This large flowering alien carnivorous alien plant is made of marbled shades of green Sculpey, mixed with 40% translucent Sculpey to let some light through, and the teeth are made of translucent Sculpey mixed with white Sculpey Bake-and-Bend. I ran the floral wire stems of the Audreiis through ready-made plastic succulents, added “silk” flowers leaves, and wrapped everything together with floral tape.
Then I drilled a hole into the wood base to hold the stem. You can see a little bit of not-yet-painted Apoxie Sculpt where I filled in the gap in the base intended for fairy light wire. I’m quite happy with this creature and I’m keeping it for our house. Creepalicious right???
I also made four fascinator hats, using the sculpted Venus Flytraps, “silk” leaves, velvet, fleece, felt and trims.
I stuck everything together with my favorite textile glue, UHU Alleskleber (which is similar to Quick Grab/Quick Grip in the States).
They have little satin garter tabs at the back, to put a bobby pin through for extra stability.
The wires at the bases of the plants go through a hole pierced in the fascinator base and are spiraled, glued down and covered with felt. I hate the idea of something I make not holding up to wear!
I put two up for sale, one goes in my birthday party art giveaway, and I’m keeping one. 25€ from each sale went to Give Something Back to Berlin, an organization supporting refugees.
The one above sold to a lovely collector of my work who is giving it as a gift – it makes me so happy, as did making the donation to GSBTB!
And I made potted Alien Carnivorous Plants!
I used ceramic pots, tinfoil as filler/stabilizer, spackle/glue on top and some very, very old ground cover from the “California Missions” kits sold in CA craft stores.
One of these was sold to a friend who collects my work, for a Christmas gift for his hubby! The other is going in the art giveaway I’m having on my birthday.
Good heavens. The insect outfit project got a little out of hand.
Typical for me!
I made a tiara, using my usual method of embellishing an existing metal flora tiara with decorative elements. This time, beetle brooches and wired loops of iridescent beads and crystals. The beads were left over from the corset.
The beetle brooches are inexpensive enameled pot metal, bought on eBay. They are the last of my cheap art materials bought by mail, as I’m taking a consumer break and eliminating non-local purchases as much as I can. I have enough 3D art supplies to make bricolage stuff for years anyway!
I always wire everything on, for strength.
I had some copper wire that matched the tiara, but I also used gold to split the difference between the base color of the beetles. My design/decorating motto is always, add more stuff til it all goes together/the mistakes are hidden/it has so many colors it will match anything.
I use E6000 on top of the wire to cover any scratchy sharp wire ends and stabilize the knots and connections.
Halfway through, I ran out of regular E6000 and had to order the new “odorless” E6000 Plus. My Beloved Friend, Muse and Patron Monique Motil, master costumier, often said of E6000, “The bad smell is how you know it’s gonna work!” and I would laugh.
Of course, I’ve always been a person who was totally cavalier about chemicals and fumes, because of my misspent youth, but now that I have overlapping autoimmune diseases I’m rethinking that.
So I was willing to try the new version, but I was initially disappointed. E6000 Plus is described as self-leveling, and tbh the old kind was too, but I find the Plus a bit runnier.
Regarding adhesion, I tested the bond a few hours on, when the glue was dry to the touch, and the glue blobs peeled right off!
However, I love to research adhesives, and I read on a forum that the bond isn’t strong til the glue is fully cured. And behold, after 24 hours the bonds seem pretty good.
For the necklace I prised off the pinback parts of some beetle brooches. The brooches are made of fairly soft pot metal and the pinback portions are generally soldered on; they can usually be broken off with jewelry pliers.
Suz’s most serious crafting and bricolage tip: have a set of jewelry tools at your elbow at your worktable.
You will use them every day, although rarely for actual jewelry. The broken solder left sharp, ragged edges, but rather than file them down (I’m working on the dust exposure problem too!) I just covered them with the Apoxie Sculpt I used to attach the eye pins.
