Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Entering the World of Romance

Now that my Bridgette online class is over I have immersed myself completely into my next project, Claudette.  Claudette will be a very romantic version of the cage doll.  And since Claudette lives in the world of romance guess what fantasy world I have been living in lately? I should be decorating my home and getting ready for the holidays but instead I just can’t seem to leave Claudette’s world of romance.  I spent the past few days playing with paper, paint, and cardboard to create the romantic and vintage style frame and flowers that will be used in her embellishment.  I woke up ridiculously early this morning and had to “gild” the frames by using an idea that just popped into my head. 

Of course this fantasy world has also influenced my search for the end of the internet.  I thought I would share a few romantic tidbits I found this week.
Did you know that December is one of the biggest times of year for getting engaged?  According to an article in USA Today (that of course I found online) the four big proposal days of the year are Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s. 

The Romantics, an American power pop and new wave band from Detroit, Michigan formed in 1977 on Valentine’s Day according to Wikipedia.  You can hear them perform one of their hits “What I like About You” on youtube by clicking on this link

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Beginnings of Claudette

As my online class Bridgette is winding down on A for Artistic I have been working on my next project, Claudette.  She was inspired by words I remembered from one of my dreams, by cage dolls, half dolls, a good sale on pretty bird cages that I found at Michael’s, Marie Antoinette fashions, and Romance.  She is far from complete, just in her beginning stages, but I thought you might want to see how she is turning out so far.  

Friday, November 21, 2014


I’ve always loved antique dolls and always have found inspiration in them.  Over the years I have gathered a small collection of vintage dolls.  I usually find them in an antique shop on my travels.  As I was traveling to Vermont this week I stopped at an antique shop and found this beauty.  She is a German made papier-mâché half doll.  I believe she is from the 1920’s era.  These dolls were often used as a topping for a pin cushion, candy box topper, powder box topper, table brush, etc.  Although I have a few china half dolls she is my first papier-mâché one.  I wonder what new creation I will be inspired to create now!
P.S. P.S.  Although my Bridgette online class is coming close to its ending it’s still not too late to join in on the fun.  For more information about the class click on the following link


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nature’s Gifts

I wake up early in the morning on most days excited to get to work in my studio and one morning I had the good fortune to witness the most glorious sunrise right outside my living room window.  I took a few photos and thought you might enjoy seeing this one. 

As far as doll making, I have been working away this week on a cage doll and a second Bridgette.  I will share some pictures soon.
P.S. P.S. It’s not too late to still sign up for the Bridgette online class on A for Artistic.  You can find out more information by clicking here

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fourth Month as a Full time Artist and Happy Halloween!

Okay, so today I wake up in the wee hours of the morning and head downstairs so I don't wake up my sleeping husband who still needs to leave the home to make a living (correction, still feels like he needs to).  I fix a small pot of tea and read over the daily news until my husband trundles down the stairs and starts heading off to work.  I send him off with a kiss and a hug and the biggest Cheshire cat grin.  I then get out my needle and thread and the needle sculpted head I am working on.  I feel like a kid in a candy store.  I can't get over the sheer pleasure of feeling like I am playing hooky from WORK every day.  I get up and get to play all day long creating whatever I wish.  I get to teach my art online while getting to chat with and make friends with doll makers from all over the world.  Granted, I am living on much less income than when I wasn't playing hooky from work but life is soo much better.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the fall and all of its spectacular colors more this year than many, many before.  Life is slower and simpler.  Life is calm and relaxed.  Life is so less stress.  Life is, well just wonderful!
While I have been enjoying this new lifestyle I have had more time to connect with others that share this lifestyle from time to time.  One doll artist that I am friends with on facebook, Rhissanna (her blog is here http://rhissanna.blogspot.com/ ), also creates these amazing little tea sets that can be used as doll props.  She posted one that she just finished a while ago and after looking at it I knew I had to have it.  Well I really didn't Have to have it but I wanted it pretty bad.  So, I messaged her and wound up purchasing the set.  She lovingly packed it up and sent it off in a hurry.  It's called an Absinthe tea set.  I've had it in my china cabinet since.  But today is Halloween so my lavender ladies, Bridgette and Mistique, decided to have an Absinthe tea party, silly girls.  Don't they look like they are having fun?

Wishing you a Happy Halloween!

