Friday, May 28, 2010

A Visit to Beth Curtin's Studio

Welcome to my studio! It is a wonderful, sunny room in an old mill building in New England. The walls are full of my portrait work. These pictures are part of a series called "The Thayer Street Project," portraits of young people posing in front of their favorite shop or restaurant on a busy street in Providence, Rhode Island.

Here is the little corner where I draw. I am working on a contemporary annunciation scene, using a favorite painting by the Flemish primitive Campin for inspiration and help.

I also have colorful abstract pastels laying about, and inspiring collage materials.

I love color, and my studio is messy with it.

A lot of the color comes from my sewing and doll making supplies. This is a quilt my daughter and I are making together.

If you are a waldorf doll maker, you know why I have band-aids in the studio.

I think it is good for me to mix the art and craft sides of me in one place. I used to keep them separate.

It is good to have a place to try things and to make mistakes. These are failed doll experiments,

and doll clothing designs which didn't work.

To be comfortable in my studio, I need toys for when my child is with me.

I need natural things.

I need children's art.

I need a little kitchen area for making warm drinks and lunch.

I need inspiring books and magazines. Here are some of my vintage Threads magazines, which used to belong to my friend Magda.

I need to feel it is clean and cozy so that I can take off my shoes and feel at home.

I need a place to sit comfortably and do hand sewing, and room for visitors, because I love to make art with friends.

I need to feel it is okay to be messy.

I am so lucky to have all these things. I think all of us need a special place to make things. Perhaps it is not a whole room, luxuriously large like this one, my first studio away from home. But we creators need a spot, especially a spot where the mess can be left out. My husband has always helped me make a special place, whether it was in an office shared with him, or a corner of the guest room. Thank you, Sweetie.

Something else which you need in your studio is your energy. I want to share a little story with you told to me by an artist friend. She had a studio away from home, and small children. She would hire a sitter to come watch the children, and before the sitter arrived, she would bustle around her house doing all the chores, the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. By the time she got to the studio, she was so tired she would fall asleep on the cement floor. We must save a part of ourselves for creating. You can do the chores when you are tired and half-awake, but it is hard to either be a mother or create art without a rested mind and spirit, and some physical energy. And it is worth making the space for creating in our lives and in our homes, because we can pour the energy which art gives to us right back into our families.

This is the first in a series about studios for Natural Kids blog, organized by Tonya of naturalearthfarm. I'm looking forward to seeing other people's creative work spaces as this series continues.

If you want to see more of my art, go to, my new website, which is under construction. My waldorf doll etsy shop is

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Little Boy Doll

Elizabeth ordered a boy doll with mocha skin, light brown hair, and green eyes. We settled on brown cotton flannel for the pants, and blue and white check for the shirt, with a velcro closure. I had to give this little fellow suspenders to keep his pants up. He must be a slim like my little boy!

She also requested a hat. I made one out of navy blue wool felt. I think he has a very inquisitive expression.

I wasn't sure what green to use for the eyes at first. Green eyes are so rare, and so beautiful.

Here are some pictures of his hair, embroidered around his "ears".

And here's the back of his head, with his little cowlick. When I was embroidering the back of his head I was thinking about how irresistible the nape of my little boy's neck is, and how much I like to kiss it!

This is my last commissioned doll until school starts up again after summer! It's time to get ready for summer schedules and family fun.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Make a Sock Sack!

I had been carrying my sock knitting rolled up in a ball in my jumbled pocketbook. The yarn would get tangled in the jumble, and once and a while a double pointed needle would try to escape.

A friend suggested I make a little bag to contain my sock knitting.

To make a sock sack, I cut two pieces of sturdy fabric. I used some leftover decorating fabric. One piece measured 16 by 11 inches.

The other was 4 and a half inches square. Working with the larger piece of fabric I folded over a half an inch at the top and pressed. I folded over another inch and pressed, then sewed near the bottom edge. This is the pocket for the drawstring.

The smaller piece of fabric is the bottom of the sock sack. Using half inch seams, and with right sides facing, I sewed on the bottom of the sack.

I then sewed up the sides to form a tube, leaving a gap for the drawstring. Maybe I should have sewn the tube first, but it came out okay. I used almost a yard of ribbon for the drawstring! I threaded the ends of the drawstring through the opposite ends of the pocket, crossed them in the back of the pocket before bringing each end out, and tied them together.

Now I can carry this little sack everywhere, and knit whenever I need to wait for a few minutes. I even have my pattern folded inside.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mother/Daughter Quilt Project

My daughter is home from college for a few weeks and has been working on her crazy log cabin quilt in the studio recently. She is adding squares to the pile I had made earlier this year.