The stems of the eye pins were quickly formed into loops to give the epoxy clay something to secure – even though Apoxie Sculpt adheres well to metal, a straight pin could pull out. Once the Apoxie Sculpt was cured, I used jump rings to attach the beetles to a cheap pot metal necklace. The jump rings give the bugs a little movement which is fun, and keep them from fouling the links of the necklace.
Finishing the corset was just a matter of another forty or fifty hours of beading and embroidering.
I used a lot of metallic filament at the end, to unify the machine-embroidered appliques with the beading and the crystals. I got the colored metallic filaments, which are plastic rather than thread, in a pack of ten colors at the Euro store.
I have used up my whole supply now and gotta find some more, as most metallic embroidery thread is simply the devil’s dingleberries.
(I did not make up that phrase. One of my boyfriends, astonished at my passion for capers, said that “Capers are the Devil’s dingleberries.” Not something one forgets.)
I was planning to attach some beetle brooches to it, but in the end I decided they would catch everything even more than the 3D crust of beading. So I will simply pin them on to my top.
When I let myself go with an obsession, I really let go!
The embroidered pitcher plant is only my second embroidery piece this year – I have had much less time and energy for the most time-consuming art of all, textile art. I used embroidery thread, regular satin sewing thread, two types of metallic thread, iridescent beads, and metallic filament on this piece. The little fly has beads for eyes!
It was wonderful to go back to embroidery with a fresh subject, and the curvilinear forms of plants are so satisfying to stitch. The other embroidery piece I finished in 2019 has been sold but the pitcher plant is available.
Work has been ongoing with the sculpting of evil alien Venus flytraps; I did a second batch in polymer clay to incorporate translucency, marbling and sparkle.
I mixed Sculpey Bake and Bend 50/50 with the translucent clay to get a more flexible, less breakable result, in case any of these get used for wearable art.
Bake and Bend is softer than even FIMO Soft, which helps because I find kneading polymer clay painful on my hands.
Pre-baking all the little teeth to harden them meant I could attach them to the baked leaves by pressing them into the unbaked clay gumline, a rough tube of raw clay laid in the leaf in a horseshoe shape.
Then I re-baked the leaves with their teeth in. One of the first things I learned about polymer clay was that you can add to your pieces with raw clay and bake them over and over! I was shocked!
After baking the Bake and Bond becomes a translucent, matte glaze over the parts you brushed it on. Then when you paint over it with FIMO gloss, it gets more transparent.
I like to varnish my polymer clay pieces even though the experts suggest it may not be archival – it increases the transparency of translucent clays, which I often use, and creates a nice creepy slick surface.
I left the place at the back of the flytraps where they would be attached to things unvarnished, so that whatever bonding agent I used would adhere to the clay and not the varnish.
Many of the flytraps also have a floral wire stem built in, in case I needed it – if I don’t I just snip it off!
I attached the finished flytraps to the plastic succulents with a glue gun, which some people say holds up well with polymer clay. Because I am a suspenders-and-belt person, I also used some gel crazy glue (gel-type Cyanoacrylate glues or Zap-a-Gap remain flexible, which is important for plastics). I think I will put some of these plant-style flytraps in little pots, with fake moss. The ones shown here are a mix of polymer clay ones and air-drying clay ones. I also added some “silk” floral leaves for color and variety.
You can read here about the first batch of Alien Venus Flytraps, made with airdrying clay, paint, gel medium and a glue gun.
I also finished shingling the roof of the new dollhouse and I am very proud!!! Endless love to my Mama who brought the laser-cut real asphalt shingles from the US!!!
I‘m having a rest day so I‘m doing art that feels like play and gives me energy. I made a bunch of leaves using my fondant decoration orchid veiner and air drying DAS modelling clay, then painted them and glossed them with gel medium.
You can see me handling the teeny teeth with a wax rhinestone pick-up pencil in the video below. This is a craft/costumier tip I learned about from incredible head-dress maker @bubblesandfrown and damn it changed my decor game!!!
I‘m using a glue gun to apply this batch of teeth, stick in the tongues and clamshell the leaves together.
The gluegun glue is great because its fast setup lets me position the tongues and angle the openness of the mouths on the fly.
