Russian Plushies — Taniusha Stepanian

April 25, 2008 at 4:06 pm (Uncategorized)

A Tale About a Little Bear Learning to Fly

Normally I don’t feature plushies, which is the modern term for “stuffed animals,” but this artist really caught my imagination.

Apparently based in Moscow, Taniusha Stepanian doesn’t have much of a web presence besides her Flickr account, but I recommend having a look at it. Her darling plushies and dolls are like ragged but much-loved toys made by little children out of the scraps from Mommy’s sewing table. Most of them are either needle-felted or sewn felt incorporating beads, buttons, wire and lace. She does have a few hard-media dolls, which appear to represent more than one style, perhaps as the artist has grown over the years.

What I love the most are the story-telling titles of each piece. At the top of this post is one called “A Tale About a Little Bear Learning to Fly,” and  below (on the left) is “Dreaming about Unicorns.”

Dreaming of Unicorns

Mini creatures The Cat\'s House

Above is “The Cat’s House” and a detail showing all the tiny creatures Stepanian made to put in the cat’s pockets. Such lovely attention to detail. I wish I knew more about how they were constructed.

And these are her hard-media dolls. The ones above seem to be polymer clay and represent a more traditional style which reminds me a little of Italian puppets. The doll above on the right is called “Self-Portrait”.

Below are her more modern-styled dolls, which I find even more charming than the ones above. “RedHood” and “A Girl and Autumn” are their names. I love their little costumes!

A Girl and Autumn

I hope we hear more about this artist as her career continues. Have a great weekend, everyone!


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Alice and Wednesday

April 19, 2008 at 5:15 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I get why Wednesday Addams is so often represented by goth-type dollmakers, but I don’t really get Alice in Wonderland. I guess that could be because I’ve never read the book.

In any case, today I bring you a selection of gorgeous, dreamy, big eyed Wednesdays and Alices.

Joanna Thomas’ work has graced these pages before, but I have to mention her if I’m going to blog about Alice in Wonderland. Her devotion to this subject has produced at least three dreamy interpretations of Alice, each with Thomas’ exquisite expression and meticulous attention to detail.

Gail Lackey has been a big name in the doll scene for a while, and I think her Wednesday is the sweetest one I’ve seen. She has Lackey’s characteristic adorable face, but look at the detail in the headless doll’s costume. Gorgeous. (I don’t know if you can see this link without joining The Fairy Society, which you should do anyway, but it seems to be the biggest collection of Lackey’s work available online for now.)

I’ll bet you didn’t even know people did makeovers of My LIttle Ponies, but if DeviantArt is any indication, there’s a brisk trade in them. Lisa Stanley is a prolific My Little Pony artist, and her whimsical take on Wednesday Addams includes a perfectly competent headless doll with jointed arms and legs.

Michelle Bradshaw, aka Pixiwillow, deserves her own feature in this space someday. She’s probably best known for her fantastic dollhouse-scale fairies which sell on eBay for a lot more money than I can afford. Her interpretation of Alice in Wonderland’s trippy cast is just like the rest of her work: sensitively proportioned, unbelievably realistic for something so tiny, but, most importantly, beautiful.

Bradshaw has a Wednesday Addams, too:

“Let’s Play with Dolls,” it’s called. I love the slightly alarmed expression on the dolly’s face.

Have a great weekend!

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Mid-week update: Christi Friesen

April 15, 2008 at 4:48 pm (Uncategorized)

One of the first artists I featured on this blog, Christi Friesen, has a new book coming out called Polymer Clay and Mixed Media: Together At Last. I, for one, can’t wait.

Check out my original post on Friesen, and visit her website for a sneak peek at some of the new stuff from her book.

One of the things I try to do on this blog is to provide every link I can find to a featured artist’s work. In that spirit, I’d like to report that Meredith Dittmar has added an Etsy shop and a Flickr page to her portfolio.


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Getting felt up

April 11, 2008 at 4:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Must… not… get… sucked in….!!!

I really, really don’t need a new hobby. Really, really don’t. In fact, fewer hobbies would probably make my life a lot easier. Needle felting is one of those things, though, that really, really tempts me. Argh.

