Tag: Cat

Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Making Of Fukunae

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Welcome to the making of the fourth feline from my Kimono Cat Collection! This is where I show you the process and behind-the-scenes of how I made my latest clay creation, the lovely Maiko cat called Fukunae. So, without further ado, let’s begin!

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Preparing the armature

First things first, I always start by making the armature, which is the skeleton of the model. I used 2mm aluminium wire for the main frame and 1mm wire to twist tightly around the arms so when I put clay on later it can grip onto it better.

This cat was going to be without a tail (you’ll see why later) which made things a lot easier for me construction-wise. After twisting the wires into the desired shape, it was time to squish blobs of Apoxie Sculpt around the torso and paws of the cat to make sure the armature would be stable and strong.

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Bulking up at the cat gym

Now it was time for my feline to hit the gym and ‘bulk up’ (with tinfoil, that is). I’ve found with my three other cats that it’s really worth the extra effort and time to shape the body shape you want properly when bulking up the frame (especially the head) because it can make the next sculpting step a lot easier!

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First Sculpey layer after the oven 

After the bulking up, it was time to put on the first layer of Super Sculpey, which in Fukunae’s case was to smooth out all of her limbs and head shape and add ‘fur’ to the bits that wouldn’t be covered by kimono. And then it was off to the oven for the first bake!

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Layer two after oven

Now it was time for layer number two! This stage was more interesting because I could start making the under layers of the typical Maiko’s kimono, including the draping collar and the kimono front she would be holding up.

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Front view of the second layer after oven

I also added hair decorations and the shoes with Apoxie at this point, even though I wasn’t sure if it would survive in the oven (it did brilliantly, just saying).

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Third layer after oven

And then it was time for the final layer – the draping furisode sleeves. I left these until last because I needed the under layers to cure before I could start on these fiddly long sleeves that always got in the way of everything when sculpting!

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Whisker time

So there we have it, after three bakes in the oven, it was finally time to add the whiskers! (These are left until after the baking stages are finished because I am pretty sure they would melt otherwise). The whiskers were made by threading thin nylon thread into Apoxie and letting it cure overnight.

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Back view after oven

Here is the back view of Fukunae after all on the baking stages. She can stand up on her own very elegantly and she is probably the lightest cat I have made so far. (This is a good sign as you want to use as little clay as possible, because the layers have to be thin enough to cure properly and it also saves you more clay for your next projects!).

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All Gesso-ed up and ready to go!

So, after all of the foundations were finished, it was white out time! I painted light coats of Acrylic Gesso over the sculpture and let it dry, which makes it a great canvas to paint on later. After the Gesso, I also did a few coats of white acrylic paint to make sure everything was smooth, even and ready for colour!

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First layers of acrylic

Now, this was where the fun really began! I love painting the sculptures and the kimono pattern I was basing this one on was much easier to paint than Tsubasa’s repetitive pattern, so I had a lot of fun with Fukunae. It was also a joy to do softer spring colours and pastels this time, with some tiny details in the coloured strips. Plus, painting the Maiko hairdo was a different change too!

On a side note, I finally bought myself a cutting mat (the green mat you can see above) and it is a life saver when rolling out clay and measuring and cutting straight lines. (I can see why everyone has them now haha) I highly recommend getting one for yourself from the start!

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Work in progress

I whizzed through all of these stages with Fukunae up until this point so quickly – in under a month, in fact! I was determined not to leave her untouched for weeks on end like my other cats, but unfortunately this super productive streak of mine didn’t last (I wasn’t surprised).

Even now, I have her sitting on my shelf ninety-nine percent finished, so I really need to get that last one percent done and you can all finally meet her finished and fabulous!

 


So, did you like the making of Fukunae?

Watch this space to meet the finished version!


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – Meet Tsubasa The Graduation Cat

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KIMONO CAT PROFILE

Name: Tsubasa (翼)

Height: 22cm

Gender: Female

Kimono type: Furisode and hakama (振り袖と袴)

Occasion: University graduation ceremony

Time of year/season: March/Spring

Name meaning: Tsubasa means ‘wings’ in Japanese and it symbolises the ‘wings’ she has gained from completing her education to fly off freely into the adult working world. 

Her Story: After three years of university studies, Tsubasa is proud to graduate dressed in her furisode kimono and hakama. She’s unsure of what the future holds in her new full time job that she’s due to be starting soon, but for the moment she’s enjoying the graduation ceremony with friends and excited about their graduation trip around Europe!


