Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Printable Doll Patterns: The Age of Digital Design

Today, patterns for dolls and doll clothing are readily available online, with free and for-purchase designs delivered with the click of a mouse. Many are public domain reprints of vintage patterns from some of the top companies in the business, adding a touch of nostalgia to the modern industry.

But for many artists, the paper pattern is still the beloved choice. The feel of soft tissue designs, newspaper cutouts, and old-fashioned paper packets is as much a part of the sewing experience as scissors snipping through fabric layers. Even the option of digital doesn't tempt them away from the retail pattern racks or yard sale treasures from long-ago collections.

Many digital designers try to recreate the details of the paper pattern as much as possible: including original cover art, instructions, and other images from vintage packets. Transforming the paper medium into digital files and CD-ROM images helps keep the preserve the images and make the artwork available for an audience beyond collectors -- even if the traditional paper ensemble is less available.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Wooden Christmas Ornaments

And not just any wooden Christmas ornaments, but an old-fashioned set turned into playthings long ago -- no doubt my grandmother having purchased them from a catalog or department store lot, then rethinking her Christmas tree in later years. We made up elaborate stories about those ornaments: the boy with the blue jacket and orange ball was a prince, the little girl in pink angel costume his younger sister. The green-painted woman with her fierce little stare and gold star was the witch; the funny upright cow the comic relief of the party.

Over the years, they wore out and disappeared, prompting me to look for a similar set online -- and discover just how wildly collectible these little guys had become. Inspired by wooden ornaments of German make, they ranged from sophisiticated, brightly-colored artisan pieces to dime-store miniatures like the ones I remembered best. Lot after lot on Ebay vanished for high prices; and even after I acquired a set, a few extras needed "made over" to resemble the originals from my childhood.

A little paint, a little glue, and a little TLC for long years in storage transformed them into an impressive collection of wee wooden folk for a vintage-style tree.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sculpting Things

Among my new year's resolutions is an artist's resolve to keep practicing projects I took up the previous year -- this includes the art of sculpting with paper mache, something I made a habit of doing every few months last year. The first attempt (made two years ago now) was a rough and extra-large version of the Nativity for an outdoor manger scene. The second, a small version of a ship's figurehead, was too narrow. The third, a larger ship's figurehead in the form of a bust, was much more successful.

Last Christmas, a box full of paper mache birds with wings stretched in flight and rough-shaped bodies of tropical breeds, all for a future holiday tree display.

One of Izannah Walker's Sculpted Dolls

Since then, I've sculpted a doll's head and limbs in a sort of rough Izannah Walker style; and drawn up sketches for busts resembling classic marble and vintage ceramics. The key is patience and time -- especially since the hobby requires coating the living room in newspaper and vinyl tablecloths, mixing large portions of flour paste and newspaper (plus boiling for a smooth and elaborate project). For some reason I keep to the floor instead of sensibly sitting at the table for these things.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jane Eyre-ness

The internet is abuzz with word on the all-new film version of Jane Eyre in progress -- featuring Dame Judi Dench among its cast members. For a story already catching its breath from a stint on the stages of Broadway and a popular Masterpiece Theater adaptation, the hype surrounding the film's details almost rivals the most popular lady novelist of screen and volume as of late, the lively Jane Austen.

Catch up with the latest details HERE and celebrate the popularity of Charlotte Bronte's gothic romance alongside its oh-so-famous literary cousins.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pastry Party

Nothing makes the mouth water like fresh-baked pastries -- even the most simple draws longing from observers with a sweet tooth. Fans of Rosemary & Thyme remember the tantalizing raspberry pastries featured in "They Understood Me in Paris" -- but for me, the thought of a simple buttery crust with almond slices and a sweet glaze is more than enough at the moment.

A simple pastry dough will let you make all sorts of sweet treats, perfect for putting together a platter for a breakfast party. Martha Stewart features several tempting recipes, including a few for simple pastry doughs -- in comparison to the sometimes-complicated grand, buttery folds of delicate French recipes.

It's hard to choose a favorite, but in a word: cream cheese strawberry bear claws. Unbeatably good when you're craving the sweetest and semi-elaborate of the pastry world.