Tag Archives: contemporary crafts

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 ūüôā

 

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 pann√© 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 home, Halloween decor, decoupage and bug shadow boxes, passementerie and staining furniture, lamps and frames, more frames, No-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!

Dollhouse Underground Laboratory: Work in Progress Part 2

Action figure dollhouse laboratory surgery WIP by Suzanne Forbes April 2018Dang, I have been consumed with this long-delayed project!

SOOO much to do. So many things to figure out. So much foamcore to cut and glue. So many pipes to make out of styrene and straws!

Action figure dollhouse laboratory tube room WIP by Suzanne Forbes April 2018But I am really making serious progress.

Three of the rooms are almost complete, the operating theater (above), the Tube Room, and the Machine Shop.Action figure dollhouse laboratory tube room full view WIP by Suzanne Forbes April 2018

Action figure dollhouse laboratory cryo tube WIP by Suzanne Forbes April 2018What on earth is a Tube Room, you might ask.

Well, in the 90s I had a dear friend named Rob Simpson, who was an editor at DC. We were talking about superhero powers, as we did so often, and he said there was a simple solution to most things in comics.

Somebody loses their powers/needs superpowers? “Put ’em in a tube!” Somebody is dead and needs to be restored to life? “Put ’em in a tube!” Somebody has an evil entity possessing their psyche and needs to be held in stasis so they don’t destroy the world?¬†“Put ’em in a tube!”

Tubes are also known as pods or stasis chambers. Basically they are a MacGuffin where anything can happen. The McFarlane Toys X-Files line from the Oughts provided most of these tubes.

They were intended for alien containment of some kind. I built out the structure around the one above using illustration board covered with chrome selbstklebefolie, which is like contact paper you can’t remove, styrene tubes and the various lids of things painted chrome.¬†Action figure dollhouse laboratory machine shop WIP by Suzanne Forbes April 2018

The Machine Shop also contains the break room/coffee bar.

Action figure dollhouse laboratory making stanchions WIP by Suzanne Forbes April 2018I figured people would be constantly bothering the engineers in the shop for things they want fixed anyway, so they might as well get their coffee while they’re there. The two women robots are “Platinum” from the Metal Men and Angie Spica, “Engineer” from The Authority.

All the rooms are missing a lot of signage and posters (I’m working on figuring out how to get the best results from the self-adhesive inkjet-printable paper I’m using) plus safety tape.

On¬†the right you can see I’m making stanchions for a safety rail using dowels, epoxy clay and blue pearl half-rounds I kept for eight years because I had a feeling I might need them for something.

Most importantly, all the labs need their ceiling panels and lights.

My beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Monique Motil, a fellow creator of Small Art, will bring the lights in May, and then I’ll figure out how to install them, woohoo!

Yes, there will be a “Safety Third” sign!

First Laboratory post is here. Main dollhouse post here.

Work in Progress: the underground superpowers laboratories beneath my dollhouse.

WIP action figure dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes March 2018 Wow, this project has been a long time coming!

I’ve had the plan for it for at least a decade, and the specific structure set up for a good six years. And I’ve had some of the props for it for TWENTY FREAKING YEARS.

Original floorplan underground laboratories Suzanne Forbes 2014Well, I like to say that the older I get, the longer my game gets.

Sometimes in art it takes as long as it takes, and that’s fine.

WIP action figure dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes March 2018 I figured out how to build the wheeled base for my action figure dollhouse back in Oakland, using IKEA Kallax bookshelves.

I assembled them, and hired a taskrabbit to help me with the construction of a platform to attached them to so they could support the dollhouse.

But it seemed crazy to ship IKEA furniture to Berlin, so I took the base apart when the dollhouse was professionally crated, and we sold the Kallax shelves on Craigslist.

“Doc, it hurts when I go like this!” “So don’t go like that.”

That meant I had to get new ones here, assemble them, and then build a new base. (I did keep the high quality wheels with brakes I bought!)

For a person who is as deeply lazy as me, I have created a life that often involves a fucking lot of work.

