Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Bride and Books

A few months ago I made Delphine, the first of my jointed dolls.  Little did I know she would start a whole line of jointed dolls.  I have become a bit addicted to making these recently.  There is a certain attraction to the movement and fabrics.  Today I finished my first bride and really took a trip down memory lane.  Years ago I was a bridal designer.  Working on this doll took me back to the few hundred fittings I was party to and all of those amazing brides.  My favorite day when working with each bride was the day they came in to pick up their gown and try it on one last time before their big day.  There was always so much emotion that day, each face a kaleidoscope as they turned this way and that looking at the dress they would walk down the aisle in.  Always favorite memories of mine.

Today my client was smaller but just as adorable.  She has been dubbed "Morrin" and I would like to share a few photos of her progress with you today.  Here she is with a freshly painted face, ready for hair.  I have many different colors of hair here but red seemed to fit her best.  This is also my favorite part of their transformation - bald to flowing locks...

I love wild hair so I may have left her a little unruly but even the most casual bride I ever worked with had a constructed "windblown" look, so I slightly tamed her locks under a jeweled tiara.

The Griffinwyse world is all magical creatures and folklore from every culture so I try to incorporate some unique elf folktales whenever I can.  In this case I started thinking of all of the luck and superstitions involved in weddings.  There are so many little things brides try to do to ensure their good fortune - some who feverently believe in their power and consequences and some who are simply nodding to their cultures.  Whatever the reason, I love traditions.  For my little elf bride I imagined it to be good luck to pin a photo of your loved one to the bride's gown.  Since elves of all kinds have such long lives, they must not jump into marriage quickly and their weddings would be few but marvelous events.  I printed photos of past elves I have made to pin to her gown, plus a few photos for her book.
I have always written a few details about each elf on my site but as their numbers grow they and the world they live in becomes more clear in my mind, there seems to be more to tell.  I believe any piece of art speaks to its owner and my elves all develop their own personality as I sculpt.  A tilt of the head or twinkle in an eye all offer hints on what they might be or do.  To give a little more insight into each doll, they are now coming with their own Griffinwyse scrapbook.  Each book is also handmade and I write a few more paragraphs about each elf and include photos and handwritten notes by each character.  My intention is that these will help bring them to life for each new companion who takes them home.
Morrin's gown came together easily.  One of the things I really loved about bridal gowns were the lace choices.  They were so beautiful and I never got tired of hand-sewing them onto the gowns.  There is something magical about a wedding gown that you simply do not get in any other garment.  The sentiment, the fact that it is made just for you, the detail and time that is no longer put into making garments for the majority of women.  Applying lace is like the icing on a cake, so beautiful you cannot help but enjoy yourself.  Here is the front of her gown with the photos attached.
Of course no bride can be complete without her engagement ring so I made sure Morrin had a lovely crystal ring.
Once the details were in place, her book finished and signed, it was time for photos.
I will be finishing commissions over the next week and my girls will be out of school until after the new year so time in my studio will be a bit harder to come by but new elves will be arriving!  I am anxious to get some festive Polar Elves out before Christmas.  I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and I will be back to my blog after the new year!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Renaissance Tale

I just finished another framed art doll.  This one emerged entirely from the face.  I tend to work strictly on instinct.  When this interesting face appeared and I instantly saw the whole piece in my mind.  It was exciting because I have not worked often in a more pastel palette and I was initially wondering if it would fit into my "look".  Ottavia (as she has been newly dubbed) started with a serene expression and a slightly longer face.  It reminded me of the film "The Tale of Despereaux."  I loved the colors in that movie so that gave me a direction.  First order of business - a tiny violin.

Stringing the violin.
I used one of our violins to model this one and strung it as realistically as possible.  The bow also has "hair" to give it that true-to-life feeling as well.

Here are the finished pieces.

I designed a gown befitting a proper young lady and created sheet music that will lay in the corner and began to set up the final arrangement.

 I painted the more pastel palette and used my aging technique.
I loved the tranquil feel of all of the colors coming together but it still had that bit of drama I adore.
Then Ottavia was given a mane of fair hair.

As a final touch I added a portrait of William Byrd.  He was an English composer of the Renaissance and wrote for Queen Elizabeth.  A little bit of history for you.

At last Ottavia was complete and secured to her frame.  I find I love working in frames.  It gives me the chance to create an environment that can tell a little more about each character and I am sure it won't be long before another face inspires another framed work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Ornament Design

After many weeks of debate I finally have a complete ornament design for this year!  I debated the concept and design quite a bit.  It was a multi-stage process and I thought you might enjoy seeing how it all came about.  
The theme word was they easy part - "Peace".
Easy enough - now how to best set it off?  Originally, I thought I might stick with the general design I had in last year's "Dream" ornaments but change it up and add my favorite harlequin pattern.  So here was Option 1.

