Ending 2015 on a Soprano's Note

Earlier in December, I had the lovely surprise of having my Christmas tree gown appear on Faerie Magazine's Facebook page. I was literally floored by the amount of 'Likes' and 'Shares' it generated and genuinely touched by the very kind comments and sweet compliments. Ms Carolyn Turgeon, Editor-in-Chief at Faerie Magazine, later asked me if she could include my dress in their newsletter.
I was honoured.

18th-Century Christmas Tree Gown 2015
Faerie Magazine is an enchanting publication that celebrates beauty and imagination. The style captures an otherworldly dimension that many creative types can retrieve to. My spirit friend, The Countessa Papera Ephemera, for whom I design these dresses, would approve wholeheartedly.

About Faerie:
Faerie Magazine is a quarterly print magazine that celebrates all things enchanted—from a scattering of mushrooms in an ancient forest to a sweet, scented gown made only of roses. Every issue features exquisite photography, original fiction and poetry, travel pieces (from bioluminescent bays to Scottish fairy hills and castles), artist profiles, recipes, home d├ęcor, otherworldly beauty tips, craft tutorials, and much more—with a dash of faerie (and mermaid, and dragon!) magic sprinkled throughout. Regular contributors include Alice Hoffman, Wendy and Brian Froud, Charles Vess, and many more. Faerie is published four times a year—in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter—and is available in the Lifestyle section of Barnes & Noble (ask for magazine #28145) and through the Faerie Magazine website. We ship all over the world.

Faerie Magazine also as an online gift shop offering unique and carefully curated products, many of them made by artisans. From intricate miniatures, limited edition prints, jewelry, crowns, books, soaps, candy and much more. For every budget, age group and occasions, all in keeping with the enchanting spirit of the magazine. 

Below are a few of my favourites.

Blueberry Cluster Necklace
Mermaid Lollipop
Nesting Herb Spoon Set
Thank you Carolyn for an enchanting journey into your world.
On this crowning note...
To all a magical New Year!

Christmas Diamond Ornament 2015 - Last DIY of the Year.

A cazillion karat diamond pendant for my house
The last DIY creation of 2015 was made by my daughter, Astrid. It started out as a school art project about three years ago, made from shards of broken mirrors. I was incredibly worried, but not wanting to smother her creativity, encouraged reluctantly with many words of caution. As it was progressing, I could see tremendous potential as a bold and festive holiday ornament for the entrance to The Dusty Victorian.

The base structure was made with corrugated cardboard and every bits of broken mirror she could get her gloved hands on from her clumsy family and friends. We are not superstitious. The shards of mirror were applied with hot glue creating a sort of mosaic madness.

To securely suspend the diamond, I used a 30lbs-capacity picture frame wire. Starting at the bottom point, I weaved several strands together, similar to a basket and made my way upwards to the widest part of the diamond. I then gathered all the strands at the top centre to form a strong loop.

And voila! It's now hanging at our entrance with delicate strands of pine greenery.
Note that for obvious reasons, I do not recommend to anyone this DIY project.

Wishing you all a very cheerful holiday season!
And Chazy-Bear, at the top of the stairs,
wants me to remind you of the many animal shelters that need help.

Christmas Decoration 2015, Completed - 18th-Century Gown, DV Style

The Countessa Ephemera's evergreen gown for Christmas 2015 is completed.

Made with three different kinds of evergreen (cedar, blue spruce and yew), hydrangeas and branches. from my property. I also recycled a few decorative elements from past Christmases.

This shot was taken in the dining room, I had to move the table out of the way to get a clear shot. The wall sconces on each side and the valence drapes helps in creating an 18th century mood.

Here seen with the coordinating headdress. If the Countessa still had her head attached to her body, she would strike a very tall figure at 8 feet not counting the branches sticking out from above her flowery wig. On her feet, lovely heels such as these and in her hand a delicate fan.

The gown has been placed outside on my front veranda 
where it will stay fresh and green all winter.

Hope you enjoyed the making of the Countessa's new gown and headdress.
Wishing you all a most lovely holiday season. 

Christmas Decoration 2015, Part III - 18th-Century Gown, DV Style

Now for 'La Grande Robe'. The image above was the inspiration for the Countessa's Christmas gown. Reproducing the distinctive shape, lines and volumes of that era, all the while using my own materials, will create something new and original. The caption underneath translated to English reads: 
Young Lady of Quality Wearing Grand Dress with Elegant Headdress

Protecting my seamstress mannequin is imperative as it will spend the winter months outside. I use thick garbage bags and make sure to seel every opening. 
I then use packing tape to redefine the feminine form.