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KIMONO CAT EXPLANATION

Hakama (袴) – Tsubasa is wearing a hakama, which are wide pleated trousers worn over kimono for formal occasions. A lot of women wear the hakama for their university graduation, but they can also be seen at the Coming of Age Ceremony. The hakama can be worn by both women and men, and other occasions where hakama are worn include weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies, shrines and martial arts like kendo and aikido.

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Me wearing my mum’s furisode kimono and hakama for Japan Day

At university graduations, women typically wear their hakama with either black boots with a slight heel (like Tsubasa’s) or the more traditional zōri (草履) sandals. Men’s hakama are usually stripy in design while women’s hakama are one colour or dyed in different hues.

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University degree, graduation ceremony sign and bag

The book that Tsuabasa is proudly showing off is a booklet containing her university degree which she received on stage at the graduation ceremony. Traditional books in Japan still tend to open from right to left but the majority of modern books now have adopted the Western way of left to right.

The graduation ceremony sign reads: ‘Congratulations on your graduation.’

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Tsubasa and Ageha

 


So, did you like meeting Tsubasa? Which Kimono Cat is your favourite so far?

Feline number four is already underway so keep your eyes peeled for updates!


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Making Of Tsubasa

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My third feline of my Kimono Cat Collection is nearing completion and I can’t wait to show you all! This cat hasn’t taken nearly as much time to finish as the other two, and the construction has been smooth sailing compared to the drama and frustration with my second cat Ageha. So let’s begin with the making of Tsubasa..!

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Armature skeleton

As always, I started off by making the armature which is the skeleton of the sculpture. I used 2mm aluminium wire for the main frame and 1mm wire to wrap tightly around the arms and tail. This allows the clay to have something to grip onto later. Then I lumped some Apoxie Sculpt around the torso and wire ends to make the frame strong and secure and left it overnight to cure.

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Bulking up with foil

Now it was time to bulk up the sculpture with tinfoil. I already knew the shape outline I needed, which was to have the foil gradually flare out from the waist to the feet (you’ll see why later!). It looks rather bizarre at this stage, doesn’t it?

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First layer after oven

Now it was time to start the best part: sculpting. As usual, I used Super Sculpey Firm and made the first layer, and then put it in the oven at 130 degrees Celsius.

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Second layer after oven

After that it was time for the second layer, which was always much more interesting because it included the clothes and more detail on the face, like eyelids.

Unlike the other two cats, Tsubasa was going to be wearing a hakama, which are pleated formal trousers worn over kimono. I was unsure as to how I was going to make the hakama pleats, but it was easier than expected when I just cut long, thin strips of clay and layered them over each other. I loved how it turned out!

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Third layer (kimono sleeves) after oven

Normally I would have been done after two oven bakes, but I wanted the hakama to cure before I did the long kimono sleeves (this one was a furisode again) so I put her in the oven before making the sleeves, so they wouldn’t get in the way.

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Apoxie whiskers, paws and tail

Now that we were all done with the oven, it was time to get the Apoxie Sculpt out again. I inserted nylon thread into the Apoxie to make whiskers, and then made paw pads and smoothed out the shoulders. I even made the whole tail out of Apoxie this time!

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Ready for some colour!

So, with all the main things done, it was white out time! I always enjoy this step of painting a few coats of Acrylic Gesso (even though it ruins my brushes because it’s so gritty) and then a few coats of white paint to prepare the sculpture for colour.

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Nose dilemma

A detail that annoyed me was this inverted nose that Tsubasa had, so after the Gesso and white paint (great timing for adjustments…not!) I decided to fashion her a new one.

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New nose

After reconstructed nose surgery – much better! (Voldemort may have been in need of this service too…)

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Shake that tail feather

The painting process of Tsubasa didn’t nearly have as much agony as Ageha’s did, but there were still times when I left Tsubasa on the shelf untouched for days on end. Asides from that though, everything went according to plan and I got her finished quicker than the other two, even though it still took the course of over two months.

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Tiny accessories!

As I was nearing completion, I made the accessories for Tsubasa which included a book, a bag and a bow for the front of her hakama.

I wanted the book to be able to open, so I cut out a small rectangle of tinfoil and then pressed thin squares of Super Sculpey to either side. I left a thin strip of foil untouched down the middle, so it would be able to open and close and to my great delight, the idea turned out perfectly after the oven!

The painting process definitely takes the most time and as any artist could tell you, sometimes it can be really hard to know when to just stop and call it finished. I could probably keep painting over little details of the sculpture forever, trying to get it ‘perfect’, but I’ve learnt from these last two cats that there comes a point where I have to put down the paintbrush once and for all, and say that it’s finally DONE. So I did!

 


So, did you like the making of Tsubasa?

Click the button below to meet the finished version!


