Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Life of an Item with SuzyJaneB

Hello Everyone! I'm Suzy, and my Etsy shop is Strung Art at www.SuzyJaneB.etsy.com. I make a whole bunch of different stuff for my shop. I started out with marionettes. I still make those, although they are always my longer term projects as there is a lot of work that goes into producing one of these. I also make soft cloth with acrylic paint art dolls, cute felt things, personalized nameboards and mirrors, and I have a range of illustrated Moleskine notebooks also listed in my shop.

I work from my office at home. I also have a workshop set up in my garage for larger projects and equipment storage, but it gets a bit cold there in the winter! So at the moment I have my projects spread throughout the whole house (sorry family!). I live in the Netherlands, the land of Rembrant, Vermeer, and Van Gogh, and the winter countryside is very much like you see in the old masters paintings, soft light and strong silhouettes of trees, windmills, and cows, actually quite inspiring! I have lived here for about 9 years with my dutch husband and two kids. Before that I lived in my home country New Zealand, where my daughter was born. One day I would like to go back there to the uncrowdedness, beautiful nature, and easy lifestyle. Its an interesting experience to feel at home in two very different countries!

Anyway, my featured item is a marionette. He has been a long time in the making, and isnt 'quite' listed in my Etsy shop, but he will be this week! He just needs hands!
With my marionettes I dont take a purely traditional approach. I start with either a wooden dowel frame, hinged with metal hooks in the joints, and a papier mache torso, or I sometimes (as with this one) use braided twine for the very long arms and legs, with knee and elbow joints of hooks and eyes. I like the lanky slightly gangly wobbly look that the thick twine provides. My head and face I sculpt completely from scratch, sometimes with a sketch to work off and sometimes just seeing what comes to me as I work. I use paper modelling clay, my favourite brand is Premier, its very light and offers a lovely smooth finish. It can also be lightly sanded and polished for a really smooth finish, but in this case I wanted a rough aged look, so I left it unsanded. I mostly use acrylic paint for the features, and for this gargoyle character I used quite earthy 'stone' tones and rubbed away some of the paintwork, again to make a quite aged worn look. He is pretty ugly!

I make the clothing one layer at a time. I make my own pattern as I go, as each marionette is different. I cut each item of clothing, and I generally hand stitch everything. Its all a bit small and fiddly to sew with the sewing machine. I find hand sewing a very meditative activity, also giving me time to plan the next item of clothing and get to know how everything needs to fit! So this guy has a white shirt with high collar, a silk waistcoat, and a sleeveless black jacket with velvet trousers. Each of these I made individually, I think this gives a very finished and detailed look to the final piece so its worth the extra time it takes.
I have modelled his shoes from Fimo, although sometimes I will also sew leather shoes or fabric, depending on the style. I have also used premade wooded clogs on dolls too! Easy to find in Holland :).

Lastly I will string these marionettes to a fairly simple handpiece, allowing for a string to each knee for walking movement, a string to each hand, one to the back for the 'bow', and one to each side of the head. The movement they provide is very simple, but easy for anyone to try out to great effect. This gargoyle guy however wont be strung yet - I am going to list him as either Art Doll suitable for hanging on the wall, or offer the marionette stringing if desired.

I hope you like him, he is so ugly but I hope someone loves him! If you would like to see more of my work you can find my blog at www.marionetteshop.com, or follow my Facebook fanpage at www.facebook.com/StrungArt - I have started posting 'how to' videos (currently a Valentines Heart Felt Mobile) and plan to do a downloadable project feature about every month or two, just for fun :)


  1. Such painstaking and creative work! Thank you for showing us how you make your characters.

  2. Thank you for showing the whole process~ it's amazing! :D

    I also grew up in NZ~ X3

  3. Thanks for reading! It's exciting for me to be contributing to the blog :) And where did you grow up BinAndChi?! I'm a Napier (at the beach) girl :)

  4. You are VERY talented - thanks for sharing! It's always interesting to see how things actually come together.