Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excited over a newborn & the migraine

I have a funny way of working... I always start with the head and unless it was a custom order, it is usually because I saw a picture of a baby I couldn't resist (remember I always sculpt from photos & so must you ;)).
So a few weeks ago, quite lazily actually, I started on a newborn as a stress reliever for no one in particular and "stole" an hour here and an hour there to work on him/her. I was thinking *if* the baby turned out to be any good, I could maybe do my next resin... and the weeks dragged on and I would carry the head to therapy (remember both my boys do therapy as John has suffered brain damage in utero and Cody has been diagnosed with ADHD and something with communication that will turn into dyslexia once in school but I don't know the English term for it) while I wait for them to finish etc.

There are some babies that come along so easy, I am done within days... and there are babies that take me half a century to "get right". For instance Little Wonder came easy... Small Miracle... the awake head I re-did 3 times and I discarded 4 sleeping heads before deciding on the one I finally did...
I am not sure if this happens because I am somehow "losing my touch" or because as time goes by I am becoming more and more strict with myself. I see more flaws lately and suddenly various things are no longer acceptable ... everything *has* to be just right, just so... and on one hand this really annoys me... on the other it ensures good sculpting.. remember nothing leaves this house until *I* am happy with it :)

So anyway, my little baby was missing something... so for weeks, on and off I would pick it up from the stand, unwrap the cling film and some days I would just look at it and some days I would fix something, add or subtract...
Unfortunately the therapy lounge is probably not as clean and dust free as my apartment because after several trips there, my baby has become very dirty despite my best efforts to keep her clean which automatically excludes her from ever being sold as an OOAK.
Of course this puts MORE pressure on me now, because now, she must be a repro baby... probably in resin... and when it comes to repro babies, I am VERY strict and difficult to please and an artist has to be... it's one thing to "love" and think you have a good sculpt and quite another when you must put your money where your heart is and have it reproduced!!! (and let me tell you, it is NOT cheap)

However! Yesterday I got this migraine the size of Texas.. no seriously, I have a hormonal imbalance and I was prescribed new pills a few weeks ago... and even though they fixed some ehm, things, they ruined some others... yesterday I must have taken more than 2000 mg of paracetamol (not all at once of course) and it didn't even do anything... so admist this horrific migraine from outer space (I think I am coming down with something as my throat also feels "funky") I send the boys to therapy with their dad and I sit down to "rest"... but instead I end up picking up the head and work on it... and she is now a sweet, full lipped, full size sweetheart... and can't wait to finish her.

Of course the killer migraine continued all day and all night. The boys got me up a few times (toilet, a drink, a nightmare - the usual) during the night and of course I could feel the migraine banging away each at around 6am I took two codeine pills and stayed in bed for a bit and right now I feel a bit better... I HATE migraines, they totally de-rail me. I can stand other things like a fever, bad back, I've even worked with carpal tunnel syndrome... but not a migraine! I can't even think with a migraine...

On another note, John gained a pound!!!! We have been struggling with failure to thrive for a while now but managed to avoid a g-tube so far. John was not a micro-preemie but he did have IUGR (was born at the 3rd percentile) however people who see him (and are a little knowledgeable) know he was a preemie, as he's got the look... his therapist says if she didn't know his history she would bet money that he is a former 26 weeker. But through a very careful diet and me running after him with a spoon 12 hrs a day and getting up at 4am daily to give him an extra bottle of a special caloric/carb/fat formula, John has gained a pound... we still need him to put on at least 10 more but one is a start right??
Unfortunately the supplement (which also increases his appetite for solids overall!) is not covered by our insurance so it's like John is eating out at a 4 star restaurant daily...which reminds me I need to go finish some dolls so I can afford said "4 star meals" for my little one lol :)

Pictures in my next post, I promise :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

When I grow up...

Never in a million years did I ever imagine I would be making dolls for a living when I grew up... I come from a strange mixture of a family: I had my mother and grandmother who were artists of great acclaim in their fields and I had my grandfather and dad who were a scientist and an mechanic. With the exception of my mom, everyone else in the family and extended family, held a degree.
As I was growing up I was allowed to express myself through art BUT it was also drilled into me that I had to study.
When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say "doctor" or "teacher" or "a mommy".
I did grow up to get my degree in pre-school education with an extra in special needs and English speaking teaching (for Greece obviously!) but in 2004 I found myself injured, unable to walk and I missed the school year... in early 2005 I was pregnant and it went from there and suddenly I wasn't teaching any more, I was making money off the dolls and supported the entire family.

