Saturday, October 29, 2016

Project Runway, Barbie style!

I spent much of my childhood with Annie.  From toddler-hood onward, we were inseparable.  We invented games, shared secrets, and grew up together.  We wanted to be artists when we grew up.  We loved our Barbie dolls, but we didn't play with them in the same way as many others. Our Barbie time was spent designing and making clothes for our beloved 1st generation Barbie dolls. 
Decades later, as adults, we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  When Annie told me she would be visiting stateside, we decided we needed to have an art-making play-date.  I had shared with her a video I found on Pinterest, showing ways to make some easy Barbie clothes.  I currently own two Barbie dolls; one is an art teacher Barbie I received as a retirement gift, and the other was sent to me on my birthday a year or two ago by Annie herself!  So I suggested we spent our play-date making Barbie clothes and she instantly agreed.  So, here we are, above, loaded up with fabric scraps, hot glue, ribbon, and balloons, in the midst of creating!  (What, balloons??? Yup. On the Pinterest link, balloons were cut to create sort of a leotard, and then an easy method was used to make a tutu.  So we started with balloons.) 
 As you can see above, evidently our balloons were either a different size than the ones in the video, or we did something desperately wrong.  They should have fit like Spanx or leotards, but they did not.  We used the cut-off top of the balloon to cinch in the waists. 

You should also note the difference between the two Barbies.  On the left above, in green, is friendly smiling Art Teacher Barbie, who I have nicknamed Babs, a 2002 version of the doll.  I picture her as being a loving and competent teacher.  On the right, the blonde, is vintage 1959 Original Barbie.  She wears much harsher makeup, and wears a snooty condescending facial expression.  We decided she wanted us to call her Barbara.  I am not sure Barbara and Babs would get along.  Besides their faces, their bodies are also different.  1959 Barbie has a larger, pointier chest, wider shoulders, and a narrower waist, but 2002 Barbie has a larger bottom, wider hips, and a slightly more natural tummy.   Hmmm.   
 Annie used a different balloon, and added ribbon trim to create this adorable look below.
We both tried making tutus the way showed in the video, but it didn't work well, and Annie ended up converting hers into a sort of peplum or poof over a longer elegant skirt.  I gave up on the tutu and the balloon and created a fancy dress with a circle skirt and simple top attached, worn with a sparkly stole. 
Then we each made a second outfit - I started out making a multicolored knit skirt, but it turned into the dress on the left when I couldn't make it fit right.  Annie made an elegant golden strapless gown, reminiscent of the sparkly black gowns we got with our childhood Barbies and their black and white striped bathing suits.  
Barbara is very elegant and this sophisticated look suits her, but Babs seems more casual. So I am attempting to make her an overall style dress, below.  However, we ran out of time, and the men were getting impatient for food.  Plus, with a drive of an hour and a half through the middle of nowhere, my husband and I wanted to be on our way before dark.  So Annie and I are already planning for another day making Barbie clothes next year!!  In the meantime, I'm thinking it would be fun to do Project Runway-style challenges making clothing for Barbie.  Wanna play??
 And finally, here we are, lifelong friends, then and now.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What's Happening in DragonWing Arts?

 Our  theme is "masks and crazy faces" and we have been VERY busy.  Nothing is done yet, but here's a few sneak peeks -

First, those papier-mache masks I previously told you about.  They are now painted, and will be embellished with all sorts of stuff next week  But I think they are looking good!

And we've also been working on giant cardboard faces with metal foil features.  They will be spectacular when done!
And then there's these adorable little monster heads, made from folded paper.  Very easy; I'll explain the whole process in a separate post, when they are all complete! 

 Stay tuned... more to come soon!!

Thursday, October 13, 2016


I listen to public radio in the car, and as a result I often hear only parts of stories, which can be incredibly frustrating.  It happened the other day; I heard a section of a story talking about how the emotion of "awe" hadn't ever really been studied and discussed before, while other emotions - love, hate, fear, anger, etc - were commonly studied and understood.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what show I was listening to, so I can't find it again to listen to a complete podcast.  But anyhow, it got me thinking about what makes me feel awe, and how different individuals respond with awe to different things, and the relationship between awe and creativity.