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – Meet Ageha The Seijinshiki Cat

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KIMONO CAT PROFILE

Name: Ageha (亜蝶)

Height: 22cm

Gender: Female

Kimono type: Furisode (振り袖)

Occasion: Seijinshiki (成人式) – Coming of Age Ceremony

Time of year/season: January/Winter

Name meaning: Ageha is a type of butterfly in Japanese and it can also be used as a girl’s name. Ageha has butterflies on her kimono – which could also symbolise the metamorphosis of ‘coming of age’.

Her Story: Ageha is dressed up in her furisode kimono and is ready to head off to the Coming of Age Day celebrations. She knows the formalities at the town hall to receive her certificate might be a little tedious, but she’s excited to get photos and celebrate with friends afterwards. It’s going to be a great night on the town where she can buy drinks herself (finally!) with some good old karaoke. Being an adult never felt so easy!


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Ageha and Tama

 

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KIMONO CAT EXPLANATION

1.Furisode (振り袖) – Ageha is wearing a furisode kimono, which is a lined kimono and it literally means ‘swinging sleeves’ because the sleeves are so long. The sleeve length can range from 85cm to 114cm. The furisode is the most formal type of kimono a young, unmarried woman can wear in Japan and it is usually rented or bought by parents for their daughter(s) to wear on the Coming of Age Day.

The Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday held every year on the second Monday of January for those that have turned 20 in the past year. The day is to congratulate and celebrate their journey into adulthood and they receive a certificate at their local city office or town hall. The majority of young women get dressed up in furisode for the occasion, while most young men wear suits or sometimes the hakama. Turning 20 in Japan means that you can vote, purchase alcohol and marry without your parents’ permission – so you officially become an adult in the eyes of the law and society.

2.Haneri (半衿) and kasaneeri (重ね衿)- is the type of collar the furisode kimono typically has. The thin green fabric aligning the white collar (haneri) is called the kasaneeri. The green fabric tucked in behind the obi but made to be seen is called the obiage (帯揚).

3. Obijime (帯締め) – The obijime is a thick cord tied around the waist over the obi that helps the obi shape stay together.

4. Ohashori (おはしょり) – When putting on a kimono or yukata, you must always leave a folded portion of fabric hanging out from under the obi.

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5. Obi (帯) – The obi is the long sash tied around the waist and is the focal point of womens’ kimono. It is usually a contrasting colour to the kimono and it can be tied into hundreds of different knots for different occasions. Ageha’s obi is tied into a knot known as the fukura suzume (ふくらすずめ) or ‘chubby sparrow’ knot which is used exclusively for furisode and is commonly used for Coming of Age Day festivities.

6. Zōri (草履) – Zōri are the formal sandals worn with kimono, along with the white one-toed tabi  (足袋) socks. The zōri are typically a matching colour to the obi or kimono.

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The accessories typically worn with the Coming of Age Day festivities include a matching small handbag and the rather iconic fluffy white shawl which looks like a fur scarf.

The furisode kimono and obi is difficult to put on by yourself (although it is possible) and most people don’t know how to do it anymore. A lot of young people rent the kimono at specialised shops where they can get all of the matching accessories, get dressed by professionals and also get their hair and make up done. It is also typical to get professional photos taken at the studio while you are dressed up in your furisode.

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Me wearing my mum’s seijinshiki kimono

Ageha’s kimono was actually inspired by my mum’s furisode kimono which she wore to her seijinshiki when she was 20. It’s an insanely gorgeous  kimono which I have also worn on a number of occasions. The obi knot shown here is an even more complex style than the fukura suzume knot.

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So, did you like meeting Ageha?

Did you learn something new about Japanese culture?

Watch this space for the next lovable feline in my Kimono Cat Collection!


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Making Of Ageha

 

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My second Kimono Cat is finally near completion and I’m so excited! This one has taken far too long for my liking – and not because of reasons you may expect (more on this later).

So, as I did with my first Kimono Cat called Tama, here is the making of my second feline called Ageha. This making is much shorter than Tama’s one because I knew more of what I was doing this time.

I think you can appreciate something a lot more once you know the process of how it was made, and it’s no different with art. When you find out how much time was spent, how many different materials were used and the setbacks it took to get it to completion, you may just begin to see things in a whole different light…so let’s start!

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Hello armature!

First things first, it was time to make another armature out of aluminium wire! This one was much easier to do because I could scale the size and height against Tama.

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Comparing the armature to my concept drawing

As you may be able to tell from my concept drawing, the kimono this time around was going to be a lot more challenging in shape and in pattern design. From the start, I knew that I wanted this cat to be taller than Tama and I also wanted her to be able to stand on her own, rather than have a base. So I proceeded with these things in mind.