If you would now ask me "what do you want to be" I would say I want to be like Martha Armstrong Hand. I want to be a technically correct artist but I don't want to keep making newborns and preemies for the rest of my life.
I am so much more into children right now and you might have noticed how rare my OOAKs have become in the last couple of years. I made very few this year compared to other years.
On the contrary I made great strides with my ball jointed dolls and learned how to use some new tools lol :)

I am bright eyed and eager to take the next step. I want to do so much more with my clay and not only with clay. I want to explore... there is so much more to this art than sculpting newborns on a cloth body, which I love, don't get me wrong, but I get a THRILL from other sculptures now. It has been rare that a newborn or preemie would thrill me nowadays. I am so much more thrilled when I do a toddler or a BJD. It might be a phase but I intend to go with it...
Martha Armstrong Hand has been my idol for a while now. I wish I could be just like her. I want to be 80 and still making dolls, God willing. I want to create everything in my sketch pad someday. I want 19th Century little girls in sailor suits and black Mary Janes, I want to make teddy bears!! And more cloth dolls... I just want to create...which is why this year there will be no pre-orders, no waiting lists, no custom orders...

This year has taught me a LOT, not all of it the easy way and I had to make some difficult desicions but I want to go forth, turn a new page and explore. Wherever my creativity takes me, I will follow, bright eyed, grateful and curious but determined... I am a little bit scared of disappointment. I am not even 1/8th near Martha... compared to her I am a little piece of nothingness ... and I am a perfectionist. I am so scared I will start something and it won't be like I've imagined it... but I've got to try. A journey of a thousand miles...starts with a single step!
Wish me luck!

Merry belated Christmas...

Merry Christmas Everyone!!
Hope you had a wonderful day filled with love and friends and lovely surprises!!

We had a hectic but otherwise quiet day that started in the same way it did for most of you; very early with very exciting little kids jumping up and down and tearing paper ;)

Cody got an electric train and John a Hot Wheels race track and the Navy got each of the boys a "domino train" (don't ask but it's a pain in the butt and too noisy!)
I've seen loads of presents under trees in pictures but a) we have banished cheap toys that break easily and b) between the school needing to be paid, the end of the year car tax and Christmas day food shopping, these were all I could afford for the boys.

They have a MILLION toys, enough for 10 children so don't feel bad. We gathered up our old toys and gave them to charity. I so want to teach them that Christmas is about GIVING not taking but they did get rewarded for their kindness :)

I got George a Blu Ray disk player but kind of regretted it afterwards (don't ask) and I got each grandparent a photobook and a wall calendar with the boys... and they gave me... nothing.
Yup folks... I didn't get ONE single thing for Christmas :( except from my DAD! Did I mention my dad is the greatest person on the planet?

I spent the entire Christmas morning in the kitchen where I made an apple pie, a muddy road caramel/chocolate cake, fresh garlic bread (yes I actually made bread from scratch) and stuffing. We also bought all the cold cuts for the table, and we headed to my Mother in law's for lunch.
I am not one to whine and I wasn't really expecting anything, really, but it kind of stung when everyone accepted their presents and ate the food and the next day my MIL still complained to my husband about me :(

Sigh... hey, season of giving remember? Letting it go...

The day before I had taken the boys to get the car washed and got some cool shoots of them with their faces glued to the glass looking as the car went through the machine (it has a transparent wall and you can sit there and watch!) and it was a nice day so I took them to the playground next and I got some MORE cool shots of them.
For MONTHS I had saved up for a new camera and I finally managed to get it on layaway and I am so happy with it. I consider it my Christmas/Birthday present (since my birthday is so close to Christmas anyway) to myself especially since I know I am not getting any presents from anyone :) Again, don't feel sad for me... I'm a big girl and take care of myself well :) It doesn't even bother me anymore like it used to... as long as my little guys have fun that's the best present for me :)

If you head over to my Facebook page you can see new photos of the boys :)
Hugs to everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Breathless Monday!

Ok so I dare ya, ask me what I did today, go on ask me!!

When my horoscope read "expect the unexpected" I didn't really believe it... My day started off as usual. Dragged myself out of bed after only 6 1/2 hrs of sleep, during which my son Cody had woken me up 3 times like usual, made the kids' lunches, got them up, dressed and straightened out, then drove 40 minutes in traffic, dropped them off at school, I ensured they got IN the classroom AND I informed the teacher that they were carrying this year's Christmas cards for the class and to make sure each classmate got one..
Then drove back another 40 minutes in traffic to get home...

