4 Artists: Animal Paper Collage

Paper collage fascinates me. Most styles of quilting are a form of collage — putting together pieces of many different fabrics to build up a pattern or picture — but the limitations caused by the need to sew seams* keeps me from achieving the truly detailed results I want from my animal art. While looking at animal pieces by other art quilters, I stumbled across a paper-collage dog portrait and got curious. Here are the artists I discovered while surfing the web.

My favorite is Dawn Maciocia, who lives in Scotland. Her lively animal portraits balance realism with whimsy and her use of line suggests that she can draw quite well. Her subjects are mostly mammals and birds, with an emphasis on the wild. To get a sense of how complex and time-consuming her process is, check out this short video:

Laura Yager’s work is also whimsical, but much more in-your-face. She strives to make the world a better place with her “happy art” and her neon animals do the trick. Her strongly colored papers are also high in pattern making her work more like a quilt than any of the other artists listed here.

Paper collage by Laura Yager

The work of Samuel Price is much more realistic, though his realism is noticeably pixellated. Using pieces of photographic images, he builds up a new photographic image with the fuzzy edges of a newspaper photo. His main subjects are dogs and horses.

Callie by Samuel Price
Callie by Samuel Price. Look closely at this dog’s ear and nose. The peachy parts are built up from photos of human body parts.

Last, but definitely not least, is Elizabeth St. Hilaire. Her charming art work includes goats wearing blossoms, sheep highlighted with rainbow colors, and tiny birds perched on flower stems. She uses papers with both printed and hand-written text as well as painted and color papers to achieve her naturalistic animals.

Field of Sweet Dreams E. St. Hilaire_web
Field of Sweet Dreams by Elizabeth St. Hilaire

Who did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

*I know I could be fusing (gluing) the fabric instead of sewing it, but that’s not really my thing.

Great Mini Animals to Knit — If You Can Unravel The Instructions

Recently I came across the adorable knit animals of Sachiyo Ishii. Some of the animals look surprisingly realistic for tiny knits. I couldn’t resist buying both Mini Knitted Woodland and Mini Knitted Safari at once. I got out my cotton yarn and 00 needles, eager to get started. It wasn’t long before I discovered that these cute patterns aren’t as simple as they seem.


I began by making the hares out of Mini Knitted Woodland. Thanks to the vague instructions (“sew the head”), the first one didn’t look right. Dissatisfied, I tried again. After three, I felt like I’d gotten the hang of the pattern and working so small, and was ready to move on. I switched to some scrap wool yarn and made a raccoon.

While my difficulties with the hare were a clue, it wasn’t until I was stuffing the raccoon that I realized the instructions in the book were lacking. My raccoon looked like a no-necked gangster, while the pictures in the book showed a well-defined break between the head and shoulders, even though the body and head are knit as one. I used sculpting stitches along the neckline to get a better shape. It worked, sort of.


Next, I tried a squirrel and had my first complete fail. The tail is made from a tiny pompom, and since I’ve made pompoms in the past, I wasn’t too worried about the minimal directions. I followed the directions and it didn’t work. At all. So I set the squirrel parts aside for another day.

Squirrel parts.
Squirrel parts.

Discouraged by the failed squirrel, I decided to make a pompom-free tortoise. The little guy is adorable and one of the smallest things I have ever knit.


As Mother’s Day approached, I pulled out Mini Knitted Safari to make a VW van for my mom. I knew Mom would love a reminder of our family camping trips. The pattern in the book is a hippie camper complete with embroidered flowers, but I changed the colors and the embroidery to make it more like the one we’d owned.

Van Collage_web

Emboldened by my success, I went back to animals and made a polar bear. (Note: Apparently “safari” means “big wild animals” and is not limited to Africa.) It worked pretty well, although once again I had some trouble with the directions. The back end did not come out like the bear in the picture, and I had to do some additional stitching to make the shape more bear-like.


