New Custom Projects

I realized it’s been a while since I shared some of the custom projects I’ve been working on lately. Things always slow down a bit after Christmas, but I’ve had a few super fun commissions to keep me busy over the last few months. I hope you like ’em!

Yukon CorneliusIt’s likely been a few months (maybe a few years!) since Yukon Cornelius crossed your mind. An old friend of mine requested a Cornelius finger puppet to give to her husband– a redheaded mountain climber in his own right– for his birthday. How could I refuse? Finger puppet Cornelius turned out to be a pretty epic finger puppet with so fun details to include!

Andy + AmeliaThis Andy Warhol and Amelia Earhart pairing were inspired by the book, The Who The What And The When – 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History, which features illustrations of famous figures’ champions and muses. The customer was gifting the book to a friend and had the idea to create finger puppets of some of the people featured. After going over the list of who was included, we settled on Johnny Cash from my regular collection, and custom Amelia Earhart and Andy Warhol to complete the gift set. Amelia was a puppet I’ve always wanted to make, and it was a fun challenge to update the Andy Warhol I’d made a few years back. I really love how the pair turned out.

Shaun + EdI first spoke to a customer named Katie back in 2009 when she suggested Shaun and Ed from Shaun of the Dead as very promising potential finger puppet subjects. At the time I don’t remember if I’d actually seen the movie, but it happened that I’d recently rewatched it just a month or so back and Katie contacted me again– six years later!– wanting to move forward with a custom pair of puppets. If there was a pair basically tailor made for puppet-dom, it may be these two. Between their befuddled expressions, classic outfits and zombie fighting implements, they translated pretty seamlessly.

Custom PupsCustom pet portrait finger puppetsThis custom pack of adorable dogs was created for an Italian customer as a gift for his girlfriend. As a recent (temporarily) two dog household, I am pretty amazed– and maybe a little jealous– by anyone who could successfully manage their life with five dogs in it. But with these sweet faces, I can see why you’d want to try.Custom pet portrait finger puppetThe one above was my favorite. I’m a sucker for a dog with pointy ears!

Got a custom finger puppet idea of your own? Give me a shout– I’d love to make it happen!

Take Me To Your Leader: UFO Paintings by Esther Pearl Watson

When I was 13 or so, my dad came inside from smoking on the porch late on night and announced nonchalantly that he’d seen a UFO. Though my dad was known for his extremely dry and sarcastic sense of humor, he was not the kind of person to make up something like that, so we immediately perked up. He described a strange light in the sky unlike anything he’d ever seen before, and after a few minutes of my brothers demanding to know every detail, I got angry and told them to be quiet because clearly he was lying. In fact, I just wanted them to all shut up because it was freaking me out.

UFOs and I have had a long and tortured relationship, since the 80’s Time-Life “Mysteries of the Unexplained” commercial simultaneously terrified and fascinated me. These days, Esther Pearl Watson’s series of UFO paintings remind me of the weird place that UFOs hold in my own mind, and the way they’ve become a modern folklore narrative in our culture. Previously known to me from the Tammy Pierce is Unlovable comics, Esther’s paintings were inspired by her own UFO-obsessed father, and include snippets of her childhood journals. Their folk art feel is Grandma Moses meets flea market, combining giant spaceships, tiny figures, and swirling cosmos of endless possibilities.

Incidentally, the morning after my dad’s UFO sighting, there were reports of a unexplained lights in the sky from locations all around Southern Michigan the night before. Cue the spooky music

Via Austin Kleon

Family Portrait

I wrote about Kristina Micotti’s work about a year ago, and have been following her work on Instagram ever since. Earlier this year when I was trying to come up with a gift for Ben and my anniversary a few weeks back, I decided that one of Kristina’s gorgeous ink portraits would be just the thing. I had a portrait drawn of Ben and I for him for Christmas in 2011, but so many things had changed in the intervening four years– new glasses, different dog, and– oh yeah– that thing of a whole new tiny person in your family these days : ) I love Kristina’s sketchy style, and was super interested to see how she’d destill us down into just a few strokes. The results turned out really fun, I think you’ll agree.