P.S.P.S. I am still teaching how to create your own Bridgette online at A for Artistic.  It's not too late to sign up!  You can find out more about the class here   http://www.aforartistic.com/bridgette-with-marla-l-niederer-cloth-doll-artist.html

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why I teach the art of doll making

In light of the unsettling news this past week of the Ottawa shooting on Parliament hill and the world affairs that are disturbing to us all, I have to ask myself what is the relevance of teaching doll making?  What is the relevance of what I do on a day to day basis? 
Ottawa is a city that I frequent and love.  Part of the reason why I love where I live is its proximity to Ottawa.  When I think of Ottawa I think of the diversity of culture that is celebrated.  I think of the art, music, and song that flourishes there.  I think of the museums, the events, the markets, the food, and last but not least the people.  I belong to a doll making group in Ottawa where I have had the honor of becoming friends with some of the kindest warm hearted and talented ladies I know.  My daughter in law and stepson live near Ottawa and work in Ottawa. 
So what is the relevance of teaching the art of doll making?  Most of my life I have worked in the helping professions. Early in my adult life I worked in the health care field where I tried to bring comfort to the elderly and infirm.  I then entered the field of education where I taught my students to utilize their strengths to overcome their needs and use all kinds of tricks to get around the things that stood in their path so they could gain and maintain meaningful employment.  These are not things that solve the problems of the world or decrease violence but these were purposeful activities that I liked to think had some sort of positive impact on the little part of the world I lived in.
I have recently become a full time doll artist and teach the art of doll making.  I am currently teaching an online class on A for Artistic and have just recently had a proposal to teach at the 2015 spring Philadelphia Art Doll and Teddy Bear show accepted (which by the way I find so way cool). So again, I ask what is the relevance of teaching the art of doll making?  How meaningful and purposeful is this?
Quite a few years ago I met a woman that made very time intensive and very beautiful dolls and horses out of cloth at a conference.  While we were chatting away she shared with me the reason why she created her dolls and horses.  She stated, “it gives me something beautiful to think about every day.”  Her quote remained with me and comes to my mind often when I think about why I create.  It truly does give me something beautiful to think about every day.  During high stress periods of my life I would often stop and think about my doll making project.  My project gave me something beautiful to think about, something calm and peaceful to focus on.  I have always found my doll making and my art very calming and stress reducing.
When I create I enter in a peaceful state of bliss.  Some call it the “zone.”  It is a state of mind that artists, athletes, martial artists, dancers, musicians share when their entire focus is placed on performing a single activity during one moment in time.  During this state one becomes completely immersed in the activity to the point where one becomes completely lost in the act.  One becomes at one with the act.  The act becomes a form of meditation, much like walking meditation.
About four months ago I left the field of public education and became a full time artist.  I create and engage in art every day.  I am immersed in my art.  I lose track of time.  Sometimes I forget to eat.  I work during the early hours of the day into the late hours of the night.  I laugh more often, smile almost always, and find myself calm and at peace almost all of the time.  My heart sings.
Throughout life and as an educator I have learned that one cannot change how others act or behave.  To enact change, one can only change oneself.  I have no control over world events, over violence, over the behavior of others.  All I have control over are my own acts, my own behaviors, my own response to the actions of others.  Thich Nhat Hanh, a great spiritual leader and peace activist, teaches that in order to create peace you must create peace within oneself first.

Why do I teach the art of doll making?  Is there a purpose?  After truly contemplating this question the answer I have is this:  I teach others how to engage in an activity that brings me great peace and joy.  It brings my mind to a state of calm.  It makes my heart sing.  If I can share that ability with others so they too can enter a state of bliss and have their heart sing maybe it doesn’t change world events, maybe it doesn’t create world peace.  But maybe, just maybe, it brings something positive to the little part of the world I live in.  
P.S. P. S., It's not too late to sign up for my online class Bridgette on A for Artistic.  You can find out more about it here http://www.aforartistic.com/bridgette-with-marla-l-niederer-cloth-doll-artist.html

Monday, October 13, 2014

Taking a short Jewelry Break with a Brick Stitch Fringe Earring Tutorial

While getting ready to start teaching my next online class Bridgette on A for Artistic  I decided to take a quick jewelry break.  I have wanted to learn how to create brick stitch fringe earrings for a long time and noticed that the Beadaholique website had several really good free tutorials.  I learned how to make these earrings while watching a tutorial on their website.  You can see it here http://www.beadaholique.com/t-video-How-To-Make-Brick-Stitch-And-Fringe-Beaded-Earrings.aspx     It was fun and calming to make them.  I'll have to make some more soon!

