By the end of May the hummingbirds' Northward migration is complete. Yet, here it is, mid-June and Piper has not seen or heard from her bird, Scout. She's been waiting in angst for him, worried that a tragedy may have befallen him. But finally, today, the little rascal showed up.
He offered no explanation for his delay nor did he apologize for his delinquency. Instead, he popped his head in between the shrubery, where Piper was making her rounds tending to the garden and the flowers in anticipation of Scout's return, and greeted her with a cheery "tweet."
It's not as if she wanted an apology, but she was hoping for an explanation. After all, she is the keeper of his nectar and she works very hard to keep the other birds and bees away so that he may have food to eat after his long and exhausting migration over hundreds of miles across the oceans.
Just as a scowl appeared on Piper's face, to be followed by a scolding, Scout began twittering away to tell her about his long journey...how lonesome it was for him (because hummingbirds are a solitary creature and do not migrate in flocks). He spoke of how exhausting the journey was because there was a time in migration when he had to get off at dusk for a non-stop flight of up to 500 miles across the seas. That's a mighty distance for such a small fellow. Along the way, he had to stop at an oil rig in the middle of the ocean in order to rest his weary wings. He is now famished and he's so grateful to her for being here to tend to his nectar and to give him a warm welcome. And just like that the scowl went away from Piper's face, as quickly as it came, and the two friends chittered and chattered away to catch up on lost time. Such is the beauty of friendships between those who are close to one another but don't get to see each other often...things just pick up where it last left off, as if no time has passed at all.
I'm not sure where to begin telling you the story of how Piper and Scout came to be. I suppose I shall start by telling you that when kindred spirits cross paths, amazing things come to fruition.
Amongst the many ideas that float in my dreams (the endless list of characters to come to life) was a hummingbird. But, as with many of these floating dreams, the ideas are very slow to come to life for one reason or another. It may be a lack of time. It may be that I have such particular ideas about how I want to make something that I haven't quite figured out the details of how to go about the making. Both these reasons were the hindrances behind the making of a hummingbird doll....that is, until I met Ms. J. When this dear lady came to me and requested a doll that would involve the hummingbird, I felt that this would be IT. This would be the time for which the hummingbird that's been floating in my dreams will come to life and my heart truly jumped for joy. It's not only because the hummingbird is my favorite bird of all in the bird kingdom. But, it was also because I now had someone in the world for whom I could create this little creature and she would appreciate it for all that it is. So, thank you, Ms. J, for coming into my life and bringing with you Scout and Piper.
All About Piper
Piper is a Nectar-keeper. Her sole responsibility is to tend to the flowers and the nectar that is produced by the flowers so that the hummingbird will have food to sustain itself and live a long happy life (which is, at max, only 5 years). After her bird passes, she takes on duties to tend to and care for another hummingbird and this defines her joyful and very practical existence. She loves her work and daily tends to the flowers by keeping destructive insects from eating at the flower petals and she sweeps away dust and dirt that might contain organisms that take the nectar without helping in reproduction. In this way, the flower can do it's work to produce nurturing food for the hummingbird. So, her work is quite an important and essential one for the livelihood of these tiny birds.
Piper is a Wee-Bee Mini Elfcup doll. She stands less than 6" (15 cm) tall. She is made with all natural materials. Her doll skin is made with premium quality cotton interlock made in the USA. She is firmly stuffed with bio-wool also made in the USA. Her seams are sewn twice for reinforcement. She has embroidered facial features. Her facial structure is sculpted giving her a sweet little face with an itty-bitty chin, round chubby cheeks, and deeper set eyes. Her cheeks, nose and various body parts are blushed with red beeswax. Piper's hair is 100% suri alpaca, wefted and then sewn into a crocheted wig. She is a sitting doll with sewn joints. She also has a belly button and a bum.
Piper comes wearing a rugged workers dress made from100% iridescent silk lined with a 100% Thai silk. The dress was created with a crinkly and rugged effect by hand washing, hand crushing and then dried in heat for a short time.
The dress' lining was shaped by shearing and then hand fraying. The dress opens fully on the back with 3 nickel-plated snap buttons.
Piper comes capped with a hand knit hat made just for hummingbird Nectar-keepers. The hat was knitted with a 50% silk/50% cashmere blended yarn and created with a pattern that mimics the scalloped features found on a hummingbird's feathers. Her boots are hand knit with a variegated 100% merino wool yarn.
For tending to her work in the early hours of first light or in the late hours of twilight, Piper sports an oversized cloak made from a 100% cotton fabric with iridescent effects and lined with a 100% iridescent silk. The coat is reversible but must be handled gently to avoid snags that will pucker or ruin the delicate weave of the silk. It closes at the neck with a nickel-plated eye and hook fastener.
All About Scout
Hummingbirds are like fireflies...unless you are fortunate enough to either live where they live or have traveled to where they live, you may never encounter them in your whole life. With that said, we are indeed the luckiest people to live in the part of the world where hummingbirds fly free and happily. Here in California, they are fortunate enough to be thriving everywhere. On any given day, we are bound to see a hummingbird visit our garden. And I can tell you that each time I see them, no matter how many times I see them, I stop in my tracks to watch and admire them and let them take my breath away.
