Elise was a Piano Once Upon a Time

This is a true story.

This is the story of how a tiny doll and her special hedgehog friend came to live in my studio….

Long, long ago, there was a seed, well several seeds, really.

They grew up and became majestic trees.

They sang the song of the wind and the sun and the moon and the rain and the stars for probably hundreds of years.

And, then they were cut down.

They became a piano.

And the piano sang  songs of love, and sadness and grief and joy.

Eventually, the piano wore out.  Completely.

The piano tuner shook his head sadly and declared it to be done.

But he had a friend who made things with wood, so he offered some of the wood from the piano to his friend.

His friend happily accepted the wood from the sad and gone piano, and because he is a generous and kind person,

he offered some pieces of the wood to his Mum.

That’s me.

I was sure I could feel a very, very tiny doll singing little tiny songs inside the wooden scrap….

I cut a little bit of the piano wood and loved how it felt in my hands….

I cut out rough shapes that would be just the right size to carve my favorite size of doll- 2 and a half inches tall.

I carved:

and carved:

and carved and carved and carved some more.

While I was carving, I asked her what her name is,

and she declared: “Elise, of course!”

She said that even though she preferred playing Mozart when she was a piano,

that she had always loved it when her family played ‘Fur Elise’.

(An interesting thing happened when I told my daughter about tiny Elise-

she knew, even before I said Elise’s name that that was the name of this tiny, but

determined little wooden person!)

Elise let me know that she wanted old fashioned boots

and cream colored stockings and camisole

and that lovely amber color from the shellac for her hair.

She also told me that she wanted me to tat her dress,

and while I was at it, to make the tatting shuttle that I would use

to tat her dress.

And, to make the tatting shuttle a hedgehog, and

to use the bit of wood that was around the lock that used to keep the piano closed.

Elise  helped me to figure out how to get the lock out of the wood….

She insisted that the lovely round brass keyhole had to become part of her tatting shuttle.

Elise chose some old tatting cotton that I had been given

(from the estate of the friend of a friend who didn’t know what to do with it)

Elise and I started freeform tatting her dress.

Sometimes, it didn’t go well.  sigh.

Tatting is the pits to try and unpick, so scissors were the best option:

Elise got a little annoyed at times with all the trying on and taking off of the dress,

but I reminded her that she was the one who demanded it be tatted-

crochet would have been infinitely faster!

She fell on her face and refused to co-operate for awhile, but eventually,

calmed down and we got on with the tatting:

Eventually, Elise’s dress was done.

It’s a bit cattywombus but Elise has forgiven me for that.

She understands that freeforming when making a tatted dress can mean that things are slightly ‘unique’.

Elise is looking forward to having adventures with the other wooden dolls in the studio.

She has placed a few requests for things that she would like to have, thank you very much.

Elise may look young, but you must remember, that she’s a doll with a long, long story!

(and has more to tell, but that is for another day and until then, she and her hedgehog friend will enjoy life in the studio).

 

I have joined a group of wonderful bloggers from all over the world – The Scrap Happy Bloggers- who work with upcycled materials and post once a month.

Here are the links to all their blogs: Do check them out 🙂

Kate Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2 and Noreen

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Carved Wooden Spoon Wooden Dolls Hearts and Flowers 2

In my previous post, I showed you the little sister of this wooden spoon wooden doll- Springtime LINK 

Her big sister is also a celebration of flowers and hearts and love …

Flora is in love with flowers-

and dreams of them, night and day

She has a Compass Rose to help guide her by the Sun and Moon:

Her heart shape spoon is extra large to help her gather and carry and share a whole lot of love and beauty.

When I was carving her, I was sure that there was a poem that was supposed to accompany her.

Sure enough, when I had finished the carving,

I went to bed, wondering what poem it was that she wanted me to burn on the back….

As I drifted off to sleep, this little haiku popped into my head,

so I jumped out of bed and wrote it down.

I burned it onto her, first thing the next morning.

