Monday, 9 November 2015

My Old Man at the Frouds Faerie Character Workshop

Back in February, I saw an FB post that Wendy and Toby Froud will be holding a faerie character workshop in Portland. Portland! That's only a three-hour drive from here so you can just imagine my excitement.

Wendy is the woman behind Yoda. Yes, Yoda responsible for, she is. Wendy is the fabricator, having sculpted the great Jedi Master. She also worked with Jim Henson (creator of The Muppets) in "The Labyrinth" and "Dark Crystal". Both oh so lovely films!

Toby is her son and he also played the cute baby offered to the goblins by sister Sarah in "The Labyrinth".  Toby embraces this colorful history with Stripey Pajama Productions where he works with Heather Henson, daughter of Jim Henson, to produce the wonderful imageries of "Lessons Learned".

The workshop was for April, my birthday weekend, plus hubby and I are fans of "Portlandia" and we've been talking about going down there -- everything just clicked. So of course I signed up and just managed to get my name on the list.

But shortly after, that was all but forgotten. We got the news that my Dad had cancer. I couldn't leave his side. He was in and out of the hospital so much that it was just impossible. I would have cancelled but friends insisted I needed a break and that they'd be there for him. By some luck, schedules worked out and for three rainy days, hubby enjoyed the peace and quiet of a B&B to relax and read while I was immersed in the fantastical world of the Frouds.

Wendy & Toby Froud

Wendy took us through a journey of imagination where we met curious characters that served as our guides to this magical world, a world where each workshop participant met the character that we respectively recreated in polymer clay.

My Dad never left my thoughts and that was probably the reason why I met a very tall, skinny, bald guy wearing a loincloth who sat on his hunches in my vision quest. Reading this back to myself, I am reminded of Gollum but no, my guy is far from Gollum. I was reminded of a very tall but skinny Kapre (a Filipino folklore character who is always described as a gigantic, hairy guy who lives in big, old trees, smoking cigars) and he had the most serene expression I've seen in a long time. He handed me a miniature house which fit in the palm of his hand.

I nicknamed him My Old Man and he was definitely bald. At that time, the radiation treatments had caused my Dad's hair to fall off and he decided to have it shaved. He was self conscious about it at first, but like the cowboy that he is, he soon got used to it. One day we were on our way back from the hospital and he suddenly blurted out for me to slow down. Surprised I asked, "Why? What's wrong? I'm driving the speed limit." And without batting an eyelid, he responded, "The wind is messing up my hair!"

Another version of that is when I helped him put a shirt on. He snapped at me to be careful and I was so worried I hurt him, he followed that with, "You're messing up my hair!" And then he laughed in that silly laugh of his that says he got you. I miss my Dad. It's going to be his sixth month this November. So this post is really for him. My Old Man is a tribute, I realized later, to him. Same way I realized while writing this blog, that this post is about my experience at the workshop as it is about him.

My Dad never really explored his artistic side professionally but it was always showing up. He built a boat out of popsicle sticks just for fun. He'd show us how to draw naughty drawings that would end up in a cute dog. He helped me work on my projects. He always had a book or art material for me to try out. Even when he was sick, he showed me how to cut an eggplant so it's even and decorative at the same time.

But back to the workshop, after meditation, we beat foil to form and kneaded clay and got the best advice on sculpting ever! Those three days were too short. There was so much to learn. I still can't get over the fact that even though they showed us how to do it and even though both Wendy and Toby started with the same materials we did, their works were simply brilliant! It's like they went from crunching foil into a ball and in the next second it transformed into this wonderful doll so full of life, dressed in such whimsical clothes. It's really magic. And as this art goes, it's better to show them in pictures.

Wendy showing us how to work on the face. Her doll became this lovely creature on the right.
It's magic I tell you! It's magic!

Following suit and building up My Old Man's face

Toby showing us the tricks of costuming.

The workshop area was in the basement of the Fernie Brae Gallery in Portland

When I saw the pile of materials for us to play with -- and it was a huge, 
wonderfully diverse pile -- I couldn't resist trying on different possibilities and 
decided to give My Old Man a monkish hairdo. 
Wendy's Faerie & Toby's Creature

With Toby Froud and his creature. Toby decided to create a creature to show us
how to sculpt them in comparison to a regular humanoid face.

With Wendy Froud

All our creations pose for a group photo
And finally, this is My Old Man. My Dad got to meet him a few days before he left us. He even named him. But for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name he said.

I decided against my vision of a character in a loin cloth. We created posable dolls with soft bodies, so it really would not have worked. Also, there was so much materials available it was so much fun to try clothes on!

We also learned about the Froud Swirl - I hope I remember the term correctly. It's a muddy concoction of paint that you use to dirty up and create authenticity with your doll's clothes. Toby advised us not to be afraid to get in there and paint it on their costumes. But man, that was one of the most terrifying things to do during the workshop! It's like you're trying to destroy your own work after carefully building it up. But it's a key trick. So splash on I did. My tentative strokes did get a few splatters in there.

Got some clothes upgrade. Imagined him as the pauper king.

This last picture is by pure coincidence. Having finished My Old Man back in April and going straight back to my Dad's side after the workshop, I never really got a chance to take proper pictures. So I went out in the middle of writing this blog to take photos. After I downloaded them, I noticed this photo I took of my Dad and me in my downloads folder and their poses were so similar I had to include it here. 

My Dad would have been 67 on November 12. My Old Man keeps him company now. 


In related posts, it took time before I was able to take up clay again but if you want to check out what I worked on after the workshop, click below:


Julls said...

That was a beautiful tribute to your dad! Somehow you never get over the loss of a parent, and it's wonderful that you have something that awesome to remember him by.

Also, that piece of art is amazing! I can't believe you made the entire thing.

AND I follow another artsy person (Kelly Purkey) who lives in Portland! You might want to check her out. Her Instagram makes me want to live there. The Voodoo Doughnuts alone make me want to go haha.

Ris said...

Hi Ria! Amazing how creative people (like you) fuels artistry through personal experience. ;)

Ria Mendoza said...

Thanks Julls & iRis. Meeting the Frouds and learning from them was truly, truly a one of a kind experience. My big smile can't hide how lucky I felt to have been there. However it also belies the worry and sadness I carried. Thanks for checking in. I miss you guys!