For the past two years I’ve been working on getting all the other projects I brought with us done, and finishing the full-size house (still at 95%). Most importantly, I’m making new art, working on building our community and growing my Patreon.

Finally, the dust is clearing enough to tackle the laboratories.

WIP action figure dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes March 2018 I have so much cool stuff to put in them! There’s just a bunch of diorama-building, model-building, scratch-building and electrifying work to get them ready to hold my two decades of collected weird body-horror, super-power, Island of Dr. Moreau mad scientist STUFF.

floorplan action figure dollhouse laboratories by Suzanne Forbes 2016I’m not really crazy about the actual construction part of model and dollhouse-building, but I value the workout it gives my brain. Since everything is scratch-built or Frankensteined from components of other things, each part requires a new solution. I have to learn about new materials, source them as cheaply as possible, figure out what I have that can be salvaged, scrapped or rebuilt. And everything has to be customized to work together.

This is an example of how existing stuff can be enhanced: these amazing display screens are accessories for figures from a Dr. Who spin-off show.

However, all Dr. Who toys are 5″ tall or approximately 1/18 scale, rather than the normal dollhouse scale of 1/12 (one inch to one foot).

So I built up the bases to make them the right height for 6″ action figures. I just need to paint them to match.

Same with the little water cooler; I built it a styrene platform. I hadn’t used styrene in a long time, and I’d forgotten how amazing it is.

You score it and it breaks perfectly cleanly; you can glue it or paint it so easily. I used balsa wood for the kitbash of the dollhouse itself, and only got into styrene during the sleigh build. Going forward I plan to use styrene a lot more.

I built the bases and the upper platforms, which make it easier to see the things at the back of the deep cubbies, out of foamcore.

surgery buildout WIP action figure dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes March 2018Foamcore is a material I’m not experienced with, but in this case it’s a good solution. The dollhouse-scale molded tile floors (I got the beige and black one for the Tube Room at least eighteen years ago, and have been saving it!) are attached with double-sided carpet tape. Almost any glue will heat up enough during curing to warp the thin, vacuum-formed plastic.

The side walls are illustration board covered with white vinyl contact paper, which gives a nice satin sheen. It’s cheaper and faster than dollhouse wallpaper, and perfect for this kind of industrial/medical look. The ceilings will be foamcore with leds embedded in them for lighting. When I built the dollhouse I learned to solder and used tapewire, but miniature lighting has improved tremendously in the last twenty years.

LEDS, which don’t heat up, last practically forever, come in the tiniest sizes and all kinds of colors,¬†can be embedded directly in surfaces.

My beloved friend-muse-Patron Monique Motil is coming to visit in May, and has graciously agreed to transport my lights from Model Train Software.

Just as beloved friend-muse-Patron Barbara brought my miniature subway, and my mama brought eight million figures and accessories last Fall!

Because anything you mail from the US takes forever and/or gets lost. Seriously, don’t ever mail us anything bigger than a postcard.

I’ve been waiting for some Tacky Wax¬†(museum wax) I ordered from Amazon, thinking it shipped from the EU, for three weeks.

sketch action figure dollhouse tube room laboratory Suzanne Forbes 2017I used aluminum tape to get some clean metal stripping here and there.

It’s tricky to use and tends to mark up and wrinkle over large areas, so I’m sparing with it. Same with the clear styrene panels that divide the upper and lower areas: it scratches easily so I use it mostly as an accent. I have rhinestuds that will become rivets, fine yellow wire for extension cords, and so much weird stuff to put in the cabinets, once I get my dang Tacky Wax.

More developments soon!

February 2018 Bricolage Roundup, with creepy dolls!

Dollhouse shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2018It wouldn’t be February without creepy dolls, right?

Creepy doll shadowbox Suzanne Forbes Feb 2018Here’s a little dollhouse shadowbox I made. I customized a vintage Living Dead doll by giving her antlers and the shiny chrome arm projecting from her chest I’ve always wanted myself.

Come on, haven’t you ever wanted a slightly smaller, heat resistant velociraptor arm that pops out of your chest to grab the spilling pot when both your hands are already full?

The antique dolls are wearing little dresses I made them.

