Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day Eighty-Five: Purple Bird in Progress

I had to finish up some illustration work today, but I did manage to make some headway on Purple Bird. I'm pretty happy with her so far, and I can't wait to get to the part I like the most, the embroidery and embellishments. There's just never enough time!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day Eighty-Four: Purple Bird Beginnings

Somehow the day got away from me once again, between illustration work and dog walks, so I didn't get to work on this new bird 'til almost bedtime. I'm basing her on one of the sketches that I did while Quentin was in the hospital. I've barely started, but I'll post what little I've done so far. It's too late to do any more tonight; tomorrow's another day.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day Eighty-Three: Janneke's Owl Complete

I finished the Owl for my friend Janneke today. I'll give him to her the next time we get together to do origami.

This new Owl is so much more magnificent than his predecessor; his tummy is much more elaborately embroidered, and he's bigger and I did a better job putting him together. But my favorite thing is his colored toenails. Who even knew that owls had toenails?


Monday, March 28, 2011

Day Eighty-Two: A New Owl

Janneke asked me if she could buy my owl from way back on Day Five, so I decided to make her one of her own. I'm not sure why he is so much bigger than the original, but that's one of the interesting things about of making stuff: things never seem to come out the same twice.

I never know what to say to people when they want to buy one of my little creations: pricing has got to be my least favorite part of being an artist. Everything takes such a long time. If I were a CPA or an attorney, I could charge a huge hourly rate, but if it takes eight hours to make a bird, what do I do? I'm no good at this!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day Eighty-One: An Origami Dove

In keeping with my recent theme of Love Birds, tonight's bird is an origami dove. Once again, I am struck by the beauty and elegance of origami. To take a simple square of paper, and create a small, exquisite three-dimensional form, is truly magical. This dove is certainly not one of the artform's complex folds, but it manages to capture the gentleness and grace of the subject in a way that all my struggles of the past two days failed to do.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day Eighty: Done For Now

This is as far as I'm going with this particular piece, but I'd like to return to this idea in the future. I think the beaks are too big here, and I'd like the stitching to be more delicate. Also, I'd want to add more embellishment to the heart shape, maybe crystal beads as well as embroidery, maybe introduce some small floral forms. I'm not sure if this very neutral palette is the way to go, either, though I do like the softness about it. It appeals to me more than the more expeceted pinks and lavenders I'd initially thought of using.
Rather than continue with this piece, I'd like to start from scratch to make the revisions I think are called for. I like the general concept, and the way the birds embrace, so it's worth another go.

Art doesn't always work the first time around. But an idea that is worth doing once just might be worth doing again.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Day Seventy-Nine: Love Birds in Progress

My friend Sara, who moved to West Virginia with her husband last July, came back for a visit today. It was so good to see her. She's one of my very few friends who will put up with all the dogs. We went for a walk around Twin Lakes with all of them this afternoon, just like old times, except that her dog Kovu wasn't with us--he had to stay back home this trip.

I didn't get much Bird work done today, but here are the Love Birds, in progress. I'm working on them while listening once again to The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Now that I know 'who did it', I can really appreciate all the subtle hints that Agatha Christie gives the reader throughout the novel; things that I, of course, never picked up on the first time around.

I hope I'll finish these Love Birds tomorrow so I can move on. I'm having a lot of trouble with the beaks: I spent an hour on them tonight, and couldn't get them right.

Tomorrow's another day.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day Seventy-Eight: Love Birds Beginnings

I've decided that my first Applique Bird is done, so I'm starting my next project: Two Love Birds. I'm really loving this felt applique work. It lets me do so many things I love to do: design, sew, embroider, and all in a small enough format to experiment. I've decided to keep going while my enthusiasm for this technique is still high. This time I'm using a neutral palette, and, as you can see, I'm in the early stages.
I know I've departed somewhat from my Bird a Day routine; these pieces take a long time. But I want to keep with them for now.
More will be revealed...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day Seventy-Seven: Almost Done!

