Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bone Woman coming alive.

I've done some further work on my Bone Woman for the Puppet Challenge.  A few more layers of gesso, and a lot more sanding and I got to this stage, and decided it was as smooth as she's going to get.  I've cut the holes for the eyes/beads, so tried them out to see if my idea would work.  I'm pleased with it, as it is a simple solution to creating an eye that seems to move and follow, as the shiny beads catch the light.

I sat outside in the sunlight and found that a camping 'Billy' (the slightly upmarket version, with a spout) makes a very useful holding device for a puppet head with a stick in the back of its head...though I had to weigh the billy down with a large tin of dog food!

I quite liked the colour of the first coat, but decided it was darker than I really wanted, so worked back into it with white, then in the end I rubbed paint off as well, and was pleased with the result.  I think it looks like she has rubbed chalk into her face, as a base for the fairly extreme 'make-up', which would, I imagine, be ochre, red clay and soot.

Next, I began to paint in the features, using the small mask as inspiration.  I just painted, adding in (and occasionally taking away again) colour, shading, details, until I reached the point where she seemed to be telling me she was finished, and any more would be just too much.  At this point, she looked like some kind of demon from a zombie movie without her eyes in, but those two little brown beads made so much difference.  

With her eyes in place, she seems not just human, but somehow sad and kindly and wise too.

The next challenge was hair, and how to attach it.  I looked through my collection of wool and yarn, tried out bits of home-made string, feathers, fabric, and then quite by accident, found something that did the job perfectly.  A roll of garden tie purchased from a hardware a couple years back, made from strips of recycled/repurposed grey marl t-shirt fabric.  I'd already tried making 'string' from it, but the result was too thick, so I tore the strips into thinner strips and discovered that the ends frayed and shredded and curled up.  I used a wider strip of it to make a kind of headband/skullcap (with a hole in the back for the stick), and began sewing strips with shredded ends on.  I cut long strips, shredded both ends, then sewed the middle down where her natural part might be.  A few layers later, and some thinner braids/string made from red wool, a few beads, and I love it.  


I suspect she will end up being far too heavy to really work as a puppet (I've still got body, arms, hands, legs, feet and clothing to add, not to mention I'm toying with the idea of a tiny Shaman's frame drum), and all that weight has to be held and manipulated by the puppeteer using only one hand, while the other moves her hand/arm.  But, she's my first attempt, and I'm really enjoying how she is developing.

Apologies for the not-so-great photos, they were taken using my phone.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Puppets, challenges...and Puppet Challenges!

I've been very quiet here, I know.  And the truth is, I don't have a lot to show, but I have been doing lots of creative stuff, and some of it seriously out-of-my-comfort-zone too.  As part of my 'moving to the country' master plan, I wanted to do something serious about music.  So I had a rush of blood to the head at the end of January, and enrolled in a Music Certificate II course at the local TAFE (Technical and Further Education).  I also thought it would be a great way to get myself out into this new world and meet people with similar interests.  I know myself far too well, and it would be very easy to become a semi-hermit here, in the beautiful bush 15kms from town.

So far, I am having a wonderful time, learning something new (and challenging) every week.  This week I sat at a drum kit for the first time in my life and had to co-ordinate left hand, right hand, and right foot to each do something different (but stay rhythmically consistent!).  Drummers make it look so easy!  I'm also facing up to the challenge of playing with other people.  I've sung in a group before, but I've really only ever played my guitar and sang, to myself on the couch.  Now, I have to stay in time with other people, fit in with what the group is doing, and that's hard too.  But it's so rewarding.  When you can actually play a whole song, as a group!

As for other challenges, well, I've signed up for the Puppet Challenge over at Clive Hicks-Jenkins' blog.  The theme is Mythology/Folklore, and any kind of puppet you want to have a crack at.  I hesitated at first because, though I love puppets, I have no puppetry skills, and also I thought it might be a bit too much with the Music commitment.  But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to have a go.  And, I thought it was high time I finished a puppet I started making years ago, in a workshop run by the wonderful Sandy McKendrick, in Fremantle.  This is a video of Sandy's gorgeous performance "Cry of the Seadragon".  I may have posted this before, but it's so lovely here it is anyway.  So you can see how beautiful her puppets are.

So, I haven't got very far, but here are a few pictures of where I'm at.  I want to make a 'Bone Woman' puppet, an old shaman character, possibly with a drum, who sings the life back into the bones she finds.  I don't want to design her though, I want to see how she evolves.  She's one of those elemental beings that seem to have a special significance for me, I'm not sure why.  Perhaps because I feel that events in my life, or one particular event (going back almost 13 years ago now, can it be so long?) made me feel indeed as if I had been stripped back to the bone and needed to be reborn, remade.  I'm not sure how I might use such a puppet, but that's a task for another day, first make the puppet!

Papier Mache head.  Moulded onto an old tennis ball, as a solid head would be far too heavy.

So this is as far as I got in Sandy's workshop.  Head, and rough body made from a bit of 'pool noodle' and rope.  I'm not sure if I'll use this, I'll see how it goes.

Head sanded and gessoed...and sanded and gessoed...and so on.  Still not quite smooth, but patience is a virtue I haven't quite mastered, and I think she's an old woman anyway, so some cracks and wrinkles are ok.

