Friday, August 6, 2010

The Fair; In Which We Finally Learn to Add Pictures

Everyone has been asking me how I did at the Monroe County Fair.

Well.  I guess you could say I did well.  Really well, in fact.  I won several ribbons.  Which is an honor, except I'm pretty sure there weren't all that many doll entries, and I don't really know how the judging was done; if they give ribbons solely based on skill, or, say, if there are only three dolls entered in a category that they're all then assured a ribbon.

Clearly, it is a little difficult for me to blow my own horn.  That's why I'm posting all of this here, instead of on Facebook.  That way, if you want to read what I consider bragging* you can choose to do so instead of just having it pop up on your newsfeed.  Also, I spent about two hours taking really bad photos with my iPhone, uploading them to flickr, and then figuring out how to post them here, which I really needed to do.  Sometimes I feel that my rants might be less, uh, intense if I peppered them with a few pictures of kittens and rainbows.

So here are the dolls I entered in the Monroe County Fair this year.

I made this doll from an Antiqueannies pattern.  She is nearly 30 inches tall, made of muslin, and her head, arms, and legs are painted with three coats of black gesso, two layers of acrylic paint, and then treated with a crackle finish.  Under her cotton dress, which is finished with tucks and trimmed with a piece of antique lace, she wears lace trimmed pantalets.  First place.

This doll is made from a Patti Culea pattern, from her first book, Creative Cloth Dollmaking.  Her body is made of collaged fabric with a transfer of my mother's wedding photo on the front. Her legs and arms are also made of the collaged fabric, done by sprinkling odds and ends of glittery yarn, fabric scraps, and other embellishments on a base fabric, covering it with a netting, and then holding it all together with freeform embroidery.  Her hair is made of Tibetan goat fur.** First place.

This Santa is made from a Barbara Willis pattern.  He was not entered in the Fiber Arts Division, but in the Holiday Division.  He has a fully lined jacket, complete with little buttons not visible in the picture, flannel knickers, and black boots made of wool felt. His beard and hair are Tibetan goat, and his eyebrows are bits of the fur that are attached with a felting needle.***  First place.

This little elf is made from Dru Esslinger's Snuffy pattern, which was a Dollstreet online class from at least ten years ago!!  I did enlarge him a bit, and I gave him turned up toes.  He has bells on his toes and his beard and eyebrows are made from acrylic fur. He was also entered in the Holiday Division, under "ornament". First place.

Here's another view of the elf, so that you can get an idea of how small he is:
I can't tell you how many versions of this pattern I've made over the years.  I probably made ten from the original pattern, all of which I gave away as gifts.  Eventually I changed him into more of a christmassy elf with the toes, and I've probably made at least another ten to twelve Christmas ornaments that I've given away.  In fact, this is the ONLY one I still have...and even he is not really mine, but my mom's.  He is sitting in the antique high chair that was my mom's and I think my grandfather's before that.

Something that most people don't know about me is that I started making bears before I made dolls.  In fact, at first I only made dolls so my bears would have someone to sit on!  I started making little bears, mostly out of felt and crappy fake fur from JoAnn's, when I was maybe 13.  The smallest bear I've ever made was about two inches tall.  The biggest one was over two feet tall.  The big one was ruined when my basement flooded several years ago, and the teeny one I still have.  He was made from a kit by Gail Wilson, an amazing doll designer, and years later when she cleaned out her studio, she sold off a lot of older pieces and I was actually able to purchase one of her bears made from that very kit.   Now I only make bears between four and seven inches tall, because I sew my bears completely by hand with a tiny backstitch.  Sewing them on the machine is almost impossible, because the mohair is so thick and it slips.  I use mostly mohair fabric, either the german or english type produced specifically for bearmaking. I also use the woven mohair fabric used for coatmaking, and sometimes wool coating.   Unlike my dolls, I almost never use someone else's bear pattern.  I have very specific features I like in my bears; I like them to be very old fashioned, with long arms, humps in their backs, and fat tummies.  So I started making my own patterns probably 15 years ago....although I have to say, drawing a bear pattern is a LOT easier for me than designing doll patterns.  
I almost never sell my bears.  Most of them live with family or very close, special friends.  No one except other bearmakers or serious collectors understand why they cost so much, so I'd rather give them away to special people.
This panda is made of german mohair, from my original pattern. He is fully jointed, with a hand embroidered nose of perle cotton and german glass eyes on a loop.  He is completely handstitched with waxed thread.  First place with honors.

These two lovely ladies are made from a pattern by Tonya Turvold.  They have painted bodices and shoes of acrylic paint.  I mixed the colors to match the fabrics I used.  Their hair is hand dyed wool.  I call them Chataqua and Susquehannah.  The names just came to me when they were sitting on my sewing table one day awaiting their hair.

First place with honors. Reserve Champion, Doll Class.

This little guy I call the Pied Piper, because of his perfect little flute that I found years ago at World Market.  I kept it because I knew that some day I would need it for a doll, and I did!  The Pied Piper is made from a Marilyn Halcomb design.  She is an Australian designer and often uses a lycra fabric that isn't easily obtainable in the US.  I ordered some of this fabric and had it shipped from Australia.  He has a full wire armature.  His face is needlescupted, and then covered with another layer of  lycra and needlesculpted again.  He has needlesculpted fingers, toes, ankles, and knees....and under his clothes he also has a bellybutton and a really cut little bum!  His hair is hand dyed Australian mohair****, which is the best in the world. 

First place with honors. Champion, Doll Class. Reserve Grand Champion, Fiber Arts Division.

So that was my fair experience.  It was really wonderful, and I'm pleased with all of my ribbons...but as usual, once I'm finished making a piece, I'm ready to move on.  Which is what I should be doing right now!

* I hate bragging.  Really, really hate it.  I think there's a difference between sharing/marketing your work, and just flat out bragging about it.  I'm hoping that I can achieve the former, because I know all too many artists who end up just sounding obnoxious, and so even if I appreciate their work, I can't really like it any more. I'm sure that's wrong of me.  But it is the truth.

**Yes. It is on the pelt. Yes, I feel kind of guilty when I use it.  But I choose to believe [just as I choose to believe that the cows that live in the field near my house are DAIRY cows, even though they periodically all disappear and are replaced with new ones] that since the goats are, um, food in other countries that at least they didn't die to be doll hair, and, um, it is good to not let stuff go to waste??? That's green, right??  Dammit.  I wish it didn't look sooooo perfect on dolls and take dye so beautifully.

*** He also, you may notice, has a golden retriever puppy lurking behind him.  I do not recommend trying to take photos of anything with a golden puppy on the loose, especially one that is as untrained and full of badness as this one.  I was just glad she had stopped trying to EAT the Santa and managed to get a somewhat decent shot while she was taking a bite out of the leg of the antique high chair.

**** Sheared from the angora goat!!  Which does not die, but lives on to be sheared again and again....although the very first shearing is the finest and curliest.


  1. Congrats Wendy...they are all awesome, but I adore that bear...he's so cute! I'm a fan of tiny so love the elf too. But that BEAR! ADORABLE!

  2. You are SOOOOO TALENTED!!!! If I had your mad skills, I'd have a Christmas tree full of dolls and bears. Each one different. Congrats on the ribbons. You are sooooo awesome!