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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Castle Gatehouse

As some of you may know, I was in England this past summer to attend a family wedding held in the town of Arundel. So while there, we explored the castle, and knowing that I had another commission in the works, I took lots of photos.

This photo, from among the hundreds of photos I came home with, showing the castle gatehouse, became my inspiration.

My commission centered around an artisan doll dressed in medieval attire and carrying a hunting owl at her wrist it just begged for an outside scene.

But how do you even begin to show the massiveness of such a structure..... certainly not the way I started out! Much too boxy...
That's when you have to remember about perspectivism. Anything running off into the distance, whether a road or a tall building, will become progressively smaller the further away from you it is. Even in the photo, the actual gatehouse appears to be smaller at the top than on the ground.

I was size constrained since my gatehouse was being shipped to California. During design discussions I had promised that the doll could be placed inside as well as along the outside of my build on the ground next to the building and on top between the embrasures (the term for the walls between the turrets) or inside.

I always start out with a design in my head but as I work, the building decides how it wants to look.
I wanted to add a few special details, such as a secret staircase inside one of the turrets; the secret being is where it leads to, because all anyone can see, are the top of the stairs's nowhere to be seen below.  
I sweated bullets worrying whether those stairs were achievable. In the end, it just came together as if it had been meant to be....
The inside of the actual building had a vaulted ceiling. I had never done one! Had no idea how to start! I spent a few more nights laying awake puzzling that out.... but in the end, with as much glue and plaster on me as on the castle ceiling, I think I've managed a reasonable facsimile.
The third feature of the Castle Gatehouse is the fountain, shipped to me by my customer.  I wondered whether to create an attached wall for it but couldn't come up with an idea for how to end the wall; so in the end, rather than a fourth gateway, the back became a wall with the fountain glued on. .....and then I worried whether my glue would hold during its transportation to California so I created a support for it to sit on.
It's a lovely 2 part fountain with water shown running out of the lion's mouth into the upper fountain bowl but how water gets into the second bowl isn't indicated.

Well, if you know me & realism, you know I just couldn't leave it and while I was at it, I figured I may as well show some water overflowing to the stone floor below.

So there you have it: the Castle Gatehouse, which at the time of my writing this, should be halfway to it's new home. Fingers crossed that CanPost and the USPS don't feel the need to play football with it!!
from the front

the left side
 In case I hadn't mentioned it, each of the turrets has a door but only the one is open.
from the right side
As you can see the right side of the floor at the base of the gatehouse has plenty of room for "M'lady of the hunt", or a prancing steed or even a knight companion. Fingers crossed we'll get to see photos.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Good morning everyone ....although I guess it's no longer correct terminology these days when you could be reading this from the other side of the world just before bedtime. In my world it's morning & a great one at that.....
As you may all know my prize for winning 2nd place in the Greenleaf SpringFling contest was a $250 coupon for anything in the store and as they had a 24hour sale, I couldn't leave my decision any longer. It took me at least 2 hours to make up my mind between all the lovely houses, accessories, furniture and lighting that was on offer.
Like most of you, I'm sure... after a few years into this hobby there just isn't much display room left. However these days, as I do most of my reading on a tablet, I have given away more and more of my books and as my bookcase shelves are starting to gather nothing but dust, the thought came to me that those empty shelves would be perfect for displaying my houses. Both my Fishing Hut (SpringFling 2010) and my HarvestHome (2012)
 were either too wide or too deep to fit. But the idea became lodged in my head and thus my choice of Greenleaf items circled around 1/2 scale houses and my final choice were these....

The largest (the Tennyson) is 15"x11.5" and only 7.5" deep while the smallest (the Brimble) measures 11"x7.5" and 12" deep .....perfect sizes for adjustable bookshelves... especially if you add lights to the rooms and removable back walls to each house and view the insides only through the windows.
There's only one drawback .....of course there's always one LOL and that's finding the time to ensure these houses get the attention they deserve.
I've had a bread box sitting on a kitchen shelf for over 2 years, waiting to be turned into a vintage kitchen on baking day..... cowboy attire and a OOAK mule waiting for a western scene.... flower kits, patio furniture and garden statues to be turned into a secret garden.... a half finished Christkindlmarkt stand and another Christmas 4-part scene and lately a OOAK Frau Holle waiting her turn to shake out her feather beds and cover the world below her into a winter wonderland.
You can't say that I don't have my work cut out for me!

