Category: Uncategorized

the magical possibilities of cardboard and behind the scenes in the mouse diorama

paper mache ships hanging in my window

Cardboard is all over the place, for free! It has lots of interesting qualities and I’m always curious about the possibilities of things. I’m very interested in transformation, particularly of modest things, discarded things. The thin stuff, like a cereal box, is wonderfully flexible and you can create remarkably graceful curves with a little ingenuity. It is the secret ingredient in my paper mache ships. I think that is quite a transformation, from family size Cheerios box to floating ship, it is a kind of magic.

paper mache ships hanging in my window

It is also what I use for my teacup armature.

cardboard teacup armature

Or even more intriguing, let it be the star of the show, glorified in all its cardboardness. The shapes and tones and textures all observable and celebrated.  And I can’t resist an interesting die cut, they set my imagination on fire. Die cuts figure heavily into this spooky cardboard castle.

yummy fun playhouse

I made this playhouse from cardboard and popsicle sticks ages ago for Clare Crespo’s Yummyfun Cooking.  So many hot glue burns but so much fun.

And speaking of fun checkout this super simple diorama for photographing your continental mice in a make believe French countryside. It is sand and pebbles, a little fake moss (all found at Joann’s) and a sweet print I got in the actual South of France last summer. It’s in a giant plastic container to diffuse the light.

felt mouse in a countryside diorama

This guy seems pretty excited about it. He was made by a student in the French General Mouse workshop last week. Find the pattern to make your own here.

P S – Do you get my weekly -ish newsletter? (there are two great cardboard halloween costume ideas in this week’s issue.

And you can signup for it right here.

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,

please meet vivienne and work on a new rag doll experiment

Entirely nude, but for a threadbare whisper of a nightgown.

vivienne : naked ragdoll

The gown is made from the sleeve of an Edwardian lawn gown – so simple to make. I just hemmed the top edge – gathered across the front side and added ribbon ties that go around her neck – halter style.

vivienne : an immodest doll

She sits serenely,  in her nightgown,  silently judging that little ant who admires himself so constantly.

ant and ragdoll

Update 1/6/2019 : There is a nude rag doll pattern and kit in the works – you can sign up here if you’d like an email when it is available.

And something new on my worktable – an evolving rag doll creature. The texture thing is pretty ambitious and I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again,  it’s labor intensive even by my standards.  But I do like the effect on him.

ragdoll experiment

a diorama workshop at squam – and a scholarship opportunity

ann wood : diorama workshop

Before I tell you about the workshop I have to tell you that the squam art retreat, where I’ll be teaching it,  already sold out in pre- registration – both spring and fall sessions (there is a waiting list and  stuff happens in a year so …. contact squam to get on the list).  That’s the bad news. The good news is – just today I learned of a scholarship opportunity being offered by Honey & Oak:

We are offering one spot to attend the Squam Workshops either for their Spring session (June 7th – June 11th 2017) OR their Fall session (September 13th – September 17th 2017). You get to choose what works best for you! In addition, we will provide a $500.00 stipend to be used towards Travel Expenses and Extras.

It’s a pretty sweet deal – find all the  details on how to enter right here. You must enter by January 3rd.

And also – just so you know – September will be the 10th and last retreat – I’m sad to see it go – it has been a truly marvelous experience.

ann wood : diorama workshop

In my diorama workshop (fall 2017) we will explore the poetry and spirit of things. I’m bringing all sorts of things to play with and we’ll forage the magnificent fall Squam forest for natural elements too. The compositions that emerge might be entirely abstract or tell a story, they might reflect an inner landscape, an outer landscape or an intersection of ideas – intersections are always interesting places.

There is more info on the class and retreat here.

I hope your holidays are lovely,


my big creative year : mind maps


Mind mapping and I go way back….. I first used it during the couple of years or so I spent trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, pre – this blog, pre – ann wood handmade. It helped me feel my way through, sort and evaluate ideas and then figure out steps to begin, to make stuff happen.

My brain is not a good place to keep things – ideas chase and distract me, things get lost, when my head feels cluttered I get overwhelmed and unhappy.


Getting stuff out helps me keep moving forward. My notebooks remain my most important tool for capturing ideas but for looking at the whole picture, making complex plans or experimenting with possibilities I find mind mapping incredibly useful. And I enjoy it – which matters – it’s fun, fun is good, fun gets me to do stuff. I use software or sometimes just pencil and paper – each have their advantages, the premise is the same for both:

Organize thoughts around a central idea.

Topics, sub topics and related ideas radiate out from the central idea and then branch off into increasing detail. That’s one of the big benefits for me – details go where they belong and I’m less inclined to become mired in, or overly focused on them. I use shapes and colors and lines and size to define or highlight ideas. I see connections and intersections, relationships and priorities that I might not otherwise have seen if I was working something out in my head or making a strictly linear list.