Today I present to you a medley of excellent wool sculpture, also known as needle felting. I have selected these from Etsy because of their fine details and excellent sculptural qualities. I really have no idea how you start with a lump of wool and end up wih these awesome figures, but then, that’s what makes it so cool, right?

Etsy needlefelter

In literature, they have a term called “meta” which means a story that knows it’s a story, or a story within a story (Like the grandfather reading the book to the little boy in The Princess Bride). To my English-degreed mind, there’s something meta about a doll using a puppet. Go see this treasure at Snowman Central.

Fine Art Toys on Etsy Fine Art Toys from Etsy

Gosh, this owl makes me giggle, and I love the vivid colors in the cat. You usually don’t see this color palette in needle felting. Go and see Fing’s other work at Fine Art Toys. She also has some gorgeous matryoshka-inspired ladybugs, flower buds and caterpillars.

Handwork Naturals needle-felting from Etsy Handwork Naturals from Etsy

I think one of the coolest things about needle felting is that it can blur the line between painting and sculpture, something that this artist is taking advantage of. The two sculptures above, “Mother Earth,” and “Mushroom Community” are from Handwork Naturals.

Needle Felting from Etsy Needle Felting from Etsy Needle Felting from Etsy

Last, but certainly not least, is Rose Thistle Arts from Etsy. She has the most amazing talent for sculpting lifelike animals in wool. I can’t even sculpt portraits in my primary medium, so I have a deep respect for anyone who can. Rose Thistle animals aren’t just lifelike, though, they’re also beautiful. Sometimes it’s easy to do one or the other, but not both. Just lovely.

See you next week!

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A missionary of childhood innocence — Maddy Nupp McDonald

April 4, 2008 at 4:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I think I have a new hero.

Sometimes, I get a little depressed thinking about how jaded Americans are these days. When little kids listen to hip-hop and wear t-shirts that say “pre-sexy,” I wonder what kind of future they’ll have when there’s no innocence in their pasts. Maddy Nupp McDonald attracted my attention because she appeared to be someone who was bucking this trend. Then I read her website, and realized she isn’t just bucking a trend, she’s trying to create a new one. Here’s what she says on her eBay profile:

“When I started my Chibis From Kiki Valley theme, I thought to myself, that I realized that I wasn’t the only person who had a childhood that was cut short. I decided that chibis would be made for adults, not children. They would exude love and innocence. None of my stories would have a dark side. No worries, no unhappiness, all with safety and love. ”

Mcdonald 08 Mcdonald 01

I had assumed that since “Chibi” is a term used by Japanese Anime fans to refer to something little and cute, McDonald was selling her adorable work to teens and young adults in the anime/manga/bjd crowd. That doesn’t seem to be the case. On her website she unabashedly declares her intentions to sell toys to grown women. “I really love the idea of a woman, who’s just had a tiring day at work with a gronky boss, and maybe a husband who’s too tired to talk, coming home and finding one of my packages waiting for them, with all the childish goofy stickers, and silly stories, and finally a sweet little lovable goober to look at them, say I love you, and not break their purse,” she says in her blog profile.

Mcdonald 02

Now, of course, it was her work that interested me in the first place. Her chibis (which are slightly reminiscent of Amber Matthies and Christie Friesen‘s work) are heart-meltingly adorable without being saccharine. It would probably be enough that they are perfectly proportioned to trigger that “must-love-baby” instinct, but these figures also possess complicated anatomies and coloring that make them real hand-made works of art. McDonald seems to go heavy on the metallic Pearl-ex powders, which is okay with me (shiiiiny!). Most of the chibis also come with accessories, like straw hats or drinks with straws in them, and detailed environments, to encourage the buyer to play with her new little friends.

Mcdonald 05 Mcdonald 04 Mcdonald 03

I’m a terrible photographer, so I’m really impressed by people who take good pictures of their work, but McDonald takes it a step further than that by creating animated videos of her figures telling their personal stories.

The pictures I’m using here aren’t going to do her work any justice at all, so head on over to her website, espiritglen, and be sure to visit her video page (with the sound on!) the next time you’re feeling a little frazzled.

I’m converted, Maddy. Keep spreading the word!

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