass took away from the view of the doll.  So, he was right about that for sure.  No glass.
A basecoat of black paint, except on the porch a light grey.  You can also see in this picture the chimney is poking up, covered in white stones.  I made those from Creative Paperclay.  I know some artists love this material (LeeAnn, I love you girl).  I DO NOT!  I think it's messy, it shrinks when it dries, and for whatever reason, these little 1/4" thick pieces took forever (it seemed) to dry!  But I wanted a lightweight material, and thought it might be better than polymer.  Turns out, they are not really that much lighter, so next time, I will stick to my beloved polymer clay!  The chimney, by the way, goes all the way to the bottom, so it is covered on the two skinny sides and the front with the stones.  The entire back of the house is 'unfinished'--just covered in black paper.
So here the house is, finished to this stage.  

A close-up view of the crackle finish paint job.  I wanted the look of old, peeling paint.  I used a medium grey over the black base coat.

Darker grey for the trim.

A view of the finished porch.  

Bats fly from the chimney.  I painted the stones to look like, well, stones!

I gave the black roof a dry-brushed wash of light grey paint to give it a weathered look.  I stepped back and looked at it, and felt it was missing something.  So I dug around my stash and found a metal bat on a stick (I had to cut it lots shorter), a metal 'watch hand', and a jack o'lantern jingle bell.  (Which I had to drill a hole in....tricky business there!).  I used a wooden bead, some wire and another one of those peg doll bases, and there you have it....a spooky weathervane!
Now, one would think I would stop there, right.....well, no!  Because I still had a wee bit of time before my deadline (Oh, I didn't mention I was working on a deadline, did I?), I thought I would add on a yard.  Ok....truth be told, I finished all the dolls first, and came back to the yard, time permitting.
The overall finished house, yard and all.  I used a 1/2" thick piece of foam core board for the base.  I covered it with wood excelsior, which is a nice dead-grass color.  I made tiles for the sidewalk---using POLYMER clay this time---and painted them to look like stones.  Oh, and an address plate was added to the house.

Here is a detail of the porch, the witch, and the graveyard.  All the pumpkins, cats, skulls and tombstones are made from polymer clay.  The full skeleton is a plastic party favor I distressed with black paint.  A raven on a tombstone and an iron fence in the back finish it all off nicely.  

Another detail shot.  This shows the sidewalk nicely and the pet cemetery under the window. 
OK...if you made it here to the end of this massive post, well done you!  Thanks for sticking with me!  I hope you enjoyed the journey through the construction of the house.  Next time, the dolls. 
This project is now on its way to California.  I have submitted it to Art Doll Quarterly magazine in hopes of having it published in their upcoming fall issue.  I sure hope they choose it!  Wish me luck!
One last look at the whole project before you go:
I'd really, really love to hear your thoughts. 
Hope you are enjoying a lovely spring day!

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Peek at Some Pumpkins

I thought I would drop in quickly and show you a couple of pumpkin heads that I am particularly fond of.  I always love a pumpkin head, and one night, while lying awake in bed with characters screaming to get out, I had an idea for a vampire pumpkin head.  Soooo.........

Meet the JACKULAS!

Count Jackula on the left, Jackula on the right.
Dressed in striped pants, a vest with Swarovski crystal buttons, a lace collar and a black velvet cape, this guy sure is dapper! 

His face features dark shadows around his eyes and tiny clay fangs.  He carries a vial of blood and has his trusted bat soaring from a wire on his wrist.
Jackula is slightly smaller, with short pants, striped stockings, lace collar, vest and velvet cape.  He also carries a vial of blood.

I think he looks a little bit older than the first one.  Something about the way I sculpted the cheeks I think. 
I hope you like them! I'd love to hear your thoughts!
I can't wait to bring all my new characters out for their first show.  I'm excited for the show season, but I wish the days were not zooming by so quickly!  I still have far more characters in my head than will ever get made!  I guess that's better than having the idea well run dry, right? 
Have a great day! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Three Little Pigs....and One Big Bad Wolf

If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that Halloween and Christmas are my favorite characters to create.  Soon I will be filling this space with posts about ghosts and ghouls, Santa and Snowmen, and lots of other holiday characters.  I thought I would take some time today to show you a few 'non-holiday' characters, just for fun.