I'm almost done with this applique piece. I need to get to bed, then look at it again in the morning, to determine what, if anything, still needs to be done. Also, I need to figure out how to flatten out the ripples of the fabric.
I listened to an entire audio book while I worked on this: Agatha Christie's classic mystery, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. What a surprise ending it had! I will probably always think of that novel when I look at this piece.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day Seventy-Six: Progress Report on Applique Bird

I was hoping to finish this today, but as usual, things take so much longer than I think they will. I'll have to continue tomorrow.
I really enjoy this process of cutting out shapes and embellishing them with embroidery; I'm not quite sure just how the whole thing will come together, but that keeps it interesting.

To be continued...


Monday, March 21, 2011

Day Seventy-Five: Applique Bird in Progress

This is going to be another project that takes more than just one day, but I'm off to a good start. In keeping with my recent desire to "think less, do more," I didn't plan this out ahead of time, but just pulled all my pieces of felt and my skeins of floss off the shelves and started cutting out shapes. Of course, now my studio is a huge mess again, and naturally, it's time to go to bed, since dogs will be arriving early tomorrow morning.
For so many years, I had to be really neat because I had to work in the same room I lived in, ate in, and slept in. Now, for the first time, I have a proper house, and a real studio, and what happened? I've become a messy person. Sigh.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day Seventy-Four: Two Birds on A Painted Ground

Awhile back, when I was painting pieces of paper for my collaged birds, I painted this 8"square piece of illustration board with blues, greens and violets. But it was too heavy for cut-outs, so I thought I'd save it to use as a ground sometime. Tonight, as I stared at it's abstract coloration, I was surprised to see two birds gradually emerge, as out of a mist. I grabbed the closest drawing tool, which happened to be a red-violet pastel pencil, and quickly sketched them in before they disappeared again. Then I added some white pastel highlights and used my kneaded eraser to lift some of the pastel. For a totally unplanned piece, I think it looks OK.
I tend to overthink everything I do, so it was good for me this time to let the materials and the tools tell me what to do.
I should think less and draw more.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blog Update: Linda's Card

I just realized that I never showed my faithful followers the promised photo of Linda's card that I made for her on Day Sixty-Two, so here it is. I didn't want to spoil the surprise then, so I just took a photo of it back-lit, and you couldn't really see it. Linda called me last week to say she got it, and she put it on her bulletin board at work where its little sequins are sparkling up her office. So I'm posting it here for everybody to see.
Linda works with people facing bankruptcy; I hope this little bird brightens someone's day.


Day Seventy-Three: An Origami Peacock

My friends Janneke and Grace came over yesterday to do origami with me. We tried this peacock without much success, so I thought I'd give it another go this afternoon. This photo shows my fourth attempt: it's a difficult form because so many folds have to converge on the same point. And it really requires two-sided paper, which I realized only after trying it a couple of times with one-sided paper.

Origami instructions are notorioulsy difficult to follow. It's not the translation issue, I don't think, but rather the very nature of the activity itself. The folds and creases, tucks and turns, can't really be described in words, nor are pictorial diagrams always sufficient. It's one of those things that someone has to show you. It's origins are very old, and yet its appeal is timeless.

Here, Peacock is hanging out with a couple of chums. Duckling is wearing a party hat, not because it's his birthday, but because a big hole was chewed on his head by one of the dogs, and I thought this would be more fun than a patch.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day Seventy-Two: Calligraphy

How can I describe the practice of calligraphy, the "art of beautiful handwriting?"
I think of it in terms of ballet: an intricate and exquisite sequence of predetermined movements, flowing seemingly effortlessy together to tell a story. Precision, timing, grace, strength, and courage are essential, and rather than bleeding toes, one has bleeding fingertips. Years of practice are required for even a modicum of success. And yet, the most uninformed and uneducated viewer can instantly see the smallest misstep.
I've been trying to perfect this art since 1991, with very little to show for my efforts. Perhaps if I practice every day for twenty more years, I will see some improvement. But I fear that with the increasing numbness I now have in my fingers, I will never achieve my goal.
Can I be happy with where I am today? Can a ballerina accept her limitations? Some things in life can be done at an amateur level; calligraphy and ballet--I think--cannot.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day Seventy-One: Bird Badges

