more costume extravaganza

There has been a request for close up photos of the costumes. Those are hard to come by... But here are some attempts and more photos anyway! If you click on the photos you can see them larger.
Spring and a few cold birds

Spring and birds dancing

Snow Maiden

Mardi Gras

the doomed love triangle

the poor fiddler is shy

the wise Tzar

a few ladies of the court

annual costume extravaganza

Yup it happened. The annual Russian school play. I didn't blog about the costume-making this year since it sort of happened on the fly and I didn't have time to take photos of the process. I also didn't make as many costumes this year as I usually do, my job was a bit more organizational.

None the less I wanted to share the costumes with you. No animal or fish heads this year, but still plenty of fanciful characters.

The play was Snegurochka/Snow Maiden. It's an old story that takes place in pre-christian Russia. It's been made into a movie, a cartoon, an opera and a ballet. Snegurochka is the daughter of Ded Moroz/Grandpa Frost and Vesna/Spring. She wants to live with the people and feel love. It all turns into an unfortunate love story with her melting in the end after she feels love....
Spring dancing with the swans

Grandpa Frost arrives with his snow minions

Snow Maiden with her father

Snow Maiden with her mother

Maslenitza or MardiGras 

Snow Maiden falls in love

The Tzar and his advisor

the village people

Spring dances with the flowers

the little hump backed horse

Hello! long time.... Happy New Year!

As you might imagine life has been busy. The projects in the pictures below have consumed my life for the past two months. It was fun, challenging and hard work. And now it's done. Here's proof (in order of appearance on stage):
Ivan and the magical horses
Magical horses again
Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse find the Firebirds feather
the bazaar scene
The Tzar arrives
the Tzar and his Attendant
the Firebirds dance
and dance some more
I love this blurry image of the Firebird being captured
The Tzarina Maiden
the Moon and the Sun
the Fishes
Fish begging forgiveness from the King Whale 
more Fishes
The Tzarina Maiden with her Prince Ivan magically transformed 
my favorite colorful players
how adorable are they?
and for good measure the Moon and the Sun again...
That was a lot of pictures I know, hope you enjoyed them, I could have posted many many more! Here's the English version of the story if you would like to read it.
Now off to clean up my studio and make some art!

Oh and I must confess... I stole all these pictures from my friend Ekaterina who painted the fish heads and horse heads for me. I have an excuse! I was back stage helping with costume changes! And she did give me permission. Really.

so much to do!

Autumn is such a busy season in so many ways. School activities are in full swing, holiday prep is in full swing. This year I had the opportunity to be in many exhibitions, so that means packing and printing labels and gallery sitting. I've been hard at work on my latest home portrait, it's almost done and I'll be sharing it in my newsletter very soon.

And now another annual tradition has crept up on me... Costumes for my daughters annual Russian School Christmas play! So among the finishing stitches on the home portrait, I have been sketching costumes, making lists of children and dreaming of how to bring my ideas to life. And I do mean dreaming. I been having costume construction dreams quite literally.... now I have to start stitching in real life though.

This years play is "The Little Hump Backed Horse". I gleefully ran to my kids home library and dug up the book from my childhood, I have always loved the illustrations in it. We watched the cartoon version just get up to speed! We have yet to watch the ballet, but that I'd want to see in real life...

So I thought I'd share a few of my sketches here. They are of the more fantastical costumes that will be a challenge to construct...
the Little Humpbacked Horse and the three beautiful horses

the Moon and the Sun and the Firebird

the Fishes

the Tzar and the Tzar Princess
I'll be back with in-progress pictures of this motley crew in a week or so... You can also follow my progress on Instagram.

The Tale of Tzar Saltan,

...of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan.

How's that for a mouthful? That's the full title of Alexander Pushkin's poem that our Russian school put on for our Christmas play this year. Yes Christmas. Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, and with all the holiday festivities and the coordination of other Russian schools plays, we got the last possible time slot... But that's ok! Gave us all more time to procrastinate (ahem) and put on a great show!

I am once again honored to work with such dedicated parents, super creative individuals, and professionals who all volunteer their precious time and donate resources, so that our children can learn about their heritage in such a hands on way!

Here are a few pictures...yes only 15... Too many for a blog post? Perhaps. I couldn't take any as I was backstage, so these are all taken by the artist who painted many of the backdrops and stage props. She shared 445 pictures with me (which means she edited out at least 100!) I managed to get down to 15 to share with you, my readers... edited down to show the costumes as best as possible.. enjoy!!!
three sisters singing by the window
The Tsar chose his Tsaritza
the wedding dancing entertainment
more wedding dancers
evil sister plotting
mother in law plotting
the three comic relief characters plotting
the people reading the order
the best shot we could get of the very fast moving bee!
black hawk fighting with the white swan
swan wings in action
swan princess revealed to the prince
the magical squirrel
the bogatyr of the sea and his army
people taking a bow after all is well again...

Phew... and now I'm off to clean my studio....

playing dress up

Things have been crazy around these parts...No time to blog, just sewing sewing, sewing... and some gluing, cutting and painting too. The final push before Sunday's performance.