In the early morning I have this ritual: I made me a coffee, start the washing machine and dishwasher and sit down to read my e-mail. This is usually around 10am ...
Then I know what I need to do and I usually sit down to work on my dolls until around 12pm when I need to start cooking lunch.
So this day I did just that and then sat down to work. I photographed and sold a baby and sat down to pack it, thinking I would be SO cool to ship her off the same day (I was going to the post office for another doll anyway).
Then my brother calls.
In the calmest of voices he asks "Are the kids home?" No, they are in school.
"Oh good! Can you please drive me to the hospital because my cat just pawed my eye out?" I was like WHAT?

Pause here. My brother and my dad live in the same building in the next block to the right, while my MIL lives in the next block to the left.
I am the only one who a) drives and b) does not "work" in the mornings. I mean, I do work, but from home.
Also I should mention that my brother has a psychotic cat.. and I do mean P S Y C H O T I C!!! He picked her up off the streets when she was a baby and in the one year he's had her, she has wrecked the house AND him. Today she attacked him in his sleep and yes, she did paw his eye out!!!

So my brother arrives and I grab my keys and his eye looks like Rocky's after 10 ten rounds with that Soviet guy and I grab one of John's eye patches (because you know, I think on my feet and all lol) and patch him up... and off we go.

Now, Andrew is my baby brother so naturally I started off towards the Children's Hospital downtown... for two reasons: a) when we need a hospital 99.9% of the time it is either for a child or the pet and both are in that direction and b) he is my BABY brother... then of course I did a steep U turn when I realized that my *baby* brother, is TWENTY NINE!!

Then I drove another hour in traffic but this time, this hospital had a parking lot so that was good.

We got a good sermon from the Opthalmologist about how animals are diseased and how my brother would lose his eye to infection, got it cleaned, refused to bandage it and sent us home with a $100 bill for his services (!!!) and a prescription for a $5 antibiotic ointment!

By now it was almost time to pick up the boys from school... so naturally I GOT LOST and drove 1 1/2 hrs passing the same street 5 times at least until I got my bearings and got to the boys' school.
Then my mom wanted to see them. She only called 12 times yesterday to remind me of the fact so I took them in to see her. She has a shop but the area is really busy and you can't park so we left the car at the Mall and took the train (which actually stops RIGHT at the Mall) .. it was only one stop :)
But the Mall is decorated and there were hordes of stalls of free products and a Carousel and a Train so by the time we got to my mom, we could only stay for 15 minutes as we had an appointment with the Child Psychiatrist at 5.30.

Cody cried for 15 minutes while going TO the appointment and then another 10 minutes because he didn't want to LEAVE ...
This is Cody's "gear shifting" problem. He has horrible meltdowns when he needs to change activities...
I arrived at the appointment, dragging the kids, 10 minutes late, dodging the doctor in order to change John who, of course, had once again lost control of his bladder and needed new clothes.

So I walk in to find this CLASSIC 50 something, psychiatrist, not a hair awry from her perfect bob, dressed in smart pants and a blouse, while I, overweight, hair a mess, dressed in job pants and a sweatshirt and not an ounce of make-up of course.

She did tell me I am a fantastic mom though and I am handling the boys well but other than that, she just asked some background questions and watched the boys play.

By the time the appointment ended around 6.30-ish, there was no way in Hell I was cooking dinner. So I treated the boys to steak down stairs (John is in a meat phase and it's all he will eat!) and drove home, where I washed them real quick but still made the mistake of leaving them, their can of "fake" shaving foam and fake razor, alone in the bathroom while I mixed up John's caloric supplement.
I walked in to find just how much surface half a can of fake shaving foam can cover.

Fortunately they really just CRASHED when I put them in bed and I had the chance to take a shower myself... and this is where the fun begins.
Remember last August I dropped the iron on my big toe and smashed it?
I eventually lost the entire nail and right now, 4 months later, it only needs 1 cm to be completely "normal" again.
Well I remove my WIDE, COMFY WALKING SHOES, and my toe really REALLY hurts and is swollen.
It seems like the edge of the nail, was digging in the flesh all day and OMGosh the PAIN... funny thing is I barely noticed it all day... you know, driving my brother to the hospital and then dragging the kids halfway through town.

SO I sit down with this big mean tube of Betadine and antibiotic cream and a ton of green puss comes out of the nail... and now I have a Batman Bandaid around my toe because I am never out of KIDS' Bandaids but apparently I am out of adult ones!!
And the darn thing STILL hurts... but I hope I caught it early!

