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3.26.2020

PROCESS :: teddy needs a name

Making of a doll.

Through my little art and science supply, Pulp Anatomy, I make these little raw dolls I call 'fleshies' for artists and/or magical folks who use poppets.  With all fairs being closed down at the moment, instead of starting my dolls from scratch, I've been dipping into my market stock that were supposed to come along to Pulp Anatomy's spring pop ups.

I thought I would share my process for making this particular bear doll, for anyone interested in how I do it.  I do not have a tightly laid out schedule and often do not know where I am going until I get there, but I snapped some photos along the way.  For anyone thinking of making dolls for their young ones or with their young ones, feel free to ask questions about my process and techniques.  If you do not have a prepped raw fleshie canvas, you can make one (we are crafty folk here) or use any existing doll or stuffed animal, and just sort of cover and add.  It's all for fun.  

So, here we have the fleshie and some of the materials I use: photo reference, super sculpey original polymer clay (it's a low temperature bake clay that doesn't harm the stuffed doll), and sculpting tools.  For anyone looking to more information for working with polymer clay, I highly recommend Ace of Clay video tutorials on YouTube.  


For the clay face, I use tin foil for the basic structure and sheets of polymer clay on top to make the features.  Sculpey bake and bond is a bakeable adhesive that I use to attach the clay to the fabric.



When I attach the clay to fabric, the bake and bond gets me so far, but for durability I usually have additional supports.  For some clay pieces, I make little holes that I can stitch the clay to the fabric.  Various supports also go in, like these toothpicks for the ears.


I just bake according to the super sculpey packing directions.  Let it cool and off I go to stage two: painting.


I use various techniques for painting but generally I use a matte or ultra matte acrylic paints on the clay and fabric. You can put the paint through the oven again if you are adding more clay later.

The hood fabric is an old chair cover I made and we wore down the edges so badly that I had to retire it.   I basically salvaged what was still intact and now it serves as doll clothes.  My process for clothing this bear was to paint the arms and legs, and the actual cloth goes on in small pieces and is stitched directly onto the doll form.


A small break here to check out the actual chaos that I work in.  I start each project with a clean table and during the way this happens.  I have a particular methodology of organizing that I've developed over the years based upon my very small multi-purpose rooms in my house and my ADHD.  This is my kitchen/dining table for my family of four and that's a hula hoop too.  I go full in when make stuff and this happens:


But I can pack it down and have the space prepped for roller skating in less than five minutes, and even be able to find my tools afterwards to pull out again to make an even bigger mess.

And back to the doll.  More painting.  Tin foil to keep the legs apart, like when people paint their toe nails.


Adding more cloth.  I like a lot of layers on my dolls.  I just find my basic shape and then stitch on, working from the extremities inward until I am happy. It's how I get dressed in the morning as well, but, almost always, without the sharp jabby needle bit.



Obviously, I am going with a scrappy, raw aesthetic here.  If I wanted a finer, smoother look, I would make the clothes separate and then secure to the body with a few stitches.  For strange times like these, though, the raw edges and visible stitching seems best.


I added a hooded edge to the head to both add a level of security to hold secure the clay piece and because, you know, hoods. I like the post-apocalyptic onesie effect here.



The tutu portion came off another doll I made a couple years ago.  It was a linen ruff I made that I removed because I want to revamp the doll.  It happened to fit here quite well around teddy's belly.

And then for the a little finishing party hat, I took some quilt lining felt, painted it up, stitched it into a crown.


A bit of rub on wax metallic finish to give a little shine (and make it inappropriate for ages three and under because I just can not make a doll suitable for children).



And that's my guy.  If you have questions about the process, I'm here :)




3.19.2020

how to read





This is for those of you who know how to read words, but are struggling to read a book.  As in sit down with a book, and just read it.  With intention and focus and enjoyment.

A couple days ago the public library phoned me to tell me it was closing.  It was probably my most unregulated emotional moment so far, as our springtime of isolation has been revealing her depths.

I had an ugly little breakdown as I realized it would probably be months before I can borrow a book.  I put down the phone and I cry to the boy, 'The library has closed it's doors!  But what will I read?!'

