Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 25th sale: Preview and Information

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015, at 10:00am, EST, my shop will open for a small sale.

The shop is here:  https://amanda-louise-spayd.myshopify.com/
Note - The items will not appear in the shop until the time of the sale.

Not sure what time this is in your time zone? Try this site with a handy time zone calculator. I am located in Ohio, USA, which has the same time zone as New York City:   http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html

These are the items that will be in the sale:

Vintage Lavender Pipsqueak: $18 (50 available), one per customer please.
Grey-purple semitranslucent resin with black eyes and silver glitter.


Antique Spool Pipsqueak, 3 colors: $100 (6 available), one per customer please.
Handpainted Pipsqueak with handpainted glass eyes. Comes with "antique" spool with custom Dust Bunny label and stained thread. Pipsqueak is 2 1/4" tall, and can be displayed next to, or on top of, the spool. There are 2 each of pink, grey, and green.




Assorted 5x7 drawings, $45-$65
Colored pencil drawings on toned paper. Watermark is not on actual drawing.







Friday, February 20, 2015

Paper Fragments of Time and Place

Old booklets and paper ephemera

One of my hobbies is antique collecting, but I often gravitate toward collecting pretty specific things. One of those collections, which continues to grow and grow, is that of paper ephemera from times past. Specifically of interest to me are pieces that hold handwriting; human evidence of the daily, the banal, and the easily forgotten. When a lot of people talk about really being into antiques, they often talk about the really rare things, items that are historically important, or fetch a high price or are very sought after. Those are almost at the exact opposite side of the spectrum from what I collect. I very often am drawn toward household items; things of little monetary value, but objects that were touched, written in, read, and engaged in day-to-day life.

Recently I acquired a "Pocket Diary", which was a promotional booklet from a Washington D.C. Patent Attorney's office, that once belonged to a Fred Coleman, who at the time of writing (1907), lived on South Freedom Street in Alliance, Ohio.  I have no idea how old Fred was when he started this daily journal. He was obviously a boy, and as the first page of writing states, he was 3'6" tall and weighed 70 lbs.

He kept up with daily entries pretty well until about April, when he stopped writing. At the beginning, we get some facts and figures about him, and for four months we can read an extremely abbreviated collection of moments from his life.

Fred Coleman's Pocket Diary.

January 1: Oats horse dropped dead. Looks like rain.
January 2: Homer came over in the forenoon. A horse got stuck in the mud.
January 3: I got a calendar with a sailor boy on it.
January 4: It snowed a little. We went down to grandmas.
January 5: It is a fine day.
January 6: A cat came to our house this morning.
January 7: I average 88 on my report card. I started to school after a two weeks vacation.
January 8: I went over to Homer's.
January 9: I went down town after a calendar.

...and so on.  In the four months that are documented, we see that someone in Fred's circle/family died and had a funeral, he played with his sled, his household got another telephone with a party line, he saw a picture show, hopped bobs, ice skated, the groundhog saw its shadow that year, his dad caught a wild rabbit and they ate it, flew a kite, and earned $0.82 in the month of January.

I did some cursory Googling but couldn't find much information about Fred. The address he lived at doesn't seem to exist anymore in Alliance, and I have no way of knowing how long he lived there. The thing is, Fred - who was maybe 7 or 8 years old here - is no longer living. He'd be about 115 years old now.  To me, to have this little glimpse into his life, is just so interesting. Even if he were still living - would he remember all of this? Maybe, maybe not. Artifacts like this are just little scraps of a whole life. How many of your scraps would you ever remember? These things were never archival, never protected, never destined for an art museum or the Library of Congress. They're just dingy, water-damaged, bits and pieces of life.

Dr. Pierce's Memorandum Book (with pharmaceutical advice) from 1933, Mrs. Winslow's Domestic Receipt Book from 1874.
I also enjoy almanacs and health-related promotional items, because they almost always have cringe-inducing remedies and suggestions in them. I often pine for simpler times, but I am all-in when it comes to advancements in medicine, technology, and knowledge. Simpler is not always better, especially when it comes to white pills of unknown origin, promising to be a  "Golden Liver-Curing Miracle".

In Mrs. Winslow's Domestic Receipt book, among the recipes for Liquid Glue, Apple Cheesecake, Wash Balls, and directions for how to make hens lay more eggs, are advertisements for Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, an "Old nurse for children, which regulates the bowels, soothes teething pain, and promotes sleep".  It was probably really effective, since it contained 65mg of Morphine Sulfate per fluid ounce.  I imagine quite a few adults found it "effective" as well.

Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery will keep young ladies looking exquisite!
I love coming across old recipes. Some day I am definitely going to try making Aunt Jenny's fried pies, because they sound so good! This recipe, along with recipes for cracker pie and oatmeal cookies, were found in a badly decomposed composition book that once belonged to a Mrs. Adolph Pasternak from Brecksville Ohio. There are also recipes for coconut layer cake, orange nut bread, and caramel fudge. I should make it a goal to try making all of them!


I suppose this little obsession of mine is pretty voyeuristic at its core, but truly, I think I just like to see bits and pieces of people's lives. Not famous people or important historical figures, but everyday people, writing about everyday things. And knowing that in a small way, though they may have moved on from this mortal world, something of theirs is living on. I often wonder if any of my work will be found in some dusty antique store someday, dirty and falling apart, waiting for someone like me to scoop it up and wonder about its origins.  I like to think so.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!


Happy day of love to YOU, my online friends!  If it weren't for your encouragement, participation, and feedback, my art and my experience with it would not be the same at all.  To be honest, I don't know if the Dust Bunnies would have ever gotten to this point without the attention paid to me by people online. So, thank you, and happy hearts day!

xoxo
Amanda

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What are Dust Bunnies?

A Dust Bunny sits atop a pile of teeth and candies. Sculpture.
This guy doesn't want you to touch his candy and tooth pile.

On several occasions recently, I've found myself in the position of really exploring what makes my characters who they are, as a whole  (What are they? What do they do? How do they feel? Do they feel at all?) ...and I thought it would be a good exercise to try and loosely "define" what makes the Dust Bunnies, the Dust Bunnies.  Of course they exist only in the realm of puppets, sculpture, and drawings, but even inanimate objects have a story behind them, and this is what I imagine the character sketch is like.

So if you've ever wondered just what the heck my intentions are with these creatures from my imagination, here you go.


First and foremost, Dust Bunnies are not very bright. If they manage to do anything clever or helpful, it's usually either dumb luck, coincidence, or fate.  Some of them can draw or read (badly), but that is like genius level for them. 

Dust Bunnies are innocent. They are never mean or spiteful. They can get annoyed and super cranky, and may throw tantrums (if you take food/lint/bottle caps away from them), but would never be violent - it's just not in their mental wiring to be mean.

Dust Bunnies are curious about everything. Buttons, boxes, your shoelaces, flowers, used toothpicks, dead bugs, cereal crumbs on the kitchen floor - it's all interesting, and all potential fodder for their habit of integrating their surroundings into their lives. They collect bits and bobs like magpies do, and often adorn themselves in clothing scraps and whatever they've found, mimicking what they see around them. 

They can grunt, sniffle, and mumble, but rarely use actual words. Sometimes they mimic, but don't necessarily know the meanings of the words they say.

They are always hungry.  Always.

If they were actually alive and you kept them as pets, they would utterly destroy your house. You'd be better off with a family of raccoons.

They make the best of what they have. They have no concept of jealousy or pride. A hat made out of a handkerchief and an old key is every bit as beautiful as a beat-up party hat with a fork tied to it. They don't know they are strange-looking. They exist almost entirely in the present moment. 

They don't really get hurt...mostly because I can't bear the thought of it. I think of them like animate bags of flour; they sort of plop and bounce, or tip over, but nothing harms them.


It kind of makes me wonder, too, why I imagine them being this way. I think in a lot of ways, I'm creating objects that are inherently sympathetic, and are designed to coax empathy out of the viewer. I'm an intensely empathetic person (often to my own detriment), and I often have a hard time understanding how a lot of people seem to lack that trait. Perhaps these little lost-looking creatures are an attempt on my part to ignite feelings of empathy and care - you want to take care of them, because they are small, vulnerable, and confused.

A startled yellow and grey Dust Bunny with bright eyes. Sculpture.
Wait. What!?
I like the fact that their faces show very little emotion. They aren't totally blank canvases at all - their emotions are just subtle. There's a lot of difference between them, if you really look. Some look  impish, some look like they just did something you will NOT approve of. Some look confused, while others look a little startled or sad.  But all of these things can be interpreted different ways, and I want the viewer who sees them to sort of use them as a reflector for their own emotional experiences.

