Mood Swings

It’s always fascinated me how the chain of information spreads from person to person. The interpretation and the range of human emotions and reactions are so different. One of Norman Rockwell’s illustrations sticks out in my mind. It’s called “Gossip”. This was a different time and information moved at a slower pace, but it shows how each person reacts differently to the same information, from shock to delight to anger.

Today, information moves at lightening speed and we are bombarded with news and opinions and events from multiple sources. Because of this we find ourselves on daily – actually, minute by minute emotional rollercoasters. It’s hard to stay calm sometimes and we are always looking for ways to improve our mood.

As a figurative artist, I already unconsciously focus on people’s faces, so I can’t help but notice the increase in mood swings expressed through people’s facial expressions. Maybe the isolation of the pandemic has left us feeling less inhibited or maybe we’ve just had enough and we’re not afraid to show what we are thinking. Either way, it’s inspired me to create my series “Mood Swings”.

Mood Swings focuses on the face and the character’s expression without the distraction of the body or costume. I’m hoping my viewers will connect with the character’s expression and fill in the story as it relates to their mood. I love creating these characters. There’s no lack of inspiration around me, or for that matter, staring right back at me from the mirror.

Prices start at $295. Mood Swings are available as 12″ busts mounted on 6″ x 6″ pedestals or as mini 7-8″ characters. They are available at the NAK Gallery, located at 1285 Wellington West in Ottawa or online at

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Courage and Strength

As an artist, I get many requests to donate my work to various charities. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Each cause has its merits and promises exposure, although exposure can be hard to measure and hard to use with the bill collector. As much as I want to help, it’s not possible to accommodate everyone. Because of this I set a personal and professional limit to 3 charity groups who I either donate my artwork or my time. For me it’s The Wabano Center for Aboriginal Health and The Boys and Girls Club which I am involved with through the National Capital Network of Sculptors. Both of these groups benefit from my time where I run free workshops or help coordinate public installations as well as benefit from my supplier contacts and product donations. The third group is flexible and I’ve worked with Crohn’s & Colitis, Ottawa Hospital and Cancer Research as well as the Rotary Club.

Last year I was asked to participate in an event for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and to create a special piece for the Gatineau chapter’s biggest fundraising event, La Robe Rouge Gala. The creative challenge was exciting but I also have a personal connection to this cause – Me!

I was born with a congenital heart defect that affects only 2% of the population and at some point in the future I will need surgery for a new aortic valve. I hope it will be very far in the future but as my cardiologist reminds me, it’s not about “if” it’s about “when” I will need the surgery. I am encouraged by new techniques in laparoscopic surgery that will make the process less invasive. In the meantime it means I have a little trouble keeping up on brisk walks and climbing a lot of stairs or anything aerobic. I was very lucky it was discovered early. Most people with this condition don’t know they have it until they experience their first heart attack. So with a little medication and supervision things continue to be stable for me.

What I’ve learned is that heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada – 5x more than breast cancer! 53% of women who experience heart attack symptoms have them go unrecognized because many times the symptoms are different than for men yet 2/3 of all heart disease and stroke clinical research focuses on men. You can learn more about this at

Let’s get back to the Red Dress Gala. The challenge last year was to create a special figurative sculpture that embraced the “Red Dress” theme with the key word being “Courage”. Here is a photo of my submission. “Courage” was a big hit with the audience and after a quick and lively auction brought in $3,000 for the cause. Not only that, but she won the “Social Consciousness’ award in an international art competition and was featured in two Art Doll publications last year.

The next Red Dress Gala takes place in February 2024 and because of the success of including art in the fundraising experience, 12 artists have been selected to participate in this next event. The selection process for the event started at the end of 2022 where artists were asked to submit sketches or photos for the jurying committee to review. Below are the sketches I submitted, from which the committee selected “Strength”.

At this point she was just an idea. I worked on the sculpture over the next 5 weeks and submitted the final sculpture in mid February. She was officially unveiled along with the work of the other artists at the NAK Gallery last night. Tickets are being sold to win her along with the other 12 artworks. Tickets can be purchased at with all proceeds going to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

Now that the official unveiling has taken place, I can share her with you.

Here she is – 28″ tall, polymer clay, resin, textiles and wood-

powerful, resilient and courageous –


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Laissez les bon temps rouler!

It’s believed the origins of Carnevale date back to the 1,200’s in early Roman times. Of course, the Carnival of Venice is probably one of the most famous celebrations. Not just in Venice, all of Italy dresses up this month in incredible costumes and masks to celebrate during the 40 days before Easter. The word Carnevale is derived from the latin “carnem levare” which means “take away the meat” and refers to the day before the Christian period of Lent when people abstained from eating meat.