And you guessed it... I did not get that doll shipped :(
(and this is the second time I am writing this post because the Blog Monster ate it the first time around)

And now ladies, I am off with my coffee to watch a little TV because honestly? I AM EXHAUSTED...and tomorrow I have to do MOST of it all over again...hopefully not the hospital thing but I did promise a trip to the Mall so they can ride the Carousel...and my kids? NEVER FORGET!!!

101 with Tina

I thought I would do a post with some common questions I get, just so you get to know me a little better :)

Q. When did you first start sculpting?
A. I started sculpting when I was 7 years old. My mother, who is an artist of a different kind herself, gave me some Cernit to occupy me and I sculpted a little cat. I was thrilled I could bake it and keep it forever.

Q. Did you always sculpt babies?
A. No. Actually babies is a "new" thing for me. Originally I sculpted little animals, caricature people, fairies, string puppets and hand puppets. I made my first money from selling string and hand puppets to local schools. Unfortunately this was before digital cameras and I have no pictures of them :( I do have a couple of puppets though somewhere. If I find them I will post pictures.

Q. So why did you start sculpting babies?
A. Up until I was about 12 I was a total tomboy with no interest in dolls. I did love real babies though and I've always wanted one of my own. I started collecting realistic baby dolls when I was 12 or so..
When I was 19, one day I found a website with realistic OOAKs. It was either Linda Webb's or Lorna Miller, I can't remember but anyway I read they were made out of polymer clay and the light bulb went on in my head and I thought, I can do that!!
And I did... and the rest is history.

Q. What did your first baby look like?
A. Ugh, it was hideous!! You have to remember 12 years ago, things weren't today. There was no free flowing information available, Google wasn't like it is today and NOBODY shared anything. You couldn't write to an artist and get help.. there were very few artists and they weren't talking, NOT that I blame them, don't me wrong lol :)
There were a few books but mostly a display of dolls rather than the real juicy details of how to make them. So if you take this into consideration, I went in BLIND.
My tools were the back of a paintbrush, a toothpick and wooden skewers. I made my first baby out of Cernit which was a bad choice. The hands were from air drying clay!
The body was a stuffed babygro.. and she had real women lashes lol. She looked human and everything, no problem, but she was more like a cheap Chinese play doll than an OOAK!

Q. When did you get markedly better do you think?
A. Definitely after the births of my sons in 2005. It was one thing to see babies in photos and another to see, touch and breathe in a real baby. My first dolls after the boys were born sold for $2900 and $3500 on eBay which is more than I charge for them now, 4 years later!! :) I took my artistic "turn" after they were born.

Q. Is there something that really frustrates you?
A. Loads of things. First of all, a doll never leaves this house until I am happy with it and I am a perfectionist. That does not mean the doll is perfect, I am not God lol, but each and every one has a piece of my heart in it and has to be up to my standards otherwise I take it apart and doing it again.

Another thing I get frustrated with it, when I am trying for a look and can't get it. I struggle especially with open eyed babies. I just can't get the look I want and for year I avoided them but then realized I really wanted to do older babies and children as well, so unless I wanted to be known as the sleeping artist, I needed to dive in... and I did. I started small but I now feel more comfortable doing big BIG dolls that are awake. Scale has never been a problem for me, I sculpt anything from 1/12th to 40" !! It's the older look/anatomy of an older baby that throws me off. I have spent countless hours studying preemie and newborn anatomy, I mean REALLY study it... now I am investing the same amount of time for older babies and children and I am sure at some point this will pay off and I will be happy with my awake babies as well :)

Q. Where do you make the dolls?
A. Ah! The million dollar question. I don't have a studio.. Well I have a room my mother in law allows me to use in another building but since the apartment is occupied by her elderly parents, I have some stuff there but don't go much.
I have a desk at home (we live in a very small apartment in the heart of Athens! and I do mean SMALL) and a breakfast table... yes ladies, your babies are made on a breakfast table... :)
But it's like they say in photography; it's not the camera that matters, it's the photographer. I've sculpted EVERYWHERE from kitchen tables to hotel beds... I'm easy ;) A Fancy dedicated organized studio would make my life easier, yes, but it's not a prerequisite.. although when the boys are 18 and go off to College, I am totally turning their room into a studio ;) TOTALLY lol.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Please Pray!

