Tag Archives: bricolage

More Carnivorous Plant Art!

Carnivorous flowering alien plant in glass dome by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019Still rolling on the creative high of this theme!

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???Carnivorous plant fascinators by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019 set of four

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.

Carnivorous plant fascinator by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019 burgundyThe 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!

Carnivorous alien plants by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019And 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.

Carnivorous alien plant by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019I also wanted to donate art to the charity raffle for Jews!Jews!Jews!, a wonderful burlesque show created by Lolita Vavoom and Nana Schewitz, which celebrates Jews and Jew-adjacent performers.

I thought a fascinator might not be as universal an item as a freestanding plant that wants to eat your face. And I was a little worried about the fragility of a plant in a pot during a club night.

Carnivorous alien plants in domes by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019So, Alien Venus Flytrap in a tube!

The domes are plastic, but they look quite nice and cause me much less stress than using glass. Some lucky raffle winner will take one of these creepers home tonight. Sleep well, raffle winner!!

This has been such a fun and refreshing little Alien Plant Party, and I hope you have enjoyed it as well. The previous posts are here and here!

 

Beetle tiara, beetle necklace and finished insect corset!

Bead embroidered insect corset tiara and necklace by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019Good heavens. The insect outfit project got a little out of hand.

Typical for me!  Bead embroidered insect corset tiara and necklace by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019

beetle bricolage tiara by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019I 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.

So, making the switch to E6000Plus until I can get some nontoxic GemTak, which my Beloved Friend and Muse Noéline la Bouche swears by, as does master headdress maker Sylva of Bubbles and Frown.

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.

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019Finishing 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.

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019I have used up my whole supply now and gotta find some more, as most metallic embroidery thread is simply the devil’s dingleberries.

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019(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.)

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019I 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.

Here’s a bad video of me actually wearing it!

Carnivorous plant art party!

Carnivorous plant art month by Suzanne Forbes November 2019When 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!

Embroidered Pitcher plant by Suzanne Forbes November 2019It 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.

Polymer Clay Alien Venus Flytraps by Suzanne Forbes November 2019Work 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.

Basket of Alien Venus Flytraps by Suzanne Forbes November 2019 cuI 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.

In addition, because gluing polymer clay is a moving target, I secured them with Sculpey bake and bond.

Embroidered pitcher plant and Clay Alien Venus Flytraps by Suzanne Forbes November 2019Then 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.Alien Venus Flytraps by Suzanne Forbes November 2019

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!!!

Carnivorous Plant Month teaser! With air-dry clay tips.

Carnivorous alien plants by Suzanne Forbes Oct 28 2019

Little Workshop of Horrors!

Carnivorous alien plants made of air dry clay WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 28 2019I‘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.

Carnivorous alien plants in process by Suzanne Forbes Oct 28 2019Fast-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!!!

Women of the X-Men’s World: Lila Cheney and Lilandra.

Lilandra and Lila Cheney action figure customs by Suzanne Forbes Sept 21 2019The amount of X-Men action figures being produced this year is BANANAS.

Yet some more obscure characters still may not get their own full figures. So Hasbro, the toy company that has the mass-market 6″ scale Marvel license, is making kit-bashable assets for fans to DIY.Lilandra action figure custom in library by Suzanne Forbes Sept 21 2019

Marvel Legends Mystique picture from TheFwoosh!

Lilandra, Majestrix Sh’iar, was on the 90’s cartoon, so she’s fairly well known. Well enough to justify making her head and including it with shape-shifter Mystique. (Visit SUPERB action figure site The Fwoosh for their review of this fig, which I stole this photo from!)

Mystique was released around the same time as an old school Spider-Man villainess, Silver Sable. Hasbro correctly assumed collectors would combine the two, as even mass-market figures are designed for easy head and hand swaps these days. Hasbro gets sell two Silver Sables, and collectors get a quick-fix Lilandra by removing Sable’s tactical pouches and adding a cape.

A similar principle is in effect for obscure and weird 80s villainess Typhoid Mary, whose release as a toy is inexplicable until you consider how toy releases are tied to tv/movie deals and behind-the-scenes Marvel Studios machinations.

Typhoid Mary figure pic from OAFE.net, an action figure site worth your visit!

Mary, a character I never liked, is a natural dupe for New Mutants/X-Men foe/ally Lila Cheney, who you can see above with her friend Dazzler, putting on some makeup!