 Nice.  I love the pattern but it felt like I had been there and done that.  So I went in a completely different direction.  I had this cute little face begging to be tried out and I decided I would go for a more traditional round-shaped ornament.  Here is Option 2.

Cute, but I still wasn't jumping up and down with excitement.  So back to the drawing board.  I had the idea last year that a stocking would be a great shape to start with. I also threw in the harlequin print for some extra character and tested some fabric rope trim.  And so came Option 3.

Anticipation was mounting but I knew this was not quite it.  I loved the sweet face, the hair was a definite must-use, the shape was great, the pattern really brought it in to my Griffinwyse-y mood but it still needed something.  I realized this really looked like a Carpathian elf and Christmas is the Polar Elves' domain.  Polar elves are happy, lively and traditional with a twist.  Color was one missing element.  I also loved the sweet sleeping elf but wanted to try adding in some individuality and spunk with wide-eyed elflings.  I changed up the harlequin print to a four-color combination, sculpted a new open-eye elf and painted away.  Here is what emerged.

At last!  This had all the best elements of each trial, in my humble opinion of course.  I believe it brings together that one-of-a-kind, hand made, character-unique feeling I strive to bring to my work.  The variety in each piece will be in the individual faces and hair of each elf. I am limiting this to a 25-piece run.  These take quite a bit of time to sculpt and the painting is equally extensive.  This first ornament numbered 1/25 will be available shortly to those people who are signed up for my Members Mailing List and receive my quarterly newsletters.  If you have not signed up please head to my website and sign up. The rest of the ornaments will be making their way into my shop around the beginning of October!  

Happy Early Holidays!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Making a Mascot

  Last week, in addition to getting ready for a show and finishing up some custom work, I decided to make my mascot.  He has had a name and personality since I dreamed him up while making up a company name.  I have always been a fan of griffins but I also equally love owls so I tried to imagine how I could combine the two.  So the griffinwysecame to be a combination half lion and half owl.  What other creature could more secretly protect magical beings?  He was dubbed "Balthazar" after a character in a movie.

 I first created my griffinwyse, Balthazar, as my logo and you can see him everywhere Griffinwyse exists.  This was one of my first big learning curves- trying to use Paint to get him to look just like I  had pictured.  I am a hands-on visual person so learning all of the computer programs and tricks has been a challenge.  I have to say I am so thankful I muddled through since all of these can make life so much easier- at least AFTER you have figured out what you are doing!

   I made Balthazar's overall shape first.  He is definitely look more "alien" here.

  Then I tested the pattern of the feathers.

I baked and painted the piece and then it was on to placing each of the feathers.  This was a long process but the final product was worth it.

 I loved the idea that any owl you might look up and see could be a griffinwyse.  These photos showed off how owl-ish he looks from one side and how he is clearly a griffinwyse from the other side.

  I also wanted to thank all of you who came to Wizard Fest this past weekend.  It was a fun show and my girls got to be with me during the majority of it.  It was great to be able to meet everyone in person.  This week I have some personal commitments that will largely keep me out of the studio but when I am in I will be turning out the new holiday ornaments!  Have a great week!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Blog Home!

I am so excited about switching my blog over to Blogger!  I was able to get everything up and running in no time and with the content and look I had been struggling to get before in my previous location.  I am not a computer guru by nature so those of you who feel the same will be able to feel my joy and relief!  My old blogs transferred pretty well and this will be a nice new home for future posts.

I thought I would also take this opportunity to post the info on an upcoming event I was asked to participate in.  Country Village is hosting their first ever Wizard Fest and asked me to bring my elves, wizards and magical creatures to help celebrate.  It sounds like a fun event for all of those Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and all-things-magical fans.  I will be offering specials on my own wizards for show attendees only so be sure to stop by to visit and check them out.  I will also be have some things on hand for the younger collectors, too!

