Friday, September 27, 2013

Polar Elf Fashion

I have been away from my blog for far longer than I anticipated!
 This year has been full of twists and turns largely of the undesired kind but I am happy to say the most wonderful things have been happening in my artistic life.  I have been accepted into a talented group of artists- The Professional Doll Makers Art Guild!  My White Rabbit is on their cover page currently.  The link to the site is  There are some amazing artists in this group whose careers I have followed and I am honored to now be a member.  If you are interested in seeing the variety offered in the art doll world, this site is a great place to start. And I get to check this off of my Bucket List! Cheers!

Working in the studio is such a solitary environment it is easy to forget that my work is actually out there being seen and collected.  I tend to feel like a mad scientist here some days working furiously away on my latest must-creates and ticking away to do lists. I am now preparing for a holiday show and getting around to galleries in an attempt to balance the in-studio and out-of-studio time. 
So what is materializing from all of this?

Elf Fashion

 Not the cover girl you were expecting, is it?

I will venture to guess you have not spent much time pondering this subject but there is a job for everyone and currently this is mine.  I tend to think that if a being is around for very long periods of time (hundreds of years, let's just say) they would tend to have a large repertoire of fashion history under their belts.  Elves must create.  It is part of their job description.  I don't think they would just get up, throw on sweats and haphazardly sling paint and hammer day in and day out.  No way, not a very romantic notion by any means.  In my estimation of elf culture (insert knowing raise of eyebrows) they would have wardrobes as varied and eccentric and they are bound to be themselves.  No simple red shifts and puff-topped sock shoes here please.  My latest little pair reflects a mix of classic, Victorian and a touch of steampunk.

Colette and Pierre

Edgy elves may not be a household phrase just yet but give it time.  I will keep designing away here, mixing up decades and trims, the sleek and shabby, throwing in a potion or two to see what falls together.  Life can be unpredictable; mix things up and have fun!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Wicked Witch's Story

Funny how things that you love as a child fade and reappear in new and interesting ways.  I grew up in Kansas in the days prior to instant internet access to anyone anywhere.  I had a vivid imagination and loved movies and books.  The movie "The Wizard of Oz" was my favorite and it was only on television once per year.  Yes, I am dating myself a bit but there you have it.  I wanted to be Dorothy and I was terrified of the witch and her flying monkey minions.  I would watch her scenes with the blanket pulled up under my nose, not wanting to miss anything but not wanting to see it either. Margaret Hamilton portrayed a wicked witch in her most classic form brilliantly in my opinion.  That cackle is burned into my memory.

A few weeks ago we went to see the new Oz movie which we all enjoyed a great deal.  One of the things I loved was how they made the Wicked Witch of the West a likable character.  That is something that the writers of the television show "Once Upon a Time" do so well with all of their stories- make you empathize with even the darkest character.  They give them a past, a heartbreak, a seemingly valid reason to behave as they do so you no longer see them in the same way.  When I set about making my own Wicked Witch of the West I decided to combine my original mental images of the 1939 version of the Wicked Witch and the new softer version to create this likeness.  I wanted her to still have some of her original beauty tinged with the beginnings of a broken and darkening heart.

 It was her tears in the new film that really struck me.  This witch that once petrified me to the core suddenly had a heart. My Wicked Witch had to include her tears.

 I like to include many trims and details on my art dolls so I beaded extra emerald beads into her bodice, hat and over-sized boots.  She has dual-toned stitching, , feathers, frayed fiber details and her gown is a mix of fine beading and tattered, flowing ribbons of fabric. 

I will continue to bring some of my favorite characters to life with new twists and what-ifs but for now I am enjoying the company of this new witch.  I have enjoyed my little trip down Memory Lane here in my northwest home noting that it is a little funny that I ended up moving from Kansas to Seattle, the Emerald City.  I assure you it was coincidence, my passion for Oz would not have dictated that kind of real life move, but it was amusing to think about.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Carpathian Circus

One of the wonderful things about creating a world of your own is that you are limitless in characters, events, places and abilities. I love the idea of the circus- a traveling make-believe world.  When I was very young and staying with my grandparents one summer I woke up to find a circus setting up in a large field across the street from their house.  I remember staring out the front window waiting to get a glimpse of something fantastic.  We did cross the street at one point and a kind man there let me pet one of the horses- magic for a child.  Even now I have a sign in my office that might be more reflective of both my active household and studio space combined, saying "Impossible you say? Nothing is impossible when you work for the circus!"

