Beruta’s softies

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Today’s artist appears to be Spanish in origin, but her simple, graceful, minimalistic figures make me think of some northern European tradition. They remind me of the simplicity of corn husk dolls, though these are made of fabric and have a tendency toward international subject matter.

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Visit her on Flickr or her web site.

Modern, simple, reserved. Except the monkeys.


Kyoko Okubo: Narrative Paper Sculpture

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A lot has already been written about this artist, on Daily Art Muse and Art Found Out, so I’m not really going to review her work. I wanted to comment on a phrase someone used to describe her innocent little girls and realistic animals: narrative paper sculptures. A frequent topic of discussion in our doll club when I was still the protege and the other members were selling artists, was what to call what we do. Will the term “art doll” always have a stigma attached to it? Can we better describe our work as “multimedia figurative sculpture?” Where’s the line between “art doll” and not-doll sculpture? I don’t think anyone has ever come up with an answer to these questions that satisfies everyone. Maybe it isn’t possible.

But I would like to submit a new option, a phrase someone has used to describe Okubo’s work: narrative sculpture. In order to have a narrative, you need a subject (in other words, a figure) and a verb. Why else would we sculpt little people? They’re the subjects of stories made up in our viewers’ minds, allowing them to fill in the most meaningful details. I think I like it.

What about you? Do you see your work as a narrative?

Jennylovesbenny bears: extreme cute

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Jenny Lee is an Australian bear artist, but what attracted me to her site was the adorable-enough-to-eat chick pictured on Softies Central. Here’s an artist who has made facial geometry into an extreme sport: if she placed the eyes of her stuffed critters any farther apart, or their noses any higher, they’d look like aliens instead of baby animals. It takes expert judgment to skirt the edge of disaster like this, and the results are stunningly adorable baby chicks, bunnies, kittens and more.

Oh, yeah, and she makes bears, too. :)

For more pictures, visit her website, her Flickr, and her Etsy shop.

Andrea Graham’s needle felt

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Andrea Graham does things with needle felting I had no idea you could do. She appears to have started out as a dollmaker and moved on to more “fine art” type work. Her doll figures represent a quirky sense of humor, more fun than beautiful. My favorite piece, which I won’t post here because it’s slightly not safe for work, is her nude blue lady with, um, natural red hair. Cracks me up.

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Her second gallery is full of felted landscapes. At first I was sure they were felted around real stones which were affixed to the canvas somehow, but now I think even the stones are felted. I’ve never seen anyone use felt in such a painterly fashion before. Check it out.

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Finally, her current work is sculpture in the microbiological vein that’s so popular these days. For me, I think I prefer her zany elderly ladies in bathing suits. But that just shows my poor taste, I guess.


Have a great weekend!

Needle felting and fiber artist.

Via Susan Lomuto’s Daily Art Muse.

Thanksgiving buffet

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the USA, so I thought I’d give you a selection of holiday-themed morsels from Etsy.

An excellent use of the soft texture and colors available to needle felters by WonderwulAnnette in her piece, Fall Forest Maiden.

Good seasonal cheer by SunshineCupcake in this piece, Kevin Jr. Pumpkin.

Fall Pumpkin Doll by Beansandrice is all about amazing colors and prints. You have to click on this picture or the link to see what I mean. This is a good example of how you can get away with a variety of patterns as long as you limit your color palette.

Little Gobbler and Giblet by Marcie Hart of Aworkofhart just makes me crack up, for some reason. I think this piece goes beyond “whimsical” and approaches the realm of “surreal.”

I hope all my readers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Seeya next week!

Shelli Heinemann’s Potbelly Pixies–thinking outside the bear

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I usually don’t include bears or plushies on this blog, because SoftiesCentral does a much better job of that than I ever could, but today I have found a bear maker who absolutely deserves your attention.

I think the appeal of bears is often their simplicity. They have simple, impressionistic features, allowing an artist to evoke basic emotions with only a few strokes. The downside of that is that it requires subtlety to make a bear stand out from the crowd. Today’s artist, Shelli Heinemann, has that subtlety.

Her bears just ooze with personality, expressing a wide range of emotions, from happy to sad to cute to innocent to wistful. I’ll confess I haven’t been keeping up with the teddy bear market, but the eyes and eyelids of her bears seem innovative to me, combining with the high-quality materials and extremely high level of skill on display, they make these bears unforgettable.

I hope those of you who are dollmakers will take a moment to look at these bears and try to analyze what makes them “speak.” The tender pose, the perfect prop, the geometry of the faces, these are all things that could improve your own work if you take a moment to think about them. Another thing I’d like to point out are the fabulous photos of Heinemann’s bears. She takes the time to create environments in which to photograph them. It’s worth exploring that for your own work.

And, finally, Heinemann’s imps are a great example of an artist branching out to challenge herself. She wanted to create something a little simpler than her bears that she could sell for a lower price, so she photographed the face of a sculpture she made, then learned how to print the photograph onto fabric (there are a couple of ways to do that) and created her imp plushies. Maybe you should think about incorporating your work into a new medium.

You can see more bears at Heinemann’s blog, her Flickr set, and, theoretically at least, on her web site, which has a really elegant interface but is currently under construction. Have a great weekend!

Nicole Johnson — Mealy Monster Madness

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If Maurice Sendak sculpted scrawny kids in Halloween suits, it might look something like a Mealy Monster. Awkward is probably too gentle a term to use for these big-eyed, buck-toothed, skinny-legged kids, but then, maybe Halloween should be the one day that pretty children are banished in favor of their gangly siblings and beady-eyed classmates, especially if these are the results!

Probably the best feature of each Mealy Monster is its over-the-top personality. Each character has a prop or other detail that allows their creator, Nicole Johnson, to write a little story about them. My favorite is the kid who had a nightmare about a little, orange, pointy-toothed creature… not unlike the jack o’lantern at his feet. The Mealy Monsters seem to live just down the street from The Nightmare Before Christmas, in an imaginative world with living, toothy Halloween suits; giant slugs for pets; shrunken heads for trick-or-treat; and strange creatures who dress up as little kids for Halloween.

I really admire the creativity that goes into Johnson’s work; she’s definitely unlike anything else out there. Visit her at her Etsy shop, her blog, her Flickr account, or her own website.

These little guys are a hoot, and you can waste some enjoyable time reading all the descriptions of them on their Etsy shop, Mealy Monster Land.

More Creepy Halloween Art

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Today I have for you a couple of great Halloween-themed creepy artists.

LoopyBoopy works in the same creepy/primitive category as Michelle Steele and Scott Radke.  Her polymer clay “dead kids” use marbles for eyes and include tragic little stories about their lives.  You can find LoopyBoopy on Etsy or Flickr and there’s an interesting article about her here.

Now don’t get the wrong idea about Sara Lanzillotta. A lot of her work is not that out of the ordinary. She makes big-eyed deer plushies and cute little cloth girls with definite personality. Her Octobabies (pictured above) are kind of unusual, but in a loveable way. It’s all the conjoined twins that have earned her a place on this list. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a three-legged pirate, or a conjoined Bambi before. To use Internet lingo: o_O

Hope you have a good week!