Category: other creatures

the brown speckled wingnut and other new songbirds

ann wood songbirds

textile songbirds

Songbirds are slow work – it’s all slow work I guess but songbirds in particular will not be hurried. They are the boss of me.  I know when I start it’s going to take a long time and I struggle with that for a while – try to speed it up – it never works. I don’t make any real progress until I settle in and forget about finishing at all.

ann wood songbirds

They have evolved over the years into something more realistic than my early songbirds.  And every time I make one I reach for more – more life-force, more curiosity, more birdness.  I want them to seem to have just perched, or as if that are  just about to take off,  or take a step or as if they only discovered you this very moment.   I’ve added the four above to the shop today – from left to right : a Brown Speckled Wingnut, a Mrs. Brown’s Nuthatch, a Bashful Finch and an Ebony Woebegone.  You can see the Edwardian skirt the Mrs. Brown’s Nuthatch is made from here – I’ve been making things from it for years.

textile songbirds

mrs. brown's nuthatch

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a scoundrel and an edwardian bird

Last year I focused on creating my first patterns and a couple other large projects and made very little of my own stitch work – the slow sewing I love to do, the creatures I love to make. I’m determined to do more of that this year and to get them into my shop. To build some momentum,  for the remainder of January, and starting today, I’m committing to adding something new to the shop every Thursday. Maybe one thing, maybe several, the usual suspects and some surprises and experiments too. If you’d like an email when new pieces are available you can sign up here.  Two of today’s new pieces are below, a dark bird and haggis ( a scoundrel)  – both made from Edwardian garments.

edwardian bird

edwardian bird





on my work table : a dark bird

dark bird progress

dark bird progress

I’m working on a dark bird made mostly from an Edwardian bodice ( you can see it here). I wish you could feel the texture of the velvet ribbon – it feels like the silky top of a cat’s nose. The dark bird is one of several pieces I’m working on  – dastardly owls among them.  It’s been a long time since I made things for myself, for my own shop, it’s been a year of special projects, wholesale, collaborations and pattern making.

dark bird progress

dark bird progressThe wings are stitiched an stitched, it’s a slow and peaceful kind of sewing.   Her beak is carved from a twig – I use an exacto knife on a nice hard dry twig and then sand, stain and buff them. I think this bird’s feet will be made from paper mache. For a bird of this size (it’s one of the largest I’ve made)  and owls I use 16 gauge wire for the feet and leg armature. If you’re curious there is a full list of my favorite resources and supplies here.

beak carving

sleepy august and a brief survey regarding the holidays

This August feels so thick and slow and sleepy, everything shimmers and that strange cicada sound – it all feels a little otherworldly to me. Even the creatures I’m making are golden and languid. August is also when I work on holiday designs.  I’m planning on some ornament patterns for the shop and I would love your opinion on a couple things. I posted a survey here – it’s super brief – just 3 questions and as a thank you you get a coupon for 30% off patterns   (the survey is closed).  I had fun with my handmade Christmas last year and you can check out that post if you’d like to get an early start – there are links to patterns and free projects and ideas. Also in the holiday department – I just saw samples of designs I made for Crate and Barrel this year and I can’t wait to show you – I’m so happy with them.

Have a lovely weekend – I’ll leave you with a couple sleepy Fortuny creatures.

sleeping  golden fox

fortuny owl louis

louis - fortuny owlLouis,  he got all dressed up for you in his summer best.

my big creative year : make believe

blue fox textile art

I pursued a blue fox through the forest this past weekend (the Adirondack forest- it was a glorious weekend – the first real feeling of spring up there). I had a fabulous time – I got muddy and scratched and poked by sticks, was tormented by flies and wasps, and kneeled in enchanted poop but it was marvelous.

textile art fox in the forest

I have spent much of my creative life in pursuit of the land of make believe, the world on the other side of the looking glass, down the rabbit hole, through the wardrobe….  It has always been something that captures and delights my imagination. I know what’s real and what isn’t. I’m pragmatic, practical and not terribly sentimental but I have spent a great deal of time and energy and resources to create a world, largely for myself, where enchanted creatures appear in the forest, or a ship might float through my open window. I wonder if I’m wired that way, I wonder if it was things I was exposed to as a small person, I wonder why I find the intersection of real and pretend so compelling – especially where pretend inhabits the natural world or where real is recreated, represented – like a soundstage, theater, dollhouse or diorama. The fascination has not diminished as I’ve gotten older, it has held on to me and I’ve given it more space, more time, more thought and more intention.

