Monday, July 30, 2012

It's All in the Details

Making beautiful objects with our hands. It appeals to a variety of different artistic & crafty people, but maybe the common thread (pun, anyone? ;) is that it's a labor of love. It takes looooong hours of intimate time with a handmade endeavor to have it turn out just right.

The hours. That close contact and attention to detail is what it's all about. Above and beyond the satisfaction of a job well done, my theory is that it's the bonding that has occurred after the slow and conscious focus of creating beautiful work - that's what keeps us coming back for more.

Is it that special transfer of energy, the good vibes, that attract people to buy and fill our homes with handcrafted goodness? Well, it probably doesn't hurt there's a whole lotta' handmade cuteness out there.

I thought I'd visually walk everyone through some of the finer points of Tansy Dolls, the hours of time & love & attention that are harder to see in our regular shop and gallery pictures. I'm just going to focus on our dolls today, because if I started getting into all the amazing clothes & belts & beds & toys, etc, that Cady and Robin craft - well, the adorable-factor would get a little overwhelming.

Also, in the future, I think I'm going to blog about what to look for when buying a quality handcrafted Waldorf-inspired doll for the first time. I'm sure there are many of us that just don't know where to begin to look (and what to look for) when there are so many talented doll makers out there.

So here we go! Below are some detail shots to show you all of the hand-stitched areas that are stuffed FULL (no lumps! yuck!) with clean wool and sewn securely to that each doll can withstand a whole lotta' snuggle time. No floppy heads or popped stitches in Tansy-land.

front closeup of stitching around neck & arms
the back view with our Tansy Dolls tag, and 3 layers of all-natural yarn. Each layer goes through the sewing machine twice before it's secured to the head.
a nice pelvis stitch so our dollies can sit and have a tea party


clearly defined thumbs

sittin' pretty with cute undies

Kealoha in her sweet outfit, ready to go home!


Have a wonderful week!
xoxoxoxoxo,
Lesley

Friday, July 27, 2012

Introducing: Art with Aria


I don't do pretend play very often.  I'm not very good at it and to be honest, I find it kind of mind-numbing.  No offense to anybody out there who does enjoy it, but I can only pretend to be Aria's stuffed lemur so many times before I start gritting my teeth. 

Instead Aria and I do a lot of art around here.  I thought it might be fun to start an Art with Aria series that comes out every other Friday.  My vision for the series is that I'd show you a few examples of Aria's creations and provide you with links to my favorite go-to websites for art, science, and playful learning ideas and products.  There are no hard and fast rules here...some days I may post only one art activity, other days perhaps I'll post three.  And of course, if there is something you'd like to see in particular, please let me know.  

So for today, I'm keeping it simple.  Both of these projects require very little in supplies and in fact, you may have what you need in your house already.  

Watercolor and Sharpie:
I know.  Most parents try frantically to keep the permanent markers far from their children's little fingers.  And trust me, we do the same most of the time.  But drawing with a sharpie and then filling it in with watercolors is one of Aria's favorite art activities.  And its super simple for me to set up.  We like to use real canvas or watercolor paper for this.  I know it can get expensive but you can find cheapie watercolor paper at JoAnn's.


Ice Art:  
This idea came from one of my favorite sources, The Artful Parent.  Jean from The Artful Parent has a wonderful repository of all sorts of lovely art activities to inspire creativity in your little ones. If you don't know about the site now, you should bookmark it and check it out. Okay, back to ice art.  You need ice, salt, medicine droppers (optional but helpful), liquid watercolors (food coloring works too, but we LOVE our liquid watercolors from Discount School Supply), and a place to set up.  We just went outside.  It was easier that way.  The quick version of the instructions is simply: put salt on top of ice, let melt, drop watercolors/food coloring onto ice...repeat.  By the way, these photos are from last summer!  I can't believe how much Aria has grown in just a year!






If you need more detailed instructions, you can find them here on The Artful Parent.  The ice art really is beautiful and if you take a moment to talk about why salt melts ice its also a science experiment. I will say she was a bit heartbroken to learn that we couldn't keep it forever.  So we had to talk about how not everything can last forever and the beauty of impermanence.  So really this simple project is really a lesson in art, science, and philosophy.  Sweet.  ;)


Alright, that's all for this post.  If you try either of these out, let me know what you or your kids thought of the experience.  See you next week, when hopefully I can show you a sneak peek of our Ada doll.  

~Cheers!~
Robin

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Super Train-Crazy Weekend

Hiya folks!

