Jun 10, 2023

French ladies and rats

I purchased 3 postcards for myself in remembrance of Rose and to help myself get over missing her emails and letters.  It's been 2 months since she died and life moves on, only it's smaller now and I miss the highs of opening the mailbox and finding something from her...

So I paid three strangers to send me something, 3 gorgeous postcards.  I didn't open them right away, I'm going to savour them on days when I need a little pick-me-up.  Like yesterday.  

This card was purchased on eBay and is called "Un Jour Maigre" and is dated 1906.  What an interesting scene of rats eating mussels, crab and lobster!

The title translates as a lean day, meaning a day of abstinence, or a day when eating meat is forbidden.  But these little guys are feasting on shellfish, so I imagine there's a story being told here in regards to fasting days and Christianity.  

The artist is Leontine Malbet and I was curious about her.  I discovered she was a painter in France, her full name being Aurelie Leontine Malbet (1868-1906).  And it turns out she also shared a fascination with rats and mice!  These are the images I found online:

What can I say?  Very cool!  Why would a French lady of that time paint rats and mice?  Paris of course is teaming with rats so she may have had some life models to study (although she seems to make her critters all white).  

These next three all appeared in the weekly magazine France IllustrĂ©e.  Again I'm sure there's some social commentary attached to these images.

November 19, 1898

May 13,1893 and January 16 1892

I love this next one.  The artist's talent is clear, with the lovely grapes and peaches, and then there are two rats.  Why would you paint this?  I would love to know!  And who would hang it on their wall (besides me)?  

I also really like this one.  Again, the lovely, ripe peaches, they look delicious... and mice!  Lots of mice, enjoying the spilt cream?  I wish I had a better picture of this, to see the wee mice in more detail.  This image makes it clear that the critters in the other paintings and drawings are rats, these wee guys are darn cute mice.  

So, how does a person go about finding out if any other of Aurelie Leontine Malbet rodent paintings were published as postcards?  If there's one...???  

I'd love to hear from you if you have any insight!

And again, thank you Rose.

Apr 29, 2023

Lost and found

I lost my good friend.  Rose died earlier this month and you may recall her name appearing on this blog from time to time, usually thanking her for sending a particularly awesome postcard.  Now she's gone and my world is so much smaller.  She was a fountain of information and I loved to send her articles about antique cards which we could discuss.

Along with Steiff bears, bat conservation and Krampus stories we enjoyed the back and forth of letter writing (online and real letters)... and she could find the best rat postcards!

In her honour and memory, I will share a few of the postcards she sent me, beginning with this gorgeous pair of Hingre images:

I believe it was two years ago that Rose sent me these two roses, with rats!  How lovely, I was thrilled!  They're dated around 1910-1920 and the images are by a famous French artist Louis Theophile Hingre, known more I think for his bronze figures (some of those are also rats).  

Examining the cards in detail, I noticed on the back it states "Serie 1011-1015 Souris et Fleurs".  Oh?!  That means there are 5 postcards in the series, right?  So I began to hunt!  I found two more images and promptly bought those cards:

Aren't they lovely!!  I know they are "souris" but I'd say they are more rat-like than mice.  So, out there somewhere there is a fifth card... I have not been able to locate it, nor have I been able to even find a picture of what the card might look like.  I have seen another Hingre rat card:

but it's not of this "Souris et Fleurs" series.
  Rose directed me to online resources where I might be able to find the fifth card's image but, my, that's a full time job!  Maybe next winter...
  If anyone knows this series or has a lead they'd like to share with me, please do!!

Thank you, Rose, as always.

Feb 10, 2023

Fox in a Summer Meadow

I was gifted a kit for Christmas 2021, the "2D wet felting fox in field" by Sarafina Fiber Art.  I had only completed one other 2D felting project but I loved the fox and thought I could do the kit following the Youtube videos but without wet felting as I really love the fuzzy, pet-able loose fibers.  So, in December 2022 I finally sat down with the kit and got started.  

First, I was very fortunate to have a big enough piece of foam to lay out the project, which is just shy of 24 inches by 24 inches.  This was a wedge pillow Mom tried out for a while (she found it didn't help her neck).  

All the gorgeous fibers were set out and grouped together.

Then, it was time to start!  The horizon was laid out first, separating sky from meadow. 


Once that was done, using the 2 shades of green, the meadow was laid down.

Next, the sky was filled in with only one shade of blue and blended white clouds. 

 Unfortunately, in the video tutorial, Sara makes a grey, early dawn sky while I definitely wanted a Summer blue, mid-day sky, all warm and sunny.  I blended a little where the sky meets the grass for a lighter shade. I nearly ran out of blue!

This was a fun step:  adding all the gorgeous, super soft locks!  Oh my, how to pick which ones to use and be careful not to over-do it!!  I also added a tree on the left and a grouping of sumac behind the fox.  

With the background more or less complete, it was time to outline the fox and remove the paper stand-in.  

This next part was tricky for me:  laying down the dark base colors for the fox.  In the tutorial, a lot of purple is used and I just didn't like the outcome.  I pulled a lot off and just left the purple on the darkest parts of the fox, as seen here.  

Now it was time to work on the fox!  But before I jumped in, I watched the tutorial and just made all the color blends and paid attention to how Sara created the fox.  This really was essential: blending by hand takes time and you really don't want to rush this process.

Once I had all my blends prepared, it was easy to follow along and voila!  All of a sudden there was a fox in my meadow!

Look at that!!!  It really is all about the colors and the "furriness"!

