Tuesday, January 12, 2010

100 Days of Progress:
"I'm Pretty Sure God Makes Strawberries This Way"


This has to be one of the best results I've had for Halfland to date. I love this strawberry plant. It was an unplanned improvisation entirely. It began when Cirelle wondered aloud whether the window box she was working on might have little berries growing in it. I loved her idea and set about seeing if I couldn't craft some, somehow.

I finished the entire plant and its twig trellis by last night and was excited for daylight to arrive to take the good photos above to show you. Here's more on how they were made...


I started rooting around for easy berry-like stuff while Cirelle was here planting on the kitchen box. I tried various sorts of Styrofoam™ and finally found that the micro cell injection foam packing material used to cushion electronics shaped easily and took paint perfectly (upper left).

Next I discovered that if a pulverized dried flower heads (a bit of them seen far right, upper right photo) and dyed them bright yellow (lower left) and brushed them on with my buddy matte medium (lower right) it gave me the amount of detail and texture I require in Halfland. Not too much, I didn't set each berry seed in place with tweezers for example, although I could have easily enough. But enough texture so that it feels a certain reality in the background of the film.

Each berry was finished off with tops made from stealing petals and leaves of various sizes from other paper flowers and painting them several shades of green. They were pressed down into the foam of the berries and secured with glue around a stem.

This could be one of the biggest thrills I've had in Halfland so far. Strange to feel that about a little background blossom I know. But it was one of those incredible moments of pure invention that satisfied like crazy. Actually, the entire Strawberry affair made me feel a little godlike. I kept saying to myself that I was positive that what I was doing was exactly the way God makes strawberries!

The blossoms I had to Google for. I had to collect a variety of images of the tiny white pentagonal flowers and their triumvirate leaves on my screen and keep walking back and forth from the shop until I grasped what these plants look like enough to render them sufficiently. I was amazed to learn that the blossoms become the berries. Those round yellow globes at their centers transform into the fruits, baring the seeds on the outer surface, all the better for the birds to eat!

I found that a snip off a fuzzy fiber from another silk flower would scale for the centers once dyed a brighter yellow. But my favorite part was my deciding to use yellow sewing thread, wound on a strip of cardboard, tied with fine wire, and snipped to make the splayed stamens behind the little globes. I used my new micro foam brushes from Kit Kraft to daub on two shades of burnt orange tinted medium to just the tips of the cut threads. Assembled the green paper calyx and white paper petals onto the twisted wire stems of the centers with a drop of glue. Painted the stems green and they were ready to be added onto the plant.


I used green vine-y cording from a placemat as the base for about 60 green paper leaves that were taken off of other store bought flowers that I hand-painted with acrylic and watercolor. I changed their shape by rounding them with serrated scissors and gluing them in trios on wire stems. Then each set of leaf, berry, and blossom, including the smallest still-green buds, got twisted onto the plant which in turn was woven into the hand-made twig trellis that had been planted in the windowbox.


I ate strawberry jam while making this little plant and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. I think my discovering nature artist Graham Owen (thanks to Rob Ives suggesting an unrelated search) has inspired and impacted my way of approaching these types of natural props for Halfland. I owe you a post on who he is, what extraordinary things he creates, and why/what about it inspires me so much. Interested?

31 comments:

  1. Awesome! These are wonderful and delicious looking fruits! Thank you for sharing the process in detail!

    You wrote, "Actually, the entire Strawberry affair made me feel a little godlike." – And it's exactly like this: You seem to have godlike power! ;)

    No, serious, bringing (stopmotion) animated world from scratch into being is a truely creative challenge...

    If all is fitting together like this, it's a certainly spiritual experience as well: everythig suddenly feels just right then. (Sometimes I guess I'm just working in the field of arts to trigger that emotion...)

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  2. Hooray! Hi, Jessica! I couldn't agree more with you. Yes, art does evoke that creative sensation that can feel wonderfully powerful. I think I felt godlike when making these berries because I had to go deeper into the detail of how such things are created in order to have a sense of how to make my sketch-like version. I had to think like a creator!

    Yes, I think that's the magic of it. Having to think and create as a Creator does.

    Then of course, as you say, animation itself has got to be one of the most Creator-like things we can do. Second only to Doctors and other Life-savers.

    Well done!

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  3. berry berry good. Nice to see such yummy delights come to life in halfland. Kitty seems to be excited too.

    seems to me that you are turning in to a ninja now. You are improvising while you work. Must feel awesome!

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  4. Thanks, Rich! The whole film is an improv--only with looooong lists! HA!

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  5. ha! I love lists. i am a to do list addict.

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  6. To do lists are great! What would I do without those? :)

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  7. Oh,,,how Wonderful!!! And the cat had fun too I bet...all the movement and noise and little things to play with. Very nice my friend.

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  8. Yay for lists. Really helps orient things. Unless in my case you keep making things not on that list!

    Hi Marcie! Kitty just supervises--no game playing! ^..^

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  9. Anonymous5:04 PM

    I will not agree on it. I think warm-hearted post. Especially the designation attracted me to review the sound story.

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  10. Hi Anonymous, I think you're saying you enjoyed this post but that you don't think God makes Strawberries this way?

    I want to make sure to be clear that the title here wasn't literal, just an expression of how I felt inside myself while making the little plant.

    I hope you'll visit again to see/say what you think!

