I do a lot of different commission work in needle felting, it’s usually a doll or a mask or a beloved pet. I’ve made puppets for educational aides in the past but recently I was asked to do a bust of a multi-ethnic young girl; the customer wanted the doll’s mouth to be able to open and close and her tongue to be movable. The customer is a speech therapist who thinks that demonstrating how to move and place your tongue will help her young patients to better follow her instructions. I tried to stay away from the ventriloquist-look as much as possible because I think ventriloquist dolls are scary looking. The very unique thing about this therapy doll is that you can place the tongue in different areas in the mouth to show children more easily how to make specific sounds:)
From the commentary I’ve received concerning this bust, the speech therapist is onto something!
Bęc Smith I’m a speech pathologist and think this is so cool!
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.
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon
The little dog laughed to see such sport
And the dish ran away with the spoon
(Hey Diddle Diddle, a traditional English nursery rhyme, published in 1765, author unknown)
Nursery rhymes help children learn to speak (they use alliteration, onomatopoeia, similes, rhymes to help memory and basic sentence structure ), nursery rhymes help teach children counting skills (for example: One, two button my shoe), teach life lessons (Little Bo Peep lost her sheep because she was snoozing on the job) and nursery rhyhmes entertain. Many rhymes were based on tawdry and grotesque historical events inappropriate for children (for example: Ring Around the Rosie is about the plague) and were thus re-written by the Victorians to better represent the times and make them more suitable for children. For me, fairy tales and nursery rhymes just bring back nice childhood memories.
Would you ever have guessed in a million years that the cow jumping over the moon was supposed to represent Hathor worship (the Egyptian cow goddess) or the Jewish Flight from Egypt or stories about Queen Elizabeth I and her royal court. Nothing is as it seems in a nursery rhyme, often the earliest oral versions of the stories were lost and non-sense evolved, but this fact has not kept people from analyzing them. I was relieved to read that the cow jumping over the moon in Hey Diddle Diddle was probably just a nonsensical tale, with no deeper psychological musings!
Because the Fairytale Frog tutorial that I did was so popular, I decided to do another tutorial with the same multi-jointed technique. Feeling a little artsy after I made my chimp, I fashioned him as “art” after a few famous artists. For the above shot, I draped my chimp in the clothing and head covering to mimic Girl with a Pearl Earring, I placed him in front of a black background (like the Vermeer painting) and took his picture. I photo-shopped his eyes to look at the viewer and blurred him a little to look like a painting.
For Salvadore Monki (after the famous photo of Salvadore Dali), I took Monki’s photo with a needle felted moustache. I photo-shopped his eyes to look like the expressive eyes of Dali in the photo and changed the image from color to black and white. The cropping and the moustache here were key!
My final piece of chimp art is the Chimpanzee Scream. I created the background with pastels (to look like the famous painting by Edvard Munch, The Scream). I positioned my chimp in the lower right hand corner and took his picture. Voila!
I had a lot of fun recreating these Chimpanzee pieces of art, a little something more to highlight my needle felted work!
Lately I’ve been making fairy tale dolls, I first started making the dolls with pipe cleaner armatures then progresses to a bigger doll with a needle felted head and body with only pipe cleaner arms and legs. The pipe cleaner dolls (the basic pipe cleaner doll tutorial can be seen here: http://www.lauraleeburch.com/blog/2011/09/beddy-bye-dolls-tutorial-2/ are small and just the right size for small children to play with and they can be made in a reasonable amount of time (half an hour each), making them much cheaper to make and sell. The larger, more detailed dolls take a lot more time (about an hour each to needle felt, plus a half an hour to an hour more if they’re clothed). I think the larger dolls are cuter, but more expensive due to the amount of time it takes to needle felt, then sew the clothes for each one. I love these two types of pipe cleaner dolls because you can’t break them, they’re bendable, soft and made from natural materials (wool is bacterial and fire resistant!)
The larger needle felted dolls have many more details such as glass doll eyes, styled hair and more intricate, sewn clothes. I make the patterns for the doll clothes; I usually end up making a sample piece of clothing first which I make alterations to, then I revise the pattern, cut out the pieces, then sew the doll’s costume. I make the dolls first because I love the needle felting process and I save the sewing for later (when the mood hits me to sew).
As I first started to make human style animal dolls (The three bears and the three little pigs for example), I struggled with the decision of whether to dress the animals or not. A friend of mine who worked in a Hallmark shop for years once told me that clothed teddy bears that had clothing or costumes sold better than non-clothed teddy bears, so I took that as a piece of important advice from someone who observed teddy bear sales because she used this information to place the bear orders for her very successful Hallmark store. This meant that if the urge to sew doll clothes didn’t come to me as my little animals stood there naked, I’d need to “just do it” and sew some clothes for the dolls. I like to sew, but only when I feel like it, just like cooking. I’ve left the smaller, pipe cleaner dolls unclothed (except Goldilocks of course) so that their price point stays low. I have quite a few more fairy tale dolls finished, just waiting for clothes! Back to work….