Fast-worker tip I learned: you can speed-dry air-dry clays and paperclays in the oven!
That is a GAME CHANGER if you are a fucking impatient person like me. However, that is not what I did here. Once I learned heat would speed up the drying without releasing any fumes, I just put ’em on the radiator. There are two modern radiators in our kitchen/my workroom, and they can be adjusted, so I put the leaves on there! Apparently these clays scorch easily so care is required when putting them in the oven, while the radiator top is visible from my worktable.
Air-drying clay is super-absorbent, so it sucks the paint right in.
I was able to coat and recoat these in a very short time. Then I coated everything with gel medium, for a creepy gloss. (I talk about sculpting materials and glossing substances here!) I’m not totally confident in the gel medium’s tack-free curing, so I may spray them all over with spray acrylic varnish later. But first the thick medium is getting another day to cure.
This is only the first iteration for what is gonna be Carnivorous Plant November around here!!!
I started my second Make-Cation of the year on August 1.
As a self-employed artist, I don’t really have the concept of “not at work”; I work, on some level, pretty much all the time.
But there is a type of creative work that feels like play to me, and that is bricolage and decoupage and textile art.
I had an assortment of projects planned, and started with embroidering a commercial floral applique to a silk velvet pillow cover I got at H&M for five euros.
I used my largest embroidery hoop to hold the applique to the pillow cover while I stitched it in place and then added oodles of beading, Swarovski crystals, and embroidery. I used a fine silver embroidery thread to stitch the applique down; it took a very long time!
Bead embroidering, the slowest possible art, makes me feel dreamy and relaxed.
You stitch the applique down and then cut away the excess netting with tiny scissors, which is super gratifying!
For some reason I stalled out on this bead embroidered moth on pink velvet a while back.
I was feeling unsure about the technique I was trying for its ruff, with bugle beads layered into a 3D effect. I did another six hours of work on it, finishing the ruff, adding pearls, crystal beads, resin flowers and metallic thread, and I feel more confident about the style now. It’s still not finished, but it’s coming along.
And I also “uplifted” this little metal bug clip.
I used gold wire to stabilize its acetate wings and then jeweled and microbeaded the hell out of them. Please ignore my grimy nails – it’s charcoal, not dirt!
I had several other projects I was planning to get done on this make-cation, but unfortunately I came down with bronchitis on the 10th and then it turned into strep! What the even hell. Most of this month since has been resting and doctor visits. So I am home sick, posting the stuff I made 🙂
I know some of you have been wondering, where is the bug corset, Suz?
Because of how much I like bugs (“Bugs are Nature’s jewelry! Put a bug on and you’re ready to go out!”) and how very, very many bug things I have made.*
And how much I like corsets and how many elaborate bead embroidered and embellished corsets I’ve created.
It does seem like a natural match! But for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened – UNTIL NOW!!!!
Oh dear heavens, bead embroidery is a time sink.
This is a commercial corset with a lace overlay, and at this point I have put about 150 hours into embellishing with bead embroidery, appliques and metallic thread embroidery. I watched two seasons of “Colony”, a season of “Lucifer”, and a season of “Supernatural”.
Shockingly, “Supernatural” gradually recovers its footing in season 11, after some bullshit fridging in Season 10 that just about made me give up.
But season 11 has representation, diversity, fan service, precious cameos (I yelped with joy!) and the focus on family and Dean being kind of an idiot that I love.
The bugs are commercial appliques I’ve been collecting for a while; they are coordinated by using colored Sharpies to tint areas that are too bright or plain white. I sewed them on with plain black thread, then used many shades of metallic thread to integrate them with the glittering beads.
I estimate there’s another forty-fifty hours of work to finish this project.
Since I have strep throat and I have to have surgery on my knee in September, I should have plenty of time. If the cat lets me! Morgan le Fay had surgery on a melanoma on her ear and is SO MAD about the cone of shame.
I just need to choose some shows to run in the background. Supernatural season 12 is on Amazon Prime here; after that I gotta figure out some other options. “Lucifer”, in Season 4, has descended into “Will they/won’t they” hell (ha ha) and I am just about ready to start skipping episodes based on spoilers. Or I might just bounce over to “Legends of Tomorrow”, which is so good and so gay and so weird and so dumb.
