Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Good things come in threes

So I've been commissioned to design and make a dragon puppet in three sizes - bigger than a teenager, 60cms and small stuffed toy.

After much discussion we decided that we'd go with a costume for the big dragon, a muppet-like puppet for the mid dragon and about 30cms for the stuffed toy.

There's a meme out there of photographing your studio space. So I figured today'd be an excellent opportunity for that. My studio is in a building about 3 suburbs from where I live, so when I'm knitting or making little things, I do it at home. My bedroom is filled with material stashed in every nook and cranny, and crates of wool stashed around the house. But for big things, I trot off to the studio...

On the right you can see the dragon costume. It came without hands, feet or a face, so I have to build those. The big gray shape on the left is the mid dragon's body. On the table at the back is a Grim Reaper, one of two dolls left in my care from Totem... One of them are being picked up today, the other I've still not heard from the artist. Under the table at the back are two tool boxes of varying sizes, and the box under the table on the right is actually a knitting machine that I bought last year and still haven't had time to get out and attempt something.

The dragon needed to be cute. They wanted it with a face like a My Little Pony. Since I didn't have a good grasp on the ins and outs of how a MLP is built, I went and bought one. The drawing was done before I had acquired the rosy equine.

Here is the Mid Dragon and the little one. Note the holes in the Mid Dragon's chest, that's for it's arms. They were all keen on little T Rex type arms.

Family shot! The one on the left is the Mid Dragon. It's hard to tell from this angle, but the Big Dragon is indeed bigger than the Mid one. Which makes sense really.

The Lost Toy Society

now that I look at it, it's a dreadfully Australian shot. Kolah bear, eucalyptus leaves and bluestone. I'm sure that it all means something, but I can't figure out what.

Found behind my house.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


It appears that Where The Wild Things Are is generating huge amounts of interest all over the web. And so my last post is turning up all over the place (including on the excellent Puppeteers Unite site and the awesome popculture showcase Super Punch) and many people are popping over here to visit. Hello to you! Come, sit yourself down and have some cake.

I've been getting a number of questions about which is my favourite Wild Thing. It's a simple contest, and Carol has always won hands down. With his stripes he's easily the most distinguishable of the monsters, and after all, although he doesn't appear on the cover, Carol is the Wild Thing that appears in the two most famous images from the book, including bowing to King Max (I don't have to link to these images. You know which ones they are!) I was thrilled, therefore, to discover that my favourite Wild Thing was the principal one in the film.

After they finished filming the movie, we cleaned, washed, dried and packed every suit into huge wooden crates to send them back to the studios in America. (I asked what the studio was planning to do with them, and someone referred me to the end scene in the Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc, where they wheel the boxed up arc into a huge warehouse filled with similar crates) and we went home for the final time. I had a few weeks off before my next job, so because my head was still so full of monster images, and because I use art to process the things that happen in my life, I sat around and knitted a number of the guys. Carol was the first, naturally! and I knitted him for one of the standbys who was a close friend of mine (you can't keep everything you knit, where would you store them all? Better to knit for other people say I!) I proceeded to knit the other guys too, but Carol is my favourite and I'd love to have the time to knit him again, this time for myself (ok, well sometimes that Other People rule has to be broken :) But when the merchandising comes out for the film, I have to say that I'm probably going to be buying something of Carol and something of Max.

Cause we've all got a little Max inside...

In other news, Chrisy from Sophism Press has included Victor the Strongman as part of her most recent showcase, focusing on The Circus. How kind! There's a bunch of fabulous items in the showcase, so head on over and soak up some of the glitter and sawdust...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

This movie was filmed in Melbourne, a couple of years ago now, and I was lucky enough to work on it. I learnt a lot about monsters, puppets, foam and contact adhesive, knowledge I still use today. In fact I'm currently building 3 dragon puppets, or indeed, 1 dragon puppet in 3 different sizes and as I cut, shaped, glued and snipped yesterday, I reflected on just how much of the stuff I was doing I'd learnt while working on the Wild Things.

The monsters, if you don't already know, are giant puppet suits that the actors wore, and I was one of three Refurb (refurbishment) techs on the film. Each day the monsters crashed through the bush, rolled down hills, waded into water or beat eachother up, so each night, the standbys on set sent home the monsters who had been damaged by the day's work where we would fix them up, put bandaids on their cuts and scrapes and send them back to set.

