Belly Painting

My twin sister is expecting her second child and to celebrate her pregnancy, I painted her gorgeous belly. I used the Proud Body Pregnancy Belly Painting Kit. She wanted a floral design and after looking through Pinterest together, we came up with this painting:

 

Working on an art project with my twin is a great feeling; working on art project ON my twin was tremendous fun! The little one inside kept moving, responding to my brush strokes. I have never done any body painting before and it was a challenge to work quickly enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable for all involved. Older Brother, only two years old, simply could not wait until it was done for cuddles.

Ethiopian Folk Tales

Reading fairy tales and folktales is a passionate hobby of mine. And although I love the Brothers Grimm and the Hans Christian Andersen varieties, nothing gets me more excited than fairy tales from non-Western cultures, especially anything from Africa. Not only are those cultures much more rare (and therefore precious) to encounter in my English-speaking Californian locale, but they are personally dear to me. I was born in Botswana and lived there for the first three years of my life. I have grown up with stories of Africa and music of Africa and friends from Africa. Not only that, my brother-in-law is Ethiopian and I have been granted the great joy of visiting his home country three times already. It is a wonderful place!

I would like to share with you this amazing website I recently discovered that has compiled nearly three hundred folktales from the various regions of Ethiopia: Ethiopian Folktales

The stories have English translations but you can also read them in Amharic (yay!) and the website even has the original sound recordings, collected between 1997 and 2001.

 

I find the stories fascinating and intensely inspiring. Here is a snippet of an Ethiopian folktale and an illustration I drew a few years ago.

The Donkey and the Hyena

Long ago, the hyena lived in the sky. Every night she opened her mouth and began to sing. She sang very loudly. Everyone on the earth below could hear her.

The donkey heard the hyena too.

Who is singing like that? she thought. What a beautiful voice! I want to meet her. I want to be her friend.

So the donkey prayed to God.

“Please,” she prayed, “please bring the animal with the beautiful voice down to live on earth.”

Donkey&Hyena_dA
The Donkey and the Hyena, pencil on paper

Anniversary Book

I am fascinated by bookbinding. I’ve hand bound my own book once before, to celebrate the first year of friendship with my future husband, Nick, and it was a very fun project. I wanted to do something similar to celebrate our first year of marriage, this time with a coptic stitch binding.

Coptic stitch is great for journals and sketchbooks because it allows for the pages to open completely flat. I used a few tutorials I found on Pinterest to help me and it turned out to be very simple and easy to do.

The contents of the book are messages and little digital drawings my husband and I have exchanged over the year in the Couple app (a cute phone app dedicated to enhancing text communication between couples). The drawing feature is very limited but really fun to play around with.

The cover is made from printouts of the early emails Nick wrote to me and one of the first drawings I made for him. The frame around the image is cut from a colorful envelop from one of our wedding cards.

On our anniversary, we read the book together and added little hand written notes on the pages.

Kokeshi doll

I was fortunate enough to go to Japan to celebrate my brother’s wedding this December. It was an unforgettable experience! Japan is beautiful and calming in a special way. Tokyo is a spectacle of human civilization, with such a huge population, imposing tall buildings, gorgeous lights (lots of Christmas lights everywhere), fabulous gardens and plants woven into the urban landscape, and it feels so … peaceful. Wonderful place!

 

I also was given the great joy of visiting Sendai, a city north of Tokyo. My brother’s new wife’s family lives there and they generously took us to see a few of the treasures of the area, one of which was the Akiu Traditional Crafts Village. There we enjoyed seeing different traditional crafts like weaving, wooden top making (the spinning toys), ornate box making, and kokeshi doll making. Kokeshi are dolls made from wood and traditionally look like this: Kokeshi_20101105

The artisans are there in the shop and we got to see him carving some kokeshi with his lathe, wood chips all over the floor! Even more exciting was that the shop had a little workshop area where we could paint our own kokeshi dolls!

Here is mine and Nick’s, my husband’s:

 

Can you guess which is mine and which is his? Heehee! He was very creative and made a vampire kokeshi. Mine is just a fish obsessed girl. It was so much fun!

 

We intend to go back to Japan whenever possible. What a wonderful place!

 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tamandua!

Remember the needle felted anteater I was working on way back in August? You can see the in-progress photos here.

 

Here is the finished tamandua!

 

This was such a fun project! Using the bright fantastical colors to make those crazy patterns was very exciting! I love the natural look, too, though so don’t be surprised if you find another anteater come along… Hehe.

 

I kept reassessing the basic body shape and adding more and more roving (the wool) to bulk him out. Consequently, this is probably the most densely felted piece I’ve ever made. She has a really solid feel and the patterns are so cleanly placed because I had to keep adding more and more layers of roving and each layer added had to redefine the color patterns.

 

The claws are made from Lumina Clay, which is a type of air drying clay that’s resin based. I added a dab of black watercolor paint to transparent Lumina Clay to make the claws nice and dark. Then I glued the claws to the pipe cleaner “toes” I left exposed on the armature (see the in-progress photo). E6000 is a very good glue for something small and needing a little flex.

 

You can purchase this Fantastic Anteater in my etsy shop here.

 

The beginning of the snonkey

One day while I was dreaming up a children’s story, and feeling particularly obsessed with my pet snails, I was suddenly struck by the image of a monkey with a snail shell on its back.

Let’s back up a minute. Yes, I said “pet snails.” I’ve had an interest in snails since I was twelve years old when I found a small clutch of snail eggs in our garden. The pale soft eggs, each about the size of a whole black pepper seed,  just beneath the surface of our damp dark soil fascinated me. I put them, along with a good clump of soil, in a jar with a bit of nylon stocking stretched across the opening. Sometime later, a few tiny baby snails appeared. They were the most delicate and adorable things I had ever seen! Their shells were golden translucent and their eye stalks were short and stubby. The experiment ended badly, unfortunately; my tank-keeping skills left much to be desired and with a rambunctious puppy in the house, the tank proved an inhospitable place for the tiny captives.

Many years later, I decided to recreate the experiment. I did some research and set up a decent snail tank with a plastic lid. Instead of starting with eggs, I put in an adult snail and two adolescents, naming them Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. I enjoyed their company for a couple weeks and then I found a giant clutch of eggs in the tank! Evidently Flora had decided it was a perfect place to start a family. A little later and boy did we have a family! There were tons of tiny baby snails filling up the tank. I counted up to ninety.

Snail babies on my fingers
Too many babies!

So that was what was on my mind that day I started sketching and out came the snonkey, a snail-monkey.

Snonkey Sketches

Next time I’ll get to the felting part of the story. Meanwhile, if you’re so inclined, you can view more pics of my pet snails and read more of their story at my deviantArt gallery folder My Pet Snails.