All posts by annwood

two new workshops : songbirds and elegant rag dolls

This March I’ll be teaching three all day workshops at French General in Los Angeles! Songbirds on the 24th and 25th (the same class offered twice) and Elegant Ragdolls on the 23rd. Registration is open and you can find all the details at French General.

Songbirds
Come make songbirds with me. I’ll guide you through the process of sewing, stuffing and sculpting the basic shape, creating natural looking layers of feathery textures, embroidering features, carving beaks, sculpting feet and giving your creation spirit and “birdness”. I’ll also share my some of my favorite supplies, top secret tips and techniques and some treasures from my collection of antique textiles. Basic sewing skills are needed, we will be stitching by hand and machine.

Elegant Ragdolls
Mysterious girls with secrets. The details make me happy, front bustles revealing a scandalous amount of leg, slippered feet, fancy underthings and elegant chignons. I’ll guide you through the stitching and stuffing and details and share my favorite supplies, top secret tips and techniques and some treasures from my collection of antique textiles. Basic sewing skills are needed, we will be stitching by hand and machine.

I hope to see you there!

ships and sailors on my worktable

paper mache fleet

paper mache boats : painting

The last time I showed you these ships they were getting their final layer of paper mache, the newsprint layer.  Then I abandoned them.  I didn’t feel inspired in any particular direction color wise so I left them alone.  Weeks later I still didn’t feel inspired in any particular color direction  so I started experimenting.  I like newsprint and almost always use it as my final layer and  I like it to show. I paint in washes (there is a video of this whole process here).  I use water color and mat acrylics. I don’t use any clear coats on top, I like the matte quality of the paint, but I do burnish them with a soft cloth when they are dry, it just smooths them a tiny bit and makes a pretty surface.

paper mache boats : painting

I also love to splatter them with a fine spray of white or ivory.  I found that bristle brush at a flea market, an old toothbrush works too.

paper mache boats : painting

paper mache fleet

Next I add buttons for the rigging. Lately I like lots of buttons and I’m always on the lookout for antique mother of pearl buttons. You should hide yours when I come over… The three ships below are made  from the paper mache ship pattern collectionI did modify the sides of the large ship, I do it a little differently almost every time I make one. 

paper mache ships : buttons

Each ship is getting a gentleman sailor owl captain (the small and medium sizes from the little owl pattern).

owls and ships on my work table

little sailor owl

I love turn of the  century fabric and lately I’ve come across some contemporary fabrics that remind me of some of my favortite antique small prints.  The fabric I used for this owl’s face is from Cotton and Steel, below on the left and the tiny black and white print on the right is by Seven Berry.

This weekend I’ll finish the sails and rigging and start more paper and fabric ships. I want to begin the year with a substantial fleet, an auspicious and nautical beginning to 2018.

making small worlds

miniature flagstone fireplace

Where do you lose yourself? For me it is often in tiny worlds. I pay attention when time disappears. I think it means a deeper connection is happening. Something is flowing and I’m letting it, I’ve achieved real presence and there is no struggle or distraction, nothing else tugs at me. I unclench. Unclenched is a good place to be.

ant world

Last year I created a tiny world inhabited by ants, ants with a taste for mid century furniture. I lost myself completely in the process in the very best way. It woke me up early and kept me up late. I was enchanted and mesmerized by the world as it took shape and deeply engaged in the craft, the process of creating it.

miniature flagstone fireplace

The centerpiece was a fireplace made from cardboard and foam core. I cut flagstone shapes from chipboard and glued them to the structure. The whole thing was covered with spackle (3m – patch plus primer is a great one) sanded, and painted.

cardboard flagstone

dusting : fortuny ants

The furniture was a trial and error process with help from this website, there are lots of good tutorials and techniques for building miniature furniture mostly from cardboard. I made the credenza above from cardboard, coffee stirrers, balsa wood and chopsticks.

