Tag Archives: contemporary crafts

Make-Cation part One: So MUCH Bricolage, Assemblage and Decoupage!

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!

Cernunnos crowns by Suzanne Forbes April 2019It 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.

Metal crown project march 2019 Suzanne ForbesI started on Day One with these cheap pot metal crowns and the heaps of metal leaf charms and stampings I’ve had for years.

Assemblage fairie crowns by Suzanne Forbes March 2019I 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.

Bug Bricolage Gothic Rococo frame wip March 2019 suzanne forbes artistOnce 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.

Bug Bricolage and decoupage frame by Suzanne Forbes April 2019 detailI 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.Bug Bricolage and decoupage frame by Suzanne Forbes side view April 2019

I also made some Cernunnos crowns, because you never know when you’ll need those.

Bricolage Cernunnos crowns by Suzanne Forbes April 2019I 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.

New dollhouse progress!

Work in process X Men dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019Did the X-Men make it home for Christmas?

They did, though they were stuck in the dark! The new action figure dollhouse isn’t quite finished yet, but it is through no fault of mine. Boy howdy, are dollhouse lights a pain in the ass. I was so thrilled about my decision to go with battery-operated miniature LEDS and external battery adapters, as detailed in this post. LEDs last forever, stay cool, and use so little power!Work in process X Men dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019

But I never considered that some battery powered dollhouse LED lights might not FIT the external adapters!

That’s right, some take smaller batteries, and some just have incompatible housings. So it turned out that some lights I ordered, and waited forever for the arrival of, were incompatible. And then I had to order more external housings, not because I needed more battery boxes – I think four is fine for the 20-odd lights – but because I need the adapter plates. Which don’t seem to be available anywhere, at least not yet.

This is why you NEVER USE A TRANSITIONAL TECHNOLOGY FOR A PERMANENT INSTALLATION!

But I never considered that some battery powered dollhouse LED lights might not FIT the external adapters!You can see one of the adapter plates and the light fixture housing it sits in to the left, in the library. This one is for a tabletop lamp, which why it has a long cord and is loose in the room.

Another problem is that the adapter plates are reliant on a minuscule thread of live wire and a tiny dot of solder to make their connection, and can easily (especially in the process of ceiling installation) be twisted so the connection is broken. I got mad and took one apart, and I haven’t been able to get it to work again. I am fairly good at things like this – I used to rewire antique lamps I bought at Berkeley Flea Market – so I am really peeved. So peeved I’m gonna get a new soldering iron (I gave my old one to beloved friend-muse-Patron Monique Motil) and started reinforcing all the adapters I install from here on.

dollhouse wiring with external adapter for LED lights Suzanne ForbesWhich is…four of twenty-odd. Because the others are installed, and the carpet laid over them, and the door frames over that, and then the moldings. This system, which is the time-honored method of giving dollhouses a clean finish, means that the floor covers up your messy wires, the door frame goes in next so you know how much to cut the moldings on either side of it, and the moldings provide a clean edge where floor meets wall and cover any imperfections in floor-cutting. I made a diagram, above! It’s a great system, except when you’re dealing with wiring, because if something goes wrong with the wiring, you have to tear everything out.

I am not pleased, now that I have seen that fragile dab of solder my electricity hinges on.

I did this whole thing to avoid the fragility and propensity to failure of tape-wire dollhouse lighting, which is what the old house has. When I built the old house I learned to solder and soldered all the tapewire connections, because tapewire is notorious for failure when you use the system of brads it comes with. Anyway, tapewire is being deprecated in the States, where it’s much more commonly used than the round wire you see in the UK and Europe. Because of the LED lights coming in.

Work in process X Men dollhouse interior by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019But nobody has designed a system for someone who wants to wire a whole house with battery LEDS and operate it from one switch.

YET. Never use a transitional technology for a permanent installation. Sigh. As you can see, the house is now mostly lit, but most of the light fixtures are cheap round placeholder lights. It seems I can only really get the compatible lights from Canada. And, the mail is so much worse than usual.