All she needed was some rocker glitz and a poufy mini-skirt! I already had experience using ribbons, nail art elements, and miniature horse tack parts to fancy up a teen action figure, Nico Minoru. (Lot more discussion of action figure gender politics in that post!)

Typhoid Mary pic stolen from OAFE.net, a really good action figure site run by cis guys who are trying hard!

I even follow them on twitter!

My vision of Lila in full 80s rockstar regalia was exhilarating!

I jumped on it. All I had to do in terms of painting Lila was paint her face so it was an even color, matching her body, paint her hair black, and add some purple 80s makeup.Lila Cheney action figure custom in bathroom with Dazzler and Longshot by Suzanne Forbes Sept 21 2019

Her likeness already landed perfectly between Joan Jett and Sage Montclair, who plays Lila in the video you can see a bit further down.

Sculpting wise, I removed the figure’s bizarre forelock, resculpted the ends of her hair, and added a thicker flange around her hip joints so I’d have some surface to attach her skirt to.

If you have love in your heart for the New Mutants and X-Men of the 80s, and you haven’t seen this video, I implore you to watch it.

It is the most charming thing you will ever see.

I’m super pleased with my Lila figure!

Since I am not a professional customizer, I didn’t seal her face – the satin finish of the artist’s acrylic was such a good match shine-wise for her existing flesh areas.

So if she falls over she might get a paint rub on her nose. But since she will live in my X-Men dollhouse where everything is glued down, I hope she will be ok.

The belt stars and studs are little brads from Rio Rondo, the model horse tack supply company, who still haven’t updated their website. the belt is Illyana’s, and the padlock is from ebay. The two sizes of tiny studs on her jacket are from a nail art set I got for like a euro on ebay.

I lost the collar Typhoid Mary came with while removing her head at some point (it happens, with tiny things). I had intended to stud it for Lila’s signature look. Now I have to buy ANOTHER Typhoid Mary figure, which is ok because I can use the parts for other projects. Then Lila’s little star necklace will become a classic 90s “Y necklace”!

For Lilandra, I decided to go the extra mile and use my fave epoxy clay, Apoxie Sculpt, to build out her cuirass, stomach armor plate and hip flanges.

Oh and her boot tops. Oh and her sword arm armor. And paint her dark blue bodysuit. And repaint all her armor in a uniform silver. Since this was my first time painting any body paint on a figure, I was nervous! But sculpting the detail enabled me to paint clean lines really easily.Lilandra action figure custom in process Suzanne Forbes Sept 2019

I used Liquitex Matte Varnish, which is similar to Testor’s Dullcote in performance, to prime Lilandra’s figure and Lila’s head.

It created a surface with good tooth for adhesion of the regular artist’s acrylic I used for the painting.

I did push the boat out and order Tamiya Chrome Silver model paint for Lilandra’s armor, and it was kinda overkill; I think I would have been satisfied with the results from any silver tube acrylic.

Or my universal-surface acrylic craft spraypaint. It’s called Dupli-Color Deco-Matt, but isn’t available in the US. Here’s a good piece on UK sprays for plastic!

Evil but sexy goth-twink figure of Reeve Carney from Penny Dreadful holds his glass of absinthe in one hand and the drying cape of my Lilandra custom action figure in the other.

I have seen real customizers get gorgeous results with proper model paint, but for midnight blue metallic I just mixed the same kinda acrylic interference paint I used in art school in 1990 with blue artists acrylic.

I have said this before, but making one‘s own #actionfigurecustoms is a fool‘s errand, even with a full professional artist setup.

Just pay a professional customizer like @christinaconan, @facecustoms or @rafaelo.customs ! Don‘t drive yourself nuts like me.

There’s a really good article about interference paints on Golden’s site. It’s super relevant in this time when “color-change” and “chameleon” finishes are so popular.

The tiny learning I have acquired about painting tiny things with a tiny brush: move the paint, not the brush.

You need to have a bolus of fairly liquid paint well towards the tip of the brush and touch that to your piece, then gently move it around with the brush. You really don’t want the tip of the brush to touch the surface, because then the fibers it’s made of splay out. You lose the value of the “point” of the brush, and you lose your control. This is actually the same principle used in painting edging and trim in house-painting. When I was eleven feet up on the ladder trying to paint up to the ceiling molding in our library, I experienced it over and over. Don’t get lazy and try to use all the paint on the brush, so the brush fibers touch your surface; keep enough paint on the brush so you’re moving the line of the paint, not the brush.

