Agosia Arts is about celebrating the natural world, fine craft and conscientious recycling. My main goals with this blog are to : 1) provide a peek behind the scenes at how my work is produced; 2) document my problem solving process; and 3) encourage others to try new things. If you have questions, email me at Thank you for visiting!

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November 17, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Creating Bird Heads, Part 1

I've posted, both on the blog and YouTube, the basic steps to creating the heads of my dolls. For example, in this post from 2010, I describe the process from design to completion for a Tundra Swan. The simplest of bird heads, believe it or not, is a Vulture, and I gave a brief rundown on the steps about a year ago in this post.

Mammals are pretty easy, just layers and layers of felt to get the shape I want. Birds also have unique head conformations, but the main difficulty is due to the beak. Each species requires a unique shape and sculpting the beak takes a lot of time. But before I delve into that topic, I thought I would show you how each head begins with a layer of wool around a finished beak. My latest YouTube video covers the basics of the bird head, and this video, along with my previous video about animal heads gives you a good foundation for trying this technique yourself.

In the next two weeks I'll share videos describing how I make the beaks for my birds. Stay tuned...

November 9, 2015

Book Review: A Field Guide to Fabric Design

I am a fabric lover. I used to buy a lot of fabric, both for sewing clothes and for quilting. Something happened though. About 15 years ago, I became really tired of the fabrics out there. Quality declined and nothing looked or felt good. For quilting, I turned to my own hand-dyes and now focus entirely on recycled clothing. For sewing, I either recycle or only use solid colors. Lots of solids.

In these heady of days of online assisted DIY, fabriholics now have the option of designing their own fabrics. Why wait for what you want to become fashionable? No need to sift through websites or drive all over town. Just make what you want.

I touched my toe into the pool when I used Spoonflower to create my booth backdrops (see this post for more info). I was so pleased by the result (quality and appearance), that I am now designing fabrics that I want to wear.

For those who are curious, A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight is a great place to start. She provides plenty of information for people doing things entirely by hand (pen&ink, screenprinting, etc) and those who work with computers. Also covered are good explanations of copyright issues, color theory and types of digital printing. In each chapter there are short interviews of fabric designers from all parts of the industry. The explanations of types of design repeats will give helpful insight to anyone who sews with prints.

My process is to have images (drawings, photos, watercolors) and collage and alter them in Photoshop. Once in that program, I can create files that are ready to upload right to the website. It really is pretty simple and straight-forward. Even if you are doing all your designing by hand, info from the book, plus that from your chosen online printing service will answer just about any question you might have with the technical aspects of the process.

The most difficult part of designing fabric is creating an image you like and that looks good. Design and color basics are explained with plenty of step-by-step tutorials and examples. The book does have a strong emphasis on computer skills and the author assumes that you know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. Realistically, use of a scanner and photo-editing program is pretty much essential for proofing and editing designs and setting up correct file sizes and resolutions.

This book is recommended for anyone who sews and thinks about prints in fabrics or paper. If you are thinking about trying your hand at design, this is a good place to start. And don't be limited to the textile world. All of the principles discussed here apply to any 2-D design and most online printing bureaus offer paper products as well.

November 3, 2015

New Quilt in The Works: Schoolhouse Variation

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been eyeing the Schoolhouse Quilt by Ella Faatz described in New York Beauties. I'm just about finished quilting the Tree Everlasting variation I started this spring (usually I work faster than this, but I've been distracted by other studio work).

This Schoolhouse quilt is different from any other I've seen. If you Google Schoolhouse quilts and do an image search, you'll get hundreds of quilts that follow one of two patterns. One schoolhouse has a contrasting fabric that defines the roof, front and side of building. The second features a solid color for the entire building, requiring your brain provide the edges. Both quilts have two windows, two chimneys and one door.  The Ella Faatz schoolhouse looks similar to the second at first glance, but then you notice that it seems a bit odd. On further inspection, you'll see what the problem is: the solid colored building is more symmetric (a single chimney in the middle of the roof), and that throws off all the expected angles of the building. It is an impossible building that could never be built!  I love it.

