5.2.09

Loose threads

A pony without a mane is not really a pony.
One thing I learned last month, was that horsey-things are hard. My multi-talented blog friend Meliors, of Bibliophilia asked me, very nicely, to recreate a little pony she had dancing about in her dreams. I thought it would be a challenge, but I had no idea...in the end, this poor little chap had more surgery than an aging Hollywood actress - bits sliced off, and added and removed and so on and so forth, until I finally got the proportions right. But the mane was to be my Nemesis. I looked at as many methods online and in books as possible, but they all involved sewing. I knew there had to be another way.






So I started off with an extravaganza of pins and needles...







Finding my latest tool, a wooden hand gripper very useful.







It started to get complicated...







...and developed a distinctly tribal feel. Kind of Zulu princess.







I decided that weaving was the answer and after about 6 hours of fiddling about, unfiddling, and fiddling some more, I had woven a little rug down the nape of his neck. I forgot to photo the finished result - suffice to say that I wasn't sure about it, and even less sure when Andy looked askance at my efforts. I went to bed on it.






I woke the next morning knowing that I had gone about it in completely the wrong way and a clear idea of how it should have been done. I dismantled the previous day's muddlings and cut an ugly, but useful gash into the little fellow.




I did try looping the cords round a piece of card, just to keep them regular, but that didn't work, so I returned to my method of pinning and hooking. This time I poked the threads down into the neck and laid big stitching over to hold them down firmly. It worked - to my relief. Bald horses look bizarre. After that it was just a matter of felting it all back together and giving 'Winnie' a good tidy up. Meliors was pleased with the results and he is now on his way to sunnier climes.





January - a month I normally love - was really odd and not very settling, clearing out deadwood and old ghosts, getting on with things which needed doing and generally decluttering my head.

A couple of irons I placed in the fire last year are looking very promising. My little animals are taking off in a way I always dreamed my illustration would, when I graduated in 1993, naively thinking that having put in six years of art and design study, I would miraculously start getting work. It happens for some people, but not for me. It has taken fifteen years of tilting at the Children's Publishing windmill to realise that, for whatever reason, it isn't for me. Or rather, I am not for it; I am tired of being told my work is too 'melancholy', too 'sad', 'not right' - or even worse - 'it's beautiful, but not suitable for children...'

The unexpected miracle of seeing my creations enchant people worldwide has encouraged me to show them to people who can take them even further, with exciting results - and all this, in less than a year since I picked up a felting needle. When fate pushes you so strongly, it's best to go with it. And I'm having more pleasure making little things than painting ever gave me. I'm not giving up illustrating - I've just given up breaking my heart over it.



Looking forward to an approaching time when all the loose threads will be swept away.





40 comments:

Deb said...

my my! he is a very handsome looking horse. i am never sure what to write in response to your posts gretel, you just have a way with words that already says everything.dx.

Caroline B said...

Well done - I sympathise with your struggle over making a horse, mine was a bit of a nightmare (mare..haha) too but nothing compared to this. Definitely worth the effort though!

Dana and Daisy said...

I look forward to hearing more about your animals' launch. How exciting! And I can sympathize with your struggle in the illustration world. I do hope you will continue to use that talent, as you are a wonderful illustrator. I would think many children might benefit from some quiet contemplation. I guess it is not what the market is looking for is what "they" mean.

Just a year's time? That is amazing!

Casbah Kitten said...

I have to say that your little animals are the cutest creations I've ever seen! Totally adorable! I'm so glad they're pointing the way for you. I understand totally too...I started an Etsy shop to sell bellydance dolls and ended up with cat toys!! Go figure.

tut-tut said...

You are an artist, that is for certain. That little horse exhibits so much soul and personality, I found myself cringing in sympathy to the pain he must have felt (no pun!) while you were getting the mane to behave.

I'm sorry you are getting negative reactions about your painting. I love them. The stars just aren't aligned correctly for that yet. Just wait.

Mlle Miracle said...

It's a wise decision to given up "breaking" your heart anymore. And it's not a miracle what happened to you, it's the result of a beautiful work! Maybe we have to thank the Internet too...

Chris.P said...

I admire your stubborn determination to get the horse sorted. Tennacity has to be one of your best qualities:¬)

SJ said...

I'm really happy things are coming together for you! And the horse is great too :)

Lynne said...

What a lovely many-colored horse! How did you get all the stripes? Is each color a different wool? wow. That is a lot of stabbing! He's marvelous.

gilflingsdesigns said...

