Tag: soft sculpture

the dastardly owl sewing pattern is in the shop

a sewing pattern for a dastardly owl

a sewing pattern for a dastardly owl

Make this owl. This imperious and condescending owl. He measures 9 inches tall  from disgruntled talon to sinister horn. And the pattern scales well if you would like to try a larger owl.

The PDF pattern download is 31 pages long and has more than 130 color photos.  You’ll learn how to construct the basic body shape and talons as well as my system for creating owl-ish layers of feathers and a dastardly expression. Every element is broken down into steps and fully explained.

page form the ann wood handmade owl pattern

a gray soft sculpture owl

owl sewing pattern back feathers

owl sewing pattern : stuffing the legs

The pattern has all the top secret tricks I’ve come up with over 12 years of making ill tempered owls. And I’ll share this one with you here:

When the layers are fully assembled spritz with water or spray starch if you like.

smoothing owl feathers

And run a hot iron over the feathers. I do it to his face too (so rude) to adjust his dastardly expression. It has a magic effect, un-ruffling the feathers and giving the layers extra owly-ness.

I’m so excited to share this pattern with you! I’m so glad it’s done! I can’t believe how much work it was!

And I hope you make owls!

You might like these too:

         

dastardly owl laboratory and the silly bug club

owls on my work table

lots of hand sewn stuffed owls in progress

Update : find the owl sewing pattern here

The bodies are piling up as the owl shape is getting fine tuned. I’m preparing for owl workshops (PS – 2 spots have opened up in the 10/20-21 class) and ultimately a print and pdf owl pattern so every detail and dastardly proportion is being examined. I’ve started with the body shape. There are two construction methods I use for making owls, I created two patterns that produce slightly different shapes, one more rubenesque and another more sculptural and a bit more realistic. I might be the only one who can tell the difference. I tried to choose one to work on but ended up with a hybrid.


owls on my work table

The next step is to test and revise again and again until only what is essential is left, the shape is expressive, the pattern pieces assemble perfectly and any fussiness is removed. After each prototype I adjust and resew and if the adjustment is successful it is further refined in Adobe Illustrator.

stitched owl shape

I arrived at the body shape that feels just right yesterday. And the body pattern pieces feel good too, it snaps together like nobody’s business. Even with difficult fabric like this odd tweedy stuff from mrs. brown’s skirt. I’ve been making things from that turn of the century skirt for 8 years and I’m sorry it’s is almost gone now. It has made lots of wonderful owls and rats and spiders but the weave is loose, thick, ravely and a little slippery, super hard to sew.

hand stitched owl feathers

I’m ready to move on to the feathers, feet and features. As I finish my little pile of owly bodies I’ll experiment with those details until each is transformed into a teachable technique and or pattern piece that produces reliable results.

And the silly bug club! Thanks so much to everybody who showed up for the challenge. I drew a name from a hat and the winner of the mosquito rag doll is @bonniecapaulgallery ! I’ll message you on instagram for address etc. I hope you keep making and posting silly bugs, this was fun and I’ll offer you another challenge soon. Have a beautiful weekend and I’ll leave you with a few highlights from the posts and you can check out all the silly bugs here.

woodshedding birds and owls

hand stitched birds

hand stitched birds

I’m in the woodshed with songbirds. Evaluating the pattern and steps, testing and adjusting little things – using what I learned teaching the workshops last month to make the pattern all I want it to be.

pale blue textile bird

My friend Mickey introduced me to the term woodshedding and I love it:

“The ability to conjure up a feeling of wonder in others, to create a sense of awe, has always fascinated me. And while I do believe that magic can just “happen” under the right circumstances, creating magic is a much different story. It involves a lot of hard work, endless study and a constant refining of process and craft. In music, they call these periods of intense practice woodshedding, referring to the time spent honing skills privately out in the woodshed.”

Mick Riad  –  Creative Director, Fortuny

I think it is my favorite place to be, in the woodshed with something. Discovering, testing and refining. Deep in a learning process.

handstitched birds on my worktable

crimson and puce bird

hand stitched bird details

velvet fortuny owl

I’m also woodshedding owls to prepare for the dastardly owl workshops this fall (I think there are 2 spots left).  Eventually they will also become a pdf and print pattern too.

