Friday, June 25, 2010

Music To My Ears

Hello again! So soon... Well, why not? It has been a most extraordinary month, so busy and yet, so rewarding with accomplishment. I've been winnowing down my own personal doll collection and one of the dolls I sold was a Momo. She's a 14" doll with a Japanese face on a Jumeau or Bleuette-style body (that's taller than Bleuette). When I sent a photo to my friend to ask her if she was interested in the doll, she inquired after the little black shamisen accessorizing the doll.

It turns out my friend is an accomplished musician, and plays a variety of stringed instruments, and probably a few she failed to mention. She also has a phenomenal Asian doll collection, so how could I turn down her request for a little shamisen? A shamisen is likened to a Japanese banjo. It has three strings and is played with a rather large pick. The most interesting thing about this project was that I'd decided instead of making a duplicate of the one I had, I would size the little instrument up to fit the Momo perfectly.

After the pieces were cut and assembled, I asked her if she'd prefer a black one or a polished wood one similar in look to the shamisen she'd just acquired that belonged to her grandfather. Polished wood it would be. So here I strayed once again into unfamiliar territory. Anytime you treat wood, especially Basswood, (which is very absorbent), with a liquid substance, the wood grain puckers up. Not so much with stain as its oil based, but with all other liquids such as paint, gloss, etc. Well, I'd already gone through a stain nightmare with the prie dieu and was highly reluctant to go through it again.

I did alot of research on what kind of gloss I could use on top of an oil stained piece of wood. I went to three different hardware stores and the answer was always the same when discussing the process. I had to sand in between gloss applications. I really didn't think the gloss would adhere to the stain, but after two day's drying time following the stain, the gloss adhered. I did have to sand, and I had to sand twice. I also had to apply multiple applications of the gloss, but the result was a hard, "guitar-like" shine that I was pleased with. phew!

During my research on shamisen finishes, I noticed that the instrument was played with a large and oddly shaped pick. I thought first to cut one out of wood and stain it to match the shamisen, when I remembered that I had some thin pieces of ivory sheets. No more that 2" wide, but about 1/16" thick. This was legal ivory acquired through a proper source, and I had no qualms using it. The first little pick came out adorable, but was only large enough for my older, black shamisen. That was the practice piece. The second one, a bit larger, came out perfect. I did not photograph the second one, but you can see the first in the photo provided with the original black shamisen (7" long).

And, so I've become a carpenter and a musical instrument maker. Another friend of mine inquired about a zither earlier in the year, so I'm hoping to have the opportunity to make her one in the future.


Miss E. Mouse

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Spiritual Journey - Sentimental, Too

The twenty-first brought us the Summer Solstice, and the first day of summer. The sweetness of the warm days reminds me of dipping my paw in a jar of honey and watching the glistening gold syrup drip slowly down like the days ahead. I'm particularly fond of beehive and honey bee ephemera and tend to want to decorate my hole in the wall with images of this busy little friend. Like the honey bee I am always working. Even if the work is pleasant, its a task put before me that must reach completion. This month I am trying to finish all my commissioned projects so that I can begin something new. As promised, the prie dieu and First Communion accessories were completed and I've selected a few photos to share with you.

The entire collection includes the Gothic prie dieu with four holy vignettes painted down the sides in the oval cut outs, and a presentation box of accessories. Represented on the prie dieu were God the Father, St. Peter, Jesus holding a heavenly orb, and the Blessed Mother Mary in the clouds. These were incredibly difficult to paint. Mainly because I first wanted them to have the same look and feel, although the originals were done by different artists. Secondly, they all had a halo or holy glow to them that had to be done just right. And, third, each had a tiny face about 1/2" to 1/4" big. Its not that I haven't done miniature faces before, but when you're painting religious figures, you don't want to mess up!

The presentation box contained a small gold chest with a sterling silver neckace with a cross on it, a scapular, a folding Stations of the Cross and a faceted garnet rosary. Included with this collection was a white leather covered bible with a gold ribbon page marker. The presentation box itself was a delight to paint although it took me quite some time to figure how to paint the lillies on it so they would stand out. I'd mulled over putting them in an oval, putting them in a leit motif from the middle shape on the side panels, but ended up with the circle. The idea of the circle came about when I was thinking of the communion host a Catholic receives at mass. White would not do however, so I chose a pale sky blue to show off the lillies. I was very pleased with the affect.

Then there was the folding Stations of the Crosss card. I don't know if you've ever tried to fold paper like this before, but it pops out. It won't stay folded. I pressed it under five coffee table art books and it still wouldn't stay folded. My first thought was to encase it in a leather binding like a book, or even make a leather envelope for it. Finally, days later, the idea of the ribbon to wrap around it, with the end tucked in was the decision made. I'd had these teeny tiny gold crosses in my stash and glued two together with the ribbon pressed between them. This made tucking the ribbon in very easy, and gave it a unique look. The purple ribbon was chosen as it is a holy color.

The rosary was probably the most difficult to make. I must have ordered seven different types of beads to make one. I thought 2mm crystal beads would be appropriate, but the spacers were just about the same size. I settled on 3mm faceted garnet beads, and while I felt they were larger than I wanted, the overall affect was perfect. A sterling silver crucifix was threaded on to finish it. Beading the rosary was not easy either! I have to laugh because while I thought this project was going to sail, it was one of the most difficult I've ever done. Of course, I never do anything easy, but this one not only cost me greatly out of pocket, but it was a meditation in sheer patience. Did I mention that I had to cut all the prie dieu's pieces twice? I'd mistakenly stained them first, making the pieces impossible to assemble. I will never do that again! I learned so much with this collection and in retrospect, it was an entirely spiritual journey.

I have never figured out how to properly place the photos I share with you on this blog site. They seem to have a mind of their own where they go. Sixteen photos were take of this collection and I will have them uploaded to my website shortly. Please do drop into the Bleuette Collection Gallery to see them.

The Wee Alice Trunk Set is well under way by now, indeed more than halfway done. I just finished painting the last Tenniel character on the trunk and will be doing the wash background to tie them all together. Next I'll wig and dress the tiny doll to be Alice, then put in all the finishing touches. I've been painting for the last three months on these and another project I finished (a Hitty trunk) and I need to rest my eyes, switch gears for awhile.

So what are my plans for summer? I think I need to find a shade tree lose myself in a good book. But, like the honey bee, I will keep busy working on sweet things, yet you can rest assured, a few books will be enjoyed as well.

Miss E. Mouse