Creative Consolation: the “Silk Dragon” Sculpture

Sometimes we have setbacks (like moving) that delay our goals (like vending at Flock & Fiber Festival) so instead….we find consolation in imaginative pursuits.  Something to occupy the mind, keep twitchy fingers busy and satisfy the creative urges.

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In September 2016, I began a dragon sculpture, but Life interrupted and the wire armature was repeatedly set aside  This year I resolved to complete the dragon and enter it into Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival 2017 – Fine Arts Competition.

I’ve been immensely happy working on this Dragon sculpture.  The idea for it was sparked by the pebbly texture of a (white) Bombyx silkworm cocoon.  Then furthered by the discovery of naturally metallic gold wild Indonesian silk cocoons (cricula).  Wouldn’t they make fabulous dragon scales?   Yes indeed!  All 142 gold spine scales.

Eventually, the realization sunk in that every. single. scale. would have to be dyed – in multiple steps – to achieve color progression before attachment to the needle-felted body.  Hundreds of scales. Countless hours.  Already enthralled with the idea, I couldn’t stop.  And yes, those are lots of (oops, ouch!) needle scratches on my thumbnail.

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And every step of the way, this dragon held surprises for me.  I delved into the project knowing how to make a wire armature, secure & sculpt the wool to shape a body.  But there were many questions and simple faith that “I’d figure out something” for the rest.

How I dyed the cocoon scales? (trade secret!  A vendor should hold a little something under wraps).

How to make the feet, horns, teeth & eye socket?  Homemade air dry clay.  Cold Porcelain formula.  Fun discovery.  Kitchen cupboard ingredients and rock hard results.

Cover the face in a bajillion tiny hand cut scales? Maybe.  Or, mottled dye colors on wool that somehow melded nicely to compliment the scale texture.  Unexpected, but awesome at last day crunch time.

How to make a tail tip?  Would the fuzzy-er gold cocoons work for that?  Yes.  And used same gold cocoon fluffy bits for the base of horns and flared ruff along the jaw.

fullsizeoutput_1e92Wings?  Wool and silk.  Days of effort and 3 tries at wet-felting with the wing template to obtain the right texture, thickness, size and colors.  Whew!

Eyes:  needle felt?  Or glass?  Online eyes didn’t look quite right, so I bought the glass and painted my own eyes.  More valuable lessons in types of paint that work -or not- on glass.  Used a magnifier and an “eyelash” paintbrush.  I swear I cut off all but 2 paintbrush hairs to achieve a fine line and tiny details for the pupil.   22 attempts until perfection.  It was all worth it, when she gazed sweetly up at me.

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Of all the myriad techniques I experimented with and results obtained I will say this: I am most proud of the dragons posture.  I wanted a creature lithe, muscular, and seemingly in motion.  I built a wire armature as a skeleton; mindful how a body moves.  Built wool “musculature,” convinced it would show through the finished scale cover.  And it did.  I am over-the-moon happy with the results.

“Silk Dragon” can be viewed this weekend at Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival, at Canby Fairgrounds, Oregon.  I hope to show it again next June, at 2018 Black Sheep Gathering.  Until then it will have a place of honor above my work table, overseeing my work, ready to pounce if I slack off.

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Edited 9-23-2017 Saturday to add:  The “Silk Dragon” was awarded 3 ribbons today! 1st Place.  Champion.  and Grand Champion.  {{ she does a little happy dance }}.    The judges wrote nice comments and I’ll get that photo when I return for 2nd day of OFFF tomorrow.IMG_5063

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Got the photo of Judge’s comment card.  Immensely enjoyed discussing dragon with visitors and festival staff.  Curious, I thought to inquire of a few: “What captures your attention?”  Ex: of 3 responses:

(1) “Cobalt blue with yellow are my favorite colors.”

(2) “I collect dragons.  Those shoulder muscles look strong enough to make the wings fly.”

(3) ~ out on lawn when I paused in tree shade to rummage for my keys before heading home, so he got to examine the dragon up close at table top level ~  “It looks alive with movement; the angle of the head and the way that tail whipped around when it’s stride was interrupted by something catching its attention.”  This guy was very analytical.  Made my day.

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5 thoughts on “Creative Consolation: the “Silk Dragon” Sculpture

  1. Your attention to detail is amazing. You are an incredible artist! I have several of your pieces and treasure each one. This is definitely a winner. Good luck!

  2. Wow! Fabulous job!! I’m definitely going to look for it this weekend at OFFF. Just as an FYI, Black Sheep Gathering is moving, its going to be in Albany at the fairgrounds there.

    • Thank ewe TamiH. Hey this moving of BSG was news to me! Thanks for alerting me. I did just learn about the switcheroo this weekend at OFFF after speaking with Marketplace organizer, Lois. I’m like a new hatched duckling with Eugene area fairgrounds imprinted on my mind, so I’ll have to adjust. Fingers crossed that our inaugural Black Sheep Gathering at the Linn County Fairgrounds is a wonderful experience. I hear good things about their exhibition hall, so I’m very hopeful.

  3. Thank you so much for your sweet compliments, Jennie! I remember you, if not each piece you got (now I’m all curious too). And, it’s lovely hearing from regular customers like you even when I haven’t a booth this year at OFFF. Husband & I walked around the festival today and I was “hugged & hailed, patted & chatted” (as I’m fond of saying) by several past customers. Just made my day all that much sweeter. Perhaps wishes helped: the dragon was awarded 3 ribbons: 1st place, Champion & Grand Champion. I forgot to get a photo of the judges comments, but I live close by and am returning to the festival Sunday.

  4. I am blown away at how absolutely awesome . . . What a beautiful dragon. I have never seen anything so beautiful! Gale

    Sent from my iPad

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