Thursday, March 26, 2015

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue...

In my quest to find something to scratch my creative itches this year, that utilized much of the ephemera and mementos I've collected from flea markets over time, and that would bring more joy and lightheartedness into my daily making... I began creating these vintage-inspired mixed media collages. That's the something new.

This is where it all begins. Finally finding a landing place for all my papers, old photos, book pages, candy wrappers, scrapbook papers, antique ledgers, music books, tickets, maps and odd little scraps of stampings and such... well... That's the something old. Those things kind of set my soul on fire. If you saw my stash, you might laugh at the tiniest scraps of things that I am not able to part with. I'm not sure why, but the most miniscule piece of torn paper makes my heart beat just a little bit faster.

Being able to get into all the details and embellishing with paint, pencil, ribbons, buttons and other found objects... well... that just sets my brain on fire! I tweak and tweak and tweak and tweak each piece until it looks 'just right'. And what does that mean? When it has the perfect balance of color, visual weight, places for the eye to fall, and the story is clear... that's when I know I'm done.

When did my love affair of all thing collage-y begin? Probably back around the turn of the century! I first discovered a publication called Somerset Studio, that had within it's gorgeous, glossy pages, samples of artwork similar to what I wanted to create. They called it mixed media collage. And so my quest began. I traveled the country to gather and play with like-minded souls. I discovered new and exciting projects and techniques. I found talented and patient teachers and inspirational workshops. One of those masterful instructors was Lynn Whipple. Her whimsical and lighthearted approach to collage inspired me to keep going. And keep going I did!

Earlier this year, when my thoughts turned to adding more joy and lightheartedness into my daily creative practice, my thoughts returned to that special instructor of more than a decade ago. I found an online class she was teaching — aptly named The Joy of Collage — and signed up in a heartbeat, so I could brush up on my techniques and playfulness. And brush up (pun intended)... I did! That's the something borrowed.

I soon became obsessed with making mixed media magic. I could relax my brain and let my heart take over. It was a much needed break from the complex engineering of the sculpted art dolls I made throughout 2014. I started working on multiple collages at a time, all in different stages. I could play with paper, or paint, or stamping, or details, at my leisure with the freedom to choose whatever was calling me at the time. I started creating works in different themes and different colors (that's where the something blue comes in)... all while using Lynn's visual gauge of, "if it makes you laugh, then go with it".

Working in that way, I found that when I'm finished with a piece, I think, "Awww, I'm done already?" And so I'm on to the next one... to create more fun, more whimsy, more joy and more lightheartedness in my creative soul. Throughout this process the ideas keep coming, and I look forward to exploring these mixed media collages in 2015 and seeing where they take me!

Editors Note: Any time I take a class or workshop from a talented, established artist or instructor, I always ask their permission before I make any work utilizing their techniques public. It's good form and good karma.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Freak Show Peep Show...

After drooling over a full season of inspiration brought to me by the American Horror Story: FreakShow television series, I set my sights on creating a collection of art dolls with a circus sideshow theme! So I thought I'd take you behind the scenes — or should I say under the big top — for a little sneak peek.

Being the first of my art doll endeavors with a single theme, I carefully considered which characters I would create, based on the unique oddities and attractions from the show.

Of course Dell Toledo, The Stupendous Strongman was a big influence. In fact, I knew months ago when I came across furry leopard fabric, that I wanted to create a doll with bulging muscles, a neanderthal brow, and a handlebar moustache, lifting a ton of weight (okay, maybe about half a ton!)

That handlebar moustache... well, it ended up being as big as he is! But I do love to exaggerate features on my dolls, so when it made me laugh, I knew it was perfect!

Dell's former wife Ethel — The Bearded Lady — was a gentle soul and touched my heart. I wanted to dress her in a 1920's style dress, like from her early stage days where she was loved and adored. I tried several different items to dress her up, and felt that this old silk and lace camisole of mine fit the bill. Yes, I save everything!

Of course to go with the theme of the time, no bearded lady dressed in 1920's garb, is complete without a blingy headband!