The boy doesn't answer but pointedly casts his eyes around the room, taking in probably a thousand books or more, before returning to his (text heavy) video game.  It's all fine for him maybe, as somebody reads to him out loud everyday as part of his homeschool and before bed, and is a reluctant reader beyond that, but if I told him that Fortnite and Roblox were shut down and he'd have to just play the video games he only has for his Nintendo 64, he would lose his eleven year old mind.

I am a person who doesn't describe herself as someone who reads a lot, although I do.  Since I started tracking in 2013, I've jotted down more than nine hundred titles.  That's just the ones I remembered to record.

I do read a lot, but when I talk about reading, I speak of myself as Bookish.  Like an identity.  I don't just read books, I am books.  They are a part of my being, the same way my bones and flesh are.  (But not, like, literally.)


There are many fine arguments as to why people should read books.  Fiction and non-fiction, lengthy books, electronic or the more tactile form, the act of reading is generally agreed to be good.  A search of the Internet will throw up any number of elegant reasons, some of them even animated on YouTube.

There are arguments against reading as well, though many of them are located at earlier historical points.  Reading about why people believed in the past that reading was a terrible idea is one of, I think, the best arguments for why we should read as much as possible, all the time.

So, being Bookish, it may surprise you to learn that reading a book is, for me, a complex, sometimes difficult task.  I know there is a perception that bookish people just are. We just sit and read effortlessly, that it's a easy as slipping on ice, we just fall onto it. Except instead of cracking a tailbone, we lay upon our couches sipping hot beverages, all cozy and smug.

I think this image of literary escapism is one of the reasons so many people tell me they wish they could read more.  It seem warm and peaceful, an idyllic mental holiday.

Sorry, definitely not true for me.  That's just tea packaging propaganda.  Sure, there were times in my life when it was easy to read, practically a compulsion.  That's a common prepubescent vocation, I think, as our desire for life experience is far greater than any that the people around us are willing to let us explore without supervision.  But once out of the Sweet Valley High phase, well, things just don't go as smoothly.  

For me, reading is work. It is pleasant work, mostly, but a certain level of effort is required.  I have mentioned before that I also have ADHD.  I am easily distractible.  I have a hard time sitting still.  I have a difficult time remembering what I just read.  I spend hours every week searching for the book I just put down... somewhere.  And despite this, or because of this, I definitely want to read.

I am also a recent ADHD diagnosis, which means that I have had these forty some years to wonder why the hell I am the way I am and, more importantly, develop highly personal and effective strategies.  Reading is something that I have a structured approach to but is also integral to the management of my ADHD. You'll see what I mean below.


This is how I read:

1. A non-negotiable part of my daily routine involves reading.  I have built in reading times, including for half an hour or in the morning while I have coffee (actually, this is an active brain time for me where I also dump all my creative ideas as well as read but I will talk about that later).  I also read before bed to help me sleep as it helps minimize the endless rolling of thoughts that would otherwise keep me awake all night.

I also bring along a book with me in case I have any waiting times during the day. This also helps me manage my time in that my ADHDness loses track of time often and I end up arriving late to places, except that I'm looking forward to having a few moments just me and my book, so I leave ridiculously early so I can have that time.  That means I'm at most of my appointments just on time.

2. I follow my energy, or as my daughter would say, the vibe. In the early mornings I like to sit and read but in the late morning, especially if I'm reading out loud to someone else, I like to pace.  Also, if I'm high energy, I put a lot of drama in my voices and exclaimations.  If I'm reading to just myself, I will still read out loud, even perform, to make that noise and focus myself with the stimulation.  Sound a little crazy?  Maybe, but it's also fun and keeps me on task.

I'll add here that when I was a child, I used to ride my bike and even drive an off road quad while reading.  I do not recommend this, but my need for movement to help me focus is what is key here. A rocking chair may do it for someone else. Or walking a track that they don't need to pay attention to.  Reading in the car if it doesn't give you motion sickness (not while you are the driver though).  Treadmills could work for someone else but they are too weird for me.  I need to vary my pace and not be worried about tripping on that grippy rubber bottom.

