Steampunk Bear Hat

The Philly show has a few themed galleries in addition to the showcase gallery. The producers choose the themes – this year they brought back the Steampunk gallery – always a favorite with both the artists and the collectors. I was first thinking along the lines of a larger bear wearing a steampunk top hat, but since I’ve decided to try to focus mostly on the miniatures this year, I made the bear part of the hat.

The hat is made from a leather upholstery sample piece and the pattern pieces were cut using the Charity Wings top hat Sizzix die. Once the pieces were glued together, I added decorative stitching with waxed cord in several areas.

Another scrap of leather was added for a hat band and then I began to play with gears and parts scavenged from vintage alarm clocks. The old wind up Big Ben clocks have lots of nice brass gears in them and are not too difficult to take apart. The alarm clock faces would have all been too large, so I dug through my box of old watches until I found one with a nice large face.

The Sizzix die is designed so the hat can be worn using a headband. It fits into slots on the bottom of the hat, allowing it to be removed when desired. The bear, whose name is Barnaby, is made from a long pile miniature plush fabric. He is internally jointed, with glass eyes and thin ultrasuede pads.

Barnaby wears a vest made from vintage blue upholstery velvet with tiny brass bead buttons and his goggles are made from scrap leather, mica and a broken plastic straw. A bit of copper paint and some green alcohol ink were the final touches needed. Barnaby’s vest has a snap on the back which allows him to attach securely to the hat’s band.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Barnaby as much as I enjoyed making him and the hat.

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Summer Joyride

I’m getting ready to do the show in Philadelphia sponsored by the Susan Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Museum. The show always features a special gallery of one of a kind pieces done by the attending artists. For this year’s gallery I had an idea of a bear riding a dragonfly. I started with a basic sketch, just to remember the idea. This is obviously not to scale, but it helps me to get started. The bear sketch is typical of my work – I create a pattern based on this side view sketch.

I began by making the wings of the dragonfly using copper electrical wire scrap in 12 and 14 gauge and 22 gauge jeweler’s copper wire for the wrapping, adding faceted crystal beads in two shades of blue. 

Once four wings were done, I needed to figure out an armature for the body and then begin creating patterns for the body pieces. I knew I wanted to do beadwork on the thorax, so that was done before the pieces were sewn to the armature. After stuffing and closing more beads were added. Same for the upper thorax with sequins and beads. The tail was sewn then stuffed and drawn over the end of the wire armature.  The body and tail pieces were made using upholstery fabric samples.

The head was made with a velvet like fabric and the eyes from some shimmery fabric from a thrift store blouse. I did some embroidery on the front of the head and added more sequins and beads to the back, then attached the head to the body. 

The fairy bear was made from specialized miniature plush fabric in a tie-dye yellow and green palette. He is jointed at the head, arms and legs with internal disc joints. He has glass eyes and a nose stitched from metallic embroidery floss. His wing were from a salvaged butterfly brooch and his necklace is of tiny seed beads with a floral pendant drop.

The fairy bear is 3″ tall. The dragonfly is 16″ long with a 16″ wingspan. I’ve displayed it on a piece of driftwood. The piece is called “Summer Joyride” and will be at the show in Philadelphia on May 2, 2019.

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Old Coat to New Treasures

At a recent show in Tampa FL, the promoter had asked the artists to participate in challenge called “Old Coat to New Treasure”. We were asked to create a piece using an old coat. I found this one at a thrift store – it was heavy brown fabric with an acrylic plush lining.

The plush was a mixed grey color, with a very dense pile and thick knit backing. Using the lining from the hood, I created a 7″ jointed bear.

Due to the thickness of the pile and backing, I stitched the entire bear by hand, using some black faux suede fabric for the paw and foot pads, as well as the inner ears. The bear was given black glass eyes and a purple perle cotton nose and finished with a sheer purple ribbon bow.

The bear was finished, but I still had all the lining from the rest of the coat and I had been mulling an idea for quite a while. My next creation using this plush included not only the fabric from this coat, but a variety of other recycled materials – upholstery fabric samples, three different types of wire, and of all things, a black plastic garden flowerpot.

