Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas of Endless Cushions

Now is the winter of our bruised bottoms,
Made comfortable by this fine array of cushions

This is what I did for Christmas!

Ok, to be fair, the portrait cushion was a school project from some years ago, I just made a new cushion to go IN it. Likewise the three IKEA silk cushion covers, and there was one cushion that I made a cover for...

But Bunthulhu and the Stealth Ninja Pirate Bunny (minus the pirate- we really MUST get him a cutlass!) were all me!

Bunny, by Huw Davies

This is actually a second birthday present for the Polar Bear, as he decided no really, Ceiling Cat (see last post) creeped him out too much. I'm getting Ceiling Cat back and putting it over my desk.


Sneak sneak...

Sneak sneak sneak...

Skitter skitter tug...



Woohoo! Second stinky old cushion from a couch we threw out 6 years ago and was fourth-hand when we got it, GONE!!!

Also inspired by Bunny. We are above the moose-line.

This is what I do instead of wrapping things...set out little scenarios. Bunthulhu was left like that for him to find. The Stealth Ninja Pirate Bunny was hiding on his chair with a scroll pinned to him telling the Polar Bear to look in a certain file on the computer, where this series of pictures were waiting to be found.

The kitties got toys again, of course. Persephone got a stuffed pomegranate with a cloth dime-bag of catnip stuffed down inside.

And catnips mousies for my niphead rodent catcher (shhhhh, don't tell her the two brown ones were the same ones from last year, I stashed them away after last Christmas and they've been marinating in catnip all year!)

Jack, the Viking kitty got his very own spear, with a plastic test-tube in the shaft, filled with rice for proper spear-rattling. Also, a...Purple Thing.

He got a new ball and cardboard scratcher too, as both of his were dire. But I didn't make those so moving on... (though I actually want to try making my own cardboard scratchers. They're apparently not hard and we have enough boxes that need to be disposed of to be worth trying on)

They both got a lump of coal as well, stuffed entirely with catnip. PersePHONY (Persephone's "Evil Twin") promptly claimed those as both hers. Well, she IS the Evil Twin!

And my first attempt at cardboard construction, and the final destination of four of the cushions I made. We would like to attempt something similar in wood eventually. Possibly here if we stay much longer. I want to try it with a pegging system so it can be broken down to move flat.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chocolate! and some recent work

This is why living with a chef is awesome!

Leftover chocolates from a commission!

Milk Chocolate covered coffee beans (in coffee bean shaped mold!)
Chocolate Stars (plain, orange, peppermint, and some broke-while-removing brandy infused ganache)
Dark Chocolate Brandy Truffles in Milk Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Truffles in Cocoa

Chocolate Dripping Surprise.

So named by me because it's the drippings from the tray under the rack they were hardening on; surprise, because it's a mix of plain, orange and peppermint flavoured chocolate, and you don't know what you're getting until you pop it in your mouth!

Dark Chocolate Speculaas bark

Left over dark chocolate ganache which I suggested we could use to try truffles rolled in speculaas crumbs. The Polar Bear was tired and didn't want to roll more, so it was mixed in the crumbs and rolled it out on a tray.

This stuff? Is f*@&ing AWESOME! (and I do not use that term lightly!)

This is why living with cats is awesome! I was taking the chocolate pictures right beside Persephone's chair, and as soon as the camera starting clicking she started posing for Playkitten Magazine! Belleh snorgling ensued!

As for recent work...sadly, the tapestries have been temporarily abandoned.

Shortly after the last post on them, I wove the face and was entirely unhappy with it. The colours of the shadows were wrong, the colour of the lips was wrong, (actually, funnily enough, the colour I wove the darker shadows in turns out to be the perfect colour for the lips!), and both the eyes and lips were cartoonishly big, despite being woven across only two warp threads. There are no pictures of the face; it was that bad.

Since it would have taken a fair amount of time to unweave, I decided to cut it out. Careful as I thought I was being, I sliced through a warp thread. I wove a new warp in and it's fine, but I was upset and wanted some time to rethink how to do the face. At that scale, I'm thinking I'm going to have to embroider the features. One warp thread is too narrow, two is too large. Or else scale up the cartoon and weave a bigger piece. Which I kinda wanted to do before I started weaving, but since these were supposed to be Christmas presents, I thought small would be faster.

Then I realized I was in fact unhappy with the figure as a whole, which I think would look fine enough at a distance, but the difference between the light and dark areas are too pronounced close up (and since the piece is only 7" tall...), and too definitively separate, instead of blending into each other. I'm thinking I can solve the issue with more colour blends, and with some hatching in transitional zones.

And THEN I realized that what I learned while doing the background wall could make the whole wall better if I started over. Mostly that the grey looks great, but there needs to be more of it. It's supposed to be a bare hint of light off rough stone walls, and it works where there's grey woven in, but it looks strange with only scattered areas with light reflecting off them.

I'm going to start over. In the new year.

So I did this instead! :)

The Polar Bear's birthday present! Yes, that IS Ceiling Cat! His head is a bit squished to one side in this picture. I don't know why. The Polar Bear is a bit creeped out by it all, which I didn't expect...

I want to do another with a black cat and put it on the floor! Basement Cat! Hee!

Also working on this. Stem stitched Japanese Pampas Grass, and mokume shibori dyed in indigo.

And that's all I'm saying about this project right now.

Also, while we're not doing Christmas at all this year, (no money, and no family even remotely near enough to care), and therefore have not bothered to decorate or put up a tree, I couldn't resist doing at least this outside my door to amuse my neighbours and the Polar Bear, when I found out Simon Tofield of Simon's Cat had put out a printable cut-out of the cat. (if you haven't seen the Simon's Cat films GO THERE NOW!!!!!)

You can see what the characters are doing better if you click on the picture.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Ice" by Sarah Beth Durst

In the spirit of really really wanting to win this book... (I get an extra entry for linking to the contest)

Book (and movie) review blogger (Mrs Magoo Reads) is having a contest to win a copy of "Ice" by Sarah Beth Durst (whose blog is also listed in my links in the side bar).

"When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth..."

You can read the rest of the promo blurb here. Awesomely, Ms. Durst has also put a section on her website with retellings of more obscure fairy tales she's come across in her research for her other two books. Which makes me all kinds of happy! (even better, she retells them with snarky running commentary! Hee!)

Mrs Magoo is rather awesome too, I've discovered. Exploring her site, I noticed she reviews a lot of Young Adult Lit (a category which, frankly has some of the best books!) and being the nosy sort wondered if she explained why anywhere. It turns out that Mrs Magoo is herself part of the category's target audience! Now THAT's freaking cool!

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Tapestries in progress

New tapestries! Two 5-ish" x 7" portrait style miniature tapestries are in progress. I can't show you the cartoons as both the people these are for have the link to this blog, though I don't know if they actually follow it. In fact, I think I may not be able to show any more pictures of this one, after these.

I can get away with a few comments, though...

Weaving black and dark gray together is not as eye-boggling as I thought.

The purple, however, has been a complete pain. Warning: venting ahead. (but it ends with kitties!)

The idea was to create shading by weaving the darker areas with a black cotton perl thread, wound with a single strand of purple sewing thread, and the lighter areas with a purple wool thread wound with a strand of black thread. A quick few lines of the purple suggested it was thin enough to use with an 18 epi warp, so I wove up the the darker bit and began weaving the lighter area, only to discover within a centimetre that the purple wool was definitely too thick and the area of warp was buckling.

Unfortunately I didn't have any thinner yarn in a colour that was close to the sewing thread woven in with the black. I had some thinner plum purple, and a similar sewing thread, but since I had been sewing the larger slits up as I wove, I really really really didn't want to pull it all out.

