Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Oh! it's so corny!

It's coming up to Lammas Festival time here in Eastbourne and I got inspired to make an interpretation of a well-known traditional figure - John Barleycorn!

The stories attached to John Barleycorn are many and varied but all contain some common elements. John Barleycorn is the spirit, or the god of the corn and each year he must die by being cut down. He then suffers horrible indignities; being bound, thrashed, ground, mashed, burnt and boiled to make bread, beer or brandywine. The next year, when the sun starts to warm the soil, he springs up and the cycle starts again. The grain harvest was life and death to people in olden times and there were regional rites and customs to pay homage to the spirit of the corn. Occasionally, a sacrifice would be required and this might be an animal, or possibly an unwary stranger would come by just at the right time. It would not do to sacrifice a villager, as that would mean losing a worker.  

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This is my John Barleycorn - the last remaining sheaf in the field.

The background fabric, made from scraps of fleece fabric and wool tops (roving) needlefelted on to a piece of ecofelt then machine quilted, represents the stubble and the soil.

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 The buttons with the black centres and the red beads represent the poppies that are always associated with corn fields. Poppy seeds stay dormant and grow in newly cultivated ground, that's why we see them on recently disturbed roadside verges and why they grew amongst the gravestones in France after the great war. In olden times, poppies did not grow in a field left fallow, so people thought the poppies in a corn field came from the blood of a sacrifice.
(Click on photo for bigger image)
(Click on photo for bigger image)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Some progress on the "big doll"

I was asked if I could make a version of this doll:

the size of a 2-3 yr old, with more realistically shaped body and limbs that could be dressed in children's clothes. I do like to work quite big, (the original measured about 24 inches from head to toe) but this was a challenge. I've never tried to make one on that scale before. The proportions had to be quite different from the long armed and long legged figures that I usually make and the head needed to be much bigger in proportion to the body. Here's the prototype I have made so far:

I gave the doll pixie ears and it is intended to be "unisex" it so that it can be dressed as either a boy or a girl.  The arms and legs are jointed with plastic safety joints at shoulder and hip, so the doll can sit, but the legs contain a piece of wooden dowel so the knees cannot bend. The arms are loosely jointed to allow for dressing and the fingers are poseable. The knitted wig is made of the same kind of yarn as the original, so because the head is so much bigger, the hair is shorter. The doll stands unsupported in the pose shown in the photographs but it is very light. There is a bit more work to be done on the face, currently it is coloured in ink from archival pens and coloured pencil - I need to colour the eyes and mouth with fabric paints.
So far,  making the doll has used a yard of polyaloba fabric, two  kilo bags of stuffing, pack of pipecleaners, wooden dowel, small piece of grey picture framers board, two balls of eyelash yarn, 4 plastic safety joints, reel of thread and a lot of hours!