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Friendly armature

Next, it was time for my trusty ally, Apoxie Sculpt. I squished it around the torso and also at the ends of the wires to make nice, rounded endings which hardened overnight. My Schucki saw the armature like this and said that it ‘looked friendly’. I agreed!

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Alien or astronaut?

Now it was time to bulk up the armature with tinfoil! I raced through these first few steps quicker than last time because I knew what to do and I found I was better at bulking up the armature this time around.

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Lounging around in a mug

Next, it was time to get the Super Sculpey Firm out again and start sculpting the first layer. Ageha was going to be a based on a slinky Siamese cat, so I wanted to make her with nice big ears and Dobby-like globular eyes. I found that I used a lot less clay at this point than with Tama and I got better results quicker, which I was delighted with.

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After-oven Dobby

Once I had this first layer of clay down, it was time for the first oven bake. I put her in at around 130 degrees Celsius for about an hour and everything cured according to plan with no mishaps. I liked how the ears turned out!

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Testing out the kimono sleeve lengths

After sculpting on little details like the eyelids, it was time for the really fun part – the kimono. This kimono was going to be a furisode, which meant that the sleeves were going to be really, really long. It took a few tries of rolling out super long and thin pieces of clay and draping them on the arms to get the length and shape right.

(Note that she is standing on her own without a base – yahoo!)

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After-oven for the second time

Then it was time for the oven again. Since this kimono layer was really thin, I put her in there for about 35 minutes at 130 degrees Celsius. I had a moment of terror when I took her out of the oven and found that the sleeves were still floppy, but they cured safely after I left her alone overnight. Phew, so far so good!

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Whiskers and paws

If you’ve read the Making of Tama, you would know that I put her through the oven four times because my layering technique was messy and I didn’t know better, but with Ageha I was done with the oven after two times. Which meant that I could then insert the whiskers and make paw pads with Apoxie Sculpt (these bits are so much fun!).

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White out

Now that everything had gone to plan clay-wise, I got out my Acrylic Gesso to start prepping the sculpture for painting. After a few thin coats of Gesso and white paint, Ageha was ready for colour!

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Blocking out colours

At this point I was super excited because I had gotten through all of the clay stages so fast that I thought this sculpture would be finished in no time – all I had to do now was paint it. For some reason I always underestimate the painting part…because this was when the real nightmare began.

This kimono was based on a real one that my mum owns and I knew the colours and patterns that were going to be involved this time around, so in theory it should have been easy to replicate it. Oh boy, was I wrong.

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First coat of the kimono pattern

I painted the orange base colour for the kimono at least four or five times until I finally got the shade I was looking for…and don’t even get me started on the intricate, super fiddly pattern of butterflies and flowers. They drove me absolutely mad.

I love drawing detailed patterns on paper but when it comes to painting them on a sculpture with paint, it really drives me up the wall because I can’t get them as perfect as I want them to be. Sigh…the daily struggles of a perfectionist, huh.

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Broken tail emergency 😦

In this period of frustration where nothing was going right, I accidentally knocked the sculpture over and her tail snapped clean in two. This was the point where I very nearly gave up. I think I put Ageha back on the shelf then and didn’t touch her for more than a week, maybe even two.

Eventually I did go back to her and start working on her again, albeit very slowly. I fixed her tail by filling it with Apoxie Sculpt and then painting over it again.

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Accessories!

Once the sculpture itself was nearing completion, I decided it was time to make the accessories. These three were fun and relatively easy to make – I especially liked how the obi and bag turned out. I made the obi by pressing a flat piece of Apoxie Sculpt to the back of the sculpture where the obi would go and then I sculpted Super Sculpey around the Apoxie mould so I could get the perfect size and shape.

One thing you have to know about me is that I only do things when I really feel like it. Sure, you’re probably thinking: ‘I’m like that too,’ but I take this personal ‘quirk’ to the most extreme degree.

Along the way of making my second Kimono Cat, there were times (especially at the start) where I would work on it a lot every day, making tonnes of progress really quickly but then there would be times where I would just…stop. Regardless of whether it was going well or not, I would just stop working on it for no apparent reason. Days passed, sometimes even weeks until I would be in the mood to pick it back up again.

That’s why this cat has taken so long to make – almost to the point where I was sick of it! But hey, I (somehow) pulled through in the end, as did Ageha. So I’m proud of us.


So, did you like The Making Of Ageha?

Click the button below to finally meet the finished Ageha!


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Japan: The Cat Café Experience

Cat Café Nekokaigi

Warning: This post contains a lot of cute cats.