Here is the poem:

“In the Seed

The Flower waits

Birthing

the Universe”. …………

May all your seeds and flowers give blossom and birth all manner of beauty in your life!

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Carved Wooden Spoon Wooden Dolls Hearts and Flowers 1

I have fallen in love with carving flowers on my wooden spoon wooden dolls.

Nowadays, I carve the wooden spoon part of my wooden dolly spoons in the shape of a heart, to symbolize gathering and sharing love and kindness.

This  Hearts and Flowers Sister is about 6 inches/15 cm tall and is a celebration of the river and the ocean and flowers and butterflies and dragonflies:.

To be honest, she’s also about dreaming of much much gentler weather than we are experiencing right now.

We have had a brutally long ferociously cold spell of winter, and I am so longing for Springtime, and for flowers to be in bloom

instead of blistering icy cold shattering winds!

I miss the ocean, and it’s so cold that I am not even going out to say hello to the river, even though we live close to it.

so I carved  flowers as a love song to the flowers and waves for my longing to walk along the ocean’s shore:

It has been such a long time since the dragonflies danced in our neighbourhood

and of course, the butterflies are cozy in their cocoons, dreaming of springtime…

Seriously…. Springtime, I am longing for you!

I carved ‘Springtime’s Sister and the next blog post is all about her. LINK

 

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How Fairy Tales Influence My Work

I love the fairy tale, ‘Vasilisa The Fair’, which is a Russian story of a feisty and stalwart young woman with the usual cast of troublesome characters… miserable step mother and step sisters etc’ with the astonishing Baba Yaga thrown in to boot.

I discovered the story more than 45 years ago in a gorgeous version that was told by Alexander Pushkin and illustrated with gobsmackingly exquisite pattern and color play by Ivan Bilibin.

The part that I have always loved the most in the fairy tale is that Vasilisa’s mother wanted to embody her love and feelings of protection for her daughter

when she knew that she was dying and grieving the leaving of her child.

So, she made Vasilisa a small doll that carried all her love for Vasilisa, and became a mentor and guide.

The little doll that the loving mother made was a living blessing for her beloved child that she had to leave too soon.

In my workshops on dollmaking as a healing art, I have always told the story of Vasilisa and her mother making the blessing doll.

I invited participants to make a doll that would represent Vasilisa’s doll for them.

So that’s my history of Vasilisa’s doll….

A few weeks ago, I shared a photo of a  Comfort Doll that I named: Middle Sister, to a dollmaking group on Facebook that focuses on healing dolls.

This dolly spoon is one that insisted on me ‘getting her right’, and  I wrote about that process HERE 

The moderator of the group said that the Middle Sister doll made her think of Vasilisa’s doll,

which hadn’t occurred to me as I was thinking that I was being influenced by the  thousands of Comfort Bears that I have woven, knitted and crocheted over the past 20+ years.

But, the moderator’s comment gave me a   H.U.G.E   ‘AHA’

Yes! indeed!

I felt that this little doll, who was the third in my ‘Comfort Doll’ series

was VERY much an homage to that wonderful energy of  Vasilisa’s doll.

Here are the first 2 dolls in their original state:

I had been feeling that these 2 dolls were not finished… they needed to be painted… which I struggled with,

because I had been wrestling with adding color and somehow thinking that it was against the rules,

(Huh? What rules? Who made them? um… I did… oh)

And, so I jumped into the wonderful fairy tale energy of color and pattern, and re-imagined these two little dolls:

Big Sister:

and Little Sister:

And, NOW, they are truly what they are supposed to be!  Hurrah!

The Three Sisters have been joined by 2 more Vasilisa Comfort Dolls:

I was processing having seen 2 heart wrenching documentaries about grim realities in the world,

and that sorrow flowed out into this Comfort Doll:

Her name is: Vasilisa Comfort Doll: She Stood at the Lake of Sorrow.

I tried to lift some of the sorrow from her face, but she said not to do that….

to acknowledge the sorrow but reach for the beauty.

So I did.

And, the latest little Vasilisa Doll is part of a series of carved wooden dolls that are also spoons,

that I am carving flowers into.