I normally order most of my dollhouse stuff from the UK, because we don’t have to pay duties (until March 29, and then who knows what the hell happens, Theresa May sure has no fucking idea). But ordering stuff from the UK four Sundays before Brexit, while DHL is even more fucked up than usual…well. It certainly does mean a lot of days stuck in mail jail, which is what we call it in Berlin when they say they’re bringing your package and you don’t dare leave the house cause if they leave it with a neighbor or a paketshop you’ll have no idea which one.

Lucky for me, folks visiting from the US are kind enough to bring me things 🙂 Among the things brought by friend & Patron Dan Shick after the holidays are the roof shingles, which I’ve been putting on. You can see them below, I love how they look!Work in process X Men dollhouse bay windows by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019

Hopefully the light sich will get sorted out and finished soon!

A “Reserved Parking for Eliza” OOAK spell doll!

Eliza Gauger doll by Suzanne Forbes Dec 30 2018 with Problem GLyphs bookI made this doll as a sort of summoning spell/eidolon/telepresence device for my friend Eliza Gauger.

Eliza lived in Berlin at one time, and may return someday. The idea is that the doll holds a space for her here, whenever she’s ready to return, and when she does arrive she can have it as a gift. Until then, it will sit on my shelf with my Alien figures from a beloved friend/muse/Patron and cards from friends.

Eliza is, of course, the artist/creator of the Problem Glyphs open source art project and book. Which is a healing spell of love and sacrifice, a work of sustaining power.

Eliza Gauger doll by Suzanne Forbes Dec 30 2018Eliza was also one of the people who sent us money when we were desperate, the first couple months in Berlin, cause Dan couldn’t work and we had to pay cash for my meds.

And Eliza had a hard year, this year. You can support her work on Patreon and download open source Problem Glyph art here, buy your own copy of the Problem Glyphs coffee table book here, buy Problem Glyph t-shirts here, request a sigil for your own problem here, buy original art and prints here, and follow her shitposts on twitter here.

I started the doll months ago, when I noticed one of the porcelain fairy heads I bought at a craft store in St. Paul, Minnesota in the early 90s reminded me of Eliza. At the same time, in the doll parts drawer, my gaze fell on a little leather jacket. It was from a Living Dead Doll I bought in the early Oughts, which I had cut up and redressed for some other project. The vision of the Eliza Reserved Parking doll came together in minutes, scrabbling through the drawer.

But – there were no arms in the doll drawer! Just a grubby baggy of taxidermy weasel feet.

Video of this disappointing moment on my IG video here. I found the fairy mint-colored ones, from a Monster High body sold withouten any head, online. The arms have ball joints and pegs, which I inserted into shoulder pieces of epoxy clay, thus meaning the doll has some posability.

Weasel feet in the doll parts drawerTheir body (the doll is definitely non-binary) is made with the traditional batting-stuffed cotton body, and their legs are porcelain ballerina legs that I made stockings for and gave boots from a totally different Monster High doll. I used grey nail flocking, just like the flock I used on the White Witch’s reindeer’s ears, to give the doll’s head some pale, glinting texture. Adhesive testing for micro rhinestuds Suzanne Forbes Dec 30 2018

During the time I was making the doll, Eliza got a dog.

A gallumphing nightmare beast of a lolloping moor-rambler, with glowing eyes and black fur. Luckily, while searching through a box of action figure bases for Sentinel parts for my upcoming Danger Room project (which will go under the School for Gifted Youngsters), I found a nice black wolf. Maybe he came with a Wolverine figure? Idk.

Terror Goggie for Eliza doll modified by Suzanne Forbes Dec 30 2018Anyway I had exactly enough left of the deep purple glove leather trim I got from an LA handbag manufacturer on etsy back in 2005 to make the terror goggie a harness. And while I used silver Sharpie and a bit of drybrushed gray acrylic to reduce the albedo of the micro-rhinestuds on the doll’s jacket, I left the ones I glued on the dog’s eyes alone. Hence, the glittering.