blue fox textile artMy weekend with the blue fox left me wanting more and wondering what else might happen to an elusive and elegant blue fox in the dark and shimmering forest – where is he going? What might he come upon? Whom might he meet?

a sample sale and the alpha workshops auction

textile art owl- fortuny

Please meet Pietro – he’s mean, green and not afraid of pattern. Pietro is being auctioned to benefit The Alpha Workshops  – you can find the auction here and more about the wonderful work that The Alpha Workshops does here.

textile art owl- fortunyAnd one other bit of news – I’m having a sample sale today – these are the sleepy lambs and goats I made while creating the sewing pattern – you can find them here. Or if you’d like to make your own the sewing pattern is here.

handmade lambs

sleepy handmade goat

on my work table : a blue fox and botanical inspiration

I’m working on several blue creatures including a solemn blue fox made from textiles courtesy of Sri Threads in glorious shades of indigo (except for his velvety nose – I used a bit of a midnight blue Edwardian jacket).
blue fox

I’m also making plans for my botanical workshop at Squam this June. I loved teaching this class last fall – the specimens in the photo below were a gift from a student in last September’s class- treasures.


I collected inspiration for some new projects/experiments for the upcoming spring class at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (it’s spectacular) this past fall. This is an Eastern Shooting Star – gone to seed – strange and lovely.

eastern shooting star

And the remains of  a Purple Coneflower.purple cone flower

I had never seen either of these before – if you know of other strange and wonderful botanicals please share – I’d love to see. I’m looking forward to the class and the time in the forest. It’s terrible to wish time away but I can’t wait for spring. Fiddleheads and frog chirps and mushrooms – all of it.  And P. S.  (a couple days early) – Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentine flamingos

a story of foxes

a story of foxes

peaceful fox

Sun showers and foxes and secret forest weddings  – I loved this project.

I spent the better part of the autumn working on something special with Fortuny to help introduce its first new fabric collection in more than two years. The collection plays with the idea of what is seen and unseen and draws inspiration from Japanese folklore of “The Fox’s Wedding”. The legend is that foxes marry in secret in the forest and only during a sun shower – far from prying human eyes.

the fox's wedding

From Fortuny’s creative director Mickey Riad:

“We decided upon the theme of ‘The Fox’s Wedding’ as we were playing around with halftones and production techniques,” “The way a sun shower can fool what your eye sees, Japanese legend attributes this phenomenon to foxes that often play tricks on humans. The idea that the new collection plays tricks on the eye fit perfectly with that theme, in addition to the pattern and color choices that were inspired by Japanese art and textiles. ”

fortuny foxes

The collection is being introduced in Paris today. Three foxes traveled to Paris for the occasion, another two will leave for Venice this week and two will remain in NYC at the Fortuny Showroom.

fortuny fox

For the past few weeks I’ve lived with fox companions and it’s a little sad to let them go – they so inhabited this place.

fox visitor


fortuny fox


fortuny creatures

soft sculpture owls

I spent much of the last two weeks working on a large order for Fortuny Venice.  It was a good excuse to replenish my fancy antique button stock  and I found some wonderful stuff.

antique buttons
cat buttonsCats! I love them so much I may never be able to use them.

I brought the whole group to the spectacular New York Showroom yesterday to be packed and sent on to Venice – these creatures have exciting lives.
textile art rat
soft sculpture owls

(photos below by Meena Dimian)
soft sculpture owls
textile art

a couple related notes:
* If you’re curious –  Abby Glassenberg  and I talk about my work with Fortuny ( and lots of other stuff)  in episode 23  of her podcast.

* Stay tuned in January for a new Fortuny collaboration – I can’t wait to show you.

making things

For weeks and weeks I’ve been occupied with lots of the things necessary to keep a making things business afloat  and there hasn’t been much time for making things.  I’ve worked on web stuff, book keeping stuff, teaching stuff, designed some things and did some press stuff (some fun things coming in the spring) among other things. All good and important things but I miss my time, my hours and hours in my place making things. This week I finally got back to it and made this dastardly fellow out of one of my favorite ever Sri Threads treasures – a thick striped gray wool flannel- just enough for one bad tempered owl. gray_owl_2   Also made from Sri Textiles – a curious spider, her legs are hammered iron wire – I use a little anvil. spider coming Skittering away with her bustle in the air. spider going   sri specimens And new mushroom specimens – more of the signed and numbered edition. All these things and more will be in the shop in about a week- you can sign up for the mailing list if you’d like a notification. And I made a dress! My first ever – it’s a jumper / apron / pinafore / sort of affair. The older I get the more I dress like Holly Hobby and I’m OK with that – it’s contemporary Holly Hobby. It’s got pockets and french seams and I’m very proud of it -it was challenging and satisfying and I want to sew lots more clothes. I got the pattern here – there aren’t a lot of instructions  but I was able to figure it out and I found a tutorial on french seams here. apron dress