Then there was Twisty the Clown. A very sick and twisted individual who's specialty was murder! This doll was probably the most difficult sculpture I've created to date. But working from a photograph of a real character kinda made it a little easier than my other dolls, if that makes sense. I put my twist on it (pun intended) and love the way he came out.

Pretty freaking scary! I do love making cute things, but I love making creepy things just as much. This certainly appealed to that part of my personality.

My conjoined twin girls Faith and Hope, were definitely inspired by Bette and Dot from American Horror Story. I dressed them up using a gorgeous pair of lace shorts my mom bought me last year, but alas... were too small. Yes, I save everything! My stash of vintage jewelry, buttons, baubles, beads and ribbon help make every doll a unique and individual piece of art, and lots of fun to accessorize.

My love of all things side show — and the fact that the Wheel of Death made an appearance in the television series — is why I had to create a Knife-Thrower's Assistant! Where does one acquire a doll-sized wheel? In the clock components section of A.C. Moore, of course!

I dressed my Assistant in a goth style lace and tulle dress, complete with a tiny tutu. The main part of the dress is from an upcycled blouse I bought at a sample sale years ago but never wore because I'm not really very appealing in black, LOL. Did I mention that I save everything?

And last but not least. The Ringmaster...

Inspired by Elsa Mars, mistress of the freaks and — unbeknownst to many of the others — was one of them herself. [Spoiler Alert!] Having had her legs cut off for a German snuff film, Elsa was given a pair of wooden legs by one of her "suitors". For my version, the Ringmaster sits atop a vintage bird cage, with a pair of antique wooden bobbins dangling below her torso. At a commanding 2 feet tall in total, her Marie Antoinette style skirt barely hides the history of her past.

Now, by this time you may be wondering why I haven't shown you each of my latest art dolls in all their fabulously freakish glory. Well, here at the FreakShow, you've got to buy a ticket to see the monsters. Pssst! Stick around, and I'll let you know where to get one!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Let It Sno... Peas... and More Art Doll Tales...

Well the weather outside is frighful, but making these dolls is so delightful... and since I've no place to go, I let it sno, let it sno, let it sno... cone, that is! This bright and cheerful tri-colored shaved ice guy is just one of the creations in my most recent collection of Art Dolls. Inspired by my years growing up near the beach and boardwalk, he's all dolled up for the winter!

Have you ever thought that you and your friends were like peas in a pod? Well, so have these gals! This trio of funny-faced, smiling pals are BFF's, and perfectly content right where they are... side-by-side-by-side!

This cute little lawbreaker is titled Guerilla Artist: Tag, You're It! Inspired by wordplay... a guerilla graffiti chick in a gorilla suit... I can't really remember which came first now! Was it the stuffed (and since repurposed) ape I found at a local yard sale? Or was it the graffiti theme? Either way, this piece utilized both my sculpting and graphic design skills which were fun to combine.

Hey, can you tell me what time it is? It's time to make a Steampunk-themed doll, for sure! I started out with the vintage, Vicorian, mixed metal theme for this doll and she took me to heights unknown! So many flea market antiques and parts that I upcycled on her... fabrics, trims, vintage jewelry and bric-a-brac... it took more than 30 hours of dressing and sewing and engineering to get her outfit just right!

And I fell in love with her little copper batwings (which I hand made from copper sheeting) and ultra coool jetpack (made from a vintage oil camp stove burner). This doll was so much fun to create, from her sink drain hat to her salt shaker pantalooned legs! I may have a new favorite.

Hey, man! You goin' down to Yasgur's Farm? Gotta get back to the land and set my soul free! This groovy hippie chick was inspired by the summer of 1969 and the Woodstock concert. Although I was only born a year before half a million people gathered at Bethel, NY for 3 days of Peace & Music, I always loved the 60's. I often dressed in garb just like hers for many a Halloween. Although, I must confess, I've dressed like that on regular days too! Peace!