Marty the moth’s body is made from the coat lining. His wings are made from two upholstery fabric samples, the upper ones accented with beading and the lower ones quilted. Welding rod wire was used for the wing armature.
The proboscis (mouth) is a scrap of electric wire fencing and the legs are made from wire coat hanger covered in fibers and faux suede. And the plastic flowerpot – that made the feathery antennae.

Marty’s body is quite plump, the result of stuffing and item made from a knit backed plush – it tends to stretch quite a bit.  I have just received some new fabric from another bear maker with a woven backing. I am looking forward to trying a new moth with that. 

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Philly Doll & Teddy Bear Show 2018

The Quinlan Artist Doll & Teddy Bear show was held in April this year and I created a new 5 1/2″ bear design for my show pieces. All of the bears were hand-sewn, instead of using a machine. Each bear was made from a different material – I chose mohair, alpaca, and synthetic plush fabrics.

Each year the show has a signature gallery which allows each artist to create a one of a kind piece to highlight. This year I made my first steampunk bear, who is named Murdoch. He is mohair and wears a leather flying helmet and leather goggles. His flying machine was made from bits of this and that, including a vintage electric bicycle bell, faucet handle, scraps of metal, wood, and velvet. The wings were made of stitched rusty fabric. They have wire ribs and are attached to the sides of the machine in a way that allows them to fold.

The show also has another gallery of themed pieces and one theme for 2018 was famous American men and women. A pink mohair bear was given a mohair swan hat and tutu of vintage linens and lace with hand-beaded bodice. While searching for American ballerinas, I learned about Agnes de Mille, who was a ballerina and choreographer. This bear now had a name and a place in the gallery.

The rest of the bears were created and then given names based on small towns here in Alabama.  Wilmer is a alpaca plush bear who wears a knitted carrot hat and hangs out in a galvanized watering can with a fresh picked radish. Elmore likes to show off the trout he caught in the river. His vest and hat are hand-stitched of leather and he has tiny fishing “lures” attached to his hat.

Leighton is a green mohair bear with metal dragonfly wings. His wings are accented with Swarovski crystals and he has a golden crown sitting slightly off-kilter on his head. Sousa is a red mohair bear with a vintage ribbon ruff and a blue leather top hat. His brass trumpet is just right for playing marches in a parade.

I had made two bears in very pastel colors. Shelby is of light pink mohair and Tibbie of a soft green synthetic plush. Since they reminded me of Easter colors, I paired each with a vintage tin egg, some paper “grass’, faux bird eggs and each has a little resin chick friend.

The last three bears created for this show were Hazel Green in a tipped brown mohair, Margaret in blue mohair, and Shiloh, in tipped beige mohair. Each has a nose of colored perle cotton and a ribbon with charm.

I enjoyed creating these bears and showing them to collectors at the Philly show. Murdoch and Agnes have been adopted, but the rest are still available and can be found in my Etsy shop. If you’d like to add one to your collection, click on over for adoption information.

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Recreating a Sea Urchin in Resin

I love all things ocean and beachy and that includes sea urchins. I love to incorporate those images in my designs, but natural items like sea urchins, sea shells, and starfish are fragile and do not often hold up well in jewelry designs. Having been introduced to Ice Resin and molding putty by Jen Cushman and Susan Lenart Kazmer, I found an ideal way to bring my favorite beachy things into my designs, while making them durable.
I began with a nice sea urchin found in a bag of shells at a local thrift store. Using the putty, I formed it around the shell and let it set up. Removing the urchin from the molding putty is tricky, and I did have to put a few slits along the top. After the mold cured completely, I cast an urchin using Ice Resin tinted with some off-white acrylic paint.
The resin urchin was then colored with paints and gilders paste. I added a Swarovski crystal in the center and mounted the urchin in a bronze colored bezel. 
I’ve taken several metal working classes at the Bead & Button Show from SLK and last year was one on making components with texture and patina. I combined these components with my sea urchin bezel, crystal beads, wire work, chain, and silk ribbon. The result was a striking yet fun necklace that I love to wear.

