Saturday, July 31, 2010

"The Knave of Hearts"

I don't think I've told you that I'm rather fond of the work of Maxfield Parrish.  He's not a particularly well known artist today, but within the circle of early 20th century printers and poster artists he was a stand-out.

He was a painter and for the most part his paintings were strictly done in order to be printed.  Apparently, he frequently chose color combinations that may have looked awkward in person, but were perfect when printed.  I'm also told that his adopted home town of Plainfield, New Hampshire is filled with amazing large murals and a set he designed.  Ahh, I must visit it someday. 

Some people are very fond of his dreamy scenes of beautiful young women among amazing landscapes, perfect cloud formations, and lovely skies so full of fantasy.  Others prefer the rich landscapes of his later years.  And, although I admire all of his work, I prefer his quirky whimsical charactures.

A perfect example of this is "The Knave of Hearts" which is a delightful twist on the poem about those silly tarts of the Queen of Hearts.  I recently ordered this book from Amazon and have been just delighted.  It's a VERY large book with extremely thick pages and beautiful copies of his work.  For me, it's the PERFECT coffee table book in all respects.  A perfect feast for the senses--rich colors, nice weight, sensuous paper.

Just thought I'd share!
Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm 45 Today!

Little Lizzie's head is now finished.  I repainted some areas and gave her a satin coat of varnish--I'm pleased with how she has come along.  Tomorrow I will start designing a body for her.  But today I'm just going to putz and take it easy. 

It's my 45th birthday already!  Time does pass quickly, but I'm thankful for my life.  The way I see it, if I try to enjoy each day with no regrets and no holding back, then I will have used my life as well as possible!

I hope you enjoy your day, too!
Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Monday, July 26, 2010

Working on a Doll

You knew that I couldn't give up all creativity, right?  Well, I thought I'd show you what I have been up to the last month during my spare moments.
When my Mom came out in June, she showed the girls and me how to make dolls' heads out of paperclay.  She's always doing some sort of a craft with the girls and this time I decided to join in since it was something I could do that didn't hurt my hands.  You can see some of my Mom's paintings HERE.

The colors on little Lizzie look a little washed out--although I still need to put on varnish or something, I think she looks better in person than these photos show.  I'm pretty pleased with how she turned out considering that she was completely scuplted by hand.  Next up, I need to design a cloth body and then some clothes.

It was fun making her (but I don't think it's going to replace my bear making).  Our youngest and I have joined Dixie Redmond's Izannah Walker Workshop for this fall.  I was rather surprised that she wanted to make another doll, but, hey, I'm game!

Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What a Lovely Surprise

The Teddy Bear Artists and Friends' (TBAAF) Awards were announced this past weekend and I found out that "Johnny Appleseed" won second place in the Novice Bear Artist/Maker category,
and "Jack" won second place in the Felted Bear and Animal Critter category.
Such a nice surprise!  I had forgotten that the TBAAF Awards were coming up.  I actually didn't think I had a chance as there were over 600 entries and some amazing work.  To be honest, I didn't even vote for Johnny or Jack!

Warmly,
Cheryl

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thank You! You Guys are Wonderful!

I can't tell you how much your support and encouragement has meant to me these last few days.  I'm feeling better and now know deep in my heart that I WILL find some way to make noses that won't hurt my hands or make my thumbs go numb.  I don't exactly know yet what way that will be, but I know some way will become apparent in time and with patience and experimentation.

I really hadn't meant to put all of my problems on my blog--I usually try to keep any trials to myself.  When I started writing on Wednesday, I really wasn't feeling sad.  I was just amused that when the going gets tough, this bear-maker reaches for the cookie dough and thought you might like to hear that too.  However, when I write, I often "figure things out."  Well, concern about my hands and making bears has been quietly but heavily hanging over my head for months and I finally put two and two together.  It was like a dam burst.  The proverbial last straw.  I'm sorry you all had to be witness to that.

I feel somewhat embarrassed that I really lost it, but I also feel very grateful and blessed by all of you.  Your outpouring of support, encouragement, and ideas touched me so very deeply.  I'm still in awe over it.  I would like to thank each and every one of you--even if you didn't make a comment.  I have truly felt your presence in my life.

I've decided to take some time to let my body and my hands heal.  I am incredibly behind on paperwork for both the business side of bear-making and for my job homeschooling the girls.  So, for the next month or month and a half, I'm going to catch up on my paperwork, finish Sammy's pattern, and just putter.  Hopefully by then I will have the strength and stamina to work out my issue with making bear noses and be able to work on all of the bears dancing around in my head.

I've taken ALL of your advice and ideas to heart (I'm even watching my intake of sugar and chocolate, and tightening up my gluten-free diet--I was getting a bit lax).  I think I will be able to continue to embroider if I can find a way to make just one layer for a nose--templates and needlefelting are great ideas as an underlayment.  This will be the first thing I try.  When I told you that the tip of my thumb had gone numb while embroidering, what I really meant was that completely one-third of my thumb was numb.  Yes, I am the queen of understatement.  So, if one layer of embroidery still causes havoc with my thumb, then I will try making needlefelted, clay, and/or leather noses.  Something WILL work.  As Kelly said,  there is a solution to everything--the only real problem is death.