For example, some people feel awe when they see amazing structures, like magnificent churches, iconic buildings.  My husband is an architect, so buildings are more meaningful to him than me. I like seeing fabulous structures, whether buildings, or bridges, or monuments, and am very impressed, but I do not feel awe.

The natural world is the thing that does it for me, without a doubt.  I am, for example, awestruck by crystalline snow falling at night, by a glorious sunset over the lake, by ocean waves, breaching whales, and expanses of sand, by witnessing a great blue heron up close, by the flutter of dragonflies, and by listening to the haunting calls of loons at dusk.  About a dozen years ago, my family traveled to Alaska and for 10 days I was repeatedly overcome with awe at the majestic landscape.  The picture below was taken when my son and I took a helicopter ride over the Denali wilderness.

And of course, I am in awe every time I sit in my kayak, still, in the middle of a quiet lake.  I often just put down my paddle for a few moments and breathe in the magic, watching a leaf or feather float across the water, listen to the call of a bird, hear the splash of a fish or turtle.  Here's a video sample for you. 
 And still samples, too. 

 As artists and art educators, viewing great art can inspire awe.  There's a Rembrandt in my little local art museum, and frankly, when I visit, I don't much care if I see anything else in that museum as long as I see that Rembrandt.  I can be awestruck by paintings by Matisse, or Vuillard (as in the painting directly below), or Kandinsky, or a glass structure by Chihuly, or by a unique contemporary piece, such as Michael Oatman's "all utopia's fell" at Mass MoCA (as seen in the second photo below), but what grabs you might be totally different than me.

I'm always amazed, for example, when visiting MoMA, to see the museum-goers with their jaws dropped, standing in front of van Gogh's Starry Night, in total awe.  Starry Night doesn't do it for me.  It's a small painting, not my favorite van Gogh, and frankly it has become trite.  I can skip it completely.  What is it that makes use each react so differently from each other to different things?  Why, for example, am I blown away by hot air balloons overhead, sounding like dragon breath each time they flame their burners? 

I have always been particularly awestruck by the glorious colors of autumn leaves, and by the glow of autumn light shining through the trees.  I have tried, over the past few days, several times, to capture that golden glow.  Each time, I have looked at my photos in total frustration, because the magical quality of the sunlight just isn't the same as what I witnessed.  If I did a painting of the autumn leaves and sunlight, I don't think I'd be any more successful. 

What inspires awe in you?  It doesn't have to be visual; it can be a piece of music, something beautifully written, such as a poem or story, or perhaps the liturgy from a religious service.  I know that, for example, listening to the jewel-toned voice of the female cantor (singer) at the recent Jewish High Holy Day services at my temple, and some of the beautiful writings in the new prayer book we used, moved me deeply.  How can you tap into the raw emotion of awe in your students?  Is awe something that happens naturally on its own, or can we somehow nurture it in our students? How can we tap into that reverential feeling of awe and use it in our artwork and in our teaching?  I'd love your thoughts!

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a couple of images of my lake at night.  The first photo below is an error that really intrigues me.   The final image was an exposure of a couple of minutes, taken well after dark. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Removing the "brains" from the mask!

Why does it look like this boy on the left is punching that bag?  The truth is, he's not.  These bags are those that were used for mask armatures, as described in my previous blog post.  The boy is just widening the hole that I cut for him in the back of the bag, so that the "brains" (actually the newspaper that we used to stuff the bags) can be removed, as is being done by the boy on the right. 
By the time all the newspaper was removed, there remained a LOT of newspaper to either discard or save to re-use for future papier-mache projects.  After all the newspaper was all removed, the backs of the bags were cut off to make the front of the bags, which had been covered with papier-mache, into masks.  And of course the kids had to immediately try them on!
These masks are large!  We painted them with a nice bright white coat of gesso, to provide a beautiful surface for painting.  The added bonus is that the gesso provides an extra layer of strength. 
 Next step will be to paint these beautiful masks, and then finish them with embellishments using a wide variety of materials.
I'll be back to show you the masks when they are painted.  In the meantime, my DragonWing Arts students are also working on some other really fun faces based on the theme of "Masks and Crazy Faces".  I'll be sharing those with you too!!