Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What To Do About Elephants

A client asked me recently if I made elephants. I have been busy making little animal dolls as part of my own line of tiny stuffed dolls since November. Rats are my true love, stuffed animal-wise. I really am that odd :) But, actually I have come up with quite a menagerie. I have also made a pair of foxes, a cat, some bears and mice.

Can I make elephants? I wasn't really sure. I started one over the week of Christmas, but didn't like how the trunk came out. Obviously, on an elephant, the trunk is pretty important.

I did a switcheroo with the trunk I had made, and well, that was really all that was necessary. I liked what I had made. That's always a good thing. This little girl is called Teena. She is the same size, body-wise, as the other tinies, so will wear the same clothes.

Since those bodies are not super fat, I gave her kind of a circus dress and bloomers to fill out her look a bit. She has a blue and white striped neck ruff to fill her out even further.

She is made from a lovely cream distressed German mohair. Her limbs and inner ears are a cream and Christmas red polka dot print. Very holiday-esque, but also keeping with the circus type thing that I think of when I think of stuffed elephants.

Okay, so now I make elephants, too :) I really like her. The rats are not overwhelmed by her, because other than her trunk and inner ears, she is just their size. By the way, the bigger elephant and some of the pillows in the photos are from Paula of SweetRedCottage. She makes charming stuffies in a larger size, perfect for cuddling.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marie Antoinette and Rose Bertin

 Over the weekend I have been chit chatting back and forth with a longtime friend.  One of my first doll friends, actually.  He has a love of Marie Antoinette and all things late 18th C, probably more than I even.  He has recently put together a lovely shabby 18th Century doll box and needed some rats.  I had a few in mind.  Why not Marie Antoinette and her dressmaker/milliner Rose Bertin?  I have been on a Marie Antoinette tear lately, which surfaces every once in awhile.  I haven't made her as a rat yet.  My friend likes symmetry.  2 is better than 1.  I decided to make the Queen and her friend.  
 For Marie I used the very nicest off-white Schulte mohair.  It is soft like a bunny and just lovely.  I figured Marie would be the less shabby of the 2 rat girls.  For her hair, I had some really lush yarn. I think it is silk.  It is a bit puffy, spun-like, and has pearls and lace and ribbons woven in.  I gave her a fantastic up-do.  A bit of a rat's nest, but, well, that seems a good choice.  
 Her dress is a lovely silk/rayon satin that I dyed and laundered to give it a very soft, pale blue, ethereal feel.  I had done a cloth doll Marie for this same friend years ago.  Her dress was a light blue as well, though I think slightly icier.  This color is nice.  It has a bit of chiffon trim and decorative thread edgings.  With her white fur and hair, I think she looks lovely.
 I wanted Rose Bertin to be a fine lady, but not quite as pristine as Marie.  I used the same yarn for her hair, but dyed it up a shabbier tone.  It is more gray-blue-beige.  Her fur is a Schulte distressed natural cream mohair.  It is a bit shabbier, not as lush, but still very lovely.
 Her dress is 4 different silk fabrics, all in sort of a fawn shade.  The rats are funny, because they are very short, and all that skirt makes them seem even shorter. 
 Trying to translate the big gowns of that time into such a small scale, and on rats no less, is a bit of a challenge, but I like how they turned out.
 Not sure which girl I love better.  I am super pleased with them both.  Sometimes when I am in a crazy mood, I just have to do something different.  The hair is a new thing.  I like it.
 Even the back of the heads looks good.  I am so, so glad we don't have to wear our hair in these sort of rat's nest these days. I tend a woodstove all day.  I would be up in smoke in a second.  But, I like the romance of it.  Hope you are having a lovely, creative, fun-filled holiday season.  XOXO Cindy


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Rockford Sisters

This week I was thinking about 3 bears.  Not the Mama, Papa and Baby Bear of Goldilocks tradition.  3 sister bears.  I wanted something a bit primitive. I like primitive bears better than modern bears.  They look more like people to me.  With personalities, maybe a little grumpy.  I gave them the last name Rockford and named them all after rocks.