On another note, Caterina sent me an email invitation to take part in her Christmas swap...
....and since Christmas is for giving, I've accepted. If any of you feel up to the challenge of making at least of one item to put under someones tree, please join me; the invitation's good until Nov 12th. The more the merrier!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The trend these days for miniaturists is to strive for as much realism as possible. While I might look at historical dollhouses with interest, it would never enter my head to mix and match scales. Some people hesitate to add dolls to a scene and instead leave.... an open book, a half eaten sandwich or an overturned shopping bag etc. thus showing that the little people who inhabit the DH are out but will shortly return.
So here's an interesting comparison... take a look at these two photos. Each one is as lovely as the other. Then decide which one is photoshopped and which is an actual miniature:

I love eye candy and I save as much of it as I can, as inspiration for those "someday" creations.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

SpringFling Contest Results

My normal routine every morning is to drink my coffee while reading the emails that have come in and then socialize a bit on facebook before starting my day.
Well this morning I opened an email from the Greenleaf DH company so you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:
I won second prize and a $250 dollar voucher to spend with Greenleaf!

And just last week I was featured in a beautifully written article in my local newspaper:

There is nothing more wonderful than achieving recognition for doing something you love!

Monday, September 3, 2012

HarvestHome DIY

These photos are in no particular order!

To make the "individual windows" that constitute the greenhouse, I used matchsticks and toothpicks (for the narrower bits).
In all, for this build, I went through 2 boxes of long matches plus any number of used matches left over from lighting our barbecue.

The picture frame on the wall was a cheap locket to which I added a faded photo covered by a piece of acrylic to appear like glass.
The painted mirror was bought.
The faded wallpaper came from the scrapbooking aisle.
The wainscotting was individually cut and to which I sanded grooves on either side.
The table & chairs are Chrysnbon, wood stained and then sanded for an aged look.
On the chair closest to the front is a newspaper with mushrooms & carrots (bought). The cup with my name on it was a present. The basket on the floor is another Al Chandronnait. The wooden fruit bowl in back is handmade on a lathe by Bertie Pittman; the fruit inside it & everything else on the table was made by me. Both gentlemen do great work!
In this photo you can see that in keeping with the theme, the screen door is patched & the screening no longer very tight.

The stove, again a Chrysnbon, was spray painted with an enamel paint ...then the silver bits were added. Because I held the spray can a bit too close to the stove, it doesn't have that smooth paint look but more like the real thing. I painted the silver parts with metal paint to get a more authentic look.
I have a horror of things not looking like the real thing & in real life, the brick wall in back of the stove was needed not only to throw the heat back into the room but also to prevent the walls from overheating & catching fire. The bricks were made from one sheet of sandpaper, which I drybrushed in a number of shades of red & brown and then cut it into 1/4" x 1/2" bricks. Before gluing the bricks down, I mixed black paint into the glue so that my "grout" shows as black rather than as dried glue LOL. I added some black to the wall directly behind the stove & around the stovepipe.
FYI: periodically check the squareness of the line of bricks as you glue them down.
I've tried to show a bit of dirtiness on the floor.
The wood box is made by me and the split wood are twigs picked up from the garden.
The stone jug was an unglazed piece of pottery to which I added a traditional design and then glazed.

I'm really pleased with how the sink turned out. This is a Chrysnbon sink from their bathroom kit. Again using a hint from Pat Thomas, I spray painted it black (to stop the light shining through the thin plastic) and then covered it with enamel touch-up paint with bits scrapped off while the enamel was setting up. The wall in back is made of paperclay.
I have yet to be able to roll out paper clay without it breaking into smaller pieces (it's supposed to be rolled out between sheets of plastic wrap), hence the cracks and unevenness.

I've tried to show the door screening as no longer tight and also patched. The door handle is a bent piece of wire and the hinges are 2 pieces of cut to size coffee tin cover with chiropractic needle bits in the middle as hinge springs.
I've been asked what I used for the screening. This is actual window screen material which although it should look out of scale, manages to appear correct. I drybrushed some burnt sienna paint onto the screen to give it a slight rusty appearance.

The interior of the greenhouse is filled with plants (bought or swapped) as well as a planters table (made) and a plant tier, also made.

My first attempt at sunflowers!
The middle is paper clay covered with used coffee grounds. If I make them again, I will buy a better punch as the petals on the flowers should really have been more pointy.

