The Fox Sculpture

“STUMPED” is a needle felted FOX which earned Best of Show in the Art Gallery of the Clackamas County Fair 2019 in Canby, Oregon. It also received First Premium (a cash award) and finally: PEOPLE’S CHOICE. Their delightful Art Gallery organizer informed us they counted over 1,000 votes cast for favorite. Oh my goodness!

Sculpture title: “STUMPED” Is the Fox part of the forest, or is the forest part of the Fox? (I see 5 clues in this photo)

Update August 2021 (the grim 2nd year of Covid). In the absence of any fiber festivals, it was some consolation to enter the needle felted Fox sculpture at Oregon State Fair, where it received a First Award blue ribbon, and another ribbon for Best of Division: Felting, Spinning & Weaving.

“The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” — J. P. Morgan

(August 2021) I’m just gonna put it out there: I truly wish that Oregon State Fair should separate judging for Felting / Spinning / Weaving into their own respective categories. I’ve seen the woven items up close, and I have immense respect for this skill, the time and intricacy involved. And with felting, I’ve seen wet-felted clothes that make my heart sigh…they’re so beautifully executed they belong in galleries. However proud I am for my specific needle felting skill, I just don’t see comparing it to the work of others who (wet felt), weave or spin. There, I’ve said it.

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I have been asked “How did you come up with that idea?” so I’ll explain.

The sculpture begins as a Q & A exploration arising from notion to build a FOX. What is the setting? Forest. This prompts consideration:

  • How to represent the forest setting? /// Place Fox on a base, build forest around Fox.
  • What is the Fox sitting upon? /// How about a tree stump? Now we’ve got additional feature interest + height, but can skip tall trees.
  • Why is the Fox pondering it’s next move? Is it lost? How to show “lost?” /// Use a compass! Hey – we’ve got an anthropomorphic Fox!!
  • Can we supplement the compass in a logical manner? /// Well, a compass indicates direction of travel. Travel in forest = hiking = a walking stick and backpack (briefly considered but rejected boots, vest or spyglass).
  • BIG Q: With a compass, WHY would the Fox be lost? He’s not… He’s …umm….indecisive. How to represent “indecisive?” and why is that a dilemma? /// Because if you stagnate, problems arise.
  • How to represent stagnation in the sculpture? /// Fun begins with this concept – – the fox has remained stationary so long, THE FOREST BEGAN TO GROW ONTO THE FOX. Idea expands with forest bits that reinforce the stagnate, loitering concept.
Fox sculpture core in progress
While topcoat of wool is being dyed rusty fox colors, the tree stump is built with plenty of texture.
Test patches of foxy color. Maybe a shoulder bag? Face shaping in progress, black pins to fix eye placement. Oak walking stick turned out awesome, but needed thinning, & was eventually shortened. Bits of wool tucked around base to decide colors, textures and layout. Another green fluff as future fern. Tail wire tucked behind for now. Fluff for ears.
Found treasure: a twig dropped under huge oak tree by mailbox. Carved up perfectly. Even thin oak is strong and shows nice grain. Bonus: my initials at base. Wild Indonesion silkworm cocoons – naturally yellow – serve as cute mushroom caps.
Honest to gosh 1/2″ old brass working compass! Points true north.

Greenery is chosen to represent SLOW passage of time:

  • Mossy ground. Various forms of textured moss and lichen.
  • Mushrooms, some using yellow silk cocoons as caps.
  • Ooh – a FERN can sprout in Fox’s tail! Beautiful! I love this so much.
  • Mushroom on tree stump, another growing on tail / and on Fox’s ankle.
  • Vines….to represent time creeping along, so a vine twines up around the walking stick and Fox’s leg.
  • Moss grows across foot and up along his flanks.
  • Colorful shelf fungus on stump ALSO grows onto Fox’s hip.
  • Snails are slow. Need snails. Oh I have real shells, very pretty. Large snail on tree trunk, a smaller snail winding up the walking stick.
Not a fragile snail shell. Instead, it’s a very strong Common Periwinkle seashell, gathered with my own hands off the shore of Kerrera island in Oban Bay, Scotland, as we waited for the ferry to return. Most that I collected were lemon yellow or apricot orange and so pretty.
Love the striped shelf fungus so much I decided to continue it up the side of the body. A tiny brass spyglass shows there, but was eventually omitted. Examine later photo of this angle to see how the shelf fungus grew up along Fox’s hip.
Note the lace spiderweb does not yet reside under fox’s knee. It was added later and last, after moving it around to decide best placement.

Decisions are constantly tweaked as the sculpture progresses. It can mean time-consuming deconstruction and rebuilding – but that’s part of creation. Bits of moss flower bud stems added for textural interest. Moss pushed farther back to better reveal fox’s toes / claws got gleaming satin finish.

One day, perusing unfinished sculpture from across the room, I was disconcerted by the broad swathe of white stomach, which I found visually distracting. Fox sat untended that week while pondering a solution – – which happened serendipitously. I organized an old lace collection. Next glance at fox brought the idea to layer antique lace over that too-white stomach. What a beautiful and unexpected addition to my sculpture.  The flower and leaf pattern of this old handmade lace added a magical element to Fox’s overall appearance.

Antique bobbin lace panel layered over white stomach.

The Fox was coming together nicely but design decisions crop up. Original intent was to bring green color higher on sculpture by winding vine up to top of walking stick. Then I remembered the backpack idea, ditched the satchel bag idea, and rummaged around for wool to dye green. Ditto for dyeing bits of vintage glove leather green for straps and trim. That is a real backpack, albeit tiny. There are buckles, straps, drawstring cord, clips, bear bells, button, pockets, a tiny book and a wool blanket tucked inside.

Larger of the 2 snails chugging along. Two mushrooms are capped with lace, 1 in front & another behind. No spiderweb yet under Fox knee.
Aha – there it is. Details matter! The placement of that lacy spiderweb changed several times until it found it’s perfect home. The effort was worthwhile, even though securing spiderweb was wicked hard! Another bit of old handmade lace became brown lichen in the tree roots.
There are the extra shelf fungus on Fox hip. Bit of knotted-silk tiny leaves dotted here and there. Two type of fern. All so very woodsy.
Back view: remember the spyglass was omitted in final design, and more details were later added to vegetation.

“The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” — J. P. Morgan

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