Here is a jumble of the wonderful colors she has been working with. Some of the fabrics are from favorite old pieces of clothing, like my aqua plaid shorts on the left. We even have some scraps of things I sewed her when she was a little girl!

If you have been following this blog for a little while, then you have seen a posting on how to do crazy log cabin quilting. Just click on the title of this post for more instructions.

I asked her how she picked the sequence of colors, and she said she was using a balance of cool and warm colors.

I love her lively color work, and the proportions of the shapes she is using. I also like the way the square in the middle is off-center. I think the finished quilt is going to have energy and movement. We are going to back it with minky, do a combination of hand and machine sewing, and try to finish it before she goes back to school to do research this summer!

I love having my daughter in the studio with me. How very, very lucky I am!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Memegwesiwag: The Little People of North America

This spring I read a wonderful trilogy for children by Louise Erdrich. The three books, "The Birchbark House," "The Game of Silence," and "The Porcupine Year," are set in the mid eighteen hundreds in North America and follow the life of Omakayas, an Anishinabe girl (nowadays called Ojibwa or Chippewa) and her family living around Lake Superior.

The books are beautifully written and very profound. I was interested to read about two special encounters which children have with some memegwesiwag. When Omakaya's grandmother Nokomis was a girl, she met a memegwesi while tracking its little footprints through the forest.

"To my amazement, I looked up into the face of a little person just as perfect as any man, only hairy like a chimookoman. (A "chimookoman" is a white person or non-Indian.) His clothing was of fine tanned deerskin, quilled in the old way, not beaded."

"He had a sweet little crinkled face, round as a berry and very dark, with bow lips and shining eyes. He was tinier than my little brother, who was only three years old at the time. Yet there was something huge about him. He awed me, and my heart began to pound so hard I could not speak."

She respectfully lays an offering of tobacco down for him, and he promises to stay nearby and help her always. Later, when the family is starving during the harshest part of the winter, he shows Nokomis the breathing hole of a hibernating bear, and the family is saved.

Omakayas and her brother Quill also meet a memegwesi. They miraculously survive a harrowing trip down the rapids in a canoe. When the children climb back upriver to look at the rapids from the shore, they realize they could only have survived the brutal rapids with the help of a spirit. That is when they see a memegwesi standing on the opposite shore.

"The little person moved his arm, as if making an offering to the rapids, and they saw that he was proportioned like a fully grown Anishinabe man. He was dressed in buckskins and knee-high makizinan, and his hair stuck out all over, like Quill's hair."

From now on, whenever I am in the forest, I will be looking for signs of the Memegwesiwag!

A Doll for a Little Boy

This is Lesli's baby boy!

Lesli wanted to give her darling baby boy a doll with golden skin, brown eyes, straight embroidered brown hair, and clothes which are not too bright. I chose dark gray pinstriped flannel for the pants, and an abstract dotty blue fabric for the shirt. She wanted the shirt untucked, with velcro fasteners.

Look at this lovable face. It is open and friendly. He seems to be saying, "Let's play!"

I embroidered his hair with a part in it.

It is tufty and fuzzy with sweet ears outlined by the embroidery. I put a little non-toxic German blush on the cheeks. I hope your baby likes his new friend, Lesli! love, Beth

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dolls for a Brother and Sister

Here are 16 inch dolls Leslie ordered for her little boy and girl.

She wanted each doll to have golden skin, blue eyes, and butterscotch hair.

Her boy likes orange, so I made his doll an orange shirt. I gave him wool plaid pants.

Her girl likes blue and green. I made the girl doll a combination of blue clothes: blue checked apron, a floral dress, and sky blue and white striped pantaloons. I love to mix patterns.

The girl has green bows in her hair and matching green ribbons for ties on her apron.

The dolls' clothes fasten with velcro. I don't really like how velcro looks, and it is hard to sew it neatly, but it is best and easiest and safest for the youngest children.

The boy's hair is embroidered. This takes a long time to do. I work patiently, and I try to make it look tufty and natural.

The girl has a curl all around her head and some fluffy ponytails which are sewn in.

When I do boy hair, I suggest ears with the stitching. This time I decided to add a little blush to the ears. I usually make caucasian children's ears pink when I draw portraits. This boy also has a cowlick! I think that is realistic, too!

I'm going to show you some of my portraits, soon, on my new website, as soon as I resolve some Wordpress glitches!