We live in a winter world here in Western Canada, and I am longing for flowers!

So I am carving them!

This is Vasilisa Comfort Doll: Sweet Little Flower:

Carving out space to honor the sorrow and reach for the Beauty,

as well as the longing for flowers is very much a Vasilisa thing to do,

so, I believe that this is how a fairy tale percolates through my mind,

and influences my work as an artist.

Oh yes, one more thing: The Vasilisa Comfort Dolls have Heart shape spoons as essential elements of them,

which is a powerful metaphor for me about gathering the love,

and stirring up healing and empowering energy.

I think that Vasilisa’s mother would approve.

What fairy tale stirs your soul?

 

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Learning to love the surprises when carving wooden dolls

I absolutely love carving wooden dolls, and have learned that the dolls have ways of taking me in unexpected directions while I am carving them.

This little bunny was carved from upcycled maple wood- a huge tree in our neighbourhood was cut down and we were given enormous chunks of the trunk.

I knew that a bunny was waiting to be carved from the wood,

but didn’t expect her to insist on a different body than I initially carved….

and then to want to go back to her original body once I had done more carving on it.

This lead me to make some changes and now, there are 2 rabbits, where once there was just one….

I was VERY surprised by this new rabbit, and am delighted with the ideas that she has brought with her!

Luckily, ‘Maple’ Bunny and ‘Surprise Rabbit’ are the best of friends:

I’ve made a tiny video that is all about going with the flow when creating one of a kind wooden dolls.

It also has a slide show showing the step by step process of carving a Maple Bunny’s head.

I hope that you have some lovely surprises and not unwelcome ones!

Take good care ❤

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Little Doll Coco and the Dream Garden Gate

Tiny doll, Coco (she’s only 2 and a 1/2 inches tall) had a dream.

She dreamt that there was a magical gate in the garden.

She went and talked to Star Baby, because she wanted her dream to come true,

and she had heard that wishing on a star would help that to happen.

Star Baby wasn’t sure about making dreams come true, but she thought that Tottie Tomato might be able to help-

Tottie Tomato asked: “Does it look like this, Coco?”

“Sort of… but it’s a GATE, not a door.  No door, Tottie!”

Coco went to ask Granny Spoon if she had any pretty beads that would help the Garden Gate hang up.

“I’m happy to help”, said Granny.

“I have been saving beads and buttons forever”.

When the Garden Gate was done,

Coco was thrilled!

It’s the perfect place to chat with a friend!

Or, to travel back in time!

Or to just enjoy the view!

Coco likes what the Garden Gate says:

May all your sweetest dreams come true, and may your garden be filled with loveliness this summer! ❤

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Taking the Scenic Route with My Carving

When my husband and I talk about ‘taking the scenic route’, what we are really saying is:

“Well, that certainly didn’t go the way I expected it to, but we/I/it  ~’got there’~  in the end!”.

Several of my carvings did that this past week.

For instance, I was convinced that one particular little piece of  upcycled birch wood

(‘upcycled’ because it came from a tree that died and was cut down, but didn’t go to the landfill, and this piece didn’t go into the fire)

wanted to be a Panda bear Spoon Doll.

I drew a Panda bear with a heart.

I sat down and started carving.

A Panda bear…..

which, after several hours of carving, finally pointed out to me that,

really, all it wanted was for me to finally twig to the fact that it is a Kitten.

Sigh.   She made herself heard… eventually!

And, so, she became a Ginger Kitten with Mittens, Thank you very much.

Thank goodness there was just enough wood to make sure that she had a perfectly question mark shaped tail.

Now, every time I look at her and turn her over in my hand, where she fits so sweetly,

I feel very happy.

Another little carving – a Hug Sister Spoon Doll let me know that I had totally missed the boat on her face and hair.

I was puzzled and twitchy about what was going on with her.

The face that I had painted on her was just so NOT her!

I’m not going to post a pic of the ‘wrong’ face, because it was wrong.

I thought and thought about her, then had an ‘aha’ .