These two felt badges--with my added St. Patrick's Day embellishments--are from a design by Japanese artist Naomi Tabatha. They look simple enough, but they are very well thought-out, in that meticulous way that characterizes crafts coming out of Japan today. I can only hope that this fine tradition will continue, as the Japanese people struggle with the current tragedy in their country.
I envision a young student sewing these little badges on her school uniform, to help her stand out from the crowd. It is the small details that make all the difference, and Tabatha has got that figured out.
See a lot more of this talented artist's work in her book, Felt Friends from Japan, 86 Super-cute Toys and Accessories to Make Yourself. The translation is a bit interesting, but the photos and diagrams are clear, and the designs themselves are impeccable and loads of fun.
The blurb about the author on the back cover tells us that Naomi Tabatha is an Aquarius, with blood type B. Interesting. Perhaps something has been lost in translation.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day Seventy: A Prayer for the People of Japan

"...[and Noah] sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth." Gen 8. 10,11

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted." Mt. 5. 4

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Sixty-Nine: A Patchwork Bird

This rather awkward little guy was made from some leftover quilt blocks, with wooden skewers for legs and Sculpey (TM) feet, which I think I have to bake in the toaster oven at some point.
I based him on a pattern from my "Modern Soft Toy Making" book, but made a lot of changes along the way, including sewing his beak on upside down, which gives him a very different look from the original. I like the way that the pieced fabric, cut with no regard for the original blocks, or the grain of the fabric, gives him a kind of random, patched together look and a quirky shape. I could have made button eyes, but I think he has enough personality without them.
Patchwork Bird was definitely an experiment, but he has certain elements that I really like and will use again. He has his own idiosyncratic charm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Sixty-Eight (Cont.): Moving On

I've decided that the Cross-Stitch BlueBird is now officially DONE, even though I never got to the branch and leaves that he was supposed to be perched on. I'm moving on to the next bird project, whatever that might be.
My good friend Liza got me back on track with this e-mail she sent me this morning:
Keep going, Peggy.
You were doing so well.
I was in a slump and so busy, but someone reminded me that I haven't really posted every day, and so I did this one.
It was quick and simple, which reminded me that simple is always an option, and a lot less daunting of an option than complicated.

Thanks, Liza, for reminding me that "simple is always an option..."


PS: Be sure to check out Liza's blog by clicking on the link above.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day Sixty-Eight: In a Slump

I'm in a slump. This is the third night in a row I haven't posted a bird. Maybe it's all the sad news coming out of Japan, maybe it's this crazy early daylight-savings time, maybe it's just an inevitable part of life. Slumps happen.
I am still working on the silly little cross-stitch bird, with no end in sight. This might be my first and last cross-stitch project.
Now, the big question is: "Is this day Sixty-Eight (since the last post was day Sixty-Seven), or, is it actually day Seventy-One?
I've arbitrarily decided to call it Day Sixty-Eight, which means my 365 Day project will go a little longer. Sort of like snow days when you're a kid in school: if you miss too many days, the school year is extended.
Maybe I'll finish the cross-stitch bird tomorrow.
Hey, even the great Ted Williams had the occasional slump.
Let's hope this one is short-lived.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day Sixty-Seven: Cross-Stitch Bird

I started this cross-stitch bird last night, but couldn't take a photo of it for the blog because my camera's battery had run down. It was in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living. There are several very cute designs that can be downloaded here: Naturally, I'm making the bird. As you can see, I haven't gotten very far. Though my camera is fully recharged, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the artist. I worked all day on an illustration assignment, and also took the dogs for three long walks, and by 8PM my own batteries were out of juice.
Crawling into bed with my latest Agatha Christie mystery should do wonders for my personal power outage.
Hopefully, tomorrow, the lights will come back on.
Good night, all.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day Sixty-Six: Power Failure

I'm working on a little counted cross-stitch bird, but haven't finished it. When I got my camera out tonight to take a photo of it in progress, I got the message: "Change Battery Pack", which I think means I need to recharge it.
So no image tonight, but know that I'm working on it, and after my battery pack spends the night in the bathroom getting recharged, both it and I will be ready to work again in the morning.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day Sixty-Five: Wallpaper Borders

