Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Tale of 2-1/2 Tails, or Possessed by a Different Mermaid

Last year I started a new mermaid, inspired by a beautiful face created by Darcy Rosner of Sweet Bananaberry. Mermaids are known to possess one or all of three outstanding attractive features: long and luscious hair, large tatas (breasts), and an enticing tail.

I usually start with the tatas, but Leilehua started with her face. Once the face is attached to the doll, she comes to life and begins to share opinions about how she should look and what colors she likes. Even though the face is securely bezeled with 24K gold seed beads and tiny crystals, it will remain tied down until the front is completely finished. I've had too many faces pop out of their bezels while I was working on the rest of the body.

leilehua beaded mermaid dollWhen I finished her upper body, I wasn't happy. I thought to myself, "This doll is really derivative. There is nothing original about her. " Derivative of what? Well, ME, and a dozen other mermaids I've made. Definitely recognizable as my "style" - pretty face, unusually small but flashy tatas, mixed fiber hair embedded with freshwater pearls, plenty of 24K gold. She's pretty, and other folks liked her, but I was really discouraged and felt like I was just repeating myself, which is essentially boring

So she sat in a ziploc bag for a while. She's sat in a bag a lot over the last year.

I switch back and forth from more-or-less improvisational bead embroidery to doing highly structured and counted bead weaving, often from another artist's pattern. Each process can be done with focused intention, and each is a relief from the other. I've always like Chinese lacquered and articulated fish ornaments and Linda Richmond made a pattern to bead one. It was great fun, I made it in a couple of different colorways, adapting it to the beads I had on hand.

I tested some original designs for a beaded pinwheel and made two Kaleidocycles.

 Every once in a while I'd get Leilehua out and feel stymied by how "derivative" she was. Talk about your inner critic! We are our own harshest judges. My husband recently suggested I could think of her differently, perhaps as being the culmination of a long series of increasingly accomplished dolls. OK, maybe.

One day I was thinking about - all right, PRAYING for inspiration - what would make her different and more interesting. The obvious answer was an articulated bead-woven tail. And off I went, starting with a top "skirt" around the body. That looked a bit scruffy at the back, so I gave her a chiffon veil to tie it in. I then made five more "skirts," decreasing in size.

In Linda Richmond's original fish pattern the tail end was flat, done in brick stitch. It looked great with her fish, but I'm not fond of brick stitch and decided to design my own tail using peyote stitch and make it 2-sided to increase its depth. I finished half of one side and decided it just didn't go with the body.

My final tail fin is livelier and has more dimension. It's a lovely tail.

When I tried to put the tail segments together, they didn't work at all! They completely nested together instead of rising in tiers. I was almost in tears myself at that point. I tried various ways of tacking the tops to narrow them, none of which worked. Back into the bag she went!

A few weeks ago I took her out again. She was prettier than I remembered and I decided to make her a new tail, bead embroidered instead of woven. Starting from her hip size, I drew out the new tail and laid it out. I didn't have any felt the same color as the body, so I decided to make it fuschia and tie in the body colors. It seemed a bit large from the beginning, but Leilehua kept saying she liked it.

When it was done, it was obviously out of scale and belonged to some other mermaid. Back into the bag with Leilehua and the new mermaid began to come into being.

                                                The story continues with Sophia...