Tag Archives: bricoleur

Sacred Heart with titanium druzy.

I have had almost no time for embroidery this month.

I drew at so many events, we had an art show where I did live painting, I made the Trans Dino-Witch, I finished a big new portrait. It’s been glorious and exhilarating. Yet I really wanted to get some thread and bead time in, for the energy and comfort it gives me.

And I wanted to work with Sacred Hearts, the symbol of hope and faith.

I learn so much from beloved artist Monique Motil, aka @z0mbique, about how working with mystic powerful symbols gives you creative juice. So I used bricolage and upcycle principles to make these collage embroidered Sacred Hearts or Ex Votos.

Sacred Heart collage embroideries WIP by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017The hearts in the center are beaded patches I bought on eBay for a couple of euros.

I sewed them to some of the last scraps of an iridescent blue-violet panne violet I bought two yards of in 1999 and have used for innumerable projects. I made the orange and blue flames out of the last pieces of some vintage velvet flowers bought at Lacis in Berkeley, also in ’99.

Then I embroidered around them with my favorite Rico Metallic thread, the Holy Grail of metallic embroidery thread.

sacred heart collage embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Aug 30 2017I sewed on iridescent and AB Swarovski bicone crystal beads and added hundreds of Swarovski crystals in many, many colors. I attached some of my new blue oil slick iridescence titanium druzy crystal beads with invisible thread. I painted the frame by rubbing it with deep madder paint, then gold paint, then tapping silver leaf onto the still tacky gold paint.

The shiny red string was saved from a gift I received – I save all my gift ribbons and bows for projects.

Like the embroidery collage jacket I did last month, this kind of collage/bricolage embroidery is a low-impact, flexible project anyone could do. I love how in the top picture the fiery heart coordinates with my sketchbook-carrying sack, a 50th-birthday gift from Daria! I plan to sew a LOT in September, along with the million new events and teaching, so I’ll finish the blue flame lightning heart soon.

Bug bricolage roundup for June!

grasshopper bricolage carriage and shadow box by Suzanne Forbes May 2017I’ve been working on several bug bricolage projects this month. Here are two finished ones!

grasshopper bricolage carriage harness Suzanne Forbes May 2017The copper paperart cricket seen here was a birthday gift in my forties from the incredible artist and sculptor Aimee Baldwin. I made him this carriage to ride in out of a gilt carriage I got on eBay. Then I made a harness for a metal grasshopper I ordered from some online discounter.

I had this vision before we left the US of an insect-based version of the classic Golden Jubilee or coronation coach models. In my mind’s eye I saw it in our new home, one of the lamps that guided me through the terrors and trials of the move.Pall Mall GOldsmiths State Coach model

I don’t know why it felt so important to me to make this weird thing; I never do.

grasshopper bricolage carriage left side Suzanne Forbes May 2017 I had a lot of miniature horse saddlery supplies and thin metallic leather left over from my Snow Queen project.

I had little buckles, silver leather straps and silver cord. It could not go to waste! I covered the side panels of the coach, which were white, with a variety of fine silver leathers and cording trim. Silver rhinestuds added detail. I used antique silver color filigree jewelry findings to tip the ends of the carriage shafts so they fit the grasshopper better. (They still look a little dark, Imma brush them with silver paint to blend them in better just took my silver Sharpie and fixed ’em.)

grasshopper bricolage carriage left side Suzanne Forbes May 2017 I made a little silver leather seat pillow with cord trim and scrapbooking brads for the upholstery button-tufting, and filled it with microbeads which work better than any fluffy filling on dollhouse or mini scale.

I made the harness out of silver leather straps. Some of them were silver on the tops but white on the sides, so I colored the sides with a fine-point silver Sharpie. It worked great!

When you have all your tools readily to hand it’s so easy to take care of the details!grasshopper bricolage carriage med

The new jewel bug shadowbox is lined with green dragonfly brocade scraps left over from a corset made years ago by Mina LaFleur.

Like my incredible dressmaker and costumier Monique Motil, Mina always thoughtfully returns all scraps of fabric from a project.jewelled insect shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes June 2017 You never know what you might use it for!

I buy the jewelled insect brooches on eBay using a simple system: they have to have free shipping and I will bid up to $2.00. If the bidding goes over $2, too bad. So it takes a while to accumulate a batch for a shadow box but after all it’s not like I’m in a hurry.