I love exploring little worlds and objects I did not create too, bumping into them in the big world. I came across this miniature village in the back of a huge antique place upstate.

miniature village

Something about mini speaks to me and always has, especially everyday things presented in detail at a small scale, even more so when it is a working thing like this little oil lamp.

miss petunia's lazy day

tiny underthings

There are other small worlds for me to create and it is one of the things I’m focusing on this year. Something I think a lot about but have not made time for. I want to explore and articulate the world the tiny ragdolls inhabit and follow Mr. Socks up the crooked road to Woebegone Pines and the big black house where the whole Socks family has lived for many generations of mischievous cats.

mr. socks takes a stroll

momentum

Momentum is crucial, and when you’ve got it,  you’ve got it and when you don’t, you don’t. Lack of momentum is why the wheels come off most New Year’s resolutions by February, why projects get abandoned and ideas get filed permanently in the someday folder. I started this blog 12 years ago (officially in february) – my first official post was titled momentum because I felt like my creative life, my personal creative life was in the someday folder.

cardboard stampede

12 years later I still work hard to maintain my momentum and occasionally I lose it and find myself in the doldrums. It happens for lots of reasons, failures, discouragement, disappointments, obstacles or plain old fatigue but most often it’s because I’m feeling overwhelmed, overwhelmed with tasks, or choices or possibilities, overwhelmed with indecision, overwhelmed with all that isn’t done. When I lose it the only fix is action. Easy to say, so hard to do. Inertia is so heavy and oppressive, but there are a couple things I say to myself that do help when there is no wind in my sails:

it’s easier to keep going than to start

Just telling myself that helps immensely. And it means two things for me – it’s smart to make it part of my day to do things that keep momentum alive, basic things like structure and habits that support forward motion, even very small things, done consistently help a lot.  And when I do find myself dead in the water I need to take some small action (it can be really small) –  just start – bust out of the inertia. I posted a while ago about getting stuck and ways to get past it here.

my best work is ahead

I believe this and it saves me, I just need to remind myself once in a while. It makes me not quit and helps me live and act in uncertainty. It pushes me to let stuff go, take the next step  and try new things. I feel like I’ve barely gotten started and I’m so curious about what’s next, its a powerful reason to keep moving, to get through storms and doldrums, to see what’s around the next corner. If I quit I’ll never know.

try

note : I’ve been updating and reposting some of me big creative year posts from 2015. They are ideas that are very much on my mind as I start the new year. I’ve got big plans and apparently I find myself very inspiring. This is one of my favorites from the series.

so long 2017, mending sleeves and bold moves

contemporary holly hobby

ann wood : mending

Everything feels slow and still and there is lots to think about so I am mending. I love to mend, I love the thrift and economy and the meandering pace of it. I love how it looks and what it means, these are badges that tell you something about me.

ann wood : mending

contemporary holly hobby

While I patch my sleeves and collars and knees I’m thinking about the year past and my plans for the next. I’ve got big scary plans and I’ll tell you about them in a minute.  First I want to tell you a painful lesson I learned about attention.

A few years ago I sort of learned to ride a motorcycle.  Slow in the driveway. I was bad at it.  The most serious problem I had was driving into things: trees, houses, people etc. I googled the problem and found an answer, the fix was remarkably simple and easy:

To not look where I did not want to go.

I was so afraid of driving into the tree, the person, the house etc. that I focused on them and they pulled me like a magnet.  The result was awkward and painful. When I only looked where I wanted to go it was like magic.

Starting now I’m keeping my big plans in front of me. Looking where I want to go. Making myself focus on the big scary things I want to accomplish in 2018.  Everyday.  Keeping the big stuff in front and working backwards from there. The little stuff will align because it must.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next.  Feeling around for it for a while.  This will be a year of change for me.  I want it to be and I want to make sure my plans don’t evaporate in distractions and busyness.  I’m going to give myself very clear, consistent and simple messages about what is important:

write the book

paint the paintings

move north

Pick yours and we will talk more about it next week.

I’ll leave you with one success and one failure from 2017.  First the success. The most popular pattern this year was the tiny rag doll and that is a happy and unexpected thing.  I love the idea of lots and lots these tiny bundled up ladies in the world.

tiny rag dolls

The failure was falling out of my sketchbook habit mid year.  I miss it and feel the lack of it in all my work.  I’ll resume my small, daily squares this  Sunday.

Thanks for showing up and I wish you a beautiful new year,
ann

my big creative year : audacious thinking

forest diorama

note : I first published this post in 2015.  As I’m making plans for the new year audacious thinking and big changes are on my mind, maybe they are on your mind too.

Thinking outrageously, hypothetically removing limitations and entertaining wild possibilities is a good creative exercise, a good thinking tool and I use it often to get unstuck or to work through an idea. But applying that kind of thinking to my life and work in a larger way has been difficult. This weekend I spent time thinking about this question:

What if I could do anything?