The fence is made of twigs I found. The corn stalks (my first attempt) are raffia. The path is scenic rock material; the garden soil is used coffee grounds and glue mixture to which I added some of my fimo pumpkins & squash while the grounds were still soft. The watering can filled with flowers was bought.

Here you have a better look at the board & batten exterior. I set my house onto a carved & painted piece of builders foam (made to resemble stone blocks). As some of you know, I sell commissioned castles made of builders foam, so this was a natural LOL!
The kitty was bought yrs ago on eBay.
The pillow is a piece of old flannel, dunked into cold coffee to age it, sewn together & filled with a bit of sand; the rose in the center is painted.
The sewing basket is an acorn top.

The board & batten exterior idea came from Pat & Noel Thomas. The material used is long wooden matchsticks.
I clearly have still a lot to learn about aging as I was aiming for "peeling paint" and what I actually got was worn paint.
Both the hanging basket & the 2 tomato plants were made by Bill Lankford, who I highly recommend both for price & quality long as you don't mind the extra long wait. The butterflies on the hanging basket are made from fimo cane & added by me. All the furniture inside & out is chrysnbon. The steps, although you can hardly see them, are actual stones.

I used an old railroaders trick for making the cedar shakes:
Using thin corrugated cardstock, I cut strips 3/4" wide; then cut slits 1/2" high for individual shakes. Finally I stagger cut each shake length. Next I dunked each strip into a weathering mixture of grey paint & black ink and dried them on wax paper. This caused some of them to curl, adding to the aged look. Glue the upper 1/4" onto a backing and then each succeeding strip a 1/2" higher; dry brush each strip with brown, greenish or lighter grey paint and while the paint is still wet, sprinkle on some scenic scatter material. I also added some scenic moss here and there under a raised shake.
The oak leaves are the kind that come on a rope.
Most of the harvest produce was made by me at one time or another using fimo. The Thanksgiving motif on the right side of the hay bale came from a swap (if someone recognizes it as their own, please let me know & I'll add your name here); the bushel basket is handcrafted and signed by Al Chandronnait; the apples inside are bought.
The tree is a twig found in the garden. I didn't have time to make my own.
The birds, pecking on the ground, need to be touched up using a lighter color to make them stand out more.

Years ago I found a large jar of green no-hole beads at the Dollar Store. As you can imagine: Dollar Store = cheap = non-uniform sized beads but perfect for making grape clusters. I took 3 pieces each of extremely thin wire, fastened together at one end and spread apart at the other; dipped them in glue & then into the beads. Until the glue dries, the clusters are a bit fiddly to hold together however any beads that fall off can be moved together into a cluster shape and once dry I placed these into a basket to sell at the market stand.
This was also my first attempt at making vining plants. Each leaf is individually veined (using a Templewood veiner) & formed but if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't use that blue-green paper & I'd add some differing colors to the leaves with either paint or colored pencils....prior to punching them out.

The bee hive & its table were made by me. There are actually tiny fimo bees on it. Both the hive with table as well as jars of honey with at least one bee attached will be for sale at my etsy store soon. If you'd like to pre-order let me know.
At the corner of the greenhouse (bottom of the sunflowers) are "scenic scatter" flowers.

When I was making plants for inside the greenhouse using actual plant material, one looked so much like a spider that I had to paint it black & add a web.
FYI: webs are not the easiest to create! This one is made using silk thread.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing the additional photos or reading about how something was made. If you have any questions about somethng, fill out the comment section & I'll be happy to help if I can.

hugs ~K

Sunday, September 2, 2012

2012 Greenleaf SpringFling contest entry

I've sent in my entry and I'm really pleased with how it all came together. Unlike the last time that I entered ....and didn't have time to finish the inside, this diorama is finished, inside & out.
This is my entry:

When the Greenleaf DH company showed the kit to be used for the SpringFling, I fell in love with it! What I like most about these types of kits is that they're so easy to bash and turn into a unique one-off.

I immediately thought of a back-to-the-earth one room house whose inhabitants have learned to make do and even, if lucky, sell some homemade items .....hence the greenhouse made (supposedly) of individual windows, the slightly weather worn house exterior with its mossy cedar shake roof and the make-do market stand display area.
As always, the "make" decides how it wants to look ....and in the end, has become, I hope, a celebration of our tradional fall harvests.