There was a huge amount secrecy around the monsters, so they were always carried around in these giant black body bags (it took two people to carry each one), so it was a little like a monster morgue when we got them off the truck each night. The monster suits themselves did up with ties and press studs up the belly and chest, so once you got them out of the body bags, you undid all the fastenings and the chest would open wide like cathedral doors. Often you'd have to lean right into them to fix whatever was broken. So it went from Monster Morgue to Alien Autopsy very quickly.

It was an amazing job and I loved it. The book was my favourite as a kid, and the monsters were created and built by the Jim Henson Workshop, who were responsible for (amongst others) Labrynith, which was my favourite film as a kid. Most of the time we were in the workshop, but occasionally we were sent on set to fix the guys up, and I tell you, watching monsters crash through the bush live in their natural enviroment was one of the best sights I have ever, ever seen. Plus, getting hugged by stuntmen and actors in huge monster suits is one of the most awesome things I've ever been hugged by.

So anyway, this whole thing has been sparked by the fact that the trailer has jsut been released! you have to see it, it's incredible! And I get inflated chests of pride when I see a scene on the trailer that I stood and watched being filmed or watched stuntmen practise over and over before it was shot. Working on this film was really one of the highlights of my career and I'm over the moon to say that it looks as wonderful as I knew it would.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eep! When technology goes bad...

Our internet has been fried! During a storm, lightening hit a tree and all the power went out through the neighborhood. All our computers were off, but our modem was still on.

Thus endth the modem.

Rest assured we are getting it fixed, but it'll be a little quiet around Chez 63 until then.

But tommorrow I am starting on building a foam Dragon Puppet, and I'll be photographing the entire process and then putting it online for you all to see.

I'm also knitting worry dolls, a pirate in a rowboat and teaching myself to crochet by crocheting a demon, so there's plenty of crafty things going on... As soon as we get back to normal programming I'll be posting pictures of everything!

Until then my friends....

Friday, March 13, 2009

presents from the universe and the internet

yesterday, I was walking down the street and suddenly, there, scattered on and around a wrought iron chair at a tram stop was these

well, ok, it would have been better had I got a photo of them scattered around, but there they were, 3 pastel granny squares, an organse one, a red and black one and a red and black circular dollie. So beautiful!

Of course, I've never quite learned how to crochet, so I'm thinking I might take them to Brown Owls next week and give them to the ReStash, or to someone to use.

I've also been playing on ebay, inbetween knitting like a mad woman, and today two books arrived. ..

a vintage Knitting Dictionary and The Art of Teaching Craft. I'm so stoked!

many, many presents :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Presents in the Post (or A Little Bit Of History Repeating...)

Today I received two packages in the mail.

The first was from the delightful Isabella Golightly, who sent me three lavender pyramids in return for the peacock I sent her. How nice is that? She didn't have to, it was all covered, but she sent them anyway. They smell divine! I love the smell of lavender, and now I have three I can secrete around my clothing stashes... Just like Secret Squirrel.

Well, ok in my defense I've never watched Secret Squirrel nor do I really know what I'm talking about. I think he was a detective, but as squirrels, well, squirrel stuff away, I felt confedent in using that term.


So, the second package was a little more unusual. Back during Totem, there was a mishap involving a doll, a knee and some dried bugs. Artist A accedently knelt on Artist B's doll during installation, and broke a number of dried bugs that were attached to the work. Apologies were made and accepted and we continued hanging the show. Artist B fixed them as best as she could, and bought more from home as I recall, to replace the broken ones.

Today I opened a box I recieved in the mail to find a bunch of dried, dead bugs.
Unknown to me, Artist A has been collecting dead bugs and spiders for months now and has just sent them to me, asking me to pass them onto Artist B by way of apology. That was so heart warming! And who would have thought that a box of dead spiders could be such a sweet gift?

However, I do have to admit, I sat peering into the box of dead bugs that had jsut been sent to me in the mail and thought What a weird life I lead

However, it was my duty to perpetuate it, so I trundled off to the post office to in turn send the box onto Artist B.

It also made me think of the phrase 21 Dead Bugs As A Gift, which a number of years ago I thought was such a nifty phrase I turned it into an exhibition.