Its still not too late to sign up and join me in my online class Bridgette on A for Artistic.   I can't wait for it to begin :)   http://www.aforartistic.com/bridgette-with-marla-l-niederer-cloth-doll-artist.html

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bridgette a Tuck Comb inspired Fiber Art Doll: Or settling into the Life of a Full time Artist

There have been very few days that I have not engaged in the creation of Bridgette over the past two months.  This project drew me into the world of Jane Austin as I researched her clothing and her time period.  There were many days that I gathered lemon balm, rose petals, and lavender buds from my gardens to brew a relaxing tea sweetened with honey to drink as I settled into my needlework.  Now that Bridgette is complete it almost feels like when you finish reading the most delicious book that completely draws you into its carefully crafted world.  Now that the story has ended it is time to leave the world the author created behind.  Only this time I am the one who created the world that drew me in!  It reminds me of a humorous quote I saw on Facebook not that long ago.  It stated, “I am an Artist.  This means I live in a perverse fantasy world with unrealistic expectations.  Thank you for understanding.”  When I showed the Facebook post to my husband Bob he just laughed and laughed.  Funny because it’s true.
Bridgette is a cloth needle sculpted ball jointed doll with a face overlay inspired by the Tuck Comb wooden dolls of the past. Watercolors were used for her skin tone and facial coloring.  English Mohair was used to create her stylish hairdo. She is dressed in clothing inspired by Jane Austin’s time. She dons a soft lavender colored cotton batiste empire waist gown with hand embroidered satin floss and glass bead flowers.  Bridgette wears hand crafted high heeled mules, a feather headdress, a pearl choker, and earrings.  I hope you like her.!
 Bridgette will be taught as an online class on A for Artistic.  I will keep you posted on details soon.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Another Week in the life of an Artist

Another week has passed living the life of a full time artist.  I am still trying to find my balance and establish a routine.  A friend of mine mentioned that it may take six months.  I love waking up every day to the knowledge that my day will be spent engaged in my art but it takes enormous self-control not to chase every fleeting artistic fancy that floats across my mind down the rabbit hole while focusing on completing my current project.  I remember reading a post on Facebook not that long ago that compared the artistic mind to having all your browser pages open on your computer at all times. Whoever wrote that comparison hit the nail on the head.

My current project, a tuck comb inspired doll named Bridgette, has kept me immersed within Jane Austin’s time. While watching a show on Netfilx about the  Highclere Castle with my husband Bob, I noticed a beaded face screen by the fireplace on the show.  I had to share with him what it was and why it was used.  Why would I know what a face screen is you may ask?  Well, Mary Ann Tate so kindly shared another Jane Austin website https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2009/02/ on which I found information about face screens (just part of my never ending search for the end of the internet).  They were beautiful beaded screens placed between one’s face and the fireplace to protect one’s face from the heat of the fire.  Some say it was to keep the wax make-up from melting off.  During Jane Austin’s time women often huddled up close to the warmth of the fire while engaged in the fine art of needlework.  The thoughts of these women sitting by the fire with needle in hand filter into my mind as I sit in my home engaged in the many hours of intricate needlework I am completing while working on Bridgette’s costume.  I have been using timeless embroidery stitches to create bullion roses, lazy daisies, and fly stitch borders on her dress.  
The life of an artist truly can be bliss!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Start Living the Life of a Full Time Artist

I have almost completed my first two weeks living as a full time artist.  I am finding that the first key to success as an artist is establishing a good working routine.  There are pitfalls to working at home without an established studio and I am trying not to get pulled into them.  I try to start each morning with an early morning walk, a green smoothie, and pot of tea.  I check my email, check Facebook, look at pictures of vintage dolls on the net, and then settle in to work on my current doll project.   I am learning that I need to limit my ipad time and not fall into the trap of searching for the end of the internet because I don’t believe the end really exists.   
The current project I am working on is a tuck comb inspired, ball jointed, needle sculpted, cloth doll with a face overlay.  When I am not working on the doll I am immersing myself into her time period.  I watched a movie on Netflix called Mansfield Park put on by PBS based on the book written by Jane Austin.  I assure you it was just for the sole purpose of costume research and the time was well spent because I had cloth and needle in hand during the entire movie.  In my spare time between doll making and sleep I have been reading Mansfield Park and Mummies by Vera Nazarian. As you may have guessed it is a parody on Jane Austin's Mansfield Park.  And during my endless search for the end of the internet I have found this website http://www.janeausten.org   that has everything you might want to know about Jane Austin.

