Halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday, it’s creative and fun and it inspires me; this year I’ve needle felted several Halloween puppets. Most of these puppets were time intensive and they have lots of details; I want to share some of my techniques and thoughts about needle felting faces in this post. Not all portraits have to be photo-realistic, cartoon techniques and-caricatures are also good ways to make needle felted portraits. My needle felted portraits tend to be realistic. NOTE: This is an advanced project but it can be simplified. This puppet is not a toy because of the hair and eyes which can be choking hazards for children. If you wish to make a puppet as a toy, needle felt the eyes (don’t use glass or plastic eyes or fake eye lashes) and felt the hair firmly so it can’t be pulled out.
These puppets can be used for puppet shows and they can also be conversational pieces of sculpture for your home or business.
My mother always told me not to talk politics or religion in polite company; that’s a tall order when writing or felting about the 2016 American presidential elections! I’ve been working on these needle felted puppets for months, inspired by the news and daily political events. I wanted to name the body of work but I’ve had a hard time choosing between: The Greatest Show on Earth, American Horror Story or Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue! Felting and re-felting the puppet faces for just the right look and creating the costumes for each puppet (mini suits and collared shirts are not easy to make). FYI: each puppets is wearing a handmade designer-suit because I bought designer suit fabric at my favorite fabric store and Hillary is wearing a little red crepe-georgette number of the highest quality!
My conundrum was that I wanted to “put my two cents worth in” but really not offend anyone while doing it because I have dear friends on both sides of the debate. I couldn’t bring myself to trash talk anyone but sometimes just reporting on the behaviors of the nominees was enough. My thing with the election is just how “down and dirty” it has become and personally I find it distasteful and embarrassing for America.
I think I can express myself just by “reporting” on the events or very similar events that have transpired over the last campaign year! Needle felting a portrait is either kind of easy or very difficult depending on your subject. Hillary Clinton has a delicate nose, she has no major defining features except maybe for her pronounced cheek bones; felting Hillary was tedious!
Bernie Sanders was the easiest portrait to felt because he has a pronounced nose, a facial shape that’s easy to recreate and hair that is “free” and easily recognizable.
Here, Donald Trump says that he’s number one; there are abundant poses that can be used and that help with “the Donald” portrait! There are so many familiar physical characteristics that define Donald Trump that one would think felting him was very easy, but not so. Trump’s cotton-candy hair was the easiest part of his portrait but Trump also has a small, delicate nose that was very hard capture.
Barak Obama was easy to felt; his features are not delicate and his look is easy to capture (salt and pepper hair and flying ears). I felted Obama eight years ago at the time he won his first presidential election. Eight years ago I didn’t have the right color of beige-brown to felt him so I had to mix the wool and I called the color Obama-brown. Today I have many more nuances of wool colors which helps immensely. You can see my progress from today’s Obama puppet portrait compared to the first Obama portrait of eight years ago!
I had a lot of fun felting “situations” and even more fun felting the election 2016 video:
My election felting has come to an end and I’ll now be riveted to my sofa in front of the t.v. to see who wins in November. In the meantime, Halloween felting continues and then onto Christmas felting!
I miss the black, shiny Raven that always sat on my gate; he and a few of his friends were always sitting on the gate or the phone wires or the branches of the big tree that spilled into my yard. As I entered the big metal gate to my courtyard, he would cock his head to the side and look at me, as we looked at each other I always had the feeling he watched over me. I came to look for this guardian of my “castle” as I came and went; his familiar presence gave me a peaceful feeling. We were friendly acquaintances for 13 years; I recently moved and I contemplate if he wonders where I am.
I have recently become familiar with the Steam-punk style and while searching for a subject for my first Steam-punk inspired sculpture, my friend the Raven came to mind.
Steam-punk-“Steam-punk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where STEAM POWER is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.” Wikipedia Steam-punk elements include: gears, watch-parts, watches, velvet, cameos, wings, aviator goggles, Victorian clothing, top hats, hot air balloons, locks, keys and metal parts.
The Raven is a needle felted shape, with shiny black satin quilted on top of of the wool. His eyes are a blue, blinking-doll eye and a red, glass taxidermy eye. There is a wind-up key on his back that serves as the handle to a lid, the lid covers a hidden compartment which contains the typical watch parts and gears of the Steam punk style. The Raven’s sharp talons are tiny watch hands, His pivoting neck is encircled by a thick row of black feathers and over the feathers is a stiff cardboard collar, collaged in vintage Italian train tickets. He sports a Victorian Saks-style collar that makes him appear a gentleman, as I imagine him to be. His large beak is waxed to make it very hard and a different texture than the rest of his body. The head rotates and tilts so he can be positioned as a real bird, his legs, wings and tail are poseable.
I learned a bit about watches while researching Steam-punk, like the little sapphires and rubies in the watch movements are real (also some watch crowns for winding contain real sapphires! Vintage watch hands can be very ornate and beautiful and some watch movement parts are intricately engraved.
How many times has this happened to you? You get up from your comfy chair to get something and when you come back, your pet is sitting there, looking very comfortable and looking at you like “WHAT?” It happens in the blink of an eye (or the wag of a tail) and it makes me laugh every time!
I”ve been needle felting dogs again, the dogs are telling a story; it’s the everyday, mundane actions of dogs that make them so humorous. It’s the “human” things that dogs (and cats) do that I find the most interesting. My dog Quill used to jump into the bed next to me, when my husband came into the room and stood by the bed, Quill would be sprawled over the bed and look at him with a face that said “where are you going to sleep?!”
There are several small details in this piece that I think make it more interesting, the leather collar with a copper buckle and the piping around the chair.
Sometimes animals surprise (and delight) us with the things they do!
Much like children, dogs (and cats) can occupy themselves with the smallest, everyday things; they don’t need fancy toys to play. It’s like that saying: it’s not what you have, but what you do with what you have that’s important.
I think the stance of this bug conveys a little attitude; the bug is standing his own ground.
I’ve been wanting to needle felt Humpty Dumpty for a long time; I saw the kid’s movie Puss in Boots the other day and all the cute fairy tale characters in the movie inspired me to finally make him. I didn’t have a detailed image of Humpty in my mind before I started him, I just knew that he should look like he just stepped out of the pages of Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes.
I also imagined that my Humpty would be living his life to the fullest, taking chances and not always taking the “safe road”. I wanted Humpty to balance on the wall he’s so famously known to be sitting on. How did he just fall off a wall while sitting there; he doesn’t really look athletic to me, but really! So my Humpty is walking along his wall, dancing, moving and balancing.
Of course the face is my favorite part of the doll, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of my next projects should be needle felting a “portrait” or bust of a real person to see how close I can come to achieving a likeness. Portraits were one of my favorite things to draw and paint; I haven’t done one in quite a long time.
My kids think my Humpty Dumpty is “creepy”, but then they think all dolls that don’t look young and storybook beautiful are ugly. I asked them to imagine who this guy is, what does he do for a living and why is is cavorting on a stone wall! I think Humpty looks kind and is probably an eccentric. What do you think?
Humpty Dumpty is needle felted from wool. He has glass eyes. He stands 11″ tall x 4.5″ wide.