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Paul Smith takes typewriter art to the next level! Also Reeva Steenkamp is still dead.

Paul Smith takes typewriter art to the next level! Also Reeva Steenkamp is still dead. published on No Comments on Paul Smith takes typewriter art to the next level! Also Reeva Steenkamp is still dead.

As much as I hate to draw attention to stories that portray people with disabilities as sources of inspiration, I’m linking to this story about Paul Smith. For decades, he used a select ten characters from a typewriter to create intricate works of art. I love the bold and yet sketchy lines he makes. Very cool!

Yes, it is relevant to Smith’s art that he had cerebral palsy. His inability to use a more traditional instrument such as a brush or pencil prompted him to employ the typewriter. However, there’s absolutely no need to describe Smith as "suffering from" a "terrible condition" and therefore "remarkable" and "awe-inspiring" because he created art. There’s no indication that Smith perceived himself as suffering, burdened or even awe-inspiring. In a video about his work, he says, "It’s something to do." As far as I can tell, he was enjoying himself as he listened to classical music and meticulously created his masterpieces character by character. I’m not claiming that Smith had a purely joyous existence — for example, he didn’t attend mainstream school, which leads me to speculate that he might have felt painfully lonely in his youth — but I’m not seeing the horrible suffering that this stinky article assumes he felt.

I desperately loathe the trope of disabled person as inspiration to non-disabled people. The OddityCentral article epitomizes the dehumanization implicit in this theme when it concludes, "He died on June 24, 2007, at the Rose Haven Nursing Center in Roseburg, Oregon, but left behind an impressive portfolio of typewriter art, and most importantly the inspiration that you can overcome anything in life, if you put your mind to it." This sentence dismisses the entire content, texture and detail of Smith’s life by depicting him solely as an oppressed person who miraculously overcame his oppression to make art. It assumes that Smith’s disability can be separated from his experience and art, that it’s a barrier between him and a fulfilling life — because there’s obviously no way a person with a disability could ever have a fulfilling, happy life while also having a disability. In short, this sentence dehumanizes Smith by assuming that an inextricable part of his life, his cerebral palsy, can be excised like an early stage of cancer.

But the article isn’t satisfied with chopping up Smith into neat little segments [Person vs. Disability] and comparing him to some  non-disabled person’s ridiculous standard of a fulfilling life. No, the conclusion dehumanizes him a second time as well when it dismisses his artistic accomplishments and legacy, claiming that Smith’s status as "inspiration" is more important. Yes, who cares about Smith’s life and art and disability and the relationships among these elements of his experience? Smith was not a significant person who deserved dignity and respect like all other beings. No! He was a superhuman exception to humanity whose primary purpose in this world was to educate the lowly non-disabled people about how we, too, can distance ourselves from the revolting materiality of our weak and mortal flesh and transform ourselves into pure creative mind, ascending to a plane where physical pains and distinctions are irrelevant.

I also hate the Supercrip narrative because of its creaky old Cartesian dualist underpinnings that smack strongly of racism and sexism. Relatedly, Eddie Ndopu discusses just such misogyny and racism inherent in portrayals of Reeva Steenkamp’s killer, athlete and miserable human being Oscar Pistorius. [My other discussions of sexism, ableism and racism at work in Steenkamp’s murder and the portrayal thereof can be found at "Reeva Steenkamp, 29, is dead" and "Reeva Steenkamp still dead; ex still to blame, but declared innocent of murder by courts."]

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Third time’s the charm! I made a shirt for Isabel!

Third time’s the charm! I made a shirt for Isabel! published on No Comments on Third time’s the charm! I made a shirt for Isabel!

I have been moving very slowly toward sewing my own doll clothes. I have hemmed and altered existing clothes. I have also crudely constructed simple raw-edged skirts and capes, fastened with hot glue and/or a running stitch. I have not sewn an entire garment, using a pattern, from beginning to end. Taking on such a project seemed to be the logical extension of the modifications that I had already done.

I acquired a pattern for a Tyler doll from Andrea [DollsAhoy] for a collared shirt in October, 2014. I also took advantage of the Halloween season to buy three cotton prints — dancing skeletons, bats and spiderwebs — appropriate for Isabel’s tastes. Then all of the supplies just sat on my desk for about two months.

Earlier this month, the hiatus between Zombieville chapters gave me more time for other projects. My interest in sewing reawakened. I hit Joanne Fabrics for some quilter’s packs of REALLY LOUD fabrics to supplement my Halloween prints. Armed with a high level of enthusiasm and approximately 0.5 of a clue, I set to work.

