Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day One Hundred and One: Nest

Wrapping a coiled armature to create a vessel is an ancient technique, no doubt learned by our ancestors from observing birds' nests.  Here, Nesting Bird sits in a coiled and wrapped nest of fabric strips and threads, made far more randomly and hastily than any real bird would construct a nest of her own.
There's a sweet, homely, comfort about a nesting bird: a subject worthy of further exploration.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day One Hundred: A New Nesting Bird

Tonight's bird was much more successful, since I actually followed the directions--duh!
She's not quite finished, but I've got to get to bed, since I'll be waking up at 2AM to watch The Royal Wedding.
I woke up in the wee hours to watch Diana and Charles get married, so many years ago.  Such a sad ending to that fairy tale wedding.
I like to think that Prince William's mother is smiling down on him tonight, and his beautiful bride.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day Ninety-Nine: Oh Dear

Oh, dear.  Tonight I decided to make a darling little nesting bird from Agibail Patner Glassenberg's marvelous book The Artful Bird, only I thought I'd make some 'slight' alterations to the pattern, and use patchwork scraps for the fabrics.
Well, obviously I don't understand this thing about the gussets, those odd pieces that give a two-dimensional shape its third dimension, and my poor little bird has somehow completely lost his head, and is lopsided on his bottom half and keeps tipping over.  And, my studio is now a huge mess.
Clearly, it is time to go to bed, and start over in the morning.
Next time, maybe I'll follow the directions.
Good night, all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day Ninety-Eight: A Dodo Bird

Today is John James Audubon's birthday. 
I drew this Reunion solitaire Dodo bird, Raphus solitarius to mark the event.  Unfortunately, this dodo bird, along with the other two known species, are all extinct.  They once lived on the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean, but these slow, clumsy, and flightless birds were unable to defend themselves against man, and by the eighteenth century, they were all gone.
Audubon never drew a dodo bird; he wasn't born until 1785, and by then these birds were extinct.  His masterwork, The Birds of North America, is generally considered to be one of the finest collections of natural history illustrations of all times.  I had the great good fortune of seeing the original watercolors at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston many years ago, and it is truly an amazing accomplishment.
But Audubon wasn't a very nice guy.  In order to accurately paint his birds, he shot dozens, often hundreds of a single species, and then would wire the dead birds into realistic poses.  It's true that before photography, drawing from a dead bird was the only way to be accurate, but his slaughter was excessive.
His obsession with publishing his masterpiece put his family into serious financial straits.  His wife, who bore him many children, was forced to work to support the family, while Audubon went off again on one of his lengthy trips to paint birds.
And he employed a number of other artists to paint foliage, flowers, insects, etc. in his paintings, but he never gave any of them any credit.
Still, his realistic paintings were a new and daring way to depict birds, and they have certainly withstood the test of time.  He remains a master of the genre.

Happy Birthday, Audubon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day Ninety-Seven: A Rayon Mesh Origami Crane

Tonight's bird was one of the most challenging to date:  it is an origami crane made from a square of rayon mesh.  Who knew that such a thing was even possible?  I saw this package of origami paper down at McGuckin's today, and I just had to get it.  It's really not paper at all, but a very loosely woven netting material, that feels like fine window screening.  When I sat down to make the bird, it was like working blind.  Though I was familiar enough with the sequence of folds, my creases wouldn't hold.  Moreover, I was looking through every single layer of the folded piece, seeing all the layers at once:  a truly surreal experience for anyone who is familiar with the process of making origami.  It was as if I were looking inside and through the structure, as I was creating it!  It's hard to describe how odd this felt.
Aside from the technical difficulty of folding and creasing a material that felt more like wire than paper, it was impossible to see what I was doing.  I might have been better off if I had closed my eyes, and just made the folds from memory.
As you can see from my final result, I failed miserably with the points of the beak and the tail; the material was stretching and shredding as I worked.  But still, it is an amazing little bird.  I'll definitely have to practice this many times to improve my technique with this strange material.
Origami is an awe-inspiring art:  to take a piece of flat paper and make a three dimensional form with just folding--no cutting, no gluing, no clipping--is magical.  Now, with this transparent material, it's inner secrets are fully revealed!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day Ninety-Six: A Be-Ribboned Easter Bird