One of the most lovely parts of the finished picture is the Queen Anne's Lace and at this stage instructions were given on how to create these lovely flowers using little white nibs.  The nibs are then covered over with a very fine spray of white fiber which holds them in place.

Again it was a question of not over-doing it and achieving some balance.

It's at about this point in the video that the entire piece is wet felted, so I simply needle felted everything down instead in order to keep the loose, wispy look and feel. 

Next:  the eye.  I spent a lot of time on the eye.  Following the instructions almost to the letter (especially the color placement), I think I achieved a lovely fox eye, and good markings on the face.  

The grasses filled in over the fox's tail and hind end and I worked on the trees a bit.

Most importantly, I fixed the slope of his forehead.  It just didn't look right, so I looked at various photos and saw that I'd given my fox too much of an "apple" forehead and had to correct the slope.  Luckily, with the fibers still being quite loose, I was able to manipulate them to soften that slope and get a more foxy look.  

One last thing:  I added horse hair for whiskers.  Now she was finished!

A fox enjoying a sunny, Summer afternoon.

I love that tail!!

This was a really great experience, I'm so happy to have learned so much and I love the end result!  Color blending is the biggest take-away and will help me make my 3D critters look even better.  

I would certainly recommend a Sarafina kit and instructional videos.  If you're looking for a guiding hand and motivation to keep going, try one of her YouTube tutorials.

My fox is now framed in a shadow box with a hinged front so I can pet him whenever I want! 

(A word to the wise:  framing is tricky!  If you plan to frame a piece you're making, consider the size BEFORE you start!  Awkward sizes are hard to fit into store-bought frames.  Also, thrift stores are great places to find nice frames.)

Dec 28, 2022

Going, Going...

 ... almost gone!  Christmas is over, December is almost over, 2022 is almost over. 

I hope you are having an enjoyable Holiday Season, however you are spending it.  Our Solstice Eve was lovely and then for the Christmas weekend Mother Nature gave us a blizzard for about 48 hours.  Everyone pretty much sheltered in place...

Beautiful but a bit eerie!

The second half of December was productive, even with all the Holiday activities.  

I tried my hand at a Polar Bear cub chewing on her toes... I think she's about the cutest thing I ever made.  

Then back to critters more my style:  bats!  These two fellas are far from realistic but they are most definitely bats and most definitely lovely.

Stay creative and enjoy these blissful days between Christmas and New Year's Eve!

Dec 8, 2022

Five minutes

I recently exchanged emails with needle felting artist Marie Jones and when I commented that kits help me get over "artist block", she shared some great advice.  She wrote:

 "A wonderful artist told me to create something every day even when I don't feel like doing it- nothing complicated, even if it's just a five minute doodle. It is definitely a pressure free way of getting past the creative block."

Since she shared this with me, I have aimed to needle felt for at least 5 minutes every day even if it's just before going to bed.  It's very helpful that I have a coo-coo clock in the studio so I have to enter the room twice a day to wind it!  And so in the late evening I take at minimum five minutes to poke.  Five minutes.

The result?  Instead of being an aside that I rarely get around to, now whatever I'm working on is always in my peripheral vision, it's not forgotten.  It's exciting to see progress even in tiny increments and my fingers twitch to pick up and continue the work.  The studio is an active place, not stagnant.  In my mind, the lights are never turned off.  

(Since then, I made this snowman!  The core is cotton and polyfil, the "snow" is from Fibrecraft.

To focus for even 5 minutes seems to wake up that part of the brain so it doesn't go dormant.

(I also made Arrow; he stands 5 1/2 inches tall and is my largest dog so far.  Wired so he's poseable, he was a lot of fun to make!  I wasn't concerned about his breeding, but I'd guess he's a German Shepherd mix.)

I invite you to give it a try.  If it's something that's important to you, find the time.  Start with 5 minutes.

Thank you, Marie!

  (And if you haven't seen her work, check out https://mariejonesfibre.art/ !)

Nov 19, 2022

Better late...


I was inspired by this picture... long before Hallowe'en.  Isn't it lovely, all the colorful pumpkins!  And I decided back in May that I would love to create a cascade of pumpkins like this (with some Jack o'Lanterns of course).

(Sadly I don't know where I found this image, I think it was Facebook but maybe not.  If you know the artist, please tell me and I'd love to give credit.)

It started out pretty well:  I made three sweet Jack o'Lanterns.  

And then... let's just say I got distracted.

After Hallowe'en I finally got back to my pumpkins.  (See the snow in the background?)

At this point I have 8 finished pieces.  You can tell which were the first ones, my vine-y stems have gotten better and better with practice.  The green pumpkin is my best yet, I think!

Nov 17, 2022

Hallowe'en 2022

What a night!  Of course it had to rain, after a dry Autumn, but it was still a great Hallowe'en with 61 trick or treaters at our door.  (That seems to be about the average number, no matter the weather or the day of the week or COVID.) 

We had all the decorations up this year, it was fun to unearth all my old buddies!  All the cemetery stones stood proud on the front lawn and invited the ghouls and goblins to walk on up the driveway.

A ghost swayed at the end of the drive...

Our front door was haunted by an assortment of skeleton animals, body parts and Jack o'Lanterns...

which looked even better in the dark!

Our garage door was a masterpiece, I'm very happy we could use the still-beautiful mums and geraniums for a very Day of the Dead inspired display.

(The graveyard scene was held in place on the garage doors with fridge magnets!)

And so our October ended and Hallowe'en was laid to rest for another year.  

But of course Hallowe'en is never really over at our place... if you listen the leaves sound like scurrying rats and the wind is whispering...