I ended up using an idea I got from Kathe Todd Hooker's small format landscapes, of winding together a bunch of strands of sewing thread to make up a colour. Which then turned into a whole "Goldilocks" thing, (this one's too thick, this one's too thin, this one's got too much black). Worse, while I did have three cones of purple thread in very similar shades so I could wind more than one strand at a time, I only had one free bobbin, so every time I decided I had to change the thickness I had to wind the bloody things off onto an old thread tube, before carefully separating out the threads I didn't need while trying not to knot it all into a unholy mess, because you know, I'm too obsessive to actually just write the mis-wound thread off as a bad lot and start fresh; no, that would be too simple for me and my "these are Christmas presents" deadline!

(I did finally get it right)

The bright areas were done with a strand of fuchsia added instead of black. And I'm taking the day off from weaving. Dinner at friends, and since the power went out for an hour and the building doesn't want to heat back up because its -37C out there, I'm not going to even try getting anything done today.

Well, except make a catnip baggy to stick in a pomegranate soft toy for Persephone's Gotchaversary present. 3 years, I can't believe I've had the sweet little furface for 3 years already!

First day home; 10 months old approximately, just spayed that morning, skinny as a rail, huge ears slick with a final dose of ear mite goo, and utterly fearless as she explored the new domain she was now going to be queen of (the two boycats a mere inconvenience)

Persephone now. That mousie's getting some AIR!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

This has me STEAMED!

This has me (insert bad word) STEAMED!!!!

An artist, (John T. Unger), a maker of sculptural fire-bowls made from recycled steel, is being sued by an imitator of his work to overturn his registered copyrights. I am using the term imitator specifically, as FirePitArt.Com LLC is not claiming the firepits they are manufacturing are in any way substantially different than John Unger's even in their lawsuit filing, as far as I can tell.

Waves O' Fire, from John Unger's site

Mr. Unger sent them a cease-and-desist letter, which was flatly refused. After several exchanges between legal counsels, Fire Pit Art filed suit claiming Mr. Unger's copyrights were invalid, and that Mr. Unger had damaged their business by informing businesses and arts organizations with which they had dealings of the controversy regarding the copyright of the designs, a practice which (from observation-I have no supporting documentation) seems to be common and legal in cases like this.

Now this upsets me at least in part because it appears to be a case in which a company or individual is trying to use the courts to strong-arm an artist out of their copyright protections, hoping the artist will be too intimidated or financially unable to fight the suit, which would result in a summary judgement against the artist.

This seems to be an all too common occurrence apparently, judging by other cases I have heard of, and ones which numerous bloggers and their commentators are mentioning.

But as I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that what is truly insidious about this case is that they are trying to use the courts to overturn his right to determine if his work is in fact 'art' in the first place!

Specifically, Fire Pit Art is, among other things, suing to have the courts declare that John Unger's work is NOT art, due to the fact that they are functional items.

According to the complaint filed by Rick Wittrig, owner of Fire Pit Art (available on the artist's webpage linked above):

"Defendant has continued to assert his allegations of copyright infringement, further basing them on the registrations of copyright claims made by Defendant...for a number of articles that are in fact outdoor fire pits, but were registered by the Copyright Office as “Sculpture/3-D Design,” on the basis of Defendant’s claims and representations." p. 3-4


"Defendant’s Fire Pits are functional, utilitarian and useful articles that are not
subject to copyright protection under The Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq." p. 5 (the law covering economic and proprietary rights of authors/artists)

The complaint seeks to have the registered copyrights cancelled on the basis that the fire-pits are not art and are therefore improperly registered. But it's more than the cancellation of the copyright registration.

If I have understood American copyright law correctly, an artist is NOT required to register a copyright to a piece of intellectual property in order to retain a legal copyright to it. It's a good idea to do so, as it can provide weighty evidence of that copyright, but it's not mandatory in order to legally own copyright on it.*

*Candid admission: My understanding of US copyright law in these matter is from reading about cases like this, and from online discussions and articles written by artists, writers, publishers, gallery administrators and agents, usually written to inform new writers and artists what copyright protections they have, and what responsibility they have toward retaining them. I'm not American and have not as yet felt the urge to read any official documents on the subject, though it's on my 'to do' list.