The big learning I’ve made about model painting: always, always quit while you’re ahead.

You can always make it worse, and faster than you’d believe possible. With the microscopically delicate layers of paint and tiny details, fixing a fuckup is really hard. It’s not like portrait painting, where the “Rubik’s Cube Effect” is often part of my learning a subject’s face. Lila was the third face I’ve painted; Rahne was the second and my White Witch/Ice Queen was the first.

My Rahne and Dani lovebird customs

Douglock!

Projects for the X-Men Dollhouse – a blackboard for the library

The X-Men Dollhouse – nearly finished, and the goddam lighting

The X-Men Dollhouse – stairs and lighting

The X-Men Dollhouse – wallpaper and assembly

The X-Men Dollhouse – getting started!

My first dollhouse, SlurkCroft.

August 2019 Make-Cation: bead embroidered applique on silk velvet and jeweled bugs.

Bead embroidery pillow and work in progress by Suzanne Forbes Aug 1 2019I started my second Make-Cation of the year on August 1.

Bead embroidery work in progress by Suzanne Forbes Aug 1 2019As 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!

Bead embroidery bug work in progress by Suzanne Forbes Aug 30 2019For 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 🙂

August 2019 Make-Cation: Bead Embroidered Insect Corset.

Bead embroidered bug corset project work in progress Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2019 I know some of you have been wondering, where is the bug corset, Suz?

Bead embroidered bug corset project work in progress Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2019 leftBecause 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!!!!

Bead embroidered bug corset project work in process Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2019Oh dear heavens, bead embroidery is a time sink.

Bead embroidered bug corset project work in progress Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2019This 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.

Bead embroidered bug corset project work in progress Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2019 bottomThe 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.

*Bug stuff, some of it:

Bug footstool

Bug Mirror

Embroidered Bug

Bug Bricolage

Mauve Moth Embroidery Shadowbox

Bead Embroidered Moth Shadowbox

Mantis Shadowbox and more

Collage with butterflies and snakes

Bee bricolage and cicada shadowbox

Moonlit Moth with real Mohair fur

Grasshopper Golden Jubilee carriage

Hideous Insect Gothic Rococo Mirror

Articulated Mantis OOAK doll in translucent FIMO

Jewelled bug and talk about insect themes in womens art

Bead embroidered beetle

Making is my medicine Moth embroidery

Beaded embroidered pink grasshopper

Beadwork spider for Halloween

Glitter grasshopper and beetle frame

Horrifying rococo insect OOAK doll

Horrifying Victorian insect OOAK doll

Bead embroidered beetle

Jeweled flies and cold porcelain moths

Fauvist mantis embroidery

Jeweled mantis on wire armature

X-Men Dollhouse Update: scratch-built miniature library blackboard!

Scratchbuilt dollhouse miniature blackboard and eraser by Suzanne Forbes July 18 2019It was a bit of a bear to make this, but I’m glad I powered through!

In general, I prefer having miniature things to making them. And I am very good at sourcing things. But I couldn’t find a big, school-style blackboard from any of my usual miniature sources. It needed to be scaled to Dr. Hank McCoy, who is a big figure! So I built it from scratch.

Scratchbuilt dollhouse miniature blackboard and eraser in dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes July 18 2019Luckily, I save every single piece of miniature wooden trim!

I cut a backing board from illustration board and then framed it with several different trims to get the ledge for the chalk and eraser.

I had to miter cut the trim with my miniature miter-cutter, which I hate doing. I packed and moved the miter-cutter to Berlin knowing I would need it, and I have. But damn, it drives me nuts.

I pleated a piece of felt and glued it to a strip of trim, then cut it down, to make the eraser. Pesky!

X Men dollhouse library by Suzanne Forbes July 18 2019For the board surface I used self-adhesive chalkboard vinyl.

It may not be as archival as chalkboard paint would have been, but it was neater and faster. I used two layers, for opacity, and I still only needed a tiny bit; I can give the rest to my friend with little kids.

X Men dollhouse library through window by Suzanne Forbes July 18 2019And white gel pen was perfect for the writing – it even smears.

Part of the blackboard was copied from All-New X-Men #30, drawn by the crackerjack, spectacular, amazing Sara Pichelli. I liked the timeline diagram a lot.

