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Snowdrop collar

This is my new dog model, Chomsky, name chosen by the Medieval Historian, so we should be grateful that it’s not Egburt or Wizzo, who really did exist.  I took Chomsky out on a frankly less than tremendous photo shoot this week.  I thought we might get a nice shot in the cafe in the sunshine but in the event the sunshine was too bright, which is at the very least surprising, and shots of him looking moodily out through the cafe window came to nought.

All that aside, he really is a dog model, not a stuffed toy, because he has a rigid steel frame making him good at holding a pose.  The point of all this is that I am trying to widen my already slightly floppy and turned up at the corners portfolio career.  I am trying to make inroads in the whole celebration business so that I can integrate my creative work with my celebrant work, which is also creative, but in a different way.  I have made collars for a long time as I like striking jewellery, and, not being a small woman, I look better in statement pieces.  I like delicate jewellery but, on me, it can look a bit like a pimple on a mountainside as my mother used to say.  I was making a marigold collar – of which more in a subsequent post – when I suddenly thought that they would look good on dogs on special occasions.  For example this is my mutt in hers:

It struck me that people spend thousands on their wedding dresses and suits and general outfitting but then put a nasty polyester bandana or worse, tuxedo front on their dog who is supposed to be a cherished member of the family or s/he wouldn’t be at the wedding in the first place.  Dogsat weddings are a big thing, by the way, as ring bearers or just as attendants.  I saw two of these ‘Chomskies’ working it with the Dogs Trust people on a stall in a shopping mall in Bristol in exactly these rather down market artificial fibre items.

My collars were originally designed for humans rather than dogs , and people can wear them as statement pieces, or the collars can be box-framed.  It did strike me, however, that people might not want to wear something that had been round my dog’s neck, glamorous and alluring as Affie indeed is.  Thus the arrival of Chomsky.  Should I ever get my Etsy shop back into working order they will be on sale there.  I am calling them Occasion Wear for Dogs.

Readers of this blog, however, I am sure will be less interested in the commercial side of this and more in the collar itself.

I began it as part of a series of flowers of the month pieces for my celebrant blog.  I also have collars for October and November.  December got missed out because of Christmas, I suspect, and my push to make lovely but completely unwanted handmade gifts.  The flower of the month from the almanack that I am using is the snowdrop:

I am sure you know what a snowdrop looks like, but there is always room for a photo of a pretty flower.  I was a bit stuck on how to ‘do’ a snowdrop, but I suddenly remembered a Liberty print cotton I bought from a remnant bin.  I made the pattern, which is less impressive than it might sound as it is basically a crescent moon shape, and I cut the base layer from a cotton and linen table runner from IKEA.  Then I stitched on the printed panel with a bright green thread to echo the lovely colour of the snow drop stem and foliage:

After stitching on the panel I made a sandwich of the top, a layer of white felt for strength and support and then a backing of the same linen.  Then I started to fill in round panel with big porcelain beads and colonial knots in perle cotton.  I stitched some much smaller beads on the print, following the dots in the printed design, to look like snow.  The idea is that the beads and embroidery look like snow angels:

I had two goes at stitching on a strap because the first one didn’t hang right and the last thing you want to be doing on any sort of big day is fiddling with straps on accessories:

I allowed plenty of length so that it would fit most dogs.

The panel falls perfectly under Chomsky’s chin.  The condiments are to give you an idea of scale, but I am not sure that they are quite what we want for high class sales.

This is a close-up of the embellishment:

 

These are a couple of pages from my notebook/sketchbook although this collar was largely improvised rather than planned:

I will post about the remaining two collars shortly, and meanwhile will start thinking about February and violets.  I think I might have something in a drawer somewhere…

 

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New Year’s Day Dolls

Every year I make a doll on New Year’s Day.  The only rule is that they have to be achievable on one day and they have to say something about the past year or the one to come.

It’s interesting to look back over the many years I have been doing this.  It really shows my state of mind at the turning of the year.  Last year, when I was big into making bears, I made this one:

She is still one of my all time favourites, based on the walking work of art that is the artist, Bethan Laura Wood:

This year, I wanted to make something to help me in marketing my wedding celebrant business.  I saw the peg dolls in Margaret Bloom’s lovely little book, Making Peg Dolls.

I think her ideas are sweet without being too cloying.  I saw her Valentine’s dolls and thought that they would be perfect for my weddings business.

I bought a set of blank peg dolls and went to work on New Year’s day.  Margaret Bloom uses watercolour to paint her dolls, but I prefer acrylic because once it’s dry you no longer have to worry about it.  I used a set of acrylic paints that I bought in Sostrene Grene in Nottingham.  I bought them because they are such lovely muted colours, right outside  my usual colour palette but easy to use when someone else has mixed them for you.  I already had black, red and brown at home, and I used a Golden Fluid Acrylic for the bronzey-coppery hearts.  You probably know the wisdom of the phrase, ‘you get what you pay for’ and this is absolutely true with paint.  Golden paints burst with pigment and this metallic was really thick and juicy.  The Sostrene Grene paints are beautiful colours but thin.  This was perfect for this job, though, as I wanted to use them as a stain rather than a paint.  I thought about antiquing them, with some sandpaper and some brown gunge, but decided that they looked pretty as they were, and that was what I was after.  Pretty strikes me as more appealing that grungy when it comes to weddings.  So I gave them a quick coat of acrylic wax to protect them.  I finished with some circlets of flower-shaped sequins.

So, if you are thinking of getting married with nine assorted bridesmaids, this might well be your thing.

I really enjoyed making them.  The only skill you need is the development of a steady hand. I think I will make a lot more.  There are some adorable ideas using felt to make the blanks into various creatures such as bears, which I can’t resist.

Incidentally, I like the one second from the right with her big blobby eyes.  There is always one bridesmaid reluctant to give up her goth eyeliner.

As a sidenote, these dolls have a lot in common with traditional Japanese dolls.  I have a little collection of contemporary versions of these: Coco Chanel, David Bowie and Frida Kahlo:

These are much larger than my tiny dolls, but they are the same idea.  They are called Kokeshi dolls and the format hasn’t varied that much over the years:

 

All that said, Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.