As the organizers of the UP! Fair began to meet and discuss our plans, I started feeling decidedly unproductive in my efforts. I was present during the meetings and I provided feedback here and there, but I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. I hoped to be a good bit of help at the actual event, but I wanted to contribute more. Anything that might need to be done concerning promotional matierals, the workshops, content provided would be handled by most of the team through their own artwork. So where exactly did I fit into this talented group?
I wasn’t sure, and I’ve enjoyed feeling like I didn’t belong. So, what could I do to be involved in a bigger way? There’s the sewing projects I’ve done for my “line” of demonals, but I didn’t feel like those belonged at a convention celebrating artists, sequential art and independent publishing. My stuffed creations don’t fall into that category at all. So, what else is there?
Then I thought about making something to give to the guests tabling at the event. It would be an extra thing that they might enjoy would foster a nice partnership between them and the UP! Fair. I wanted it to be useful, so it wouldn’t seem like junk where they’d squinch their eyes up and say “Gee, thanks,” as they tossed it in the first trash can they could find. I considered doing a card holder with an approximation of the UP! Fair logo, so they’d have something readily available to keep any and all business cards they collected at the event together. It would be practical, functional and decorative. Ultimately, though, I nixed the idea. I wasn’t sure if it was the right way to go, and I was afraid that it might not hold the cards well enough to be useful.
I kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and then I remembered an idea for a stuffed creation that I wanted to do based on something mentioned in Art & Story. I have no idea which episode of the podcast this happened, but Jerzy and Mark were talking about the humidity level in the studio and how it was affecting their ink. They complained about it seizing up and getting gloopy (my word, not theirs!), and one of them made the off-hand remark about an ink ghost coming in and stealing the moisture in there. I immediately started wondering about an ink ghost……..what would it look like? I thought that would make an awesome stuffed animal, and figured on making it one day. Well, I decided I could take that ink ghost, make it into an ink monster and that might be a fun thing to provide our guests!
As I was designing the look of the ink monster, I went online and Googled monster as an image. I was trying to figure out what kind of face I wanted to do. I imagined my little ink monster forming out of a puddle of viscous ink, rising out of the murky black as a rounded shape. He kind of galumphs along, with the bottom part of him kind of slurping along the ground as he leaves an ink trail behind him. I didn’t want to do arms on him, though I don’t rule out that he has them. I also didn’t want to do a mouth because I wouldn’t be able to it justice in felt or fabric, since I saw it in my mind as a maw opening up with strings of ink stretching vertically across that vast, dark space. (Think of a Scooby Doo ghost mouth if that description doesn’t quite get the idea across.) So I needed eyes, but what kind of eyes? My ink monster is not malevolent or angry, but despite his bulky movements he’s not stupid either. I checked out a few images, and as crazy as this is going to sound I realized I don’t have to do two eyes! What a revelation that was! Think outside the box, Carrie, because you don’t have to view things in the traditional way. I really liked that idea so decided to make him a Cyclops. How fun!
Then I started thinking it through to see how I might pull this off. I came up with the idea to make a large pattern with rounded edges made in a haphazard manner. When I had the fabric cut, I draped it over something around the house that I could use as a guide for the size that I wanted and then I sewed the folds together to make it keep the general shape. I also wanted to create the feeling that the fabric around the bottom of him was loose, to give the impression that it might undulate as he moved. I filled the middle with polyfil and then cut another bit of fabric out and sewed it on as a bottom.
When I was done……….I hated it!! It was an absolute disaster and I was extremely disappointed with my efforts. It looked like this big, squat blob-like flower with an eye. I put it on the counter near our laundry room door where we sometimes put paper that needs to go in the trash. I couldn’t quite throw him away at that moment, but planned to later on. My husband had other ideas though, and I found later that he had disappeared. I asked him about and he told me he had hidden it because he wanted to keep it. In fact, he had named him Humboldt because it reminded him of a squid and we had recently watched something on television about Humboldt squids.
Shawn encouraged me to try again, so I did. It’s amazing what a small tweak here or a change in design there can achieve. I decided to ditch the whole one-piece pattern idea, and instead cut out a front and back pattern. I saw my ink monster, as I said, as tall and somewhat slender so I was careful to draw that kind of shape. I then pared back on the amount of “drips” at the bottom of the pattern (the little ins and outs to make it look like an ink splotch). I also tried to make those drips as random as possible but with enough forethought so they wouldn’t end up lining up somehow front to back. I kept the eye the same and the piece that I cut out to sew to the bottom, though I didn’t actually make a pattern for that.
He came out tremendously different and so much better!! I used some leftover pieces of orange felt that I had rather than using black, in case it was a flop too. But he wasn’t, though he came out a bit too slender for how I pictured him. So, the only thing left to do was to make him a little bit wider and find a fabric that evoked the texture and qualities of ink. Shawn and I took a trip to JoAnn’s to look around. Normally I would go by myself, but I wanted a second opinion on what might look best. We found a couple of good candidates, one in particular that was swimsuit material and really had the “feel” of wet ink. However, part of what I enjoy about stuffed animals is the soft texture, the cuddle factor. I had discovered a remnant that was black which had a shiny quality to it as well having that softness that I so enjoy. Ultimately I went with that one and quickly made another prototype. (It’s so much easier when you have the patterns already completed.)
He’s a beautiful, little ink monster in my opinion. My only complaint with him is that since the material I found was not as stiff as the felt so rather than sticking out and retaining that shape, they folded under his body. I’ll have to cut out a pattern around those drips and use that to sew to the bottom rather than just closing off the hole where he’s stuffed. If that works out, then he’ll be pretty damn near perfect for what I’m able to accomplish at this stage in the game.
I’m considering him to be the unofficial mascot of the UP! Fair. That hasn’t been truly discussed yet with the other organizers, but to me that’s what he is. I wanted to come up with some sort of back story for him, nothing long and involved just a base for what he is as well as a name. I sent suggestions to Shawn at work one day, and the few that got bandied about weren’t quite right. I was thinking of him as some sort of muse, so I Googled gods and goddesses and found a site that listed names from various cultures. I saw one listed whose description caught my eye: Oghma (Scottish, Irish) - God of Communication and Writing, and of Poets. I thought that was rather appropriate for the UP! Fair, so I sent it to Shawn. Thus, my little ink monster became Oghma, the Ink Monster. Shawn and I discussed the back story on the way home from work, and we came up with the idea that he isn’t a muse in the normal sense of the word. He’s the reason why your ink seizes up and becomes thick. He’s the one behind your sudden frustration on where to take the story or what kind of person a character is going to be. The smudge of ink that appears on your nice, clean page……..that was Oghma. Whenever something goes wrong…………Oghma Did It!! But, he is not a creature to be hated or abused. He makes you ever more vigilant of what you are doing and drawing. When something isn’t coming together like it should, you can be certain that Oghma is behind it. Not to irritate you beyond all else, but to make you consider other possibilities. Sure, he can be annoying and sometimes he might just be messing with you for the fun of it. But more times than not, he’s there to help if you can figure out what he’s trying to tell you!