What’s going on in your woodshed?

fling your soul upon the gloom and something new in the bird leg department

carving a wax bird leg for casting in bronze

When I get whacked hard by life,  this is the poem I read.  And this is my favorite part:

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

 

It always cheers me up and I know what to do,  fling my soul hard at the gloom. It is the only thing to do.

I’m back from my teaching trip and It all worked out. But it sure was dicey for a while. There are so many reasons not to do stuff. Trying seems to invite bad luck. It doesn’t, but it seems that way.  The more stuff you do the more stuff there is that can go wrong. And when things do go wrong they love to go wrong in a horrifying cascade. That’s what happened in the 2 weeks before I left for Los Angeles. Lots of little things went wrong and a couple big ones.  There was plenty of gloom. I rarely feel defeated but I did for a while. The darkling thrush saved me.

carving a wax bird foot

I got home at 2 AM on Tuesday, watered the plants and spent the next 30 hours in bed. I am still exhausted. I’m also full of ideas. The first thing I did was ship a ton of  orders and then I carved a bird leg from a block of wax.

bird foot carved form a wax block

I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time.  The intention is to have molds made and cast legs in brass and bronze and silver. I have no idea if I did this right. I just started hacking away at the wax  and did not look up for many hours.

carved wax bird foot

It was a deeply peaceful and immersive experience. I’ll go to a casting place next week and I’ll let you know what happens. If it works out I will start offering them in the shop along with the soon to be released songbird pattern. I’ll keep you posted. And I want to carve more wax – I have all sorts of ideas…

Sincerely,
The Aged Thrush

PS – I got the wax blocks here.

carving a wax bird leg for casting in bronze

mending, tiny pants, a blue owl, and other travel sewing

indigo owl work

Another thing to love about small sewing, hand sewing, is how well it travels. I’m packing up some projects today and heading out of NYC to water and forests and people who have forgotten what I look like.  It’s the first of several upcoming trips.

indigo owl work

Find the owl sewing pattern here

indigo owl wing

This blue owl is coming. His indigo wings are all pinned up and ready for stitching. I love the blues, the variety, layered together Boro style.  There is also some small blue appliqué work – I’m experimenting with eyes.  More on that soon.

indigo owl progress

I’m bringing lot’s of mending too. The seats of my pants mostly. I’ve been wandering around Brooklyn lately with extra and unseemly ventilation.

cornell and mending

cornell and mending

Most of my other upcoming travel is for workshops and I’m in serious last minute thinking and preparation mode for both of those – natural history with the makerie and diorama with Squam. I’m spending some time with Joseph Cornell’s boxes and thinking about how things, objects, relate to each other, the moods and atmosphere and ideas those relationships can create and the poetry of things. They are ideas important to each of the afore mentioned workshops.

tiny tousers

And I want to sit by the water and make tiny trousers. Tiny trousers for little lamb gentlemen. I find the little pants particularly satisfying – they are quick and there is just something about tiny pants.

lamb folk progress

I want to come home with a little pile of satchels and pants.

(ps- there is a mr. lamb in the shop).

improvisational doll making – part 1

improvisational doll making

Its good to experiment – but not easy to let yourself,  there is a powerful force that wants you to stay on the well lit path.  Experimenting generates ideas and makes you ask new questions. It can shift your perspective, reveal connections and intersections.  And maybe most importantly true experimentation helps you work with uncertainty and build a tolerance for trying stuff that might not work. There is no creativity without failure.

One way to make yourself experiment is to create conditions that force you to improvise. I’m going to show you one of the techniques I use.  I’m making dolls – from the inside out. It’s a method that is imprecise and difficult to control – in a good way – there is lots of opportunity for happy accidents. It’s a spontaneous process – each action builds on the previous – you work with what shows up.

If you would like to try you will need:

* you can click on any of the images for a larger view

wire doll forms

I start by making a simple wire form for the torso and head – I made three.  Next  cut strips of cotton batting and begin to build a shape by winding it around the wire form.  A little bit of glue stick will help when adding or ending a strip.

