Saturday, July 14, 2018

Breyerfest Weekend (not much about Breyerfest)

I haven't posted since February. I have partially the same excuse as last time, I am bad at keeping up with the blog. I also have some other excuses. Besides regular school stuff I am also a paraprofessional for the Unified Track Team. Specifically for Travis. It's awesome getting to work with him and this season was excellent! He qualified for the division sectionals AND the state finals! The season starts at the end of March and goes through June. So very busy all day and all afternoon and sometimes into the evening.  That doesn't leave much time for dolls or the blog. But this kid is awesome and worth it! 

 Not only was there a track season but the end of the school year is crazy. I have no idea why other than maybe everyone is tired and ready for a break. But the end of the year is sheer madness. Still, I did work on dolls before school and during my free period. I got a decent amount done that way. 
Once Summer break started I think I was nearly comatose for a couple of days and then I had a burst of energy. Crazy energy. I got SO much done! I was doing huge cleaning and organizing projects in my house, I got TONS of dolls done. I am starting to slack every several days or so now, but I still seem to have an amazing amount of energy for getting things done. I am in an all out house purge and it's wonderful! Everyone should go through everything they own once in awhile. You'd be amazed at what you are holding onto. 
So with all these dolls I have been making what have I done with them? I have been listing them on MH$P in batches! I have gotten some really fun fabrics from a recent miniatures fair that has made it's way into many new dolls. I got a bunch of miniature feathers that inspired me to make a fabulous hat! Seriously, I make driving dolls so I can make cool hats. So I have been busy but it's good busy. Elecktra turned 20 in May and Travis turned 18 in June. I don't know how those babies turned into grown people, but it happened. 
Currently I am working on a handful of doll orders and then I will get back to making random dolls. I will likely list some of them for sale now and some of them will get put away until TRXC in October. I do like to have a variety of things for sale then. Breyerfest is going on right now and I am excited that a friend picked up a couple of models I wanted for me. One of these years I will go to Breyerfest. For now though I will go and jump into another sorting project and then get back to doll making. I'll leave with some pics of the dolls I have made since May. Enjoy and happy showing! 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

updates and NaMoPaiMo 2018

    Anyone who follows my blog knows that for me to not post for months at a time is not an uncommon occurrence. I am, in fact, really bad at keeping up with my blog. I don't always have anything I feel is interesting to talk about or I don't have photos (and the blog posts NEED photos!) or I just forget. So I guess it's time for some updating.
    A little over a year ago I went from being a full-time doll maker to a full-time paraprofessional and a part-time doll maker. For anyone who doesn't know what a para is/does, I am student support and help kids with special needs. Sometimes all I need to do is go around the room and make sure everyone is actually working. Sometimes I have to sit and help one particular kid with every step of the work. Sometimes I have to break things down so the work is easier to accomplish. Most days I love my job. The beginning of this school year was interesting as my co-teacher was on maternity leave and through a series of unfortunate events I ended up being the substitute until she came back. It was odd but interesting. And some important things I learned while teaching. 1. Teachers really don't get paid enough for what is asked of them. 2. Planning periods are not even close to being long enough. There were other things too but these were some really important points. 
Selfie during Spirit Week. I'm a scientist, since I teach science.
I have been taking doll making much slower these days but it has been wonderful. I don't end up working all day and into the late evening. I have been spending more time with my family, which is always a good thing, and I am less stressed about dolls which means enjoy making them more. But really, who wouldn't want to hang out with these kids?
Travis making tacos
Me and Elecktra

So life in the past year has been very different for me. But in a really excellent way. Still making dolls, just at a slower pace. So if you are looking for dolls from me, make sure not to order last minute. It's a lot less likely they will get done on time.
      So now on to NaMoPaiMo! Jennifer Buxton started the National Model Painting Month last year. It was modeled after the National Writing Month and was meant as a way for people to "get together" and paint a model horse. Sharing tips and encouragement was the point. People started sending prizes, though the prizes were sort of an afterthought and an added bonus. Not everyone who finishes their model will get a prize, there are not enough for that. But finishing can put you in the running for a prize. 
     I personally think the best prize is the positivity of the group, the tips, the tutorials, the encouragement. And it's a great way to break up a long winter. Winter is my least favorite season. I live in New England so it's awful. We get cold, ice, snow, weather mood-swings.  Ethan and I are planning on moving down south as soon as we can. I look forward to being warm. Anyway, as I was saying, NaMoPaiMo has been a great experience. Last year I didn't even finish prepping my model. Life happened and I slacked off and it just didn't happen. This year not only did I finish the prepping but I also finished my official entry AND a bonus horse! I was really proud of myself and glad to be of help with prepping questions. I am not a good painter, but I can prep in my sleep!
    So here are some photos of my NaMoPaiMo journey. Enjoy! 
Me and my nude mule, ready for February 1st!
The face looked the hardest, so that is where I started.
Some spots on the neck and should of one side.
getting closer...
closer still...
I did it! This is Monet. She is the 4th or 5th horse I have ever painted to completion.
Since that was way too much fun I decided to paint this guy too.
Honestly, he's so tiny he only took about an hour.