Baby House Elves from June 27, 2012

I just discovered today is Dobby's birthday (yes, the Harry Potter Dobby) so what better day could here be to share the birth of my new little baby house elves?  I will be doing a Wizard Fest show locally here and wanted to make something for the children that will be attending.  My daughters had also requested something wearable which made me think of a sculpture I made of a mother and baby house elf which we all loved and sold quickly.  The girls really loved the little baby named "Dinky" so I decided to make more baby house elves that can be ornamental, hung on a wall or tree for the holidays, or worn as a necklace.  What I love about them is they tend to have that "ugly cute" quality.  I make all of them individually and drawn on memories of those days when the girls were babies.  There is something fascinating about a sleeping  baby - all the funny little faces they make.  You wonder what they might be dreaming of at such a young age.
Here is Mabel and baby Dinky - the inspiration!
Here are a few of the first babies - the yawning one always makes me yawn.
Once I have faces to work with I pick a colored clay for the blanket.  I usually do not use colored clay but  paint can be worn off so this is the best choice for items that will be handled regularly.  House elves are not given new clothing so I model these wrappings on common household linens with frayed edges.  I have a large stash of trims - colorful, shiny, aged, every type you can think of and these become the bindings for the blankets.  Depending on the little face I may or may not give it eyebrows or hair and so far the hair is always bits of feather.  I love the way the feathers float and have a completely wild, unkempt quality.
One row of baby house elves ready to be painted.
Each of their little faces and fingers are then painted by hand.  I am sure to give them rosy cheeks and a touch of grubby house elf complexion.  A small loop is secured in the back of each where the string for the necklace or hook to hang the piece can be attached.  My girls have worn their little friends everywhere and "Dave", "Lucy" and "Baby" have been great entertainment and just what the girls requested.
  Here is little "Lucy" in her place of honor.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the next batch of characters turn up!

Interesting Faces from May 16, 2012

I notice patterns come and go in my work.  For the past 10 days or so it seems I have only been drawn to creating interesting and aged faces.  After my little brownie was complete I kept creating creatures.  An imp and goblin promptly added themselves to my shop.
Gerlach was my take on the banker-goblin.
Little Snort sports a tail and has made off with some poor soul's key again.
I also have several more new heads awaiting bodies.  These two will be additions to my elf collections.
I love examining faces and adding those character lines.  Each face appeals to me in different ways. I have a favorite quote by Paul Gardener that comes to mind when I work.  He said "A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places."  I feel that is equally as true with sculpting as it is with painting.  I get a distinct sense at some point in each piece that lets me know it is time to put my tools down.  I love to look at my windowsill and see many little heads awaiting their bodies and settings.  This phase of face-making may be winding down now since I have the urge to finish some of these creatures.  What will be next?  I am sure I do not know, but it should be fun finding out.

Fairies, Brownies and Old Movies from April 19, 2012

My new line of fairies and magical creatures are making their way into Griffinwyse this week.  Growing up I loved classical art and sculpture and even as recently as five years ago that was the biggest influence in my art.  I was creating bonded bronze sculptures at the time.  As I have really allowed myself to have more and more fun with creating things and incorporating more of my personality into my work I have found that I also adore things that are slightly creepy, slightly unusual with a touch of classical in them.  Maybe this is an influence from my love of old  films - particularly old ghost stories.  I loved the films that slowly revealed some dark history, the spooky Victorian houses, people who were not what they seemed to be.  It is that combination of beautiful and dark, mystery and magic that drew me in.  I cannot wait to incorporate more of this influence into my elves and creatures.  That is not to say you won't see something downright sweet among my creations, of course you will, but to me the elves come with as many different personalities and occupations as humans. Certain regions of my elves lend themselves more to this style than others so you will likely see it most with the Carpathian Elves.  I have only a few available now since I have been concentrating more on Northern Elves this spring but more are on the way. I keep a notepad in my work area with an ongoing list of ideas that pop up while I sculpt and right now the list is long and still growing.  With this many ideas in waiting, I should never get bored!
Nisha is a night fa and appears to have more of a dark side upon first glance but night fairies are protectors by nature.
A little dark and light makes her intriguing.
Gillanders is the first of my brownies and kobolds.  The interesting thing about these creatures is that they love to listen to and help you with your problems but they do not like to be addressed directly.  Gillanders is definitely more on the sweet side but I love both of these characters for different reasons.  I hope you do, too!

New Treasures for my Studio from April 4, 2012

I attended the Best of the Northwest art show here in the Seattle area this past weekend and had a wonderful time with my family.  It is so nice to get out of the studio and see what other artists have been creating.  My girls love seeing all of the variety and we usually end up with a new art project in our future once they get inspired.  I have been particularly drawn to color- the more color the better.  There was no shortage of beautiful art at to be seen and it makes me even more excited to attend their fall show.  We came away with two little treasures from a Portland artist I have long admired and who is also a really delightful person.  Her shop is called Fantasy Figurative Art by Marca . I have seen her over the years at various art shows and always have to check out all of her fun/creepy creatures.  We came home with Spaz and Sparky.  They have their place here in my studio but my daughters frequently have to take them out and adore them for a while.  These are just a small sample of Marca's work.  Her characters are truly full of life.  I had my eye on a character by the name of Ramona and if I cannot get something out of my head it usually means I will bring it home at some point.  No doubt you will find one of her posable dolls irresistible, too.  If you would like to see more please stop by her website at
I love going to art shows and collecting things I love for my studio.  Not only is it wonderful to be surrounded by things I love looking at but I also believe in supporting fellow artists however I can.  I have found most artists are very supportive of each others' work and most agree in saying that there are enough collectors for everyone.  Even if you create similar things, no two artists' work have exactly the same feel.  I have also been the type that gets all teary and emotional when I see someone succeed doing something they love.  Watch someone win a reality show competition or a good pull-on-your-heartstrings commercial and I bring out the tissues every time!  I will feature more artists in this blog in the future whom I collect (or would like to collect) and have in my work space in the hopes they inspire you, too.
I'll close this week with a little peek at what I am working on this week.