So... these are just a few of the Art Dolls I've had the pleasure of creating in the past couple of months. At the beginning of the year I had announced I was going to spend the entire year making these dolls, and wow! what a journey it has been. I ended up making 29 dolls altogether, which was less than my goal (although, do my conjoined twins count as two dolls? That would make it an even 30!). But each doll was so different from the previous one, that it took as long as it took to create them! I've sold 12 of them so far, have 5 on reserve, and 6 of my latest dolls will be introduced at Torche Galerie's Winter Exhibit, opening in just a couple weeks!


Torche' Galerie Winter Exhibition
Opening Reception 
Saturday, January 10, 2015
7pm - 10pm
500 Main Street, Belmar, NJ 07719

So come join me at the opening reception and view my latest selection of whimsical Art Dolls as well as the work of more than 50 artists! If you can't make it to the Opening Reception, the show is up through February 28th.

Thanks for coming along on my journey into the Land of Dolls this year! Your support, encouragement and patronage are greatly appreciated!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

That's Idiosyn-CRAZY! An Enchanted Holiday Story...

What follows may sound like the fascinating tale of a Holiday Miracle. Being on the receiving end, I'd have to say... it was!

You see... just one week ago, I brought several of my Art Dolls and Modern Vintage Rag Dolls over to a local retailer in Point Pleasant, New Jersey... called Idiosyncrazies. But you won't believe what happened after that! Here's how the story unfolded...

Sharon, the owner, had self-admittedly been stalking my Etsy shop for quite some time after seeing several of my circus-themed items about a year ago. She asked If I would like to feature my dolls in her window for the holidays. My inner voice was like, "Ummm, hell yeah! Seriously?" But my professional self said, "It's definitely something I am interested in."

After a brief meeting and a little show-and-tell, we decided that it would be a great match for both of us. Idiosyncrazies features works from local artists, US made goods, and fair trade items. It's a smorgasbord of goodies... and goodwill. I've loved her shop since I found it years ago, and when she told me that she had a Land of Misfit Toys theme in mind, well... I was hooked!

I carefully selected about 15 Art Dolls and Rag Dolls I wanted to showcase — gathering a group of the most misfit of my bunch — packed them up and brought them over last Tuesday, for Sharon to create her window display. See the eyes watching from inside the box? That's one of my Tillie Knock Down Dolls, and no... I did not plan that. Sharon said when she was setting up the display, it felt like someone was watching her... and took this photo as proof. You never know what can happen in a fairy tale!

Fast-forward to the day after Thanksgiving, when the dolls had been on full display for only their second business day. A longtime patron of Idiosycrazies art had come in first thing, to inquire about the dolls and where she might purchase some like those. Sharon delightfully informed the patron that all the dolls featured in the window were in fact for sale!

The customer asked to see all of the Art Dolls individually, and as Sharon held each one up for a closer look, the customer said, "Okay, I like that one. And that one. And that one. And that one... Oh, I love them all!" She eventually decided on 4 of the 6 dolls... and purchased the Tillie Knock Down Doll as well. I was awe-struck!

If that thrilling transaction wasn't joyful enough, I brought another Knock Down Doll to replace the one she bought... since it left a hole in Sharon's enchanting display. But when the customer came back to leave a deposit for the Art Dolls... she bought that Knock Down Doll too!

And if my heart wasn't already bursting with gratitude, the customer asked the shop owner to have me call her. She had printouts of my dolls in her hand and told Sharon that she would like to buy more!

So... earlier today... I connected with this enthusiastic art collector who so sweetly gushed over my art and creativity. And she bought 3 more dolls.

Holiday Spirits... wherever you are... THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Oh... and she said she'll probably buy more in the future. I am truly blessed!

If you are interested in seeing the window feature or shopping Idiosyncrazies, several of my Art Dolls and Rag Dolls are on display for the month of December... and looking for their forever homes! The shop is located at 638 Arnold Avenue, Pt. Pleasant, New Jersey.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

...aaaand, SOLD!