3. If I want to read but I'm getting distracted, I add stimulus.  First, I do read out loud in outrageous ways.  It isn't too long before I settle down into after that. I'll also take my bookmark and go through line by line.  I take notes of characters as I go, or details that might be important.  In other words, I add a task for myself that is centered on the reading.  I may tap my fingers or play with a fidget but I prefer a stim that is directly related to the text.

I will also take myself out to a more stimulating environment with background noise.  Coffee shop or some nature area with running water or chirpy birds. Or turn on a radio station loud enough that I can hear it, but not actual words.  This is a tricky one because ambient noises can also distract, and my inability to filter out irrelevant noises, especially conversations can make this work well or terribly. The worst place is actually the library, as it's too quiet that I can hear every shuffle, cough and whispered question.  All of that grabs my attention and away from my book.  So I find a nice burble that is not too loud but still filters out the tiny unpredicted sounds.  Some people use headphones and a repetitive beat, trance music, or something they enjoy but doesn't demand excessive attention.  Familiar old television shows, white noise machines, or your spouse talking also works well for some.

4. I also follow my mood.  I am reading four or five books at any particular time.  I do enjoy a variety of genres and non-fiction all over the place as I am a total book slut.  But I do swap my books around throughout the day.  In the mornings I like to tackle my big heavy non fictions, with historical or pathological topics.  They tend to be heavy hardcovers that sit supported in my lap while I hold my coffee. Before bed, I read lighter topics that are entertaining but don't suck me in so bad that I can't sleep.  Children's adventure fiction is my choice here, although if it's been a hard day, it might be Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes.  I have also been known to have a small stack beside me of books that I read a couple of pages of each, rotating the order through if I am having a hard time focusing but still want to sit and read.  The switching books allows for small dopamine surges that works kind of like channel surfing or checking my social media.

5. Oh, social media.  So this is genuinely a problem.  ADHD and social media is the most dangerous combination.  I am managing a lot of it by setting timers and restrictions.  For instance, ten minutes of reading, set down book, pick up phone for five minutes, and then ten more minutes of reading.  For anyone who thinks I just stay idle for hours reading, you'd be very surprised how often I get up and move around.  I just build in the phone checks or wanders in the kitchen for snacks instead of trying to stop it.  Boundaries not barriers.

6. Speaking of ADHD, there are a couple of specific issues we have.  The above suggestions might be helpful for any neurology, at least to try and see if it helps.  But ADHD has two key issues in particular.  First is dyslexia is quite common and a complication that does not apply to me.  I can not address this, but if anyone has resources they like to share, please comment!  I have dyscalculia, which has it's own set of trials and tribulations, but it doesn't affect my reading.

Another issue is that many people with ADHD are bombarded by ideas, things they should be doing, things they want to do, and random, intrusive thoughts that are nearly impossible to shut off. What I do is keep a piece of paper beside me with a pen and I write it down as it occurs to me, then back to my book.  I do not make this paper a to-do list, which is a whole other set of problems for people who lack the ability to prioritize and have 'pick up medication' on the same list as 'paint the basement'. Oh nos.  On this paper I put the date on top and then I scribble down or draw whatever occurs to me.  I may, if I think there is something important later, scan the list and see what it was (pick up milk?  feed the dog?) but mostly I tuck it into a folder I keep (eventually) and never expect to look at it again.  If I am every stuck for ideas when I sit down to work, I may go back and scan a few sheets because they are chalk full of random fun stuff that usually gets me working on something.


The above list is not complete obviously, and addresses mainly the adult who is trying to read for pleasure. For required reading such as school work or legal documents, or encouraging your kids to read, there are many resources written about it online and in... books!

Additionally, I do not have a visual imagination, so I can not address how people picture it.  I do experience stories with imaginary textures or moods or sort of murky feels, but that is definitely a neurodiverse dark alley that we don't need to talk about right now.

Good luck to everyone who are now confronting their home libraries and vowing to tackle some of the books they've been meaning to read.  Unless you Marie Kondo'd your books away, then, well, you just get judgement and heads shakes from me.

Let us know if there is things that you do that help you focus and enjoy your reading time.




3.18.2020

Suddenly homeschooling? One way to think about it

I made a little off hand commentary on Facebook the other day to my unexpected non-consensual homeschoolers out there who are looking at trying to do three months of school at home.  I saw a lot of crime scene like photos, with books and pens scattered across rooms like they were at ground zero of some explosion.