I think my emotions may be on a bit of a roller-coaster ride right now (did I mention that I'm the queen of understatement?)--my body is having to adapt to a new level of thyroid replacement hormone and to a new fibromyalgia drug.  That's another reason I think it's a good idea to step back from bear-making for a while and let my body heal and adjust.  In a month or so I should feel better and have a bit more energy .

Heaps and heaps of hugs to you all,
Cheryl

P.S.  If any of you have a tiny bit of a problem with numbness when doing handwork, I can second Katy's advice to use a long doll needle--that and a leather thimble works wonders.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hoping for a Good Engineering Solution--or Anything

My engineer and engineer-to-be (eldest daughter) came home to me sobbing uncontrollably in the living room over my bear nose situation.  They assure me that they will be able to come up with some way to help me to be able to continue making my bears.  I truly hope so.  Just typing this is making me well up again. 

I'm sorry to be such a downer today--every day I try really hard to stay positive and to focus on all the blessings in life.  It's just that I have lost so many, many things over the years to this disease.  I have been frightened for months that my hands were going to give in (my hands have been in a lot of pain for quite some time) and that I was going to have to give up my bear-making. 

I feel heart-broken.  Bear-making is my passion.  It's my primary tool for fighting the blues and to deal with the pain and isolation.

Much to my dismay, I might have to put the bears aside for a while so that I can figure out other ways to make bear noses.  I usually embroider 2-3 layers, but there is no way that I can reasonably continue that.  I have to find a way to use only one layer--that's assuming I'll be able to continue to embroider.  Hand-sculpted clay noses might be one way to go.  Needle-felting may or may not work--the "engineers" are working on that issue, too.  I'll look into leather noses as well.  (Thanks, Deb!)

Thanks for listening to my ranting.  I'm sure I'll pull myself together soon.  I really appreciate all of your thoughts and concerns.  I feel truly blessed.

Heaps of Hugs,
Cheryl

Will Noses be the End of Me?

Well, I suppose most of my news is pretty good.  The cortisone shot seems to be helping my thumb.  In the last several days, I've been able to pin and sew up two bear bodies that have been patiently waiting on my work table.  And today I even stuffed both of their heads!

Whenever I work, I am careful to wear my hand brace and to work slowly and for short periods of time.  The pain seems fairly under control, and, as long as I stretch my hands, fingers, and thumbs several times daily, my thumbs don't seem to get stuck in a bent position and snap painfully back into place.  So, in general, good news all around. 

Right now I'm just feeling frustrated because I was just working on embroidering the nose.  I finished the first layer, but then I had to stop.  The tip of my right thumb went completely NUMB!  (The left thumb tip is only mildly numb.)  Goodness, gracious.  When does this end?  So what did I do about it?  Like any self-respecting bear-maker, I got into the chocolate chip cookie dough my eldest daughter had just made!

I've been wondering if the bear noses were getting too rough on my hands and were part of the reason I've been having such trouble with my thumbs.  I'm afraid I now might have my answer.  Oh, it can't be!  What am I going to do?  I've had to stop so many things I love because of my stupid hands and this horrible disease called fibromyalgia.  I can't even bear to think about this now (no pun intended).  I'd better say good-bye for now--I'm getting too teary.  I have to go and find some way to stay positive.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Favorites on Fridays

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right. 
 ~ Henry Ford

Even though this quote isn't scrawled in big letters on our kitchen chalkboard, our girls have heard this quote many, many times over their lifetimes.  In fact, just yesterday evening our youngest daughter (aged 12) told me she couldn't do double pirouettes on pointe in ballet.  "Yes . . . you are right," I told her.  A slow knowing grin appeared on her face and that was the end of the conversation.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More "Ouch!"

Well, I went to the pain clinic yesterday afternoon and saw my pain specialist for fibromyalgia at my regularly scheduled appointment.  She and another doctor looked at the way my thumbs painfully lock and then snap into position--it's trigger thumb.  The left thumb is starting to heal and to not cause so many problems, but the right thumb is still quite painful.  I go in tomorrow morning for a cortisone shot to see if that will bring down the inflamation.  In the meantime, she showed me how to tape my finger to keep the pain at bay.

Needless to say, I'm not able to work on my bears very much.  I was thrilled yesterday just to be able to pin some bear pieces together.  I really appreciate everyone's support and patience.  I finished writing the instructions for Sammy's pattern and just have to draw out his pattern pieces and scan them so they can be added to the Word document.  However, it's excrutiating and extraordinarily difficult to write--even signing my name is nearly impossible.  I may see if my eldest daughter (who designs her own bears) can help me out so that I can make Sammy's pattern available.

Warmly,
Cheryl