TL:DR? It's Hot & Stuff Got Done Anyway

Maybe it isn't a hellscape where you are. Maybe where you are, it's temperate and mild, with faint, fragrant breezes gently wafting about and lifting all spirits in peace, love, and harmony. Right here, right now? We can but dream of such a state of being. And try not to be too cranky.

It's been a while, yeah? So, what's been going on, asked no one ever. We'll tell you anyway.

If you are a regular reader of our Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr nonsense, none of what follows will be news to you, one way or another. Here's an abbreviated recap of the Atelier's recent haps:

1. Art Dolls! With Neil Gaiman's Sandman set to premier soon, we thought it would be a cool idea (and we still think so) to express our love for the characters by creating a Muppet interpretation of the Endless, and it's been HUGE fun.

From Left to Right:  Miss Piggy/Desire, Kermit/Dream, and Sam the Eagle/Destiny.

All the needlefelting was done by my DIL, and costumed/styled by me.  Miss Piggy was the first - I think she still needs a red rose pinned onto that mermaid gown. Maybe right behind her knee. But that's picking nits. Next up was Kermit as Morpheus, or Dream. I could manage the starry eyes, a ruby dreamstone, a bag of sand, even a Matthew - but I just couldn't manage that helmet. I think the moppy hair wins it in spite of that shortfall. And most recently, Destiny. Who BUT Sam the Eagle has the gravitas to carry off the persona of Destiny. This one was a true family affair - DIL did the needlefelting, Daughter crafted the leather-bound Book of Fate, and Son made the buckle for the book and the doll stand - I just pulled it all together and slapped on a monk's hood. The rest of the Endless Muppets are in the !Coming Soon! stages.

2. Baking - Yes, indeed. There was a good bit of that going on.

Cupcakes, muffins, nun's farts (look 'em up), cookies, bread, casseroles, an oven omelet, and my first ever attempt at calzones, which were surprisingly good, if I do say so myself. And I do.

3. Writing. I participated in the April Camp NaNo. I set a goal of writing an ending to the draft of my 3rd trunk novel, and while I hit my word goal, I still didn't reach anything like an ending. I set up an indie project in May, and finally made it. But as it's the sequel to my 2nd trunk novel, it brought up some continuity issues. I spent the first couple of weeks this month addressing those. So that's 4 of my 6 trunk novels with completed 1st drafts now. There's another session of Camp NaNo coming up in July, when I'll tackle the project of finishing the 1st draft of my 4th trunk novel. Should be a cinch. It's the 5th one that's going to kick my ass be the real challenge, but that's for another time - most likely in the very far distant future. And that was way too many numbers in one paragraph - I think I just bored the crap outta my own damn' self.

(I only do this stuff for the super cool certificates)

4. Beadwork sales! I KNOW RIGHT? What's it been - a million years? I might be exaggerating. Just a tad. First, out of the blue, through a friend connection, I was put in touch with a person who had received one of my beaded treasure boxes several years ago. They wanted to give one or two as gifts, and after a bit of back-and-forth, they bought two! - and both of us were thrilled with the exchange. Second, Daughter had an art show in Omaha at the end of April, came here for a nearly week-long visit, then went back to Omaha for another show. A few weeks before she came, she asked me to gather up any and all supplies/tools/beads/stones that were excess to my needs, and she'd haul them to this second show to sell along with all her extra stuff, it having a sort of "artist garage sale" component to it. I ended up sending her off with 85 pounds of stuff in a rolling suitcase. From the sale of my extras, I realized enough $ to fund some other atelier nonsense. And new socks. Everything that didn't sell, Daughter donated to an organization called Beads of Courage.  

These are the beaded art boxes that sold.*
5. And now, to help cope with our insane weather, we decided to bust out some light and lovely frocks here in the Atelier. That's right, we said frocks. A few weeks ago, we felt like we were way overdue for making a sundress or two. Energy being at a premium, we imagined it would be just that - one or two. Naturally, things got out of hand. Without further ado, we present the sundresses of Spring/Summer 2022.

