We decided to make a monkey for our Tibetan workshop as it will be the year of the monkey in 2016. So teaching the making of him now will give enough time for marketing, ordering and production. After looking at lots of Tibetan images of monkeys from our own photographs of temple paintings and as many images as could be found on the internet I started doing some initial sketches. Here are some of them, trying to use the curves of Tibetan clouds as decoration. Then I played around with applique and embroidery for the face, how best to finish it off and to do the decoration. It needs to be not too time consuming otherwise it gets very expensive. I tried buttonhole, running and chain stitch. They were all rather time consuming and will make it difficult for the tailors to get the curves even and consistent.
The body shape took a lot of experimentation too but I don't have the photographs of the different prototypes. I make a pattern shape then cut, stitch and stuff it, then make adjustments, alter the pattern, and then repeat the process, eight or more times. I also photograph stages (when they are to my satisfaction) and send them to Claire and the others to get their opinions. Sometimes it is hard for them to visualise it if it isn't in the right colour, or is missing bits. It is easier if you are a maker perhaps.
With the monkey I decided to make the head and body as one piece. With our dolls and some of the other toys I have done the head and body separately. I have a hard time getting the tailors to attach the head onto the front of the neck, rather than perching it on top. They manage when they are in the workshop but I notice that the head gradually creeps up onto the top of the neck stem so that the dolls end up looking very upright. Perhaps its a lesson in posture. But especially with our baby Olo doll, he loses his cuteness and becomes too adult looking. After my success getting the monkey body shape right I may change the Olo pattern so that we have a more consistent 'cute' shape
So I was finally satisfied with the monkey body shape and the decoration. I decided to do the face and body decorative curls as appliqued pieces. Below are images of the finished prototype. Now to teach him.
When the tailors have made their first sample we have quality checking sessions with them leading the session to reinforce the quality checkpoints that we have been through.
The organisation now has an amazing laser cutting machine bought with a government grant for cutting all the pattern pieces. This is such a wonderful step forward for time, consistency and cost. We used to spend hours cutting pattern pieces (and there are a lot of little pieces) for the tailors to take away with them. They would then spend hours cutting all the pieces for the toys. And if their scissors were a bit blunt the pieces would end up a bit raggedy. With the new machine all the bits are cut in an instant, its wonderful to watch. Lhakpen's husband Tengyal is in charge of the machine. He has done a fantastic job of scanning all the pattern pieces in blocks of the correct colour, and then arranging the pieces to make the best use of the fabric. A really really complicated job. The tailors will then be given bags of the pattern pieces and then they just need to do the fun bit of sewing them.
The photo of the monkey shows him sporting a wig of the offcuts from the machine. I think he is channelling Brian May.