Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wild Rag Doll Rumpus!

Let me say this up front...  I have completely loved Portland artist Junker Jane (aka Catherine Zacchino) and her wild and crazy rag dolls ever since I saw her Misfit Circus dolls in Art Doll Quarterly last spring.

They are unlike anything I've seen by ANY other dollmaker and they instantly gave me inspirational chills.
I've been following her blog and Facebook page ever since and continue to marvel at the new creations she comes up with. They are sometimes dark and creepy, which is just exactly why I love them... and can't look away!

Junker Jane's Monster Tibby
Jasper... by Junker Jane
 There is no mistaking Junker Jane's style... so while many of us have no doubt used her technique notes in ADQ to try creating our own versions, there is just no way to capture the essence of an original Junker Jane. But, that didn't stop me from trying! I kept one eye on the ADQ spread and Catherine's "how to" notes while patching together the rag doll I made for the 6-yr-old daughter of a niece of mine, and mimicked the Junker Jane style as best I could.

**Please Note: I would only EVER make one of these to give away (while giving full design credit to Catherine). I'd never sell one or let anyone assume they were my own idea.**

Ava loved her...right down to the blue pony tails & Junker Jane-style stitched mouth, which she thought was a "necklace". She named the doll "Sasha" and proceeded to include her while dancing to Lady Gaga!

Making this doll was fun and quick. The construction technique is to machine applique and hand-stitch everything on the flat base fabric surface, then stuff. I used vintage fabrics and vintage buttons for the eyes.

The end result made me happy, though I realized how far short it fell from the ideal of the original. (Which is as it should be, I suppose!) Mine is too cute, too tame... not quirky-weird enough. That is HARD to accomplish, believe it or not!

Another recent Junker Jane creation sparked my inspiration... her "Witch Marigold"...
Jane's "Witch Marigold"
I fell in love with this seriously intimidating witchy woman, and started pining for my favorite season (Halloween) to arrive. So, of course, I had to try to create a Junker Jane rag witch of my own.

Marigold's rather plain cousin, Mumphy.
As you can see, mine is more like Witch Marigold's mild-mannered, simpering cousin. This one was also given as a gift to the daughter of another niece of mine (again, with full credit to Junker Jane and never with intention to copy and sell). I bow down to the creativity and wonderfulness of the original Junker Jane. In my opinion, I haven't even come close!

I've learned a lot from attempting to re-create her style. I love the techniques, the upcycling of vintage bits... and just the overall grunged-up look. But, I've got a lot more to learn in just "letting go" of my need to make things perfect. Trying too hard gets in the way of creativity, and this was really difficult for me. I realized I needed to be able to let loose and access more of my spontaneous inner child artist, which is mighty hard to do at my advanced age.:) 

I can't wait to see more fantastic work from Junker Jane and hope you'll all check out her blog and her etsy shop!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fun with Wire and Buttons

My own work has been all about adornment lately....

Several factors work together here...  an abundance of vintage buttons, newly acquired rolls of C-Lon thread in yummy colors, an allergic sensitivity to common metals worn in my ears or around my neck, a fascination with crocheting beads and buttons into necklaces and bracelets (so fast and so fun!), and an obsession with annealed black steel wire... coiled and pounded into mysteriously compelling shapes.
This crocheted button creation is one of two lariat-style pieces I made recently. I wanted to use some of the sort of otherwise "boring" brown, black and metallic buttons that I have vast quantities of.... but which are somewhat masculine and plain. I love deep blue and brown together, and I think the combination of the midnight blue C-Lon cord with brown buttons works well. I've been wearing the heck out of the one I kept (the other was a birthday gift to my son's fiancé)... both as a necklace and wrapped around my wrist.

There are several great old buttons in this piece, including some from an old Boy Scout uniform. My favorite is the large shank button I used at the very end, which acts as both focal point and loop anchor.

I started using black steel wire last fall, when I was making my vintage bird pendants, and discovered I'm in love with the look of it. I've been experimenting with coiling, wrapping... and most exciting of all, pounding the coiled wire on a bench block. This piece is a quicky-quick, vaguely Celtic-inspired pendant I made to wear to the Scottish Highland Games.

I love hanging pendants from plain leather cord or silky ribbon yarn that I can tie to whatever length suits me at the moment.

Stay tuned for super-exciting developments in the earring category... since I've recently discovered pure titanium and niobium ear wires which my body tolerates beautifully. This will enable me to make all kinds of interesting dangly bits with which to adorn my earlobes... after ten years of boring nakedness!

On Original Artwork...

I wanted to take the time today to stand up for a friend. Paula Nerhus is a fabulous doll artist and photographer. Her work is exquisite, charming, haunting, and well... just unforgettable.
I've become an ardent admirer of Paula's work in the past year or so. I was so excited to see a feature on her in the newest issue of Art Doll Quarterly.

She has quite a following and it is very well-deserved. Her pieces are fearless and imaginative... the stuff of dreams.
Sadly, Paula recently found out that someone in Australia has been copying her dolls... blatantly using the same big eyes with deep shadowing, very similar facial features and hair styles... and pawning them off as original art dolls on etsy and Facebook.

It's just really so sad when a unique and gifted artist has their ideas stolen and copied by someone who puts their copied work out there as "original". It happens. It's wrong... but it happens. These things are difficult to control. In this situation, it's hard to believe that the "impostor" would think no one would recognize Paula's distinctive style or the business name that they lifted from yet another widely-known doll artist.

Artists are supportive of each other, though, and eventually the truth wins out. No one who copies can ever truly capture the heart and soul of the original piece.... that is something elusive and immeasurable. Thankfully, Paula's work clearly shows the difference. Her dolls glow from within, as if they are living beings. She imbues them with that special something that only an original artist has to give. I can't wait to see what she creates next!