We’re pretty cute, right? I love how Henry is captured as this perfect little blend of Ben and me– smiling like his mama, but a little unkempt like his Dad. And Ivy looking as forlorn as always– totally true to life.

Kristina also wins the award for cutest mail of the year, with a sketch of Ivy in sunglasses on the front of the package that she sent the portraits in.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 10.32.31 PMI also really loved that with the portrait, I got the original ink drawings of each of us, as well as a digital composite of the four drawings all put together. I was able to take the drawing of Ivy, which stood on it’s own so well, and hang it up in our newly-rearranged TV room. There she is above the TV giving us the same feel-bad-for-me face she’s giving all through dinner.

TVroom

And I found a nice, sunny spot for it in our living room where the four of us can keep the plants company.

Huge thanks for Kristina for being so talented, and super great to work with. Check out her work if you’re in the market for a portrait (card, print, etc) of your own!

 

New Favorite Thing: Teenage Bedrooms on Screen

I’m the kind of person who finds myself watching movies for the sets. Not that I don’t pay attention to interesting characters or great plot twists, but something about the background scenery always draws me in, whether it’s the pictures on the walls, or the couch in the background. I can often be found exclaiming in the middle of a scene, “Did you see that lamp?!” (usually to the annoyance of whoever happens to be watching with me.)

Unsurprisingly, the Teenage Bedrooms on Screen tumblr is pretty much my new favorite thing. With a mind-bogglingly large collection of images, it chronicles the teen bedroom both in movies, on TV and the occasional real teen’s bedroom (usually from a celebrity’s promo shot). I highly recommend checking this one out for yourself, but here are a few highlights–

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Ruth in Progress

When I debuted my Louis CK finger puppet a few years ago I shared some of the behind the scenes process I go through in defining a puppet design in felt. With the release of my news designs this year, I thought it would be fun to share a bit more of how I settled on the look of my new Ruth Bader Ginsburg puppet.

I decided to try making a RBG puppet after the photo of her hugging Obama made the rounds post-State of the Union. Clearly she’d been in the news before then, and were I better about being ahead of the curve on the cultural Zeitgeist I would’ve thought of her as a puppet months before. At least I caught on eventually : )

Any design process starts with an idea, and though there are a million amazing people I could attempt to turn into finger puppets on any given day, the particulars of creating a puppet mean that not just anybody will work well 4″ tall and in felt. A subject has to have a distinctive look– hair, clothing, expression, etc. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg diagnosed with pancreatic cancerClearly Ruth is a lady with a look all her own. Pulled back hair, oversized glasses, serious expression. Not to mention those elaborate lace collars over the black judges robe– those are the thing of a puppet-maker’s dreams.

So after the idea stage, and the let’s-think-this-through stage comes the sketching stage. I’m not really much a sketcher, to be honest. Getting things down on paper helps, but only to a point. A sketch can capture the details that I want to be sure to include, but I find that it’s important that I try sewing a new design pretty quickly. I refined my drawing to Ruth a few times, along with some of the other new puppets I was considering, and then got to work.

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My first attempts at sewing a new puppet tend to be a lot like sketches. Sometimes I get lucky and a design kind of flows out nearly complete, but more often I’ll do a few versions, revising details and adding and subtracting elements until I get something that feels right.

With the RBG puppet, I did four revisions on her face before I was happy with how she came together. Each of those four is pictured below. In the first round, I had the long, narrow face, but her forehead was too square, and her glasses weren’t exaggerated enough. The second attempt you can see I liked more, because I finished the entire puppet. Sometimes it’s not until the very end that I can really step back and see what’s working, and what’s not. In this case, the face was a little too wide and the glasses still weren’t right. Her expression was also a bit too blank. 

The third version finally felt like it was coming together. The eyebrows added the sternness I was looking for, and finally the glasses are right– rounded frames, and bigger. You can see I only did one cheekbone because I knew that I liked where it was going and didn’t need to do any more. Bu the face was still a bit broader than I would’ve liked, so I started over one more time and finally got it. Final Ruth: narrow face, slanted eyebrows, giant, rounded glasses, angular cheekbones, and now the filled out robe, lace collar, earrings and taller hair. Voila!

