Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Doll Street challenge

First off I'd like to thank you if you have taken the time to vote for the Land of Odds Illustrative Tapestry competition. If you haven't there is still time as the deadline is not until January 2012.

I belong to an online internet doll makers group called Doll Street. I really enjoy this group as it has so many talented doll makers willing to share ideas and help out folks like me that get stuck in a project and needing a helping hand. We also have challenges from time to time. Judi our fearless leader decided it was time to get out some of those pieces of dolls we all have laying around or in my case in a big basket and actually make something with them. At first we were referring to it as the bone yard challenge, but consensus decided it would be more fun to call it the Morgue Mix up challenge. You can see the rules here.

For my first challenge doll, I picked out a few "parts" that I've had hanging around nagging me to finish. The first was the doll body, stand and fabric that I had made at my second MM&M with Pearl Moon. The legs were from a class I'd taken with Judy Skeel in her studio which I believe was her dragonfly rider class (I shrunk the pattern down for this). The face was from a workshop held by Cyndy Sieving at a Guilded Lily Retreat. The roushing ribbon was also from a workshop Cyndy held. The beaded belt was my class sample from Byzantium. I found the knitted fruits, and I do indeed have no ideas who made them or where I got it all. The head dress was made from the Inca Prince class by Barbara Schonoeff at a Gala up at Punderson Resort.

I put them all together put a few beads and some paper flowers that I bought at 1 Stop Bead Shop into the mix and came up with Bountiful.

Now I did indeed need to bead a doll to keep my fingers nimble, so out came all these pieces from different experiments I'd made over the past 4 months trying to learn enough to make up my own doll pattern. Oh yes, these definitely were all the rejects. I did like the head, but the nose when needle scuplted was too tiny. The feet/shoes were actually a piece of fabric from Arwen's crate padding. And horns...oh I had to throw the horns from my Pocket Monster into the mix.

This bead soup was something I had in a bag. I have no idea why in the world I made these colors. Maybe it was back when I was trying to learn the color wheel or something...blah! Most of colors came from a bead mix I'd gotten from Land of Odds, but the green I added was just too much. No wonder this was a morgue reject bead mix! But it worked with this. I added the brightly colored yellow for the hair to try to tone down the watermelon & green & reds.

And I had to end this with a picture of my Arwen. Arwen is doing well with her treatment. The Piroxicam is helping her with the symptoms of the bladder cancer. Her liver enyzmes have even gone back to normal. Love my baby dog and hope she stays with me a while longer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Now for some Scotties

Yesterday was such a beautiful Sunny day in Ohio. Cool outside but the bright Fall Sun collected in the front room bathing the area with soft warming light. Arwen has figured out how to open one of the gates to the room. She uses her nose to push it open and then lets herself in to run about and jump up to people watch out the window. Frodo follows along just to make sure she doesn't do anything too fun. They were having such a good time and the lighting was so perfect, that Chris decided to do some photograph. I even got into the act with a new portrait of me with two of the three. (Fiona was fast asleep in her basket)

Arwen is our baby Scottie. Though she is over 7 years old, she still is our little clown. Two months ago, we received the awful diagnosis that she has bladder cancer. She had been having lots of accidents so I took her to the Vet. At first he thought she had Cushings and we began the journey to get that diagnosed when she developed a bladder infection. Microscopic findings showed she had transitional cells in her urine. This is the biggest clue of bladder cancer in Scotties who are the number one breed listed to have TCC. Ultrasound a few days later showed that indeed she had a tumor inside her bladder. It was too close to the ureters to be surgically removed. I've had Scotties since 1989 and know that this was not a good diagnosis for our young girl. We decided to treat her with a drug called Piroxicam. Oh yes, we did cry a long time as we know that we'll never get to see Arwen grow old. I contacted some other Scottie owners who have TCC and some told me the expected life span can be up to two years depending on the advancement of the tumor. Almost all of them told me that this drug was what was keeping their dogs alive. Then one of the Vet techs from Worthington Woods animal hospital called and shared her experience with TCC and her dog. As horrible as this all sounded, the support from all these people have made us feel so much better. And almost a full month into her cancer treatment, Arwen is doing better. She has no accidents anymore and her appetite is back. We are just going to love her for as long as she is with us.

Now this is Frodo. He's our 8+ black brindle Scottie who is one of Fiona's sons. Before Frodo even took one breath, Chris decided that this was HIS BOY! Frodo is the dog that made Chris into a true dog person. Frodo is the dog who ate all the fringe off our carpet when we was a puppy and ate a big hole in the center of an expensive rug. My Vet jokes saying that maybe that is why he's still so skinny. I think it is because of all the wood he eats. Oh yes, he loves to eat the fence. At one time when he was about two, he chewed a hole in our wooden fence just wide enough to stick his head out of so he could bark at all the rabbits in the field. Oh he not only chews the wooden fence, but he also likes to grab hold of the chain link fence and pull on it whenever another dog walks down the sidewalk.