Remember Wallpaper Borders? Or maybe you've spent the last five years in therapy trying to forget them: specifically, the one your parents put up in your room when they found out that you were going to be a girl, and now, forty-five years later, is still there. These borders came with an irritating array of "coordinates:" ditsy little flowers, stripes, checks, foulards, tiny doo-dads, and, the inevitable marblized allover texture, with--if you were lucky--metallic or pearlized overlays.
Now I know, some people still like wallpaper borders, and, admittedly, there are some attractive ones out there. But I'm talking about the frilly, fussy, always slightly faded or tea-stained, pink, soft blue, and brown "country" look, that was so popular back...was it just a few decades ago?
I saw a wallpaper sample book down at Guiry's today--"Small Florals & Miniatures"--with a big DISCONTINUED written across the cover in black marker. Since it was headed for the recycle bin, I decided to bring it home for today's Bird post.
How could I do such unattractiveness justice? Well, make a collage whereby the whole is even uglier than the sum of its parts. I think you'll agree that I succeeded. You can see how truly unlovely the entire piece is. I added the black marker (I particularly like that the 'cloud' is raining) to reference the sad word sprawled across the cover of the book.
Then again, perhaps, "Discontinued" is, in some instances, a good thing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day Sixty-Four: A Collaged Paste Paper Bird

This paste paper is really a lot of fun to work with. The pages themselves just look like a blobby mess, but when I start cutting out shapes, they are suddenly transformed into gorgeous swirls of color. It's intoxicating!

This bird goes further than the silhouetted shapes I cut out a couple of days ago. It's pasted onto a piece of handmade paper from India. I'm not sure that this bird is finished, but I don't know what else I'd like to do with it. I'll put it up on my cork board and look at it for a few days until I figure out what, if anything, to do next.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day Sixty-Three: A spot illustration

I'm working on some illustrations for an article in The Herb Quarterly about starting an Herb Group, and I thought, "Hey, I'll add a bird and it will--well--kill two birds with one stone." That is an awful expression: who would want to kill one bird, never mind two, and with a stone? Is that even possible?

I should ask my friend Phoebe (who claims I don't answer her e-mails) the origin of that expression. She's a devotee of The Oxford English Dictionary, where such things are documented. In fact, one time when Phoebe and I were discussing what one book we'd want to have with us if we were stranded on a desert island, she said her choice would be the O.E.D. I can't remember what I said my choice would be.

Anyway, here's a little bird studying a map with hiking trails, and a field guide to wild herbs. I've been doing illustrations for The Herb Quarterly for about fifteen years, and they are one of my favorite clients. Check them out at:


PS: Phoebe, I promise I'll answer your e-mail in the morning.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day Sixty-Two: A Bird for Linda

My friend Linda has been following my blog since Day One, and I mean that literally, there actually was a "Day One."
I wonder where that figure of speech, "So-and-so's been doing such-and-such since Day One", was first used. Genesis? But I digress.
Linda is my most loyal follower, so I decided she needed to have her own Bird. I took pictures of her Bird here in my studio before I sent it out to her, but I'm just posting the back-lit photo for now, so she'll be surprised when she gets it.
Then, I promise, I'll post it for everybody else to see, too.

Thanks, Linda!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Day Sixty-One: Paste Paper Birds

Making Paste Paper is a way of adding random color and surface design to a piece of paper. Somehow paste is involved, hence the name. I don't really know the proper way to do it, so I just took a lot of scraps of dampened watercolor paper and brushed on very diluted gouache in a totally haphazard way. I kept spraying the paper with water, and then I spatterered with an old toothbrush and used various other tools such as a plastic comb and an old sponge to add more texture and color. The whole idea was to just let the paint and the water do its thing; when I found myself starting to plan what the paper looked like, I'd move on to a new piece. It was very messy and a lot of fun, but I would like to find out the 'real' way to do it. A good place to look would be in Jane Davies' book, Collage with Color. I had a booth next door to Jane at Surtex years ago, and I remember her friendly personality and her bold use of color in her art. You can see her work at

Back to my project: After making a big mess, I left everything to dry. Now, here's the important part as far as I'm concerned: I knew I wanted to cut out very simple, silhouetted bird shapes, but I had the brilliant (ok, maybe just bright) idea to turn the papers over so I couldn't see what I'd just painted. I was cutting out on the white, unpainted side. The real fun came when I turned each bird over and it came alive with glorious color and texture. It was remarkable how often there'd be just the right blob or blur for a wing, a beak, or a tail.
All this was very exciting, but I still didn't know quite what to do with these cutouts. So I scanned them using a variety of backgrounds from books or from my own painted paper. I'll leave you to decide what you like the best.
This was such fun, I can't wait to do it again. I'm off to now, to buy Jane's book.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day Sixty: A Close Call

