Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Here it is Christmas Eve. Buddy is all excited of course. He has told Santa that he wants lots of toys and bones. Did we expect anything different? Buddy and I want to wish each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas and all the Best for the New Year.
Buddy is all snuggled up in bed (MY bed) waiting for Sandy Paws to make his appearance.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Buddy and I wish each and every one of you a very special day. We have lots to be thankful for this year and it is nice to have a day to think of all of these things. I promise some winter holiday photos soon. And to think it is only 4 more weeks to that Really Big Holiday.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Not Too Late shop for new and wonderful Halloween items. I have added several new things to my ETSY shop since my last post. I hope everyone is really getting into the spirit like I am. I have a nieghbor who goes all out for decorations each year. When we see things going up on his house, the entire neighborhood starts getting into the spirit. He has been working for three days and has only just begun. Oh, and it is a two story Victorian that he is decorating. Every year it gets more elaborate and he never repeats the same design. I will keep everyone up to date.

And speaking of everyone...I have Old Timer's Disease and can't remember much of anything anymore. I totally forgot to mention how wonderful it was to meet some of my blog followers at Halloween and Vine. What a wonderful surprise to actually meet some of you in person. For an artist who works alone, it means a lot to interact with those people who appreciate what it is I do.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"It's alive. It's alive."

Of course, that quote is from Dr. Frankenstein as he sees the first movements in his monster. But today it applies to me. I have finally recuperated from the most incredible, fun, and fantastic show of Halloween art...Halloween and Vine. Every year the show just gets better. The organizers of the event are really great and everything just flows so smoothly. And they are so warm and friendly as well. And so are all of the artists. Even though we are sort of competing with each other, we are all still very friendly, because we all do such different work.

I have saved a few things to put up on ETSY so be sure and check out my store. These little girls are part of my new Day of the Dead figures. These two are small  at only 8.5" tall and not so expensive, but I also have some larger ones that are unfortunately a tiny bit more expensive.

It's HALLOWEEN TIME everyone. Trick or Treat.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Petaluma here I come...

Friday is the big day. Most everything is packed and ready for the drive to Petaluma on Friday to set up for the big show on Saturday:  Halloween and Vine. I am really getting excited. This show is so much fun to be a part of...all of the artists are very talented and just down right nice people. I can't wait to see what everyone brings. I understand that people are bringing new and different things this year. I am one of those. I am bringing smaller things and a collection of figures inspired by the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico and the Southwest US.

This woeful lady is Laverne. She follows in the tradition of the ghosts of other years, except she is a bit smaller. I really hope that you can stop by the show on Saturday and see her in person, along with lots of other fun figures for Halloween.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


How about a little Devil's Food Cake to get us into the spirit of Halloween? I just looked at the calendar and it is only 20 days left for me to pack up and drive up to beautiful downtown Petaluma for the fabulous Halloween and Vine show. The show is on Sept. 25. Come one, come all. It really is a grand, fun time to be had by all.
And if this pun isn't bad enough, how about this little Bat Out of Hell? He is only 3.5" tall. Both of these guys will be at Halloween and Vine as well as lots of other fun stuff. I will give you a sneak preview of that soon. Trick or Treat.

PS In case anyone wants to know, I did manage to thaw out during the couple of weeks of wonderful, hot weather we had, but the fog came in again last night. I guess I should have paid attention to the fact that San Francisco was nicknamed Fog City. Oh, well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Winter Wonderland

This is a photo of The Artist in Summer.
This is what we call the Mark Twain summer after his famous comment about San Francisco:  "The coldest winter I ever spent was one summer in San Francisco." This city is always cool in the summer with highs in the upper 60's and low 70's. But this year we are freezing. We have had continuous heavy fog and cold, damp wind for months now with temps only reaching the high 50's. So all of you who would like to avoid the heat where you are, come to San Francisco and join the ranks of the other tourists who are suffereing blue skin because they only brought shorts and T-shirts. After all, this is August.

Halloween and Vine is coming soon. Click on the link to the right for detailed information. I am very behind in a number of things, but especially photography.  So I hope to have photos of my new goodies soon.