This is supposition on my part, but if Fire Pit Art can convince the jury/judge that John Unger's work is not art, then it can contend that he had no automatic copyright to it to begin with. And it sets a precedent in law (in a legal system that works in large part on precedent) that an artist does not have the legal right to determine if their work is, in fact, 'Art'.

(What makes the whole thing hypocritical is that not only does Mr. Wittrig call his company "Fire Pit Art", he publicly represents himself as an artist, and sells his knock-offs of Mr. Unger's work at Art fairs!)

(John Unger) has set up a webpage going into greater detail about this, and has decided to fight the matter in court, but he could use some financial help. There are fundraising details at his site. (Discounted Fire-bowls! Art in exchange for donations!) :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We don't get the inspiration we want

Apparently we don't get the inspiration we want, we get the inspiration we need. Much like cats.*

And oh great, look, it's WRITING inspiration. I'm supposed to be doing ART right now.

Good thing the inspiration node in my brain is a cute little mass of grey matter, or I'd kick it in the ankle.

Happily, one rough outline, some details around a couple of bits of action and a few key lines of dialog are done, and I think I understand the purpose of two of the characters.

Also one hell of a case of epiphany whiplash...Oh, good morning world, I'm going to bed!

*Or is that the cats we deserve?

Friday, October 23, 2009

That's an ...interesting... future

Neil Gaiman has an odd little thing....an online Oracle. (I notice it has one of Lisa Snellings' poppets living in it....)

My future? And I quote- "11."

That's it.



I tried it again, to see if perhaps it was a bit confused as to what I was asking, and it's response was: "The dog."

I do not have a dog. The cats won't let me. I do not argue with the cats.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crewel Work

WHEEEEEEE!!!! I learned crewel embroidery!!!!

I thought, you know, I LOVE embroidery, and I can think of scads of stuff I could do with it in my art, but I never seem to actually use more than a few different stitches; mostly because those are the ones I feel comfortable with. And yet I have several books full of stitches that I KNOW I could do if I tried, I just never bother. I look at the diagrams and say "yeah, I could do that one, that's easy", but when I actually plan out an embroidered piece I go right back to the ones I know, because I KNOW how they would look, and would work on a piece.

So I set myself the task last week of trying out every stitch in Erica Wilson's "Crewel Embroidery", 1962 (except the ones I already knew how to do and do frequently...)

This is all of them.

1. Close Buttonhole Stitch
2. Coral Stitch
3. Braid Stitch
4. Rope Stitch (narrow-left, broad-right)
5. Rosette Stitch (right (red)-poorly done, left (peach), better)
6. Roumanian Stitch
7. Cretan Stitch
8. Vandyke Stitch (top (peach)-line, bottom (red)-shape)
9. Knotted Pearl Stitch
10. Fishbone Stitch
11. Raised Stem Stitch
12. Raised Chain Stitch
13. Raised Buttonhole Stitch
14. Slanting Satin Stitch
15. Satin Stitch-Tied with Backstitch
16. Padded Satin Stitch
17. Block Shading
18. Long and Short Stitch-Tapestry Shading
19. Long and Short-Soft Shading
20. Laid Work-Tied with Cross Bars
21. Laid Work-Tied Diagonally
22. Shaded Laid Work (Tied with Split Stitch)

My coral, rosette and knotted pearl stitches not so good. Mind you, I don't like them much either. I can't say I like block shading or the long-and-short tapestry shading much, though I'm surprisingly fond of the soft shading and all the laid work. The fishbone is cool too. I definitely want to try using the fishbone for leaves.

The Van Dyke stitch seems to look better as a shape than as a line, which is a pity, as there's a variant of it that was widely used in many northern European cultures in the Viking Age as seam decoration, and I'd love to use it on a few pieces of Living History costuming, instead of the herringbone I usually use.