I've always loved the story of the Three Little Pigs.  I have two very specific memories of that beloved classic.  You might think these are stories from when I was a very small child, but in fact, I was 'older' in both of them. 

In the first one, I am 12 years old, a 6th grader, and it's Thanksgiving in Nebraska.  My aunt and uncle have come from Texas to spend the holiday with us. It's my 'duty' to entertain Brent, their three year old son.  He's a good little boy, and he loves to be read to.  Quickly he latches on to The Three Little Pigs.  I would not be exaggerating when I say I must have read that book at LEAST 50 times in three days.  We even had two versions of it....one where the pigs get eaten, and one where they run away.  He liked the one where they got eaten the best, and I couldn't fool him into reading the other one---just for variety. 

Fast forward to my 15th birthday party.  One of my good friends celebrates her birthday just 4 days after mine, so we throw a joint slumber party at my house.  (What were my parents thinking?)  Sixteen teenaged girls, up all night, giggling!  My sister is visiting with her 3 year old son, Jeremy, an adorable little boy who loves to entertain.  At three, he could recite the story by heart, his favorite part being the 'I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down."  At which point he would blow the house down, and my friends would squeal with laughter! 

So, when I set out to create this set of pigs and the accompanying Big Bad Wolf, it is with some fond memories in my heart. 

These pigs have been running around, squealing, in my head for a very long time.  I finally took some time this spring to let them out! 

The First Little Pig, as we all know, was not willing to work very hard.  He just wanted to dance and play.  He made his house of straw, because it was the easiest way to do it.  Since this pig was all about frivolity, I decided to dress him in white shorts and an orange shirt with a frilly collar.  These are NOT work clothes!  

The Second Little Pig was willing to work only slightly harder, to build his house from twigs.  So his clothes are a little big more rugged....cargo shorts and a striped t-shirt. 
We all know, The Third Little Pig was smart and a hard worker, willing to spend lots of extra time building a house the Big Bad Wolf could not blow down.  Laying brick is very hard work, and you need to be dressed accordingly.  He wears overalls, work boots, and has a bandana tied around his neck to wipe away the sweat. 
Of course the collection would not be complete without the Big Bad Wolf.  I love the way this guy turned out!  He has lots of sharp teeth and long claws.  He needed a 'prop', and I consulted my friend Marian, to see if it seemed tacky to add a jar of BBQ sauce.  She has the same quirky sense of humor I have, so she thought it was a great idea.  Turns out, everyone I've shown this to agrees!  YAY!!  What's pork without BBQ sauce, right?  (Does this put you in the mood for barbequed ribs??)
I'm really happy with this collection of beloved story book characters.  I'm glad I took the time to make these.  If nothing else, they will be a good conversation starter at my upcoming shows! 
Speaking of which, fall shows begin in less than two months!!  I'm beginning to feel the panic, and it's seriously "crunch time" in the studio.  I have lots of wonderful new characters to show you!  Right now, I'm working on Christmas ornaments!
I hope you have a great day! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Summer is already half over!  The seasons always dash by so quickly, but especially so when I'm working on fall/Halloween/Christmas art in the summer! 

The coming of fall also means the much anticipated autumn issue of Art Doll Quarterly is on its way.  This is always my favorite issue of the magazine.  This year is no exception, and I'm especially pleased because FOUR of my Halloween art dolls made it into this issue!  I'm so thrilled!! 