 

Cicada shadowbox by Suzanne ForbesI also made a couple of bug shadowboxes, cause you can never have enough of those!

And more bug earrings, with tiny cast glass cicadas I found. You can see the Valentines Monster Doll Armada, which I was consumed with making for much of last February, here. Some of them are still available to purchase. The February 2016 Scary Mermaid doll post is here. And the previous batch of bug bricolage is here.Insect earrings and shadowboxes by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2018

November bricolage roundup- shadowboxes, passementerie and mantelpieces!

mantis bricolage shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017More bug stuff, because it’s not like our house can have too much creepy bug decor.

I made this mantis shadowbox using some 1970s upholstery fabric I got in Berkeley in the late 90s, some vintage velvet flowers and little bees saved from the same era, and a machine-embroidered mantis from this amazing artist in Kiev, who is doing totally innovative textile art with the digital embroidery tech now available.

Egg shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017I’d always wanted an egg glossary display box.

No natural history, curiosity cabinet-themed library is complete without one! I used the 70s fabric again; a glue gun is my method of choice for stretching even wrinkled fabric smoothly across the particleboard backing of a shadowbox. Some of the little speckled eggs and the grapevine nest came from topiary ball displays I made for my first wedding, in 1993 or 4.
Glue gun party by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2017

I have nights where I crash around the flat asking, “What would Tony Duquette Do?”

And the answer is always, “Glue gun, Passementarie, MORE.” I added a couple trims to this silk velvet patchwork upholstered bench. After the intensity of the first three quarters of this year, with teaching and drawing and painting and my hub becoming a cyborg and being sick quite a bit, I really need this November make-cation.

jewelry holder by Suzanne ForbesI made a display holder for some of the earrings I’ve sculpted, made and modified.

I just took the glass out of a deep frame and gluegunned fabric to the backing. I used a beautiful textured knitting yarn left over from some lovely crochet blossoms my mom made me; the texture keeps the earrings from sliding around.

And most significantly of all, I got one of my first adult textile art pieces back up on display.

mantel scarf by suzanne forbes 2000I made this mantel scarf of crushed changeant velvet and celestial Czech glass buttons and bead embroidered wire and pleated ombre ribbon cockades in 1999.

I was living with my second husband in a gorgeous Craftsman fourplex in North Berkeley. It was the first place I ever painted like I truly wanted my home to be, in insane shades of aniline violet, quinacridone red, and chartreuse. It was full of built-ins I decoupaged with gilt paper Dresden trim, Victorian frogs and lizards, and accented in burnt orange.

We gave such parties there. It was such a beautiful home. I loved my second husband, or who I thought he was, so much. 

This piece was in storage for a long time, and it hurt me every time I came across it in my increasingly desperate and disenfranchised moves.

When the Great Recession finally ebbed a bit and I moved in with the man who became my third husband, I thought about getting an electric fireplace, where it could be displayed. There just wasn’t enough room in the exquisite jewelbox Craftsman apartment in Oakland that I designed to showcase his Black Irish beauty.

Here in our home in Berlin, we have plenty of room.
mantel scarf and fearless pink Gay Santa by Suzanne Forbes 2000 2016I used my glue gun to apply an emerald botanical brocade to the top of the particleboard shelf I had attached to the top of the electric fireplace I got on eBay.

Again, using a gluegun and moving fast, smoothing the glue flat with my fingers as I go, allowed me to get a nice flat surface bonded to the mantel. Then I just gluegunned the mantel scarf onto the brocade and added a few tacks to stabilize. I’ll add some finishing gimp braid and brass upholstery tacks soon as I get around to making it to Bauhaus.

Sorry I couldn’t get a better picture in our dark haus but we like it this way :))

mantel scarf and Fearless Pink Gay Santa in salon by Suzanne Forbes 2000 2016

More interior decorating and bricolage posts:

Our home, Halloween decor, decoupage and bug shadow boxes, passementerie and staining furniture, lamps and frames, more frames, No-Kill Butterfly Gallery, bas-relief rococo insect mirror, and Fearless Pink Gay Santa, as seen on the mantelpiece.