Well, while I do love going doll-crazy, and my little guy, Max, seriously loves babies and our dolls, this past weekend was two days dedicated to his true passion: trains.

Now, you may have heard of this train named Thomas. Yes? And his Sodor friends? Well, Thomas is basically a celebrity in our house. Max's favorite thing in the whole world is trains. Any trains. Sure, Thomas is probably his favorite, then steam trains in general, but he'll take them in any form in a pinch; streetcars, diesels, toys, monorails, zoo trains, etc. He can also make a train out of just about anything. Carrot sticks at lunch? Yep. Some pine-cones at the park? Sure. Piles of soap in the bathtub? Uh-huh.
So last weekend my husband Matt and I took a break from dolls and other hobbies to take Max on a Super Train Adventure, and I thought I'd share. :)

Our first stop was the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad in Elbe, Washington. We got to take a ride on their old steam engine logging train which took us out to a picnic on Mineral Lake before chuffing us back to Elbe. There were gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier, wildlife to spot, and a friendly conductor willing to take pictures.
The MRSR steam train
The train view of Mt. Rainier (the camera doesn't do it justice, of course).
Complete with friendly conductor!


Next we headed over to our room at the Hobo Inn, which is a series of old cabooses converted into guest rooms. We stumbled on them last year and Max has wanted to go back ever since. This year we got to stay in a red caboose (last year's was yellow) and he was thrilled. I did feel slightly bad because a bird family had made their nest on our room's porch and were very disconcerted at having us so close to it.
This is our caboose room.  Yes, they really sit on railroad tracks!
The whole restaurant is fun of model trains and train decor. Max was in heaven.
The annoyed mama bird and the nest on our porch.


Breakfast the next morning was had in a converted dining car lined with model trains. Hard to go wrong there. Then we headed North to the Snoqualmie Railway Museum for the Day Out with Thomas event. There was live music, tons of train tables, Thomas activities, pictures with Thomas and Sir Topham Hat, toys to purchase, and of course a ride on a train pulled by Thomas himself. The ride took us out to overlook the beautiful Snoqualmie Falls before heading back to the station.
Max grinning like a fool with Sir Topham Hat. The whole family posing with Thomas himself.
We got the best seats on the train; comfy chairs in the boxcar facing out on the view.
I didn't manage a nice photo of the falls, but here's the river below.

Max's version of the barbed-wire arm tattoo: train tracks!
Driving the model trains. He's informed us that he will be getting some of these. Er, maybe some day.

It was a pretty magical weekend. Max can't stop talking about it. A few people we told about it thought we were crazy. They weren't the ones with kids. Other parents were more likely to understand that sometimes you just have to embrace your child's passions with a whole heart. And I have to say, it was pretty darn fun. How do you encourage your child's passions?

TTFN!
Cady

P.S. Ok, I said I took the weekend off from dolls, but that's not completely true. I did, after all, have some car time to fill. Next week I'll show you what I was working on. Want a peek?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The BIG One! GIVEAWAY

Pssst! Guess what? This week will mark Tansy Dolls' one month anniversary! July 28th to be exact. :)

Time to toot our own horn! hah. It's been a whirlwind for me, with so many highlights. We've already sold 3 dolls -  2 of which were customs and sooooo fun to work with our clients to create. We donated a sweet doll (Maizy) to Nevus Outreach in hopes that a she'll find a home in the arms of someone who really needs her, and we've done 3 (!) super fun giveaways - a child/doll matching tutu set, a bow and arrow, and a snuggly Cocoon bed. We've been 'favorited' on Etsy a few times, we have some twitter followers - we even had a tweet about us from Brenda Chapman (one of the directors of Brave!)We've been 'pinned' and 'repinned,' and we're now over 100 facebook fans.

It seriously means so much to the three of us. We worked very long and hard perfecting our dolls before we launched and we strive to lovingly create each new doll with integrity and crafts(wo)manship. Not a stitch out of place, and a guarantee of the highest quality product with clear, open, and friendly customer service. And, it's just really cool connecting with other people who share our love of art, craftiness, & cuteness.

Anywhooo - you guys rock. Thanks for welcoming us into the amazingly talented circle of Waldorf-inspired dollmakers with open arms.

So, without further adieu, I'd like to announce - the BIG GIVEAWAY! You guessed it, a Tansy Doll of your very own, a Tansy Doll that you get to choose...that's right! The winner will get to pick ANY doll for sale from our shop. And if you don't like his/her outfit? Well, you get to choose a different one from those available in the shop. Um, did I mention it was FREE? We'll even pay for shipping. We're awesome like that. ;)

So please, follow this link to our facebook fan page. Once we reach 500 fans, someone will win their special doll, and vice versa.

