Thursday, August 3, 2006

"Stella" in Progress

Stella... she came to me one night late. I was laying in bed trying to fall asleep. It was hot, and although I was tired, sometimes sleep just doesn't come. I tried focusing on different things hoping my mind would stop working and start wandering me off to sleep, and then she appeared.

I'm sure at one time or another you've seen the t-shirts with either the incredibly eat-a-sandwich thin tanned bikini body or the larger-than-life muscle bound body builder on them. I remember seeing them often at the beaches in Maine, being used as cover-ups for the otherwise normal to plus-normal sized people with a sense of humor.

And so came Stella. In my vision she is wearing the bikini t-shirt over her otherwise horribly un-tanned and slightly overweight body. (I find the t-shirt image over exaggerates her size to almost obese.) Further, like any smart fair skinned beach goer, she wears a large brimmed hat decorated in the blooms of summer, and a pair of flip-flops.

I thought hard about her, memorizing the details so I could sketch her out after a good nights sleep, but she wouldn't let me. I crawled out of bed, crept through the house. I cut her primary shape out of a regular piece of copy paper, then sketched Stella out in all her glory. I felt great about it, and knew she would be a fun doll to make. Satisfied, I went back to bed.

Funny how cutting out her form and drawing on the details suddenly gave her a voice. I wasn't in bed much more than 20 minutes before I was back up. Stella demanded accessories. Ideas flew through my head. What did she need to go to the beach? A beach bag, towel, binoculars, radio, cell phone, folding beach chair, and umbrella all flew down on paper in wild beach colors. I jotted notes on construction (how does one make an umbrella out of beds in scale with a doll?) for each piece and what beads would work best. My enthusiasm grew. Now I could see her lugging all her beach bound affects. I went back to bed with beach accessories floating through my dreams.

In the morning I went straight to work. I cut out muslin in the shape of the pattern and stitched her together. But the basic pillow shape of Stella just didn't have enough personality or shape to her, so I set out to needle sculpt the little doll. I gave her a belly button, breasts, knees, ankles, and a butt. Each stitch seemed to excavate the true Stella within.

Next I used a pencil to lightly sketch the t-shirt onto the doll body - front and back. This gives me a guide for beading in the clothing. I also put great thought into the direction the stitches needed to go to give her flesh the most realistic look.

I wanted to dig into beading her immediately, but just didn't seem to have the right color bead for her flesh. I was torn between two ideas - either she was going to have an obvious sun burn, or she was going to be very pale (like I usually am!) Pale won out and I found the perfect color at my favorite seed bead store - The Beaded Iris.

Once back at home, I dug in ferociously. I started with her legs. The needle sculpting worked like a dream as a base for the beads, emphasizing the fleshy folds of the back of her knees and thighs.

I jumped to the bikini whenever I tired of the legs, making sure to use the most desirable brown-bronze color for the bikini-girl's body. The fushia pink with lime green pokka-dot bikini seemed the perfect style.

When my time is limited in the evenings, or whenever I don't feel like I'm making progress, I work on the accessories. First was the beach bag - lime green with bright blue stripes, two handles, and a flower clasp. It's a fully working miniature, which at some point I imagine will contain her cell phone.

I found myself modeling her beach towel after a towel I remember having when I was younger - striped colors of the sunset - red, orange, rosy peach and fushia.

I like the idea of using wild colors for each of the accessories, making sure nothing quite matches, much like the pile of junk I used to drag to the beach. It just wouldn't be real if she had matching accessories - it would be too "Barbie", and Stella is soooo not Barbie.

Realizing the 3-dimensioning of the doll vs. my sketch, I realized her own bathing suit will show below the t-shirt. I'm still toying with the style of that. I'm quite sure it will be navy and may even have a ruffle of sorts.

Of course, by now I had repeatedly scrounged through my beads trying to find just the right face for Stella. Nothing. I contacted a favorite polymer clay face beader I had bought from many times before - Linda Clink. I had discovered her on eBay a couple of years back and I truly love her work. Together, via email, she and I found the perfect design for Stella's face. (If you are interested in making dolls or using faces for scrapbooking, I highly recommend looking for "Linsart" at eBay!) She made the face bead for me. It arrived today. I couldn't be happier!

And that is Stella's progress to date. I'm off to bead, but I'll be posting more progress shots as I go.