Stay warm, everyone.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Latest

This is the third in my new series of Day of the Dead figures. May I introduce you to Juanita. I really wish sequins would show up better in photos. All of those little black dots on her dress are sequins. I confess, I bought the sequin fabric. I did not put each sequin on one at a time, although I have been known to do that.

I am really getting caught up in these D.O.D. figures, so once again the How To with the ghost has been postponed. In addition to the ghost, I am working on another female D.O.D., plus another male D.O.D., another Hell on Wheels, a Bat Out of Hell, and who knows what else. So stay tuned for more goodies.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I forgot to mention something yesterday that I thought might be important. If you use Golden Fluid Acrylic paint in an airbrush, you must thin it down so as not to clog up your airbrush. I use Airbrush Medium which is one of the many Golden Mediums. It works really well. And the joy of this medium is that when you spray color on fabric there is no heat setting to do.

I also forgot to include a snapshot of Catrina's boyfriend, Fernando.

And if you are wondering why the ghost How To is going so slowly, I will mention that I am working on seven other figures at the same time. So stayed tuned for more goodies.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Change of Heart/Mind

Originally I was going to use the "sew" method on this figure, but I decided to use the "glue" method instead. Why the change of mind? I am not sure, except that when I went into the studio and saw the ghost standing there with all of her base fabric pinned in place, I just couldn't resist the urge to open the bottle of Stiffy and just glue everything down and be done with it.

This photo is of Steps #2 and #3. This is a closeup of the stiffened fabric which is Step #2. For Step #3, I got out my wonderful and fun airbrush and sprayed color into the folds and a few other parts. I know that you are saying, "Wow. She sure is blue." But this is an underpainting, so to speak, for the final effect. Bits of fabric in varying degrees of transparency with be layered over this paint and it will be much more subtle in the finished figure. You do not need an airbrush to achieve this same effect. I just find it much more fun and a bit faster than doing it with a brush, which I had done for many years. The airbrush is a new toy for me and I am loving it. The paint I use is Golden Fluid Acrylics. This line of acrylic paint is fantastic. It comes in bottles and is about the consistency of heavy cream. One of the joys of using it is that you can just put one drop of paint on your palette or keep adding drops until you have just the exact amount of paint that is needed for that project. I think this is a great improvement over tube paint. I would always squirt out way more paint than I needed, thus wasting paint and money. Even though the Golden paint is thinner it has a very high concentration of pigment...a little goes a long way.

Off to the studio...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

One of my favorite days of the year. I am afraid that I am a creature of the night, actually meaning that I love to get up late and and go to bed very late. And this day celebrates the longest day of the year, meaning that I have lots of sunlight until very late in the evening to work in my studio. I can work under artificial light, but sunlight is just so much better. (Actually, with my last name I would qualify as one of the Count's "children of the night". I really love the way Bela Lugosi says this.)

I thought I would post a couple of photos of other figures that have either used the cut-up-fabric-and-glue-it-together method or cut-up-fabric-and-stitch-it-together method.

The Ghost Puppet is the stitch method. This figure is a rod puppet. Her head and right arm can be moved in very intricate ways. So a lot of the bits of fabric on this figure were left free to float in the breeze. By the way, this is the same puppet that made it to the movies and I keep hoping to post those movies someday on this blog. LOL. The Old King is an example of the cut and glue method.
I have been a bit under the weather, again (yikes), but I hope to have more photos of the previous ghost in progress soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How it's done....

As a rule, I dislike showing unfinished works of art to anyone other than very close friends. And sometimes not even to them. When I do show unfinished work, I seem to get so many suggestions on how to finish it, that I lose sight of what the original idea was. However, I am going to make an exception and explain it all. The Halloween figures are created by sculpting a head and shoulders which is attached to a wood armature and then the body is created in a kind of unusual way. Papier mache translated from the French means "chewed paper" and that is pretty much what it is...bits of paper soaked in glue, placed on a form and allowed to dry to a hard finish. It can then be painted. My background is in costuming and that involves fabrics. I love the textile arts. So instead of using bits of paper soaked  in glue, I use bits of fabric soaked in glue. The glue that I use is a product called Stiffey. Don't you just love it? I also have boxes and boxes of fabric scraps. I  like using fabrics because they have color and texture which can be selectively placed to create highlights, shadows, and textures. Sometimes after I have created the figure I will go back in with acrylic paint and add a different color or highlight or darken a color. This technique  was used on the earlier ghosts and on Edgar Alan Poe.
I think you can see on the ghost where shredded fabrics have been scrunched and glued down with bits of torn lace and hints of color worked in.  Poe also has different fabrics collaged together and then overpainted.