If money was no object, if there were no obstacles, no chance of failure or negative consequences – what would I do? I think truthful answers might be enlightening, there might be signposts and arrows among them but I find the question paralyzing.

I’ve never been good at thinking big about my life, my work, thinking audaciously. Big makes me nervous. And it seems to me that I endeavor in the other direction – so much of what I do, what I’m attracted to and what I create for myself is small, the world recreated at a more manageable and comfortable scale.

forest diorama

I find it hard to turn my practical brain off and I think a large part of me never wants to be caught with grand plans – a deeply ingrained belief that modesty is a virtue. I’m fortunate, one thing has led to another and all sorts of wonderful things I could not invent have occurred, it feels somehow ungrateful to reach and it is incredibly difficult and uncomfortable to really get my head around the question. My answers, my list, mostly doesn’t feel very audacious, it feels quite tentative in fact so I’m going to keep working on it – look harder. Getting myself to write anything at all was like pulling teeth, there were a couple surprises though – here’s what I’ve got so far:

I would paint and draw a great deal

I would learn to surf – nothing crazy- little waves

I would plant a garden

I would cook a lot

I would travel a little

I would wander a lot

I would take a hand built pottery class (that seems pretty do-able – I’m looking into it)

Actually – I would take lots of classes – I could fill the rest of my life with that

I would have dogs and cats and goats

I would make a picture book for children or maybe children and grownups

I would make dioramas

I would buy a very old house

I would swim often

I wonder if you ask yourself this sort of question – if you find resistance in your thinking or spectacular visions – I’m curious – if you feel like sharing please do.

handmade christmas 2017

handmade christmas 2017

Unwrapping ornaments in soft, crumpled paper that my mother wrapped and unwrapped one million times, treasures that never lose their magic, the ceremony of their yearly appearance, that is most of the reason to Christmas the tree.

And I love it, my dear norfolk pine, all festooned and twinkling.

handmade christmas

moon tree topper

I skipped the tree last year. Got too busy, got the flu, and it didn’t happen. It almost didn’t happen this year. The big crash in October left a wake of disruption and chaos that is still not over. But as soon as I got the boxes down and saw familiar things peeking from that tissue (Christmas tissue is not like other tissue, something special happens to it) I felt inspired to do it.

handmade wrapping paper

Wrapping paper was next on my Christmas list. I decided to make my own and be super simple about it. I’m splattering plain newsprint paper (I always have a huge roll around for packing and shipping) with red paint. I’m also using plain brown paper and twine, red hemp and baker’s twine and a little green tissue left over from last year.

handmade wrapping

I like it. It’s simple and sweet and I spent zero dollars. I love an elegant economy and there will be more on that in the new year.

Merry and Happy to you,
ann

cozy sewing and in case of emergency paper mache

tiny doll work

tiny doll work

There is nothing wrong with sewing in bed. As long as it is your choice and pins and things are kept track of. I don’t do it often but on a cold snowy day it’s irresistible, the perfect place for sewing tiny things. Plus I got dressed which makes it even more OK. Not exactly going out dressed, more day appropriate lounge wear, but still.

tiny doll work

I’m working on small things, mischievous cats, tiny ladies, bundled up birds and lamb folk among them.  The lambs are made using the mr. socks sewing pattern with modifications you can find here. Some of these things will be in the shop tomorrow (if you are on the list for new artwork you’ll get an email).

tiny pants

lamb dolls

lamb rag doll

lamb in pants

I sure do love a lamb in pants

paper mache ship on my work table

I’ve also been making some paper mache progress.  Paper mache is good for busting out of stuckness. The paralysis and not knowing what to do that creeps in when there is too much to do. When my brain rebels and just won’t work properly.  Paper mache has a magic effect. It does not require much thinking activity and progress is immediately apparent. Those little pieces of paper becoming something else.  That part is satisfying and just getting my hands moving get’s my wheels turning again.

paper mache ship work

I always do all the edges first, using the littlest pieces of paper to negotiate the smalls curves. Once the edges are done the filling in takes no time.  Each complete layer, the brown paper followed by the news print, take less than an hour to complete. These ships are all made from the paper mache ship pattern collection. I did modify the sides of the large ship. I do almost every time I make one, I like to experiment with the shape. This time I made it higher in the back and lower on the sides at the middle.