The jester is a common Carneval character and to celebrate February and Carnevale, I want to share a few of my jester characters. You can learn how to make these delightful busts in my e-class available at AforArtistic. Over the years I’ve made quite a few of these, but I’ve also explored some of the characters from Commedia dell’arte theatre, in particular the characters of Columbina and Pedrolino. Columbina, a maidservant, was often paired in love matches with Arlecchino (Harlequin) a mischievous character who was a little dim and always hungry and desperately in love.

The biggest and most exciting day of Carnivale is Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. This year it lands on February 21st. I hope you’ll take some time to celebrate and as they say in New Orleans . . .

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

If you would like to learn how to make a jester bust, check out my e-class at AforArtistic.

or check out all my classes at

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Hocus Pocus

I just watched Hocus Pocus 2 and it doesn’t matter whether you liked it or not – you have to agree, more than anything else, its just so much fun watching Bette Midler embrace the role of Winifred, the oldest of the three sisters. I love Halloween and I love witches. What’s the quote? “There’s a little witch in all of us”. I believe that and I embrace that mystical, magical, intuitive side of being a woman. It’s no wonder I’ve explored this character so much over the years. So . . . for throw-back Thursday and in anticipation of Halloween, here’s a little look back at just a few of my witches over the years.

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Heirloom Santa Art Retreat

Organizing a 4 day vacation art retreat took a lot of planning, especially trying to anticipated everything we would need, not only to work together, but to live together while creating. Other than forgetting blue paint for Santa’s eyes, I almost had it perfectly planned. Luckily I found a jar of blue paint in the garage and we were able to give Santa his magical twinkle.

The location was beautiful, on a lovely private lake in La Peche, Quebec. The participants were talented, interesting and a pleasure to work with, and I’m happy to say I now consider them life long friends. I’m thrilled and relieved to say my first retreat was a success. My students experienced several “AhhhHaaa!” moments and very important for me was that they completed their beautiful heirloom Polar Bear Santa’s in the allotted time.

I learned a lot too! Planning a little extra time for sight seeing is a must, as well as planning for flight delays and cancellations. Nonetheless, my out-of-town students got a condensed tour of Ottawa plus a side trip to the NAK Gallery to see my work. They also got a tour of my unrealistically clean and organized staged version of my home studio. It’s already back in working conditions again. One of the highlights of the retreat was the opportunity to test a new concept with my students and as I hoped, it’s a game changer for figurative artists. I have a few kinks to work out but I hope to share this with my other students very soon.

Although the next vacation retreat won’t be until next year, the same workshop project will be offered at the NAK Gallery over two weekends this October. Check the NAK Gallery website for more information coming soon.

Checking out The Tribal Series at the Nak Gallery with Debra McCormack from Colorado

Teresa McClennen from Texas checking out Mood Swings at the NAK
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My Big News!

I love creating figurative sculptures, portraits and other polymer art, but I also enjoy sharing my creative process, teaching both online and in live workshops. Making an heirloom Santa is my most requested workshop – but due to time and space restrictions I don’t offer this course very often. The pandemic hasn’t helped either, but this year is different. For the first time, I’m offering this heirloom Santa workshop as a vacation art retreat where we can submerge ourselves in the whole process and enjoy the company of fellow artists in a beautiful lake house in Quebec’s Outaouais region, just 40 minutes from downtown Ottawa and the Parliament Buildings. This all-inclusive 4 day, 5 night retreat includes accommodations, food and all supplies, materials and instruction, plus some bonus lessons and products exclusive to my live workshops.

Polar Bear Express

The project I’ve chosen is a unique presentation of a Northern Santa riding on a Polar Bear. Although the Polar Bear is a found object and I include it in the workshop, the Santa and each of his accessories and his basket will be hand-made during the retreat. It’s going to be an amazing 4 days of creativity. I can hardly wait to have this art retreat experience with you.

Only 5 spots are available. To find out more about my Heirloom Santa Retreat please visit my website at

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A Special Gift

I usually write about gifts people commission me to make for them, but today I want to share a gift I received. It’s been more than 4 years since “The Thunderbird” installation was completed and hung on the wall at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa. It was without a doubt my most memorable, my proudest and the most enlightening moment in my career. It was a huge undertaking in that we called on, and gathered the community to participate in this collaboration. Over 100 people participated, and together we learned, we shared and we created something beautiful in support of the Wabano Centre.

Four friends who participated together, continue to be moved and excited by this project. They are proud to have been part of this installation and to be recognized as contributing artists. They visit and show the installation to family and friends often, and have documented their experience to share among themselves in a beautiful slideshow presentation. This week they shared it with me. I was so touched by this because it reaffirmed how the Thunderbird impacted others and continues to do so. With their permission I want to share it with you. It’s almost 9 minutes long but it’s worth it. Make yourself a tea and enjoy. Thank you Dana for putting this together. I love it!!