I am now doing some figures with a slightly different technigue. Instead of gluing fabrics down, I am going to sew the collage onto a base fabric with lots of free motion embroidery. I really love free motion embroidery.

So here is the first photo of a new ghost. The head has been painted, but will probably have a fine tune on the paint job later. The body has been sculpted into the final shape and I have started draping a costume in dupioni silk. This is just a basic draping technigue of putting fabric on a mannegquin or form and playing with it, pinning it down, seeing how it looks, and then perhaps moving the fabric around some more and repinning. I have cut sort of a giant half circle, pinned it on the form and began pinning in folds as I think they will look nice. I know for sure that I want the costume to flow from her right shoulder, spiraling around her body to the left back. Now it is time to start hacking up different fabrics and begin placing them on this background to create a nice texture and flow of the garment. She will have a veil over her head, but that comes last.

Lots of in progress shots to follow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back again...

The light has now dawned on me that I may not be the blogger who can post interesting and wonderful things on a daily or even weekly basis. I have been under the weather quite a bit lately. I live in San Francisco where the weather is totally unrelated to anywhere else in the world. Until today, we have been mostly in the grips of winter. Yes, I know it is June but the storms coming in off the Pacific Ocean don't know that. I have RA and when the weather is cold and damp I don't move around very fast and I am not able to work in my studio as much as I would like. So for the last month or so, I have been taking every opportunity of good health to work in my studio to get stuff made for Halloween and Vine which just seems to get closer and closer, but is actually Sept. 25 this year.

I now have a good group of figures going for the show. My favorite of the moment is Catrina. She was inspired by the Day of the Dead figures from Mexico. I have loved these figures for many, many years, but I didn't want to copy them. So it has taken quite a while to come up with this figure, which I think has my own personal slant on the subject of costumed skeletons. I now have three more of these figures in the works: two ladies and one gentleman. I am having a ball. I do have one problem concerning the name Catrina. All of these female figures are called Catrina, after one of the women portrayed by Posada in his original etchings. (See Jose Guadalupe Posada in Wikipedia or Google.) The figures in general, including the men, are called Calaveras or Skulls. Maybe this gal can keep her name of Catrina, but I will have to find different and appropriate names for the others.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tempus Fugit

My last post was all about little Speedy, and I just realized I have not posted anything for a while. Oops. Time flies...indeed it does. I remember as a little kid how slowly time passed. It took forever for Christmas to arrive. And the older I get, the faster time flies. And I am not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I just know that my poor old brain (or what is left of a once potentially great mind) is still coming up with more ideas for new characters to create than I can possibly get to in years to come. That leads up to a little teaser about what I am working on now. The last post was the premier of the Hell on Wheels series. Well, I am making another series this year...crystal balls. The first one of those will appear here soon.

But while I am still on memory lane about my former professions, I will share one more with you. I have also been a professional makeup artist. You will not see my name on any major films, but I did makeup for a TV interview show and got to slap a bit of paint of some very famous faces. I also did some advertising print photo shoots, a bit of theatre, and some independent films that were shot locally. But the most fun I had was working with a photographer friend of mine doing fantasy makeup. This was way back in the '70's before all of those fantastic makeups were created using the computer. Each of these faces took anywhere from three to five hours to complete. They were being created especially for a closeup photo so they are very highly detailed. When I did these for stage, they were not nearly so intricate and took a shorter amount of time. The makeup that I was using was a water based theatrical makeup made in Germany That had just begun to be used in the US. The fact that it was very much like painting with gouache or opaque watercolor meant that very fine details could be painted on the skin.