Keep winding until you are happy with the shape – you can also add bits of batting in some areas for rounder shapes – like in the center image above – I’ve given her a substantial bosom by adding a scrap of folded batting and winding over it. I stitch through the shape here and there to adjust it and help it all stay together and finally I cut pieces of batting to stitch over the shape.

Next I begin to add fabric – I’m using a very light cotton to cover her face and the front of her chest. I pull the fabric around – stitch it in place and trim away the extra.

I covered the edge of the face fabric with strips of cotton for hair – I’ll come back to that later – I want to make the top of her dress first.  Also – you may notice another doll has appeared – I’ll be working on her as well.

Her face and chest  are covered in a light ivory silk, I used black cotton for her hair and stitched super simple features. Now I’m adding a scrap of lace because it’s lovely and will also cover some edges and seams I’d like to conceal.  Read More

bats and perseverance

bat work

bat work

I have been bothered by bats for a very long time.  They were one of my first stitched creatures. I love them but vowed to never make another.  The process was brutal on my hands and had a high late stage failure rate.  And they took an outrageous amount of time.  But I love them, I love their shape, their curves and the way that shape seems to change as they twirl in the breeze and the lovely shadows they cast.

stitched bat

So lately I started from scratch – a whole new method of constructing them.  There have been several dismal failures but in the past week I’ve landed on something good -. It’s much easier hand-wise and the result is reliable and consistent.  It still takes forever. Not as bad as the original bats but still problematic.  I’m not sure I can get to a place where I can produce them with any efficiency but I’m not done trying.

stitched bat

edwardian bat

botanical experiments and 11 years of blogging

stitched seedpod experiment

white rotary

A blog anniversary snuck past in February – 11 years.  When I did remember I thought maybe I didn’t really have anything to say about it.  But the comments about the machine on last week’s post changed my mind.  I remembered what a part of everything the machine has been.  I remembered the serendipity,  the sweetness and steadiness of it’s presence in my life and work.

It has been with me for all of it.  My mother’s machine.  I have sewn on it my entire life.  So I want to mark this anniversary with an entirely true and slightly spooky story about it.  It happened in the very beginning of this blog – 11 years ago:

In December of 2006 I had just begun my solo enterprise – I had lots of orders and deadlines and on the eve of one of those very important deadlines I was still sewing furiously very late at night. With a long way still to go the machine suddenly stopped and a chunk of metal rocketed past my face. I found it across the room – an essential part of the machine – no sewing without it – and it was broken. I tried to fix it but nothing worked. I have a drawer full of bits and pieces that I saved from my Father’s workshop – bits of metal and rubber, knobs, washers, gears, springs etc. I thought maybe I could cobble some temporary solution together from those. Another hour of frustration and no luck at all. Exhausted, defeated and ready to give up I pushed the drawer closed and it stuck halfway, I pushed again and it stuck again, I pulled and it stuck. I gave a great big angry pull and the drawer flew out and what had caused it to stick also flew out and landed  – right   in    my    lap.  To my amazement and disbelief it was a replacement for the broken sewing machine part – the exact part – identical but for the color. Not similar, not “good enough” the EXACT PART in perfect condition. I snapped it in and it worked beautifully, that night and all the nights and days that have followed.

The End.

botanical experiment

And – a little bit of what I’m working on today. New botanical experiments.  I think the one above will be a pink cloaked bishop lily and below a seedpod experiment – playing with the idea of honeycomb texture. I’ve got plans for more and I’ll show you next week.  I’m also planning on a shop update next week  (postponed for a bit) with botanicals and some creatures. You can sign up here to be notified by email when new items are available.

stitched seedpod experiment

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 is offered in the shop – along with a few other new things – as promised I’ve been adding at least one new thing every day and will continue to for as long as seems reasonable.  For now she is happy here,  she sits serenely,  in her nightgown,  silently judging that little ant who admires himself so constantly.

ant and ragdoll

ant and ragdoll

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

color stories : yellow and pink

18th century textile birds

18th century textile birds

Find the sewing pattern to make this songbird here.

My favorite textiles have been the ones that find me. They bring colors I could not imagine.  These 18th century pieces (a beautiful gift) are mesmerizing and expanded my understanding of what yellow and pink can be.

vermeer songbird

vermeer_yellow_textiles

This is yellow that sounds like trumpets, bright, triumphant trumpets and pink and crimson that sound like weeping violins.

“if a violin string could ache, i would be that string.” ― Vladimir NabokovLolita

pink antique textiles

18th century textile

crimson_and_pink_songbird_1

crimson and-pink songbird

I’m making songbirds and trying hard to do the colors and textures justice- they have waited such a long time.

turnips, mosquitos and the big bad wolf

stitched turnip

* shop announcement the new things below and some suprises are in the shop now –  Friday 11/4

stitched turnip

A heroic root vegetable – the majestic turnip. I love making these – rutabagas and turnips – the stitching is meandering and meditative and I like experimenting with textures and layering.  I have found that antique table linens are ideal for making the shape – the cotton is thick and there is a little sheen. I layer sheer cottons – often pieces of antique kimonos and lots of stitching  to add color and more texture including the  rough edge where the leaves were chopped off. That’s my favorite part.

stitched turnip and rutabaga still life

PS – I’m teaching a class on this very subject in the spring in NYC – at the Sweet Paul Makerie.

And do you remember the wolf? He is among a little group of things started over the summer that finally got finished and photographed this week.

bb wolf

He doesn’t look so bad…. He looks sort of pleasant.

big bad wolf doll

But do not trust him – there is a dark side.

tiny rag doll problems

And he is only one of the problems a tiny rag doll can run into around here.  I finished 5 new mosquitos too – 2 are going on special missions but the other three Edwardian girls will be in the shop tomorrow. Please meet the ladies:

edwardian mosquito

edwardian mosquito

edwardian mosquito

October is for sewing

fortuny songbird

fortuny

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery,  Anne of Green Gables

Maybe it’s my favorite  –  or maybe tied with March – I like the blustery months. It is just so extraordinarily pleasant – perfect days.  And I’m sewing a ton – hours and hours of hand sewing every day after a longer than usual phase of other things – planning workshops for next year, teaching, making sewing patterns etc. – there was a lot to swim through so I could sit and sew again. I’m making lots of songbirds- some Fortuny – like the birds below and some from antique garments.  I’m also making owls,  and rats, building ships and working on a new shape – a new creature.

fortuny songbird

thread

departing owls and songbirds

hand stitched songbirds

Most of the finished things above are headed off on a special mission in the UK but I do plan to have lots of things in my shop soon and will be sending creatures to the  Fortuny showroom in Manhattan next week.

And check back for progress on the new shape I’m working on – it is another of the often less loved creatures and one I have a complicated relationship with…….

mosquitos on my work table and a pattern sneak peek : turning tiny doll parts

mosquito work : proboscis

update – the tiny doll sewing pattern is in the shop.

The tiny rag doll sewing pattern is pretty much ready to go but I’m waiting until next week to release it – just to make extra sure it is all I want it to be.  I’ve looked at it so long and so hard I can’t see it any more – you know? I’ll review it with fresh eyes in a day or two. The big challenge of the pattern was the littleness and looking for the easiest and most effective ways to deal with tiny sewing – like turning the little arms and legs right side out after sewing.  I included the simple method  below in the pattern.  Maybe everybody already knows this trick but I didn’t until a couple years ago and it works fabulously well – so just in case you haven’t tried it:

turning tiny doll parts

Besides pattern and workshop making work I have some mosquitos on my worktable. Mosquitos are slow, detailed work that involves lots of pins and stabbing myself repeatedly with various instruments – the five  below have been in progress forever and are finally in the homestretch.

mosquito work

mosquito work

mosquito work : proboscis

They suffer such indignities – this poor girl is having her proboscis hammered.  I hammer the wire parts on a tiny anvil to stiffen them after shaping and make them a little textured and sparkly. Three of these Edwardian pests will end up in the shop sometime in the near future and the other two are going on special missions. If you’d like to be notified when I have new pieces available you can sign up here.

a caption contest – win your very own fortuny seed pod

fortuny rat

Update 8/4 : Thanks so much for all the great captions for last weeks contest! The winner is:

“Left, right, cha, cha, cha! One, two, cha, cha, cha!”