The first step in recreating this quilt is drafting the block. I only have a picture from a book, so I had to experiment a bit. I tried various sizes of blocks (5x5, 6x6 etc) and found than an 8x8 was the only way to get the proportions of the windows, door and roof correct.

There are two functional issues here. First, this block is usually make using strip piecing and the draft out shows this will be impossible for some parts of the quilt. I could use squares instead, but there are still some places where odd mini-blocks would be required (peaks of the roof). Foundation piecing and applique are not my thing, so those options are out. It's probably going to be some wacky variation of strip piecing and mini-blocks for those peaks. The second issue is the size of the finished block. The smallest piece I can accurately sew with my backed silks and linens (see this post for more info about my technique) is two inches. That means the finished size of the block will be 16 inches and I would be making a quilt with nine blocks (most of my quilts are around 4 feet square). Maybe not as visually dynamic as Ella's. We'll see.

Stay tuned for progress reports...

October 27, 2015

Too Much Artwork, or What I Think About Before I have a Sale

Everyone here has found a home.
I am actually a lazy artist. Although I am in the studio every day, I am not making sculptures everyday. I also make quilts and work on digital projects. Usually I have a burst of sewing activity before a show thinking that I have to have something new and wonderful to exhibit. This year was different. I spent quite a bit of time sewing new types of figures (see this post about the little guys) and made over 40 new figures. Some have sold, but I have an unusually large inventory in storage.

These are gone too.
I store finished artworks in large, stacking Rubbermade bins. Everyone gets shoved in and its a tight fit. I have only enough room for one stack of bins five feet high. So, if there is overflow, the extras have to go! Some people think I have my artwork displayed around the house. Nope, not one. Everything is kept clean and pristine in those tubs. This year, I have more overflow than usual because of my prolific habits. I've decided to have a Dutch auction on Etsy to find homes for my older works (2010, 2012 & 2013).  I'll keep the 2014s for now.

There are some amazing figures in this older group. Why so many that haven't found homes? I think the main reason is that I don't have a lot on display when I do shows. Although I switch inventory around every few hours, people only see a small number at a time. People tend to get visually overwhelmed with my work. I don't display 'the best' or my favorites preferentially. Its a random selection. And so, a random selection find homes. I think it works out well.

What this means is that I have some great sculptures that have to find homes. Right now, they are laying in a heap on the bed in the spare bedroom. Not good. If they don't sell, they have to go. I will remove their heads and costumes and recycle the bodies into new figures. Less work for next year! I hope I won't have a post about that in the future. In the meantime, visit Etsy to see the selection of oldies, but goodies. Even better, buy one.

September 30, 2015

Pinterest Inspirations: From Pin to Practice

I love Pinterst. My studio is much neater now that I don't have clippings taped up everywhere. I try to limit my pins to those related to work (art and sewing inspirations), but what good does it do to have a bunch of Pins & Boards that just sit there looking pretty? Not much good. So, let's put some of those Pins into Practice! One of my boards (shown at left) is a collection of items that I think could be used as embellishments for art dolls. My goal is to try a few of these per month and post the results.

This pin highlights the work of Dori Jenn (she has an Etsy shop; this bead is called "Tunnel Vision") and I liked the combination of wire and beads. As many beaders do, I have a jar of mixed beads and I thought this would be a good way to use some of them. After fumbling about for a long time, I ended up using two jump rings per end  because the wires sliped through the fine opening of the rings -they kept opening as I worked. My beads were various sizes which was probably not the best choice and I had a difficult time holding everything together while I worked.  My finished bead was crooked and everything seemed to shift around a lot. Conclusion: Although the result looks good, this beaded bead is not for me. I'm not good enough at wire work and it took too much time. There are other methods I prefer.

This pin/idea shot through Pinterest a while back and I can't track down the original pinner or source. Most pins were related to wedding or jewelry applications. I was intrigued with the use of nail polish and the lacquer look of the finished flower. In just a few minutes I twisted together flowers with 28 gauge wire and tried three types of nail polish: new frosted pale pink, old clumpy matte dark red and new shiny black. To my surprise it was super easy to get the polish onto the petals in a thin film. A narrower brush seemed to be a bit more difficult to use, but it was fine. I liked the look of the colored wire (the red flower), but I don't think I would buy special wire just for this technique. I used hemostats to hold the flowers upside down as they dried. I poked at the dry film with a needle and it is not hard or brittle; it is flexible like leather. I don't know how it would hold up long tern. You can definitely tear it, but for a display piece, I think these flowers would be fine. I will point out the my wire flower frames didn't look great to begin with, but the finished flowers were lovely. This is a very forgiving technique. Conclusion: this is a fantastic way to make flowers, and probably, leaves (green polish is easy to find). I use a lot of silk ribbon flowers, but these lacquered versions are going to be used often.

Every once in a while I make a tiny book for one of my figures. Usually I use old dictionary pages and create a leather cover with Japanese bound signatures. This pin (Leslie Shepherd, miniatures expert) shows a tiny spiral notebook and I thought it would be an excellent addition to my bibliophilic methods. To experiment I trimmed some dictionary pages, lined them up with a ruler, then prepunched holes every 1/8" with a tapestry needle. For this experiment I didn't use special covers, but I would punch them separately because they would likely be thicker. I used a wooden knitting needle instead of the metal skewer and threaded 28 gauge wire through the holes. The whole process took about five minutes and the result looks great. Conclusion: This is a fantastic way to make tiny books. Easier to work the spiral than the usual miniature bindings, much faster as well.

Stay tuned for more Pin to Practice next month...

September 21, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Turn Of The Cloth, Why Does It Matter?

This post is here to remind you (and me) of two things: 1) pay attention to the lessons of experienced sewers and 2) just pay attention! In two previous posts, I described the basic process by which I make clothing for my dolls (Part 1 and Part 2). It is fairly straightforward and is easy as long as I am using lightweight cloth. The weight is important because of an issue called turn of the cloth. The concept used to be taught (and I thought I learned it...) to impress upon the sewer than cloth in a seam takes up space. This becomes very important when you are sewing close seams, turning components right side out, and pressing items flat. Think about sewing a collar - denim is going to be more difficult than shirting fabric.

So, what can go wrong? When you are working with tiny garments, a lot can go wrong. I ran into all possible problems a while back when making a set of 10 small figures. I was in robo-sew mode, went into the studio, chose a bunch of fabrics and sewed everything together to make clothes.

I didn't discover my mistake until I started turning the garments right side out. I had chosen corduroy and wool as exterior fabrics and a loosely woven silk to line it. A deadly combo: thick plus delicate = disaster. I couldn't turn the garments and I was ripping the lining fabric. I was ticked, but didn't want to give up on all 10 garments. After wrestling with the tiny coats, I gave up and cut through everything at the shoulder. The next problem to solve was how to seam the shoulder area quickly and cleanly.

All the fabrics were fraying, so I was losing length. The pattern was not designed for overlap or a seam at the this place, so if I added a seam, the armholes would be too small.  I decided to butt the joins and whipstitch them front and back.

I couldn't leave the shoulder seam looking like that, so I decided to glue an epaulet-like segment over the seam, top and bottom. Well, that didn't look so great (raw edges) so I whipstitched the edges to the garment and added a seed bead with each stitch. Stronger and more attractive.You can see the final result at the top of he post.

BUT, if I had been paying attention to what I was doing and remembered my sewing lessons from years ago, I wouldn't have to have gone through the whole process with 10 little coats. Lesson to remember: when sewing tiny things, use lightweight fabrics. Maybe medium weight. Corduroy? Not a good idea...