This month I dove into a subject I adore for the theme challenge at Art Elements blog: selkies. While this month was full of travel, shows, and just life! I have two creations to share. And I am beyond excited to see what my friends ant team mates have created! But first? A guest artist:
In my original post I shared an artist’s doll by Ellen Paquette. Ellen has joined us here to talk of her fabric sculptures and her inspirations!
I can’t remember exactly when my fascination with selkies and their related folklore set in. It’s certainly an obsession deeply tied to my love of seals and Celtic folklore. By my early 20s I was painting selkies, gathering as much written matter about them as I could, and watching for seals anytime I was near coastline where they could be found, especially on some serendipitous trips to Scotland, which is truly my heart home.
I’ve sewn since a very young age, and experimented with constructing dolls, puppets and fabric creatures and their clothing and accessories throughout childhood. In addition, a love of historic clothing and much time spent doing theatrical costuming made the fact that I would eventually decide to design a selkie who would fit inside her sealskin inevitable. Creating selkie dolls is a miniature manifestation of some of my favorite aspects of creative sewing.
The sealskin is constructed from upholstery weight plush fabric which I line with a satiny cloth. The pattern for the seal is something I designed through a process of much trial and error. The doll body is a design which I arrived at after much tweaking of a tiny doll pattern I found in a vintage doll making book in the local library. I scaled the design to result in a doll that is about 13″ tall. A simple method for constructing a yarn wig for the doll was a helpful technique I also gleaned from this book.
The dolls are customizable, from hair and eye color to sealskin color to style and color scheme of clothing. I offer a traditional Scottish costume, as well as a “from the sea” costume, which I like to style as if the selkie has come ashore and had to create something wearable out of whatever bits of fabric and net she could find. Tiny details which I love to add are beading, jewelry, shells, and seaweedy yarn embellishments. The faces are hand drawn and painted, using a combination of fine point ink pen, colored pencil and acrylic paint.
Each selkie asserts her own personality as she evolves, and the process involves a considerable amount of intricate hand sewing. I’ve made male and youth selkies as well. The fact that so much is customizable to the customer’s wishes makes each selkie utterly unique when she is slipped into her sealskin and launched to her new home.
For me? My inspiration came this month in the form of “fish leather”. My friend Lisa Peters Russ ( Lisa Peters Art) has begun importing – and each skin is more beautiful than the last. Seeing them – and dreaming up ideas happened at Bead and Button recently. (Learn more at Art Elements blog on July 1 as I interview Lisa! )
This scrap of wolffish made itself. With its organic shape and irregular edge it was the perfect size for an amulet pouch. I was thinking of a pouch a selkie might wear… in the deep or on land… but that has a watery element to it.
I stitched a soft leather to the back, leaving a flap to hang over. I debated a closure, but did not wan to detract from the skin pattern. The sides are embellished with beaded dangles – I even used the (dreaded!) C-lon thread for more drape. Shells, labradorite and sea urchin spikes – treasures from the deep. The cord is a simple loose braid of sari silk.
With a larger piece of the same type skin, I was envisioning the actual drape of a selkie’s skin. I wanted to try wetting and molding the fish leather. ( Note from Lisa – this works best with the scale free texture of the wolffish. ) Here is the finished selkie sculpture:
My polymer figure was a challenge. I strove to truly sculpt the face, building up the planes and facial features. But the scale was challenging. She has inset onyx eyes – a visual link to her seal self. Her skin is soft ivory, sage, grey… definitely adding to her otherworldly appearance. I am not completely happy with her face – and find her a bit to aged and severe. I do like the contrast and the flow of the composition – from beads to leather to larger shell.
The fish leather looked SO different wet – and dried to its same finish. Here is the WIP shot where. pinned the wet leather in place to dry in the folds and undulations.
The entire piece will be displayed in an old wooden drawer – that may get a darker stain – or may get sanded back a little for a more weather ed wood look. What do you think?
I am so excited to see the ideas and creations of my Art Element team mates and our blog guests! Thank you all for joining me on this mythic journey this month! Please take a look around via the links below!
AE team: Lesley
Jenny ( you are here)