Doesn't he look all innocent here? But all the chewing and pulling on the fence caught up with him, and about 18 months ago when he went in for teeth cleaning he came home with 16 less teeth.

If you don't believe me, then here is the proof. He's still got enough teeth to still pull on the chain link fence, but I'm sure he'll probably lose them too & be a toothless old man. He's on a special diet too. He eats canned food mixed with kibble. So far that is his only health problem. Since his mother, Fiona, has Diabetes, we watch him to make sure he doesn't develop this either. Nothing like living in a house with Senior dogs, but I wouldn't have it any other way as I love these guys so much.

Frodo is always on the alert. He is one charming old guy and just a picture perfect Scottie as long as he keeps his mouth shut.

We love our Scotties so much. They take up a lot of our lives now that the girls are ill. Fiona wakes us up to eat and get her insulin. Arwen needs her pills, and Frodo just wants a little time in the chair with Dad in the mornings. They keep us grounded, and they fill our lives with unconditional love. What more could we ask for?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Black Notice: Land of Odds

Well, here it is. Finally I've been able to post about the big piece I had worked on and off for 6 total months. If you'd like to evaluate and vote for my piece then please click here. This was for the

The challenge was to chose a mystery book and develop a cartoon not using any other images from published books or websites. Then take that image and bead it into a tapestry that adheres to the rules posted by Land of Odds.

Then after beading for 6 months off and on, you had to turn this creation into a hanging piece for display and send images of this tapestry to Warren Fields and Land of Odds.

Then wait, wait, wait until that envelope arrives to tell you that YES! all that hard work (and sore fingers) paid off for now you are one of the 4 semi finalist. Now to wait and let the general public evaluate each of the 4 semi-finalist and vote. I'd so appreciate if you would take a few moments to go to the website & vote for each of the four tapestries.

These are the original jpgs that I sent to Land of Odds for consideration in this challenge. Below is the Artist Statement that I also sent explaining the origin and construction of this tapestry.

Nothing sends the brain into a roller coaster ride of intrigue and puzzle solving than a good mystery story filled with full bodied characters, well placed clues, and of course a murder or two. Patricia Cornwell’s Black Notice, published by Berkley Publishing Group in 1999, outshines these three prerequisites for a spine-chilling ride from page to page.

I sat in the break room at work looking at the staff lending library when I noticed someone had brought in a set of Patrician Cornwell’s books. I picked up Black Notice and was transported into the world of Dr. Kay Scarpetta. The setting for this story is in Richmond Virginia. Instantly, I found myself trapped in this well laid out novel about a Medical Examiner who has gained notoriety as a top-notch investigator and Foresenic Pathologist. As the story opens, Kay has drowned herself in work after the murder of her lover. She receives a letter from Benton dated before his death. She has been in a trance like state, not noticing things happening that are threatening to tarnish her career and her relationship with her friends and family. Benton writes to her to reconnect with Lucy, her niece, and Pete, her long time colleague and investigator. Before she can pull herself out of the fog of withdrawal, she receives a call of a strange death scene. The victim is a badly decomposed male body dressed in designer clothes inside a closed cargo container. Only two clues are visible at the time of discovery: long fine yellow hairs and the name “ le Loup Garou” (Werewolf) written on the inside container wall. The autopsy shows no cause of death or identification of the victim so therefore he is designated as a “black notice”. Upon further investigation the victim is found to have been drown, has an unusual tattoo that has been partial defaced and the fine yellow hairs inside his clothing. Meanwhile Loup Garou begins a spree of monstrous attacks on the citizens of Richmond. The new police chief, who seems committed in destroying Captain Pete Marino’s career and tarnishing Kay’s reputation, is using Kay’s lab assistant in unsavory sabotage. Lucy returns from Miami where she works as an undercover agent for the ATF on a case of drug smuggling of the infamous Chandonne family after accidently shooting her partner. Then Kay and Pete are contacted by an agent of Interpol about their case and are whisked to Paris where they find out that this “Le Loup Garou” is a serial murderer and possibly a grossly deformed member of the same wealthy Channdone family crime cartel.

The story in Black Notice has many story lines about different characters associated with Kay. This book starts out assuming that the reader has read the numerous other novels where Dr. Scarpetta has been the heroine. So, at first it was a little overwhelming to keep track of the characters since this is about the ninth book of the series. But like all well written books, it did not take long to dive into the meat of the story. Using Medical Science as the bases for investigation intrigued me. I am not a fan of forensic investigation television shows as I actually do work in a hospital lab and know that most of what is portrayed on television is taken out of content and romanticized for viewers. Yet, I found myself intrigued with the forensic work in this story where the examiner was trying to ascertain the identity of this corpse and cause of death. The one thing that immediately caught my attention was when Dr. Scarpetta asked her staff during an autopsy if they’d check for diatoms. I began to form questions in my mind first what actually were diatoms and how were they used for identification.