I did some work on the facade of the house today too; the whole thing is coming along. It’s damn near completely done, in just about a year. And then, the front garden, with gates. And then the Danger Room, underneath, and the Morlock subway tunnels under that, just like the laboratories and subway under the other dollhouse. I gotta make a custom Callisto…

Rahne and Dani custom New Mutants Marvel Legends action figures – Wolfsbane/Moonstar slash figures for Pride!

Rahne Sinclair and Dani Moonstar action figure customs on balcony by Suzanne Forbes June 2019 heroesThese two gay teen mutants were my OTP, my original ‘ship.

And not just mine. Queer subtext for Rahne and Dani is epic. And incredibly, people who weren’t born when the comics came out are as invested in their relationship as I was in the ’80s.

You can read about how I came to know and love these characters, how they led to my career in comics, and my friendship with their creator, Chris Claremont, here.

There’s even a cameo by Bill Sienkiewicz in the Marvel hallways in 1986. But it’s not an easy read, be warned.

As soon as I was gonna have an action figure dollhouse, I knew I needed New Mutants action figures, and particularly Rahne and Dani.

Because my emotional investment in these particular characters was so profound, they needed a safe home in the Valhalla of my dollhouse even more than the other avatars of story-people who helped me survive.

I started accumulating parts to make New Mutants customs, like heads, almost as soon as I started collecting Marvel Legends scale figures. I have literally had the heads for Sam and Dani since at least 2003.

I got my first 6″ (dollhouse) scale action figure in 1999.

She was a DC Direct Death figure, a gift from a boy at work who liked me, and kept giving me terrific comics-related gifts, even though I was married. That Death figure released the lifelong lust for a dollhouse I’d managed to contain until age 32. I found out that action figures were being made in one-twelve scale, and it was the tipping point.

I could bear not having a dollhouse with dolls in it – but I couldn’t bear not having a dollhouse with super heroes in it.

I didn’t finish the dollhouse for a good fifteen years, but I started collecting super hero action figures like a fucking fiend right away.

1999 began the first heyday of 6″ scale action figures, the early days of ToyBiz Marvel Legends and DC Direct and McFarlane, plus LOTR figures and various other genre properties that were being done in 6″ scale.

It genuinely shocked me, the obscure characters that began appearing as the adult collector market developed. But I knew no-one would ever make New Mutants figures for adults, that was TOO obscure.*

It was utterly thrilling to me to see the new X-Men action figures released with the first film in 2000.

It was incredible that there was an X-Men movie, incredible that there were mass-market toys.

I remembered standing in my local NY comic shop on 23rd St. in 1985, playing with the Secret Wars Wolverine figure by Mattel.

It was lying around the store as a joke object. Because it was so funny, so ludicrous that a character as fucked up as Wolverine, from a property as weird and obscure as the X-Men, could have been made into a plastic toy a child could buy in a regular toy store.

And because the idea that comic book readers would buy toys of their favorite characters was unimaginable.

I bought the first Wolverine action figure, though, and I still have mine, though his snap-on claws are lost.

Because it was hilarious and insane that this secret world of ours had extrojected itself into real space, but it was also magic. It’s so hard to explain how much being into comics in the early 80s felt like being part of a secret society, now that superheroes rule the world.

Those movie figures of the X-Men in 2000 were only the beginning of what became a river of X-Men figures. Of course Wolverine has the most figures, even today! There are so many different Logans!

I didn’t know about the 90s X-Men cartoon, or that there was a whole generation who were introduced to the X-Men that way. It turned out that those fans were huge toy collectors! So many 90s X-Men figures have been made, but not yet a single 6″ figure of Storm in her original costume.

A small but passionate group of collectors have been crying for New Mutants figures for decades. Hasbro toyed (ha ha, I’ll be here all week) cruelly with the emotions of collectors in 2013, announcing a Danielle Moonstar Marvel Legends figure and then never releasing it.

So meanwhile customizers have done their own customs of Danielle, like Kyklos, and Masterpiece made a beautiful Moonstar as well as two gorgeous customs of Rahne in her transitional form. Recent Kitty Pryde figures have served as a decent base, and some people go as far as full-body sculpts and repaints.

The fans of the New Mutants are a smaller group than X-Men fans, but our love runs deep. There’s even a New Mutants movie now, but it can’t seem to get released!!!**

Of course when a base figure that worked for the New Mutants girls was released, it was in a box set.

In 2014 an “original style” Jean Grey was released as part of an old-school X-Men Marvel Legends box set.

I took my time getting my hands on these, because I was waiting to see what else might happen, and eventually the Jean figures started popping up individually on the secondary market.