These were the first three produced. Not all that thrilled with them - the colors for the first two were just all wrong for sundresses, and the third one was the wrong color for that particular doll. Also, some new, untried patterns were used here. They're from a pair of books by Annabel Benilan, translated from the French. They were picked up on the strength of their reviews, but perhaps the reviewers were impaired on some level. The patterns were all supposed to be configured for three body types - curvy, tall, and original. They all took a LOT of tweaking, which wasn't what was expected or wanted. These not-quites, while perfectly fine, won't be going into the collection. 

Now we're cookin'. Lighter and sweeter. The two on the left were done up from Vogue patterns, the one on the right from a McCall's, and all mostly without alteration or aberration.

These were built from Vogue patterns, as well. The one in the center was adapted from an evening gown design.

The one on the left is an adaptation of a Vogue evening gown design. The one in the center is from a vintage Pattern Factory design called "In Paris," and was the first sundress ever created for the Atelier, in 2018. The fabric for the skirt is one of a kind, hand-painted muslin, also an Atelier original. Hard to see, but the fuchsia wheel hat sparkles. The one on the right is a hybrid - the skirt is from Butterick #6664, and the bodice is from a vintage mail-order pattern.

And here are the Re-Thinks. On the left, another version of the "In Paris" frock, in the center a wholly original design for the curvy girl, and on the right, an adaptation of a Simplicity evening gown. All told, fifteen new dresses were produced, four of which belong on different dolls. Maybe donation dolls.

Now for a little retrospective. The following six sundresses were all adaptations of Vogue evening gown patterns, and all made for the 2019 Spring/Summer collection. It is the considered opinion of the Atelier that a sundress is simply an evening gown made of cheerful cotton. The point is here most capably made.

Currently, the Atelier is all about making mini-wardrobes for donation dolls (see previous post), with the object of getting them all ready to go by next month. After that, it's finishing the Kilts For Kens project:

Only three more of those to go! And, mercifully, some improved styling should happen, too.

Here's hoping it won't take four months for the next post. 

Happy Summer Solstice, from Our Atelier to Yours

GIF shared from giphy.com

*If you'd like to see other beaded treasure boxes, click on this handy link HERE. It just leads to one of my Pinterest pages.


Change Is the Only Constant

In late 2019, we in the atelier had to make some hard decisions. Very hard, often heartbreaking decisions. The reality of the pandemic was sinking in. Downsizing was clearly in order, if the operation was to remain viable. By late 2020, 15 of our crew had stepped away. In 2021, we took on 7 new faces. Now, in 2022 - in order to meet our staffing goals - 17 additional members of the crew will be leaving us. We bid them all a fond farewell, some of whom have been with us from the beginning. They're all being outfitted with mini-wardrobes, and will soon be on their way to new and exciting opportunities in the community. Updates on that endeavor as it unfolds. To paraphrase the Bard, in the story of the Atelier, you shall all be remember'd; You few, you happy few, you band of Barbies:
Top row: Jane, Emma, Teagan, Greg, Pippa. Center row: Fiona, Kirsten, Kiara, Farah, Deirdre, Eric. Bottom row: Hunter, Sandy, Lily, Danika, Valentina, Violet

And now, we present the resident models for 2022, all in Atelier One Sixth Originals:
Mariah, Joseph, Robin, Liz

Ellis, Kelsye, Augusta Ryan, Chase

MAC, Henry, Renata, Sydney

Bianca, Ronan, Harper, Hannah Rose

Halcyon, Jackson, Clare, Riannon

Natalie, Zoë, Theo, Holly

To clarify: Augusta Ryan only models part-time. She is, in fact, in charge around here.
Pictured here in her design & production center, the heart of the Atelier.

Dana and Fox, our security team, are still with us:

And Nick Danger?  Suffice it to say, he's undergone some changes of his own recently. He's going by his middle name now, Mark. Also, he's given up modeling and security work to take over the curation of the atelier's library:

But his is a tale for a different post. And what a tale it is. Not one as old as time, mind you, but still . . .

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I think. Probably.


This Year's TBR Pile

Last year, I set a reading goal on Goodreads of 24 books. I made my goal, just barely. But. I  quit that platform sometime in September for a number of reasons, most of them technical.I decided instead to keep track with a reading diary, and I'm cutting that goal in half this year. I've set it initially at 12, mainly because the majority of these titles are fairly dense. Some have been on my shelf for several years, some for a few, but four are very recent acquisitions. One of them is being read for the second time. Having well over 200 books on my shelves that I've never read, I felt it was time I made a serious effort to correct that state of things. I mean, it's not all tsundoku around here.