Here is the cover, with a wonderful Day of the Dead Bride doll by Sylvia Smiser:

And here are the TWO PAGES that feature my dolls in the Show and Tell Gallery:

So perhaps I spoiled the surprise of seeing my work first-hand in the magazine, but you should still go pick up a copy for yourself.  There are so many wonderful artists represented, including some of my favorites:
LeeAnn Kress of Charmed Confections
Marguerite Noschese of My Witchy Women
Carly Smith of Boggy Bottom Bayou
Amy Beeler of The Enchanted Doodler
Robert Eberz of Grimm Grinz Studio
Scott Smith of Rucus Studio
Art Doll Quarterly will be available on newsstands August 1st.  You can find it at Barnes and Noble and Joanns Fabric and Crafts.  I think Michaels carries it, too.  Or you can order a copy online at https://stampington.com/art-doll-quarterly/Art-Doll-Quarterly-Autumn-2015
I hope you are all enjoying your summer!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A New Beginning

There are few things I love more than a brand new sketch book!  It sort of reminds me of back-to-school days, when you got new spiral notebooks and number 2 pencils and a fresh box of crayons!  Nothing sweeter in my mind!  All things full of possibilities! 

This morning I pulled a fresh sketchbook from the drawer so I could begin sketching the 2015 Christmas ornament collection.  (I am well aware that it is June 10th.  I am well aware that most of you are thinking about swimming pools and baseball games and flip flops and all things summer.  Being an artist that sells HANDMADE holiday decorations, I have to be in a different mindset this time of year.)

I prefer small, spiral bound sketchbooks.  They are easily portable, and you can fold the book back on itself.  This one is 5.5" x 8.5", a perfect size for me.  I try to catch them on sale so I can have a back-up on hand.  And while a simple number 2 pencil is great, these days I like to use mechanical pencils.  This Pentel .7mm is my favorite. 

The first blank page.  Oh, the possibilities this holds! 

And here you have it!  The first sketch of 2015!  A sneak peak, if you will, of my ornament collection.  I've never done any ornaments with owls, and they are so popular right now, I thought it was time to try them out.  I have high hopes for this sketch.  I think it will make a really cute one!
As I've been sketching, I've had yesterday's production in the oven.  Snowmen.  I do KNOW it's summer!  (In fact, in Omaha yesterday we were flirting with 100 degrees!  The thermometer on my card read 100 for a split second!  UGH!!  Last week at the same time we were 64 and raining!  Talk about being all over the place, weather wise!)
It's time to get back to the studio.  More snowmen are calling my name!  Have a wonderful SUMMER DAY! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cute Little Cats

Hi, friends!  Remember when I used to blog about 2-3 times a week?  What happened?  Well, LIFE happened I guess!  I'm finally getting back to the studio, hopefully getting back on a really productive schedule, so maybe I will get here more often to share new pieces with you all!

Lately I've been working on some non-holiday pieces.  I get so wrapped up in creating Halloween and Christmas dolls that I tend to neglect all the everyday characters that I have running around in my head.  I'm so happy to be getting some of these pieces done, finally! 

I've always liked making cats, but usually they are just plain black cats, undressed, for Halloween.  I thought it might be fun to make some cats in pretty dresses for a change. 

As I was sculpting this calico cat, I wasn't sure I liked it all that much, but once I got her dressed up and detailed, I actually love this little cat.  I hope you do, too.

Meet Posie Patches...

She is all dressed up in a pretty spring dress and carrying a bouquet of lovely flowers.  Isn't she precious?

Some of you may already know that I lost my beloved cat, Penny, suddenly in January.  I knew I would want another cat, and I searched the Nebraska Humane Society obsessively a few times a day looking the that purr-fect feline for our family.  With the young puppy, Rudy, in the house, I knew I couldn't get a shy cat.  I had a few 'near misses' before I found this young beauty.  (The NHS is a first come-first served shelter, and people before me adopted cats I had my eye on TWICE, and one other time the cat I thought I wanted had a 'fearful of dogs' remark on her chart.)  Well, it was worth the wait, because the right cat came along two weeks ago.  Here is a picture of the newest addition to the family, taken right before I brought her home. 
Lily is a 6-month old tortie, with a TON of personality!  She is sassy, and likes to talk a lot.  She is a championship cuddler, and she already has Rudy learning his place!  She is not one bit afraid of him, and I think they are going to be great pals.  Rudy is feeling very jealous, so I've tried to give him lots of extra love and attention. 

She seems to be settling quite nicely into the studio!  (Her belly is shaved from her spaying surgery.) 
So, that's what I've been up to.  How about you?