I wound up paying at least thirty bucks for each of the three figures I bought, but they are so terrific, it’s hard to be upset.

The body for Dani was a Marvel Legends version of Kitty Pryde released in 2016. The sculpt was way too tall and lean for Kitty (though appropriately less bosomy) and perfect for Dani. I used the Jean Grey body (“buck” in action figure talk) for Rahne, Shan and Illyana. Illyana, insanely enough, was recently actually released as an action figure. Dani is just the right amount taller than the other girls. ‘Lock was remade in action figure form last year, and look how great he is!

By 2018, so many X-Men action figures had been released I needed to build a new dollhouse.

ahne Sinclair and Dani Moonstar action figure customs living room with Shan by Suzanne Forbes June 2019So I built a School for Gifted Youngsters, seen above.  It was a huge effort that took about a year, but it’s 99% percent done. The kids, of course, are relaxing in the living room.

I made Rahne’s head from a resin dollhouse doll, sanded and resculpted with my beloved Apoxie Sculpt. Painting her teeny little face took me, a professional portrait artist, a total of over three working days. it was worth it to me because my emotional investment was vast. But… it was DERANGED.

If you want a custom action figure, contact a professional action figure customizer like Christina Conan or FaceCustoms or Rafaelo Customs.

Whatever they charge you is a bargain. The work involved in doing it yourself, even as a professional artist in a fully equipped craft space, is bananapants.

Where are the boys?? Doug is done, coming soon, and I’m working on Sam. I plan to use a Miles Morales head for Bobby, and they cost a mint, so I’m running eBay searches.

I should probably say more about how I made them, and I will. But it was so emotionally wrenching to make them, and such a relief and mercy to be done and place them safely in the X-Mansion, that I’m done for now.

Enjoy these amazing gay teens in the safe harbor I have built them, as I slowly build a safe harbor for my own amazing gay teen self in the ship of my adult life.

*breaking news out of San Diego, July 19 2019: Hasbro is releasing a New Mutants Marvel Legends Dani Moonstar figure with Karma and Wolfsbane heads! But actually, I like mine better 🙂 Of course I’ll buy the Hasbro Dani Moonstar figure anyway! I totally want a furious badass version of Dani and a transitional Rahne action figure and a Shan with a headband!

**A new trailer was released for the New Mutants movie on January 6, 2020. And it looks like Rahne and Dani are TOGETHER in the film. Here I am, a middle-aged queer lady in Berlin, SHRIEKING with happiness!

Is this the creepiest thing I’ve ever made?

Insect Bas Relief Boudoir Stool by Suzanne Forbes May 2019It may not be the creepiest, but it was definitely one of the trickiest!

Insect Bas Relief Boudoir Stool by Suzanne Forbes May 2019It takes a LOT for me to give up on a project. I may delay it, it may take me twenty years to finish, but for me to outright give up on a creative piece in process and throw it out is incredibly rare.

It happened with this one, though – I got well into a first iteration of this creepy insect boudoir seat and had to give up.

It was a technical problem, basically. I’ve talked a lot about how my experiments with mixed media and bricolage are informed by my interest in action figure customizing.

I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to prime and paint plastic items from action figure custom forums, over the last eighteen years.

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.Beetle boudoir stool back by Suzanne Forbes April 2019

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!Bug bricolage and metal crown projects wip March 2019 suzanne forbes artist

Mod Podge itself is a synthetic polymer, a polyvinyl acetate like white glue to be specific. That may sound scary, but like white glue, it’s very safe. Once I was done smoothing the bugs onto the stool with Apoxie Sculpt, and the Apoxie Sculpt was cured, I started painting coats of Mod Podge over everything. Evenly, over the whole surface of the panels of the stool, bugs and original elements and all.

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.Bug bricolage footstool wip painted March 2019 suzanne forbes artist

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.

Bug bricolage footstool wip with painted accents March 2019 suzanne forbes artistThen 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 Rocks repeatedly 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.

killstar lydia nightlife dress deaths head moth velvetWow 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!

Passementerie and a glue gun will save your gothic rococo interior decorating ass every time, just ask Tony Duquette! (sigh, you can’t cause he went to the great Paris flea market in the sky.)

Beetle Boudoir Stool by Suzanne Forbes April 2019So here is the telephone stool, in the hall, next to the ugly black plastic telephone that I will eventually replace or cover in holographic foil.

It looks like it’s always been there, right? You’d never know how tricky it was to make!