Patchwork Toad is in transition at the moment - we've been heavily downsizing and moving house, moving in with some friends! That meant I was rushing like a crazy person trying to catch up on all my open commissions and mailing orders, whilst also packing - inventorying - repacking - labelling - the cycle is never ending. I had to be quite hard on myself with letting quite a lot of my collected craft supplies go. I'm sure I'm not the only artist whose lovely friends give them colourful wool and paper flowers and glitter and buttons, and pairs that with that mentality of 'oh, it'll come in handy eventually, I shouldn't get rid of it because then I'll suddenly want it'. In the end, I paired up a lot of the supplies with the criteria of 1. when did I last use this? and 2. would it fit into the new directions I want to go?
1 is a lot easier to answer than 2.
But regardless, I stuck with it and got everything organised, packed, labelled and safely stored away until a suitable studio arrangement is found. Unfortunately this does mean I won't be available for custom orders for a little period of time, but I do have a large amount of stock I will be selling off in a series of sales - one in September, one for Halloween and another for Christmas. I'm hoping to have the studio up and running before the end of September, but I will keep that space open for updates.
Moving house is hell, and I have been to the recycling centre so many times in the last two weeks that they now know my name, and see me coming bright and early with a new carload of stuff. But finally, blissfully, I find myself in my new place with my new housemates, with all my essentials carefully organised into storage boxes under the bed and Tetris'ed onto shelves - and the last job on my seemingly never ending to-do list is ticked. This day was foretold, and yet I struggled to believe.
So what to do on a quiet, rainy Wednesday afternoon with no demands on my time? Well, I probably owe a blog post or two, and probably best to start with the redbreast I teased in an early post...
Previously, on Patchwork Toad...
Um, excuse me? Who are you, and what are you doing on my head?
Look here, branches don't talk - and they certainly don't complain!
Well, it seems this little visitor may not be the sweetest songbird in the flock, but at least he's beautiful and brilliant. I originally wanted to make two little birds that were vaguely inspired by lovebirds but were more like sparrows or tits. That's a really long way of saying I wasn't sure what I wanted them to look like, but I knew I wanted them in earth tones. This was definitely one of those occasions where I didn't have an exact plan in my head, just a series of vague ideas. That included the pattern as well. I have bird patterns from when I first started making toys, but I have of plans to improve them all [endless plans, so many ideas with so many directions...].
I sat down at my desk with a small stash of gradient fabrics, a bit of drafting card and a pencil... and what followed was a lovely afternoon of all the elements just working together, and flowing into this beautiful little bird I essentially conjured out of thin air. I sometimes get very enthralled in the transformation process of raw materials being used in such a way that something brand new and completely unique forms out of them, and it's one of the best parts about what any artist does with a blank canvas of any medium. I realise that could sound a little narcissistic, but it's something I think a lot of creative people understand and it's maybe a subject to go into another time.
Focussing back onto the little robin redbreast, I decided to give him a brilliant red and fluffy chest - hoping to mimic the way robins puff themselves up in winter for warmth. I also experimented with a technique I've seen all over the internet on craft projects and attached the wings using a very straight forward buttonhole method - which gives it the added feature of being able to rotate and really add some character to the overall toy. Lastly I decided to add some glimmering green tail feathers to this little guy. Call it artistic license, I know robins don't have green feathers, but I just thought it would add a little drama.
A few things I still want like to improve going forward - I need to change how I make the beaks! They're always a little stumpy, and maybe I could sharpen them up by making them out of clay or a similar material to my claws. I've been a huge fan of Justien van der Winkel for a few years now, and adore their work with birds. We approach our birds in a different way, but I'm very inspired by how they translate the elegance and the essence of each bird into their sculpture work. I've been wanting to move my work away from the crafty element and more into soft sculpture and toy art, and van der Winkel has got the perfect blend of fabric work mixed with precise elements - the beaks and feet are particularly birdlike, without taking away from the 'feathery' textile work. I'm not a copycat, I would never lift someone's ideas from their work but inspiration is a very different thing.
Overall, while there are definitely elements I would like to develop in my own birds, I'm so happy with how this little guy came out. He's definitely got his own character and sassy personality, and after finishing him, I just let myself sit and stare at him and enjoy the little moment of creation. I think he's one of the most beautiful toys I've ever made, and I regret telling him that because now he won't let me forget it.