I started working on this doll about 10 months ago while working full time in a demanding job outside of the art field, driving a ridiculous amount between work and home, and trying to keep up with the daily ebbs and flow of life.  I was able to experiment with and create some beautiful ball jointing techniques for this doll during this time period.  Typically I start with the head first but I was so excited about trying to develop different ball jointing techniques that I started with the body.  Unfortunately by the time I got to the head and costume during this time period I was exhausted and out of steam. The first head and beginnings of her costume reflected this and I tossed them into the dead head and dead costume pile.  I redesigned the head to have a more realistic shape and used a cloth overlay to cover that unsightly middle of the face seam often found on needle sculpted cloth doll heads.  I believe she reflects the contentment and balance that I am starting to feel as a result of entering this new phase of life.  Don't you agree?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Transitioning to the Life of a Full Time Artist

I have six weeks of working full time at my day job left before becoming a full time artist. I would like to share with you how things are going through this transition, some of the practical aspects of preparing for this transition, and what I learn through the process.  I truly believe that there is always more than one path to each destination.  I am only sharing the one path I am taking in these articles but keep in mind that there are always different possible paths to take.
First, I’ll share how it’s going as I face the prospect of abject poverty (no full time job, no full time paycheck).   All of a sudden I am starting to smile more often.  My heart is beginning to hear the music again.  I am starting to lose some of that unwanted weight.  An inner calm is beginning to pervade my inner being.  The list of future artistic projects is growing and filling my dreams.  So in a nutshell the transition so far is going well. Keep in mind that I haven't faced the abject poverty yet.
Second, I’ll share some of the practical aspects of how I have been preparing for the transition. The first thing that you need to do to prepare for the transition to full time artist is to never allow your fears to get in the way of facing the challenges you find along your path (you can read more about the 10 lessons learned from a well lived life here http://orsinisangels.blogspot.com/2013/02/in-memory-of-princess-ten-lessons-from.html ).  In preparation for this path I have started teaching online doll making classes a few years ago. I have something that I know I will be working on as I transition and this helps me handle the abject poverty fear.  It’s not that I expect to make a fortune teaching online doll making classes, but I enjoy teaching them a great deal, I believe in sharing techniques and assisting other artists along their way as others have helped me, and I hope that teaching will help pay for some of the art supplies I need to continue to create.   I have been working for the past year on a tuck comb inspired doll that I will teach a new class on called Brigette.  As I mentioned in my last post it is difficult to find the time to create when you exhaust all of your energies in your full time non art field job on top of your other everyday responsibilities.  So the project has moved slower than I would have liked but I have so enjoyed working on her.  One of the challenges of the project was to create cloth doll jointing techniques to imitate the mortise and tenon joints of the antique wooden dolls I fell in love with.  That took more than one try.  I also have a little OCD tendencies when it comes to my art and online classes.  So I created more than one pattern for the doll, more than one undergarment, etc before I was pleased with the outcome. I didn’t like how some of the pictures came out so I also created an additional doll to retake some of the pictures for the class.   I am currently working on her costume and hope to get quite a bit done on her overdress this weekend.  Here are some pictures of her in progress.

Other things that I have been doing to prepare for the transition to full time artist is setting very clear goals and expectations.  My goal is not to make a lot of money as a full time artist.  My goal is to set aside the time to fully immerse myself in my art and develop my art as far as it can go.  I don’t expect to bring in much of an income from my art for several years.  That being said, one needs to eat, one needs to sleep.  My husband and I have been preparing for this transition for quite some time. To prepare for this transition we have lived within our means for a long time and have added ways to keep our expenses down once I make this transition.  We will have our mortgage paid off shortly, our cars are paid for, and we have cut our utilities by adding geothermal and solar to our home. Our credit card balance is paid monthly.   We live in the country with plenty of space to garden.  I have grown many of our vegetables for several years and we are putting in more raised beds to grow more so I can freeze or can some of our food for the winter.  I love gardening and look forward to the time I will have to spend doing this.  I have dried the herbs from my garden for several years already and not only does this cut the cost of buying seasonings but they also taste so much better than the dried spices you buy in the grocery store.  If you don’t expect a lot of income coming in while pursuing your art it helps to minimize your expenses.  So a lot of the preparation has focused on minimizing our costs.

How all of my plans fall into place and what I learn from this I can’t share with you yet but will continue to post updates on this blog to let you know how it goes.  So follow, or check back in from time to time, pour yourself a nice cup of tea, and I will continue to share the story of living the full time artist dream.