The message I posted was basically: relax, it's messy, but it'll be okay.

I have no basis to say such a thing, but I am quite familiar with not knowing what to do with my kids all day and I know that panic spreads like wildfire from parent to child. Panic is not particularly helpful in a learning environment unless you are learning what ice cream you like best to binge eat while crying on the kitchen floor.

There is a lot of scrambling this week, home education wise, and I am impressed at the glut of home based resources being tossed around the social media sites.  It would of been great to have this kind of access when I first started homeschooling my girl back in 2009.

Nope, actually, that's a lie.  It would of been overwhelming and despair inducing.

The decision for us to homeschool way back when was based on a genuine desire to spend as much as my time as possible with my children, for me to find a way to work at home, and my generalized loathing of externally set structure and loss of control that comes with following institutional schedule and demands.


And, as a strong, invisible force, it was because I have ADHD.

I didn't know that at the time; my diagnosis has been relatively recent.  But an inability and non-desire to follow schedules, easily distractible, low motivation to participate in group activities, and poor adherence to timetables are hallmarks of kindergarten drop outs.  Which, as a parent, I was.

Undiagnosed ADHD has many mental and physical burdens that are beyond the scope of this particular afternoon to talk about but it was instrumental to the way I set up my homeschool.  Or, as I usually refer to it, my life.

Initially, the how to do homeschool/life correctly was anxiety producing.  We tried curriculums.  Workbooks.  I bought flashcards.   I made flashcards.   I read all sorts of educational philosophies and methods, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Waldorf, online, blended and all that. I know many homeschooling families that served as models for all types of structured methods and they all seemed good.  I couldn't really find fault in the various ways, it appeared what mattered more was rightness of fit for the family involved.

If you circle back to undiagnosed ADHD running amok in my brainy parts, though, you'll see how attempting to adopt an external structure and enforce it on myself leads down spirals of non-adherence and guilt, feelings of just not being good enough and what is wrong with me?


Fortunately, though, I was born with ADHD and also managed to make it all the way to adulthood, through school, through a messy young adulthood, through college, meaning that through pressure and fire I have developed all sorts of novel, maybe bizarre, strategies to make things happen that need to happen.  I am also nearly buried under a landslide of creative ideas everyday, ADHD being this situation where all the walls are down in your brain and the thoughts that others may categorize and prioritize are instead smashing into one another like surly teenagers in a bouncy house, and I am utterly unafraid to act on any strange idea.  Actually, this whole blog is a study of what undiagnosed ADHD looks like in an adult woman with small children.  Sometimes it's ugly.  But it does keep us entertained.


So I decide to homeschool and I ask myself, me with two small children I've charged myself with the heavy responsibility of educating while under the judgemental stare of family, society and an unknown invisible neurological disorder, 'What are we going to do here? We can't just keep eating ice cream while crying on the floor.'

And me says back, 'Hey us, we're probably going to mess this up, but fuck it.  Remember back when we were a kid?  How about if we just sort of make a space and schedule that we would of thrived in as a child.'

We're so smart.

I took the pressure off myself to find a system that fit us. I gave myself permission and time to explore and experiment and fail and create our own private world that we could not only live with but actually love.


The actual method we use, turns out to be mostly non-method.  Consistently non-consistent.  Or a ragtag bunch of ideas that come under the heading of Unschooling.

My own need for quiet safe spaces interspersed with excitement, and particular aesthetics, rhythms that flowed with my personal energy over the day,  freedom to indulge my interest of the week and then putting it aside when the sparkle dulled.  I made a home that I would of loved to grow up in.  Lots of books, creative raw materials and kitchen dance parties.  Blanket forts, twinkle lights, and painting the walls.  Joining short run activities on interesting things.  Plenty of unscheduled time to explore whatever, to move or be still, depending on the moment.  Naps.  Contact sports.  Prioritizing interest and engagement over what we are told is important.  Project based learning, with a multi-disciplinary approach.  Or, you know, doing what we want to do.


I have been very lucky that I could do this, and turns out, so has my girl.  When I set up something that would of worked for me as a child to learn and be engaged with and generally satisfied with life, I coincidently created the environmental conditions for my particular child with undiagnosed ADHD to thrive in.  Turns out this shit is super inheritable.

Our home is a good fit for us.  Which means we didn't know some of us aren't not entirely neurotypical until grade nine, where girl child decided to enter public school.  That's we realized that something was different in the way the girl processed the world.  Much more than labelling her a homeschool weirdo could explain. Like how she actually needs to full send run in the hallways all lunch hour.  How she is physically incapable of keeping her feet below her butt when sitting.  How much of a jackass she is.

The girl has the ADHD so bad that we were only a month in before we went from being utterly unaware of this particular neurology to positively identifying the need for medication and targeted strategies.  We had no idea up until she went into an environment that wasn't actually made for her personally.  Samesies here.


I think if the girl had been in classrooms in her youngest years, maybe we would of known earlier.  But maybe not.  She might have just been labelled as a discipline problem, she would of been confused and angry at herself for not fitting in, not being able to just do what seems so easy to other kids.  Everyday I learn more about what this means to the girl and myself.  Increasingly I am aware that my instinctual acceptance, even indulgence, of individual quirks comes from my own genetic set up and having grown up out with parents being unaware of their own neuro difference.  We all make strategies and model ways of being in a world when your brain is not set up to work well in standardized environment.

I taught myself How to Weirdo. And then I taught my children as well.


For the record, the girl tells me that she's glad that she wasn't diagnosed earlier, because being free to just be herself without thinking that there was something different about her allowed her to get to know herself quite well without judgement.  She could focus on what worked, rather than if it was good or bad.  She is tremendously self aware and articulate about what she needs.  It's a rare and precious thing she has, and nobody here is sorry for how we've done things, as non-conventional as it was.  And is.

And despite never having taken formal classes in English or Science, her grades we sitting in the 90% for everything, except math where her dyscalculia and unfamiliarity with the subject kept her at a 70%.  High grades are not something I really care about, but it demonstrates to us that she knows how to take in information and apply it as demanded by a situation.  The unschooler is doing well at public school, socially and academically.  But more than that, she is very familiar with her own way of learning the information and easily cuts past methods she knows won't work for her.  She talks to her teachers and works with them to build strategies.  When there a background of information she doesn't have from her past schooling, she just finds out the information in the way that works best for her and moves on without getting upset that she's 'behind'.

But for us, way back when, I just decided to roll with it.  Whatever it is.  We can read classic literature and we can read graphic novels.  Watch cartoons while we eat lunch.  It is most definitely not for every family, but amongst ourselves, it is perfectly acceptable to drop your math book to grab somebody and pretend to bite them to get them to fight you.  Works for a needed dopamine boost so you can focus again.  Or just up in the middle of something, run outside and trampoline like a squirrel on fire.  Or become hyperfixated on a special interest and monologue for hours.   Or to not listen to somebody's monologue and continue typing your poems of sadness.  Or spend the whole night awake drawing with one eye on Netflix.  We make messes and mistakes and we laugh our asses off all the time.  We seek information and excitement and hate scratchy clothes.  We stim.  We allow each other to get into things, even if we don't like it for ourselves.  It's not perfect, but it's cool man.


Here is the thing.  Because I stopped and asked myself what I wanted, I stumbled on what could work for us.  When it fits, the successes come easier and the motivation develops to push through the discomfort of not knowing what was going to happen next. My confidence grew over time that my way may not be everyone's way, but it works for us, most of the time, and I love our homeschool life.

So as an unprecedented number of parents suddenly find themselves in that What Do We Do Now? phase of homeschool exploration, even if it's just for a few months, as an old hand at the least travelled path, I wish to encourage parents to ask themselves what they would of wanted as a child?  What would your best case learning scenario be?  Maybe that will give some direction to fit you, one that you can't get from online resources or bedtime stories read by celebrities.  Or if you have a changeling, like my son - sometimes I wonder how this stranger found his way into my home - locate another human that does seem a lot like your child in temperament and personality (probably a relative, your brother sister maybe?) and ask them what they would of liked as a child?

This is a plea to you to work with the child you have there, in front of you, and don't worry about what other people tell you is the right way.  Don't get your head turned by flashy online resources.  Don't force it.  Just slow down, be thoughtful, look for what feels right.