He has no name and he is not going to be a show horse (mule) but I think he's cute!
NaMoPaiMo has been so much fun I decided to "paint" my hair again too! Paint all the things!

NaMoPaiMo 2018 has been an amazing experience. Jennifer has put together one of the best hobby experiences for so many people. She's worked tirelessly to bring the hobby community together in a fun and educational way. Even people that are not participating in the painting are having fun watching the progress of others.
    I learned a lot and I really enjoyed having the feedback from so many people that helped me to keep pushing myself to take out the paints and do something. I love doll making and I love teaching and being a Mom but it's been really great to work on something that is still fairly new to me. Hopefully I can find some interesting horses to start prepping so I can be ready for NaMoPaiMo 2019! It's an incredibly experience painting with 600+ friends! I wonder how many entrants we will get next year.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 First blog and 2017 year in review

Western pleasure doll. January 2017
2017 was a very unusual year for me. I only managed one blog post so I'm sure not many people really know what was happening with me. First off, in March I got hired on full time as a paraprofessional at the high school in town. I had been subbing as a para, mostly in the same class, since October of 2016. Being a substitute was very stressful for me. Walking into a new situation several times a day was not my idea of a good time. It's also really hard to help the students if you don't know the classroom routines or any of the kids. Full time was great, though I was still new at the job and somewhat unsure of myself. I have teenagers, but dealing with other people's teenagers was a bit foreign to me. Plus I had to learn on the job, there is no training for paras.
    We had school battles throughout the summer to try to get a reasonable placement for our son. With that and taking it easy from the stress of the end of the school year, I was not really in a dolling mood. In general I was a bit tired and burnt out, and I did make some dolls over the summer, but at a much more relaxed pace. It was really nice actually.
Western pleasure doll. January 2017
   The start of this school year was wild. I knew my co-teacher was going to be out the first few months on maternity leave so we were going to have a long-term substitute. That ended up being a huge disaster which ended in her being let go and the school asking me if I would cover the classes for the next 7 weeks. It was somewhat terrifying but I said I would do it so there could be at least some normalcy for the kids. In the 7 weeks I was a teacher I learned some really important lessons; 1. planning periods are not remotely long enough. 2. Teachers really don't get paid enough for all the work they end up doing at home and all of the money they dish out of their own pockets to get things for their classes. 3. I am actually a pretty good teacher. At least when I don't have to do the extra stuff like go to staff meetings or talk to parents.
    So from the beginning of October to right before Thanksgiving I was teaching full time. I had almost no time or energy for making dolls, which came at sort of a bad time since I like to get as many dolls as I can made before the TRXC weekend. I didn't have tons of dolls this year, but I had a bit of a variety, some saddle pads, horse boots and other odds and ends. So, let's have the year end review!  This year I made:
Teeny tiny dolls made in August 2017
14 western pleasure dolls
11 hunt seat dolls
9 casual western/working western dolls
4 cowboys
4 specialty dolls
3 casual English/cross country dolls

3 showmanship dolls
3 non-hunt seat youth dolls
2 hunt seat youth dolls
2 dressage dolls 
2 driving dolls; 1 male and 1 female.
For a grand total of 57 finished dolls. 

Driving entry SNEWRU March 2017
Latte's SNEWRU winnings
Latte's winnings at QVPO
Not as prolific a year as in several past years. But I did manage to get a good amount of dolling time in considering how much else was vying for my time and attention. So, let's have some highlights from the year! There was the debut of my doctor's buggy in March, which I was challenged to show. The driver is the one male driving doll I made this year. I was going to retire Caramel Latte, but after I accepted the challenge to show the harness entry my showing focus changed for the year. Caramel Latte was now my main show horse for 2017. She did very well at the Southern New England Winter Round-up in March. This show is hosted by Brenda Bednar and is a wonderful show with both performance and halter classes. Though I don't bother with halter classes. 
In April I attended Quabbin Valley Performance Open, which is hosted by Joan Fauteux. Joan has been hosting this fantastic all performance show for years. I again showed Caramel Latte in as many classes as I could reasonably show her in. 