©2014 JBM Press

I'm starting off with something of a cheat. I began re-reading "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon back in October. I set it aside while I was participating in NaNoWriMo, then got back to it very sporadically in December. I set it aside again while I read "Together We Will Go," by J. Michael Straczynski, which is one of the most moving, impactful books I've ever experienced. I turned back to Mr. Kavalier and Mr. Clay just today, and I'm about in the middle. 

Five of the books on my list are fantasy. One is horror/science fiction. Two are mysteries. Three are non-fiction. One is mainstream literature. I'm looking forward to each and every one. If I manage to read them all before the end of the year, I won't have any problem finding more titles to refill the pile.

So. What's in your TBR stack for 2022?


In Lieu of Actual Work:

 I've been spending my day today mocking up covers for my trunk novels. Could there be any more pointless use of one's time, I ask you.

There they are, all six of 'em. 

The first one is my singular attempt at a "cozy mystery." After all, I attended the first two incarnations of the Omaha Mystery & Suspense conventions in the early 90's; I felt sure some of that writing mojo rubbed off on me. Or so I thought.  I'd read so many in that genre up to that point that I felt confident I could pull it off. In fact, I'd planned on writing three of them, and call the series "The Albuquerque Books of the Dead," a sort of play on the fact that a lot of used books come from estate sales. I took bits of my life, fictionalized them, used the book store as my jumping off point, and just went with it, and so "OK to Burn!" became a thing. The plot centered around the discovery of an antique book, a medieval girdle book to be precise, which is what's shown on the cover. And the photograph I used is  in the public domain, thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

Once I hit the goal and got my first NaNo win, I gave it a quick polish and asked an editor friend if, since he was not professionally editing just then, he might have time to cast his eye over my manuscript. He agreed, and gave me fantastic feedback, constructive criticism, and solid advice, much of which I took. I've kept the red inked copy all this time, too. It just makes me smile when I look it over, which I do, every few years. 

The next year, 2006, I wanted to do NaNo again, and even started the second book for this series, which I titled "Red or Green?" and the plot would deal with a lost cookbook from a legendary Southwestern restaurant. I was only about a week into the project when I realized I'd never be able to finish it. There was just too much going on with the bookstore then, and Asa's health had taken a serious turn for the worse. 

And so I stopped participating in NaNoWriMo. Until 2017. By then I was a widow, had closed the bookstore, retired, upped sticks and sailed on out to the Midwest, where there were no serious demands on my time, or responsibilities beyond the ones to myself - so I thought, what the hell. Let's do that novel writin' thing again.

I can't remember exactly what the initial spark for "The Baker" was. I remember reading an article online about the Akashic records, and I recalled something about them from my misspent youth, during which time I'd read everything by and about Edgar Cayce, and I wondered. What if there was a world where some people were born with the ability to tap into those records, but most people were not? What would that world look like? So I got a handful of books to read and study in the months leading up to November.

Armed with all these wordy bits, plus reading a bunch of stuff online about medieval baking, I dabbled in a bit of light world building. And the story took off on me. I had no idea where it was going until I got there, and it was big fun to see it come together - like watching a time-lapse film of a crystal growing. 

I even drew maps.

Here's a thing: once you start building a world, you invest a lot into it. And once you do that, well, one book just won't do, now, will  it. So the following year, 2018, I picked up the story where I had left it, and titled it, "The Baker Rises." * Like the previous one, this story centered around a handful of characters and how they screw each other up in their quest to set their world to rights. Even though I hit the 50K word goal, I still have about 5 pages to write to get that first draft completed.