Here are a few Instagram shots that I have shared over the last several weeks as I have been working on the costumes for our Russian School play "Tsar Saltan". You can read about the design stage here.

I'll share photos of everything in full glory next week and then it's back to artwork! Wish me luck!

kings and queens...

Yup. It's that time again. Time to design and make costumes for the annual Russian school play in January. I took the last year off, but this year I'm back for another round...

This years story is The Tale of Tzar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan. What do you say that we'll call it Tzar Saltan for short? If you click on that link you'll read the wikipedia entry about the poem by Alexander Pushkin. The whole poem is here, translated to English of course. And the famed composer Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov wrote the opera for the tale, here's the most famous bit of music from it. Of course if you'd like to see the cartoon version, that's here....

As one can see the tale is pretty famous, been done very famous people. We, the Russian school volunteers humbly accept the challenge....

Here are the sketches that I drew of the costumes. They are really more of an idea, an inspiration for the kids to see while they are rehearsing. The actual costumes will depend greatly on the fabrics and clothing available to us and may not closely resemble the sketches. But I'll try...
The Swan Princess and Prince Gvidon
The kite bird and Chernomor the leader of the sea bogatyrs
The three trouble makers

Prince Gvidon as a bumblebee and the magical squirrel
Tzar Saltan and his Queen
Wish us luck! The sewing marathon is about to begin!

sadko part 3, the details

In this post I thought I would share a few close up details of the costumes, sort of eye candy if you will...

feathers rock! whether they are fake or real
chain-mail must glitter
the right lighting can make everything romantic
sumptuous fabrics make everything better
duct tape and hot glue rule!
the right color combination can make any swirl Russian
sometimes it's worth a trip to get the right fabric (Forest Hills = Little India)
This concludes my costume overview. Hope you enjoyed it!
And again I must thank my dedicated all volunteer team of mothers who are always willing to share their skills or learn new ones just so that all the kids can look awesome!

sadko costumes part 2

This is the second post about our schools latest costuming endeavor.  

The town of Novgorod is visited by far away guests who all sing and dance to entice our hero to travel to their lands in search of riches.
the Varangian guests in sketch
and on stage
the Venetian guests in sketch

and on stage
Indian guests in sketch
in dance

and in song
Of course Sadko's adventures take him to even more fantastical depths, such as the kingdom of the King of the Sea!
The King of the Sea with his daughter the Princess Volkhova and her sisters
Volkhova and the Sea King talk to Sadko
father and daughter
the beautiful princess
Volkhova's sisters aka the waves
singing with all the little sea creatures
More details tomorrow!


Costumes, costumes, costumes galore!! Yup, this is the long awaited annual costume post. Usually I post about the costumes I am working on as I am working on them, but this year time just got away from me. So to make up for the delay I bring you so many photos that they'll take up three blog posts. This is part 1.

For our Russian school play this year we chose Sadko. Sadko is actually a very ancient story, sort of a Russian mythology, an epic poem. Our play was based on the story and music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Sadko.

Our story contains many fantastical characters, but I will start this by showing you the people of Novgorod where the story starts and ends.

Sadko the Rich Guest - our title character in my sketch
and here he is on stage
Sadko's crew
on their ship
and taking a bow
the town leaders in concept
and reality
the town folk
merchants and buyers
helping catch fish
checking out the action
listening to Sadko speak
laughing at his boasts
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I need to tell you that I did not make all these costumes! I had the most fabulous team of dedicated volunteers. The traditional Russian costumes are most reused from our older plays, just need to be reconfigured and only the new specialized costumes need to be made. Still plenty of making though! 

In the next post I'll get to the fancier characters of the story.

what are you doing in July?

Want to come play in New Jersey? I'll be in Somerset at the Create Retreat teaching four workshops on July 18th and 19th. Come on over and join me and other creative spirits and play with some art supplies!
Right now I am knee deep in my scraps basket making samples for a new 3-hour workshop called Window to Your Art. If you've been following my art making for a while on this blog or my website you might have caught on that I love making window themed art. Usually I make windows with St. Petersburg, Russia in mind and using photos that I took myself while on travels there. And usually these are large artworks, at least 12"x12" (one of my favorite sizes). But sometimes I enjoy making small (tiny) windows from scraps using Russian fairy-tales as inspiration. Fanciful or whimsical are two of the words that can describe these creations. 
One of the reasons I enjoy making these is instant gratification. They are fast and easy to make and are tiny visual feasts. Sort of like eye candy. Just a bit of machine stitching and voila! Another reason is the reduction of my scraps stash. I cannot seem to throw out even the tiniest scraps left from other projects and this is the perfect way to keep the baskets from overflowing.
So what do you do with these tiny work of art? Why you put them into a frame of course! But the frames need to be made special too and satisfy my urge to paint and decorate. So I take out my paints and markers and go to town on those frames. In a few hours I have a new artwork and lots of satisfaction.
~Will you join me? I'll be teaching this workshop on Wednesday evening July 18th from 6 to 9PM.

theater arts

This year our Russian school play has gone by in a blur... but I promised pictures, so here they are. Very few full costumes actually came to life in my studio. I mostly made parts of costumes.
a hat here
some painted tights there
the evolution of a party dress here
A few scenes from the play... several of the months with the heroine of the story; step mother and step sister; the bratty queen; snowflakes; and winter, scaring everyone..

something to blog about

Finally! Life has been a crazy whirl wind of activity (end of school year activity, birthday party activity, packing for camp activity, finishing touches activity), so it feels good to have a completed artwork to share. If you have the latest copy of In Stitches emag, you know how this piece started. I shared some early/mid stages of stitching in progress.

