Hello, and welcome to my new website, Sgailean. Sgailean is Gaelic for spirits. I chose this name because all of my figures are magical creatures, from Father Christmases and Dickens’ ghosts to fairies and teddy bears.
Every sgail is made from scratch by me. Bodies begin with 3-stranded electrical wire. Insulation is removed to expose enough wire to bend into a head, arms, and legs. Aluminum foil is wrapped around the middle section to give shape to the torso. Half-inch strips of quilt batting are wrapped and glued to give lifelike shape to the body, arms, and legs.
Faces are made from Pro-Sculpt (available online). First, aluminum foil is wrapped and smushed into a skull shape onto a dowel. Prosculpt is then worked and placed onto the skull. At some point, I decide where the eyes, nose, and mouth go and start sculpting. I use various tools, including a double-pointed knitting needle, styluses, and needle. This takes some practice. Color is added with face powder and blush.
Eyes are corsage pins, or straight pins with white heads of various sizes. First make a puddle of blue, brown, or green paint. Just barely dip the head of the pin in the paint and let dry in a block of Styrofoam. When good and dry, make the pupil with a black Sharpie. When inserting into head, make a round indentation and then poke a pin into the middle of the hole so that the pin goes straight in. Cut off the pin and insert. Then take a tiny bit of clay and make the eyelid. This is tricky.
Hands start out by bending 26 gage wire into fingers, twisting the two ends together at the wrist. Cut strips of white florist tape into 4 very thin strips and start winding it around the fingers. This takes a while. Then paint them with skin-toned paint and let dry by poking their ends into a block of Styrofoam. I usually give them a second coat of Modge-Podge before using.
Clothing is made from patterns that I have made over many years. I use new and found fabrics, recycled fur, recycled leather, and of course for the fairies, artificial flowers.
Accessories are either made or bought (violins and toys).
FATHER CHRISTMAS FIGURES
I have been making Father Christmas figures for over 30 years. Many of my Bar Harbor, Maine, customers collected them and told me every year they enjoyed seeing my early creations when they unpacked them. The early ones were more like beanbags and were very primitive compared to how I now make them. Now they are made by using wire armatures, hand-made clothing, boots, and accessories. I leave the last half-inch of the leg wire for gluing into a hole that has been drilled into the base. Hair and beards are made from various sheepskins that I have acquired over the years. My favorite is the Icelandic sheepskin which has very long staple.
My fairies are a combination of my love of making faces, with my childhood passion for dolls. I would have loved having one of these as a little girl.
I was inspired to try my hand at making fairies when I saw some at a craft fair in Maine. Mine are quite different from those, however. Each fairy has its own unique color scheme and flower type. They are made pretty much like my other figures, except for the hair. I acquired some wigs and painstakingly deconstructed them, getting down to what wigmakers call the hair curtain. I then glue these strips onto the head with hot glue, making a brush-able custom wig. Some of my fairies have real human hair, which is so beautiful.
These one-of-a-kind figures are a real pain to make, but I absolutely love them. They are made just like all the other sgailean, but smaller, therefore harder. At 6 inches, they are a bit large for some Christmas trees, but strings are attached in case you want to try.
Most of my teddy bears are made from old fur coats that no one wants to wear anymore. I like to think that I’m honoring the beauty of the animal that wore the fur originally. I use a traditional teddy bear pattern that is over 100 years old. Each bear is fully lined and hand-stitched using upholstery thread. They are all fully jointed and have plastic eyes. I will not be making any more of these, as it is extremely hard on my old hands. Some of my bears are made from Mohair or faux fur. These are much, much, easier to make!
Pillows are made from leftover fur or antique linens I have saved over the years.
I have one hobbit scene left. It is the scene where Frodo and Samwise are on the way to Mordor and are eating Elven Lembas bread. This is a one-of-a-kind treasure.