I love it when that moment comes in art and making after a long struggle to find the 'perfect' solution to a problem. The cut looked very drastic but I am glad it was the way forward and he is a delightful colourful character.

And for what it is worth Gretel, I adore the melancholy, soulful aspect to your illustrations and artwork. Having been rather a serious and contemplative child myself I think it would do no harm to have the 'whole and rounded' vision of life presented - I find children to be very responsive and receptive to all emotions and I am sure they undersand and empathise with more facets of emotions and imaginations that the 'media' allow them.

I too am having this problem with my character sculptures - I have had a brilliant and overwhelming response to them but every once in a while I have someone say they love them but could they not be 'happier'! Umm no..... they have a aura of melancholy for a reason.....

sorry for my ramble and as always it is lovely to read your blog posts! Take care G

wherepianosroam said...

That little horse is beautiful. I've come to learn that some of the most challenging endeavors become some of the most gratifying experiences--only because you worked so gosh darn hard to accomplish what you set out to do.

There's truth to the art that you do and that's all that matters. I, as you well know, am quite fond of your melancholy hues, and I am very glad that you haven't changed just to appease others. The rest of us who get to witness your wonders are so much better off for it.

-gordon

Fellows said...

The little horse is fabulous and I do not understand at all the people at the publishing house. I think your illustrations are evocative, beautiful and expressive.

beccaandbella said...

whoops ... last comment was really from Becca. sorry.

Rosehaven Cottage said...

I appreciate your openness about your process of finding your creative path. It has helped me and continues to do so. Thank you!

Cindy

Soozcat said...

Winnie is thoroughly delightful. And it's fascinating to see some of the steps that went into putting him together.

As far as your work being "not suitable for children," I can think of a laundry list of "children's titles" that are plenty sad and melancholy. Far too many adults don't give children enough credit for recognizing--and sometimes embracing--those emotions. It would be refreshing to see a new illustrated version of The Velveteen Rabbit that didn't look candy-coated; the story isn't meant to be cutesy. But no matter.

Bee said...

The colours in this pony make me think he must be Mexican or Guatamalan. It makes me feel a bit homesick for blue skies to look at him.

(There was something wonderful about him in the Zulu incarnation, too.)

Oh yes, and I think that Soozcat is quite right. I was recently at Waterstone's and they had an entire display featuring books about children's fears. A lot of kids have crappy lives -- and they are pretty helpless to change those lives.

green phoenix said...

I love the sentiments you expressed.Letting things go is sometimes the best way forward.
Can't wait to hear more of your plans.

Gail said...

He turned out to be a lovely fellow in the end - well done for hanging in there. It's so much easier to do something from your own imagination, rather than to interpret someone else's isn't it ... but in this case you've done well. Thanks for showing some of your struggle ;-)

Can't wait to hear the details of your good news.

Much snow up your way?

Take care
-Gail XX

natural attrill said...

Hi G,
That was really interesting to read about your various ideas and methods for making the horses mane, must say it turned out good in the end. I absolutely adore the colours you have used.
P.x

Jessie Lilac said...

What a glorious hairdo for Winnie! You've got a wonderful talent for these little felt creatures, and they bring your illustrations to life in another way. It's strange how the same type of characters in a different medium can change how people see them.x

roz said...

He's wonderful and so are you. I can relate to what you were saying about illustration.
I'd like to award you with the Kreative blog award. You can copy the logo from my blog if you want to pass it on. http://rozzieland.blogs.com/

David said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
redchair said...

Hello Fair Artist and crafts person who lives in the middle of nowhere,

We have been watching you. We are artist also. At least that's what they call us. You may even know us. We'd like to invite you to a member of our very Private Club. We're very selective and only an elite few are welcome on our hallowed grounds. We pick you.

We even have a little 'chit chat' room just for the likes of you. It's rightfully called Dante's Pub. But when your enter BEWARE! You are entering the abyss of the artist mind! You may not find your way out.

You're welcome to watch from afar while drinking your brew or pull up a chair and join us for a little chat. Be sure and register and then log in. After all, this is a very private club. We don't allow just any wanderer in our midst.

Don't dilly dally now! It wont cost you a pence. Check out The Artist Challenge and Dante's Pub- that is if your daring and think yourself worthy to be amongst the souls we've claimed?

Farewell...until we hear from you,
Master Mike and the Pub Wench

Artist Challenge- http://www.theartistchallenge.com/
Dante‘s Pub - http://www.theartistchallenge.com/art-forum/

OldBagNewTricks said...

Gretel, he is splendid!! And thank you for showing us how you did his mane.