Mocha Latte at Baystate Live
 In August I attended Baystate Models Live. Baystate was originally my show about 100 years ago and it was an all halter show. Maria Firstenburg took the show over when I didn't have time to host anymore and gave the show a huge overhaul. It became a huge 2 day show with an extensive division list and now included performance! I have tried to make it every year to support the show. This time around I showed Caramel Latte and Mocha Latte. Mocha Latte ended up with overall reserve champion. You can still see Caramel Latte peaking into the photo. 
Doll #1100

In October I made my 1100th doll.  The occasion went unmarked since I didn't even notice until probably a month later when I was putting photos in my doll book. #1100 turned out to be an upper level dressage doll, so not even anything particularly fancy. This doll used a new pattern designed by my good friend Joan Yount. It has beautiful lapels that still look very realistic and lay flat with much less bulk than past dolls. Perhaps I will be paying more attention when doll #1200 gets made. Though at my current rate of dolling that won't happen until sometime in 2019. We'll see how things go.

Casual western ladies

TRXC sales dolls

TRXC sales dolls
TRXC sales dolls
TRXC dolls and winnings
Throughout August, September and October I worked on dolls for my big TRXC weekend sale. The show was held at the UMass hotel in Amherst, which is only about 35 minutes from my house. I was thrilled to have the show so close to home. It also allowed that my good friend Crystal could come and see the madness that is me showing in performance. She and I have been friends since way before I found the hobby and she hasn't had a chance to see a show before TRXC. That was a treat for me! Also she stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a few of us (both days!) which is always welcome. 
Larry and I and Dunkin coffee
   2017 was sort of a wild ride from start to finish but it was a pretty good year all around. I made some dolls, got a full year in a new job that I love, did some horse showing and had a pretty good time. We did end up with a great placement for our son. I am now much more comfortable in my job and figured out if I just treat the teenagers I work with like my own kids (tease them when they need it, listen when they need to talk, be a bit crazy, etc). I had an excellent showing year and while I also probably had more stress than I have had in awhile, there were mostly good things. Here's to hoping 2018 is another excellent year!

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Last weekend was Southern New England Winter Round Up (SNEWRU). I planned on entering the show ever since I found out the hostess, Brenda Bednar, had added performance. I forgot to enter and forgot to enter and then remembered to get my entry in about 2 weeks before the show. Then for the last two weeks before show day I meant to work on show prep. 
It didn't happen.
Sunday was the day that AR.CM performance was held and I spent several hours on Saturday working on tack fitting in preparation for the show. Two horses, three tack sets each and somehow hours of tack fitting.
 Show day arrived and I showed up right when the hall officially opened. I had to get Caramel Latte's new harness fitted to her. Kate Dwyer made it for me and we didn't have a chance to get together before the show for the fitting. My cart has some unusual features so the set-up isn't perfect just yet. Still it's a good start for a work in progress.
 Caramel Latte's next class of the day was showmanship and I was super nervous. Showmanship is my thing and I try very hard not to screw it up. Once in awhile I screw it up though so I was concerned that I would mess it up again. Once the class was pinned I relaxed. This wasn't a bad start to the day at all!
 Caramel Latte next went into the Other Costume class with this parade entry. The costume was made by Wendy Ward and was actually made to fit on Matriarch. The fit is not perfect on Latte but it's not bad. This time I had some proper documentation for the entry, which was something I was missing the first couple of times I showed this set. I was very pleased with this placing, the class wasn't super huge but it was not super tiny either.
 Next was the other performance class. Since that means no English or Western I decided to do in-hand trail (which sort of is western but not necessarily). The doll decided she wanted to fall over and her drunk look dropped them down to third place. Silly doll.
 I fixed her to take a proper photo.
 At the end of the Other Performance division Caramel Latte managed to get Champion for the division. That was another excellent start to the day and another excellent start to my official goal of the day (more on that later).

Up next was the English division and the first class for Three Day Bender. Originally I was thinking that I would just show Caramel Latte because it sounded like a somewhat relaxing show day to just show one horse. But Tippy came to the show. She got second in Hunter over fences/Jumper and didn't fall over or even try.