Best of luck everyone!
Lesley


Friday, July 20, 2012

A Crafter's Candy Shop in Portlandia

I feel incredibly lucky to live in Portland.  I swear its a crafter's island of delight.  There are so many stores in this city that I love visiting, sometimes shopping and sometimes browsing, although if I'm being honest...I think I do more shopping than browsing.  ;)

Yesterday, I happened to be over on 10th and Taylor in downtown Portland attending a teleconference for the Oregon Patient Safety Commission.  Research.  Its one of the things that I do when I'm not busy making dolls and doll clothing or hanging out with my fabulous daughter.  It just so happens that the Button Emporium and Ribbonry, one of my most favoritest (yeah...I know its not a word) stores, shares the same building.  So of course, I had to stop by.  No really, I did.  I needed some pretty ribbon to finish up a stack of pillowcase dresses for Tansy Dolls.

Button Emporium and Ribbonry
1016 SW Taylor Street 
Portland, OR 97205

Phone: 503-228-6372 

I stumbled upon this delightful little shop many years ago.  When I first stepped foot into it...I swore up and down I had entered THE candy shop for crafters. Its called the Button Emporium and Ribbonry for good reason.  I don't know that I've ever seen so many buttons or ribbon in my life.  (PS: what you see in these pics is just a FRACTION of what is actually in the store.  Especially the buttons...Oh my, we are talking an entire wall of buttons, ceiling to floor.  In fact, they claim to have thousands...and I believe them.)





They also house a wicked collection of vintage and reproduction French ribbon and trims, Mokuba and Midori ribbons from Japan, a lovely collection of fabric, luscious embroidery thread,  patterns, and various vintage knick-knackery.







I can never just stop by briefly.  Any visit, even if I know exactly what I need, requires enough time to browse every wall, cabinet, and stand as well as peek in every corner.   You never know what you will find in this wondrous little store.  This visit I spotted these beautiful handcrafted buttons from one of a kind.   




The Button Emporium has an online store but seriously if you are ever anywhere near Portland, you should stop by and see the store in person.  



I'm off to play with the goodies I picked up from the store (see picture above), but I wanted to give you a little update on the Ada doll I mentioned last Friday.  I have the skirt finished and the blouse started.  I'd show you pics but I think I'll wait until I have the jacket finished. I hear that Cady has already started working on her abacus.  I cannot wait to see her all put together.  :D


~Cheers!~
Robin  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

IKEA Doll Bed Makeover - part 1

UPDATE: The IKEA Doll Bed Makeover - part 2 has been written and can be viewed here

We all know that handmade dolls like these are something special. While we work very hard to make these dolls durable and we certainly expect them to be played with, they will age better if they are not chucked in the toy bin at the end of the day. Having a safe place to stay when they are not being played with will help your Tansy Doll live a nice long life. 

To this end, did you hear about the giveaway? (It's almost over! Hurry over to the Facebook page! EDIT: This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to the winner!) These cuddly cocoons are one great way to keep your doll safe when off-duty. Another is to give her a bed! Today I'll show you how I'm making over a basic IKEA doll bed into something a little more personal. This will be a longer project, so today is just part 1. Enjoy!

First, you'll need an IKEA doll bed. Mine was $19.99 and the Portland IKEA. 
Doll bed still in the box. 

In case there are one or two of you out there who are not as well-versed in IKEA building, I'll show you how. Everyone else, feel free to scroll past this part. First, open up the box and make sure you have everything. The opened box also makes an excellent work surface to protect your table or floor. 
You should have instructions, headboard, footboard, 2 side rails, a hardware pack, a linens pack, and a bed base. 
The bed is simple enough that you don't need any extra tools at all. The only thing you need is the allen wrench provided. Take the side rails and put 2 little wooden dowels in each end:
Rail with dowels inserted. And coffee. Don't forget the coffee.
 Next, put the head (or foot - they're the same) board down, stand the side rails up on it so the little rail rests point down, then sandwich the other end on top. Push until they're all seated tight. 
These perspective shots make it look so tall!
Thread the bolts in from the sides and tighten all the way down with the provided allen wrench.
You might have to crank pretty hard on these to get them to lay flush. 
Then you can just drop the base in from the top and you're done!
Ta-da!
The bed comes with a little linen set too. Here's Clara modeling it for you: 
What a cutie!
You could certainly be done here, but it's a little plain for me. So here's where the makeover part starts! First, I painted it. I used a nice basic brown craft paint and sponge brush. I brushed on a very thin layer of paint,  following the grain of the wood, so it still looks a bit more natural. You could paint it on thicker or use latex paint instead for a more uniform look. 
Once it looks dark enough for you let it dry then varnish it. (You could probably skip this if you used latex paint.) It may seem silly, but if you're going to hand this over to a kid, you're going to want to be able to clean it, right? So maybe 2 or 3 layers. 
I use indoor-outdoor varnish just in case. :)
End of part 1!
Ok, that's all for today! Next time I'll address the bedding situation. 