I started a new mind map this weekend. I’ve got a wicked summer cold, laryngitis, zero energy and large sections of me are covered in calamine lotion (unprotected walk in a swampy forest) – I’m wretched and itchy and generally poorly so I took to my bed on Sunday and played with Xmind all day – it’s free unless you want to get super fancy and I love it. It looks snazzy and you can add hyper links, images, reminders – all sorts of useful stuff. The image below is the beginning of my map (it has gotten much bigger) and I blurred some stuff out so as not to spoil any surprises.

mind map
My central topic is broad – my plans for the second half of 2015 – products, artwork, marketing, workshops, blog stuff – all of it. I’m just getting started and it’s already helping me generate new ideas and have a sense of direction and priorities for the rest of the year. I start messy and inclusive, brain dump style – and then refine – wether I’m working on paper or a program. As my focus gets clearer I start to add action steps. I love the structure around my ongoing projects and it makes space for new ideas. It’s not a to do list but it helps me build meaningful to do lists. Excellent and entertaining use I think, of an entire Sunday in bed.

P.S. When I mention or link to or recommend something here – books, websites, products etc. it’s because I think they’re interesting or awesome or I’m curious what you think about them – I don’t get paid for it, there are no affiliate links here. Just so you know.

my blog is moving

ann wood -site  makeover

Ann Wood Handmade ( my shop website)  is getting a make over.  And part of that makeover is  to consolidate my blog and shop into one place. In a couple weeks the new site will be complete and everything will live at ( for now I’ll still be posting here).  I’m making lots of improvements to the shopping experience and I like the idea of having it all in one place – just seems simpler. While the shop site  is down I’ll be using my etsy shop  for sales.

sweet things

I designed a new cake topper over the summer: Flamingos in Love.

I painted miles of crepe paper in very particular shades of pink and coral.

They are available in my shop now as well as at BHLDN.  I’m also thinking of putting a “make it your self” kit together for these – what do you think?

I loved working with crepe paper and I’ve got something else for the cute department in the works – here are a couple sneak peeks:

road’s end

I spent last week in  the Adirondack forest, by a lake.  The house is called Road’s End and it is among other things, a former turn of the century  cure cottage.

road's end

There are lots of sleeping porches ( to facilitate the cure) and I used this one for my work room.

adirondack sleeping porch

It was glorious and I sewed a ton. And when I wasn’t sewing or sleeping or swimming or reading I hiked up things. The views were spectacular.

the view  from whiteface mt

The view from Whiteface Mountain – a frightening 3,676 ft.

whittleling beaks

And I collected twigs and whittled some beaks.

The beaks were for two songbirds I finished  and photographed there – here’s a peek at those:

teal songbird

black songbird

It turns out vacations really are good for people. I don’t take vacations. I barely take breaks or days off- partly because it needs to be that way (so far anyway)  and partly because I like to work and partly because I’m pretty compulsive.  I did make things and sew my ass off but there were breaks and activities outside that and there was almost no internet – that may have been what was really vacationy. What a relief. A discomfort too – but less so after a couple days.

I came home with an  organized and clear head;  motivated and with something that was puzzling me figured out – I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

caption contest – vote for a winner

Update:  comments are closed, votes are being counted , winners announced later today.


Thanks  to all of you – a panel of expert judges has, with difficulty, narrowed the field to twelve and a winner will be chosen by your vote. Also,  as a thanks for your time, imagination  and enthusiasm 2 prizes will be awarded – one bundled up bird for the caption contest  winner and another bird will be awarded to a name chosen at random from the voters. Please vote by number (and only once) in the comments section of this post  and I’ll announce both winners by the end of the day Friday.

caption contest

1. patty

“Now watch me friends, as I restores this lad to ‘is full strength with Dr. Bulfinch’s Magic Potion!”

2. gayle ortiz
They all agreed that, although it wasn’t the Ark, it had potential!

3. Lindsey
I heard that she will awake at love’s first kiss.

4. Jennifer Cheek-Payan

“Honest guys, he just fell”

5. Linda Richter
Okay, everyone! Take a minute and say your goodbyes. I’ll be sending you back to clean up your workspace and then get in your box. We will miss you around here! Make it work!

6. Kristin
“Attention flyers, we would like to remind everyone that there is absolutely no perching in the loading and unloading zones.”

7. Lauren
“Now witness, dear friends, as David Blainebird prepares to package himself alive for 6-10 business days! Don’t try this at home!”

8. Cari
Darlene had told only her best friend, Eliza, but by the time her mail-order groom was set to arrive, the whole town had heard about it.

9. Brian GadgetSponge
If only Henry had seen that it was a glass window…

10. Shelby Medina
Listen up birds! Look what they’ve done to Simon! We gotta blow this coop!

11. Polly Anna
Maybe we should rethink this destination wedding thing.

12. Janet Wilson
“Coming soon to a theater near you: Two Weddings, a Flashmob and a Funeral.”


I’m working with linings. I pulled everything out and started thinking about them a couple days ago. I love linings – they are full of surprises. I’ll post progress over the next several days here and on facebook as I’m able – I’m taking all this and a bunch of other work on the road for a few days.