I  went to the studio did  something else entirely different than the ‘aha’ to give her the face she wanted.

Isn’t that often the way?

I did what felt right, though, and was thrilled that, indeed – it WAS right!

She finally looks like she is supposed to!

Yay!

I rushed off to show her to my husband

and did a little happy dance

and he joined me in the happy dance and

that made us both happy 🙂

(We are possibly the world’s WORST dancers, but that doesn’t stop us from doing little dances together in the kitchen

almost every day, and laughing and thanking goodness that no one can see us).

So, anyhow, this little Hug Sister Spoon Doll brought a little happiness into the world,

and that’s a good thing, I do believe.

And, the other day, I noticed that the ‘Kindness’ Spoon Doll had a problem.

I had written the words: ‘The Small Book of Kindness’ on her little book with permanent fine Sharpie,

and, oh, no! The walnut oil that I used to finish her had eaten the words…. they had faded from the cover of the book.

Eep.

So, with great trepidation, I used my wood burner to burn the words onto the cover, and was enormously relieved

that the whole thing didn’t explode or catch fire- what with all the coats of walnut oil soaked into her!

Unfortunately, it’s much messier than the  original words were. Sigh.

I also had been troubled by the heart looking more like a dagger than a kind and loving heart, so I re-carved it.

Now it’s softly rounded and kindly shaped heart. Whew. That’s better.

The Scenic Route.

Sometimes, it takes a few ‘goes’ to get to the place that feels just right.

Some people  think that getting it wrong is a disaster.

Nope.  It’s essential to be willing to take chances and see if something works.

If it doesn’t, then trying again

and again

until it does.

It’s a challenging and interesting path to follow, but it’s a good one.

Here’s to the Scenic Route!  It makes life so rich and interesting!

My week has been full of other ‘Scenic Route’ carving, but more about them, later.

Be well! Be safe, and be kind….

 

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Best Friends- Two Little Carved Dolls have an Adventure

In my previous blog post (LINK),

I told the story of how a piece of kindling wood refused to go into the fire,

and became a Spoon Doll named, Dot,

who was able to have a friend, Sybbie- a very small Mermaid, live upstairs.

After the trials and tribulations of being carved and painted and shellac-ed and sanded and all that,

Dot and Sybbie finally got to go on an adventure around the studio.

First of all, after Sybbie was comfortably settled in ‘upstairs’, she and Dot when off to visit a

small, but intrepid Cowgirl:

who was riding a Unicorn!

The Unicorn was very gentle and friendly and suggested that

Dot and Sybbie go visit the Bunny with Wings.

So they did:

They had a lovely visit with the Bunny with Wings,

who asked them if they had been to the Castle on the Hillside yet?

Oooh…. not yet, so off they tootled.

Sybbie and Dot enjoyed touring the Castle on the Hillside.

They found it rather tiring, so decided that they had had enough adventures for one day.

And, they went home and had a lovely cup of tea,

and this time, Sybbie did remember to write her adventures down in her journal-

so I could share them with you.

 

 

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An Inspiring Piece of Firewood

Inspiration pops up in the most unexpected places.

Last week, I was building a fire in our little wood burning stove.

A piece of kindling stopped me in my tracks…

It said: “Don’t burn me! There’s something special about me- wait till you see what’s inside me!”

so, I took it to the studio…. And, Tottie Tomato listened to what the piece of kindling

(from a tree that fell down in our neighborhood)

had to say.

A raggedy, curvy, bent, rough piece of upcycled wood that didn’t want to be burned,

told me a story about a Spoon Doll that was looking for a Best Friend to live upstairs….

So, I cut and carved and chisled and shaped…

Until she was ready to find her best friend.

I walked through the house, looking for the best friend who would live upstairs and have

adventures with ‘Dot’.

This oddly shaped Spoon Doll was telling me that the unusual basket ? or crown? ???

Was the ‘upstairs’ where her friend would live and that they were going to enjoy each other’s company.