My first two attempts will not be exhibited here. They were too large and/or sloppy and/or filled with mistakes, which tends to happen when you only have 0.5 of a clue. However, I learned enough about what NOT to do from failures #1 and #2 so that I could apply my new skills to failure #3.

Behold now the glory that is failure #3! Modeled by Isabel [here and in chapter 5 of Zombieville], it’s a snugly fitting collared shirt with long sleeves, intentionally constructed with contrasting prints, fastened with snaps.

Continue reading Third time’s the charm! I made a shirt for Isabel!

Beth and Death: the cast

Beth and Death: the cast published on No Comments on Beth and Death: the cast

Since I last posted about my modifications on Beth, my Takara MicroSister Fyana, her form has changed significantly. I removed her original head because, though delicately detailed, it was much too small in comparison with Death’s. It was also hairless, and I didn’t relish the thought of making her minuscule wigs.

Continue reading Beth and Death: the cast

The story of Braintree: a town with an interesting name

The story of Braintree: a town with an interesting name published on No Comments on The story of Braintree: a town with an interesting name

Of the many place names in New England transported here from settlers hearkening back to their connections in Old England, I most like that of Braintree. There’s a Braintree in Massachusetts and one here in Vermont. Both of them take their name from Braintree, Essex in England. As far as I’m concerned, though, that’s less than half the story. The etymology geek in me has a burning desire to know how several locations in the world are named after [according to my overheated imagination] trees growing out of skulls.

Unfortunately, the etymology geek in me will not be adequately satisfied. Wikipedia, font of all knowledge online, deems the origin of the name Braintree "obscure." Despite that, the online encyclopedia discusses several possible sources for the name, most of which support the idea that, somehow, Braintree began life as something like "Brantry" or "Branchetreu," both of which seem to mean "town by the river."

In fact, in the Domesday Book, a 1086 record of land use and taxation covering much of England, records Braintree as "Branchetreu." As far as I can tell, this appears to be the earliest record of the place name in its somewhat recognizable form. Thus it’s worth looking into the sources of Branchetreu.

Branchetreu, like Braintree, breaks down into two syllables with a different origin for each: "Branche-" and "-treu." The speculation that Braintree means "town by the river" leads me to interpret the "Branche-" as equivalent to the French la branche, which is one of those words that means the exact same thing in both language. La branche in French and "branch" in English both refer to those small extensions of a tree growing up and out from the main trunk; both words also carry the same figurative meanings that denote the subsidiary parts of certain things [e.g., governments]. Therefore both words can mean "a separate smaller offshoot of a larger river." "Branche-" clearly equals "river," at least in my mind.

So what about that "-treu?" According to Wikipedia, the suffix "-treu" is equivalent to the modern suffix "-try" or "-tree," which used to mean "farm" and then expanded to mean "settlement" or "town." Apparently this appears in town names around Wales. If that’s so, then "Branche-" = "River-" and "-treu" = "town," making "Branchetreu" = "Rivertown." The shifts changes in spelling and pronunciation we can attribute to the inevitable changes in language as it wends through the landscape of time.

Even though I know Braintree is basically Rivertown, the poetic images of its current iteration — brains and trees — will always teem in my mind. When I think of Braintree, I think of a tree in a cemetery growing out of someone’s skull. More specifically, I think of an old New England family plot, full of effaced and canted stones, and an apple tree rooting in one corner, planted firmly in the pot of a dead person’s skull. Or I think of another feral apple-like tree, once by a house that has long since disappeared. Short and broad, it bears the heavy burden of its fruit: bright ripe brains, swinging from their stems. Or, more metaphorically, I think of the nervous system as the epitome of a brain-tree: with the spinal cord as its trunk, it ramifies in electric branches throughout the body, with the brain at its fruiting crown.

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Strong Language: a blog right up my alley

Strong Language: a blog right up my alley published on No Comments on Strong Language: a blog right up my alley

It’s all about words and, more specifically, swears!