I had some Blythe dresses laying around that I have always loved and had been saving out for something.  The bears spoke up first, and they got them.  Happily, they fit into some of the Blythe clothes.  First bear here is Pearl.  She is wearing pink.  She is the oldest sister, since I made her first. She looks oldest anyway.  She has quite a bit of concern in her face.  Less carefree than the other girls.

I gave her the pink dress because she is oldest and she got to choose first.  These bears are made from a luscious Schulte rayon that I have been using for bears and mice.  It is hugely expensive, but so nice.  Just very soft.  It is distressed, so not perfect, but rather perfect for primitive styled bears.

I think Pearl  might be my favorite.  Being the oldest sister to 2 other bear girls has got to be a challenge.  What do they do when they fight, after all?

Next is Opal.  Her dress is a little different than the other 2 girls.  It has a ruffle at the neck rather than lace.  It is very, very full, and a lovely shade of turquoise blue.  The rayon on these dresses has been distressed and laundered a bunch, so has a very vintage feel.  The colors are very nice as well.  

Opal is the middle sister.  Middle sisters sometimes get hand-me-downs.  Not Opal.  She gets a fancy blue dress.  She is quite proud.

She gets along well with her sisters, for the most part.  It hard for her to choose which is her favorite.

Third sister is Ruby.  She is the sweetest of the 3 bears.  She is the youngest.  The big sisters treat her well.  She gets a pretty dress that is like Pearl's, except yellow.  It gives her a fresh, youthful look.

Like the other girls, Ruby is more of an inside girl than an outside girl.  Once they discovered the bedroom furniture, the bears could not be pushed out.  The rats are going to have to share.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Slumber Party

The rats are having a slumber party! We have been without power off and on all week, and no one has really gotten out of their pajamas, except to get outside to shovel snow (a lot of snow, I am telling you!) We had an ice storm, followed by a snow storm, and several days with power off and on, a couple of days for the entire day and some of the night. I was thinking about pajamas all week. When the power was actually on, I made 4 little rats in lovely pastel shades of pistachio pink and an English rose. They are all wearing pajamas.

This little girl is called Libby. She is a lovely pistachio green mohair girl with her own unique style of pajama-wear.

And of course, her pal, Clarice. Clarice is a lovely shade of English Rose pink. She, too has her own unique pajama style.

Next up, Pearle. She is Libby's sister.

And finally, we have Patrice, rhymes with Clarice. They are sisters.

I got a new wooden dollhouse bed that I painted pale pink and made a silk shabby comforter to go with, which turned out pretty well. Paula of sweetredcottage had given me some little pillows as a gift, and those worked in perfectly.

The slumber party girls fit nicely into the scene.

They are lovely lounging about. They don't care if we have power or not.

At the last minute, one of the Blythe girls joined in on the party.

She is maybe a little too large for the furniture, but it doesn't really matter.

It's all in fun anyway, and the good news is, I was able to take photos even when we had no power, as my trusty camera is battery operated and always ready to snap a shot or 2. Crossing fingers power stays on for the weekend. Hope you all are finding the weather where you are to your liking!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

La Reine Fantome

I was lucky enough to have been asked by Auguste Clown Gallery in Melbourne, Australia to participate in their February 2015 International Group Showing, "Once Upon A Blythe." I am so honored to have been asked.

You might not know, or maybe you do, that I have a bit of a fascination with Marie Antoinette. Lots of doll and dressmakers seem to. She is really part of the inspiration for my making the little rats. I was thinking about little mice living in the walls of a French castle. What better one than Versailles? Since the topic of the gallery show seems to be just right for fairy tales, I wrote one around the ghost of Marie Antoinette and a little rat friend called Rosie. That was the starting point for my doll.

Here is the tale in its entirety:
La Reine Fantome/Mangeons Gateau
Copyright 2014 Cindy Sowers

Once upon a time there was a beautiful young girl whose mother was a very powerful Empress of all that could be seen near or far. When she was still very young, it was foretold that the girl would find her prince in a land far from her home, in the great country of France.