Well…. friendship is one of life’s dearest treasures, so I listened when this little emerging Wooden Person

Asked a small mermaid, Siobhan, if she would like to move in ‘upstairs’.

Siobhan was delighted, and agreed to a little bit of carving adjustment so that she would fit her new accommodations:

Here’s Siobhan, all in pieces as she became smaller so she could move into her new shared home.

Dot provided comfort as Siobhan underwent her renovations.

After a lot of carving and sanding and painting and making of new joints,

the newly tiny Siobhan announced that since she is now smaller, that she wants a ‘Smaller Person Name’,

and that she is now to be known as ‘Sybbie’.

It was now time for Dot to receive her arms and to have a coat or two of shellac applied.

Dot objected, thinking that she didn’t like the sound of ‘shellac-ing’, so Tottie Tomato and Sybbie comforted her.

Tottie and Sybbie were getting in the way of progress, so I asked them to please move to the sofa to wait.

I gave them a journal to write in and a book to read, but I don’t think that they did either.

Spoon Doll Dot was very relieved to be completely finished, and needed a few moments to recover from

the whole carving and finishing thing.

Sybbie and Tottie Tomato told her that they had been through it all, too, so they were very sympathetic.

Brave little Sybbie even consented to being re-carved more than once to get to her final happy state!

Tottie Tomato had to go see to something else in the studio, so she left Dot and Sybbie to plan their

first great adventure.

Postcards from their first trip around the studio (their world as they know it so far)

will be posted in the next blog post.   (Here is the link: LINK)

 

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Carving Spoon Dolls as a Way to Make Sense of the World

I have been pondering and mulling and thinking and feeling and questioning and reeling from world events.

To soothe and heal the stress and anguish that watching the unfolding of the dramas out in the world,

I have been using the power of metaphor and the physical process of carving my wooden spoon dolls.

to start to make sense of things, I felt like I needed to re-connect to nature.

Immersing myself in carving wood that has come from trees that lived and then died in our neighborhood is a powerful way of connecting to the energy of the earth, the stars, the rain, the sun, the snow….

I began last week’s carving with a Tree Spirit Spoon Doll…

As I was carving her, I realized that from now on, all the bowls of my spoon dolls need to be heart shaped-

They are invocations of Love.

Carving images of love and connection made me think a lot about sisterhood and how precious dear friends are.

These two little Sister Spoons were directly influenced by all the thousands of Comfort Bears that I have made over the years.

I wondered if I could combine the softness of lucet cord handspun (alpaca and wool) yarn with the solidity of wood to create

‘Comfort Sisters’.

The answer is, ‘Yes’…..

Our neighbors on both sides have babies and toddlers and I love watching them blossom.

I want them to grow up in a world that is in much better shape than it is now.

I want them to live in a world where people are kind!

So, this Spoon Doll is dedicated to the Little Ones, who deserve to have the Book of Kindness being a guidebook for everyone.

 

I was thinking about accountability and responsibility and the image of a very firm, loving, but ‘Listen Here!” Granny

who laid out a couple of really important rules and guidelines emerged.

 

As I was carving her, I loved the feeling of the gouge lifting petals of wood up,

and the feeling of ‘Yes-ness’ about working with a precious material that is a living thing- the lifestuff of trees.

 

Trees are ancient and don’t need rules the way people seem to….

Here are Granny’s Rules:

 

I have had so many powerful and wonderful conversations with friends and family this week about the healing power of making art.

That has been such a restorative thing for my soul.

I ended this week’s carving with thoughts about how we are all made of stardust,

and that we are part of a much greater cosmos than we can ever imagine, but we need to try to remember to imagine that,

and so much more….

So, I carved another Starbaby (with lovely Chokecherry wood)

as a reminder of our roots in Source energy,

and also as a reminder to myself of a dream that I had more than 35 years ago-

In the dream, the Northern Lights filled the sky, and

thousands of laughing, chortling, squealing with delight, Starbabies

slid and tumbled down to earth, bringing incredible joy and goodness with them.

May they continue to do so!

Here’s to Goodness! ❤

 

 

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