My pottery frog plate.

October 8, 2011

As many of you know, I do a lot (A LOT in capitals) of volunteer work for Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Seven years ago, we decided to do an annual fish fry as a way to fundraise for the issues surrounding the Shenandoah River. Four years ago now, we have been asking local artists to participate in this event by decorating an object that we then auction to raise funds for that purpose. Initially we were going around to local businesses to find items to auction and that idea became stale very quickly. I had the idea to obtain large fiberglass sculptural fish to have local artists decorate and when I began the research I soon realized that it was a huge expense just to purchase the fiberglass pieces. Horse Mania in Lexington, KY supports much of the arts with the proceeds from this kind of event. They are actually repeating the event again in 2011 from 2000.  So why not scale the idea back and find something less expensive. That first year we did terra cotta planters, with a River Visions in Terra Cotta theme and they were wonderful. The idea took off and we had artists wanting to know how they could participate. The next year we did floorcloths. And last year we did wooden cottage benches.  The items have been so successful that I overheard some grumbling from some of the attendees that the items were selling beyond their means. And really, each year it seems the prices have risen to certainly more than I would pay for some of the items. And while we don’t seem to raise the kind of funds that the LexArts folks do we still need to make the items reasonable for our local demographic.

The idea to offer a silent auction item was put into play and I came across a site for a gallery in Oregon that was doing a benefit for CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund) and asking potters to submit a plate to be auctioned online. The submissions for the gallery in Oregon were wonderful and I contacted the Mary Lou Zeek, the gallery owner and found out the details and decided to give it a try to offer a less expensive item at this year’s fish fry. The minimum bid will be $25. Hopefully the prices won’t rise too high and folks will see that we are making an effort to make items available to everyone. Even those of us that the recession has hit.

My plate has frogs that are coming out of the pond of fish. The frogs have expressive faces and the fish in the center is a slip trailed image of a fish. Not necessarily a Shenandoah Fish. Water lilly  leaves form a circle around the outside edge and they are glazed in a celedon with a slip detail of the leaf showing through.

As this year’s  fish fry gets closer, there will be other potters submitting works and the collection of plates will come into view. We weren’t able to get 100 plates or potters on board but the dozen that we have will hopefully give us a starting point to getting a new item of our fundraiser off the ground.

Tickets will be going on sale soon and the event is October the 8th this year. Mark your calendars and plan to attend. The larger item that other artists are decorating this year are Adirondack chairs with a river theme. Those should be lots of fun to see too. I didn’t do one of the large items this year with my fall being full of family events but I can’t wait to see what the other artists come up with as their vision appears on the chairs.

The Frog Plate…

Orange and Teal

Belle has chosen orange and teal for her wedding colors are  and I absolutely love them. I mean, orange is just so happy (laughing orange) and the teal is a cool color. So, I am putting them into the party that we are doing for them on September the 24th wherever I can. Rather than try to find accessories to fit that color scheme, I thought it would be fun to make the parts to the party myself. I have purchased some things in those colors and in the coming weeks I will share some of those items with you but for today I am going to share the beautiful tablecloths that I am making to put on the banquet tables in the yard. With Herb’s help we are trying a “how to video” posting today, so please bear with us.

Hand painted Tablecloth in process

tablecloth supplies

 for this project, you will need:

  • a flat sheet or large piece of fabric. I used flat sheets that I found at a discount store. Although it seems they are harder to find these days due to sheets packaged as sets.
  • the fabric dye. I used just plain old RIT and “somewhat” followed the directions on the back
  • rubber stamps of your choice, I used the soft spongy kind but you could use a potato or a linoleum block. You just need something that will make a design with
  • paints. I used an assortment, a latex house type paint, a wall glaze and an acrylic.
  • a brayer is nice to have but isn’t absolutely necessary and a piece of glass to use the brayer on as a palette
  • a detailing paintbrush
  • an ink pen
This first video will give you an idea or how to get the orange dye onto the fabric so that the color vignettes from color to white.
And in this next video, I will demonstrate how to stamp the patterns onto the fabric using a printmaking brayer and paint.
And finally, I demonstrate how to add the details to the stamped design so that it looks more handmade and give the design more character rather than a boring stamp. A little glitter and shine make it look elegant and special.

Constructing a fish…

Looks great John, are you okay in there?

About 5 or so years ago, Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, the group that I do a lot of volunteer work for, devoted an entire Saturday to brainstorming for the groups future. They invited me to attend even though I was no longer a board member. During the day we discussed our problem with getting local individuals interested in our group. The past history of the group was one of combative advocacy and that was one of the issues we were discussing.

Locally, in Shenandoah County, parades are a really big deal. When Herb and I bought our house it happened that our closing was on the day of the Fireman’s parade in Tom’s Brook and we couldn’t get into town to even get into our new house. We had to wait for the parade to end. So I made the suggestion that our river group begin working on a parade presents with a mascot or a group of mascots with a whimsical and funny take on the problems the river is facing. I suggested having a fish with an IV, maybe a clown fish throwing water (confetti), some folks inside a canoe that the bottom had been cut out of and have an entire troupe of fish that attends events and parades. This, I thought, would put the group into a more friendly appeal with a sense of humor but also with an interest in the water quality problems that the river was facing. It would make us more approachable.

So the idea was shelved until later.

The Science committee chair, John Holmes, approached me later and said that if I would make the costume that he would wear it. It just seemed that I never had time for such an undertaking and when looking online at costumes, none of them seemed to fit our pricing or look. So finally, last spring, I decided to dive in and tackle the costume. So I thought I would share the process of constructing a fish.

