Friday, August 31, 2012

Threads Above The Fray - Painting With Thread

Thread painting (aka silk shading, soft shading, painting with a needle), is an embroidery long and short straight stitch technique (by hand and/ or machine) that is used to create realistic pictures using a needle and thread.  The stitches are worked in rows in a range of colors to closely create a realistic design with texture, shading, and character.

Many years ago, Jody Raines discovered thread painting, her chosen  medium, as a way to turn photographs into beautiful works of landscape art, and has been perfecting her technique ever since. Her first thread paintings were on cotton.  She then discovered how to thread paint on silk through the artisan Alison Holt of New Zealand, and she is working to achieve the same realism and beauty of Alison's pieces.  Her art varies between 4" x 6", all the way up to 4' if it's a thread painted quilt.

Jody uses 8 mm Habotai silk which is first stretched on a wooden frame with special silk tacks. The luminosity of the silk gives it a natural sheen and 'life' which cannot be achieved on other fabrics of different fiber content. In some pieces, the silk is left white so denote a luminous sky, reflection of sky on water, etc. 

Then the photo from which she is working is enlarged to whatever size she needs, and the main elements are traced using a light pencil onto the silk Then wax resist is applied to keep the underlying special silk paint from bleeding. The paint is then heat set with an iron, the wax washed away and the piece ironed and dried again. Using a sturdy wooden embroidery hoop that is tightened with a screwdriver so that the silk is held drum tight, Jody loads the piece and tightens it so that there is no slack at all.

Her machine feed dogs are lowered so that all work is free motion...she imagines the machine needle and thread as like a colored pencil with which to sketch the scene. Jody uses a variety of threads, i.e., cotton, acrylic and rayon in a wide range of shades per element to denote dark, light and medium areas.

There are hours and hours of work per piece depending on the details and thread changes necessary to capture the scene. Also, the upper and bobbin tensions are manipulated to bring the bobbin thread to the surface which blends two different colors of thread to create shading and texture. A variety of hand movements such as diagonal straight stitching or tiny circling motions also create various foliage, ground and floral features.  Once the piece is completed with stitching, it is matted and framed.

For the past six months, Jody has been working on completing ten landscape quilts and five thread paintings (on silk) of historic and notable places in the County of Spartanburg, SC (where she lives) as a recipient of a SC Arts Partnership Grant, 'Threads of Our Heritage'.  Jody will be exhibiting her art from September 4 through October 12, 2012, at the Chapman Cultural Center, second floor outside the History Museum in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  

In addition, she has scheduled several guild programs and workshops for this Fall and early Spring of 2013.  If you're in Jody's neighborhood, please stop by and view her awesome work in person.

To see more of her thread paintings as well as her landscape quilts,  her watercolor/oil/acrylic paintings, and also the great dollhouse miniatures she makes (which will be featured at another time), visit Jody's blog, her Flickr page, and her Facebook page:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dollhouses For Kids Battling Cancer

Ann started Dollhouses For Kids Battling Cancer in late 2006, and as of April 2013, she has just completed her 258th dollhouse! Her daughter was interning at a hospital in New Jersey on the pediatric cancer ward, and she suggested that the kids might like playing with a dollhouse while having their chemo.  Ann and her daughter  donated the first house and the kids loved it so Ann decided to keep going.  She built dollhouses and her daughter gave them to the doctors to give as gifts from them to the kids as they started or finished their chemo.

Since then, Ann has been donating 90% of the houses to kids with cancer and the rest to fund raisers benefiting children with serious health issues.  Many  other organizations have asked for help so Ann has built a few dollhouses that have special meaning, such as for Juvenile Diabetes (her daughter has been a type 1 diabetic for 10 years so it is a cause dear to her), and Autism (her granddaughter is severely autistic).   She may have donated outside of the kids with cancer but all her dollhouses are still for kids with serious health problems.

