Saturday, June 17, 2017

Back to Middle Earth

I started this post in September of 2015, but never got around to posting it. I found the beginnings of this project in the studio a few weeks ago and found new inspiration to see it to completion, so here's the old post with all the new updates. Enjoy!

My geeky thirst was not satisfied by the Nazgûl project.

I had an itching to create some kind of Lord of the Rings inspired jump, and after sketching various different ideas, I ended up with an entirely new concept.

Which is a bit of a hybrid between a Hobbit hole...

...and a cross country bank jump:

With a full head of steam and a convenient copy of Maggie Bennett's "Tabitha" sculpture on hand, I got to work hacking away at some good old pink foam.

The next step was to build up the slopes of the hills coming down on either side of the "jump" area, like so:

After which I actually ended up building up more crumpled newspaper and masking tape on the top part to create a downhill slop toward the drop.

My favorite part was busting out the plaster cloth and covering the whole thing, which made a massive difference:

Next I added a little circle cut from an old cereal box for the door, and two bitty half-circles to mark where the windows would be. I also started sketching in the arch of the support over the house, and the little path leading up the hill.

The apoxie came out to add tiny little stairs climbing up the side of the hill, and the little bricks around the door and windows.

I used the same cereal box cardboard to make the little overhang outlining the house, and bitty supports on either side of the door. Then the plaster of paris was busted out to smooth the whole thing over and make it feel more like one organic thing.

And then begun the ugly phase. I knew I wanted to pretty much cover the whole thing in grass and bushes and terrain-y things, so I wasn't too worried about its surface being perfect, but I did need to figure out some base colors to put down under the plant-y stuff.

First came a rough mapping out of which areas would be which color:

Before I figured out a some more natural undertones.

And finally, grass!

The grass is made with the same method I used for the Nazgûl's little base, just on a much larger area. That means that all of this grass is hand-cut jute twine- I actually have bruises on my knuckle and finger from spending so long with my scissors!

About 3/4 done with the grass here.

(That's as far as I got in 2015. From here is the new additions!)

When working on all that grass got tiring, I turned to making all the little props I envisioned the Hobbit hole having. I conveniently had a collection of tiny fake flowers from my performance stash, and put them to work in pots sculpted from Apoxie, fixed onto shelves made from cereal box cardboard (a surprisingly great material!). 

Even after all that procrastination, though, I realized my issue with the original grass I had been adding was less with the process it took to make and more with the color- it was too pale and washed out for the lush green scene I had envisioned.

So I ended up mixing in that jute twine grass with Woodland Scenics flocking of a few different greens and covering the whole thing with that new mixture. Here's the whole thing as it looks today:

I've been having a blast re-visiting it. Micro dioramas might be my favorite thing to make because they involve so many different processes to come together; props and tack and painting galore.

My little Tabitha was prepped and pastelled to my favorite shade of dark bay (unfinished here):

With a few other micro friends that may or may not find their way into other projects...

In a fit of inspiration, I totally forgot to take more progress pictures as the scene came along. Mostly, I just added tons and tons of mixed greenery, finished painting the front of the house (I decided a sunny yellow door seemed more appropriate than the original blue), and affixed all the little props into place.

The little stones under the door are uncooked quinoa- gotta love the DIY on a budget mentality!

I've been trying to be better about taking scale pictures with tiny projects like these to better convey their teensy-tininess...

And of course my jumper needs a full set of eventing tack. Today I tackled the bitty saddle and modeled it on my pinky.

And finally, the most up-to-date status pics. There's still a lot to do, and a lot of adjustments to make (I definitely need to push the flower pot shelves back against the house so they're more believable on a real cross country course; as it is now I think they seem kind of dangerous to land on!), but I'm really happy with how it's looking.

This little structure at the top will be a clothes line with some sort of laundry hanging to dry, which would terrify any horse I've ever met and therefore seems appropriate for this challenging course.