new creatures

A little collection of new creatures – I’ve posted them on Etsy  just now (7/31). I spent the morning re -shooting them, I was disappointed with yesterday’s photos ( on the up side I learned some things about aperture) so now I’ve got to roll right into Flamingo making – lots and lots of flamingos…

textile art bird

Dark Bird

textile art owl

textile art owl

Pecksniff  (he’s got some fancy junk in his owley trunk)

textile art songbird

Plum Songbird

textile art owl

Mr. Bittles

(beautiful fabrics courtesy of Sri Threads)


I started this dark bird months ago and he ended up becoming more complex than I originally intended.

dark bird

His underside is stitched and stitched. I like to have this kind of project, this kind of compulsive, repetitive stitching to pick up sometimes. I like to have busy hands when something is percolating in my mind or when I’m searching for an idea or part of and idea.


On the subject of inspiration: I listened to a great episode of “After The Jump” yesterday – Grace Bonney talks to wall paper designer Katie Deedy about her creative practices, where she finds inspiration and how she develops ideas. I love hearing about other peoples creative process and I could relate to everything Katie said. The work of being inspired is a constant and consuming process for me. I enjoy all of it – even when it’s difficult – the thrill of the chase I guess. I’m so curious what might be next, what surprises and odd intersections might reveal themselves.  I do some of my best thinking in the tedious or deeply repetitive work of hand stitching or paper mache and I’m sure that’s part of my attraction to those mediums.

handmade owl

I’m also nearly finished with a big gray owl – I’m photographing all the newly finished creatures today and I’ll add them to my shop ( temporarily on Etsy) tomorrow (7/31).

And progress – this is a sneak peek of the little boat pattern instructions that is part of the paper mache pattern collection (it’s nearly done!).

paper mache boat


owl work

I’m  working on some new owls – a  new smaller owl shape for me with some new details.  I’ll finish these tonight and photograph them in the morning . They are part of my “new creatures” update tomorrow ( friday 3/28 ) evening.

owl work

And onother new shape –  a hummingbird – a bit larger than a real hummingbird but still quite small, she fits in the palm of your hand.  The bird and owls are made mostly from Sri textiles – I love this muted palette.






Another new creature Laurent ( all my rats are french) and a blue owl.

blue owl

junk in the trunk


He’s big and blue and  bad, and has some junk in the trunk.

a new shape on my work table

lamb and goat sewing pattern

I  started working on a new pattern in October.

It’s a long process for me – experiments and  trial and error – I enjoy it immensely.  I make piles and piles of prototypes and duds – learning a little bit from each. It wakes me up early and keeps me up late.  This is the first finished lamb:

A  Fortuny lamb – he was auctioned in November at  The Littlest Lamb gala here in NY – The Littlest Lamb is an incredibly inspiring organization – they ‘re  building an orphanage in Egypt.

The next lambs  were made from vintage tablecloths.

I love vintage linens and I very particularly love vintage linens with roses.  I had 2 that wanted to be lambs – both had some staining in areas making them not so desirable to use as  tablecloths – otherwise I would have saved them for the country home I will ultimately have.

3 lambs

I also used a depression era drape I found upstate last summer and  one  little black lamb is made from edwardian garments. I’ve finished a little flock now and they will arrive in the shop tomorrow 12/18 (noonish EST).

Whenever I post about creating  a new creature or pattern I always get a ton of email from people who would like to do the same – looking for a course or a book. I haven’t known of a great resource until lately:  Abby Glassenberg has written a comprehensive guide to sewing in 3 dimensions and I’ll tell you more about it in my next post.

toadstools in the shop tonight

I’ve made some new toadstools from a wonderful collection of  Sri threads textiles – mostly antique garment fragments. They will be available in my shop at 7:30 pm tonight (May 31st New York time).  You will also find a spider and a rutabaga made from the same group of Japanese textiles.

PS -If you are in France or traveling there this summer you can visit an exhibition of Sri’s  magnificent boro collection at Domaine de Boisbuchet: “Boro–The Fabric of Life,” Summer 2013 – opening June 7th. Pretty fancy.