So here it is, “Parking Space Reserved for 3Liza”, a work which will hold a space of love and protection here until such time as Eliza collects it. 3Liza doll on shelf by Suzanne Forbes Dec 30 2018

School for Gifted Youngsters Update!

Action figure dollhouse WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2018The new house is coming along very well.

It is now fully wallpapered, permanently assembled and has a base, thanks to power assists from my husband and mom. The grooves in the floor are for the wiring for the lights.X Men dollhouse WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2018 interior

Action figure dollhouse WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2018 kittyGetting it put together wasn’t *hard*, per se, at least not in terms of structural complexity – but there were a lot of pieces that had to be glued in the right order, and the gluing had to happen all within a very short time.

The house itself is really superbly machined and designed, I can’t say enough good things about The Dolls House Workshop, where I bought it.

Any errors were mine, in terms of not quite lining up the wallpaper perfectly here and there, but luckily trim covers a multitude of sins.

If you’re willing to stain, sand and miter-cut it, that is!

Oh, how I hate staining, sanding and miter-cutting trim.
X Men dollhouse WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2018 staining components

I also hate putting on dollhouse wallpaper, but it had to be done.

X Men dollhouse WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2018 wallpapered wall panels before assemblyI used Streets Ahead dollhouse wallpaper paste for this house, instead of Yes! paste, and it did not have the greatest adhesion.

It was repositionable and didn’t warp the papers, though.

I skipped the step of spraying all the papers with matt fixative to strengthen and waterproof them this time, and I shouldn’t have, as they tore a little here and there when wet with paste. X Men dollhouse WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2018 Logan and wallIt was fixable or not noticeable, but that step is worth doing. I did the wallpapering before the final assembly of the house, on the panels, rather than once the house was assembled, like my first house.

I kind of think there are pros and cons to each way.

There was a huge amount of measuring and cutting, which I do not like.

I guess actually I like having a finished dollhouse to create a work of art in, and planning and choosing the components to build and decorate the dollhouse, but I don’t actually like the building the dollhouse at all. Ah well! It must be done!!

At least there’s no soldering now I’m using LED lights with battery converters. More about that next time.

Action figure dollhouse WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2018 kit detailMeanwhile, my beloved mama came to Berlin and brought the perfect 80s kitchen I found in Canada and had shipped to her (it would have cost about a million dollars to ship it here!) It arrived missing a piece but luckily I found that piece from a UK seller and it should get here this week.

I need to put a final coat on the front panels, install them, install the windows and front door, install the wiring for the lights, and then miter cut ten million pieces of ceiling trim and floor trim.

Oh and put the stairs together and install the floors and carpets and the ceiling paper and…

I still think it can be done by Christmas. I’d hate for the X-Men to spend another holiday in storage 🙂

 

Finished for Folsom Europe: Bi Pride Corset!

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018 front viewThis project took an entire year! About 200 hours of work! Dang!

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018I started this beaded corset project last fall when I got a great price on a used lilac 426 Standard mesh corset by Orchard Corset. It was always my intention to have it finished for the Motzstr. Festival, a special Pride event in Berlin in July.

But I wound up taking an entire year to finish it, and I think that’s good. Because I made it to affirm my fundamental identity as a queer woman, and I stitched that identity and pride and love into it thousands and thousands of times.

Last summer, while writing this post, I realized I’d developed a lot of internal biphobia over the last thirty years.

As a person who has been married to three men and who has almost only dated men in sobriety, I felt like a “retired” queer person. I stopped thinking of myself as bisexual.

And as a “retired” queer person, I felt so much safer.

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018It’s terrible to know that, to realize I took some comfort in the reduction of my vulnerability that living a straight life meant. Because I never for a minute stopped being aware of the consequences and dangers of living an out gay life.

I knew I couldn’t blame my cowardice on my upbringing. When I was fifteen and my mom opened the door to my bedroom to see me and my friend Jenny in bed naked, she asked if we wanted to go out for brunch. She accepted my girlfriend Pam into our home for years without question.

And I am no fan of my father, but he took me to Stonewall and told me what happened there before I was ten.

So my change in identity wasn’t about shame, it was about fear.