Later in the story, Dr. Scarpetta sits with one of her staff as they show her under an Electron microscope the different diatoms structures. Constantly using the microscope for my own job made me want to further investigate. I found that diatoms are microscopic aquatic algae found in both fresh and salt water. There are over 100,000 species of diatoms. Diatoms are primary producers using photosynthesis to create organic molecules from Sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. One half of the photosynthesized molecules on Earth come from fresh water and marine diatoms. Diatoms are also extremely diverse in nature. Diatoms can differ in locations one hundred feet from each other therefore they are specific for individual areas. I then asked myself why would this be so important during an autopsy. I did more research and found that diatoms can help a Medical Examiner rule out drowning as cause of death. If a person were alive while in the water, they would inhale water into their lungs. The diatoms would then circulate throughout the body, which would indicate to the Pathologist that the person had drowned. If no diatoms were found in the body then the body was put into the water after death had occurred.

That makes perfect sense, but then I began to wonder how these microscopic creatures could be found in a badly decomposed body. Upon searching, I found that diatoms have a “silica based skeleton that do not readily decay”. In the laboratory, a sample is taken from the body or other surrounding materials such as clothing and concentrated by boiling in acid, then centrifuged to collect the solid residue and examined microscopically. Microbiologist specializing in diatom morphology can then identify the types of diatoms found in the sampling. Since these are all specific to areas it is even possible to compare the diatoms found in or on the body to those diatoms in a specific location. Being curious about what diatoms looked like under a microscope, I began to search for images of diatoms and was taken aback by the beauty of the shapes, sizes and patterns of the different species. An idea began to form about the possible design for my book cover tapestry.

I decided not to dwell on the actual images of a Werewolf; especially since the cover design on the paperback book I read was one of a wolf’s face. I also decided to stay away from anything pertaining to an actual autopsy or showing gruesome images. Instead, I kept going back to those fascinating patterns of the diatoms. The defaced tattoo was also an interesting clue and one that gave Kay a possible name to the victim. She found he possibly was the son of the Chandonne family and had decided to leave the family business and set out on his own to smuggle drugs and ammunition to the Miami area. Then the clue of the long yellow hairs found inside the clothing of the container victim and on the recent murder victims lead Kay to postulate that possibly the killer was himself a victim of a rare genetic disease called Hypertrichosis where hair growth is accelerated over all parts of the body. The stigma of having a child with this affliction caused many parents in the past to hide their child away from public viewing or have them be a part of a circus as a “dog face” person. This abuse would possibly cause the hidden Chandonne son to become mentally deranged thereby killing his brother, change clothing with him to he could take on his identity and enter the United States under his brother’s papers. Then Kay hears of a strange event of a man swimming in the frigid waters of the James River. She once again postulates that possibly this could be the killer swimming in the waters just as he swam in the waters outside of his family’s home in Paris near a cathedral hoping that the waters would cure him of his affliction. While in Paris, Kay goes to the area of the Chandonne family’s residence and finding it near the Seine River, collects a sample of the water to have it tested for diatoms to see if they match those found on the container man, which are indeed a match. This image of a man immersing himself at night in waters to be healed of a cruel affliction and then those exact same waters used to identify his victim and eventually himself made me realize that here was the design I wanted to use for my book cover.

I found clip art of a swimmer and transferred images of actual diatoms into a cartoon depicting the Swimmer in the water. I then placed the name of the book at the top of the cartoon larger than the author’s name. Then I printed out the cartoon and basted the paper on a piece of felt. Using white thread, I outline the major pieces of the cartoon for placement. Using another print out of the cartoon, I cut out individual images as templates. Upon research, I found that diatoms are yellowish brown and in some instances are green. So I beaded the diatoms using this earthy palette of colors. I was also lucky to find some glass beads that looked to me like diatoms in color and appearance. For the swimmer, I made a pancake doll form beading it before sewing down onto the tapestry. The book title was done by cutting out the individual letters as templates and sewing them down onto the tapestry using bead embroidery. The author’s name was smaller so I was unable to use the same technique successfully. Instead, I charted out the name and made a band of square stitch that was then sewn down and embellished along the edges. For the background I wanted to use the image of a man swimming at night with only the stars shining down on him. I used crystal Rivolis captured in a peyote cage and then sewn down in a pleasing pattern. I then found a bag of vintage German glass sequins, and they looked to me like drops of star light reflected water. I used these in both the water containing the diatoms and in the sky as the motion of a swimmer will fling water into the sky. The remainder of the tapestry base was filled in with wave like patterns for the water and nighttime cloud patterns for the sky. To give the diatoms the feelers I used gold Soft Flex wire.