Since the d├ęcolletage will be apparent, I used prints of 18th-century paintings, cut and glued on the chest and neck.

I first wrapped the chicken wire around the mannequin, then added sleeves and rolls of chicken wire around the hips to support the volume of the skirt.

I added a finer plastic mesh to the front panel for the hydrangea stems.

I defined the edges of the front panel with blue spruce.

Here you can see that the evergreen branches can be weaved through the chicken wire, but the hydrangea stems are thin and better suited for the finer plastic mesh.
I secure the stems with a dab of hot glue.

Front panel almost done.

Detail of chest area. 

It's starting to take shape. 
Come back later.

Christmas Decoration 2015, Part II - 18th-Century Headdress, DV Style

To finish it off, I borrowed some millet from my budgies to simulate 'les boudins' on the neck and shoulders and voila.

I purchased a few things, like little birds and a birdhouse. The big magnolia flowers I recycled 
from previous years and of course, the glass head is reused every year. 
Everything else comes from my garden.

The Countessa's head sits atop my china cabinet in the dining room, waiting patiently for her dress to be created. Come back later for the making of The Countessa's New Gown.

Christmas Decoration 2015, Part I - 18th-Century Headdress, DV style

This year I will revisit, with my good friend The Countessa Papera Ephemera, the period from where she comes from, the 18th century. If you recall, she lost her head during the French Revolution, you can read about her here and see the first dress I made for her. So in this spirit I will lose my head for this holiday creation and decorate with appropriate excess and frivolity,
starting with the head dress. The image above The Flower Garden was the trigger 
for all this 'madness'.

The Queen of excess and frivolity was, of course, the legendary Marie-Antoinette, which started the whole thing rolling.

The first image The Flower Garden is a caricature, but not that far off from the reality seen above. Hight and volume is what I aim to achieve, but mostly with elements from my garden. 

Two types of hydrangea blooms, sedum, lemon grass, pine cones and branches. Although I have a huge walnut tree growing in my backyard, I did not risk collecting its fruits as the flesh is poisonous.
All these elements made from a drab palette so I used vegetable dye, mica and gold spray paint to liven it up.

I mixed the dye and micas in water then swished the hydrangea blooms around and left them to dry.
It added colour, all the while keeping the look natural. In some cases, I sprayed the blooms with gold paint and in other cases, I added a touch of gold to a dyed bloom.

The Countess' glass head has been left clear this year. Chicken wire and garden mesh was used as foundation to achieve height and volume.

The branches were cut straight so they can rest flat on the head and secured with hot glue. I made sure this stage was very secure as I did not want everything to collapse once finished.

I started building the wig with a dab of hot glue where needed.

Almost done...

Southwest Corner Veranda Pillar Restored

My last exterior restoration project for this season was the pillar at the southwest corner of the veranda. When we first moved in to the DV, the eavestrough and downspouts were leaking and long overdue for replacement (see: New Eavestrough on the Old Lady). This corner of the veranda was receiving more than its fair share of water. Making matters worse, an overgrown cedar had extended its branches into the veranda, adding still more water to the area when it was raining or when snow was melting off the branches.

 Now that I had acquired proper precision power tools and the confidence to use them,
it was time to see how extensive the damage was.

The base moulding was bad, enough, but the exterior portion simply disintegrated. It was like prying off an old wet sponge.

 I expected the box surrounding the post to be rotten as well, but it wasn't bad at all. 
The water damage was in the flooring.

The south side edge was very brittle, understandably so...

but the west side was in good shape. That dark wood was just dirt.

The support beams under the floor's 45 degree cut, showed rot. It also showed previous 'doctoring', an indication that this was a recurring problem. 
Water seeping through that seam affected the support beam. 
I proceeded to repair it with 
wood harder and epoxy (forgot to take shots of that step).

 Removing the old floor boards, I was relieved to see that the exterior support beams were sound.

 I replaced the floor boards and salvaged a few of the older ones 
for shorter pieces needed near the pillar.

Before painting the floor, I sealed the 45 degree cut with some caulking.

 The crown moulding was also severely damaged by water 
so I proceeded to cut and install a new one. It's so hard to fit everything perfectly when nothing is quite square or level - custom work big time.
Good thing I'm detail oriented, but it was a difficult job.

 Coming along...

 and done.

Voila! It looks like it was done in no time at all, but that was real finicky work, done in stages throughout the summer.

The Dusty Victorian, September 2015
 I'm retiring my tools for the season and throwing away my work clothes.

I will be spending more time in my studio from now on.
Drop in and see what I'm up to during the autumn and winter months.
To keep the winter blues at bay, I've lined up a few projects such as Christmas decorations, Hypertufa containers and, of course, art projects.