While I was living in Kyoto, I got the chance to visit one of Japan’s most famous cat cafés called Cat Café Nekokaigi. The café is located in the heart of Kyoto and if you haven’t guessed already by the name, it is a place where you can play and relax with cats whilst sipping leisurely on your tea or coffee.

So basically, it’s the best café ever.

Lids for the drinks to keep the cats out

The admission fee was 900 Yen for an hour and an extra 400 Yen for every thirty minutes after that. You could order hot or cold drinks there which were 200 Yen each, but it wasn’t compulsory to buy drinks. After stowing away our bags in the lockers provided, we ordered one iced coffee and one iced chocolate, respectively.

And then it was time to play! There were about six or seven cats lounging about the room who you could play with using the cat toys provided – or you could just sit back and relax whilst observing their funny feline ways.

Surprisingly, cat cafés do not rank that high on the zany Japanese idea list compared to the likes of the prison-themed cafés, ninja restaurants and of course, the infamous maid cafés dotted around the country. A cat café seems pretty normal compared to that, I think!

A lot of apartments in Japan are either too small to have pets or don’t allow pets at all, so Japanese cat lovers flock to places like this to get their feline fix.

There have been a lot of experiments and studies done about the healing power of animals and being surrounded by cats seems like a pretty perfect way to unwind and de-stress!

Although it was really fun to play with the cats, I couldn’t help but wonder if this café was their only home. The room was big, but it didn’t have any access to outside (it was located on the second storey) and I hoped the cats weren’t cooped up in there all day, every day. Some of them did seem a little bored with all of the constant attention.

The café’s poster child

Other than that, it was a really fun experience that is perfect for any cat lover!

The very fitting Nekobus clock in the café

For more information about the café and their resident cats visit:

Cat Café Nekokaigi – Japanese Website

Cat Café Nekokaigi – English Website

So cute ♥

So, did you enjoy the Japanese cat café experience?

Would you like to go to one too? Do you know of any others?


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – Meet Tama The Yukata Cat

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After two and a half months of work, Tama is finally complete! I am so relieved. And what better time is there to showcase her than today, the 7th of July, which is the famous tanabata festival in Japan!


KIMONO CAT PROFILE

Name: Tama (たま)

Height: 19cm

Gender: Female

Kimono type: Yukata

Occasion: Summer festival

Time of year/season: July/Summer

Name meaning: Tama means ball/bead in Japanese. It is probably the most cliché Japanese cat name of all time. Maybe her mum was running out of ideas by the time Tama emerged.

Her Story: Tama is just growing out of kittenhood and she demands to be taken seriously, but being the runt of the litter means that no one actually ever does. She’s not so adult-cat enough yet to deny the fact that she still loves eating taiyaki and fishing out a mizu fuusen or two at the summer festival though. Plus, it’s a good chance to be seen in her beloved kingyo yukata!


 

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KIMONO CAT EXPLANATION

1. Yukata (浴衣) – Tama is wearing a yukata, which is a summer kimono that can be worn to casual events like festivals, firework displays, parties and at Japanese inns or ryokan (旅館) after bathing. The yukata is usually made of cotton or other light fabrics and is unlined.

Women, men and children wear the yukata, with younger people generally wearing bright, colourful patterns and older people wearing darker colours with little or no pattern. Tama’s yukata has a goldfish or kingyo (金魚) pattern to represent summer and because, well, she’s a cat. I also included bubbles in the design because of her name.

The yukata is known for its short sleeve length (See A) and womens’ yukata sleeves typically reach their wrists, while the mens’ is shorter and reaches just past their elbows. Yukata, like all kimono, are always worn with the left side over right (See B) because the opposite – right over left – is used to dress bodies for funerals.

When putting on the yukata, you must always leave a a folded portion hanging out from under the obi – this is called the ohashori (おはしょり) (See C). Then the left side of the yukata must come around to line up with your outer right leg (See D).

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2. Obi (帯) – The yukata is kept in place by tying a long sash or obi around the waist. Womens’ obi are usually a contrasting colour to the kimono and is the center piece of the whole outfit. Although obi can be tied into over a hundred different knots for different occasions, young womens’ yukata usually use the butterfly knot or the chou chou musubi (蝶々結び) like the one Tama has on (See 2). It resembles a big ribbon and is one of the easiest knots to tie (even I can tie one on myself!).

3. Geta (下駄) – The geta are sandals/clogs made of wood and are the footwear worn with yukata. Geta are worn with bare feet, unlike other kimono sandals where you have to wear special socks or tabi (足袋) with it. Womens’ geta are usually sized a little bit smaller than the feet wearing them.