Speaking of exhibitions (what a wonderful segue!) Friday night is the opening of a group exhibition I'm participating in called The ART of FOOD + WINE at PigmentGALLERY, Level 2 Nicolas Building, 37 Swanson St, Melbourne from 5:30 to 7:30. Come down and have a drink, see some nice art and chat to some nice artists. Details on the Pigment website HERE

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

busy knittin' up a storm

I know people flock to Ravelry, and I have considered it, but my understanding is that you log in and list all your wool and all the patterns you want to knit.

My problem is that I don't work that way. I have 6 clear plastic tubs of wool and yarn organised according to colour, but there's only ever one or two balls of each and I never know what brand they are. This is because I buy most of my yarn from op shops, at 50c or so a ball.

On the up side, it's cheap and I always find interesting wool you can't find in shops, but on the down side you can't knit whole jumpers or anything because there's really only ever one or two balls of the same type. But since I really only knit little dolls, 1 ball of wool will do anywhere from one doll to many, depending on what I'm knitting. So really, that's another up side.

It's all coming up Milhouse...

Plus, I never knit patterns. This is partly because my ability to read patterns is only slightly better than my ability to read music. Playing anything on piano via reading music comes out all stilted and the musical equivalent of SEE JANE, SEE JANE RUN, RUN JANE RUN. But mostly it's because I think of something to knit and then knit it. I don't need a pattern to know how to knit a burlesque girl, and I think I'd be hard pressed to find one. I just make it up as I go along, and then I keep bowling along.

I'm telling you all this for a reason. Which appears to be that I've jsut finished knitting a number of doll prototypes for this semester's Knitting Club workshop which I'm quite happy with, but more details of that soon. I then ran out of things to knit breifly, so I'm now halfway through knitting a little pirate (currently he's naked and sans his rowboat, so I can't put photos up yet. This is a family show after all.) and I'm also finally finishing off the Vampira and the Medusa I knitted a while ago.

Again, no photos at this stage due to the highly technical reason that I've misplaced my camera cord. But soon my pretties, soon.

Until then, check out about the cutest thing I've seen in a while, which I found through a google image search of MEDUSA to check her regular facial expression for the doll.

I present to you How to have mythological children:

I found it here, but no details as to who did it or anything. But how cool is that! And such a serious expression on the child's face.

Rockin thing to go out on tonight, don't you think?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Digital craft

I'm still busily knitting for this years Knitting Club, but which I do that, I've made a couple of digital works for an exhibition for the Food and Wine festival.

The first is called Mysteries in the Bottle. I had this vision of a wine bottle crawling with tiny monsters, as I'm a big fan of monsters. This is how it turned out (there's always an element of randomness with my digital images, I start with an idea and see where it ends up)
Then I figured I'd make a 'food' one too. I read a quote from Henri Matisse in which he said that he wanted his art to have the effect of a good armchair on a tried businessman. So that idea made it's way into the work. This is Visions of Matisse and Newton

Then I figured I'd pull the apple itself into the main focus, since it's a food and wine festival. So this is called Still Life with Myths, since there are so, so many myths that feature an apple.

As per usual, optimising them for the web has made them nowhere near as detailed or pretty as they are in real life (well, in bigger file size anyway), but if you're interested seeing bigger versions, all three are up on my redbubble account:

Mysteries in the Bottle
Visions of Matisse and Newton
Still Life with Myth

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wonderfully Hearty Winter Soup

I know it's not yet winter, but it's been cold and rainy for several days and it was just the perfect weather for soup.

No photos this time, but imagine big bowls of hot tomatoey goodness with joyous veggies.

2 cans of crushed tomatoes
1 can of lentils
1 can of red kidney beans
1 medium onion
2 medium mushrooms
1 medium zucchini
1 small red capsicum
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons of Sambal Oleck (or any kind of chili)
2 teaspoons of basil pesto
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
a dash of balsamic vinegar
1 veggie stock cube, made up with only about a cup of boiling water
a handful of fresh basil

Cut up the onion into smallish pieces and fry for 2 or 3 minutes in some olive oil

Cut the garlic up very fine and throw that into the onions

Cut up the mushrooms into smallish pieces and throw that into the saucepan, cook for 5 mins or so

Put in both cans of crushes tomatoes, the lentils* and the kidney beans* and very thing else except for the zucchini and capsicum

Let the soup simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

About 5 minutes before you serve, chuck in the zucchini and capsicum which you have already cut into smallish pieces, and the fresh basil, which has been roughly chopped.

