Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thumbelina, Doorway to the Wee World

There is a reason Thumbelina, as well as Tom Thumb, are among the most loved of fairy tales. They take us into the wee world where we can explore what it is like to float on a leaf and fly on the back of a songbird. 
Thumbelina wool illustration
Thumbelina by Claudia Marie Felt

Life in the teeny, tiny world is fascinating, hence the trend of fairy gardens. Just walk into your garden and imagine life as Thumbelina -- a flower bed becomes a jungle, small rocks are boulders, and the butterflies . . . 

I think small children especially relate to Thumbelina, because they do live in a world where they feel little among adults. 

Thumbelina is a Hans Christian Anderson tale, published in Danish, as Tommelise, in 1835. Danny Kaye sang a song about Thumbelina for a 1952 movie about Hans Christian Anderson. And of course there have been animated movies. 

Vintage Thumbelina illustration
Thumbelina Father Tuck

I prefer the Thumbelina version in William Bennett's Book of Virtues. In this version Thumbelina goes for a stroll and enjoys a sailing ride with a fish, explores a field mouse's home and flies with a songbird. I like this version because Thumbelina is childish and in the end she is returned home to her mother. Bennett puts this tale in the Compassion section as Thumbelina's kindness toward the bird results in her happy ending. 

Elsa Beskow Thumbelina and toad
Elsa Beskow Thumbelina illustration

Of course in Anderson's original Thumbelina, she is abducted by creatures who want to marry her --first a toad, then a cockchafer, and a mole. This story is one of perseverence as Thumbelina survives, helps a sick bird who then takes her to a wonderful fairy land where she finds her true love, the elf prince. 

Maja Lindberg Thumbelina
Maja Lindberg Thumbelina illustration

The Thumbelina story can also be seen as a tale of being different; perhaps some people saw pretty little Thumbelina as disabled, but in fact, she could do things others could only dream of. In the end, she found the elf-prince who was her own kind. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose: A Fairy Tale of Transformation

At the heart of each fairy tale lies a kernel of wisdom about man and this  wisdom nourishes the children. They are truly hungry for it.  -- Dorothy Harrer Educating as an Art: Essays on Waldorf Education

The tale of the sleeping princess is a tale of transformation. The earliest version of the story is French and dates back to the 1300s with Le Roman de Perceforest.  
Giambattista Basile wrote the first full collection of fairy tales, Il Pentamerone, in 1634, and included Sun, Moon and Talia, a sleeping beauty tale. The versions we are more familiar with are Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (1697) and the Brothers Grimm Briar Rose, 1812.

Briar Rose Waldorf Illustration
Briar Rose Illustration by Claudia Marie

In all varieties of this tale, there are magical women who attend the celebration of the child's birth, either goddesses or fairies, and bestow gifts upon the newborn child. One of the fairies is snubbed and puts a curse on the child.

“How wonderful it is to hold an infant and wonder about the new gifts that the child has brought to earth," wrote Waldorf Kindergrten teacher Joan Almon. "To be in the presence of the newborn is like stepping into the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and watching the twelve wise women come forward to bestow their special gifts . . . When we think of the child as animal-like or machine-like, we play the role of this thirteenth wise woman who wished death upon the child without the possibility of transformation or metamorphosis. Fortunately in the fairy tale, the twelfth wise woman had not yet made her wish and she now came forward. The story says she could not take away the evil sentence, but she could soften it, and she said, ‘There will be no death but a deep sleep of one hundred years.’ We are being asked to be the twelfth wise woman for today’s children, taking away the sting of materialism, the denial of the spirit, which so threatens the spirit of childhood. 

Warwick Goble Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty by Warwick Goble
Margaret Tarrant Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty by Margaret Tarrant

In the earliest tales of Sleeping Beauty, the princess is raped in her sleep and bears a child. The Perrault and Grimm versions clean up the tale to one that is more suitable for young children.

The essential transformation in the tale is puberty, according to Bruno Bettelheim, "The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales." Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on the spindle is a symbol for menstruation. Teenagers must go through a long sleep as they mature into adulthood.

However, young children will not understand the puberty symbolism. They will see it as a tale of transformation, a tale of triumph over death, a story that portrays the value of patience. There is a time for every season, no need to hurry. A nice long sleep is good for the flowers in the garden and good for the human spirit as well. 

Sleeping Beauty by fantasy artist Kinuko Y. Craft
Sleeping Beauty by C.M. Burd

Sleeping Beauty Martina Muller

Read more about Sleeping Beauty:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How I Made Tiny Felt Food for Needle Felted Book Illustration

DIY Felt Food and Candy Ideas

I recently was at a book fair where a 5-year-old boy purchased Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist.  I asked him which picture was his favorite. He told me he liked the candy houses because it looked like the candy was popping out of the page and he wanted to eat it. 