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4. Mizu fuusen (水風船) – Mizu fuusen is a game stall found at Japanese festivals. A mizu fuusen is a small balloon hanging from a rubber band with a little bit of water inside, which you can loop onto your finger and hit with your hand in a yo-yo motion. With the stall game, you are given a small hook tied to paper and the aim of the game is to fish out one of the balloons in a pool by hooking onto the rubber band loop before the paper hook rips in the water.

5. Kingyo sukui (金魚すくい) – Like mizu fuusen, kingyo sukui is also a game stall at festivals. The game is similar to mizu fuusen but this time you have a small paper hoop to try and catch a real goldfish from the tank. If you catch one, you usually get to take the goldfish home in a clear bag filled with water, like Tama’s. And yes, that is real water in Tama’s bag.

6. Taiyaki (たい焼き) – Taiyaki is a fish shaped cake that is sold at festival stalls or yatai (屋台). It is usually made with a sweet batter and filled with a red bean paste, but they can also be filled with other flavours like vanilla custard, chocolate or even cheese.

7. Matsuri uchiwa (祭りうちわ) – Summer nights are hot in Japan and a lot of people carry around fans to keep themselves cool. People bring their own, buy one or are even given free fans by workers at the festivals as a form of advertisement. Tama’s fan is a classic Japanese festival fan which has the kanji meaning of festival or matsuri (祭り) written on it.

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Tama basking in the sun at the local park

 

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So, did you like meeting Tama?

Did you learn something new about Japanese culture?

Stay tuned for the next lovable feline in my Kimono Cat Collection!


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Making of Tama Part 3

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The Making of Tama Part 3 is finally here! Phew, this leg of the journey took a long, long time. I thought the painting part of this process would be a breeze and I would finish it all quickly but nope…this took the longest!

I should probably also update you on things I added between the end of Part 2 and now. After painting a couple of coats of Gesso and white paint on Tama, I realised that before I started painting with colour, I wanted to make a base and smooth down some kinks that were bothering me with the yukata. Great timing for this revelation, I know.

So I mixed up some Apoxie Sculpt and smoothed out the uneven yukata surface and made a base so that she was finally standing on her own. In a perfect world, I would have liked the sculpture to be free standing without a base or even be fixed onto a wooden base, but I hadn’t really planned that in advance, so a last minute flat blob of a base was just going to have to do.

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Blocking out colours

Now that those little things had been dealt with, it was time to start blocking out some colours! The reason the painting process took so long for me was not because it physically took a long time to paint her (quite the contrary, in fact) but because I couldn’t flippin’ decide on what colour combinations to paint the sculpture (I can be very indecisive at times).

Usually I would already have my original concept drawings in colour so I’d know what colours to paint, but I didn’t this time; thinking I would just wing it when I got up to that point with the sculpture. But this, this was not winging it.

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Testing out colour combinations

From the start, I’d imagined Tama to be a grey and white cat so I painted her those colours at first, only to discover that it didn’t really go with the colour I’d already decided on for the yukata. So I switched to black and white instead.

The next headache was the obi colour. I could not for the life of me decide on one colour. First I painted it light pink, then light yellow, bright orange, back to yellow, bright red for a while and then finally…watermelon pink.

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Back view of the mini goldfish

Painting on the mini goldfish design of the yukata also took a while. Everything was so fiddly and to my annoyance, painting on the sculpture destroyed my fine brushes pretty quickly, so I had to get new ones.

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White Walker eyes from GoT

I also couldn’t decide on the eye colour. They changed from dark blue, to light blue, to lighter blue and then finally, light grey.

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Now that my sculpture was nearly finished, it was time to make the accessories with Super Sculpey. They were pretty fun to make, despite being Arrietty sized.

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Ingredients for mini lantern making

Another detail I’d envisioned making from the start were festival lanterns so I could hang them in the background for the final photos. I bought little wooden beads and metal hooks from the craft section at Müller and then mixed some Apoxie Sculpt to make little lantern bases and attach the hooks.

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Lantern acorns

I then proceeded to paint them with Gesso and then finally the traditional Japanese festival colours of red and white.

You know, when I read back on my Making of Tama posts, it seems like I’m always surging forward with absolute clarity with what I’m doing but the truth is, this whole process was riddled with a lot of doubts.

Firstly, I wasn’t even sure if I would be any good at sculpting since I had never done it before. There were a lot of moments at the start when things went wrong and I wondered if I was just wasting my time and my money for buying all of these materials that I may not even use again.

There were a few disheartening moments when I was painting that I lost a bit of faith in my ability because I couldn’t get it to the level of perfection that I’d envisioned in my head.

