Sunday 30 November 2014

Let Sleeping Penguins Lie

Just a couple of days left to finish this crazy miniature set piece! Here's a few work-in-progress photos I've taken along the way. I've taken many others and some will end up in my book (out in spring 2015) and others I will post here when it's all wrapped up.

One of the characters is a sleeping penguin... thought you might like to see him since I had such great feedback on the elves.

And yes, I will sell individual elves and penguins etc through my shop soon since so many people have asked for them. As always, feel free to email me directly to pre-order. Elves start at $200 USD each.

Looking forward to finishing this and sharing final photos...! Below are photos of a conveyor belt in progress and the workshop room.

Elves in Progress...

Did I mention that my miniature model work is in two exhibitions soon? One will be an exhibition of my miniature sets in Shanghai, China and it opens on the 11th Dec and runs through to the beginning of January. This is an exhibition of only my work. I'll fly out there and give a lecture and demos about miniature making as well (and I'll show photos of all of this when I come up for air). The other exhibition is in Burbank, California (at Creature Features) and it is a collection of lots of artists' work and I am showing one piece which I have been creating exclusively for them.

See if you can guess what it's about... there will be elves... a workshop... jars of candy.... it's one of the more complicated and adventurous sets I've made. I'll show working photos and final photos soon, but for now here's a sneak preview!

Don't forget to find the Tall Tales Productions Facebook page and follow to get more frequent updates, leave comments and be involved.

Thursday 27 November 2014

A Tempest in a Beanpot

'Thanksgiving', an annual celebration which falls on the last Thursday of November has been a tradition in the United States by presidential proclamation since 1863. Like the 'Harvest Festival', which I celebrated as a child back in England, it celebrates the blessings of the agricultural year (although our Harvest celebrations are held in late September, on the Sunday of the Harvest Moon - the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, since Pagan times).

This American 'Thanksgiving' holiday is rooted in English traditions of the time of the Reformation.

Reformation? Okay, quick history lesson: In 1534 Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and established the Church of England. Up until this time it was the Pope that decided doctrine, all English Church taxes were paid straight to Rome, the Pope had the final word in the appointment of English bishops and so forth. A significant motivating factor for this break was the Pope's rejection of Henry VIII's request to have his first marriage annulled. Some see the break from Rome as more a political affair than a theological mission, however there were many factors that were changing the practice of Christianity across Europe (the decline of feudalism, rise of the common law and nationalism, invention of the printing press and subsequent circulation of the Bible etc etc). All of these things contributed to the wider process of European Protestant Reformation.
When England separated from the church of Rome, we changed the way we practiced Christianity and that included doing away with many Catholic holidays. Some were kept (Christmas and Easter of course), and others were replaced with various 'Days of Thanksgiving'. One of these such celebratory days has survived, and that is the annual day of Thanksgiving we've celebrated since 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. We call it Guy Fawkes Day and it is celebrated annually on the 5th November.

Back to the point...
So why do Americans celebrate their Day of Thanksgiving at this time? The English Pilgrims and Puritans that emigrated to the new world brought with them their tradition of Days of Thanksgiving, and some records support the theory that a good harvest in Massachusetts in 1621 established this particular day of 'Thanksgiving'.

There's so much speculation about the origins of the first Thanksgiving in the United States that author James Baker calls the debate a "tempest in a beanpot" as well as "marvellous nonsense."

I leave you with a Thanksgiving scene in miniature that I was commissioned to make last year and wound up on the cover of a miniature magazine last November. (Well I had to put something artistic and/or miniature in this blog post or else you'd start to think this was a blog about history and religion!

Monday 17 November 2014

Preparing for an Exhibition

I realise I haven't blogged in ages, but that's because I have been working 14 hours a day (or more) in preparation for two upcoming exhibitions! Here's a quick mobile phone image of one of my miniature scenes for one of the exhibitions.

I'll blog soon (when I come up for air) to give many many more images and reveal where it is I'm exhibiting!

Until then... here's what most of my workshop looks like today...

Monday 3 November 2014

Celebrating Samhain

What has All Hallows Eve become? Today people go door to door with their children in costume and are given sweets. How this pagan festival has changed since its pre-Christian roots, we think. Well perhaps not so much.
Halloween is a festival which was once called 'Samhain' (pronounced 'sow - in'  - sow as in cow). Until the 9th century AD, this was a time when we Celts celebrated the end of harvest season and coming of winter with bonfires, parties and the carving of turnips and mangelwurzels (root vegetable usually fed to animals) into jack o' lanterns. People would dress up in costume and go door to door reciting seasonal poetry or singing songs in exchange for food. See, it's not all that different, is it?!
The aspect I like about Samhain is the mythology surrounding it. People believed that Samhain (which was from sunset on 31st Oct to sunset 1st Nov) was a liminal time - when the boundaries of our world and that of the spirit world merged and the spirits of the dead could re-enter ours. Whilst bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits away, and the smoke wafted over the festival goers to cleanse them, place settings were created at the banquets for the spirits of their ancestors. Turnips were carved into ghoulish faces and people dressed in spooky ways in order to deceive evil spirits and remain safe from them during Samhain.

Something I notice which is very different about Halloween in America versus the UK, is that here people dress as anything they like (superheros, princesses, slutty versions of anything they like... basically anything goes), whereas in the UK Halloween is still a time to dress as something spooky. Back in England I always always dressed as a witch / vampire / the un-dead and so forth. Of course here I go with the flow and dress as whatever I want. This year I was Barbarella, as I got SO busy with work for two upcoming exhibitions that I didn't have time to finish my Queen Boudicca costume. Appalling, I know. Below, for fun, I've put photos of all 4 Halloweens I have spent in LA. The Absinthe Fairy, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and then this year, Barbarella.

I celebrated Halloween over three evenings this year. One of the events was held at the amazing Magic Castle here in Hollywood. Wow, what a cool place. If you ever visit LA then try to plan a visit there, but plan ahead as it's members only and can be hard to get into. If you can get in for Halloween then all the better as they go all-out on the decor. Below are photos of the Magic Castle as it is most of the year. They don't allow photography so I couldn't show you the fabulous Halloween show they put on.

As for something creative? I have been working towards these exhibitions and will share info and photos on that very soon. Also, I'm pleased to see I'm on another magazine cover this month. My ninth in 3 years, so let's see if I can go for 10 before the year is out!
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