Fiber Art Book Illustration of Candy House
Easter Inspired Candy House in Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

It was gratifying to hear from a child that he connected with the 3-d illustrations. When Jewel Kats asked me to illustrate this book, I was immediately excited about the forest scenes, but I wasn't sure how to handle the candy houses. To be honest, I don't get particularly excited about candy, but I do like cakes, cookies, fruit. So with the gingerbread house, I added some window boxes with iced berries, chocolate chip cookie trim, and of course candy canes lining the entry. The other candy house (you have to read the story to find out why there are two) was created during Easter and you can see how that influenced the design, pastel M&Ms, lollipops and even Peeps on the lawn. 

Hansel Gretel Gingerbread House Book Illustration
Hansel eats a marshamallow off the Gingerbread House

Creating the sweets in both candy houses and for the feast scene was an exercise in trial and error. This is not a step-by-step tutorial, but I will share some tips and techniques I used. I hope you can be inspired and create some fun felt food.  

  • Fiber to Create Cake -- One of the most important tips for creating cupcakes, cakes, marshmallows, is to use a wool that is very springy and fluffy. I used Rambouillet. To be honest, I had picked up some Rambouillet from a fiber store and found that it wasn't useful for my needlefelt animals. However, it makes great cake dough. I used Rambouillet extensively in the pastel house and in the feast scene. 
  • Coffee is Great Cake Dye -- The Rambouillet was white, but if I soaked it in leftover coffee for a while, it turned the perfect beige shade. 
  • Felt Baked Goods -- The cinnamon roll in the feast scene was simply the Rambouillet and a cinnamon-colored wool rolled up together and held in place with a little needle felting. The cake slice was a bit more complicated. I layered rambouillet with a red wool in the middle, like a sandwich, and needle felted until it was dense, rolling a bit as well to keep it roundish. I finished with chocolate-colored alpaca as the icing and felted lightly, but firmly. When my cake was finished, I used very sharp scissors to cut a piece. 
  • BFL Silk Blend for Icing --The icing on the roofs and berries was created from a Blue-faced Leicester and silk blend. I wet the wool then tore off little pieces, which makes it curl. After placing it on the roof, I used hairspray to keep it in place. 
  • Waffle Irons make Waffle Cones -- I actually used a waffle iron to make the waffle cone and the waffle door. This didn't work out as well as I had hoped. I dyed some 100 percent wool felt the color of golden waffles. While it was still wet, I put it in the waffle iron. Do not put the waffle iron on! I pressed it in and let it sit in place for about a day. The indentations were not as deep as I had hoped, so I had to needle felt around the edges. 
  • Candy Canes and Lollipops -- At first I made the candy canes out of pieces of felt that I twisted and then inserted a wire. That didn't look so good. So then, I took a piece of copper wire, a thicker gauge, about 18, and wrapped it with white wool and then swirled the red wool. This made it easy to shape the cane. 

Needle Felt Book Illustrator Claudia Marie Lenart Felt Food
A felt food sweet table in Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist
Needle felted food
BFL/Silk Icing over felted berries on Candy House

Fairy Tale Needle Felt Book Illustration
Marshmallows of Rambouillet wool on the tower

Have fun creating! I'd love to see what you come up with and you can share on Claudia Marie Felt on Facebook. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How to Make a Needle Felted Bunny

I have updated my needle felt bunny tutorial and I am now offering it in my Etsy store.

My new tutorial is very detailed. It is a 12-page instant download PDF with 64 photos.  

Here is the supply list:

• Foam or sponge
• Felting needles, 38 star or 40 spiral, optional 42 triangle for eye detail
• Multi-needle felting tool (optional)
• Ruler
• Toothpick (round and smooth)
• Wooden skewer or 18 gauge wire (optional)
• Scissors (not shown)
• Corriedale or other core wool
• Rose grey alpaca
• Fawn alpaca
• White alpaca
• Pink or blush wool
• Pink or brown wool for nose
• Black alpaca or wool
• Tiny piece white merino 

The bunny would take 2 to 4 hours to make and it can be accomplished by a beginner with basic needle felting experience. 

Check out my Needle felt Bunny Tutorial

DIY How to Needle Felt Bunny

This bunny is Copyright Claudia Marie Felt. Please use this tutorial for personal use and do not sell the bunny you create. Thank you!

And here is another book that might help you get started needle felting animals: