Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.
– Groucho Marx
In Oct. 2011 I was approached by the educator for the Experiencenter at the Dayton Art Institute to participate in an exhibition for 2012-13, "Inside the Box." Not wanting to pass up an opportunity like this, I said yes even though I didn’t have any idea what I’d do for my piece. We were each given a box measuring 11.75” x 11.75” and 7” deep.
A few days later I was talking with my friend Lisa, who is also participating, and she asked if I had any ideas yet. While I’m not a procrastinator by nature, I generally tend to work on whatever project is due next. Since it was October and this wasn’t due until April, I knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t do anything with it until March at the earliest.
Several days after that, we went to a Halloween party. One of our friends was dressed up as Groucho Marx. He had the whole bit down, including reciting some of Groucho’s popular jokes, which made me think of my favorite Groucho Marx quote:
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog it’s
too dark to read.”
Since the theme of this exhibition was “Inside the Box” I decided to use that quote for my theme.
The first thing I did was assemble the box and take some measurements.
I found a piece of cream colored fabric to use for the outside of my dog. I cut it to 50” x 8” and pin basted it to a piece of craft felt the same size (since it will go on the box I didn’t use any backing fabric).
Using a matching thread, I quilted some serpentine designs across the short part of the fabric keeping .5” away from the edge. This was to keep the fabric from stretching too much. I trimmed the craft felt down to 7.25” x 44” and folded the long edges over and quilted down .25” from the edge.
I added the “spots” on the dog by using some cream colored fabric that had text on it and some brown fabric that I fused to the cream fabric. I stitched around the spots with a brown thread but off set it so it’s more like echo quilting.
I decided where the dog’s head, legs and tail would go then I drilled small holes in the box. I lined up the cream colored fabric and made small cuts in the fabric to line up with the holes.
I glued cream fabric to the front edges of the box then glued the dog’s “skin” to the outside of the box, hand stitching where it met at the bottom. I also used some strong double-sided tape to hold the skin down.
The Dog's Body
I made the dog’s head, tail, and legs by experimenting with different shapes and batting until it started to look like a dog. I sewed on buttons for the eyes and the nose. The tail has a pipe cleaner in it so it’s somewhat adjustable.
Those pieces had several inches of extra fabric on the end and this part was pushed through the holes in the skin and the box and glued down on the inside of the box. I hand stitched around these parts to attach them to the skin.
Since the box is going to be hanging on the wall, the legs do not support it, they just hang there.
For the inside of the box I made five fabric mosaics; four for the inside walls and one for the back. I cut small pieces dark colored fabric, colored stars, and fabric that had light text on a dark background and fused them all to a black background.
The bottom mosaic includes the second line of the text “Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. – Groucho Marx". I added some multi-colored variegated yarn then covered them all with netting and sewed everything in place.
I attached the inside pieces the same way I did the dog’s skin, with glue and a strong double-sided tape.
I made the doll by sewing a pair of pants and a shirt then putting them on a pipe cleaner stick figure. I used cream colored fabric for the arms, feet and head, adding stuffing to the head to fill it out. I used some brown yarn for the hair, gluing and stitching it down by hand.
I posed the doll then sewed it to the bottom and side fabric mosaics. The book is made with fabric wrapped around a piece of foam core, which is also sewn to the bottom mosaic.
The Finishing Touches
I made a dog collar using red fabric and a metal key ring loop to hold the dog tag which has the text “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend” that is covered with a sheer netting.
Considering I haven’t really done much with three dimensional fiber before, I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
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Info About The Exhibit - This exhibit is located in the Experiencenter, an interactive gallery for children and adults at the Dayton Art Institute. The museum is located at 456 Belmonte Park North in Dayton, Ohio and is open Wed.-Sat. from 10 am-5 pm (and Thurs. until 8 pm) and on Sun. from noon-5 pm. The exhibit runs from Apr. 28, 2012 through April 2013 and there will be an opening reception and family day on Sat., Apr. 28, from 1-4 pm.