Portland-based artist Maggie Rudy creates cute little rodents from wool and pipe cleaners, dresses them in fancy clothing and poses them in elaborate sets. A collection of her creations, shot by photographer Bruce Wolf, became her first children’s picture book “The House that Mouse Built”, a story about a pair of mice who live in a fabulously turned-out loaf of bread.
Maggie Rudy inherited her artistic trait from her mother and grandmother, and had always enjoyed making and collecting things. Smitten by an exhibit of E. J. Taylor’s dolls at the Brandywine Museum in Delaware in 1982, she started making dolls. For the next several years, Rudy made a number of commissioned portrait dolls, with polymer clay heads and jointed cloth bodies.
She made her first mice doll in 1992 as a gift for her son’s kindergarten friend who had a recurring dream about mice. Soon she was helping kindergarten teachers and the kids make their own mice, a project that is now in its 17th year. The idea for a picture book came during Christmas when she was making mouse photos for Christmas cards.
To make a mouse, Rudy begins by cutting pieces from gray wool felt for the body, and dyed pipe cleaners for the tail, arms, and legs. The mice are stuffed with cotton, and are sewn and glued together. The eyes are black glass beads, and their paws are made of paper. She takes a lot of care shaping their heads with her fingers, compressing the stuffing until it looks just right. The last task is sewing on the nylon thread whiskers. Each mouse can take several hours to make.
For the stage she uses rigid foam insulation board for the ground. Old bath towels make very good mouse grass, and she has an extensive collection of faux flowers and leaves for vegetation. For interiors she uses cigar boxes and book covers for walls and floors.
To see more of Rudy's work, visit her blog: mouseshouses.blogspot.com.
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