My entry is entitled: HarvestHome

P.S.: Although the contest doesn't officially close until the third of September (tomorrow), I don't think that showing my entry off one day early will matter. If there's another entrant who needs to pick off any ideas, well all I can say is ....enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Fun Link

Several years ago, I discovered that my area of the world had a real live dollhouse museum, the Mildred Mahoney DH museum in Fort Erie Canada. It sounded like a fantastic visit to combine with a cross border shopping trip and a visit to my son who lives 3 hours away from me. Unfortunately what I didn't realize was that the museum was in the process of stock taking with a view to closing down and selling up ...another victim of our economic times and lack of marketing/advertising savvy.
When I got there, the door was closed and although there was a sign that said to knock, no one ever answered. What a disappointment! However it in no way overshadowed the success of the rest of my trip and my visit with my son.

Imagine my surprise then, when several months later, one of the auctioneers who I subscribe to, announced that they would be in charge of the sale of the museum's contents. And with a preview day, I'd be able to see all or at least most of the items without the boredom of sitting through the auction itself.

I hassled my poor husband into coming by promising we'd buy a couple of lawn fertizer items in Buffalo NY, that are unavailable here; we made a mini vacation of it and I even brought our dog who of course was so interested in all this travel that she slept through most of it.

I'm a dud when it comes to the past history of dollhouse making so it was extremely interesting to see many of the houses. Even the museum building had a fascinating past in that escaped US slaves were housed in secret locations there until they were able to be transported across the river and into freedom in Canada.

I won't bore you with detail about the rest of our trip or the extremely chinzy motelroom with its flocked wallpaper and the red heart shaped whirlpool tub in the middle of the room where we stayed in at Niagara Falls ...or even how I managed to engulf much of the room with shampoo bubbles (thanks in part to not having any bubble bath liquid); I won't even mention smuggling our small dog in and out of the motel nor my husbands' fears about getting caught and possibly getting kicked out.
Let's just say a great and interesting time was had by all although I will always have it reinforced in my brain that it is not a good thing to take a husband with you while shopping!

Back to 2012: I received an email from Rebecca who edits the e-mag, Dolls Houses Past and Present, asking for contributions. She's done a great job with some of my photos. Take a look at my contribution.

FYI: I'm off to England at the end of July and looking at my photos, makes me more determined than ever to try and fit Queen Mary's DH in. Fingers crossed we find the time!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Enchanted Castle

Do you ever get a creative block? Usually it has to do with a concept know what your end result should be but you just can't get past that starting point. I guess that was the trouble with Castle Maureen.

Several false starts, a total rework of the ante chamber along with an added technical problem and what should have been easily completed within one month turned into a laborious on-going process of several months. But until it was completed, I couldn't in good conscience begin the next commission. It didn't help any that my customer for whom Castle Maureen was intended was also the same customer who had ordered the Ruined Castle. None of that occurred with the Enchanted Castle.

It really helps when you know what your customer has in mind. Having asked her to name her castle, I received this description along with the name:
This enchanted castle, built of grey stone and set deep in a forest, belongs to a scholarly knight. It contains a great many stained glass windows and appears to be thriving. It is approached by a tree-lined avenue. Nearby is a busy dwarven settlement in which there is a conjurer for hire. The holding is rich in mystery. Within the tower is a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, and dangerous situations. Many a guest have visited but few find the will to leave the ”Enchanted Castle”.
I don't know about you but reading that immediately gave me an image of what I should be striving to build ....which was a castle rising out of the cliffs. Now you might be tempted to go back and re-read that description. Nowhere do you find the words: cliff, rocks or stone! Don't ask me why but I just knew this castle had to be surrounded by mountainous rocks and stones. When your project tells you what it should turn into, you'd better darn well pay attention. ...and I did!
This time there were no delays, no reworks... Everything came together as it was meant to be.
This is my version of the Enchanted Castle:

Can you see the tiny door hewn into the rock wall beneath the turret? I hope it's large enough ...because when I think of dwarfs, I think of the little guys in Snow White singing "Hi ho hi ho, it's off to work we go", while marching off with their pick axes over their shoulders to work in the mines.
But obviously all their hard work tunneling underground isn't helping the castle structure. I think it just might be their fault that the castle wall has developed a large crack.