We used a special tool to corrugate the metal and metal alphabet stamps  – “SUN” is on this second component.

More corrugated metal (layered) and “SEA”. The eyelets were another technique she taught.

The pieces that hang from the bezel have my birthdate on them. I’m a July baby. Maybe that’s why I love beachy things.  I’m excited to be going back to Milwaukee to take another class with Susan in a few weeks.

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Deconstructed Reconstructed Retreat – Sunday Assemblage

Our last day of retreat was Sunday and we focused on assemblage pieces. Jen had brought a huge tub full of wooden boards, canvases, and picture frame samples. I picked out a board with a large knot hole in it and a frame sample that looked like a woodpecker had spent some time with it. After trimming off the end of the board with a chop saw, I nailed the frame sample to the board. Now I have a house – what to do with it?

Among the items I had brought with me were a silverplate ladle which I always wanted to use as a platform for a bird’s nest. I drilled a hole in the handle and attached it to the house.

Into the ladle, I placed some raffia and a resin bird ornament that I had redone with paint and gilder’s paste.

In the knot hole I tucked a tiny frozen Charlotte doll I purchased from Anne Beach during the retreat. Anne sells her wonderful things on Etsy – BeachFleaMarket.

To finish I added the words from Neil Diamond’s “Be” from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I printed the words then tore them apart and added some distress ink before attaching them to the roof.
It was a wonderful weekend. I learned so many new techniques, but more important, I learned so much about myself and my artistic voice. Thanks Jen and all the women who attended. We really must do it again sometime.

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Deconstructed Reconstructed Retreat – Saturday Collage

On Saturday, Jen took us through the process of creating a collage using photographs. We were asked bring some prints of our photos, or we could use one of hers. I brought some pictures taken on a trip to Florida where I visited Sea World and the Mote Marine Laboratory. Jen taught us a technique to remove the emulsion from the photograph and then add in some new color.

The one I chose to use for my collage was the flamingo – it wasn’t my favorite of my flamingo pictures, but I liked the way it turned out.

Jen provided us with a blank rectangular canvas and a large variety of papers. The collage began to take shape, with a wallpaper sample, some printed music, a floral napkin and some paper with French text. An illustration of a dancer from a vintage book was also chosen. The components were attached to the canvas with gel medium and layers of color and ink were applied.

I began to think about what I wanted to say with this piece, and I was reminded of how flamingos, although quite odd looking in some ways, are considered beautiful, elegant, and graceful. Words I never thought applied to me. But a large part of this retreat was about affirming who we were. I do have grace, elegance, charm and beauty and I will embrace those qualities in me.

When we were finished with our collages, Jen showed us how to apply a coating of beeswax. Jen’s way of teaching this retreat – leading us through the process and teaching techniques, but having us chose the style and direction we want to take, was a new experience for me. I had to find my own artistic voice. It’s still a bit soft, but getting stronger all the time.

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Deconstructed Reconstructed Retreat Friday – Part 2

I worked on two other necklaces on Friday, although neither was finished that day. The first one started with an old ampere meter, a lizard brooch, (both of which came from a stash Jen brought to share) and a tassel provided by Jen. I was able to pry the back of the meter off, which allowed me to punch holes at the top and bottom. I used wire and beads to hang the tassel from the bottom of the meter. I removed the pin back from the brooch and attached the lizard to the meter with apoxy sculpt.

I brought another beaded link out of the top of the meter, with a faceted opalescent crystal and a green square bead. My upper component was a hinged metal piece to which I attached a wooden block with the letter “e”.

In order to attach this to the beaded link on the meter, I shaped a piece of copper wire to thread through the hinge, curled the ends, then place a paddle ended copper wire through the curled ends. Jen calls this a trapeze connection. It worked perfectly.

To finish, I created a messy copper wire bail around the top of the upper component and strung it from a black leather cord. I finished the ends with a spiral link and a hammered hook.