 Next was English games. Three Day Bender did the Housewife Scurry game. She does well at this because she is moving at a good pace and fairly straight. The judge liked that in the bucket I had the correct fruits and vegetables that were supposed to already be in there. Sometimes I am good at remembering the details.
 Caramel Latte did a Musical Stalls entry which just wasn't as interesting so she only got fifth place.
 Next was western trail. Three Day Bender struggled with a pattern that she just isn't shaped right for. Plus in my effort to make the poles fit on the footing it looked to the judges like I had an X shape instead of the plus sign shape it is supposed to be. Tippy was not likely to do well with this entry no matter what. The pattern isn't a good fit for her.
 Caramel Latte had better luck in Arena English trail. She didn't fight the pattern at all.
Next was Other English. Three Day Bender sat out this class and Caramel Latte brought back my therapeutic riding entry. It's been awhile but my little Travis doll still works really well for this. I quickly shortened the stirrups with sticky wax and hid the evidence under the doll's legs. It worked out really well. And all the dolls stayed standing the way they were supposed to.
 Next was Dressage and Tippy isn't really a great dressage horse. But I figured I would try it anyway since Caramel Latte is also not really a good dressage prospect. Not bad for a horse that really shouldn't be in the class.
 After that was Huntseat/English pleasure. Caramel Latte managed third and Tippy being not actually appropriate for pleasure didn't place at all.
 Caramel Latte ended up being reserve champion in the English performance division.
 Next up was cutting/roping. I have always done roping with a standing horse so I wasn't sure how Caramel Latte would do with it. But the end of a roping run the horse needs to walk forward and loosen the slack on the rope and wait a few seconds to see if the calf will stay tied. I put a card next to my documentation saying that was what was going on and had all the other roping details correct so it all worked out.
 In other stock work I had Caramel Latte's team penning entry and
 Three day Bender's working cowhorse entry. It was just my entry against my entry in the class or Tippy night not have done as well. The way Tippy is and the way the cow is the cow would likely get run over when he took his next stride. It happens...
 Latte didn't have an entry in other western but Tippy went in with this Extreme Cowboy entry. I can't remember now if the judge said I could have improved it in some way. I am sure she said something. Karen Pajak judged western and she is a very tough judge. She has a fantastic eye for detail and when I mess up she lets me know. She is wonderful to show under because she makes you look at details you may never have thought of or even noticed.
 up next was western games. Caramel Latte did the two barrels and a pole game. She managed third with it.
 Tippy went in with the Housewife Scurry again. Something was wrong with the entry. I think one side of the bridle was sort of loose and floppy looking. Karen is a tough judge but she makes you look at the details.
 Up next was Arena western trail. Three Day Bender had a better time with this pattern though isn't still not perfect.
 Caramel Latte did her gate entry that she has done many times. Karen pointed out that the obstacle is huge and super simple to do. I have been showing this entry for years and it's done very well under several judges. However Karen is absolutely right so I came home and shortened the gate rope. Now I want to show Caramel Latte again.
 Three day Bender really isn't a pleasure horse.
 But Caramel Latte is. I fiddled with this entry so much to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. It paid off.
 In the end all the fiddling and focusing earned Caramel Latte Western champion.
 And then with other performance champion, reserve English champion and western champion under her saddle Caramel Latte earner overall performance grand champion! That is easily the largest rosette I have ever won. Latte also has a model horse sized neck sash and the cool trophy. What a great day Latte had!
 In the end Caramel Latte won champ or reserve in 3 out of the 4 sections she showed in, overall performance grand champion and 9 NAN cards. I had a friend take this photo so I can keep up with making it a thing. Jennifer Buxton said she hopes this will become a thing and I agree with her. I will likely end up recycling the 3 divisional rosettes (where can I put them after all?) and just keeping the overall awards. But it's nice to have a photo of me with the winner. Tippy could have been in this photo with her ribbons as well but I decided that just Latte would be in this one. She had a very excellent day. And with all of the new NAN cards Caramel Latte qualifies for the NAMHSA performance Legacy award. I am still thinking about whether or not to let her just get that or retire or if she should keep showing this season and go for the Performance Hall of Champions Award. She needs 50 NAN cards for that one. I think she currently has 39 or 40.
I got a new job recently as a paraprofessional at the high school in my town. It's an amazing job and I get to work with some really great kids. Some of them are challenging and at times make me crazy but in general the job is fantastic. I cut back on dolling a bit and my hands thank me for it. I am loving the new job but it was great to be submerged in hobby fun for the day last Sunday. It's always a good time when I see my hobby people.