P.S., P.S.
I am teaching a class on A for Artistic beginning next week on how to create a Boudoir inspired ball jointed cloth doll called Mistique.  You can learn more about the class and sign up for it if you wish by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to transition from a full time job to becoming a full time artist

I am in the process of transitioning from working full time with a full time pay check to becoming a full time artist without the full time paycheck.  Jumping into the starving artist realm has always been financially scary for me so I have pretty much always worked full time with my art placed on the back burner.  But as any of you artists out there that have made the same choices by now know, it is really difficult to find the time to create when you have exhausted most of your energy into making a living outside of the art field and keeping up with your other responsibilities in life.   So I finally set aside 51 days last summer to create art every day.  It was wonderful!  I couldn't wait to get up each morning and start my art projects for the day.  Thoughts of my artwork filled every waking moment and filled my dreams as I slept.    I smiled so often my smile grew wider than the Cheshire Cat grin.  My heart sang.  I glowed with inner calm and contentment.  I even lost some unwanted weight.  One of my dolls won the people’s choice award at the Figurative Artist Consortium in Ottawa.  Another one of my dolls won second place in a Doll Street Dreamer’s contest.  I taught an online doll making class on A for Artistic.  Then I went back to work.  I gained back the weight.  My heart doesn’t sing like it did last summer.  My smile isn't as wide as the Cheshire Cat’s grin.  I stopped glowing.   Life is short.  I am fortunate that my husband has always been my number one fan and has always encouraged my growth as an artist.  My husband and I had several conversations and both agreed that it was time to take my art off the back burner and leave the education field earlier than we had originally planned for me to do.   So as of July 1st this summer I will be a full time artist.  I plan to share with you what works and doesn't work during this transition and first year of living the full time artist dream.    I will share some of the things we have been doing to prepare for this change in a later post.  Until then I am wishing all of you well and hope you are able to find some time to be creative.
P.S.  If you are interested in taking my online class Mistique it is starting on May 22nd and you can sign up for it by clicking on the link below.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Boudoir Dolls

When I visited my grandmother as a small child I remember that she always had a doll seated on top of the console TV and one on her bed.  The dolls were dressed in beautiful costumes with full ruffled skirts.  I was always fascinated with these dolls, and if I recall correctly, they were boudoir dolls.

Boudoir dolls were popular during the 1920’s.   When I started creating dolls I became intrigued with Lenci dolls and fell in love with the Lenci boudoir dolls. There were several different types made but the ones that fascinated me the most were the ones elaborately dressed in romantic court dresses such as those worn by Marie Antoinette.   Out of my love for these dolls I created Mistique and costumed her with all of the ruffles and frills I could imagine worn by a beautiful boudoir doll.
Mistique is a 17” needle-sculpted ball jointed cloth doll inspired by the romantically styled boudoir dolls of the 1920’s that I have always loved.  I will be teaching a workshop on how to create your own Mistique on May 22nd online for A for Artistic.  This work-shop will present a multitude of cloth doll making techniques. You will receive instruction on needle-sculpting a cloth doll head, hands, and feet. The workshop will present techniques on creating hidden ball joints, using watercolors for cloth doll facial coloring, needle-felting an elaborate hairstyle, how to create an elaborate costume, and how to create beautiful doll shoes. All of these techniques will be presented while you are in the process of creating a beautiful heirloom doll!
Hope to see you in class!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It Was Another Spring Snow Storm or the Birth of Two Very Silly Bunnies

Last Saturday morning I woke up and took a peek outside my window and was disheartened by witnessing yet another blustery snow storm.  It was the 22nd of March.  Enough with the snow!   It was time for the snow to have long been melted and time for the daffodils to bloom.  I couldn’t quite do anything about the weather outside but I was determined to start making it look a little more like spring inside!  At that thought I felt impelled to pull two bunnies out of my very full bag of unfinished projects to complete on that blustery spring day.  The bunnies were two that I had started two years ago when I had designed and shared the pattern for them with my doll club in Ottawa.  The first bunny was made to show an example to the doll club during the presentation and the second bunny was used for the demonstration of techniques used in the creation of the bunnies.  Somehow life moved on and the bunnies were forgotten and left unfinished until last Saturday.  I had quite a bit of fun completing and dressing the bunnies.  Just looking at them helps it feel more like its spring don’t you think

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tuck Comb Dolls

It was a blustery winter day, and I had the day off from my day job, so I pulled out some needle sculpted ornaments  that I made and a package of paper clay and decided to try out some ideas I've had to create tuck comb inspired dolls.  The ornaments were going to be practice heads but I really like how they are turning out so I may make them into complete dolls.  I will keep you posted on my progress!

Monday, January 6, 2014

View from my window

This was a view from my bedroom window during the ice storm we had a couple of weeks ago.  I thought I would share its beauty. I hope you are enjoying the start of the new year.  May it be filled with beauty all around you!