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Possible new hair for Timonium

Possible new hair for Timonium published on No Comments on Possible new hair for Timonium

I mocked up a red wig for Timonium this morning. It’s actually a digital hairstyle that I created, Aliza, serving as a computer-generated version of a wig I may want for him. I decided to embrace his resemblance to a small Goblin King. 😀
Continue reading Possible new hair for Timonium

Doll accomplishments for 2014: not a Top Ten list at all

Doll accomplishments for 2014: not a Top Ten list at all published on No Comments on Doll accomplishments for 2014: not a Top Ten list at all

My doll friends on Figurvore are posting their top ten lists of doll-related acquisitions and/or accomplishments for last year, which naturally gets me thinking about my own achievements. Selecting just ten projects and then rating them comparatively seems like too much effort, though, so I’m just going to highlight some of my significant developments in the doll arena during 2014.

I got back into digital art after a long hiatus. I mostly treat my CG art as a source of digital dolls, meaning that I enjoy creating characters, dressing them up, scripting stories, shooting them [called “rendering” in the digital realm] and otherwise exercising my creativity. Digital appeals to me because I can easily generate a wide variety of body shapes with a few spins of the morph dials. Basic prop creation also becomes much easier with the use of primitives such as planes, cubes, cylinders, etc. As much as I find digital appealing, my first love remains actual physical dolls because I can touch them. They feel realer to me.

I mention digital art because it has definitely affected how I play with my dolls. My photostory setup has changed because of my digital efforts. I used to cram lots of text and story into a small number of frames, but now I have larger, simpler frames that permit the focus on more set detail. Less dialog per frame also slows down the story and allows it to develop more expansively. Of course, the narrative moves a lot slower, but I’ll live…

A quintessential project was probably my makeover of a 1:6 scale Angel of Grief paperweight.  It started off looking like the crappy kitsch that it was, but, after I spent six hours on it with white and beige acrylic paint, charcoal wash, dried bits of moss and blue, it transformed into a convincing 1:6 scale cemetery centerpiece. A quarter of a day’s work on a small-scale gravestone: yup, that’s me all over!

Doctor Z, a key character in Zombieville, reached her third and final iteration. First she was too purple; then she was too dark brown and healthy looking. Finally I took a Triad Alpha head and Dremelled the heck out of it, then repainted it, to create the haggard look I was going for.

I customized Polly, my 1:6 scale mermaid BJD. I used Aves Apoxie Sculpt to create a headback for the faceplate that I wanted her to have, as I didn’t like the head she came with].  I also gave her a faceup and made her a wig.

I wrapped up Me and My Muses, my serial melodrama about Ellery and the characters in her head, in the winter. Then, in the spring, Zombieville debuted. I’ve currently published a prologue and four chapters. The next installment is slated for later this month [as soon as I get around to scripting it]. The influence of my digital art on my narrative style appears clearly in Zville.

I redid one of my 1:6 scale fairy BJDs, Flower. He began life with a default faceup, which was technically well-done but pretty generic. When I was through with him, he had magenta eyeshadow and a profusion of green freckles. ^_^

I finally put together one of my 1:3 scale BJDs, Yamarrah, who had languished in pieces for months. She has body parts from about five different dollmakers, so she required Aves Apoxie Sculpt, hot glue and application of the Dremel to make her pieces fit together functionally.

I acquired two inexpensive studio umbrella lights on Robing’s recommendation, and the clarity, evenness and general quality of my photos drastically improved. Now I am even closer to achieving the kinds of photos I envision in my head….

For a Figurvore prop challenge, I made a fridge to fill in a shocking gap in my collection of 1:6 set pieces.

At long last, I finished the walker. This project dragged on far too long and caused me no end of frustration, but I finally assembled a 3D printed 1:6 scale model that a friend had sculpted to my specs. After much spray painting, taping, hot gluing, drilling and swearing, I made for Peter a passable simulacrum of his signature mobility aid.

Muggins the cat,
everyone’s favorite character, appeared in Zombieville. Readers suggested a Mugginsville spinoff. :p

The doll club that I run, Chittenden County Doll Club, continued to grow, drawing doll lovers from across the region and all kinds of dolls along with them. I eventually changed the name to Vermont Doll Lovers to better reflect the participants.

I got a Mattel Coca Cola Soda Fountain with most of its accessories in good condition for a steal! My fairies had fun with it.

I attended the largest BJD convention ever on the East Coast, Dollism Plus, in September! I’m never making such a drive again, but I did enjoy hanging out with fellow doll nerds and taking plenty of pictures of pretty dolls. Surprisingly, I won a bunch of wigs and a whole doll!

I acquired some Rement Pose Skeletons, which sparked an idea for Zombieville’s photostory within a photostory: Beth and Death, about a woman and a Grim Reaper, a series of comics by Isabel. [I’m still working on Beth.]

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