Last Fall, a Patron gifted me a collection of vintage embroidery hoops, including some that were very old. One had a type of closure I’d never seen before. Instead of the usual screw to ratchet the outer hoop looser, you press down on the brass bar. This opens the hoop at the dovetailed joint. Fascinating, right?
It reminded me of the kind of old brass bar taps you see in an ancient Berlin gay bar, when you’re sitting at the bar drawing.
My plan is to gift it to a Berlin bear bar!
The boots are made of gold leather salvaged from a pair of gold booty shorts left behind by Miss Natasha Enquist when she left Berlin.
Always be makin’! Here’s me and Suzanne Wegh sitting in the air-conditioned library before we began our day of embroidering, sewing and drawing. It was 101 degrees in Berlin today!
A friend recently said we should refer to ourselves as “TwoZanne” when working like this. Awesome, right???
In 2001 I used to sit at my desk at ESC, the visual effects company where I worked on the Matrix sequels, and read about “orange peel” and paint rub.
Painting plastic has evolved over the years, but it’s still unpredictable. And moving from the US to Germany meant everything I’d learned about Krylon and Rustoleum had to be thrown out the window and relearned with Dupli-Color. Dupli-Color, founded in the US but now the ubiquitous hardware store spraypaint of Europe, has several different formulations for priming and painting plastic.
For the last four years I’ve been trying to learn all their tricks; I talk a lot about techniques I used for my last bas-relief insect project here. So when I wanted to make a seat for our hallway, I felt pretty confident.
Because we don’t have cell phones, but we do have a landline, we needed a little seat for the telephone in the hall.
We’re always dragging a chair in from the library when we need to call a doctor or something. I had the idea of buying a simple boudoir stool on Amazon and decorating it to fit the hall, which is perhaps the creepiest part of our whole creepy house. I ordered it and it arrived. I removed the seat, which I planned to re-cover, and wiped the whole stool down with cleaning wipes, then damp paper towels. I used the glue gun to adhere a bunch of plastic bugs and resin flowers around the existing bas-relief floral decorative elements. I had previously washed the bugs and primed them with Dupli-Color clear primer for plastic.
Then I used epoxy clay to really blend the new elements onto the base. Thinking I could expedite things (epoxy clay is a beautiful material for conjoining disparate materials, but expensive and slow) I also used some regular tube spackle for some of the big gaps. To smooth and unify all the surfaces, I painted many areas with Mr Surfacer500, a Japanese gap filler/primer product for model builders. Its grey surface is supposed to function as a primer, so I wasn’t worried about it not adhering or not accepting paint. Then I sprayed the areas with the bugs again, with the Dupli-Color primer. Here’s the original stool out on the balcony at that stage, last July.
Then I spraypainted the whole thing. WOOOOOO what a mess.
Yeah that did not work. There was some kind of reaction between the painted cast resin decorative elements of the stool and the plastic primer, or between the Mr Surfacer500 and the spackle. Tiny bubbles appeared all over the work I’d done, the areas where I’d filled crevices around the bugs to make them look carved from the surface.
Plus, the paint on the original resin elements had become tacky, which means disaster for a mixed-media work. It means there is a reaction preventing the curing of the paint, and that area will never harden and will attract dust for all time. Possibly a reaction between overspray of the Dupli-Color clear plastic primer, which is a chemical scuff, and the paint used on the resin elements.
My project was fucked. I took the picture above to show the chunky, unevenly cured surface, but you can’t see all the damn bubbles!
So I decided I’d remove the paint and re-prime the entire thing.
Guess what, I had primed the bugs and new flowers so effectively that the paint was virtually inseparable from them. And the original curliques and flowers just got gunkier with every solvent I tried. In the end I was trying orange oil and baking powder, which will take off damn near anything, and scraping sections with a dental probe, because I just hated the idea that this was a thing that had to be thrown away.