Ann gets some very generous help from many people and places.  Penelope, who owns The Magical Dollhouse Company,  has a page on her website for people to donate dollhouses at a discounted price.   Greenleaf Dollhouses pays for the shipping of those houses to Ann so the customer does not get charged for that.  HBS/ has recently set up to help Ann by allowing people to buy gift certificates on their website.  HBS holds them until Ann needs something, then she orders and it is paid by those gift certificates.   If there are no donations, Ann personally buys the houses, furniture etc.   Her  mom died in 2008 and she loved DFKBC,  so the little bit of money her mom was able to leave to Ann is mainly for the kids and their houses.

In Ann's words, "I love doing this and hope I never have to stop.  I just finished the 207th dollhouse and am starting on the next.  All the houses are donated to children through Pediatric Oncology Wards, Ronald McDonald House, Bereavement Centers, fund raisers and at Christmas to the "Suffern PBA/DARE Annual Holiday Toy Drive"

WOW! 258 dollhouses, all built by Ann and given by her to a good cause.

Please consider donating to Ann's project.  You can contact her via email at  or visit her Facebook page and leave her a message through there.  Or, via The Magical Dollhouse Company, Greenleaf Dollhouses, and HBS.  Do you have some unwanted/stored/handmade miniatures you can send to Ann?  Contact her first by email or via her Facebook page, and make sure those items are suitable for young children.  She can use, carpeting, flooring, wallpaper, paint, animals, dolls, plants, accessories, etc.

These are so cool!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Noah's Ark In Miniature

Linda Master's Noah's Ark

I have admired Linda Master's hand-carved miniatures for many years . It was through CDHM, a group of International Miniaturist Artisans, where I was given the opportunity to see her hand-carved animals for the Ark come to 'life' via a time lapse, i.e., before, during, and after pics - then saw the finished scene. 

Bringing a Flamingo to "life"

Ancient historical records belonging to many different Peoples contain references to The Flood and a large vessel being built. Throughout time we humans have depicted The Flood via art and the written word, with the Biblical story of Noah's Ark being the most referenced and well-know written version.

"It all began with a miniature elephant I carved, and a friend suggested Noah's Ark in miniature." That was two and one half years ago, and Linda Master "jumped at the chance," and began her version of Noah's Ark. She hand carved the Ark and all the animals from Jelutong wood, hand painted everything, and created the entire diorama.

What is so unique about Linda's interpretation of Noah's Ark is it's size...micro-miniature also known as 1/144th scale. (For those of you unfamiliar with 1/144th scale...1/12th of an inch is the equivalent of one foot.) The Ark is only 4" long and 3.5" high. The Zebras only 1/2" high; chickens less than 1/8" high. In all, there are eleven pairs of animals. Those with paws have carved toes and tiny paw pads; those with claws have teeny carved claws.

The diorama 'before'

To view more pics of Linda's Noah's Ark as well as her other awesome miniature carvings, take a leisurely stroll through her web site or visit her blog:
Some of her miniature carvings are for sale through her CDHM Gallery:


Friday, August 3, 2012

As The Lathe Turns In Miniature

These highly collectible miniatures are hand-turned on a wood lathe by Bertie Pittman of Bertie's Dollhouse Miniatures. Each piece is unique and made one at a time so no two will ever be exactly alike.

Bertie uses different materials to create his delicate turnings. They may be made from exotic or domestic woods or other natural materials such as palm nuts and seeds; or made from man-made materials such as laminated or stabilized wood, acrylics, plastics, and even polymer clay. Some of his pieces are coaxed from soapstone, alabaster, or other natural stone. He is always searching for new materials for creating these delightful little works of art.

Although Bertie  'turns' in many sizes, his first love is the dollhouse miniature size, in 1:12, 1:24, 1:48, or 1:6 scales.

He says, "Small turnings are a challenge to make yet they are quite easy to display. They make wonderful keepsakes and pleasing, affordable collections. They seem to make almost everyone smile and want to touch them! "

Bertie's miniature turnings have been used by other miniaturists in their creative floral displays and some have been used as props for articles in various publications and magazines of interest to miniature collectors.

Be sure to visit Bertie's website:
and go on a shopping spree: