Thursday, April 9, 2015

Crossbody Bags

When I started planning my 6x6 pieces for this years show it began like this.

When I took the Craftsy class, Stitch and Slash, these were put aside.  This weekend I pulled them out again and decided to play with them some more...

I stitched in some details on a few.  Then I decided to try something different.  I decided to make them into bags.  After a few trials I ended up with this to fit my iPad Mini.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dolls in My Future: Lynn Miller

As I made the soft sculptured dolls, the dream of making them look like people I knew took hold.  Maybe one of these dolls looks like someone YOU know.  I decided to go out on a limb and make a doll for my friend, Chris, who was retiring from teaching.  I thought about her clothes, hair, jewelry and overall style and came up with a doll that reminded me of Chris.  Now the test.  I met Chris for coffee at our favorite spot, handed her the gift bag, held my breath, and waited for her to open it.  Her first words?  “It’s me!”
Hooray!  I had one notch in my belt.

My daughter, Abby, who was working at a convent infirmary, asked for a Nun doll.  I had to think about that one for a long time.  What habit did this particular order wear?  How authentic did it have to look?  What if I did something very, very wrong in portraying this Nun?  I forged ahead after consulting the internet several times and finally took off.   Success?  You decide.

Now on to conquer other faces, a real challenge.  It’s easier to make a doll and then decide if it looks like someone you know!  So, as you can see, the journey continues.  My focus will be on sculpting as well as fine tuning those shoes!  I’ll let you know how I’m doing from time to time. 

Lynn Miller's dolls and other creations are available in her Etsy shop, Lynn's Simply By Hand.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dolls from Drawings: Lynn Miller

In my last year of teaching, I tried an idea that had been bubbling on the back burner for years.  I took children’s art and made it 3D.  My first piece was a drawing of a dinosaur given to me by a boy in my first grade class.  He was a dinosaur genius and encyclopedia.  Using the colors he’d used but in printed fabric, I re-created his dinosaur.  Oh, I had some more tricks to learn for sure.  He wouldn’t stand on his 4 legs and his teeth didn’t seem terrifying enough being made of felt!  I tried my hand at other drawings such as the Chipmunks drawn by another young artist.

chipmunks as illustrated by a young artist
My next project was a doll made from a drawing by the daughter of a family friend, followed closely by dolls for her sisters.  Making each doll to look like the child’s picture was exciting as I created something new each time.  The dresses, the hair, the size of the body, and the expressions were challenging and fun at the same time.  
doll from a girl's drawing
Things really started to take shape after I left my teaching job.  This was a time for reflection and re-direction for me and I naturally returned to dolls.  After a couple of months of making primitive dolls, I wanted to make dolls that looked like people I knew.  I started with a book by Terese Cato.  Her book was very helpful in guiding me to take the next step.  Thank you, Terese!  These dolls were soft sculpted with real character faces that got my imagination going.  I started by making several, like 10, trying different sculpting techniques, making clothing, and up-cycling fabric as well as jewelry and bits of crochet or lace.

My friend, Judy and I scoured antique stores and second hand shops where I found many treasures such as the cameo pin on Lizzie or the locket pin on Clarissa.  With time to pursue each new creative idea, I knitted, crocheted, embroidered and painted until I was satisfied with the outcome.  I’m still working on shoes….and lips…and body sizes…. 

Clarissa and her friend

 Next week, I’ll bring you up to the present.  I look forward to your comments!

Lynn's dolls and other creations can be found in her Etsy shop, Lynn's Simply By Hand.

Here are 3 of Terese Cato's books for you to browse.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dolls and Soft Animals: Lynn Miller

In the seventies, soft ducks were very popular if made in plaids and wools.  Of course, I had to try that.  I also ventured into Teddy Bears made of everything from black crepe to corduroy and fake fur.  There may have been a bunny or two in that time period as well.

My Learn to Sew Book: A Golden Book
In making these animals I was learning, unbeknownst to me, skills that would carry me into new projects.  Seeing how wedges and ovals could shape the final product was as important as learning ways to attach legs that were either stationary or movable.  Working with fabrics, both thick and thin, gave me a great deal of experience in mistakes and un-sewing:  widen your seams for silks, trim back the fur, and corduroy is not very forgiving when trying to ease a neck onto a body.  Unfortunately, I have no photos* from this period but I’m sure your imaginations can supply a few!