I finished the duckling today, and took this shot with him and Shorty, hanging out together on the ledge in the hallway. I was setting up Owl (Day Five) to pose with them, when he fell off the ledge and right into the waiting jaws of Wingo, who promptly ran off to his dog bed with this delicious and most unexpected treat. No amount of cajoling would get him to drop Owl, whose stuffing was starting to show. But finally, after refusing tennis balls, dog biscuits, and his favorite sock, Wingo finally traded him to me for a piece of pizza. Whew, that was a close call!

On a brighter note, I was delighted to receive an e-mail from Adam Rhine today. It was his glorious book, Hebrew Illuminations, that inspired my bird on Day Thirty-Nine. Adam is a gracious person and talented artist, who also happens to be a very funny guy. Be sure to check out his luminous artwork at And look for his book on Amazon, or through his publisher, here in my hometown of Boulder, CO.

Finally, since Duckling was technically yesterday's bird, here is today's bird, a Zentangle Blue Jay. I find working this way so relaxing after a busy day. This was done while listening to Beethoven's Sonata No. 21. A blissful way to end the day.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day Fifty-Nine: Where it all Began

The year was 1959. I was eleven years old, and I'd just checked out a book from the library, not from the children's section, but from the adult's. How I had managed to perform this near impossible feat, I have no idea. The book was called "Modern Soft Toy Making."

I loved stuffed animals, but I'd certainly never made one, so I'm not sure what was going though my head when I took out this book. But I went home and proceeded to read it from start to finish. I then selected the project I wanted to make: a small yellow duckling. My mother brought me down to Martin's Fabrics on Guild Street, where I bought one square of yellow felt, a piece of orange felt, and small strips of black and white felt. And, I somehow convinced my mother that I needed an enormous bag of a mysterious stuffing material called kapok.

Back home, I carefully traced the pattern from the book (there were no copiers in 1959), and made pattern pieces out of cardboard from one of my father's shirts. I then cut out the shapes and stitched the little bird together. More than fifty years later, I am dumbfounded that I did this. As far as I can remember, I'd never sewn before in my life. But unlike the adult I have become, back then I didn't think to ask myself if I knew how to do this. In fact, it never occurred to me that I couldn't figure it out. Oh, who was that little girl who fearlessly plunged into those unknown waters? Where is she now?

Working with kapok was tricky; The polyester stuffing that we use today did not exist in 1959. The kapok was silky in some places, scratchy in others, and had bits of twig caught in it. It lumped up terribly, but undeterred, I proceded to stuff my little bird. I then sewed on the beak, the wings, and the feet, and I was done! My very first stuffed animal.

Over the next few years, I checked that book out of the library over and over again, and eventually made almost every toy in it. Then, somewhere in high school, I got more interested in meeting boys than making toys, and I forgot all about the book.

When I started the Bird Blog, I thought about that little yellow duckling, and the book that it came from. I found it on, in a small book shop in London, and ordered it. The book arrived yesterday, and in true Proustian fashion, when I held it in my hands, I was transported back to that moment in time when I first checked it out of the library. Once again, I was that young girl who had made that yellow duckling, all those years ago.

Of course, I had to make it again. Here--in progress--is my little yellow duckling.
We have both come home.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day Fifty-Eight: Birthday Bird and Goldfinches

I took one more photo of Georgia's Birthday Bird before shipping it out. The colors in yesterday's photos were so washed out, I decided I'd better have a more accurate record of it. I'm also posting this small painting of Goldfinches, done a couple years ago, but 'new' to the blog.
Here it is, 8:30PM and I didn't make a new bird again today! I'm running out of existing images to post, so it's time to start managing time a little better!
In the morning, the day stretches ahead full of infinite possibilities and plenty of time to pursue them all. Then, suddenly, it's evening, and nothing tangible has been accomplished.
Time, that shape-shifing, elusive trickster called time...