UPDATE: On to Part 2!

TTFN!
Cady

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's All For You (Cocoon GIVEAWAY!)


(If you really want it) All for you (if you say you need it) All for you (if you gotta have it)



Okay, clearly I am in a silly mood and have been listening to too much Janet Jackson. :) This ties in to my blog post...how? Ah, yes...

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!!!!

Have you caught on by now that Robin, Cady, and I love a good giveaway? ;) Well, who the heck doesn't, right?

Our talented knitress (that could be a word...someday...if we all add it to our vocabulary and use it... a lot.) *ahem* as I was saying...our talented knitress Cady has crocheted the sweetest little snuggly doll Cocoons you ever did see. They are soft and warm, portable, colorful, and will keep your Tansy Doll safe & nestled in when she's not in someone's arms.

These beauties will be for sale in our shop soon, and we'll let you know the moment they go live via our facebook fan page (so LIKE it already! sheesh. ;)

But, for those of you just itching to bring one home (and for FREE, might I add?) Then...drum roll please...enter this week's GIVEAWAY!

Here's the steps to have a valid entry:

1. Find the post about this giveaway on our facebook fan page
2. Leave a comment on it!
3. SHARE it on your fb page
4. When we reach 100 fans on our facebook page, a number generator will choose a winner for us - hooray!

We'll notify the winner, and let them choose their color (green, grey, red, purple, hot pink, or navy blue)! Hooray!

Enjoy!

xoxoxoxo,
Lesley


Friday, July 13, 2012

Enchantress of Numbers

I love being inspired, don't you?  If you've been following Tansy Dolls, you know that we are going to be creating some very special dolls in the near future for Toward the Stars.  Its an exciting time for us.  After asking for feedback on what folks would like to see, we collected a fabulous list of possibilities.  Originally we thought we'd like to create scientist and explorer dolls.  They are still on the list, but after doing some research, I stumbled upon Lady Ada Byron Lovelace.  And I couldn't get her out of my head.

Lady Lovelace was a mathematician.  She was also the daughter of Anne Isabella Milbanke and Lord Byron.  Yes, you read that right.  The poet Lord Byron was her father, but her parents separated when she was a just an infant and she was raised solely by her mother. Fearful that Ada would take after her father's intensity and dark moods, Anne had her schooled in the sciences and mathematics and attempted to squash any literary tendencies.  Ada would later ask her mother, " if you can't give me poetry, can't you give me poetical science?"    


When she was just 17 years old, she met Charles Babbage, a professor of mathematics at Cambridge.  They became close friends and exchanged frequent letters on all manners of subjects, but especially mathematics. Her writing on Babbage's analytical machine, specifically her notes, would later be considered the first computer program. While many mathematicians, Babbage included, focused solely on the number crunching capabilities of the analytical machine, Ada envisioned and articulated so much more. For example, she anticipated future developments such as computer-generated music.  

Phew!  How is that for a history lesson?  I stumbled upon this quote from Ada that I think  we should all take to heart.  "No one knows what power lies yet undeveloped in that wiry system of mine."  She clearly recognized the potential that lay within herself.  And while society may have preferred she abandon the mathematics and her mother may have preferred she abandon the poetry, it was BOTH her mathematical genius and her imagination that led her to not only write the first computer program but also envision the computer age well before it would happen.

Let's take a page from Ada and recognize, encourage, and support the potential within ourselves, our children, and others.

If you'd like to learn more about Ada, I've collected a few sites for you to check out.
http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/love.htm
http://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/lovelace.html
http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/adalovelace/
http://www.myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=a_lovelace

I'll leave you with this fabulous concept drawing of our mathematician doll by Lesley.  Its inspired by Lady Ada Byron Lovelace of course.  Follow us on Twitter or our FB page (both links are located in the tabs at the top of the page) to see sneak peeks as we bring this concept drawing to life.