Heat until the new veggies are warm through and serve!

You can serve with thick toasted bread if you like, but this soup was specifically created to be thick and chunky enough to eat on it's own.

Rocking soup, and I'm really pleased with it. It serves about 4, or 2 meals of 2 (dinner and then lunch the next day. I'm a huge fan of left overs for lunch.) I only wish I'd thought of it about a week ago so I could have submitted it to the Handmade Help recipe book. But then I did submit a number of recipes and fun little household hints, I'll see which ones they use and then post them here.

* i have found, disappointingly enough, that occasionally any kind of canned beans might be somewhat off. After pouring bad beans into the food I'm cooking more times than I can count, I've finally learned to open the beans and drain them into a strainer FIRST to check if they're ok. I strongly urge you to do the same!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Craft Swap has landed!

The lovely Susan at Isabella Golightly recieved her package in the mail yesterday, so I can post photos here!

I asked her what colours she liked and wheather she preferred sewing or knitting. Her reply was
I probably lean towards blues and greens for colours, the jewel colours...Knitting v sewing - that's a real toughie for me, I love both of those things, but it's summer now, so I'd have to say "sewn". Way to hot to be asking anybody to knit for me!

I had been planning to knit her something, so Susan choosing sewing threw me a little, but I am always up for a challenge. I thought about it for a little while, and did a little snooping on her blog and her etsy and decided to make her a bird. I started on an idea, but wasn't happy with it, so abandoned it halfway through and tried again. This time I was much happier with the result!

Blue, green and jewel colours. What other kind of bird could you make but a peacock?
I was really lucky in the material I found for the body. That had the perfect blue sheen to it for peacock feathers. It was only a netting though, so underneath is blue felt.

Same with the wings. If you look at peacock wings, they're brown and white. Since I was going with the netting and felt option for the body, I figured I'd continue that theme in the wings. This time it's beige lace over white felt.

Every peacock has a crown, this one's crown is made from copper wire and is in th shape of little hearts. I have to admit that I was sewing this peacock at work, where there was no access to the internet and I had this nagging doubt that because this was a swap for Febuarury, that it was in some way supposed to be about love, or hearts, or something. But I wasn't sure. So I made the crown like this, to hedge my bets each way.

Nicely enough, the eyes are beads from my found broken jewellery collection.

Overall, I was really happy with the results of this little guy, and I'm thrilled that Susan liked him so much!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday. Where the confusion wins out but at least I was visited by craft

When I am stressed, I am absent minded and get confused more easily. This fact explains today.

This morning I went to the Neighbourhood House where the knitting workshops were held last year. I was there to meet the two women who organise such events.

After 20 minutes
several chats to some of the residents and workers
a cup or two of coffee
and a couple of phone calls...
I remembered that I had failed Diary Reading 101 and upon checking the aforementioned journal, I discovered that my meeting was tomorrow. Which is why neither of the ladies turned up today.

So instead I took some photos of some pretty cool craft around the foyer and walked away into the sunshine.

However, blogger appears to be jsut as confused as I was, and wont let me upload the photos. Ah well...

The day continued and the highlight was I decided to make a Caesar Salad for dinner. For those of you who don't know, to make a good Caesar Salad, you need:
  1. Bread (for croutons)
  2. Egg
  3. Bacon (veggie style)
  4. Lettuce
  5. Parmesan Cheese
  6. Caesar Salad Dressing (I prefer the Paul Newman's non-creamy style of Caesar Salad Dressing)
  7. Chicken or Chicken Substitute (Crumbed Veggie Schniztels or Tofu works)
So earlier today I went and purchased the ingredients. Tonight I grabbed them out of the fridge (still in their bag, I was lazy when I got home) and laid them out on the bench.

And then stared at them in disbelief. Out of the required 7 ingredients, I had purchased Bread, Parmesan Cheese and Lettuce.

That was it.

Man, even a rabbit wouldn't eat lettuce, bread and cheese for dinner. Though now I think about it, a monk might. So instead I decided Sod It, I'm off down the pub.

Of course, being today in all it's glory, I missed the pub I was looking for and ended up at the supermarket instead. So I bought the missing ingredients and went home.

Pooh, what a day.

I'll come back later and attempt to load up the photos again