Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wall Doll II, Otto in Drag

Second of the series, here.  I took my photo of dear Otto, my antique, loved-to-shabby boy doll, and made a transfer onto cheesecloth, which was then retouched with my handy Prismacolor pencils.

It then became a mask for the "gingerbread man" shaped pillow doll pattern I used for Kolobuk, with a tuft of cobbler's linen for the suggestion of hair.

I then gave him a sun suit of antique feed sack fabric quilting pieces, gentled a bit with more cheese cloth, and a good ol' bone BVD button for his belly.

His arms are desert driftwood, and on his right a page from an 1800s school book, colored in by a long ago child.

In  his left hand a vintage celluloid button dangles, as the suggestion of a summer daisy.

On his feet a pair of recycled baby socks, died and stained with calendula petals

I think he's hanging around for a dish of ice cream, which we must agree is necessary for a truly good summer day.

So, quick before it melts!  Sunshine Boy is on his way to my Etsy store today.

Here's the original portrait of dear Otto, for comparison's sake.

and then --

Here's how the Sunshine Boy brightens up my cluttered studio and complements a sweet nicho by Port Townsend artist, Diane Porter-Brown.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wall Doll Done

Well, here it is, and I think he's done.  I kinda like the little guy, flat up against the wall.  I finished off his knickers with gesso, added a "belly button", affixed driftwood arms and a smooshed beer bottle cap that reads "Rogue."  He's working on that.  This shot shows the tuft of Morgan horse mane that is his topknot.

At the back, I rigged up some iron wire (rebar tie wire, great stuff) to hold his arms and catch his wall nail to hold him up without his having to bend over.  For the belly button, I backed it with a nice old Bakelite button and a bit of crochet, for a nice finish and to keep the button in the front from pulling through.

I think he's rather a "prim" but also hope he reads as a contemporary piece, as well.  And for the Alice fans, he has a bit of the Tweedledee, or is it Tweedledum, look to him.  I always thought those boys were really scary, and this little guy has a bit of the "haint" about him, too.

His cloth foundation began months ago with some coffee-dye experiments.  I found that if you dunk your muslin in coffee and squeeze out the extra liquid, and then bake in a moderate oven, you get those nice stains that look like a long career in an attic somewhere.


For the hand-stitched detail, I used good, strong quilting thread in black , which relates nicely to both the wire and the horsehair details.  Later, I will introduce some rust to go with the coffee stains.

I am a big fan of rust, and along with the coffee stain trick and making newer metal components look older, it seems like magic that so many things can be altered to my satisfaction, and that makes me happy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Work In Progress -- A Wall Doll

Flat as a flitter, this one.  I got to thinking about those old-fashioned pillow dolls and thought, well, let's just rethink this.  This could be a canvas or a soft assemblage.  So, inspired by my latest cabinet card find ...

Of this sour-faced little fellow, who most likely detested the lace-trimmed skirt and yearned for knickers, at least, or perhaps had hayfever, or maybe all of that, I thought, hmm, yes, a wall doll.  It works with the flatness.

Here's as much as I got done today, posed on my lovely old leatherette horse-hair stuffed and pleated piano bench.  His arms are not attached yet, but I have a provisional array of sardine can key, rusty beer bottle cap ("Rogue" brand), driftwood and a torn lesson page from Third Reader, a turn of the century school book.

Check the original out over there -- how is that expression?  He seems focused on the focuser with quite a bit of uncertainty, possibly contempt, but then again, it could be the hay fever, the lace ruffles, or itchy underwear.  Poor tyke.  I do like the proscenium arch above him, so that he seems enshrined.  He could be a little saint in the making, but he could also be going in the other direction.  Who would know now?  There's no name on the back of the cabinet card; all we know is that the picture was taken in Portland, but which one? It's a 50-50 chance that he's either a down east Yankee or a pioneer.  Don't you just wonder how these wonderful images have escaped their families and names?  There's a story there, but you will have to write it yourself.  Give these lost ones new life.  As you peruse this image, don't neglect the wonderful boots with scalloped edges.  They look soft and well used.  Must have gotten passed down to him from older siblings, even, EWWW, sisters!  Egad!  NOT the skirt and collar as well?

On to the WIP; here's a closeup.  I cropped the photo after uploading it and printed it out on cheesecloth, did some photo tinting with my trusty Prismacolor pencils, and used various "schmutzes" to fix the cloth and image, to prevent further fraying and fading.

Making the face out of scale with the doll's body has changed the boy's expression somewhat.  It seems more dreamy.  Maybe he's dreaming of scratching that itch.  You can't see the little tuft of stiff horsehair topknot.  I used a felting needle on that, but next time I'll handle it differently.  Horse manes are not very cooperative, although they do have that springy, wirey linear quality that I really like.

I used a matte varnish on the wood pieces, but they still seem a bit shiny.  A little sanding, maybe?  These things have a way of going on and on and on, until I think they are finished, and that's always much later than I expected when I started the thing.  I expect it's because the piece gets developed as I go along, so that the "cooking" has to be a low simmer; don't want it to stick to the bottom of the pot.

At the end, I think he'll get a bone counter (you knitters know what that is; I have a pile of them), sewn to his back so that he can be put up on the wall.  If I still like him when I'm done, I'll save the pattern and do some more.  I like the figure as a foundation for the patches and small scraps of old things that I have saved.  Itty-bitty fragments of unknown and unremarked time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baby Otto

Otto is my only boy doll, ever, and he's had many girls before me, as you can see.  He has been repaired and patched and let go for several lifetimes, I think, and was unable to keep his hands.  Nevertheless, I think he's adorable and sweet and I like to kiss his little crackly head.  I would guess he somewhere near the turn of the 19th c., maybe up to the early 20s, and he just seems to me to be of northern European extraction, say, Sweden, Denmark or Norway.

He has alot of secrets, and he's not telling.  Who knitted him those socks to match his jumper?

Couldn't she use a little button or a snap??  Who added the contemporary diaper pin?  Is that red jumper made of wool twill?  It's hand-stitched, was that girl learning to sew with the red jumper  project?

Who donated her used underwear to patch him up?  When did that happen?  It's pretty heavyweight stuff; was it BVDs?  It looks like a much earlier project, since the underwear is tied together with string.  And, it's quite dirty -- this must have been before buses.  Didn't your Mom say to change your underwear because she didn't want you to get hit by a bus and go to the hospital with dirty drawers?

How does Otto maintain his composure and elegance in the face of his diminution?  Was he once well-to-do or royal?   It sure looks like Otto is up against it now.

Otto peers fixedly into a dusty mirror but is unfazed at his aging problem.  Perhaps it's because the dust hides the wrinkles and cracks.  Somehow, within him, and in my imagination, he is still a baby boy.  And he doesn't say EWWWWW when I hug him.

No snips and snails and puppy dog tails and spitting up the mashed peas and rubbing it into his scalp, or pea green handprints on the wall paper.

Sweet Otto, he's such a good little boy.