~Cheers!~
Robin







Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The battle for balance

Have you heard about our upcoming dolls for Toward the Stars? Keep up with what we're working on by following us on Twitter! It's really exciting for me on a personal level. We're working on some special dolls for this site that will hopefully help empower girls and help show that we girls can do anything we want. Yay us! Similarly, you guys seemed excited about the recent bow and arrow giveaway, which I think is awesome. (If you missed out there will be a few up for sale tomorrow! Check our Etsy page.)

Now, every woman out there, I'm betting, has a story about doing something un-girly and the effect that had on her and those around her. For me, one of the big ones was my chosen field of study. I have a Bachelor's degree in mathematics, which is still largely a boys' club. While my teachers were mostly supportive, the other students were often more skeptical. That's part of why I'm so excited about math dolls, science dolls, explorer dolls, athlete dolls, etc.

However, today I also wanted to talk about the other side of the coin; boys. Now, as the mother of a boy, don't worry; he'll grow up knowing that women can do everything men can do. But I also want to make sure he knows that men can do what women do. I feel like sometimes this can get overlooked when we talk about gender and empowerment.

Of course, a little girl can like Star Wars and grow up to be a scientist. But a little boy can like My Little Pony and grow up to be a homemaker too. I hope that everyone remembers that. And remembers that this doesn't make him any less a boy, just like math doesn't make me any less a girl.

Now, my son has so far remained pretty oblivious of the gender roles around him, and I love that. He's into a lot of typical "boy things" like trains, cars, dinosaurs, trains, dirt, bugs, trains, breaking stuff, and trains. He likes crashing into things, running like mad, and playing guns (not my favorite). But he also loves butterflies, tea parties, baby ducks, painting, baking, animals (the cuddlier the better), and dotes on babies whenever he sees them. I love this balance in him. I hope he holds onto it through his whole life, though I see battles ahead (especially when those pesky pre-teen years arrive).

I put patches on his pants, partly for decoration, partly so he know which side is the front. Yesterday he picked a new batch and here's what he picked:
Butterflies, baby duck, cute dino, and Lightning McQueen. I like the balance here too. :)

So let your girls do science experiments, but also let your boys play with dolls. We could all use a little more balance I'm betting, so let's set our kids up for success by not setting limits on what they can dream.

TTFN!
Cady

Monday, July 9, 2012

Custom Goodness & Movie Magic

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope everyone had a great (long?) weekend and a safe & fun 4th.

Robin, Cady, and I did a little celebrating of our own. In honor of our launch this month we decided unanimously that we were in need of some child-free fun. So, we dropped the kiddos off at their favorite play place/daycare and enjoyed ourselves! A fabulous lunch was kicked off including coffee (of course) and a lot of talk about upcoming Tansy Dolls stuff. Some exciting projects are coming up, and I am looking forward to talking about them soon. (How is that for piquing your curiosity? hah) 

After that was a trip to buy yarn (yay!) and then we were off to see Brave.

BRAVE! Haveyaseenit? It's a good one. It's pretty hard to write a review without spoilers, so I am not going to even try. As an alternative, here's my quick take on it: We laughed. We cried. We used lots of tissue. It's funny. It's touching. It's scary. Like, I am going to have to wait until Stella is around 8 before letting her see it scary. (of course, my daughter does have reoccurring nightmares about bears already...so...yeah.)

And lastly - it gets my stamp of approval. The mother and daughter relationship is really the key to the whole movie. No knights/princes riding in to save the day. A movie with a strong female lead, you say!? And, it's animated, no less!? Woooo hooo! Sign me up.

And, speaking of mother/daughter love this week (do you like my segue? hah)We finished our very FIRST custom that the lovely Karli ordered for her daughter Izzy's birthday (pictures below.)

I had so much fun with this doll! We had fabulous pictures sent to us so that we could match this little lady to look just like the birthday girl Izzy (who is gorgeous, btw.) We had fun with all the details, down to her red highlights and sweet little birthmarks. Karli chose sherberty colors for the clothing and received 2 whole outfits with her doll (with sweaters!). Cady and Robin really out-did themselves on the cuteness factor. I can't wait to see pictures of snuggle-time!

Alrightie friends, I'm signing off for now. Have an awesome week and remember there is ONE more day until we announce the winner of our FREE giveaway! Click here on details to enter: facebook.com/tansydolls

xoxoxoxo,
Lesley

Izzy's matching birthmarks