And then I thought how these situations could be likened to life. Even when things are looking like absolute rubbish, you can make it better so long as you keep trying. If you just abandon it and give up at that moment when things look awful, you never really gave it a chance to be anything better.

So I’m glad that I kept battling through the rough patches with this sculpture. I’m glad that I didn’t give up on Tama and I didn’t lose faith in myself. Even though there are things that I still want to change and make better, I’m still proud that I made something – my Kimono Cat – right from scratch. Something that was just an image in my mind is now in a 3D state in the physical world. It’s like I’m a 3D printer ha-ha.

 

Art is creating something out of nothing.

 


So, did you like Part Three of the making of my first Kimono Cat?

Click on the button below to finally meet the finished Tama!


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Making of Tama Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of of how I made my first Kimono Cat called Tama! In the first installment, I left you at the cliffhanger of whether Tama made it out alive after the third time in the oven. Let’s see how she did…

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Front view

Our heroine has emerged from the oven unscathed! Pop the champagne, everybody!

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Back view

Before I put Tama in the oven, I also made a bow to fit on the back of her obi. I purposefully made it separately because I could tell that it would be easier to paint it first and then stick it onto the obi, rather than sticking it on first and having to awkwardly paint around and behind it. I made the diamond pattern by rolling one of my sculpting tools over it, which had this pattern around the handle.

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The bow came out nicely after the oven too. Please excuse me while I high five my other hand.

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My next trick is…The Levitating Cat

Now it was time for Tama to get some feet. In order to do this, I needed a stand which would hold her upright and off the ground. So, I cut a hole in another Amazon box and stuck her in. Example two of Kiwi ingenuity right there, guys.

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Upside down cat in a mug

Once I finished the bottom of the yukata, her feet and the footwear called geta, it was time to put her in the oven for the fourth and final time. Since I’d only worked on the bottom half of the sculpture, I wanted the bottom half to be closest to the heat in the oven. I figured that putting her upside down in the mug would do the trick nicely and proceeded to bake her for about 40 -50 minutes.

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Broken ear emergency

Yeah…it turned out that the whole ‘upside down’ thing wasn’t a very good idea. While the bottom half of her cured, one ear was lost in the battle. A sacrifice had been made.

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No worries – I had Apoxie Sculpt as an ally so I fashioned her a nice, brand new ear in no time. I also used the Apoxie to work on some smaller details on the obi, geta and tail.

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Hello whiskers!

Now that I’d finished with the oven baking, it was time to insert some whiskers next to her nose. During my research, I’d found out that some people stripped feathers down and used the quills as whiskers for their various creatures. I tried that too but they were too stiff for my liking, so I used nylon thread instead. Ahh yes, much more whiskery.

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Milk dunk

After I’d left the Apoxie alone for 24 hours, it was finally time to start prepping the sculpture for painting. This was the first time for me to use Acrylic Gesso and I have to say, I was very pleased with the results. I applied about two coats of Gesso and then went over it with white acrylic paint to get a nice white canvas ready for painting.

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Yes, it looks like I dunked her in a bucket of milk…or Twink!

 


So, did you like Part 2 of The Making of Tama?

Click on the button below for the third and final installment!


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Amy’s Art: Kimono Cat Collection – The Making of Tama Part 1

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I’ve been working on a top secret project for the past few weeks and I think it’s finally time to reveal what I’ve been doing. Before I get into that though, I have to first talk about kimono.

The kimono (Japan’s traditional garment) is something that I’ve always adored – the patterns and embroidery work is so intricate and beautiful – it is like wearable art. It is also an art to wear it right, at the right time.

In Japan, different types of kimono are worn to specific occasions and the sleeve length and patterns can reflect your age, marital status and even the season. It is considered a serious faux pas to wear the wrong kimono to the wrong occasion. Thanks to my mother, I’ve always been able to wear and admire them because she owns a lot of them at home.

I also happen to love drawing kimono. I started drawing a series of cats in different types of kimono at various occasions, to show the types of kimono that are worn to specific Japanese events. That was all good and all but what I really wanted to do was showcase them in a way that was easier for the viewer to see the sometimes subtle differences between the kimono types…and then I stumbled across an amazing artist who sculpts maquette figures with Super Sculpey.

When I saw her work, I was mesmerised. I suddenly got this overwhelming feeling that this was what I was supposed to do, like, right now. I needed to make my characters 3D! So I assembled all of the tools I was going to need as quickly as I could (it took two weeks) and then I got stuck right into it. Here is Part One of how I made my first Kimono Cat called Tama.

Please note that this is my first time sculpting so, you know, go easy on me. We’ve all got to start somewhere!

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Yeah…that went well.