From the side.  The tape is wrapped around a piece of rope that will become the neck.  Hmmm, she looks a bit pouty.

I sketched some rough facial features on, so I could see how she looked, and work out where her eyes should be.  I'm thinking of using some dark brown oval beads for the eyes, set in a little, so they'll catch the light and hopefully look real-ish.  I've also gone back in with a knife and tried to smooth and refine the nose a little.  I now have a band-aid on my thumb thanks to the knife!

'Bone Woman' inspiration.  These are two little plaster masks I painted several years ago.  The pale one on the right is a 'Bone Woman' incarnation, the red one on the left is a kind of 'fox woman' character.  I think the puppet may have facial tattoos/paint similar to this 'Bone Woman', but I'll let her decide later on.

The two mini masks.

And speaking of challenges, today my munchkins' school held their Autumn Festival.  A combined Harvest and Michaelmas celebration, all about facing your fears, meeting challenges head on and overcoming your own personal 'dragons'.  This is our first year at a Steiner school, and so far we are all loving it.  A wonderful harvest display, Autumn songs and stories, and lots of fun activities (and a great lunch!).  Yesterday was very wet, but today dawned sunny and bright, so it was perfect all round.  One of the 'challenge' activities had me holding my breath a little, a rope bridge over the creek.  But my two munchkins went across as if they'd been doing it for years (and then showed off to Daddy when he came to pick us all up, by doing it again, backwards and sideways!)  When you face your fears, and overcome them, you know you can do anything!

Biggest Munchkin goes first.

 Littlest stops for a big grin to camera.

Quite high!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March in March, Australia 2014

I don't very often get political here.  But I wanted to share this.  And really, it goes beyond political.

Yesterday, I did this...along with over 100 000 other Australians around the country, in cities, and in small towns, in a grass-roots protest with no political affiliations, organised entirely through social media and word of mouth because the mainstream media would not touch it.  Elderly folk and new age hippies, children and mums and dads, doctors and lawyers, firemen and women, from all walks of life, all races and all creeds.  If anyone reading this has been wondering what the heck is going on with Australia in the last seven months, please understand that large numbers of us emphatically DO NOT agree with this government's policies on Refugees, the Environment, and on Climate Change (and too many other issues to list here).  Many who actually voted for this government are beginning to understand just how deeply we have been lied to and manipulated, and marched too.


If you feel inclined to share this video, please do.  And any links to international media coverage would be might not have happened at all for all the notice the mainstream media in Australia took of it, and it would be good to know if it did make any international news, and how it was presented.  Thank you everyone.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our backyard…and what happens when you deprive your children of TV!

I promised a few pics of the little book I made at Trace Willans’ workshop, so here it is. Not entirely completed, I’m still undecided quite how to finish the cover off, though I do have a couple ideas about what to put inside.

And some pics of the string the kids and I have been making. This has so much potential, and it’s so much fun experimenting with different kinds of material scraps.

Littlest Munchkin's very good first attempt

Probably won't do this stuff again...VERY fiddly!

Some sample pieces, and a small red dog poking her nose in.

This is a small part of our vast ‘backyard’, the great and stunning southern coast of Western Australia. Madfish Bay and the magical Greens Pool to be more specific. We plan to do a lot more exploring, and discover all the special spots to camp, fish, picnic, or just sit on the beach, or under the incredible and majestic Karri trees and listen to the wind.

Greens Pool Panorama

Greens Pool Panorama and Moi

Munchkins in their 'survival shelter'

Madfish Bay

The track between Madfish Bay and Greens Pool

Walking down to Greens Pool

Munchkins swimming

These rocks always make me think of ancient Dolmens and Standing Stones.  
I want to know what their story is.

Slightly chilly water at Greens Pool

Remember I mentioned that we have no TV here? This is what happens to your loungeroom, when the munchkins can’t plant themselves in front of the box. OK, it’s rather messy, but a small price to pay (and I do get them to pick it all up at the end of the day) for the sheer delight of watching their creations come to life, and not hearing a SINGLE “Mum, what do I do, I’m bored!” these whole Summer holidays. Some of these ideas they’ve got from a website they used to like, but they’ve spent almost no time online since we moved, so a lot are all their own creations, with no help from mum or dad apart from occasional wielding of a Stanley knife. This has been going on for about 3 weeks now, and they’re still at it! Paper Mache is next, apparently.

Pop-up Lolly Shop for the freaky dolls.

Including a Menu, and tiny Toffee Apples and packets of Tim Tams and 'Chicken-in-a-Biskit'

Still to be completed Tree House for an Owl family

I love this File Binder

The next phase.

Yesterday, we went to the Denmark Arts Markets again. What a fantastic day, brilliant markets full of handmade creations, wearable, edible, hangable and many other kinds. Great food too, much better than the usual ‘fair day fare’. Seafood Paella, Quesadillas, Wood-fired pizza, Thai curries, and more. Not a boring bun with a red sausage in sight. And fantastic musical entertainment. Sadly, I completely forgot to take camera or phone with me, so no photos…guess I was just having too much fun!

The small beginnings of a garden.  We can't do much here, we're only renting for a while, but it's something.  And it will expand...I'll see how many pots I can fit on the decking!

Right, time for bed!

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