If you are interested in knowing more about the Wabano Centre please visit their site at

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It’s the Little Things

Sometimes all it takes is an unexpected act of romance to show someone how much you care. A simple surprise that shows you were listening is not only an expression of love but a validation of how your partner feels and what’s important to them. Recently I had a chance to help someone fulfil a Hallmark style gesture of love. With their permission, here’s the story . . .

About a year ago I received an email from a young woman who, through some investigating, managed to track me down. More than 10 years ago her partner had purchased some of my original limited-edition elves at a show in New York State. Over the years, through a move and a breakup, she lost several of the elves and only had a couple left. Every Christmas she lamented the loss of her elves and how she regretted not buying more, she just loved decorating with them.

This young woman wanted to surprise her partner and was hoping I would still have some available. I felt bad, but I had discontinued this line many years ago, however I promised that I would put the word out if anyone was interested in selling their collection, but it might be unlikely since collectors don’t like to part with their pieces.

Well, as luck would have it, seven months later a collector got in touch that she was downsizing and selling off her collection. I asked her to send them to me because I had some interest. She sent me 10 elves who had seen better days. I managed to salvage and refresh 6 of them. When I emailed the young woman with photos, I expected she might take one or two, but she wanted all six. This was going to be the surprise of all surprises for her partner and sure enough it was.

Here she is with her new elves. This wasn’t just a beautiful romantic gesture in the moment – for this couple it will be one that will be relived and renewed every Christmas. Romantics everywhere – take note!

Although these wire bodies elves are no longer available you can learn how to make them yourself. Check out my online workshop called My Little Elf at

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Meet Julenisse, The Norwegian Santa

Typically, people believe that Santa lives in one of the Northern Scandinavian countries, as a matter of fact, you’ve probably heard he lives in Lapland. But despite his home being so close, Santa Claus is not a common Christmas icon in Norway. That honour goes to Julenisse.

In Scandinavian folklore, a Nisse or “Tomte” is a short creature with a long white beard. They look like gnomes. The most distinctive things about Nisse are their red pointed hats, their love of looking after animals, their love of practical jokes and that they help the families they live with if treated with love and respect. All they ask for is a bowl of porridge and a glass of glogg each night. But they will become mischievious with the family if they are not treated well.

“Julenisse” means the gift-bearing Nisse at Christmas time. In the 1840’s the farm’s Nisse became the bearer of Christmas presents in Scandinavia, and was then called “Julenisse” and has been associated with Christmas ever since.

The Norwegian “Julenisse”, the Swedish “Jultomte”, the Danish “Julemand” and the Finnish “Joulupukki” still has features and traditions that are rooted in the local culture but he doesn’t necessarily retreat to the North Pole. He lives in a forest, field or stream nearby. He or she, doesn’t come down the chimney on Christmas night, but arrives through the front door, delivering the presents directly to their household friends.

Here is my version of Julenisse and his Nisse sidekick. Julenisse is loaded with toys, books and some essentials of flour and sugar, fruit and berries. Nisse carries some coal as well, just in case some children didn’t fulfill all their chores around the farm.

Handsculpted from Sculpey’s Living Doll polymer clay, he stands 25″ tall on a 10 x 10″ base. Julenisse is dressed in faux sheepskin, sueded pants and wool sweater. His boots are made from suede leather and his beard is made from Tibetan lamb. He carries hand-crafted snow shoes on his back to help him make his way out of the forest. His piercing blue eyes sparkle with happiness and goodwill.

Nisse on the other hand wears a blue velvet tunic and leather belt and his signature red pointed hat. He wears suede boots and carries a suede bag of goodies with a few pieces of coal as a reminder to children to be good.

Check out Julenisse and some of my other original Christmas sculptures at

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A Classic – Picture Day at the Mall

There aren’t too many parents who haven’t felt exasperated trying to capture a festive family photo. This includes that first Christmas photo with Santa at the Mall which has become a classic. For babies and toddlers it’s a moment of confusion and fear as their parents pass them off to the strange man with a white beard. While the older kids know the deal, for first timers the experience usually involves screaming and crying. There are memes, instagram posts, articles and psychoanalysis sessions that address this rite of passage. As parents we are just trying to ignite the magic of Christmas and perhaps instill a little warning about being good.

While a photo failure might be disappointing at first, remember this stuff is gold down the road.

The photo on the left of my granddaughter was the inspiration behind “Picture Day at the Mall” below.

19″ tall x 9 x 9″ – Santa is sitting on a purple velvet hand-crafted chair, trimmed in gold rope and crystal button detailing. Santa wears a red velvet suit trimmed in recycled white rabbit. All dressed up for picture day, Baby is in full tantrum mode. Santa looks like his feelings are hurt and he doesn’t know what to do.

Picture Day at the Mall is available on my website at

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