After consulting with Terri Fluker, a Berea College alumni, who designs and creates costumes in Hollywood, I bought upholstery foam at Jo Ann’s Fabrics and assembled the fish as if it were a quilt. Making a quilt sandwich for each side and planning to add the fins into the seams. Essentially, a pillow case like container that would slip over someone’s head and look like a fish.

Many hours spent quilting the sides of the fish was the hardest part. It was just extremely time consuming and difficult to push around under  the sewing machine.  The head was stuffed and a wooden embroidery hoop was sewn into the neck area to hold it’s shape. I also added some long sash pieces inside the neck to wrap around the shoulders of the person wearing the fish and bring around to their waist and tie it like an apron in order to stabilize the head so it doesn’t flop around and will stay put. Armholes were added as well to give the person inside a means to get water and for safety purposes. John determined that they were good to have but he was going to keep his hands inside.

The assembled fish was then painted with gesso as a primer to accept the paint. Using a photo reference of the Stoneroller fish,  acrylic paint was applied to the overall surface. A gold glitter paint was used to draw in the quilted indentions and metallic paints to add a sparkle and shine. And the screen “look through” area was spray painted white to recede it into the belly area.

Now that he is finished, we see things that we can do to help the person inside and add to the illusion. Adding some elastic into the belly area to pull the sides together will allow the fish to look less belly dominated and maybe adding a small skirt area under the belly to hide the pants. Also, I may try and add some lips on the face. I’m not happy that the fish appears to be looking up all the time. If, and that is a BIG IF, I ever do another one, I would try and have the fish head so that he is more facing forward.

I want to thank the following for the help and support they have given me for the past year as I assembled this beast…

Hopefully, “Stoney, the Stoneroller” will help to bring smiles to some kids faces, help to educated the local population as to who he is and how he lives in the Shenandoah River and his purpose and his message of helping to clean up our precious river. He is now ready to take on all those parades and festivals that are coming up in the summer months and into the fall and winter.
Of course, he’s a little worried about the fish fry in October

Matchbox Mouse

Molly Mouse in her dress

From one of the many catalogs that have come to our house this holiday season, Garnet Hill had this item in it and when I went to order it for one of my favorite little 4 year olds, they were sold out. Then I googled and found that every site that had them were also sold out. I can see why considering that they are so cute. So given my famous thought, “I could make that!”, I decided to do just that. While I didn’t document the whole process, I thought I would share how I went about putting mine together. My apologies to the original artist, but, if there had been more out there I would have purchased yours….and not spent two days in my sewing room. (which now looks like a bomb went off in there)

  1. I took the dimensions from the item at the website and went through my house looking for appropriate cardboard to make the box out of. I located some that had been a cover for a book of fabric swatches that an interior designer gave me several years ago. The cardboard is about 1/8 thick and is really sturdy and dense. Plus, it had this great pattern already on it so when I cut out the pieces to the box I made sure I positioned the pattern onto some of the sides.
  2. After cutting the sleeve part of the box, I glued it together and set it aside to dry while I worked on the bed part of the box. This box has to fit inside the sleeve so you have to account for the thickness of the cardboard in addition to making the measurements just right. Then you glue the bed part of the box together.
  3. Then onto the mouse. I had a pair of merino wool socks that had been through the dryer too many times and I could no longer wear but they had been naturally felted due to the dryer heat. Cutting them up into the parts of the mouse worked out because the knitting wouldn’t fray due to the felting.
  4. The mouse is 4 1/2 inches tall so I first drew out the proportions on a sheet of cardboard that I had cut to the 4 1/2 size. Basically, the arms and legs were just tubes with a rounded ended sewn in them for the hands and feet. The torso is a larger tube that the arms and legs were tucked into or sewn onto. The head was a head like shape, basically an oval with a pointed side. two pieces sewn together, turned inside out and stuffed with about a cotton ball size of stuffing. The torso was stuffed as well, but the legs and arms are just the sock material. And the ears are just small circles with a small pleat in them and stitched onto the head.  The eyes, nose and mouth were embroidered on.
  5. Her dress is scrap lace and fabrics. The skirt is a rectangle with elastic in the top and wrapped around her waist and a small snap is stitched in place so that it can be taken on and off. The lace slip is stitched to the mouse so it can be a nighty. And then I tied a satin ribbon around the waist for a waistband sash.
  6. Her jewels are just beads that were threaded on elastic string and small gold wire. I used initial beads for her necklace so I could give her a name.
  7. Once the box had dried, I glued watercolor paper to the top and sides of the sleeve and painted the strike plates on the sides and an illustration on the top. Mine has the alphabet on it as opposed to a fake manufacturer’s name. My little friend is 3 1/2 years old so she can practice her alphabet  reading the top.
  8. I lined the box bottom with fabric that I glued in and made a rectangle square that I stuffed and machine quilted for a small mattress and made a matching pillow. Her blanket is part of a sleeve from a sweater that I stitched satin ribbon onto one end and did a blanket stitch around the remaining three sides.
  9. Once complete, the mouse fits inside and when closed up she fits snuggly inside and can be tucked in at night to sleep in her little box
  10. I have a wooden thread spool that I might include as a pretend stool or bedside table.

I hope that my little friend will cherish this little mouse for many years to come. At $28 in the catalogs, I may have to purchase the next one. Made with love and a lot of time. Merry Christmas, Sophie.