Bringing Petra to Life from March 13, 2012

I thought you might enjoy following a piece from beginning to end.  This week I finally found inspiration for this little  head.  She had such a gentle personality from the moment I sculpted her and this week I was focused on bringing her to life.  All the little heads I make are stored on my studio windowsill until I have inspiration to create a final piece.  This week the pieces of Petra's puzzle came together.  The first missing piece was some moss I found while out shopping a few weeks ago.   I like to add a few found pieces to each environment because I think it helps set the scene and make the character appear real.  The moss itself brought a woodland picture into my mind, combined with the gentle expression in Petra's eyes and immediately I saw a witch or healer gathering elements for her potions and tonics.
Now that I had the idea I pulled out some elements that I planned to include in the piece.  I also decided that this was going to be a witch or healer and not and elf.  Elves are my primary characters here at Griffinwyse but they are not the only thing I create.  The Griffinwyse world is full of characters but, in this particular case, Petra needed human ears.  Here is how her look found it's theme and palette.
  Now the sculpting can begin!  I make a wire armature, fill in a basic shape with foil, cover with clay and bake it to form a solid base.  At this point the sculpture looks like an emaciated version of the final and baking at this stage allows me to add clothing and details while ensuring a solid final piece.  I add the head to this form.  Here is how Petra looked at this stage.
Then I fill in her basic form.
This is the fun part.  Now I can pull in a little of my fashion design background and imagination and start to create.  The best part about working with clay and NOT fabric is there are really no limitations and alterations can easily be made without the seam ripper.  I love cloaks and this environment and "outing" I had planned were a perfect match.  I knew she would also need some kind of bag for her treasures as well.  I add arms and hands in this stage as the final gestures take form.  The details make such a difference- adding seams to the clothes, joints and creases in the hands, waves and style to the hair, and all the folds in fabric.
Here she is before her final trip to the oven.
Now that I have all the elements, I need to pull paint.  In Petra's case I wanted to compliment the moss and I planned to use and gently frame her face without overpowering her.  The natural and rust colored feathers really appealed to me and were in sync with the soft tones and effects I was trying to pull together.
One of the things I enjoy about my work is the variety.  There is variety not only in the subjects but also in the steps involved in making them.  On any given day I can sculpt, paint, plan or do a variety of office-related activities.  If I am not in the mood for one, there is always something else that appeals to me.  Petra actually took a couple of days to complete.  Painting requires patience.  There are so many details in each piece and my fine-tip brush is my best friend.  I use several washes on each piece because the layers add to the depth and have a great aging effect.  Again, the face is the focus and I use several washes here to help add some highlights and shadows to the face.  I use several work lights so I am able to see in all the recesses of the piece and here is Petra all painted and ready for her final touches to be attached!
Now I paint her base, attach her to it and add final details.  Feathers are positioned, her runes are tied to her bag, acorns are secured in her bag and hand, and the moss is spread at her feet.  She is now ready for her photo shoot.  Another benefit of my job- playing photographer!  This was a learning curve for me initially- spent a good many hours in tutorials, test shoots and photo editing.  Now that I have a method down for what works best with my little subjects I can enjoy the process.  I know the time of day to shoot and how to play with the light so you can see as much of her expression and details as possible.  Here is the final sculpture!
Now Petra is ready for her new home but I am happy she is keeping me company today!

Inspiration from April 3, 2012

I recently finished Helena.  She was one of those pieces- suddenly everything came together and I could not work fast enough to bring her to life.  I always make faces first.  Everything sparks from the expression there.  In Helena's case her little head was perched by my work space for weeks but a complete image never came to me until I discovered a beautiful black feather.  That was what I was waiting for and suddenly I could see the complete character.  Inspiration came in the form of a feather.  It always amazes me how it comes out of the blue and you cannot force it, as much as you may wish you could some days. I will post her on Etsy in the morning yet I have to wonder if she really shouldn't just resume her position next to my work desk.  But then, if I didn't want to keep each piece I made I wouldn't be doing my job.