As was the custom, when the time came, she left her home, her mother, and her friends and family to be with the prince in his castle far away. She took with her 57 carriages, 117 footman and 376 horses, for she had many lovely things and did not want to be without. She was a spring bride and so very, very beautiful. Her wedding gown was the most lavish of all, spun from silver and laced with diamonds.

No expense was spared. She was very excited to be the new bride of a prince, and yet her eagerness was not rewarded. The young prince did not take easily to her, as he had his mind cast upon other things. Within a few short years, the Old King died, leaving the young prince and princess to become the new king and queen of France. As was tradition, it was expected that the beautiful queen would produce an heir to the throne. It was not that she was unwilling, but much time passed and no sons were produced.

To pass her time and amuse herself, the young queen had a lovely pastoral retreat designed and built for herself and her closest friends, in which to pass their leisure. It was there that she became friends with the animals, especially the rabbits and the little rodents that scurried about the place, eating bits of cake out of the Queen's outstretched fingers. The little cottage world she maintained became a way for her to shut out the outside world.

Her countrymen came to despise the lovely queen. Gossip spread like wildfire, accusing the beautiful queen of all manner of frivoloties. They believed she was living without care for the plight of her fellow countryman in a silly fantasy world of her own making. As the outside world grew restless, the queen retreated further and further into her perfect little dream-like world and saw herself as an outsider, unloved and unappreciated by her kingdom.

As is often the case, the ill-loved will bond together. The little rats of the queen's retreat, the most despised creatures in the animal kingdom, brefriended the queen. Rats, it seems, have quite a fashion sense. French rats, even more special than all the other rats of the world, were especially well suited as fashion advisors, dictators of style and good taste.

Within the boudoir of the queen's private cottage there existed a small hole in the side wall. It served as an easy entrance for the little rats who lived in the walls and in the garden. One particular rat, Rosie de la Reine, had arrived as a stowaway in the traveling bags of the queen's personal milliner and dressmaker. Rosie possessed considerable knowledge of the fashions of the times, as well as the how-to and what-for. She was the queen's favorite by far and Rosie was welcome within the Queen's little cottage, as long as she picked up after herself.

Time passed and the people of France became more and more dissatisfied with their economic conditions. They blamed the lovely Queen and her frivolous lifestyle for their troubles. They were no longer content to look the other way as the Queen supped on cakes and other sweets, while they themselves were without even a loaf of bread. First the King and then the Queen met their horrid demise at the hands of their countrymen. "Off with their heads!" the crowd exclaimed.

Rosie the Rat was so very loyal to her queen and beloved friend. She had slipped inside the pocket of the Queen's cloak on that fateful Queen's Last March, and had gone to the guillotine as well. Poor Rosie! Poor Beautiful Queen of France! Their only consolation was the knowledge that they had changed style and fashion in France forever.

The tragic nature of their deaths caused such terrible confusion in the newly departed souls of the beheaded queen and her lovely rat companion. To this day they are ghosts, living within the walls of the Queen's boudoir, unseen and unheard, as they go about their business of reminiscing about the good old days of high fashion and mile high cakes. "Let Us Eat Cake!" is their daily mantra.

The customization, little book, Marie's dress and underthings (pannier, bloomers and petticoat), plus Rosie the rat, were all done by me.  Jean BaldridgeYates made the beautiful pullcharms and earrings. She has been graciously making jewelry and pullcharms for me for years, as well as collaborating with me on other things, including a book.  She is a great artist and often has things available for sale in her Etsy shop.  Thank you, Jean!  If you will be in Melbourne in February, be sure to stop by and see what I know will be at least 30 amazing Blythe dolls.  The gallery has a Facebook page where they update their goings on pretty regularly. Thank you Auguste Clown Gallery!  I am very excited to be sending this doll and her rat companion, as well as the little book, off to Australia, hopefully by the coming weekend.