I’m working on slowly increasing the pink accents in the Gothic Rococo salon, so I searched specifically for pink bug brooches this time.

jewelled insect shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes June 2017

If the bug brooch arrives with any colors that don’t coordinate well, I tint the enamel or rhinestones with a colored Sharpie. Since they’re going to be in a box, it won’t rub off. I turned white areas pink and yellows to pale green for this one.

To attach the backing fabric to the board in the shadowbox I use UHU “Extra Allekleber”, my Germany dupe for my beloved Quik Grip (formerly Quik Grab). It’s an excellent adhesive for fabric to fabric or fabric to anything; it really lets you stretch and shape your fabric to a surface.

The brocade was wrinkled from years of storage but I didn’t bother to press it, just stretched it taut with my UHU. To attach the bugs to the backing board I always use a glue gun. I make little balls of tin foil and attach them to the backs of the bug pins to keep them level. They hide neatly behind wings and keep the brooches stable.

Then I glue on the bugs and there it is, a new vegan jewelled insect shadow box!

This week: An angry little girl!

As promised, for the lovely little ones back in Cali, my version of kid-friendly art.

(Patrons receive a high-resolution file to print and frame, perfect for the goth-industrial nursery.)

The apartment I grew up in was filled with the artwork of my parents’ friends, and it was incredibly important to me. The pictures were like portals into the mysterious capacities of adulthood and the mystery of my parents’ past.

I’ve always loved doing silhouettes of children, and the idea for this one popped into my head last week when I saw our furious kitty parading her outrage at us around the house.

I have very clear memories of being an angry little girl, stomping out to the yard at our ramshackle country house in Maine.

My generation of kids, the latchkey generation, was the last one to have the freedom to go fuck around outside unsupervised. We could walk away from our parents, and nobody would come after us. Later we loved Calvin and Hobbes so much because it was a document of a vanished kids’ world, one of wayward, lackadaisical freedom where tins cans, rusty nails and broken glass were just part of the environment.

Sharp things and junk were toys to me, interesting items, as much as sea slugs and birch bark.

Pull tabs and browned barb wire were components of my miniature worlds, like Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. I loved the flowers of high summer, the Black-Eyed Susans and Indian Paintbrush in the drawing, and the fishhooks and lures in my father’s tackle box. I loved to make stuff, and to be left alone.

At the same time, I was fascinated with performative femininity and the armature of created identity from babyhood.

There’s a family story about how when I was three, my godmother Sandy (who will appear in a future post!) asked me why I never wore pants. “Sandra, I’m not into pants”, I told her archly. I was a frankly beautiful child, both inappropriately sexualized and innately self-absorbed, and there are pictures of me in pretty dresses where I am absolutely vamping. I got that “pretty” was a key to power. I was looking for tools, and power, and I always cobbled them together from my environment.

That’s why when I saw Mark Tansey’s painting “The Bricoleur’s Daughter” in 1990 it hit me like a Mack truck.

This huge work addresses Derrida’s notion of bricolage, Plato’s Cave, and a half a dozen other heavyweight philosophical and art-historical constructs while presenting as a visually pleasing and apparently traditional painting. It’s stealth discourse! Sometimes the simplest, most literal things tell the complicated stories best.

There’s nothing I like better than using the formatted iconography of traditional illustration to frame a new discussion.

The Bricoleur's Daughter by Mark Tansey



You can see the legacy of pulp immediately, as well as something else. Although it’s not part of the critical dialogue about the work, I’m pretty confident that art-history maniac Tansey intended the disturbing objectification of the young girl.

I see her Balthus-like pose as placing that objectification within the discourse about the complicity of the viewer’s gaze, which moves through Caravaggio to Emma Sulkowicz.

There’s a reason it’s the Bricoleur’s Daughter, not his son. I love that she’s casting the Plato’s cave shadow herself- knowing is half the battle!


 So to me, my silhouette drawing is a stealth message about the righteous rage of little girls.

nancy-drew-book-coverThey will be, despite your best intentions and hard work, inculcated into a culture of performative self-objectification.

It sucks, but they have you (even when they’re mad at you), they have allies, they have tools to parse unique identities, they have their marvelous resourcefulness, and they have their beautiful, sacred fury.

lagniappe: Interested in political silhouette art? Kara Walker is everything. Interested in abandoned lot art? Lonnie Holley is amazing.