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  11. Oh, I think Anonymous's comment was spam without link because it didn't really relate to the post. I see. Wonder what the point of it is? Maybe to see if I leave it there?

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  12. On the hundreth day - Goddess of Halfland said.....

    LET THERE BE FRUIT!!!

    and then there was fruit.

    jriggity

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  13. Shelley, I am little late here but let me still comment. Strawberries are looking amazing!!The little white berry flowers, leaves.. everything looks just so wonderful.

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  14. Justin, Dude, that was HILARIOUS!! You are a funny guy! That goes in the keeper file.

    Hi Yaz, Never too late for a positive comment hooray! I really love that little strawberry plant! Thank you so much for appreciating it too! xoxox

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  15. Every post of yours makes my mouth water for more, but this one especially!
    I've been reading the "Artists Way" by Julia Cameron and it talks quite a bit about the creator/creation connection. This post just reconfirmed that and gave me a deeper appreciation for even the seemingly most simple things.
    thanks Shelly!

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  16. Thanks, Season! It's so kind and interesting what you said.

    One of the principles behind Halfland is conveyed in the Henry Miller quote:

    “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

    --Henry Miller

    Thank you so much for being here and for picking up on these elements. I think going into the details of nature brings that sense of creation/creator as you say. I like the way you put that so much.

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  17. Constantly astounding work Shelley
    wow, wow and wow again, it keeps getting better.

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  18. Back attacha, Mark! Thanks so much!

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  19. Amazing Shelley - just amazing! Yes, and very God(dess) like! I love that you used computer foam and dried flowers - talk about inspiration! The last image looks just like a true 'Hedgewitch' invention!
    Hugs
    Ulla
    p.s. Adore your new id photo - very chic!

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  20. Hi Ullabenulla! One of the most outrageously fun things about making Halfland is the "problem solving" or as you said finding/using inventive materials that are on hand.

    If I had to go out to get things every time something needed to be made, well, then this project really wouldn't be possible at all!

    Googleing Hedgewitch.

    PS: Thanks for liking the id picture! It was a shot taken by a the wife of work colleague of my husband's, that I then made into a quick sketch with Photoshop tricks. That necklace is genuinely old from Beirut, where my grandmother lived for a few years during the 50's.

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  21. Anonymous12:55 PM

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  22. ok, Anonymous, I'm going to take what I feel is behind your words as genuine.

    I'm so glad you found something useful here. Good luck at school!

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  23. Nothing sweeter than a strawberry flower...
    I love your blog! Found it because I'm a kit kraft fan on facebook. Keep up the amazing, fun and creative work!

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  24. OH! Hello, fellow Kit Kraft fan Lois! Welcome here! I have never seen Facebook. How fun to think KK has a fans like that.

    What do you do? I'll go look....

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  25. Wooo. I loved your illustrated pregnancy journal! and your daughters are especially beautiful, as are you. I admire your dedication to raising funds for Alzheimer research!

    Glad to meet you! Maybe I'll run into you at KK, although, I have only made it there once a year so far!

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  26. You all creative people are amazing!

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  27. Hi DVD duplication, I'm sorry for deleting one of your other comments. I couldn't tell whether you were spamming or not. If you are not, thank you.

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  28. Can I just say that every time you post something like this, I want to go and live in Halfland a little more? When will you start letting us book vacation time there? I suppose we'll have to wait for the technology to shrink ourselves so we can fit. Oh well.

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  29. Hee hee, Thessaly! Thank you so much. I shall try my very best to make the films as much like actually visiting as I possibly can!

    That way watching them will ideally be the next best thing to Expedia!

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  30. Those roaming gnomes have all the fun, don't they?

    Can you explain what kind of foam you used for the strawberries? Is it the squishy padding kind or the firm, white, crumbly kind? And when you paint silk flowers and leaves, do you prepare them to take the paint by washing them or priming them with something? Do you just use plain acrylics?

    You have inspired me to do a still-picture photostory, and now I want a strawberry plant to put in it.

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  31. Hooray! Music to my ears, Thessaly Rose!!! Do it! Do it! Do it!

    A still-picture photostory is such a wonderful idea! I actually suggested that same thing for Cirelle to consider doing as well! (And of course, stills from Halfland are planned to be used that way too!)

    So.... Love your questions here....

    The foam, I used the kind of soft foam that is used in packaging electronics (it's injected as a liquid/gel and it expands and drys into foam) so it's texture falls in between soft upholstery foam and closed cell rigid foam. But, having said that, I would suggest always using what you have on hand because almost anything would work.

    I used just cheap normal small bottle acrylic paint on the foam. Both it and the flowers surprisingly took it without any prep.

    I often use Nova Color's matte medium to mix with acrylics if I know the object needs to remain flexible because medium is essentially a plastic polymer (non tox) and the matte type dries completely invisible even close up.

    Sometimes I use liquid porcelain which I haven't been able to find online, used to be sold by Aleens, on things like flowers for stop motion because it makes them more rigid and stops them from moving unintentionally during filming. But that isn't needed for your strawberries! yum!

    Go for it! Make it your way. If there's one thing I can offer anyone, Thessaly, is to know that you CAN NOT FAIL because there's no right way. It's all about just taking what you have near you and using it to make what you see in your mind.

    It helps to collect loads of materials if you've got some space to stow it. That way you'll have more material to pull from. But seriously, I'd steal a corner off my couch cushion for strawberries if I needed to!

    This'll be great!

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