Of course there will always be variation when I’m actually making a full batch of puppets. Some will be thinner, some a little thicker. Some will have taller hair, some shorter, some bigger collars, some bigger glasses. But having that first version that I’m happy with gives me something to work off of from then on.

It’s a process that I’ve refined over the last nearly 10 years (sheesh!) and it works well for me. It really is like drawing tiny little caricatures with thread and scissors every single time. Luckily, it gets easier after the hundreth or so ; )

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.48.04 PMNotorious puppet RBG is available in my shop now! Perfect for all the important rulings you need to make in your life.

 

Mad Men’s End, and What Draper Wore

I started re-watching Mad Men last week. A few months ago I thought that it would be fun (slash obsessive) to rewatch the whole series in anticipation of the finale in a few weeks. Even with my binge-watching tendencies, I know I will not be making it through 7 1/2 seasons over the next two weeks. That said, it’s been fun to go back to the start and see just how different the show was– back when Joan played dumb and Peggy was mousy, Pete tried to get on Don’s good side and Betty bit her tongue, back when we used to think Don Draper might not be such a terrible guy. Don’t worry, that last one went away quick.

Peggy_elevator

In the GQ interview with Jon Hamm that came out recently (and is worth a read. Gotta love a guy who loves his dog), there was a link to a slideshow of everything Don Draper has ever worn on the series.Don

Though my personal favorite may be this outfit, if you’re a fanatic and weirdo like you, looking through the photos is nearly as good as rewatching the series itself. Heck, maybe I’ll just look through at 491 of the pictures in anticipation of the end. That’ll make Don’s final grey suit all the sweeter.

Mending

I was thinking the other day that I don’t think I have ever worn out the knees of a single pair of pants I’ve owned. When I was younger, holes in your jeans was a thing (I’m looking at you, Joey Lawrence). My mom was not about to buy me the kind that came pre-ripped, and the knees were just never an area I seemed to wear out. That said, in the three short years my child has been on the planet (only two of those walking, mind you), I can’t count the number of pants he’s worn the knees out on. It’s amazing how hard he is on his pants, and between the climbing onto counters, impromptu break dance parties and sidewalk trips that happen on a daily basis, it’s no wonder.12577787064_01c0719e01_zOver the weekend I decided to tackle two pairs of Henry’s pants that had recently developed holes in the knees. One thing about the damage he does to his clothes, till now he’s generally grown too fast to make it worthwhile to fix them– by the time he’s worn them through, he’s just about on to the next size anyway. But of the two pants that had been the latest casualties, both still fit relatively well and one of them I’ve formed a bit of an attachment to.

Last winter I bought Henry what at the time was a ridiculously long pair of 2T cords in my favorite mustard yellow. They were one of the first items of clothing he could talk about specifically (“I wear my yellow pant, Mama?”) and he’s worn them weekly or more for over a year. He loves them, I love them, so when the knew split last week I decided to try to see what could be done to save them.

When I was a kid, I remember my mom patching my pants with the stiff patch kits they sell at the grocery store. They came in a stock of four or five rounded plasticy rectangles in colors that were supposed to inconspicuous against your pants but never quite were. I remember they always felt sticky and stiff, and after being fixed the pants were never really the same.

There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest on mending pants, and one that caught my eye recently was a Japanese sashiko technique. Instead of trying to hide the repair, sashiko embroidery is meant to be both functional and interesting, embracing the mended portion as something that can add to the garment instead of trying to hide it.

I tried my hand on Henry’s two pant legs, adding stitching little crosses to the knees, reinforced by a layer of felt underneath (I’m all about the felt, no surprise). Overall it was a little tough to get the stitches started, and extra difficult because the legs of the pants are so narrow, but once it got going the sewing went quickly. And the results are pretty substantial as far as patches go, but still flexible enough for Henry to wear without much trouble, I think.

We’ll see how they hold up over the long run. And if it goes well, there are plenty of other pants on the verge of losing their knees to perfect the technique soon enough.