Today was Easter, so I thought I'd make a bird in bright Easter colors and add some ribbon plumage. I think she looks quite pretty in her Easter finery! Perhaps she and Eggbert will start a romance. Who knows?
Happy Easter, everyone!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day Ninety-Five: Eggbert

Eggbert, the egg shaped bird, is done, just in time for Easter.  He's sitting in some Easter grass in a tiny teacup, waiting for the Easter Bunny's annual visit.  In case you're wondering how big he is, he's not all that much bigger than a hen's egg.
I think this idea has a lot of potential, and it's one that I'd like to develop.  But for now, I'm just happy I finished him in time for Easter.
Happy Easter, everybody!  And may all your chocolate bunnies be solid, not hollow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day Ninety-Four: Eggbert in Progress

Eggbert the egg-shaped bird is starting to get some personality.  I wish I had some Suncatcher eyes for him, but my latest order hasn't come in yet, so I'll make his eyes from felt.  He's also going to have a topknot, and more embroidery.  I really like this idea of an egg-shaped bird, and I want to make more of these.
Check back tomorrow night for (hopefully) the completed bird.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day Ninety-Three: An Egg, An Egg!

Rarely, if ever, does something work the first time around.  Such, however, was the case today.
You may recall my musings yesterday on how to create a three-dimensional egg shape out of flat pieces of felt, and, if achieved, if it would stand up or topple over.  I knew how to make a felt ball, out of eight 'orange wedges,' (remember those flat maps of the world that the teacher used to pull down over the blackboard?).  But a ball would roll, as all good balls should, and besides, it was round, not egg shaped.

But, starting with the standard 'orange wedge' shape for a ball, as shown here from my Modern Soft Toy Making Book, I adapted the wedge shape to what I thought might work, making the bottom half slightly wider than the top, for stability.  My pattern, on cream colored paper, is shown on top of the the patttern page of the book.  I didn't think I'd need eight pieces, since an egg is narrower than a sphere, so I cut out six, four in yellow, two in cream, and started sewing them together.
Much to my surprise, I only needed five pieces.  Does this mean the surface area of an egg is five-eighths the surface area of a similar sized sphere?  Isn't pi in there somewhere? What is pi, anyway? Well, never mind that, what's really astonishing is that I got exactly the shape I wanted on the first try! 
Now, this little blob may not look to exciting to anybody else, but as far as I'm concerned, it's pure genius.
Now I get the fun of tuning it into a bright little bird, with eyes and a beak, embroidery and beads, anything I want.  
Check out the blog tomorrow, when Eggbert will be revealed.
I am humbled by my own greatness.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day Ninety-Two: Sketchbook Musings

I've been thinking that I'd like to make a sewn and stuffed egg-shaped bird, so tonight I decided to sketch my idea out, to see if it would fly (or roll, as the case may be).  What would it look like, and how would I make a three dimensional egg-shape out of fabric?  What if I used fewer than the usual eight 'orange segments' that are used to create a sphere?  Would that work?  And how would it stand up, without tipping over on its face?  Weigh it down at the bottom?  Make the base flatter than the top?  There's really no way to find out besides getting out my scissors and some felt, and starting to sew.  But sometimes thinking it through on paper ahead of time can really help.  I definitely want to try to make this little guy sometime!  I think I'll call him Eggbert.
Stay tuned....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day Ninety-One: The Bird is Back!

How could I NOT have known that Day Ninety would be such a milestone--both in achievement, and in the totally unexpected danger of "falling off the bird wagon?" 
Everybody in a 12-step program knows that ninety days is a critical juncture in the road to recovery.  Why would it be any different in a 365 Birds program? 
I almost quit making birds for good.  For one whole week I did not make a bird; I did not even visit my Bird Blog to see if anyone noticed and left a comment. 
But in the past few days, I've gotten some concerned e-mails and phone calls from my loyal followers.  To which I can only say, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Today is a warm and beautiful spring day. Today, I made this simple bird from cork and Lotka paper, and hung him outside for a photo shoot.  Can I say that I'm safely past the danger of giving up completely? Well, no, I can't.  But today I made a bird, and today is all any of us has.
Just today.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day Ninety: A Balloon Hummingbird