I felt guilty about living in the Bay Area as what appeared to be a straight person. I felt guilty about the privilege that accorded me. But it seemed like compared to the people around me, I was functionally straight. When you regularly attend sex parties where you draw a trans man fucking a trans woman while she gives oral sex to a nonbinary person, being a married cis-femme seems really conventional.

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018Plus, as a portrait painter who often asks women I’ve just met to come to my home and pose for me, I felt less creepy identifying as cis-straight-married!

Then I moved to Berlin.

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018 right panelLiving in Berlin has connected me to my youth and my New York identity in so many profound ways.

There was a jump-cut that happened when I left New York at 22, in 1989, to go to treatment.

I moved to St. Paul, where the halfway house was, for six years, and then to Hartford, then to DC, then to the Bay Area.

In all those places I drove a car everywhere, lived in wooden houses, people were polite in the stores… It was like a different world.

I had all these adventures in this different world, and then in 2015, I got on the subway and went home.

Or so it feels. To live in a big apartment building, take the subway everywhere, walk the city streets at 3 am, eat a slice of pizza in a doorway just out of the rain, be yelled at by a shopkeeper – this reconnects me to my fundamental self.

And of course, even though married and cis, my fundamental self is queer as fuck.

So over this year, over 200 hours, I made this corset, beading and sewing and hotfixing crystals. I will wear it with Pride at Folsom Europe next month, and I’ll get some pictures of me in it!

 

Mauve Moth embroidery art shadowbox.

Barbie Dream House Moth by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2018AKA the Barbie Dream House Gum Emperor Moth.

I looove pink. I decided to try something new, framing the piece under glass in a shadowbox. I got the shadowbox a while back and silver-leafed it at the same time as I was leafing the hoop for the last insect embroidery piece. Efficiency!

This God-Empress of West Berlin is sewn on a crushed panné velvet sock cut open. I get them on eBay for a euro, it’s so much cheaper than buying velvet yardage.

I used some vintage metallic pink trim for her layers of torso fur, and fine ombre silk embroidery thread and regular sewing thread for her ruff. I wanted to suggest its fluff without actually using a fluffy substance.Barbie Dream House Moth by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2018 detail

I did as much beading as the hoop allowed, then glazed the back with my favorite glue for fabrics so it wouldn’t buckle when I took it out of the hoop.

I glued the whole piece down onto the shadowbox backing. The velvet sock didn’t quite cover the backing – it had contracted from the heavy stitching, or I was sloppy when I checked the fit.

So I added some machine-embroidered floral applique bits I had around, already partly cut up. I’m actually delighted with the way the piece looks in the frame and may start framing them on the regular. The only other bug embroidery under glass so far is this one.

Sometimes I just have to lean into my femme-ness and go full pink!Barbie Dream House Moth by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2018 detail

Summer Bug Bricolage Update.

Bug bricolage by Suzanne Forbes July 2018Some new decorative art projects for this month. I finally made a bug box with labels!

Insect shadowbox in situ by Suzanne Forbes July 2018Rather than look for a vintage typewriter font I dabbed the inkjet printed paper in patches with water to smear some letters and rubbed it with a bit of pastel for quick aging. For the curious, I use tinfoil molded into squarish shapes around the pinbacks of the jewelled bug brooches.

This allows me to glue them onto the backing securely and keep them straight. Then I just paint the glue and foil a matching color.

I buy the brooches on eBay with the simple rule: no more than 2 euros including shipping. It means I bid on a lot of auctions, but it’s not like there’s a rush!bug bricolage WIP Suzanne Forbes artist 2018

These machine-embroidered bugs are from EmbroideryMoks, a wonderful, ingenious etsy/eBay seller in Ukraine.

The artisan who runs it, Julia Yevzhenko, is brilliant. She has come up with some really clever ways to use her embroidery machine. I tacked these bugs down to the felt with flexible glue, then put the felt in an embroidery hoop and used black, gold and metallic threads to add details and make the edges crisp. Of course I also had to add some beading!