I love the idea of  him practicing his dance steps with the mirror – nice work Lourdes!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I’m working on mostly top secret things right now – holiday stuff,  2 brand new workshops for next year and the tedious parts – formatting, editing etc. – of creating the rag doll and seed pod patterns.  Since I can’t show you what’s on my work table it’s the perfect time for a caption contest.

I try to make creatures whose expression and body language imply a history – a definite point of view,  a world of their own.  And I like to photograph them in a way that invites you to wonder what’s going on outside the frame.  This is one of my most favorite photos – taken last year in the Adirondacks.  What do you think this dapper rat is up to? What’s on his rat mind?

Make up a caption and leave it in the comments to this post – an esteemed panel of judges will choose a winner to be announced next Thursday.  Everybody is welcome to enter – please leave your caption comment before Wednesday 8/3.

And the prize – a Fortuny seed pod! Such a tragic flower – gone to seed – collapsed in a pretty heap.

fortuny seed pod

fortuny seed pod

a cloaked bishop lilly and other stitched botanicals

stitched botanicals

stitched botanicals

I’ve been experimenting with new botanical shapes.  The flower below is the rare cloaked Bishop Lilly – it only blooms at night.  If the moon is full.  Once every ten years. And only for an hour…..

There are also seedpods,  toadstools and another rare specimen the Royal Cone Flower – valued for the rich crimson bloom as well as it’s medicinal properties – it’s petals make a potent sleeping potion – it is found only in the Black Forest and is nearly extinct.

I love the mystery and strangeness of flowers and I’m exploring them further – playing with the idea of translucency and things gone to seed.  I especially love the foresty parts of the botanical gardens here in Brooklyn and I’ve been finding inspiration in antique botanical prints too – for my invented species as well as the photographs of them – I’m thinking of a postcard set of strange new specimens – what do you think? Also – In addition to the tiny rag doll pattern I’m working on a botanical pattern  for a seed pod with a root system – that will probably be next out. Have a lovely weekend,

ann

cloaked bishop lilly

cloaked bishop lilly

toadstool #10

You can find the sewing pattern for the little toadstool above right here – I printed the pattern at 50% for this little guy.

aubergine_toadstool

royal cone flower

cloaked bishop lilly

plum seedpod

lavender_seedpod_2

miss lilac

And among all the strange flowers – tiny rag doll #4 – miss lilac.

botanical experiments

royal cone flower

This big pink flower woke me up last night. It’s one of the new botanical experiments I’ve been working on and it was finished but I didn’t love it- something wasn’t right. The original stem and roots felt too delicate, too fussy for the flower and out of balance – that idea would not leave me alone. My subconscious must have been working on it for me and  last night I woke up abruptly knowing exactly what it needed – a bulb, a more substantial stem and very simple leaves.   I love the bulb!  More botanical experiments soon – there are all sorts of strange new species on my work table.

Have a lovely weekend,

ann

stitched botanical


stitched botanical

stitched seedpod

stitched seedpod

edwardian mosquitos

grey edwardian mosquito

pale grey edwardian mosquitoMosquitos!  Delicate mosquitos, hand stitched from Edwardian garments. I wonder what she would think, the 19th century girl who floated across  lawns in the gown their wings are made from.  They are mischievous ladies who will bite! But they will be so gentle you won’t feel a thing.  There is a special place in my heart for the less sympathetic creatures – the rats and bats and spiders and who is less loved than mosquitos?

“It is your hateful little trump
You pointed fiend,
Which shakes my sudden blood to hatred of you:
It is your small, high, hateful bugle in my ear.”

The Mosquito
BY D. H. LAWRENCE

I made 6 – I had a truly marvelous time – completely lost in them for days.  They  are all in the shop  (there are some songbirds too).

ann wood : mosquitos

ann wood : mosquitos

russet edwardian mosquito

green edwardian mosquito