Of land and sea: the Selkie reveal for Art Elements.

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!

Selkie in traditional Scottish costume.

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. 

From the sea costume.

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.

You can find Ellen and her selkies online at www.ellenpaquette.com & theweebeasties.etsy.com
Thank you for joining us Ellen!

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! )

That silver spotted wolffish said SELKIE all over it.

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!

Guests: Paisleylizard.com/blog




AE team: Lesley








Jenny ( you are here)

13 thoughts on “Of land and sea: the Selkie reveal for Art Elements.

  1. lesleyhw says:

    Wow! Ellen’s dolls are just fabulous – so much detail! Jenny you’re fish skin pieces are fantastic…I love the sculpture and is has a lovely sense of the movement of the water. The pouch is just perfect and really evokes the theme. Thank you for giving us such an inspiring theme.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laney says:

    I am looking forward to reading your blog post about the fish leather I love the look of it and how you can mould it like you have in this wonderfully evocative piece of the sea.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alycat55 says:

    Love your amulet pouch and your use of fish skins. And experiments with them! I first saw salmon skins at an Xmas fair I took part in for many years in my town in France. The guy made wallets, etc. and I was intrigued. No, they didn’t smell like fish! Sanding the wood drawer and perhaps using a smidge of metallic paint sounds interesting. Alysen

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tammy Adams says:

    Both pieces are beautiful in their colors and textures and details. Your face sculpting abilities far exceed mine but I agree that getting the expression and detail you want is a greater challenge on a smaller scale. I like the character in her face. Thanks for a great theme!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kathy Lindemer says:

    I really enjoyed learning about Ellen and her selkies. Your selkie piece is perfect. All of the pieces you created and combined make it speak to me. Thank you of this fun theme.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ordinarymiracletoday says:

    Wow – your pieces are exactly on point. These are lovely expressions of selkies and I enjoyed hearing about the process of your pieces. The amulet bag is lovely and looks like it was washed up from enchanted waters and the sculpture piece is magical!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jen Cameron says:

    Ok. Let’s try this again (I got an error and my comment was deleted ☹️ )

    I love everything about this post, but the final polymer bead and leather piece is just stunning. I don’t think she looks bad at all, in fact I think she’s perfect.

    I think I would try sanding the edges of the drawer before doing a darker stain to see if you like it. It might make the overall piece too dark if you stain it darker.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. blueberribeads says:

    Ellen’s dolls are beautiful, I love the one with the sea costume, she has such a peaceful look about her.

    Your amulet bag is gorgeous, I love that fish leather it’s perfect for a Selkie to wear, and your figure is wonderful, I really like how you’ve displayed her.

    Thank you for a great challenge, I had so many ideas, I’m sorry that time got away from me this month. I do plan to keep going with them though, it was a fun theme!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. marshanealstudio says:

    You’ve picked such an interesting theme – I have learned so many things about Selkies and have really enjoyed all of the artwork included here on this blog hop. These dolls are amazing and your work as always is stunning (I don’t know how you pulled it all off with a month of travel and shows).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Cathy Mendola says:

    Thank you for choosing this theme! I loved it and wanted to do more. Now that I have seen everyone’ creations I really want to create more selkie art. Thanks for including Ellen and her selkie dolls-very inspiring. I just love your amulet pouch. All the bits and baubles really add to its selkie/mythical feeling. But OH MY! The selkie that will be displayed in a wooden drawer(so clever!) I definitely want to know all the details about creating this. I am zooming in to get better looks. Please do a blog post on this for us all. That wolf fish skin is so perfect for this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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