A tower was mentioned in the description ....and here is the tower! If I were keeping this castle, I'd have roses climbing up its heights. But perhaps I'm just switching fairy tales from Snow White to Sleeping Beauty whose castle was shrouded by brambles and other various thorny plants.

Even the columns supporting the entry to the ante chamber were hand made.

All that's left to do, is begin the arduous task of finding a secure box so it can be safely shipped to its new home.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A thread has come up on Facebook ….yet again about copying. A well known miniaturist received a comment on her blog to a post from last year in which the blog owner complained about copyists.
This is what she received:

"Hi, I've been reading your blog and find your art wonderful! I especially liked the …………. In fact, I would love to try to make one myself! I'm not sure I understand why you're upset in this post. Isn't copying the best form of flattery? And don't many mini makers use tutorials to help them create? Is that copying then? Some blogs even HAVE tutorials that show you exactly how to make stuff. I guess those people don't care if you make it (their's (sic) originally) and sell it as your own? I want to start selling some of my minis, but I am very confused and I don't want to be labeled as a copycat or a bad person. Any advice?"

A number of people posted to the Facebook thread, some who aren’t threatened, some who are because they supplement their family income, some are simply extremely protective of their “babies” and then there’s the opinion from the “sidelines”:

“I too would like to make minis to sell... but fear of failure and not wanting to be a copy cat stops me cold! The trick is to make something NO ONE ELSE DOES or to make it so DIFFERENT that it doesn't look like another's. (Examples ~ dolls, teddy bears, furniture... there are thousands of makers, but all the good artisans have their very own style, technique, etc.) Am I right?"

Being a miniaturist means we imitate life ...just in a smaller version. Does that mean I want to discover that someone is making an exact copy of one of my castles? NO! Have I used someone else’s techniques to build mine? YES!
Even though I've taken those techniques and adapted them and changed what didn’t suit me, does that make me a copycat?????

I am fascinated by how Rik Pierce produces his creations and save his techniques whenever I come across them. I noticed that another artisan who is now teaching a workshop at the Chicago Bishop show, had taken a class with Rik. That building/workshop appears to be based on those techniques. Does that make him a copycat????? Does it give him license to earn money giving a workshop?

The lady, who left the comment that started the Facebook thread, wrote several posts on her own blog in which she showed photos of things she had created in miniature ….they were all mini reproductions of items from the Harry Potter movies.
I, myself, have made M&M candy people in miniature. Does that make the both of us copycats …since we’re using intellectual property that has been copyrighted? PROBABLY!

I’m not sure that it’s any longer possible to “make something NO ONE ELSE DOES or to make it so DIFFERENT that it doesn't look like another's”. Blogs, Facebook, etc. …even websites make everything too inter-related. Even if you don’t mean to copy and don’t work with a photo of someone else’s creation in front of you, can you be sure no one has ever made one like it? NOT LIKELY!

Should you stop trying out tutorials or acquired techniques? NO! least not in my opinion. Applaud the generosity of the person who wrote the tutorial or taught the technique. These are how we learn and grow in our chosen hobby.

I’ve noticed that in the last year or two, complaints about copycats have increased and tutorials have decreased and nearly died out. It’s an extremely sad commentary. Is it warranted? Can we do/change anything to reverse the situation....

One caveat before I end this post:
The only reason I sell is because I make more than I can use ...I do not use the money that I earn to supplement my income, so my view will be different from someone who does. It certainly doesn't make me right or them wrong!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Castle Maureen

Here's the finished roombox:
The castle is made entirely of builders foam, carved and painted to look like stone.
...except for the windows which are created by Angela Downton in the UK.
A view into the throne room.
Even the fireplace is made of foam...
All that's left to do is order the plexiglass cover.

I have one more castle roombox to make; this is one of the windows that will go into it
and again the laser cut window frame is a Downton original.

And then I'll enter the latest Greenleaf contest. I really hadn't meant to do this because like most miniaturists, I have a room full of kits that need assembling and had really planned to finish some of them during the summer.
I've bought the sales front, and the greenhouse as well,
planning on turning this into a roadside stand/market garden. I have some ideas for doing trompe d'oeil work on the inside of the store and greenhouse. This is something new for me that I've long admired but never attempted.
As for the front, I thought of a dusty roadside stand typical of the early to mid 20th century.
However as a friend so kindly reminded me, the garage that I started out with during the 2010 SpringFling, ended up as a fishing hut instead...