My third necklace began with a piece of driftwood, a smashed penny, a resin piece “speak”, a metal moon (deconstructed jewelry part) and an owl button. I began by drilling holes in either side of the driftwood. I drew a bead on the end of two pieces of bronze wire, then attached them to the driftwood with beads and finished with wrapped loops. I used metal stamps to impress the word “softly” onto the smooth side of the smashed penny.

I added some fiber beads and some crystal beads as I linked parts together. I didn’t like the silver color of the moon, so I changed it using gilder’s paste.

The owl button was the wrong color and I wanted to make more owls, so I made a mold of the button. When the mold was ready, I poured in some resin. That had to cure overnight. The next morning I painted the owl with black acrylic and highlighted with gilder’s paste. I do love that product.

I finished the necklace with more torn silk fibers and a hammered wire clasp.

Both of these are fun to wear. I could have spent all my time making jewelry, but Jen had collage and assemblage to teach us too. So much more to come.

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Deconstructed Reconstructed Retreat – Friday part 1

Friday at the retreat was all about jewelry.  We learned how to take apart commercially made pieces, use found objects and all about making connections. Using Apoxie Sculpt, torching copper and bronze wire, and drilling holes in objects were all covered.  I began my first piece by pulling out a jointed china doll and a winged heart pendant.

I laid the doll on top of the pendant and liked the look of the wings.  I also found a rhinestone piece – not sure what it was originally but made an awesome crown.  Now how to attach these to the doll?  Drilling holes in the china would likely cause it to shatter, so Jen suggested Apoxie Sculpt. This clay epoxy material hardens in a few hours – no need to fire or bake. And it will attach most materials. My biggest problem was waiting for it to harden – I wanted to move on to the next step.

Here you can see the back of the doll.  I cut the wings away from the central heart of the pendant and used the Apoxie Sculpt to attach them. It looks kind of ugly, but I knew I would be adding color on top of the clay and that it would not show when the piece was worn.

I used Ice Resin to attach some vintage lace and the heart part of the pendant to the front of the doll. I also used it to attach a piece of vintage rhinestone cup chain around the base of the crown to hide the clay.

Gilder’s paste was used to color the wings, heart and crown.

A mottled blue silk scarf was torn into a thin strip and I used bronze wire with balled ends to attach the silk to the wings.

I used more bronze wire to create a clasp for the piece and attach it to the silk.  I was happy with how this piece turned out but even more pleased that it was desired by both Jen and Patti Euler of The Queen’s Ink. Since I didn’t want to hurt feelings by giving it to one over the other, and I am very quick to donate pieces to raise funds for charity, I asked Elena if we could sell it by auction and donate the funds to her organization – Charity Wings. Well, we could and we did – the auction was won by Patti.

The proud creator – Elizabeth (me), the wonderful new owner – Patti Euler, the amazing charity worker – Elena Lai Etcheverry, and the awesome friend – Doreen Reynolds.

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Deconstructed Reconstructed Retreat – Thursday

At the end of January, I had the privilege of attending the first Deconstructed Reconstructed art retreat led by Jen Cushman. Jen is one of my all time favorite teachers and this was a new concept. Rather than a class or workshop, where you recreated her project, Jen would lead us through the process of creating our own artwork and telling our story through it.

Our first task was shopping. Yes, really.  We went into old town Temecula, CA to scope out some of the antique stores.  These are the treasures I found – some wooden clock gears, a tin cookie cutter, a metal funnel for filling lanterns, a wooden thing-a-ma-jig (still don’t know what it is, a metal fan sprayer attachment for a hose, a wooden box, a few antique pictures, and a miniature rolling pin. And those tiny things in the center you can’t really see are miniature copper pots (dollhouse size).

I did begin to put a few of these together – the funnel and one of the clock gears. I added a tiny chair place card holder I had brought from home (we were asked to bring some of our own things to use) and an antique china dog purchased from one of the other attendees.  This one is still a work in progress, as yet unfinished.

So Thursday ended with new treasures to inspire me, new friends to encourage me, and new ideas keeping me from falling asleep easily.  Next post – Friday and jewelry!


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