First off I needed to make my cat’s armature, which is like the skeleton/base for the body. I wanted my cat to be about 15 – 20 cm tall so I roughly measured the aluminium wire against my original drawing and then twisted the wire into shape using pliers and my fingers. As you can see from the photo, it didn’t end so well.

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Second time’s a charm

I scrapped the first one and tried a second time. This one went much better! I left the wires longer than they needed to be, so I could snip them to the proper length later. I didn’t have any wooden base or vice handy so I made a makeshift stand out of an Amazon box. Kiwi ingenuity right there, guys.

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Although it looks like I used Blu-tack, I assure you I did not.

Next, I mixed some white Apoxie Sculpt together and squished it around the torso to stabilise the whole structure and make sure nothing wobbled around anymore. I left it overnight and it was hard as a rock the next day – magic!

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Space ghost

Now it was time to bulk up the structure with aluminium foil. I’d heard from various sources that it was best to bulk it up as much as possible, so that is what I tried. I wasn’t sure if I should make the sleeves with foil but I did it anyway for the time being.

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Clay ghost

Finally, it was time to start using some Super Sculpey! I blocked out the main shape of the cat, trying not to put too much clay on all at once. If the clay is too thick when you bake it, there’s a higher chance of it cracking or not curing right through – 12mm is the limit, according to the box. So I obeyed.

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Hey Gollum

As I finished blocking out the main shape, I realised that having the foil and wire under the sleeves would be a bad idea. I wanted the sleeves to ‘flow’ and fold almost like natural sleeves and having it bulked up with foil underneath was just not going to work, so I took it all off and left spaghetti arms in its wake.

The Super Sculpey Firm was really easy to use and I had fun testing out my new sculpting tools. The only annoying thing was that no matter how many times I smoothed surfaces over, I would get finger smudges or nail marks in the clay. So after getting the main details of the face and tail I decided to bake it, just to ‘set things in stone’, as it were.

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Cat in a mug (after-oven)

Since my cat was not set in a wooden base, I needed to find something that would keep the sculpture upright in the oven. I borrowed a nice sturdy mug from our communal kitchen (I live in a student house) and I hoped no one would miss it. I stuffed the mug with foil and stuck our heroine in. Ta-da!

Now it was time to bake. I’d read on all sorts of sources that the first thing you’ve got to do is ignore the baking instructions on the box which is: bake for 15 minutes per 6mm of thickness. Hm, okay. Consider that ignored.

The majority of people said that 15 minutes was definitely not long enough – some baked for half an hour, some even baked for more than two hours at a time. A lot of them said that baking times differed depending on your oven and whether it could maintain the same temperature for long periods of time.

Since I knew that my cat’s torso and head had some thicker parts of clay, I decided I would bake it for an hour at 130 degrees Celsius, just to be safe. The above photo is an after-oven shot. She came out safe and crack-free with all detail still intact. Brilliant!

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Hello arms and eyelids

Now I could work on the arms and details on the face (like eyelids) without the fear that I would smudge and ruin what I’d already done. Super Sculpey can be baked multiple times, so I put Tama in the oven again so the arms and other details I’d just finished could cure. I think I baked her for about 35 – 45 minutes the second time.

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After-oven shot for the second time

Tama came out safe and sound, except for a tiny hairline crack or two, which wasn’t so major. Now that her body was done I could get to the really juicy part – making the yukata (a type of kimono). This proved to be trickier than I initially thought, though.

The first yukata I draped and moulded onto her was too thick, so I tore that off (2 or 3 hours work) and started again. The second time I wasn’t happy with it, so I tore all of that (3 hours) work off and started again. By the third time I figured out that I had to make the strips of clay really, really thin so that it would fold and flow like real sleeves would. But being so thin meant that it was really delicate to handle and it ripped more than once.

Humph, so frustrating! And then there was the obi which just wouldn’t look right no matter what I did. It was pretty disheartening at times when I had to rip three or more hours of work off and start from scratch again. But then I thought that even if I didn’t like it at that moment, I could always add more or change things with Apoxie Sculpt after baking.

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At the hairdresser

And here is Tama in her yukata-like thing. I was 80% happy with it but there was no way in heck I was going to rip it all off again, so it was off to the oven for the third time. The yukata clay was really thin, so I figured around 30 minutes in the oven would do the trick. I also put foil around her ears and tail to keep them from getting burnt or discoloured (I wasn’t sure if this would actually happen, but just to be on the safe side).

And yes, she does in fact look like a cat in witch robes getting foils at the hairdresser’s. It was just the look I was going for…

 


So, did you enjoy Part One of The Making of Tama?

Will she come out of the oven fine for the third time? Click below to find out!


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