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Friday, 30 November 2012

Camp Mini Ha HA was interviewed by CBC Radio Halifax for Maritime Magazine. If you're interested in hearing this interview, click the coloured link at the beginning of this tiny posting....

I've mentioned this camp a number of times in the blog, and it will come up again and again. You can get a small taste of the fun and friendship this Camp has given miniaturists in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Many if not most campers are returnees, although we always leave room each year for a small group of newbies, who we then proceed to indoctrinate in our own brand of mini mayhem. And oh yeah, we learn a lot too.....

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Miniature Delicatessen Market Stall

The lady womanning this stall is Margery; she has a little bit of history. Originally, she was going to be a Tudor cook, and was dressed for the period. However, the market needed another stall, Margery was unemployed (her setting wasn't finished), so off came the Tudor gear, her shoes were replaced with chunky heels (to be comfortable standing in the market the whole day), and she got a brand-new wardrobe.

She is pleasingly plump, wearing a white blouse, tweed skirt, hand-knit sweater, apron, and a silk head scarf made from a piece of tiny paisley-patterned neck-tie. Her gray-streaked hair is in a bun under that scarf. I quite like her twinkly smile and dimples. Margery was made once I discovered doll Sculpey, and fits between the Fimo dolls and the later dolls, in terms of "birth".

The stall is the standard Venus Dodge design, with the addition of a sneeze guard made from styrene painting blanks, which used to be available from dollar stores. Most of the stock was made based on designs by Angie Scarr, and once I was comfortable with making cheese and sausages, I borrowed a world cheese book from the library and created some of my own. This stall and the butcher's, yet to be featured, have brass bars between the uprights, from which sausages, bacon, cleaned fowl etc. can be hung with S-hooks made from pieces of paper-clip. You need the old-style clips for this, the new scored paper-clips will break rather than bend.

The butter deserves a special mention; it is simply pieces of 3/8" square balsa, wrapped in textured foil begged from a friend who smoked. Looks just real butter!
 I'd like to figure out a way to do a stand for eggs; flats of wood padded with straw stacked upon one another. The eggs would only have to be around the outside edges, as no one would see the middle of the stacks.

Welcome to my new follower from Australia!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Miniature Baker's Market Stall

The baker's stall was added when the market scene was being showcased at the library where I used to work over the Christmas period. It was exhibited  several years in a row for a month or more, and I tried to add a new stall every year, until the glass-shelved cupboard ran out of space. The food was all made by me, and the wedding cake and petits-fours are an indication of further familiarity with the wonders of using translucent clay. As far as I am concerned, it adds so much dimension to miniature food crafting.
The chocolate cake in the little showcase is a miniature copy of a wonderful cake I ate at a local hotel on some special occasion. It has little chocolate nests on it with pecans nestled into them. In the box is a fruit-topped cake with nuts on the edges, again based on a real cake I had somewhere.
The baker is a later one-of-a-kind Sculpey personage, who actually ended up looking like one of the university professors I saw regularly at the library. I don't know if he ever realized he had a miniature near-likeness, but I thought it was kind of fun.
This chap's hands are quite large, I was attempting to follow Jamie Carrington's instructions for modelling them - not quite successfully, I admit. The hands of all my little personages are bent to enable them to hold things, and my old technique didn't work quite as well with hands with separate fingers. Since then, I've gone back to "mitten" hands, with the fingers indicated but not separated.
Hands are very difficult!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving America


This is a sort of modern cornucopia - I made half a dozen of these for Camp MiniHaHa '11 as an exchange gift.

The new computer has been installed, and my fingers are working again; not perfectly as yet, but I can drive short distances and hold things with my thumb and first two fingers. The ring and baby finger are quite sore and will take a while to heal. My right hand and arm have jaundice to the elbow... (I crushed my right hand between the two halves of a freight elevator door last week!)

Ideas for miniatures come from the strangest places. This little harvest setting grew out of a yellow zucchini I was given by one of my fellow volunteers last year, and I liked the colour so much that I made a bunch of them in miniature. The zucchini is peeking out from behind the pumpkin.

The pumpkin was simplicity itself; wrap a layer of Fimo around a large glass marble, mark in the divisions, making sure two are right across from each other (all of my divisions are, in this case), chalk a bit of green on the top and bottom, and blend in a brownish-green stem. Bake and allow to cool. Using a new Xacto-type blade, slice through the clay along two divisions right across from each other. Remove marble. Glue the two halves of the pumpkin back together. You can also cut a pumpkin face out before baking. One of the small flickering tea lights from the dollar store will supply the candle inside the pumpkin for a lit Jack o'Lantern, and can be hidden under a table or crate or something. As these harvest crates were meant to sit on top of a wall-hung vignette box, the whole is glued to a piece of thin acetate cut from a report cover or sturdy plastic blister packaging.

Happy American Thanksgiving!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Miniature Fruit Seller and Market Stall

The old computer has died, R..I.P. This is coming from an ancient laptop, plugged into the wall. For some reason, it works better than the regular computer....