paper mache boat ornament

This little boat is made from the free boat ornament tutorial you can find here.  My plan is to finish all the ships and boats this weekend.  And to festoon the Christmas Tree (my beloved norfolk pine). I’ll show you next week.

onward,
ann

 

bird work : piratizing with ease and precision

fortuny pirate birds

fortuny pirate birds

I still make birds! And they still like to dress up like pirates (find the sewing pattern to make your own here). I’m particular about eye patch placement and I also like to make sure they stay in place, the little string especially. The patch is made from black card stock with glitter because they are those sort of pirates, the glittery eyepatch sort.  I use embroidery thread for the string and I sew it in place before gluing on the patch.

fortuny pirate birds

Start at the back and leave an end hanging. Make a tiny stitch at the back of the head.

Make another anchoring stitch at the temple and again where you will place the patch.

Finally come around to the back and knot again where you started.  Glue the patch on and wrap floral tape around to hold it firmly place while the glue dries.

fortuny pirate bird

fortuny pirates

Hello Pirates!

Try this:

very nice mice : free sewing pattern      little boat ornament

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creativity for overwhelmed introverts

creativity for overwhelmed introverts

There are things I need to remind myself of occasionally.  And maybe you need to be reminded too. Everything speeds up this time of year.  More and more gets packed in.  I try to keep up, pedaling faster and faster.  By  mid December I have an upset stomach, eye twitch, a mild stutter and I’ve lost touch with my imagination – my thoughtful and most creative self.  So I’m reminding myself of some things I know are true:

the power of uncertainty

the power of uncertainty
Two great enemies of creativity are inertia and certainty. The fix for inertia is simple, not easy, but very simple – start, move, take a step forward. Certainty is trickier. Our brains are built to be efficient, they categorize, assume, learn, repeat and create habits and rules. It is work to notice – really look at things, consider them outside of their familiar context or history or purpose. Auto pilot is easy and comfortable and I catch myself slipping into it, in little ways and big ways, all the time. I see what I expect to see because…..keep reading

 

good ideas
Sometimes ideas are like mosquitos – a relentless whisper.  Sometimes they are slippery and hard to grasp. Sometimes they flow, tumbling over each other. Sometimes they are lurking in the shadows, maddeningly half revealed and sometimes they are frightening – too big to hold.

Whether they are big or little, scary, silly, sad, strange, embarrassing or brilliant they are in unlimited supply. You can’t run out.
And this is also true…….keep reading

 

for introverts

for introverts
On a scale of 1-10 for introversion,  1 being an actual hermit and 10 being the super extroverted end,  I would place myself at 3, or maybe 2 and 1/2. I don’t mind it, don’t want to change it and couldn’t if I did. It’s not a condition, it’s not better or worse than the other end of the spectrum, I do like people, I’m not sad or lonesome in any general sense, I’m just wired in such a way that solitude, and lots of it, is where my energy comes from. I would like to be a BETTER introvert though in three ways I’m clear about:
Figuring out……keep reading

the importance of no
the importance of no and what I love about collage
“A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” Gandhi
I say yes when I should say no. I think it’s most often to please or to avoid immediate discomfort, sometimes to avoid taking the time to make a truly thoughtful decision or sometimes for fear of…..keep reading

little gifts : endeavor to delight

handmade toadstools

Little things. The kind of things you can make in an hour or two or over  a couple evenings. Something unexpected, something that charms.

handmade toadstools

 

If you visit here regularly you know that the holidays are not my favorite thing.  But that part appeals to me, making presents for people, especially little things.

little sailor mouse

And I like Christmas trees, festive, spicy  smells, sweet packages (download the free little yellow house tags here) and a manageable amount of snow might be nice.

small handmade gifts

small handmade gifts

You can find most of the ornament patterns above in the shop as well as the mushroom pattern ( I reduced it by about half for the minis).  And find the free mouse pattern here and the free woebegone pine tree pattern here.

doll kit making

I’m also making doll kits. One million of them. Not really but that’s what it feels like. I’m assembling and shipping kits (and staying hydrated).  After a few days I found a rhythm and the assembly part has sped up. It’s a good thing I enjoy repetitive tasks. So far anyway. I am not enjoying all the paper cuts. So many paper cuts.

shop note:  Stuff is shipping every day and all current orders (including back orders) should be out by Tuesday of next week. And doll kits will be back in stock by next week too.  Send me an email if you want to know as soon as they are available.

workshop news

ann wood : doll workshop

Squam Art Retreats announced their 2018 workshops and opened pre- registration this past Monday (If you are on my mailing list you were the first to know). I’m teaching in both spring and fall next year.

ann wood : diorama workshop

My spring class will be dioramas, creating 3-dimensional compositions, shadow box assemblages, small worlds of our own. We will explore the poetry and spirit of things. You can find the details and registration information here.