The weird clown is actually me pretending to be a painting by Georges Rouault. This was one of the few that I did on myself. Trying to paint this on my face while looking in a mirror was pretty crazy. The tiger guy is just that: a tiger. The third one is in the style of a Byzantine mosaic. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Speeding Along

Good old Speedy has made it to my ETSY shop. Click on the link to the right and have a peek.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I was the one that said I didn't like reading long posts on blogs and then I went and posted this one. Sorry about that. I will try to keep posts much shorter in the future.

A Request

After posting the opera photos, I received a request for a few more photos. So, here they are. Of course, I have chosen the more over-the-top hats and headdresses to show you. There would only be a few of these really fun ones each year. Most of my year was spent pulling dusty boxes out of stock and going through all of the hats for a particular opera to see who was supposed to wear what and would it fit the new cast. Then each hat would be fit on the new singer, adjusted to size and relabeled. There was always somebody who didn't fit an assigned hat, so that hat would have to be padded out if too big, or made new if too small. Millinery in opera is mostly about dust and drudgery. Just endless boxes of old hats that had to be freshend up for yet again one more time. When I first started work, we would do nine or 10 operas in a season which ran from the first of September to the end of December. But in later years would only do five or six shows and they would have more performances of each opera. Most every year we would do one new opera from scenery, costumes, the works. A designer would arrive early in the year, and we would discuss the sketches and what the hats were supposed to look like. Then we would have fittings in the summer and dress rehearsals just before the show opened in September or when ever. Some designers arrived with almost photo realistic drawings and others would arrive with what could only loosely be described as sketches. Yes, I even got a "sketch" on a paper napkin with burger stains on it. And then there were two designers with whom I had worked many times, who would just come over to my table with no sketches and give me a list of characters and tell me they all needed hats. The next comment would be, "You know what I want, just make something pretty". That was fun, in that I got to design the hats, but it was also a bit terrifying knowing that I might spend hours on something that he didn't like after all. So in those cases, especially, I would make what was called a mock up...a bunch of fabrics pinned on a headblock arranged into the shape of the hat or headdress as best I could. Then I would discuss this with the designer and continue on.

Some operas only had a few hats. We did two operas that actually had no hats. I loved those. And then there was War and Peace where I stopped counting at 700 because that number was just too depressing.

The first photo is from Aida. It was a revival, but I had to make the white hat new because of a fit problem. The vulture wing headdress with a crown of cobras was remade because this singer was a completely different size from the original, so the original proportions were wrong for the new woman. The big, wonderful turban was from Abduction from the Seraglio. I cannot begin to count how many turbans I made over the years. I never could figure out why so many operas had turbans in them. The next photo is from Wozzeck. I only made the top hat and military cap. The helmet was made in the crafts department. Tosca is next. I loved this hair ornament. It was composed of two circular bands of gold and jewels.Next is Boris Godunov. I wish you could see his crown/hat better. It is a recreation of the one actually worn by the real Boris. The crown or tiara worn in Die Valkyrie originally was made as a domed crown that completely covered the top of the head. The singer who was supposed to wear it however, threw a double hissy fit and refused to wear it. So for the next week we would cut bits and pieces off it to see if she would wear it and it finally got down to this little bit of tiara. Oh, the stories I could tell you about opera singers! And finally we have a photo from Salome. I don't know why, but we did a lot of productions of Salome and only two times did we use the same costumes. I actually got tired of making wacky headdress for Salome.

I hope you enjoy seeing these crazy hats.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bats and Battes

I love bats. I am not sure that my interest in them really has much to do with my last name which is the Old English spelling of the word bat. Everyone thinks it is a French spelling, but no, alas. I became fascinated by bats when I was a kid living in Texas, where there have been huge bat colonies since forever, I guess. I used to love going out just at sunset to watch the skies suddenly get very dark with a huge swarm of bats setting out for their nightly feast of insects. (We didn't have a television at my house then so this was one of the things I used to do for entertainment.) The bat colonies in Austin, Texas have become quite famous and a great tourist attraction. Just recently I discovered a species of bat I had never heard about...the bumble bee bat of Thailand. These little guys are supposed to be the smallest living mammal. What a hoot. And guess where I gained this valuable piece of knowledge...from the inside of the lid of a Snapple Ice Tea! How cool is that? So here is a photo of one of the little guys. Now that is what I call CUTE.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Catching Up...

