Friday, July 30, 2010

Needle Felted Unicorn Creation

“The Unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone…“ These are the first words of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle and if you haven’t read it then you might not understand my fascination with unicorns in general and The Last Unicorn in particular. I can’t remember when my obsession with unicorns started. I do remember that when The Last Unicorn movie came out I didn't get to see it in the theater. I’m pretty sure that I was obsessed about unicorns before the movie, although I don’t think I’d actually read the book so maybe not. I don’t remember having that “oh they changed that or left or this” moment. I was pretty particular child when it came to mythical creatures. I don’t like mixing them up (unless they already come that way, like a chimera). No wings on my unicorns, please, and no horns on my Pegasus, thank you. I still don’t like werewolves that don’t turn all the way into a wolf. As a very bookish kid I liked mythology, I like legends of the gods, so of course I liked fantasy. I also conducted my own research into things by reading everything… I didn't care if I understood it or not, I just read it. When I finally did read the Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle I wanted to know everything about unicorns; everything, for example, early in the story the unicorn has a conversation with a butterfly. The unicorn is trying to find answers and is asking the butterfly whose answers are made up of bits of poems and songs, because that’s how butterflies communicate. I looked up all the poems…there’s Yeats, Bible verses, and snatches of songs. I think there’s a scholarly paper on the whole thing somewhere, not mine…but someone’s, I’m sure of it. At 11 or 12yrs old I had a need to know. I collected books on unicorn photography unicorn"photography" (damn you, Robert Vavra, you big faker, yet how love them), mythology, history, art, everything. I guess I’m trying to say that The Last Unicorn is complex, it’s not simply a fantasy, but it’s about immortally vs. mortally, about loneliness, fighting fears and obsessions too. It’s also about redemption and discovering your own power within you. That’s all hidden within layers of irreverent humor and fairytale satire.

I didn't have a chance to meet Peter Beagle until just a few years ago. I saw him at an author’s table at Dragon Con in Atlanta. That first time I just looked. I couldn't actually bring myself to speak with him. I didn't want to go all fan girl, although I’m not that bookish, shy, awkward, kid any more I still have my moments. So the next year I did go up to his table and get a book signed, it was towards the end the whole thing so the crowd was thinning and I got to thank him for writing a wonderful story that totally influenced my childhood and adult life. I don’t think I said exactly that. I do remember I starting weeping uncontrollably and apologizing a lot. He patted my hand and said that sometimes he gets like that too. I also met Connor, his manager who responsible for bringing Peter out into the open once more and discovering where Peter had hidden all his stories away. (Find out more about Peter's new projects here. ) Since that tearful, kind of embarrassing meeting I go where Peter’s appearing whenever I can. I got to pitch and help out at his table at Akon in Dallas a few years go when they were overwhelmed. There was another teary moment at Apollo Con in Houston, but I got to hear him sing. I've missed some things, like Peter at Scarborough Faire because I was working at the Castle in OK that month and I missed Akon this year. Last year at Dragon Con I not only saw Peter and Conner again, but to my delight the artist Rebekah Naomi Cox was there too… and I had my own teary moment with her. She is wonderfully enchanting and talented person I've ever had the chance to meet. I had that same soul touching experience I had with Peter Beagle. I also was making little felted creatures and I got to give one to her, I think it was Puss n Boots. I gave Peter a merman and Connor a centaur. All needle felted pipe cleaner people I’d started making out of boredom in the car, starting with a Ninja. (That’s another post.)

So being obsessed with anything about Peter Beagle (I mean unicorns) and wanting to support his endeavors, I had to order the comic book when it came out and I didn't read it right way. I put it away and only about month I was looking for the extra copy I’d ordered for my friend’s birthday did I look through the whole thing and see this contest.

The Last Unicorn Art contest that they hope to put into a book, compiling all the entries and there’s prizes and such. However, didn't even have time to think about this project for while. I got some dates mixed up, I thought I had another month. I've been discovering the nuances of Nuno felting and have therefore have been a bit distracted. So while I could mess with this for another month. It’s probably better that I don’t. Don’t they say an artist is never finished but also knows when to walk away? Mostly, I made this for me… something that I love, and a little tribute to my favorite author.

Okay, enough about my unicorn craziness. I still obsessed by the way, I just try to limit it and I demand that it’s mostly tasteful… Mostly.

Down to the method end of it now... sorry its taken so long. The actual needle felted unicorn is wool over wire armature, its core is felted more solid that anything I've ever felted before. It’s very firm. The body took a week, maybe weeks to create. I've been working off and on this for about month so time a bit compressed in my head. I only had these really big glass eyes and no time to order or make others. This is maybe one of the largest pieces I've made by needle felting, especially over wire. The wire underneath makes everything more difficult, because as I poke and shape the wool there’s a significant increase of needle breakage. I actually broke quite a few. I was in such a hurry to create (and out of camera batteries) that I failed to take pics of the actual work in progress. Bad Joyce, I know. In the back of my mind was also, who wants to see me stabbing a unicorn, really? Good thing I’m pretty philosophical about that sort of stuff. Many times I had to work a little on this and then stop… for fear of over working it or screwing it up. The look of the unicorn is influenced by the description on the first page of the book. “She did not look anything like a horned horse… being smaller and cloven-hoofed…Her neck was long and slender, making her head seem smaller than it was… the long horn above her eyes shone and shivered with its own seashell light…” She really came together in the last couple of days… I sculpted hooves out of polymer clay that I mixed to just the right shade of silver. They kind of came out a bit largish, I think I’m influenced more than a little by Michael Hague. I like those splayed cloven hooves. I ended up filing them down and reshaping them by hand until I got to a size I liked. Once I set her eye in they didn't look quite so large even though she’s based on the mythical description of a unicorn (at least one of them) the Last Unicorn’s “look” is also highly influenced by the animated feature. I totally avoided blue, pink or purple mane, you have to drawn the line somewhere. However, she does have somewhat of a Japanese look to her. Partially, because of those over sized orbs. I had to root the silk mane mixture a ¼” section at a time. It’s actually a blend of silk, wool, and bamboo with a tiny bit of shiny firestar fiber thrown in. It was very, very tedious. Its so soft I thought that if anything was unicorn hair this was. Softer than clouds or dreams or cobwebs.. I love her, she came out better than I could have possibly imagined. I don’t care if I win, I hope she makes it to the book. But this is more about creating a tiny piece of enchantment …unicorn out of wool, wire and silk and a couple needles. I hope you enjoyed this explanation of her creation.


Kandra said...

I love your heart. You put it into everything you do!

Carolyn said...

She's like something out of dreams. You really did well with her. I keep finding myself coming back to sneak a peek at her. :)

LucyRavenscar said...

I just saw this on Craftster, it is so beautiful. I completely empathize with your childhood love of fantasy/mythology. I got hold of a book of Peter Beagle's from the library when I was younger that was a collection of four stories, including The Last Unicorn, which I'd love to get hold of again, but it must be out of print. I'm in the UK and you don't see much of his work over here.

Anyway, good luck with the competition, I don't see any reason why your unicorn wouldn't make it into the book.

Kat_RN said...

Your unicorn is lovely. I read The Last Unicorn for the first time as an adult and I loved it too. Wonderful tribute.

Shannon said...

Hello, I just found your blog from visiting another and love your Unicorn. You do fabulous work and I will surely be back to visit. Many Thanks for sharing.

nataliejane81 said...

oh my goodness she's beautiful! The Last Unicorn is a movie that is very special to me and I've watched it innumerable times in my life - I knew it was that particular unicorn straight away - well done! xx