As a teacher, I made puppets, costumes, and helped the children make small bags called pockets for our annual trip into the times of the English Settlers in Plimoth. (old

image from

One year, I had each child draw a picture of themselves using fabric crayons on muslin.  I made each of these into a hand puppet.  I say this as it was the niggle of a later idea that came to fruition.  A child’s drawing is sometimes detailed and sometimes not so much.  The puppets were cute although not all of the children recognized their own drawing when put in this new form!
I’d say that this chapter was more on the learning end than anything.  I did a few things, I tried some new ideas; however, nothing seemed to be worth fine tuning.  AND, I was working full time, had two children, a husband, a house, a dog, a guinea pig, a parakeet, and fish.

Lynn's dolls and other creations can be found in her Etsy shop, Lynn's Simply By Hand.

*some images are from a classic in my library; 

My Learn to Sew Book by Janet Barber, Golden Press, 1971.
My Learn to Sew Book: A Golden Book

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring Dates in Rochester

Thanks for joining me today for a Spring Date Night.  If you are visiting from Susannah’s blog, Simple Moments Stick, welcome!  I love new friends.  I hope you enjoy my date night as much as I did.
Now, I realize that every month has a first Friday – as well as a second, third, and fourth - but in Rochester, NY "First Friday" means more than just the end of the first week of the month. 

First Friday is a monthly citywide gallery night that encourages collaboration between non-profit, university, and commercial art venues in Rochester, NY. This initiative showcases area artists and arts institutions by promoting the First Friday evening of each month from 6-9pm as a community night for experiencing art. First Friday ensures a healthy art scene and a healthy city through regular exchange and discussion between venues, artists and patrons. - from First Friday website

Over 25 galleries in and around the city participate.  Most galleries offer beverages including local wines or brews, and some even provide hors d'oeuvres. We even get to enjoy music by local bands and musical groups (music was provided by Bernunzios for our date).  Some months it is nearly impossible to choose, but his past Friday I knew we couldn't miss the event at Rochester Contemporary Art Center: The 6x6 Party Month Kick-Off Event.  "March is 6×6 Party Month! Join us for an evening of 6×6 artwork-making!"  More about the annual 6x6 show HERE.

We each choose a local beer from Dundee Brewing and set off to explore.  First we enjoyed learning the art of the letterpress with representatives from Printing and Book Arts Center of the Genesee Center for the Arts & Education.  They had 2 trays of stamps to choose from and 3 ink colors.  I chose some ampersands and arrows to represent my blog, tidbits & scraps.  In addition to letterpress and book arts, the Center offers classes and open studio time in photography and ceramics.  I might have to sign up!

Next we tried out block printing with Jennifer Cichello from The Art Store here in Rochester.  The printing process is like rubber stamping with large stamps which are hand-cut out of linoleum blocks.  I had hoped to cut my own, but she had prepared several linoleum blocks to print with.  Sounds like an at home date night,in the making.  We made light bulbs!  Well, we printed light bulbs.

Lastly we tried something I have never done before: encaustic painting.  Rochester Art Supply did a mini workshop using Enkaustikos Paint Sticks.  This is a very interesting technique that can be used in so many ways!  We placed a 6x6 inch metal printing plate on an electric griddle (the kind you use to make a million pancakes on Saturday mornings).  We drew on the plate with the paint sticks which melted as we drew.  When we were done, we placed a piece of paper over the plate and gently rubbed it down.  The wax soaks into the paper and we had a beautiful piece!  Here is mine.

We finished our date with a little sushi not far from the gallery at one of our faves, Shema Sushi.  If you are in Rochester and love sushi you have to try them.  We discovered this treasure when it opened about 8 years ago.  It has since moved up in the world; out of the suburban village and into the city.  There is something very comfortable and authentic about Shema.

What a night!  Check out your local art guild or museum to find out if your city has a similar event.  Even if there are not specific city wide gallery opening nights in your area, you should be able to find gallery openings about once a month anywhere. 

Looking for other spring date night ideas?  Check out Susannah's blog, Simple Moments Stick, for her upcoming post with links to some great ideas for everyone.