Thursday, November 20, 2008

Toy Mandrake Root

I know, I know......Hallowe'en is over, but I just can't stop making new props for next year. I'm working on a fake "Spell Book" prop which is causing me to look up things I used to be interested in while going to High School. I used to get my hands on the Richard Cavendish encyclopedias called "Man, Myth and Magic" in the school library and read about herbology, numerology, astrology and stuff like that. I own an incomplete set right now, but some day I'll get my hands on a full set.

But I'm going off topic. Here is a little "toy" mandrake root that I made out of thin, thin leather and "silk" flower leaves. I'm not showing the back of him or you'll see all the stitching.

Here's a bit of a closer shot. He's going to be a companion to the book, sitting on a "witch's table" with a bunch of fake potions and stuff next Hallowe'en.

Doing the section on the Philosopher's Stone has intrigued me. Apparently, the base substance with which one starts to make into the "stone" (which is not a stone) sounds like it should be something like Primordial Ooze. Interesting........
At the end, you're supposed to end up with a resin-like substance which is red "like a red dragon tearing itself to pieces".....hence the creature at the the bottom of the page. I copied a bunch of old German woodcuts and stuff for the artwork to my book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Cross-stitch Skull

I started this cross-stitch back in September for SKULL-A-DAY.COM and I just saw that he's posted it. Therefore, I feel I can finally show it here on my blog.
It was October by the time I finished it. I couldn't believe how long it took! I worked on it almost continually for 4 weeks straight! Oh well, here it is!

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Winter Fair Photos

Here are a bunch of photos I took MANY years ago at the Royal Winter Fair. (Back when you could still get Black & White film!) I always found it so funny that the sheep would wear these little coats. I realize it's to keep them clean for the judging, but I always felt they looked like they were getting ready for a wrestling match.

Here's a behind the scenes look at a cow being groomed with an electric razor.

And anyone who deals with horses knows it's a full-time job keeping them clean.

Here's something you don't see every day, a four horned ram! The photo is a bit blurry but it wasn't very well lit in that place.

A big fat hog waiting to end up as someone's breakfast. I've always wanted to have a pig roast! Maybe when Rich and I get married we can have one!

A cute, fat little bunny. I couldn't eat this guy...he's too cute!

A horse hanging out, waiting in his stall. He looks lonely but I remember him being friendly and letting me pat his fuzzy nose. Horses' noses feel just like velvet.

And of course even then, I was photographing poultry. I know, I know....how can I eat them when I like looking at live ones? I really don't know the answer to that. Maybe because they look so different in the grocery stores without their feathers, feet and heads.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair 2008

I went to the Royal Winter Fair today and took some photos. In recent years I have become quite allergic to cows and horses, so I didn't photograph them, but I photographed this neat display of a horse skull.
I spent most of my time around the poultry. I gathered a lot of cast off feathers from them...and I'm sure people thought I was some sort of weirdo. But I find chickens and roosters to be so cute! And I LOVE their feathers.

These guys never shut up all day! They were even crowing through this morning's Rememberance Day service.

These two were trying to fight each other through their cages. I recorded it, but I'm having trouble uploading it onto Blogger right now.

Here's a turkey. They were displaying to each other and gobblin' all day!
I got some of THEIR feathers too!


I don't know the names of the breeds, I just admire their beautiful variations.


What cute little chickies, eh? They don't stay like that for long!

Here are the Roosters fighting:

video


And here's one crowing....which they do ALL day...not just at sunrise....

video

Friday, November 7, 2008

Making A Realistic Black Cat

I named this guy "Smokey, the Graveyard Cat" because that's where he's going to be displayed next Hallowe'en. That's right....I'm planning for next Hallowe'en already. It's what I do. It's what goes on in my head. ANYWAY, I'd like to share some tips on making a realistic black Hallowe'en cat.