Thank you all so much for your thoughtful questions and generous comments. And here are your answers:


why owls? do they hold a special meaning for you?

The owls evolved out of the birds. When I was working out the bird pattern I tried to make one from wool that was much to heavy and the shape got wonky.  It turned into a little owl. That made me think of a lot of other heavy wools and tweeds I had and how owly they were and I started making larger owls. For a long time I just made the same owl over and over again – ian – the first full size owl made in 2006 I think ( named for ian mcshane whom I love).


I am a huge fan of your work. And I would love to know if you take custom orders. For instance, I have my great-grandmother’s wedding dress, and I’m wondering if this would be something you could transform into an owl or other creature/creation.
Thanks so much!

Hi Shirley – Right now I’m not able to take custom orders.  It just isn’t possible time – wise at the moment but I hope I can soon. I’d love to see your great grandmother’s dress.

Thank you so much for this opportunity! Your work is so inspiring and I am always amazed by the materials you use. How do you source them, do you have any headhunters for such fabrics?

Hey Ann, you are truly an inspiration to me, thank you. I have a question about your finds- WHERE ON EARTH DO YOU FIND SOME OF THESE PIECES?! They are absolutely breath taking. Could you by any chance give specifics on any of the stores (online, shops, etc.) where you hunt?

I’d like to know how you source your vintage materials, and could you explain your thought process? Thank you for doing this! (:

I find things all over and sometimes they find me. Looking for  things is a huge part of the fun for me. I go to lots of flea markets locally and sometimes antique clothing shows. I have a couple dealers I work with and ebay is a great source  too – I check daily. And people give me things – my friend Stephen Szczepanek sends me incredible packages.

Thought process : that’s a big question but part of the answer is : I love fabric. I always have. Even during periods of my life when I didn’t sew I collected it. And before that my mother collected it for me. I still  have a stash of fabric she saved or collected for me – picked up at flea markets etc. Things  full of memories and possibilities.

i have a couple questions:
1) you have a beautiful studio in new york city. i found the city to be so expensive! is this the sole source of income for you? (your work is amazing) if not, what do you do for a living?

This is my only source of income and it is hard. If I didn’t enjoy making these things  so  much it would be impossible. It would be  much more reasonable  to do this somewhere other than NY city and that may happen someday.

the drape next to your bed looks like it has been a work in progress over time, did you find scrap lace and hand sew them all together at once or did you just keep adding until you were satisfied (if you are satisfied yet!)? how long did it take to complete this? absolutely beautiful, ann.
thank you for taking the time to answer all of our questions!

The drapes and curtains here are a functional thing but I do love the way they look. A couple years ago I started pinning bits of lace and dissected garments to them – as a way of keeping track of little bits – keeping them in front of me for inspiration. It has worked well and grown into something I really love.


Star B.
I wanted to let you know that your work is so inspiring. More of a technical question: It looks like you do so much by hand. Is all of your stitching by hand or do you sometimes use a machine?

I use both hand stitching and a machine – a vintage white – it belonged to my mother and I learned to sew on it. I sew simple seams on the machine and more complicated curvy tiny things by hand. A lot of what I make is very small or has very small details. I also like to sew things inside out  ( on the machine or by hand) and then turn them right side out, stuff them and sculpt the shape from the outside with hand stitching.

Wow thanks x
Have you produced a book and if not might you in the future.

I have not produce a book but I would very much like to in the near future.

Do you do workshops or tutorials.

I’ve been publishing tutorials on my blog for a while and will continue to. I’ll be teaching workshops for the first time in 2012 (  and also possibly something later this year too) and will share details on that soon. Send  an email to info at ann wood handmade with workshop as the subject if you’d like to be updated on that.

Read More



I’ve been intending to post an FAQ page for my shop and blog for years and have made little to no progress in that direction.  So inspired by Jennifer Murphy’s call for questions post I’m asking for your questions. And I’ll answer them. You can ask about inspiration, ideas, blog stuff, shop stuff,  anything you like. You can post your question in the comment section here or on my facebook page.

for the record

regarding the projects I share:

Mostly people are respectful and gracious. Occasionally someone isn’t. Mostly I ignore that. Once in a while I feel the need to say something. I came across my paper mache teacup tutorial published by someone else as her own work. That is unacceptable. I asked her to remove the post. She has not and changed the date of her post to predate mine  – find her original post  here or here (click on the image for a larger view). It is also published on and I have asked them to remove it.

I love making projects to share and will continue to. I love seeing what you make:

I really hate it when someone does something like this. I experimented with the cardboard teacup shape for over a year. I didn’t find something and rework it. It didn’t come out of thin air.


It was a lot of work, a lot of experimenting and template making and taping cardboard together and failing and trying again and again.

I would really much prefer to say nothing about this but there is a level of dishonesty here I won’t tolerate.

ann wood