It was difficult to decide if I wanted the tapestry to be displayed as hanging from a bar or to be stretched over a frame. Because of the size and weight of the completed piece, I decided to stretch the piece over a frame for support. But I needed something strong enough to support this heavy work, yet light enough to not add additional weight to cause problems in the actual display. So I used lightweight molding from a hardware store and foam core board for stability to construct the frame. I glued down quilt batting to secure thread backing would have a durable base and then stretched the tapestry over the frame sewing it firmly in place. I then used another piece of felt for the backing and used a picot edging to sew the front and back together. To give the image of the swimmer in motion, I used a netting technique to simulate waves curling and added this same design to the bottom of the frame.

All in all, I was very pleased with the finish tapestry and with the mystery story that I had chosen at random. I have found myself enthralled with the adventures of Dr. Kay Scarpetta and bought almost all of the series and read each of them with as much joy and anticipation as the first novel. Each book of the Scarpetta series further fleshes out each of the characters I discovered in the first book making them almost as real as people I see every day on the streets.

Thanks so much

Dot Lewallen

Thursday, November 10, 2011

7 Day Doll

I realized that I had not made a beaded doll since the one I finished months ago for Beading For a Cure. And after spending all that time working on the Beaded Illustrative Tapestry, I hadn't even done any bead embroidery in ages. I decided to challenge myself and to actually see how fast I could make a beaded doll. I looked at my work desk and there was a doll form sitting in the basket waiting for me to do something with it. This is one of my practice pattern dolls. The head isn't exactly right so she was tossed in the basket with all the other bone yard rejects. Also, on my work table was a big bag of beads from a kit that I'd half way completed before I decided I didn't like it and number 2 that I would never finish it. So with that and some other odds and ends, I put myself on a time schedule to complete a beaded doll in just SEVEN days. I made it! I must tell you that one day was a 6 hours beading day so you won't think I'm that fast. Like the colors. And yes, those wee hat/horns on this still unnamed doll are from that peyote star fish kit I'd bought at B&B.

The doll itself is from one of my own patterns I've been tweaking.
It is called Night Time Up. I needle sculpted the head, the hands, and the feet.
I didn't like this small head, so that is why she wound up in the bone yard basket.

Day ONE:
Placement of the focal beads & start to work on the leg.
All of the beading on the body was back stitch and stack stitch.

Day two through five:
Most of the torso is done. Nothing too fancy here.
Just sorting of the bead mix to have a complimentary color pattern.

Day Six:
Pretty much finished the body, but unsure on what kind of hair to put on the head.
Also, I wanted to use the two peyote horns somehow.

Day Seven:
Completed doll. Still not sure of what to name her.
Something Harvest????

So I did it! One beaded doll in Seven days. My fingers were aching after this one as sometimes I'll bead so long that I actually wear the silver off the needle. I did lie about only two bead embroidery stitches. I actually had to peyote those smaller focal beads so that they didn't "pop" off the body. Not sure if I really like that look, so I still might embellish those to complete. But all in all, I'm pretty pleased with her...that includes that small head! See what happens when you start working on something you discard.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bedtime twins

I tell you...trying to learn to make your own patterns is HARD!!!!! I don't think I've ever had such a difficult time as trying to draw out patterns, then sew them up & then tweak, tweak, tweak. Along the way, I've been studying how other doll makers make theirs look so easy. Now I know there is nothing easy about this at all. So I'm showing you these my two newest dolls called Bedtime twins. I did a boy & a girl mainly because I just wanted to try to understand what works and what definitely doesn't.

This is the girl twin who I did second. The very first thing that struck me when I finished her was those eyes! I made the mistake of picking 9mm eyes which for this pattern are definitely too big. I wanted bigger eyes because I think they are more appealing in a younger dolls, but these are too much! I'm going to try to tweak this doll a little more by possibly applying a lower lid to take away all that creepy look.

Since I did this doll second, I tried doing a mitten hand with a little hint of fingers. Then I needle sculpted the fingers. I actually got this idea from some of Ute Vasnia's patterns. I like the look and the toes are just too adorable. I learned that technique from Lucy Landry's Wild Things dolls. I had fun with the ribbon roushing that I learned from Cyndy Sieving.

I do like the male doll, but think I gave him too big of a nose. Possibly next time I can reduce the needle sculpting of the news & give him a little button nose. I like his hands, but they were tough to turn with the crafting fabric for dolls that I bought from Doll Maker's Journey.

I don't think any other doll makers need to worry about me taking over their spots as designers...this is really rough. I think it is going to take me years to figure this all out. Meanwhile, I guess I need to learn to sew a little better. Maybe learn how to do DARTS! Oh well, this is all fun & I am going to have a house full of wee little dolls soon.