After the horse has all her tack on, I'm devising some kind of wire system to keep her better rooted to the ground, less likely to tip, and hopefully hold her at a higher angle so her back hooves don't touch the top of the jump. We'll see how that goes!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Slow Start

I'm home for the summer and tiptoeing my way back into tack making by dusting off the studio and cobbling together some halters.

The first of which is this guy, a nice rust colored leather halter with a bronc-style noseband featuring a cool leather collage of a sunrise. Each little ray of the sun is a separate piece of slightly differently colored leather, inlayed behind the single piece of black to act as kind of a frame on a stained glass window.

The black dots along the cheek pieces are also cutouts with another layer of black leather underneath- clearly I was in an inlaying experimentation mood!

For my first piece of tack in almost a year, I'm really happy with how it came out. The buckle is permanently fixed (and has a roller, a first for me!) so all you need to do is hook and unhook the throatlatch to get it on and off. 

A sunny little piece to kick off a summer back in the studio!

This halter is up for grabs on MH$P here!

Looking forward, I think I'm going to continue with my sales pieces-only model for the summer. Which sadly means my books are staying closed to commissions, and I'll be sticking with making tack I feel inspired to make and putting it up on MH$P upon completion. As always, I'll do my best to post here with in-progress pictures, thoughts, tutorials (maybe? Anything you'd like to see?), and photos of completed works.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


It took me all summer, but my Jennifer Show donation is finally on its way to Colorado.

Today I leave for college 2,851 miles away from home. This summer has been loaded with prep for this, and light on tack making; the dressage set came together over countless little hour and half hour long sessions here and there instead of dedicated studio days.

While this sluggish work pace was frustrating, my belief in the idea of karma kept me motivated. Jennifer Buxton's blog was one of my first introductions to the hobby as a little kid, and her tack was definitely one of the main inspirations behind me trying tack making myself.

Jennifer puts an insane amount of time and thought and love into her blog, providing a near daily dose of hobby goodness, and I just had to spring at the opportunity to say thank you.

I'd already been yearning to try an upper level dressage set for the new Valegro mold, and the donation opportunity seemed like a worthy cause for such a frustrating intricate set. 

The saddle is particularly adventurous, using entirely new patterns, a hand-sculpted tree (as opposed to my typical soda can structure), and...

...actual sweat flaps!

This is my first and probably last ever saddle to have multi-layered flaps, but I really wanted to try out a double layer knee block design. I have to say I'm really pleased with the result. 

As with all experimental saddles, I can see things I'll change for next time, but I think overall it's pretty snazzy!

Seeing as the Jennifer Show sounds like THE hobby show of the year, it seemed only fitting to throw together a champion prize-style blanket to go with.

This is actually my first ever attempt at a blanket (beyond my very stylish felt and scotch tape ones with which I outfitted my herd as a kid), and I had a blast putting it together!

The burgundy color (which also lines the inside of the dressage pad) was inspired by the letter shadowing in the show's amazing logo:

The lettering is all hand-painted with the tiniest brush you could possibly imagine, and the hooks are all handmade and functional, which I'm honestly quite proud of!

The OF Valegro went along with the tack and blanket as well, because I somehow have accumulated four of them someone needed to model my foray into blanket making!

Despite attending an art school, I made the decision to leave my tack making stuff at home, making this my last set for the foreseeable future. I'm shifting my focus to my other art and the whole going to college thing, so the blog is going to be a little quiet for a while. It honestly feels a bit like the end of an era, and I am so glad to have been able to make my last set one that means so much to me.

I'm sure the Jennifer Show will be an absolute blast, and I can't wait to read all of Jennifer's reports! Good luck to all the entrants and both Jennifer hostesses, and thank you to absolutely everyone who has supported me in my hobby journey thus far. The skills and inspirations I've gathered in this hobby have made me the artist I am today, and I know they'll continue to help me in whatever future endeavors lie in wait.