Dragon Draft

I think I’ve created a pretty good design for my dragon.  The hardest part was the head and it went through several manifestations before I got one that seemed powerful but friendly.  This is a Seeing Eye Dragon who will accompany a visually impaired woman in a fabric sculpture I’m creating called “Shared Vision.”

It’s for the show A Somewhat Secret Place: Art and Disability.  The show will open on July 7th at PRESENTspace at 939 NW Glisan here in Portland, Oregon.  There is still an active Kickstarter campaign going on to help with expenses and to produce a new kind of book that will make the exhibit accessible to visually impaired art lovers.  The curator and visionary behind the show is a visually impaired artist and I think her work on this exhibit has the capacity to influence how art shows are put together in the future.  But it’s a pretty expensive process and the deadline is closing in, so we need all the help we can get. Check out the Kickstarter campaign here:


I will have three pieces in the show.  My art is almost always about the physical challenges and transformations of life.   I’m very excited about the Shared Vision piece, which I am creating specifically for this exhibit.   While making it, I sometimes take off  my glasses and just work in the blur.  I want to make this a very touchable piece.   I plan to do the title for the piece in “braille” done in french knots.

I wanted to make the service animal a dragon because it symbolizes a mythic sense of power.  I want this piece to be about the power of symbiotic relationships and how our vision is shaped not only by what we see but how we see it.

Like all my dolls and cloth sculptures, I’m starting with an idea and figuring out how to put it together.  I’ve researched how stuffed animals are made and even made a pretty awful alligator from a a pattern.  I didn’t even photograph it and I blame the pattern.  But here, at last, is a pretty good “draft” or prototype of the dragon.  This is without wings or spikes and I’ll probably fatten it up and lengthen the tail, but this is the basic pattern.  It’s going to be a combination of a Western and Eastern dragon, as well as having some canine attributes.

Enter the Draft Dragon

Her face is detailed with markers here but the visionary dragon will have beaded and embroidered eyes and a painted mouth.

Dragon Head

And these are the main fabrics I’ll be using — a pearlized gold with green contrasts.

Dragon fabric

This visionary dragon will take approximately 40 hours to construct and I’ll try to post it at various stages over the next week.  Then I’ll build her visually challenged companion.

Meanwhile, here’s the website of another artist who will be participating in the show.  I love the work of Pat Krishnamurthy who has a wonderful range of styles.  I love that she uses quilts as an inspiration and blends together fragments into singular pieces.  She has a great sense of color and story and her Archetypes for Aging series is vibrant and compelling.


Crooked Little Beginnings

I’ve been anxious for the past few weeks to get started on a new project for the upcoming exhibit A Somewhat Secret Place: Disability and Art.  I want to create a woman and her seeing eye dragon, a piece I’ve tentatively named “Shared Vision.”  These sculpted cloth projects of mine always start out with big ideas and rough drawings.

Seeing eye dragon sketch 1
Seeing eye dragon sketch 2

I have been overwhelmed with life lately — doctor’s appointments and tests, storytelling events, family matters — all the good, bad and distracting that gets in the way of creation.  Since I’ve only ever made human figures and dolls out of cloth, I spent spare time studying how animals are made and how to use gussets and other fabric sculpture tricks.

I carefully drew out a pattern and did my best to make accurate gussets.  Gussets are those magical fabric inserts that will give my dragon an open mouth, and a dimensional head and face.  However, unlike the skilled makers who I studied, I am not mathematical or even inclined to measure much.  I draw and eyeball things.  I put things together on paper then just start tracing, cutting and having fun.

This is all to say that my first day working on the dragon had a rather comic end.  I did the head first because that’s where the most detail and personality will be.  It’s also the most difficult to construct.  I don’t know what I did wrong — probably several things — but the mouth went all wanky. I went ahead and colored in the eye and tongue because it looked so funny.


Who knows?  I  may make a full Slack-jaw-asaurus one day.  Meanwhile, back to the drawing board for the dragon.

Next week, I’ll try to post more on this project of mine and some of the other artists who will be showing work in the Somewhat Secret Place show.

Remember to enjoy your mistakes — might as well, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to make plenty.

Dream Tree Embroidery

Dream Tree Embroidery

When I first started doing “art” embroidery, I was told that leaving the finished work in the hoop made it look too crafty/homey.  It would never be considered “real art.”  Now much more craft is considered real art, whatever that means.  I never stopped using the hoops as frames, and in fact, use embroidery hoops as embellishments for some of my cloth sculptures.

Anyway, I finished this embroidery today and secured it with a whip stitch around the hoop.  It’s called Dream Tree.  I like using basic plant shapes and making up  my own details.  I love the impressionist nature of cotton floss.

Dream Tree Embroidery
Dream Tree

It’s 6 inches around. I scanned it instead of photographing it because the beading didn’t show up well on the photograph.  I gotta stop working in monotones — but I love doing it.  I hope your dream tree is slightly off balance and has deep happy roots.

A Somewhat Secret Place: Disability and Art by Catherine Jennifer Helen Miller — Kickstarter

I’m very excited about this exhibit — and Catherine Miller has curated a piece of mine for the exhibit!  This exhibit will take place in July in Portland and it’s going to be a wonderful experience watching it grow.  Catherine J.H. Miller is a vibrant and dynamic curator with some very innovative ideas of how to present art.

Please take a look at the video on this Kickstarter campaign and consider becoming a patron of the arts!

I’ll keep you posted on my piece as it develops.  I may also be telling a story and doing an artist talk with the exhibit.  Yay!




A Somewhat Secret Place: Disability and Art by Catherine Jennifer Helen Miller — Kickstarter.