23. Burden Stitch (top-wide, bottom-close, right-line)
24. Squared Filling #1
25. Squared Filling #2
26. Squared Filling #3
27. Squared Filling #4 (skipped #5, because it was almost identical)
28. Squared Filling #6

Burden stitch-bleh. Except the closely worked bit with thicker thread (brown and beige). That would make awesome wicker work, or wattle walls. I have to admit I also like #26, even if it's VERY time consuming. Though after all these gridded square fillings, I'm really really REALLY tired of them. #31 (below) is also nice, but I don't think I'm likely to use any of these much.

I do very much still have a problem with both pulling the stitches too tight and tensioning the fabric too much. Several of the grids in this batch are only attached to the cloth at the the edges and as soon as I took the cloth off the frame they lifted right off and puckered. Hmm. The next batch is better.

29. Squared Filling #7
30. Squared Filling #8
31. Squared Filling #9
32. Squared Filling #10
33. Wave Stitch
34. Cloud Filling
35. Seeding
36. Weaving Stitch
37. Turkey Work

More gridded stuff. I swear, I was so sick of it after a while. I think that more than anything will probably keep me from using them much. Cloud and wave stitches are kind of cool. I wonder if I can do the wave stitch with broader loops to look like scales....

I think I like proper french knots better than seeding, though I've never been good at stippling anyway. I think I need to practice it with paper and pencil some.

Turkey work is neat. I still like weaving knotted pile rugs better, but it occurs to me this might be a better way to make miniature rugs. It's much more stable and non-pull-out-able than I thought it would be.

38. Cable Chain Stitch
39. Interlaced Cable Chain Stitch
40. Whipped Stem Stitch
41. Pekinese Stitch
42. Backstitched Chain Stitch
43. Threaded Backstitch
44. Interlaced Running Stitch
45. Interlaced Herringbone Stitch
46. Threaded Herringbone Stitch
47. Tied Herringbone Stitch
48. Spider's Web-Whipped
49. Spider's Web-Woven
50. Raised Spider's Web-Whipped
51. Raised Spider's Web-Woven
52. Raised Needle Weaving
53. Bullion Knots
54. French Knots
55. French Knots (triple wrapped)
56. French Knots (triple wrapped and stitched like Bullion Knots which is how I had learned to do them)

French knots done the way this book diagrams them is certainly easier and neater than doing them like bullion stitches. I might even start using them now that I've learned this way.

Some of these lacing stitches would be interesting to try using for vines, instead of stem stitch, especially for thicker vines. My cable chain stitching definitely needs work.

I don't know how I feel about the spider webs. Fun to do, but very 'crafty' looking. also wonder what they'd be useful for, since they look so much like, well, spider webs. I've done whipped ones before over beads to make later medieval buttons, but embroidery? Dunno.

Now on to planning out a few small projects to try the stitches out on.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"She Will Not Let Her Memories Become Wars"

"She Will Not Let Her Memories Become Wars"
Embroidery; broken bra, reclaimed embroidery floss
Size: depends*

from "And This Is How She Feels", a loose collection of poetry

"She will not let her memories become wars,
She will not let you pick apart the corpse-bones of her remembering"

(*still trying to figure out how to hang this-the picture was taken with it pinned to the backdrop)

Stem stitch lettering, random stitch filler on ravens.

I need to build a better boob to display it on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Alexandria"-Work in progress?

2009 (2010?)
embroidery, ragdoll; old silk shirt, reclaimed silk thread, sewing scraps
81cm x 43cm x 14cm

The rag doll is done the same way as my period rag dolls are, then was placed under the silk shirt and the silk carefully pinned around it and sewn in place. Sleeves were sewn into a cradle (well, hammock, I guess!) for the doll.

on the bottom of the piece is this (partial) poem:


More a bruise than a stab wound
did you think I didn't notice it
feel it
cradle it close like a stolen child
pull it apart and rebuild myself with the pieces

Brenda Gerritsma

The poem has a final line not here:
I should know better by now, I was last week's size.

I can't decide if it should be added or not.

This was one of my embroidery projects back in Feb.; though even then I thought it wasn't done despite having done everything I had intended to do with it. I really wanted it to be black and blue, but the lettering doesn't stand out as well as I'd hoped, and overall the piece just seems a bit 'blah' to me.