Homeschool is just as much about learning how to learn as what subjects you actually engage in.  If they are interested and motivated, it's nearly impossible for them not learn about it.  And if they don't care, well, all the ice cream in the world is not going to get the information into that child's head.  Explore, have fun, discover where passions are.

And then make lunch and get on with it.



3.15.2020

fixing up the bone boi (anatomical skeleton reconstruction)

Oh boy, let's see if I remember how to do this!

With the world social distancing and all my market, roller derby, and travel plans cancelled, I've started slipping into old habits.  I do make things still, as, you know, my j.o.b.  

I guess.  

You can search  my artsy fartsy bizness name 'Pulp Anatomy' to see what I'm up to.  But without my ridiculously stuffed schedule of derby events between myself and the girl, who plays with a provincial travel team and on Team Canada (little heart baby makes good!), I haven't had an outlet for my general know-it-all-ness.

I remember blogs though.  Such a brilliant thing.  I do what I want and can turn off comments.  

Surprising, nothing has changed in formatting.  This feels very primitive.  Thank goodness because I am a matronly woman now and no longer have the ability to update my computer skills.

But I did need to update my skelly boi because he was looking a little worse for wear.  A whole lot of him just sort of fell off, Black Knight style.  Not very educational, unless he's demonstrating what happens to an extra for The Witcher.


I tried all sorts of adhesives but they couldn't take the weight of the plastics.  I've been keeping his fallen parts around in hopes I would one day find the time to put him back together.  Looks like, thanks to a pandemic, that day arrived!


What I used: wire (probably a 24 gauge, but tough), wire cut and bending tool, and what I call a hand drill, although I don't know what the people who know tools call it.


I use this little drill all the time for real animal skeleton reconstructions and with polymer clay sculpts to make the holes I need to put in supports.  For the skeleton articulations, I usually use a small brass rod instead of just wire, cut to a precise length and secured with adhesive.  It's nearly invisible and very strong when in place.  

Here is an example of an articulated rabbit skeleton I done did up last year.  Note the joints are secured with small brass rods and then a larger one for spine support in the middle.  The spine is threaded with a hard 12 gauge craft wire.


However, I needed some flex with this plastic anatomy model since it is molded plastic and I had to somehow maneuver through an already constructed rib cage.  I was also not concerned in anyway about roughly finished wire edges.  Obvious repairs add charm, right?  Like visible mending?


Off I go.  Without actually counting and accounting for all the parts.  (Foreshadowing?)

Using the hand drill (or whatever), I screw my way through the plastic (so much hard polymer, had to turn on The Witcher while drilling), and then threaded my bendy wire through the holes.  A simple operation except when Geralt was doing something violent or sexy, and then I had to stop and pay attention to the screen for a bit.


Twist ends to secure.


Here is the ribs.  One did not want to cooperate no matter how much I cursed at it.  I decided to leave it as a lesson to itself.  I could, however, later go in with an adhesive, maybe with a silicone, to force it into shape.  With the wire supports, it would probably hold up well.


For now, though, I've got my bone boi looking much more intact and conventionally educational.  And I got an entire Witcher episode inside me too, which is very satisfying.

But wait!  Half an arm missing?!


I know it's here... somewhere.  While I search, not very hard, I am contemplating making some sort of robotic substitute.  Or maybe a grass sword, a la Finn the Human style?

What do you think I should do with this opportunity?


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8.03.2017

teatime with predators


Made the girl a little top.  Put a spider on it.

I'm tickled with my spider web appliqué.  I shall have to revisit this again in the near future. 

The spider is machine sewn. The web is pieced together with pin tucks.  Spider web in process:


Back to the girl this morning:


This was moments before she broke the tea saucer.  My girl is a delicate flower.  Except when she's not.

The embroidery on the shirt says, Part Girl, Part Wolf Spider.

(It took all I had to not reverse that into spider wolf.  Spider wolves are terrifying.  Thank you Welcome to Night Vale for that particular thing I'll never forget yet I can not remember where it is.)

I saved the tea cup from miss delicate, though.  Put a weird little cyclopean clown doll in it.


Then I listed the doll on Etsy.  Check it out.