New Swallow Christmas Ornaments

There are times when I feel myself becoming something of a living Portlandia skit, and never more so than when I decided to whip up a batch of swallow ornaments the other day. When in doubt, put a bird on it!These candy-colored avians are inspired by classic tattoo illustrations, and a variation on a brooch design you may remember from years back. Bright and cheery colors like this are sort of my thing, and these birds do their job looking pretty darn cheerful on the tree. Tis the season to deck the halls!

Swallow ornaments are now!

 

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.48.24 PM

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.

 

New Designs: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Broad City

I’m so excited to announce the release of two brand new finger puppet designs that went live in my shop today! My collection had been sorely lacking in the lady department, so I’m excited to debut three badass women– Notorious RBG herself, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

Broad City Finger Puppets Ruth Bader Ginsburg Finger PuppetBringing together a Supreme Court Justice and two barely-employed potheads is a bit of an unusual combination, perhaps, but few public figures have gotten my little feminist heart more excited that these three women in the past year. Ruth for her straight talk and courage (not to mention that whole “not 100% sober” thing at the State of the Union thing). And Abbi and Ilana, well, because they are brave and ridiculous and completely hilarious. If there were three women who most deserved to join the ranks of my puppet collection, these are definitely them.Broad City Finger Puppets Ruth Bader Ginsburg Finger Puppets

RBG and Abbie & Ilana are available in my shop now!

 

New Designs Sneak Peek

Exciting times over here in the studio– I’m just about ready to debut a few new 2015 puppet designs! Over the past month and a half I’ve been scheming (okay, actually, the scheming’s been going on for longer), sketching, sewing and refining some of my fave people to add to my repertoire of felt personalities. This year I thought it was important to focus on women, seeing as how my collection is sorely lacking in the boss lady department. I have a pair and a single design to debut in the next couple of weeks (and maybe one more if I can get the details just right). In the meantime, here are a few sneak peeks to get you excited.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.16.27 PMSketchbook pages I shared on Instagram a few weeks back.

16553899871_85fc2a2b50_cGetting super organized with my fancy biz goals wall.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.25.23 PMWorking out expressions to get the details just right.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.25.33 PMFrom a photoshoot a few days ago.

Stay tuned– all will be revealed very soon!

Plans and Schemes

The early part of the year is always the regeneration time for my biz. With the holiday rush over, January and February are traditionally when I make plans, think about new directions and designs, and try out projects I’ve been putting off for too long. I’ve spent the first few weeks of this year setting up goals in a way that I’ve never done before. There were so many things I wanted to tackle, it was clear that I needed to get organized if they were actually going to happen. I spent an evening the other day converting a small wall in the studio into a seasonal goals board, complete with about a hundred yellow Post-It notes and lots of big ideas. Not sure if it’ll actually work, but it sure does look impressive ; )First on the docket, I’ve decided that I want to try my hand at web design. I’ve dabbled here and there, customizing this blog and even starting an ill-fated website project in DreamWeaver a few years back. But this year I decided I would take a few coding classes, since there are so many available online these days. I completed an initial course through Codecademy and promptly got in over my head working on a personal website. After working for a few weeks, I’ve decided to rethink my approach to that one, and am planning to take up an official abbeychristine website in the new few weeks. Unfortunately abbeychristine.com, which I owned a few years ago, is now a bootleg Hollister site (I know, so weird, right?), so my first project is to decide on a url. If you have a brilliant suggestions, let me know!IMG_2062_2_smallerI’m also in the process on coming up with some new designs for 2015. It seems crazy that it’s been since 2013 that I debuted a new design– the last was Louis CK. Picking people to add to my collection is a complicated equation of whether the person can be translated in a recognizable way into a puppet, and of course whether they’re a popular figure that I think people would actually want to buy in 4″ of felt. I’ve only just started sketching for this year’s new class, but I’m super excited to show you new stuff soon.16356026891_d4950d0264_bHowever much I actually finish as planned this year, I’m excited for the new things 2015 has in store!

“I like you, Maude.” “I like you, too, Harold.”

Finally I can check this one off my to do list– Harold and Maude button packs are now live in my shop. I’ve been meaning to get around to these forever, and am really happy with how they turned out.Harold and Maude are one of my oldest puppet designs– I’ve been making them since 2007, and still find them to be one of the designs that people respond most strongly to. Below is the first photo from the original Harold and Maude listing.I’m hoping next year to expand to a few new products along the lines of this new button pack, so it’s been a fun first step to roll out Harold and Maude in pinback form.Harold and Maude buttons and puppets are both available in my shop.

 

 

East Coast Meets West Coast: Grey Gardens and Plush You

Each fall for the past three years I’ve looked forward to making a piece for the Plus You show at Schmancy in Seattle. It’s such a fun opportunity to try puppet designs that are more ambitious than usual. The first year I tackled the “Golden Girls” and last year it was the cast of “Orange is the New Black.” This year I wanted to keep with the “strong ladies” vibe and did a set I’ve been wanting to make forever– Little Edie and Big Edie of Grey Gardens.

The Grey Gardens documentary is one of my favorite movies of all time, and those two are such incredible memorable (and confounding!) characters. The designs had a number of elements that can be tough to capture in felt– hats, scarves, strange “costumes,” as Little Edit refers to them. I’d sketched ideas for these puppets for years trying to get it just right, and it was also tough to narrow down what I wanted them to wear– Big Edie in her tube top or that crazy sun hat? Little Edie in her famous “best costume for the day” with the pants under the skirt? In the end I opted to recreate Little Edie from the flag dancing scene and Big Edie in her blue bathrobe.

Big Edie Bouvier Grey Gardens Finger PuppetLittle Edie Bouvier Grey Gardens Finger Puppet

I’m pretty happy with the results and think the essence of the Edies is there. The Plush You opening party is next Friday, October 10, so if you’re in Seattle, definitely go check them out in person.