I was head-over-heels — or should I say, heads-over-wheels —when I found out that my sideshow conjoined twins Tillie and Willie found their forever home this weekend! I got a call from Torche' Galerie owner Roddy Wildeman only a week after the exhibit opening and he broke the great news.

The buyer was an interior designer who had stopped in the gallery... and as it turns out... loved the twins. He said they reminded him of something from American Horror Story: Freak Show. I think I may have squealed out loud when I heard that comment! I had already conjured up so many new art doll ideas from watching the first 3 episodes, and after this sale... my wheels are turning even more. What can I say? The show must go on!

If you missed the Torche' Galerie Fall Exhibition, or aren't close enough to come in-person, you can check out the entire show here. And, you can see all the art dolls I've exhibited at Torche' to date on my artist page. Happy browsing!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opening Night - Torche' Galerie - October 18th!


Well, even though summer was filled with lots of fun activities, I've been busy as a Bee Girl creating a few more whimsical characters. And I'm excited to announce that 5 of my newest Folk Art Dolls (as well as a very special marionette doll assemblage!)  have been selected for exhibition at Torche' Galerie in Belmar, NJ. In fact... I'm buzzing with delight!


This Fall Exhibition features a whole host of talented artists in all types of mediums including sculpture, photography, charcoal, watercolor, acrylic, collage, mosaic, mixed-media and so many more categories of intriguing contemporary art. Torche' Galerie is like a little slice of an upscale New York City gallery with a friendly and inviting atmosphere... right here in NJ! And the opening night reception — which many of the artists attend — will blow you away.


Torche' Galerie Fall Exhibition
Opening Reception 
Saturday, October 18, 2014
7pm - 10pm
500 Main Street, Belmar, NJ 07719

So come join me at the opening reception and view my latest selection of whimsical Art Dolls as well as the work of more than 50 artists! If you can't make it to the Opening Reception, the show is up through December 10th, and you can also get a sneak peek of my dolls in the Artist section of the Torche Galerie website.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Can I Take Your Order? Custom Jewelry Fun...

I recently sold a bunch of repurposed vintage jewelry to a somewhat local retail shop owner. She was so intrigued by the unique way I was able to take unusual objects and upcycle them into something wearable... that she entrusted me to create a few pieces from her own personal mementos. I was touched and honored, but when I got her box of goodies... Wow! It was filled with the most unique heirlooms I had ever seen! Here's what happened after that...

I tackled the easy one first. My client had a vintage strand of pearls she wanted to convert to a double strand, and paired with a pearl pin. The biggest hurdle was that the pin had an open area in the center which exposed the pin backing.

There were several solutions I could have gone with, and eventually chose the understated elegance of a vintage pearl button set behind the pin. Good thing I have such a large button collection! Current inventory: 2,846 white and off white buttons, now minus... 1!

Next I took on the task of upcycling a few of her favorite pieces —a trio of gold heirlooms — which included her mother's baby pin, her own birth charm, and the letter M from a monogram pin she had. The design of the piece is a challenge for my imagination, but I love putting disparate items together to make them look as if it were perfectly planned from the start. The engineering of the piece as I turn my vision into an actual wearable necklace... well, that's another story. And I have to confess that taking apart and drilling holes in people's one-of-a-kind mementos is a bit nerve wracking. But everything went smoothly!

After all that intensity, my mind needed a little break and I worked on my client's charm bracelet. Filled with tons of mementos from a vintage charm bracelet that belonged to her mom, then paired with a bunch of goodies I found from her own stash... this was lots of fun to work on. I do love a good charm bracelet. Made my want to make one for myself!

Then it was back to the most difficult but also the most intriguing piece of them all. With this perfectly patina'd necklace I incorporated a very unique carved, enameled pin with the letter P on it. I paired that with a vintage silver rattle that belonged to her mom. And the piece de resistance... her mom's carved, embossed silver birth bell. I had never seen heirlooms like this in my life. And the greatest part? They'll no longer be tucked quietly away in the jewelry box. They'll be the start of many, many interesting and touching conversations!