And yet, anything I've thought of to make the lettering stand out more (which pretty much means embroidering in and around the lettering-which I'm fine with) seems too...well...cheerful. Brighter blue, too cheerful, reds, oranges, yellows, definitely too cheerful, purple-actually I just hate purple with blue. Black's probably no good, gray too dismal. White maybe? Skeletal trees?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Art-ish Stuff-Toys for every medieval kid!

Not working on art so much since Feb-Mar, sadly. No money for shows or supplies. Sigh. Stupid economy.

Been learning new things though, new tapestry techniques and embroidery stitches, and took up a new hobby, in the context of my old hobby (Living History)-Medieval toy making! And it even tied into my modern artwork! (Though that will have to wait for the next entry).

Sadly, I failed to get pictures of my leather 10th Cen. ball, or my first rag doll, but here's my second!

The doll is based on a Roman Era doll found in Egypt. Doll body and clothing are made of linen, all hand-stitched, and stuffed with sewing scraps.

The costume is meant to represent an early 14th Cen. cotehardie, and shift. The idea of using a later period costume comes from this set of doll clothing found in Russia.

The hair is of an unknown fibre given to me by someone who found it entirely too soft to work with for whatever they had gotten it for. It's VERY soft, and definitely has some real hair (the white fibres), which give an interesting going-grey look, though I don't think I'll use it again, as it's a bit too flyaway looking. I don't remember the inspiration for the hairstyle.

Doll was put into a gift bag for Gleann Abhann at Estrella 2009, from An Tir.

Doll #3 was SUPPOSED to be a 14th Cen. costume based on the then-Queen of Atenveldt's research (as that was the Estrella gift bag it was destined for), but apparently turned out more Viking-looking.

Doll is made of linen, based on the same Roman artifact as the above, and stuffed with sewing scraps. Under-tunic is made of cotton (yellow-it was the only bright yellow fabric I had), and either linen or cotton (white) of a similar weight fabric, I can't remember. Over-tunic is made of linen. Both doll and clothing entirely hand-stitched, with linen thread for the decorative stitching.

Hat is linen, hair is silk dyed with some natural dye, though I don't know which, as it was from my stash of dye-sample leftovers.

I was given to understand the little girl who received it loved it, and that it was named Inga, after the then-Queen of An Tir, (it's the bright yellow braids...). I got a couple of very cute pictures of her with it; however, as she's not my child and I don't have permission I'm not going to post them, though I thank those who passed them on!

Doll #4, again a Roman era doll, though I changed the way I did the arms due to the shape of the linen scraps I had available. The arms are made separately, instead of as a single long tube sewn across the back of the body, and are sewn onto the sides at a single point with multiple stitches, to give them a semi-jointed movement. The linen was natural coloured rather than white this time. Hand-stitched again, and I believe also stuffed with sewing scraps (though it might have been polyfil this time-the horse I made at the same time was).

For a change, I dressed the Roman era doll in a Roman era dress! Chiton (white under-dress) is linen, with yellow stitching to represent the gold fibulae that would have been used to pin it. The stola (red), a garment signifying marriage, is made of cotton turban material. The braided belt is made of...I can't remember... scraps of thread, probably; likely cotton.

Hair is done in pearl cotton embroidery thread, and based on some of the simpler hairstyles worn in the Roman era.

Doll was destined for a gift bag given to Ealdormere at Pennsic 38.

One of these times I'll remember to take a picture of one of the dolls BEFORE I put clothes on it.

Edit to add: Basic doll form pictures here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Day Without Cats on the Internet

A Day Without Cats on the Internet? I don't THINK so!!!!!

Jack (Worship-teh-Belleh!) Sprat

Jack (again), my Mighty Skein-and-Butterfly Hunter

Persephone (But-I'm-CUTE!), Queen of the Universe.

Persephone 'helping' again.

I promise to get back to blogging art soon. I have been working, honest! Just have a hard time photographing anything where I live and no photography studio space to use.