I could not get a clean surface. I could not get the paint off. I did salvage and scour one centipede, because plastic centipedes with a flat underside are hard to find. Here it is soaking in olive oil to remove the last of the paint.
Luckily, I got a new dollhouse which took my mind off the maddening primer/solvent/paint mess, and eventually I brought myself to throw the bug stool base out. Because it had so many different materials on it, it couldn’t go in any of our German recycling bins. It bothered me.
But it bothered me even more that we were still dragging a chair into the hall to use the phone!
So I decided to try again. I ordered the same stool, and set to work. But this time I tried a new approach, from a new action figure customizing blog. A bunch of incredible tutorials had gone up in December on a site called Action Figure Art. One of them suggesting sealing acrylic paint with Mod Podge! I was ready to try this new approach.
I had used Mod Podge as a primer for a plastic toy exactly once, back in about 2002, to prime a little cat figure for the top of a wedding cake I was making. But I’ve used it for various other projects over the years, mostly for decoupage. It is popular for furniture as a glue, primer, sealer and finish, and comes in different formulas. I ordered the matte finish for the bug seat, because I wanted to paint on top of it with acrylic paints.
Of course I did the usual prep of washing the bugs with hot water and soap, and I used the glue gun to attach them again. I took my time filling in around and under the bugs with Apoxie Sculpt.
This second attempt was during my Make-Cation, so I had plenty of time.
Here you can see the stool in progress along with some other projects, including the Baroque Bug Frame, which I used the same technique for. Pictures of the frame finished here!
Mod Podge is a like a rubbery plastic coat you are sealing everything under, a form of isolation coat. That’s why it prevents chemical reactions between plastics and paints. Because it’s thick, it also does some gap filling and overall smoothing. I used about five coats over the panels with the bugs. Then I spraypainted the whole thing, with Dupli-Color Next in Berlin Berry.
Dupli-Color Next is a “universal” spraypaint, one of the new class of acrylic lacquer spray formulas that’s supposed to go on almost anything without primer.
A similar product is Krylon ColorMaxx. I have found Next to be inconsistent in finish – some areas dry shiny, some matte – but it’s easy to use, with flexible recoating time and low-odor/toxicity. Since I was planning to put a gloss acrylic sealer coat over everything, I didn’t care about the problems with inconsistent finish. It took about two cans total to really cover the whole stool, which is a good example of how spraypaint is actually an inefficient and expensive way to paint things! However, the paint adhered to the Mod Podge finish really nicely.
Then I started painting on the details.
Because Next spray is acrylic lacquer, not enamel, I could paint on top of it with regular artists’ tube acrylics. I did layers of black wash, then dry-brushing highlights, then lowlight passes. In between the accent paint layers, I added additional layers of Mod Podge. This ensured each batch of highlights was sealed under a protective coat. If I went too heavy with a highlight, I could wipe it off without disturbing the black wash underneath. I can’t even tell you how many layers of this I did – gotta be at least ten. Each Mod Podge layer helped the bas-relief, carved-on effect.
I also did some sponge-painting effects and scumbling on the panels themselves, to give a nice Impressionist quality. You know how those Impressionists loved cockroaches.
At the very end I used an acrylic-based (rather than solvent-based) gold marker to add a few more highlights. Cause I’m so subtle. Then I let it all cure for a couple days. I had also spraypainted the legs of the stool, with the Berlin Berry, and let them cure too.
Then it was time to spray the fuck out of it with Gloss Acrylic Sealer Coat!
The outrageously comprehensive Mod Podge craft site Mod Podge Rocksrepeatedly states that to truly get a hard, non-tacky finish on your Mod Podge project, you need to seal it. That seems pretty shady, since Mod Podge itself is supposed to be a sealer, but I wasn’t taking any chances at this point. Acrylic sealer it was, and four coats!
Finally, I attached the recovered seat with the incredible velvet death’s-head moth fabric.
Wow that fabric was a close call. It’s actually a cut-up dress from a goth clothes company called Killstar.