I didn't actually make this little balloon hummingbird myself, the Balloon Man down at the the Farmer's Market did, but I just had to post him for today's bird.  The Balloon Man made him so quickly that it was truly amazing.  He twisted and turned two skinny red ballons for the wings, then attached them with a flick of the wrist to the green balloon body (don't you love the beak?)  Here he is on my bistro table out in my back yard, under the watchful eye of Miss Frog Planter.
Could it be love?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day Eighty-Nine: Draw a Bird Day

My friend Liza, told me that today is Draw a Bird Day.  Who knew?  You can read the heartwarming story at  So here's my bird, a great egret in flight, drawn with pastel pencils from reference in The Reader's Digest Book of North American Birds, which has surprisingly excellent illustrations by a whole flock of bird illustrators.
Pastel pencils always baffle me.  There's the issue of sharpening them, of course, and then there's the almost irresitable urge to smudge the colors together with one's finger, something I remember being admonished for in some long-ago art class.   I don't know how many sets I've bought over the years, seduced by their glorious colors, only to have my teeth set on edge by the sound of the pencil point being scraped across a rough surfaced paper.  And the tips wear down as fast as the colors muddy up.  But though I am seldom satisfied with my results. they are quick, and immediate, and good for a quick sketch at the end of a long day,
Maybe it's best to leave them to more experienced wings  than mine.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day Eighty-Eight: Fred the Cardinal

The pattern for this jaunty little guy comes from Eleaner Bruce, at  I found it in my favorite book, which I've mentioned on this blog before:  Little Birds--26 Handmade Projects to Sew, Stitch, Quilt & Love.  I had to put my own spin on him, which included making his body and wings out of sewn and stuffed felt, but needlefelting a lot of the details.  My beaks always seem to come out huge, but in this case I like it.
I haven't done any needlefelting since way back in January, on Day Fourteen, when I complained that I found it tedious.  This time was much better, since I wasn't creating the entire form from needlefelting, but only adding the details.  I thoroughly enjoyed working the beak, eyes, and dark feathers with my felting needle and rovings.
Eleanor says this about Fred:  "Quite frankly, when your everyday is everyone else's Sunday best, you're bound to feel a little pleased with yourself." 
Well said, Eleanor.
We should all feel this good about the way we look.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day Eighty-Nine: LoveBirds Redux

My followers may recall that I wasn't completely happy with the LoveBirds I did on Day Eighty, shown here on the left.  Rather than start over from scratch, I decided to try to rescue the existing piece.  First, off came the huge beaks--not an easy task--and new, smaller beaks were sewn into place.  Then, some additional embroidery was worked around the hearts.  I think it's all a definite improvement, but I'm not convinced that it's complete yet.  I may do more another day.
You can judge for yourself, below.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day Eighty-Eight: Done At Last!

This Bird is done at last, and not a moment too soon.  I must say that by today, I was heartily sick of working on this, and it was hard to keep going until I felt it was finished.  Tomorrow I'll probably like it again, but for now, I am done!
Here's a shot of Sage and Bear, lounging in the studio.  You'll note that no one is interested in sleeping in the eighty dollar dog bed from

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day Eighty-Seven: Almost Done!

I'm almost finished with this bird; I've added more embroidery and I decided to add some grass at the bottom.  It would have been easier to put this grass in right at the start, before I did the legs and the flower stem, but I'm trying hard not to do too much planning ahead of time, so these problems will inevitably come up. It's hard for me to work spontaneously, having worked as an illustrator, on assignment, for so many years, but I'm enjoying the freedom of not being so invested in the outcome, but just going where my needle and embroidery floss take me.
I also seem to be in a secondary triad mode:  that's purple, orange, and green, in case you're wondering.
Hopefully this little guy will be done tomorrow, and I can move on to the new bird.
PS:  I hate this new format for  I can't figure out how to get the image at the top anymore.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day Eighty-Six: Progress Report

I think I skipped a day yesterday, but  no matter, I'm catching up today.  And, apparently, without consulting moi, has changed it's format for posting, and nothing looks the same as it did two days ago.  I HATE it when things like this happen. This font is so small I can hardly see it.  Darn it, this new format is so distracting, that I can't think!  And what happened to sizing, and center, left and right?  And why is the image in the middle of my text, instead of at the top?
Where was I?  Oh, I'm still working on Purple Bird, and I'm posting my progress to date.    Now I'm in a bad mood, even though I did get a lot done today and I'm happy with the way this piece is coming along.

Nobody asked me, but hey, guys, If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Friday, April 1, 2011