  Based on these ideas, the most recent Griffinwyse growth has been the development of the two circuses; The Carpathian Winter and Midsummer Circuses.  The Winter Circus is a vision of black, white, grey and red.  It is a more mysterious, dark web of magic and illusion and its patrons and performers reflect that feel.

 Here is Deirdre, a fortune teller with the Carpathian Winter Circus who finds sprouting horns most entertaining when trying to keep patrons honest during a reading.
 Ciardha and Chandara are vampire sisters.  Circus-goers believe this is a disguise, merely amazing make-up to add to the other-worldly atmosphere under the great tents.  The true great secret of both circuses is that everything one sees is truly skillful magic disguised as illusions.  Feasting on patrons is not allowed, however, as these two can attest.

The Midsummer Circus is a celebration of color, characters and imagery.  They are a wonderland of the odd and interesting wrapped in trims and nonsense. Why two circuses, you may ask?  I believe it is opposites that I love most- dark and light, sinister and innocent, and the very opposition that makes each side more distinct when compared to the other.  Would I want to attend a moody circus of dark and interesting characters in the season when darkness comes early and spooks and goblins seem most likely to wander? Yes, please.  Would I be just as eager to see a circus manned by curious characters of borderline sanity romping in the spring? Sign me up.  Let them (as they say in show business) entertain you!

 Sweet Tessa, a face-painter with the Midsummer Circus, loves children.  She skillfully paints anything a child desires in no time at all, sending them happily skipping off to their next destinations transformed.
Celeste is a perfect example of the merry clothing that adorns the performers of the Midsummer Circus.

There will be larger, elaborate characters added to each circus as time allows as well as more of the loop-jointed and fully poseable art dolls and figurines.  On the list waiting to be brought to life; the bearded lady, tarot card reader, magician, witch/wizard, balloon artist, etc. Who might you be interested in seeing?

Coming in my next blog- a little trip to a place called Oz, revisiting my favorite childhood film!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Making dolls with my daughters

I mention my daughters frequently as my chief inspiration.  Over the years we have experimented with nearly every kind of art and craft we have seen or hear of together.  Now that they are getting a little older they are interested in trying more complex tasks and they recently asked if I could show them how to make their own dolls.  We started these over the holiday break and they really did take their time with them and enjoy the process.  The most surprising thing for me was their final products which turned out to be interesting,quirky dolls that really reflected a little of each of their personalities.  I should also point out that I merely demonstrated techniques, the dolls were completely made by the girls and everything from the faces, fabrics and accessories was their own design.  With their permission I will share their photos and dolls with you.

Olivia had her eye on a bold black and white fabric and it became the starting point for her doll's style.  She picked purple eyes from my selection of handmade eyes and her color palette was complete.  She also took the most time sculpting her face, working and reworking it until it was just the way she wanted it.  Olivia loves to draw faces so she approached sculpting one with as much dedication. At the end of the project she decided she liked painting the features and thinking up the dress design.  She also determined she has little patience for sewing by hand and was not overly fond of how long it took to put hair on properly.  She thought her doll resembled the Snow White character from the show Once Upon a Time and she has been named Mary Margaret.

Eden started off with a certain color of hair she just HAD to use and some decorative chain.  She also loves the elf ears I use on a large percentage of my work so her doll also has these.  She worked through the sculpting phase pretty quickly and her doll had a sweet little expression.  She was really most interested in moving on to makeup, hair and sewing the clothes.  Eden's doll, Bridget, turned out to be half rock'n'roll/goth and half sweet, caring soul much like the artist herself.  She diligently hand-sewed all of the clothing and accessories and mounded as much of the red-blonde hair she could squeeze onto Bridget's little head.  Both of the girls mixed in a streak of a different color into their hair designs for a little edgy look.

My youngest is too little to make her own doll but she is our official Board of Cuteness Approval.  She would stop by frequently and check on the girls' progress, sometimes giving the dolls a kiss with her customary phrase "awwww, tyoot."
Tyoot = cute.

Once the dolls were complete we had a photo shoot which you see here.
We had a wonderful time working together.  They are proud of what they were able to accomplish and I was impressed with how creative and original they were.  They often joke with me about my love of unusual things but it seems a little of that may have rubbed off on them.  One great thing about this experiment is that as soon as they finished these dolls and were looking them over sharing their thoughts they immediately starting thinking about what they would do differently and what they would add to their next project.  I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.