As some of you know, my little guy, John, was born with a few issues. He suffered oxygen deprivation and IUGR in utero and he has some special needs.
Today we spent the entire day at the Naval Hospital... our appointment was actually for the 12th January but we got a call that someone had canceled and could we make it in that morning? John has been unchanged despite several months of therapy.. in fact in some areas he got worse (like his speech is slurred, he is not eating, he trips and falls constantly, has no stamina, black circles are under his eyes and he has become aggressive) so just to be on the safe side, I scheduled an appointment... I called early December and the first available one was for the 12th January 2010.
The lady on the phone said "don't come early, don't come late, be here at 10.30"...

I had (have) a full day... it's the last few days before Christmas, dolls need to go out, I need to wrap up a few things but thankfully not too many but I still ended up saying yes... I dropped Cody off to my MIL as there was no time to drive him to school which is in another district in the OPPOSITE direction to the hospital and John and I headed out. I had a doll in the trunk to be mailed and at that time I figured, ok, the appointment is early, I will make it to the post office no problems...
This is when you insert the "eeeeeee, wrong" buzzer sound.

First of all, John's neurologist used to be in the regular Naval hospital, smack dab in the middle of town... in a location where you could go by taking the metro... Then he accepted the position of Hospital Administrator.. in another area, in the other Naval hospital. The building, was built in the '50's used to be administrative services. There is no ambulance entrance, no handicap entrance and NO parking lot!!
In fact it is by the sea in an area very thickly populated...
While getting there, I realized they had changed the streets (it has been years since I needed to go to that building) I got lost.
I called to say I would be slightly late when I was nearing the hospital.. and I was only 5 minutes late when I saw the hospital... and then it took me another FORTY-BLOODY-MINUTES of going up and down EVERY alley in the area to find a place to park the car. The idea of just letting it be in the middle of the road did occur to me but I kinda like it so...
I was 45 minutes to get there and it involved a 15 minute hike from we parked to the hospital... with a child that generally does NOT walk more than a few feet without giving up and wanting to be carried (it's a little of a behavioral thing and a little of a physical, Cerebral Palsy thing)...

Do you know when we finally got to see the doctor? At 12.30... that was our punishment for being late... they put us at the end of the queue :(
John had a two hour therapy session at 1... we missed that of course.

The neurologist commented on how sweet and clever John was but now wants a repeat brain MRI under general done. He insists on John getting speech therapy (no Sh$t Sherlock! - excuse my French) and we got referred "upstairs". To make a long story short, by the time we had our upstairs appointment, all papers for the MRI signed and notarized and approved (hey the Navy doesn't spend money like that, you need a trillion signatures on the papers!) it was 2pm... it was 2.30pm by the time we made it to the car (John wanted to stare at the waves breaking on the sea front) and it was 5pm by the time we drove through the traffic to our home.

It's now 6pm and I got NOTHING done today :( well I got my son in to the hospital, I got the appointment for the MRI and the evaluation but the doll is still in my trunk :( and my heart is racing because I really wanted to send it today... TODAY!! :(

So please pray for the MRI on Friday, please please... and I hope my customer understands... :(
Here's to hoping tomorrow is a new, brighter day!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stomp, whine, cry...

I'm really sad right now... I need to part with a baby I was intending as my 2010 resin (when I had the time/funds but some time in 2010 nevetheless).

I want to stomp my foot, I want to find another funding source... I don't want to give her up... but the boys' tuition must be paid urgently and the funds from another baby I was expecting will not be coming through, the lady needs more time and though I am generally easy with payments (they owe me a LOT of money I can tell you this much), this really throws a monkey wrench in my plans :(

Sadly I need to part with C.
I don't bond with each and every doll but I did with this one... Well, I can always sculpt another one right?
I didn't really have the funds to make her into a resin right now anyway... maybe by the time I've sculpted something else, I will have saved up for the resin as I really don't want to take pre-orders again. I prefer not to have people waiting anymore...

But today I am sad... but on the other hand, I would do anything for my boys and right now the best thing for my boys is to be in this private school... and I shouldn't really complain as because my dad works there I get 45% off... otherwise I wouldn't be able to walk past their front door, much less afford it for two kids..
Sorry C... Sorry I can't keep you but I will make sure you go to a great new mom!! :( waaaaaaaaah!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A teaser!

A teaser is all you get when you are working with a turtle's pace... ;)
Coming in 2010... just not sure in what form yet... lol

Hope you are all doing well!!

I Designed My Own Blog at Sour Apple Studio DIY