...and backtracking at the same time. If you have found this blog via my website, then you may know a little about me. I just realized that I don't have much info about myself here yet. Briefly, before I got into the joys of making Halloween characters, my professional life was spent in theatres. Beginning in 1967 I was involved in costuming for professional theatres around the US with even a brief stint on Broadway. I designed costumes. I sewed costumes. I cut and draped costumes. But mostly, I was involved in millinery. If something went on some one's head, I was responsible for making it. And the last 20 years of my day job was working at San Francisco Opera as Senior Milliner. People are always asking me what it was exactly that I did there and could I show them photos. I have finally managed to round up a bunch of photos (courtesy of the SF Opera archives) and I will create a special page for them on my website. In the meantime, I thought I would preview some of them here.

The opera at the top of the post is Don Giovanni and the others from top to bottom are Orlando, Macbeth, The Makropolus Case, The Marriage of Figaro, and Turandot. Lord willin' and the crick don't rise, I will have many more photos on my website with more detailed info about the various productions for which these headdresses were made.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I forgot something yesterday. I forget things every day. Getting old is not easy you know. However, sometimes I do forget that I am getting old and that is a good thing.

The very first thing today is adding another photo of dear Vera. (At this point the electricity in my neighborhood went out. I guess I won't start off another post with "Oops". Bit of a jinx, I think.)

So now here we are on another day. And here is another photo of dear Vera. I put rhinestone jewelry on a lot of the ladies, but this is the first one to have false eyelashes. I just couldn't resist.

I have added another figure to my ETSY shop...Cherie who is another of the Grisettes. She was pictured in the book Dolls of the Art Deco Era by Susanna Oroyan. More photos of Cherie are in my ETSY shop. Just click on the link to the right.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ghosts and Vampires

I was really excited about posting the video of the ghost puppet today. But, I will be quite honest, I still haven't figured out quite how to do it. I am sure it is quite simple and I will figure it out, but I just keep getting sidetracked. So today's photo is of of Vera, the Vampire Bride.

She has been in my ETSY shop, but she has just been sold and she is winging her way to her new coffin/home as I type. I will miss the old gal. So here is a chance for everyone who finds their way to this blog to see her, while I continue my search for the secret of adding videos to the blog.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WOW! Two in a row...

This blogging thing is really cool. I can't believe that I have managed to make two posts in two days. I'm sure this won't happen too often. As I get older, I discover that there is way more to do in a day and way less hours to do them. Who has been messin' with the time? I could have sworn that just a couple of days ago we were still in March. Oh, well...

I thought I would post another photo of one of my Halloween figures...just a head shot to tease you into going to my website to see more of him or go to my ETSY shop where he is for sale.

As soon as I figure out how to do it, I will add a short movie of my ghost rod puppet. The movie was shot in a fabulous cemetery in Oakland, CA. I have a great fondness for cemeteries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seniors can blog too...

My name is Charles Batte. The last name is pronounced "bat", except of course by all of those who know me, and they pronounce it "battie". I am really new at blogging. I have followed lots of blogs for years, but I have not tried this before. So here goes...I am an artist who creates colorful figurative collectibles. I spent many, many years in professional theatre and opera as a costumer. I love period costumes and once I retired and became Senior Citizen I thought it would be fun to continue a hobby of making very elaborate art dolls for fun and profit (?).

I have been really fortunate to be accepted as a member of Halloween and Vine which is a group of artists who make all things related to this fabulous holiday and have a sale once a year in Petaluma, CA. This year the date is Sept. 25, 2010. Be sure and check out the website, which is great fun and has a list of all of the other artists who will be showing their work.

It is always time for Halloween at my house. Here is a photo of Speedy who is the first of my series called Hell on Wheels.

I hate reading really long posts, so this is it for today. If you would like to see more of my work...I have making this stuff for about 16 years now...go to my website.