I've always been a bit of a misfit. It was hard fitting in when I was growing up (I still have a hard time feeling like I'm fitting in, honestly). I liked art, science, fantasy books, and always thought the villains looked WAY cooler than the good guys, in pretty much everything. I wore head-to-toe costumes around the neighborhood and when I got older, dressed in a dark "alternative" fashion. I was the archetype of the "weird kid", but I wasn't rebellious or crass or mean. I just liked what I liked. I think these creatures are kind of autobiographical in a way - they don't do what they do for the satisfaction of others around them, they just like to wear paperclips, or chew on table legs, or wrap themselves in old grocery store receipts like a coat. They are weird because they just are, and though others would see it as creepy or strange, they revel in the fabulous things we discard.

Two Pipsqueaks play hide and seek in teacups.
Hanging out in a child's tea set.

I am, at my core, an idealist. I want to see the world as a fascinating, new place, full of possibilities, every day.  It's not always possible to do that, but I think my Dust Bunnies can.  Sure, they don't have arms and have sawdust for brains, but they're able to take in the world in wide-eyed wonder, one moment at a time without worry of the future, and act on their creative impulses in a way that I only wish I could a lot of the time. They're bumbling, imperfect, dirty, and strange, but they deserve to be loved and understood, just like we all do.



Monday, February 9, 2015

Belfry Minifigure, Part One

The success and demand for my minifigure, "Pipsqueak", who debuted at DesignerCon 2013 made me really want to try my hand at another character.  I say that Pipsqueak is "successful", not just in that lots of folks are buying him, but because I am extremely proud of him. I love Pipsqueak. To me, he truly embodies the emotion and "feel" of my characters, and to be honest, I was having trouble getting started on a new character, because I was afraid that I would never even come close to making a character that I felt was as successful as Pipsqueak. In fact, that crippled me from starting, for a long time.

A group of blue Pipsqueaks, staring forward. Cute.
Pipsqueaks, in the "Winter Sky" color.

I toyed around with a few ideas before really cementing this one in my head. I didn't want to make another bunny character, because it would be difficult to make one in the exact same size of Pipsqueak, and not have them compete with each other. In the end, I drew a little doodle of a bat with large ears and folded wings, and was really happy with the idea.

Rough sculpting of a bat character, in clay, with sculpting tools.
Belfry in early stages of sculpting.
I showed the idea to Chris, and he helped me get started with a very rough sculpt. From his rough shape that defined the height, ear-to-body ratio, and basic shape of the wings, it was up to me to do all of the finishing sculpting. This takes a while, as my technique for this is nearly all reductive; shaving material away using tiny rakes and wire loop tools, and smoothing with a little metal spatula. I finally decided he was "done" when the shape and facial expression matched what I'd visualized in my mind. I always like to leave imperfections in the sculpt, even when making toys that will not be painted. I like to see the marks made by the tools, small nicks and pits, and just a general slight lumpiness that lets everyone see that it was handmade in the beginning stages.  I've had toys produced of my characters that, by either digital sculpting or painstaking smoothing before the mold is made, are extremely smooth and perfect. While that's absolutely fine, I prefer the resin figures that I produce to carry some of the same slightly naive, homespun, primitive look that my originals have.

I wanted Belfry to be sort of an extension of the Pipsqueak "family", so I kept his face fairly similar. I brought his wings down around his sides for two reasons. The first is that I wanted to keep the "stretched gumdrop" shape of my characters intact, and the other was logistical. When doing these minifigures, it's important that they are not too difficult to cast. This is what keeps the price down for everybody; many can be pulled from the same mold, and the bottoms sanded to finish them off.

Unfinished grey resin bat toy prototypes in a group.
Belfry prototypes in resin, still attached to the mold bases.

Unfinished grey prototype of the "Belfry" bat character, with black eyes.
Resin Belfry prototype, with eyes. The base will be sanded off.
After I get a good finished sculpt, a mold is made out of silicone, so I can get at least one good positive cast from. I will make a bunch of resin casts, and fix them up as much as they need (sanding off the mold base, filling bubbles, sanding or fixing spots that were difficult to fix in the clay, etc.) and coating them with primer spray. Then I'll make a mold that will yield a number of figures in one pour.  I'm almost at that stage now - more information as I get closer to the final mold, and eventually, release of Belfry into the world!

Here's a little video showing some sculpting and how I use a base to sculpt tiny things on so that I don't accidentally squeeze or melt the clay while I'm working on it.