In 2019, I remember exactly what the inspiration was. At first, I was going to write a third book in The Baker's world, but then I came across this:

"A party of elves are going on a quest. Their aim is to steal a gigantic ruby from a unicorn."
(from the Magic Realism Bot on Twitter)

Next thing I knew, I was down a rabbit hole, researching everything I could on elvish lore, Old Norse customs, mythology, and rituals, and all things fae. I think I came up for air twice. I had too many sources to list here, but suffice to say, I did my due diligence on this one, for sure. And there was more world building happening, too. Couldn't be helped. A few months before NaNo, I signed up for Neil Gaiman's Masterclass on Storytelling. One of the exercises had to do with taking a fairy tale/myth/legend and twisting it. I wrote a long short story/novella based on Beauty & the Beast, and titled it, "Tale As Old As." I discovered a character that wanted me to put them in everything from that point on. This member of the Seelie/Unseelie court is an agent of change, and is so much fun to write about that they got their way.

They have a substantial role in "The Stolen Heart," which is about a group of elves who go on a quest to a cave along the West Coast to steal a giant heart-shaped ruby, part of Oberon's horde, which is guarded by a fae security group. They're duty bound to do this, since the head of their House answered a young woman's plea during an álfablót. The ruby is integral to the young woman's destiny. Where the ruby came from, why she needs it, and where it ends up, form the plot of the tale that spans multiple generations. And I work in my re-imagining of the Wild Hunt while I'm at it. And there's dogs in it, too.

I should mention, this was my first foray into faery tale porn, which I discovered will practically write itself. Again, I hit the word count, but there are still several scenes that need to be written to call this first draft complete.

2020: the initial Year of COVID-19. During the early days of lockdown, I decided I needed actual fresh air. I went for a 20-minute walk, three times a week (weather permitting), with my grandsons, who were also locked down and required fresh air even more than I did. During our walks, we'd talk about their classes and about the games they were playing. My older grandson had just discovered the world of D&D, and wanted me to create a character, in the hopes of my joining one of his online quests. With his help, and the website, D&D Beyond, I filled in a character sheet. One of the boxes was for writing the character's backstory.

As if a 2"x4" text box could contain THAT. Next thing I knew, I had my idea for the 2020 project, and "Vendla/Begin" was born. I made it a "shared world" story, and naturally a few of the characters from the previous project popped in. Like I said, when you invest a lot of time and brain in building a world, you kind of want to get some mileage out of it. The manuscript needs a lot of reformatting to be readable, and I can't print it out until next week (no ink), but it's a small matter. At first, I thought I'd left it without an ending, and I just did a fast re-read of how the next one starts, and realized I had actually come to a decent ending. But it could still use some touching up.

Now we come to this year. 2021. "Vendla/Blue." I knew I wanted to continue Vendla's story, but I wanted to do something new as well. In September, I was retaking the Masterclass, and had come to the same place I was at when I wrote that not-so-short story/novella. As I said, the writing prompt was to take a look at a familiar tale and twist it up. I'd been playing an online non-game called, "The Path" which is based on the Red Riding Hood story, so that was fresh in my mind. What if, I said to myself. What if her name was Blue? Blue Mantel? What if she wasn't a human girl, but a faery changeling that managed to grow up? And what if she didn't know that's what she was? I'd spent the summer writing about my search for my paternal grandmother and did a lot of reading about the mining towns that skirt Yosemite, so I used a hefty dollop of that for background, and managed to not only make the 50K word goal, but also finished that first draft a couple of days later. 

The reason I wanted to write about writing? I decided to finish and print up all these first drafts before I throw them back in the trunk. I've got 2⅞ done so far, and I'm going to get that ⅛ done before the new year. This is by no means a resolution. It's more of a determination. I'll be half-way done with the enterprise before going in to 2022, which is really kinda cool. To me, anyhow.

Trunk novels might seem like a waste of time, but I think of them as learning opportunities. And fun. There are a couple of great essays on Medium that explain it better than I can. 

Mason Sabre - The Trunk Novel: What It Is and Why New Writers Need Them 
The Writing Cooperative - Why You Need To Write Trunk Novels

For most people who write, the whole point of the exercise is to get published and make money. But that's not why I do it. I don't expect to ever be published. I write because it fills me with joy, to tell a story from start to finish and have it make some kind of sense, maybe even have a point - or at the very least, a distinctive point of view - this, by me, is a good time.

So that was my day as we get ready to kick the door shut on 2021, spent knocking around the old NaNoWriMo projects, re-reading stuff, remembering even more, getting lost in those memories, then snapping out of it. 