I ordered the largest size they had praying it would cover the seat without a seam, and it just barely did. Killstar have a lot of custom fabrics made and I knew I would never, ever find this fabric anywhere else. It was a hard call to buy a brand-new dress, for forty euros (of course I used a coupon, you know me!), and immediately cut it up. But I knew that the pleasure of seeing the fabric on the stool, day in and day out, would be far greater than having a dress in the closet.
The velvet-and-gilt purple upholstery braid I ordered from the UK covers the places the fabric doesn’t quite stretch!
It was my beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Monique Motil who came up with the idea of “Make-Cation”.
Monique has always been my inspiration for mixed media and assemblage art, and I learned so much about how to trust my creative impulses around materials watching her work evolve over the years. I did my first Make-Cation in Fall 2017, and for eight days in March I did it again! It was a glorious time of renewal, full of energizing fiddling, fooling, fussing and gluing! Nothing makes me happy like taking a hacksaw to a plastic toyl!
It may surprise some people but drawing and painting isn’t “fun” for me. It’s hard work where I put my whole identity on the line every time and demand the best I can possibly do from myself. Like going to the gym, it feels great in the sense of being healthy, rewarding and good for me.
Plus there is a huge added bonus in that it gives happiness to the people I document and helps to share their stories with the world. So it is deeply meaningful and feels like service, which I love.
However it’s hard work, and I do it pretty much all the time, so I took a week to do the art that feels like play – making stuff!
Touching and handling beautiful materials like velvet leaves, gold wire and garnet beads makes me feel nourished and exhilarated.
I started on Day One with these cheap pot metal crowns and the heaps of metal leaf charms and stampings I’ve had for years.
I used beads and pearls and resin and glass leaves too, and sewed everything in with different weights of gold wire, then secured it with blobs of E6000.
I learned about using wire to secure decorative elements when I did a Halloween party with the help of a guy who had run commercial haunted houses, in 2001. He said anytime you want something to stay put, wire it in.
I figure people can wear the crowns whenever we finally have our Summer Solstice party.
Then I gave some bugs a bath.
One thing I have learned from action figure customizing folks and Burning Man art folks is that assemblage art lives or dies by its adhesives and primer coat.
The plastic bugs got a nice soak in very hot soapy water to remove any traces of mold release so they would accept paint and glue better.
Once they were completely dry I went bug crazy with the glue gun. I had been wanting to make a gothic rococo gilt frame with horrible insects for many years.
I recently found a €3,99 plastic frame at our local Woolworth’s (we still have those here!) to use as a base. I washed the frame in hot soapy water too, to remove any oils or dirt, and then attached the bugs and some resin flowers with the glue gun.
Once the glue was cooled and set I used my precious Apoxie-Sculpt to unite the bugs with the frame, smoothing their edges into the surface so they look more carved or bas-relief. (You can read more about this here.)
Then I coated the whole thing with Mod Podge, which I’ll explain in the next Make-Cation post, and then I spray-painted it gold! Few things are as gratifying as gold spray paint.
I also cut some pieces of cardstock to fit some of the gaps in the frame, because I needed to reduce the visual detail after adding the bugs – I wanted to it read clearly from a distance. To help that, I also sprayed it from below with a light mist of black spray paint.
I am so pleased with how it came out. Look how nicely the plastic spider sits at the top! I made a little decoupage piece to go in it using die-cut butterflies and some Dresden trim moons I got at Castle In the Air like 20 years ago.
I Mod-Podged them right onto the black cardboard that was the backing of the frame, because I am a deeply lazy person.
I also made some Cernunnos crowns, because you never know when you’ll need those.
I used “reindeer horns” I got on eBay and headbands from Woolworth’s for these, plus some velvet flowers and leaves and stuff that I had hoarded, some from like 1995.
I love how they came out, it is just so satisfying to use up these beautiful old materials and make them into actual things.
Of course I barely made a dent in my supply hoard, but there is world enough, and time, for more creepy assemblage art.
I made two other things, a completely insane little seat for our hallway, and a little fascinator hat, and I will post those soon!
So much love to my Patrons, who support my creating and making, and made this precious window of creative play possible <3 You can see more of my multi-disciplinary mixed media projects here.