In the Fall I’m teaching experimenting with dolls, all sorts of dolls. It’s a class about possibilities, trying on ideas and most importantly play. A “yes and” way of working, starting before you know where you are headed.

ann wood : doll workshop

We will draw inspiration from our own experience as well as how the figure has been represented throughout history (I’ve been particularly interested in goddess figures lately) and explore the art, sentiment, nostalgia and spirit of dolls – all they can mean and be.

ann wood : doll workshop

In both cases I’ll bring everything you need for the class which is madness and also fun, the hunting and the gathering, imagining what you might like.  For the diorama workshop I do ask that people bring an item to share and an item they might like to use. I taught this class this past fall and there was a fascinating array of things, I love looking at people’s stuff.

If you aren’t familiar with the retreat checkout their instagram feed here and you can find all the details on both retreats here.

In other news I’m putting together at least one workshop on the west coast for next year (stay tuned for news on that)  and in June I’m headed to France with The French General. That trip is currently full but send me an email if you would like more info or to be on the waiting list.

tiny dolls, captain charmley, mister skimpole and other new things

rag dolls : finishing touches

* All the new creatures and dolls below are in the shop now.

mr. skimploe : houndstooth owl

Houndstooth is always a bold statement and the scale is daring for an owl of his stature. I think he pulls it off though and he should, Mr. Skimpole is concerned only with appearances and pleasure.

sinclair : hand stitched owl

His associate Sinclair, a far more somber owl, is made from Edwardian and Victorian garments and has shoe button eyes.

For the last couple days I’ve been adding finishing touches and last minute details to almost finished dolls and creatures. I love a worktable covered with lots of things that only need the fun part done, a little edge stitching or an expression tweaked. One after another they cross the finish line and I feel like an over achiever for a little while.

rag dolls : finishing touches

tiny doll pinafore

emaline : rag doll

captain charmley : rag doll

tiny rag doll

Tonight I’ll begin a new group of things. Mostly ships and boats. I love waking up to a freshly dried layer of paper mache.

Have a lovely weekend and holiday,

ann

4 free projects to try and a post crash update

4 free projects to try

minki kim linen bookmarks

I’ve been hitting the Pinterest pretty hard lately and collected a few projects I thought you might like to try.  First, linen book marks by Minki Kim. I love book marks as little gifts (it is time to make the things for the people…) and Minki shares some great techniques and ideas for imagery.

felt ornament gift tags

Next stitched felt gift tags from Purl Soho. Purl has a huge collection of free projects, it goes on and on, lots of knit and crochet stuff and a bunch of sewing and craft projects too – all with Purl’s sweet, clean, contemporary style.

bustle and sew alpaca

And a dear Appliqué Alpaca from Bustle and Sew. Everybody loves an alpaca. Find all the instructions and templates right here.

the cheerful space diy

Finally a step by step painting tutorial from The Cheerful Space. I especially love this for a beginner or somebody who is having a hard time starting – this will get you moving and trying stuff.

and the post crash update:

I’m back in Brooklyn but not back to business as usual. It has been a month since the ceiling came crashing down unexpectedly and I’m still dealing with it. I do have a ceiling again, a beautiful ceiling but I have not been able to put things back together here yet. I came home to one hundred years of dust. In everything, it went everywhere.  Looking on the bright side it has been a fabulous opportunity to vacuum, wash, or launder    every    single    thing    I    own.

temporary arrangements

temporary arrangements

And I was very surprised to find about 2 thirds of my place painted an aggressive shade of salmon pink. I have no idea why. No one does.  It should be repainted by Monday and I can’t wait. I am spiritually at odds with this color.

But still, I am home. Happy to be here and making things. Please meet Fernando (dashing in powder blue) and Alvaro.

fernando and alvaro : fortuny owls

fortuny owl : fernando

alvaro : fortuny owl

4 free projects to try