As for the other -- I am sitting there beside you as once upon a time I was a writer. Top of my class... yet never found my niche. Some are plucked right out of school... and some are not. Like you after some 15 (20) years I've turned in some unexpected directions and am (finally) doing very nicely. I knew my path was out there... somewhere. I am so glad you've found yours. Your wee creatures are wonderful!!!

Jenny

muddy red shoes said...

Love him and totally understand the surgery nature of creating hartfelted felt creations, very glad you are making and selling these but please dont stop the painting, the pictures you make are beautiful, do them too and sell them, forget the publishers, they dont know what they are talking about. One day when we are all rich I will open a publishing house for the unrecognised wonderful artists who happen to be moved by illustration... I will be knocking on your door.
Have you got snow?
xxx

Jackie said...

Isn't it a pity that we have to have commercial success to survive. I love your toys but I really love your illustrations. They remind me of books i had when I was little..Pookie I think in the 50s with slightly melancholy pictures. I had an e mail from another extremely talented blogger who was giving up her most beautiful work becasue she isn'y making any money from it. I knwo the feeling. sad. Winnie is gorgeous and has appeal even without the mane.

Waterrose said...

That is one adorable horse! Isn't it amazing what should be simple, becomes complicated?

Frances said...

Here comes another tribute! You are a born teacher, encourager, appreciator,creater, thinker, poet. All these, plus a few other ways to wear a hat, take part in everything you do.

The horse is splendid! Your drawings, paintings, videos, blogs ... these are all splendid. I very much like the way that you regard your unique collection of talents, PG.

You have used them well, and surely will continue to find ways to share them with the world. Although you might call yourself reclusive, your talents certainly reach far around the world.

Best wishes! xo

Sarah Laurence said...

What a magical pony and process! Who’d have guessed it was so complicated? It reminds me of acupuncture. I’m floored that you only came to felting a year ago, but I’m not surprised at all that you have been so successful.

As someone who is trying to break into publishing, I feel your past pain. I hope you’ll keep painting to entertain us unsuitable children. I think you are lucky to find a way to make a living that is creative and flexible to find the right fit.

Gigibird said...

Not sure if I should phone the RSPCA!!

liZZie said...

Lovely links between your last two posts, and the connections about not compromising. So much to think about re. creative integrity whilst trying to survive. I wonder, your toys with books written and illustrated by you? Corporate and commercial fashions are so fickle. Have listened to the GR video clip too. Even though January has been so glum you seem to have achieved a fair amount.

tlc illustration said...

I'm always impressed by how solid and perfectly shaped your felted creations are. Your care and meticulous artistic nature are clearly evident. And I am SO pleased it is being recognized more widely (as it totally deserves to be).

I hope things went astonishingly well for you today. (and that you could make it back home! It's snowing here now. Of course).

Melanie said...

that is the most beautiful pony I have ever seen ...ever

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This was just fascinating... to see Mr. Horse created. Some of the photos made me wince, they looked quite painful. He is so beautiful and I'm happy you are experiencing success with your amazing toys. And I'm especially happy you are enjoying it, as that makes so much of a difference in the way one enjoys life in general. It is incredibly frustrating, this uncreative and short-sighted thinking within the publishers of the world. But, has always been so...from JK Rowling to the Beatles, publishers just didn't get it! You are in good company, I'd say.

acornmoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
acornmoon said...

You put such a lot of effort and skill into your creations, they are just lovely!

As for illustrating children's books, you would be surprised how difficult the climate in that industry has been for lots of illustrators and I mean major names with amazing track records. I got into that world in the eighties, worked my way in slowly and steadily, it was so much easier then. Around the time of the demise of the net book agreement it all changed, discounting meant the loss of nearly all our independent book shops, these were a lifeline to small publishers. Now everything is different, believe me, it's a very tough nut to crack now so don't for one minute think it's a reflection on your talent because you are outstanding!

sorry, I messed up my earlier post!

Pearl said...

He is just beautiful...But I never had any doubt you would do a good job. I so enjoy watching the birth of your toys. I bet it is really easy to get attached to each little critter and not want to sell.
Hope you are doing well.
Sending you hugs,

Libby said...

Stunning, I still don't really understand how it all works, but hey, you have a talent!

ingermaaike said...

Both your drawings and felted creatures are such a joy to behold. Thank you so much for being there!

Libby Buttons said...

Complicated . You certainly are talented. I never could have figured out that mane. Of course, I never would have been able to make the horse in the first place.
smiles
LiBBy