There is quite a bit of personal "stuff" attached to this work. The linen cloth belonged to my grandmother, I painted it with neo-color crayons while in Russia last summer and ripped it to pieces. This spring I put it back together with the help of painted dryer sheets, silk organza, some free-hand machine embroidery and a lot of hand-stitching, a lot. Old linen is such a joy to hand stitch...
Crimson Little Flower 8 / Аленький Цветочек 8

can you be in three places at once?

I wish I could be....
you are cordially invited to three concurrent exhibitions and opening receptions:

~ Annual Small Works Exhibit at The Upstream Gallery in Dobb
s Ferry, New York
January 8th to February 1st, 2009
Opening reception on Sunday, January 11th from 2PM till 5PM

I have two pieces in this show, Piterskoie Okno/St. Pete Window #3 and Piterskoie Okno/St.Pete Window #6

~ Fiber Revolution at the Academy of Music in Spotswood, New Jersey
January 11th to March 24th, 2009
Opening reception on Sunday, January 11th from 1PM till 3PM

My first piece in the Fairytale series is here, Derevnya/Russian Fairytale Village, accompanied by three postcard sized Okoshechki/Little Windows

~ The 8th Annual Art Inter/National.. here and abroad at the Box Heart Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA
January 6th to January 31st, 2009

Opening reception Saturday, January 10th from 5PM to 8PM

Two abstract works,
Zabava/Amusement and Zabava/ Amusement 2 are at this gallery.

Thank you all for encouraging the arts!


My fingers are stained, my clothes are thankfully not. The pinkalicious pictures will be towards the end of the post. I have been busy painting fabric and it's been oodles of fun. I received my expected rejection letter from Visions on Monday and that threw me into painting, I just had to do it. And today I received an emailed rejection from the Atlantic Center for the Arts, so I went and painted some more...
I have started work on the third piece in my Derevnya/Russian Fairytale Village series. Here are a few pictures in action. After I fused the different pieces of layered sheers, I sketched on them with Neocolor water-soluble pastels, which I then squirted with water, really drowned.. let dry and ironed the next morning.Those are assembled on the design wall and I'll started free-hand machine embroidering them next. (Kinda neat the sunlight through the window shadows on the window drawings huh? didn't plan on those...)

But first I had to get all the painting out of my system. I have a vision in my head of an abstract composition that I would like to do. I did a doodle of it in my sketchbook, but not only would it not be understood by anyone other than me, it will also probably look nothing like it when its done. So I won't even bother with showing that, instead here are pictures of the fabric I have been painting for it. Oh and it will not be pink when done... this is just the beginning. I layered poplin, then organza and then dryer sheets on the painting table, got everything soaking wet and went to town with a huge brush. IT WAS FUN! here's the whole wet sopping mess..
This is the poplin when dry... This is the organza when dry, ain't it pretty, maybe I should make Easter dresses instead? Nah, not a chance.. Here's a stack of dryers sheets.. and here's the organza back on the painting table getting it's next treatment.. no more pinkalicious...

the design process

I thought I'd show how some of my artwork evolves in today's post.

I have reached a hand stitching stage with the four little pieces that got started last week and since I usually do that in the evening while hanging out with my husband, I have put them aside and started something else.
Last May while I was busy stitching Деревня/Derevnya/Russian Fairytale Village II, I did a sketch for number three. It just kind of came to me while I was working, so I quickly sketched and kept going with whatever I was doing at the moment. I had been thinking about it intermittently since then, in between projects, and now I finally have gotten to actually do something about it.

Looking at my sketch, I started layering pieces of sheers on the black design wall. I have decided on a heavy weight silk organza, silk chiffon, synthetic organza and dryer sheets. I worked on laying out the background, playing with different layering effects and composition, seeing what looks good to my eye.
Actually the picture you are seeing is a bit dated. Since it was taken I decided on the proper layout, and started fusing the pieces together, got the top done and ran out of Misty Fuse... Bummer... I was really keen on keeping going even though it was way past my bedtime... I don't usually get to work too much in my studio after the kids are in bed, that's when I like to spend time with my husband while doing hand stitching. His been away on a business trip so I've been cramming it all in... Oh well... Well at least you get a peek at my design process... Oh and when I do get more Misty Fuse and finish fusing this, I will start drawing and then see where that takes me, and I'll be back with that update...

By the way, in my humble opinion, Misty Fuse is much better for light weight chiffon then Wonder Under in case anyone is curious. Wonder Under is just fine for organza though... if you do my kind of stitching anyway...