The last project I tried was a panda bear, mainly because I had black and white yarn on hand. The body went together pretty easily but the head is just weird and I can’t tell from the instructions how to put it together. If I use the flap as a neck and sew it to the body directly, it looks all wrong. If I sew up the head so it’s completely separate, it comes out too small. As soon as I added one black eye patches, it was clear that my panda does not look like the one in the book, and I have no idea how to fix it.

The instructions were wanting...
The instructions were wanting…

Much as I love the tiny animals in these two books, I’m not sure how many more I will try to make. I’m willing to put up with failure and fudging when I’m designing something from scratch, but if I am following a pattern, I expect it to work, no major adjustments, and certainly no failures.

How about you? How hard are you willing to work to construct something when you are given poor instructions? Also, if you have any tips on how to make a tiny pompom (less than an inch across), please share them! Some of the cutest critters in the book are made with pompoms.

Fiber Fun: Megan Nedds and The Woolen Wagon

Those who’ve been here before know I usually put up knitting or crocheting projects on Friday, but I’ve decided to branch out to another form of fiber art today: needle-felting.

Megan Nedds makes realistic sculptures of animals and birds using needle-felting techniques. Her creations have wire armatures that allow them to be posed in many different ways, adding to the impression that they are alive.

Siri the Cheetah, by Megan Nedds
Siri the Cheetah, by Megan Nedds
Edgar the Raven, by Megan Nedds
Edgar the Raven, by Megan Nedds

Nedds taught herself how to needle-felt, although she has taken a class or two to help her refine her skills. I’ve done a little needle-felting and am in awe of her skill. I love the amount of detail and expression she achieves in her pieces. Those baby elephants look eager to play.

Kara and Chloe the baby elephants, by Megan Nedds
Kara and Chloe the Baby Elephants, by Megan Nedds
Katie the Chipmunk, by Megan Nedds
Katie the Chipmunk, by Megan Nedds
Dakotah the Gray Wolf, by Megan Nedds
Dakotah the Gray Wolf, by Megan Nedds

Nedds sells her work on Etsy and you can contact her there to get a commission done, but the place to see more of her work is The Woolen Wagon on Facebook. Check out the photo album “Meet The Animals” to see all her creations. Scroll down the main page to see process photos that show the underlying armature and just how much work it takes to create these enchanting creatures.

Handmade Holidays: Cross-stitched and Stuffed Ornaments

Even though Christmas has come and gone, I’m enjoying all my handmade decorations so much I thought I’d share a few more of them before putting the holiday behind me.

The first two are fabric dolls ornaments. Both were given to me as gifts, so I am unsure of the designer’s name, but I know they are made from patterns. (Does anyone recognize the style? After spending way too much time digging around, I came up with the name Gabrielle Cyr and I think these might be hers, but I can’t find her work anywhere online to verify this vague belief.)



The three cross-stitch ornaments are also from patterns. I made them from little kits I bought so long ago I no longer remember making them, but they are some of my favorite ornaments. (I’m a sucker for animals.)




Feel free to share your favorite handmade ornament in the comments.

A Day in the Rockies: Little Critters

Our day in the mountains was full of wildlife. When we weren’t busy seeing big mammals, we enjoyed the birds and the small animals of the woods. Dad and Kurt got a lot more bird pictures than I did, but I still managed to catch a few. While Mom and I sat at a picnic table by Lily Lake, a song sparrow landed right in front of us and sang long enough for me to snap a picture.

Song sparrow

Another Lily Lake show-off was a ground squirrel who has clearly been fed in the past. He came out and posed for me.

Later, when we were searching Rocky Mountain National Park for elk, a stellar jay landed in a tree right next to us, and we all took pictures of him. Unfortunately, the memory card in my camera maxed out right then. I only got two shots of him.

Tomorrow: plant life that caught my eye (and wound up in my camera).

Another Armadillo

This armadillo just surfaced in my messy studio.  It’s an ATC (Artist Trading Card) made by Carol K. Boyer and given to me by her when we were together at a creativity retreat a few years ago.

ATC by Carol K. Boyer
No. 13 in Orange Series 3 by Carol K. Boyer

(The image is a little fuzzy; I have got to get me a scanner!)