Hummingbirds are the tiniest of all the birds. Between all the species, they measure in the range of 3-5 in (7.5-12.5 cm). You can easily spot a hummingbird from afar because they are so extraordinarily tiny that they stand out amongst the other birds. They are the only creatures in nature that can stop dead in their tracks while traveling at full speed. Full speed can mean up to 60 miles per hour when they are doing a courtship dive and on average they travel 20-30 miles per hour. Because the hummingbird can rotate its wings in a circle, they are the only bird that can fly forwards, backwards, up, down ,sideways and hover in mid air. Amazing isn't it?
So, you see, it is no wonder that I am hopelessly smitten with these magical creatures. And if you are ever lucky enough to cross paths with one, you too shall fall deeply in love with them...as it happened to one Ms. J from the UK. This far away friend happened to be on vacation in California sometime earlier this year and while she was here a fortunate stroke of serendipity brought to her an encounter with a hummingbird. And this was how Scout came to be. He is a creation made for a lady who was lucky enough to encounter the hummingbird while traveling in this region, truly a once in a lifetime experience if you don't live in their part of the earth.
If you're interested, here are some websites with information and photos of these magical and amazing birds; all about hummingbirds, hummingbird migration basics, Native American legends and mythology of the hummingbird, facts and fun information about hummingbirds.
Without further ado, I present to you....Scout.
Scout is the tiniest soft sculpture creation I've made thus far. In past creations, there was Benja's clock, Cicindela's firefly, Puck's moon and there is also a gypsy moth in the making for a young aviator. In the process of deciding how I would go about making Scout as true to size as possible, because hummingbirds range from only 3-5 inches, I contemplated several different methods. Needle felting a bird would have been the easiest way to go about it. But, I felt that I wanted something with a lot of color and texture and needle felting would have limited both. Despite the challenges of doing a soft sculpture in such a miniscule size, I felt that this was the best method for creating a bird that would present richness in both texture and color and offer a wide range of options for both characteristics.
Scout's body is made from mud silk. Not to diverge too much, but mud silk is created through an incredibly fascinating process and dates back hundreds of years. It is also a very eco-friendly and sustainable process. This article, "Dye for Two Tones: The Story of Sustainable Mud-coated Silk," provides a very good take on the history of mud silking and talks about it's sustainability and eco-friendliness. If you want to see beautiful photos of the process, this site has a small article and lots of pictures. I chose mud silk for it's tight knit and firmness but yet still thin and pliable qualities. I wanted to embroider the fabric without layering backing into the fabric, which would add too much bulk for such a tiny creation. So, mud silk was the best quality for embroidering tiny stitches on a tiny object. Scout is stuffed firmly with 100% carded wool.
On top of the mud silk, Scout's body is decorated with approximately a thousand stitches of embroidery thread. I wanted to mimic the true patterns on a hummingbird. Have you seen photos of a hummingbird up close?....it is truly incredible. Just google hummingbird and go to images and you'll see how amazing the colors and details are on these tiny creatures....truly the handiwork of mother nature herself. There are no feathers like that of a hummingbird's. Their feathers are patterned in neat rows of scallop shapes and each strand is painted with an iridescent glow that is ever changing and magnificently brilliant. So, in order to mimic as closely as possible (by human hands anyway) the pattern and colors, I used embroidery thread to produce the smallest stitches that my clumsy hands can muster up. Between 6 different shades and colors of thread, I embroidered each scallop stitch for stitch and changed the color tones as I moved along, in order to give the illusion of iridescence.
I contemplated for a long time whether to make a standing bird or a bird in flight. At the end, I felt strongly that a bird in flight was the best choice since the hummingbird in flight is one of the many things that are mesmerizing about these creatures. Scout's wings are made of a 100% iridescent silk. They are shaped triangular like that of a real hummingbird's and handstiched with long ribbons of silk that were shaped, twisted and curved fold for fold to give the effect of volume. Hummingbirds can beat their wings up to 80 times a second during normal flight and up to 200 times per second during a courtship dive. The transparency of the silk fabric and it's iridescent qualities symbolize the blurriness of a hummingbird's wings while it is in flight.
Scout's tail is also made from 100% iridescent silk, machine stitched and then carefully hand frayed to give the effect of feathers. His beak is made from wood, colored with permanent black pen and attached with a tiny dab of industrial strength glue. Despite the industrial strength glue, his beak is still rather delicate because of it's miniscule scale and should be handled with the most gentle hands. In other words, Scout is not a toy and should not be handled by children. Rather, Scout will be happiest strung from a place where he is free to fly and buzz about in the air.
Scout measures approximately 3 inches (7.5 cm) long from beak to tail. And he stands about a half inch (1.2 cm) tall.
There we have it everyone....a hummingbird creation...Piper and Scout....custom made for one very special kindred spirit from far across the Atlantic.