It all begins with a sketch. This is quite a scribbly sketch, but that's what sketches usually are. Just an idea scribbled out on paper. I did a little research on how an angry or frightened cat would pose.....and although they usually would have their tail arched, the stereotypical straight tail is the best to go with for a Hallowe'en prop.


Now some of you may get upset, but I used real fur in this prop. Blackbear fur to be exact. It's because I have a bunch of it hanging around and it's stinky, so I wanted to use it up. I based the cat body on the arch shape from my sketch and made two pieces for each side of the cat. The tail was just a rolled up and sewn piece of fur in which I ran a thick wire afterward. For the legs I stuck in two wires bent like an upside-down "U". REALLY, this prop is based on the same principles as making a plush toy. I strongly suggest using fake fur because it's a LOT less expensive and if you can get your hands on a toy cat pattern all the better.
I find hemostats to be great tools when stuffing hard to reach areas (legs) and to aid in turning your sewn "skin" right side out. (When you sew things, you usually sew them inside out)
The legs and head are actually made out of black sheepskin. VERY IMPORTANT: WHEN SEWING REAL FUR USE "GLOVERS" NEEDLES. You CANNOT sew leather or fur using regular sewing needles. You can use regular needles for fake fur, no problem.

So here is the headless cat body standing well because of the "U" shaped wires in the legs. I'm sorry I didn't start photographing this project until the body was done. Then I made a silhouette of a head to test for size. This one looked about right.

The basics of making an animal head is to make 2 silhouette mirror images and a top piece narrowing at the nose. You sew the three together starting at the nose. I ended up adding a chin piece (not pictured) because it was looking too much like a dog and not a cat.
I was originally going to insert LED "eyes" but I changed my mind. I used "teddy bear" eyes instead. I had to do some "soft sculpture" sewing to make the eyes look less round and innocent looking. I cut ear shapes and sewed them on the outside of the head. An angry cat has "flat" ears, not perked up.

Once the eyes and ears are attached it's time to stuff the head. Now more "soft sculpture" techniques can be used to help shape the head. (I made the snout a little too long) I sewed the back of the head together once I was satisfied with it and began to sew it onto the "neck" area of the body.

I was in a hurry to get these photos posted....so his head is still wobbly if you shake him. I'll go back in and fasten it better when I have more time. But that's basically it! My fingers took a beating, but I think he was worth the effort!
Oh yeah, I used some black plastic wire for his whiskers.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hallowe'en 2008

Well here it is....my little "haunt". I began putting things out in the afternoon and we had surprisingly mild temperatures....which was good because I've been fighting off a throat infection.

Here's the "Graveyard" featuring homemade tombstones made from styrofoam I purchased at "Lewiscraft", a craft store here in Canada, which has sadly gone the way of the Dodo bird.

Here is my little "coffin" table which is set up sort of like an altar.

Now this little guy is my trick....but everyone was so enthralled with the graveyard that no one took notice of him. I named him "Brownie" because he was based on a "Little Brown Bat"...but he ended up being more the size of a "Big Brown Bat". He's made out of sheepskin, leather and glue. What do you think? Is he convincing?
Here's a little thing I learned from a pretty creepy Hallowe'en site called "Darksite" I believe. There it is suggested to hang a little sign saying "Vampires Begone!" with bulbs of garlic. I liked the idea!
I decided to just dress as a sort of "witch" to give out treats to the little goblins.

I didn't realize how scary I looked! One tiny girl was afraid to come up to the house and hid behind her mother the whole way up the driveway! She was so cute! I also had organ music playing from inside the house and another little girl said, "It sounds EVIL in there!"

Sorry for the next bout of blurry photos, but I still have trouble with this digital camera in the dark.


The graveyard was a huge hit. Some people took pictures of their kids and friends standing out in front of it! It was so busy, that we ran out of candy before 8:00! I had bought 250 treats to give out and they were all gone! Now I have to put everything away until next year....when I'll do it all again!