I’m kind of like a drag queen in that my first question is always, “How would this look with MORE?”

insect shoeclips by Suzanne Forbes July 2018I made these beaded insect shoe clips with two bug brooches wired to triangles of soft aluminium sculpture mesh lined with felt.

I probably over-engineered the fucking hell out of them, since it’s not like I’m a burlesque performer and I don’t plan to go jogging in these shoes. But entropy makes me furious and I like construction to be robust.

Once again I demonstrate my commitment to the creative protocol of buying cheap stuff and making it weird.

November 2017 Bricolage Roundup with EmbroideryMoks

June 2017 Bug Bricolage Roundup

More interior decorating and bricolage posts:

Our homeHalloween decordecoupage and bug shadow boxespassementerie and staining furniturelamps and frames, more framesNo-Kill Butterfly Gallery, bas-relief rococo insect mirror, and Fearless Pink Gay Santa.

 

A therapeutic Bug Embroidery.

Embroidered beetle by Suzanne Forbes July 2018I was pretty limited in what I could do creatively after my drawing hand was injured in a bus accident this June.

Because I grip the pencil tightly and draw very fast and with a lot of force, I have been cautious about beginning to use my hand again. One thing I could start to do after the first two weeks was embroidery.

Embroidered beetle by Suzanne Forbes July 2018Embroidery puts very little pressure on my injured hand.

Embroidered beetle by Suzanne Forbes July 2018 detailI had some new thread I wanted to try, too. I got this set of multiple metallic threads at Tiger for like two euros!

I love cheap art supplies.These are not precisely metallic embroidery thread (which is a known shitshow) but more like a superthin metallic polymer strand lined with a nylon thread.

It is very fine and fairly subtle in effect, but it doesn’t snag on every draw-through like traditional metallic threads.

I ran it over the finished satin stitch to add iridescence. I always think of the new Bay Bridge when I do that!

© Frank Schulenburg / CC BY-SA 3.0

CC-licensed photo © Frank Schulenburg / CC BY-SA 3.0

As I often do on textured fabric like velvet, I ran a single embroidery stitch in doubled plain black sewing thread around it to help it look cleaner.

And of course I added some beading! My hand control was somewhat impaired for most of this piece, and I wasn’t able to stitch with normal precision. It was humbling, and yet satisfying to be able to do something, make something. I am happy with the result, and so grateful my hand wasn’t more seriously injured.

 

Some new embroidery works, in shades of moonlit blue.

Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes May 2018Embroidery takes an incredibly long time.

Textile art is SLOW ART. I love that about it, because I draw and paint so fast. However, I have been so busy the last few months I haven’t had the deep time it takes to finish new embroidered pieces.

So I did the mystic eye piece you see above just to keep my hand in, using a rhinestone applique and surrounding it with a variegated fine rayon thread aura and some swarovski crystal beading.

Lunar Moth Embroidery Art by Suzanne Forbes May 2018Then at the beginning of this month I dug in and made sixteen hours’ time for this Lunar Moth in sparkly blues.

Lunar Moth Embroidery Art by Suzanne Forbes May 2018 eye detailI cut up a digital galaxy print shirt for the backing and added a layer of my favorite galaxy print sparkle tulle. Tulle over stretch fabrics is such a great way to create a stable,precise surface.

I often, as I did here, embroider the outline of the design on the bottom fabric first. This creates a little extra depth between the base and the tulle.

I added crystal and pearl beading at the end, and some swarovski crystals and dark blue sequins.

Grey mohair for the fur was very last thing, as I am allergic to it and it makes me sneeze like crazy!

The eyes of this moth are antique mother-of-pearl buttons from the incredible vintage button lady’s booth at the Markt am Winterfeldplatz. I love embroidery so much, and hope to make some more time for it this summer.

Textile art, and embroidery in particular, is the most soothing kind of creative work for me.Embroidery works by Suzanne Forbes 2013 thru 2018

The Lunar Moth was the largest piece I’ve done in ages, I’ve only used a hoop this big once or twice before. Here you can see it hanging with some similarly colored pieces from before we left the States, made in 2014.

til next time, my dears!