I love this stuff. This writing stuff. I really, really do.

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* Recently, this one was renamed "The Baker: Rising," for no damned good reason at all.


Season's Greetings


From our atelier to yours, we send our sincere wishes for a blessed season,
and a prosperous new year.


Of Frogs & Chocolate Muffins

NOTE: This post originally appeared on my Atelier blog, which FB has some ineffable issue with. Since it cannot be reconciled, I thought I might just cross-post everything here, and see how it goes. 

The cahooting begins . . .

Originally posted 7 September 2021

I'm not saying the Atelier blog is back, but I'm not saying it's not. What I am saying here is that the Atelier was given an assignment, and I felt the need to share What Happened.

Today is my DIL's birthday, but there's a whole thing leading up to it. And once again, I will tell a long, meandering tale that will hare off into the occasional tangent and side note.

Some background info: I live in a sort of Grace & Favor situation, on one side of a duplex owned by my son, who lives on the other side with my DIL and grandsons, AKA my baking efforts' Quality Control Board. Now on with the story:

DIL has a Kermit doll. Last month I got a message from Son. He wanted to know if I could replicate the outfit Kermit is wearing in this photo:

And I said, sure.

Time passed. Then everything kind of happened at once. Friday afternoon I sold my car. This gave me some much needed spending loot, which I had earmarked for a specific purpose. Saturday morning DIL went out of town for a family function. The Kermit doll was then smuggled over to my place for measurements, and promptly returned to his accustomed position. Then Son and I went to Walmart, me to buy a new sewing machine:

and he to find the right fabrics for the outfit. We found good matches for the pants and the scarf*:

but not the sweater. I suggested we find a kids' tee shirt, and LO, there it was in the Girls aisle - the last one in this color (the perfect color, I might add).
We hot-footed back home, I set up my new machine, and worked out a pattern for the turtleneck and pants. 

Meanwhile, DIL returned from her trip, during which she picked up a new-to-me Whirlpool convection oven, with a glass top range and A WINDOW IN THE DOOR! I'm thrilled, BTW. Bonus: it matches the Whirlpool over-the-stove microwave!

As I looked at the "body scan" I'd taken of the Kermit doll, it occurred to me that he was almost identical in size and shape as my art doll, Starr Kitaen. So I had a model ready to hand for fitting. I made a test outfit:

Kermit was smuggled back to my place to try it on, adjustments to the pattern were made, and by Sunday night, the actual outfit was ready to go.

(Please note the fine detail on the pants - to wit, a mock button fly)

Monday comes and I'm dying to try out the convection oven. Naturally I had to do some baking. It was a Moral Imperative. I found a great recipe for "Fudgy Chocolate Chip Muffins" on the Allrecipes site, slapped 'em together and once they were good to go, took them next door to celebrate DIL's birthday a little early. I mean, I tried one of the muffins myself, and they were just warm enough that the chocolate chips were at brink-of-gooey state, and they simply had to be consumed right then.

(My Quality Control Board gave these several thumbs up)

Later in the day, I met Son in the backyard while he was walking Margie Tater the Wonder Pup, and handed off the Kermit project. The "Mission Impossible" theme was running through my head at this time.

He managed to surreptitiously dress his Frogginess at some point, surprising Rebecca this morning. 

It was a great project, a wonderful challenge, and the Atelier was happy to be of service.

Then later this morning I found out these things exist:

There's always Christmas, yeah?

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*Son was reluctant to purchase the whole bundle, but I told him I'd buy it, since I wanted some small plaids to make kilts for the Kens.


Here - Lemme Show You Some Bead Stuff

Some old bits, some new, but I thought . . . welp, it's been about a year and if you found your way here again after a long time away, I should at least give you something more interesting to look at.

I don't post here as often as I do over at Dispatches From The Atelier.* I haven't posted there in some time, but I'm working on improving that. Hoping to step things up over there to twice a week. Wouldn't want to overstay my welcome.

 Some fun multistrand bracelets

Treasure boxes, because there's treasure everywhere.

And some more bracelets. Sluggo is such a great model.

Anyhoo. I promise not to make a habit of this. Cheers and come see me over at the (relatively) new blog!*

*The old and the new blogs are now merged and can be found at either URL.