The market stall design is from Making Miniatures by Venus and Martin Dodge, David & Charles Publishers, 1993. The design is deceptively simple, and can be changed into any number of configurations, depending on how you do the table top. It will show up in more of the market stalls to come. Again, the crates are balsa, and need to be replaced, as they are falling apart, kind of. The vendor is one of my later dolls; this gentleman has a comb-over, not quite visible in this photo! The items in the stall are from a number of years of making foods, and some of them need replacement as they are very opaque rather than translucent; I have to thank Angie Scarr for teaching me, via her articles and books, on using transparent Fimo to make very realistic fruits and vegetables. This stall sells strawberries and raspberries, very labour-intensive, but really nice, as well as very easy blueberries; poppy seeds with a coat of matte varnish. Doesn't get much easier than that!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Miniature Between-the-Wars Market

Something did work finally, so I can start with the next batch of photos. This market barrow with its vendor was one of the first minis I ever made. The barrow came from the Venus Dodge book, and was finished in 1997. The wheels were a gift from a gentleman from Prince Edward Island I met at a miniature show; I was looking for wheels, there were none for sale, so he just asked for my address and sent me some. You certainly meet some very nice people in the mini world!

Having made the cart, it needed to be filled, so I turned to Joanne Swanson and my old Nutshells, invested in some Fimo, and began to make fruit and vegetables. This market barrow is old enough that the crates are made of balsa wood, and the labels on them were saved from real-life human fruits and vegetables.

Bruno is the vendor; the third doll I ever made, and for whom I used Fimo. Never again once I discovered Sculpey II however, as this Fimo wasn't translucent and far too pink for my tastes. The Sculpey II comes in l lb. bricks, and I have a supply of it handy at all times. It can be tinted to various skin tones with the addition of very small amounts of Fimo or other clays.

To dress Bruno, I turned to Sue Atkinson's book. I knit his vest, using a set of antique lace needles, very fine, and the type of thread used in punch-needle work. Miniature knitting can only be done in full daylight, and if you drop a stitch, just dump the thing and start again! As well, the acrylic thread is quite fuzzy, and all the fuzzy bits grip like spider web. His pants were made from a small sample of men's wear suiting fabric, a godsent for anyone dressing miniature people.

This was also my first experience with DAS/Prang air-dry clay,used for the cobbles of the base. As I didn't realize that it could be tinted with light washes of watered-down paint, I used full-strength acrylic paints. And you can't use mini-hold wax on it, as it lifts the paint. So all my dolls have to be able to stand on their own.

The rest of the market will show up in subsequent posts; the market isn't finished, of course. None of my miniatures ever are, as I always end up adding to them. I've begun on a flower cart, and intend to add a fish stall, a second-hand book seller, and a Christmas stall for seasonal displays.

By the way, the burlap bag is the inside of a bag that came with a bottle of sherry; you never know where you can find good fabric for minis!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Computer Woes

Whatever has gone wrong with this computer has made it impossible for pictures to be uploaded from my camera to the blog. As my chief tech, aka my youngest daughter, is unavailable for at least two more days, I will not be able to post pictures for that time period, and perhaps longer if the problem is more than just the ability to upload pictures, or until the new computer arrives.

One of the things I've been trying to figure out is how long I've been actively involved in miniatures; I know that as long ago as 1993, we were travelling to Moncton, NB and Bangor, ME to attend miniature shows there, because I had one of my daughters' friends from Junior High (since replaced by Middle School) with us on one of the earlier visits. The first book I purchased, I got in Bangor, ME in 1996. So it's been 16 to 19 years of serious miniature activity, at least. What I can't remember is what triggered the visits to shows; somewhere I must have been exposed to one-twelfth scale seriously enough that any show within reasonable driving distance had to be visited. The furthest of those, long ago, would have been the Boothbay Harbor, ME show, which required a day of driving and an overnight stay. Once, when my father was still with us, I got to the MET Show in Toronto, staying with him in Oakville nearby.

Most of those shows are now gone. The only ones I am aware of in the Canadian Maritimes, where I live, are the Moncton Miniature and Doll Show each May, and more recently, the CFB Shearwater Hobby Show in Halifax/Dartmouth each April. The nearest miniature club to me is the one in Moncton, a considerable drive especially in winter weather. The next nearest are in Nova Scotia. That means I mostly mini alone now, as the two friends I've gotten together with irregularly in the past are dealing with health issues and not travelling much; we live about a 90 mins. drive from each other.

Books and magazines are one way I've learned; without them, I doubt I'd have been able to learn about scale and construction methods. I have collected most of the old Nutshell News, the small size, and find them to be invaluable. I learned the most from Joanne Swanson in the beginning; when I became a bit more comfortable with woodworking, I began working from Chris Dukeman's articles. Since then, I've been given or purchased every good miniature book out there, including a number that have been out of print for decades.

Because my main interest is the Tudor period now, I began getting Dollhouse and Miniature Scene from the UK five or more years ago, after a mini friend passed on some of her old ones to me. I own most of their quarterly Project magazines, and have made quite a few items from those instructions. I also at times am able to get hold of the two Dutch magazines, as well as the German one.

In March of this year, I had the trip of a lifetime, travelling with a Nova Scotia friend to the UK, where we had a miniatures-based holiday, including a trip to Birmingham Miniatura. We stayed with a British friend nearby, and the three of us subsequently travelled on to The Netherlands, to see the XXSmall Exhibition in The Hague, and visit the huge Dolls House Nederland show in Arnhem. The three of us met originally at Camp MiniHaHa in Nova Scotia. We met up there again this September, and will be back September of 2013.

It has been said that the dollhouse hobby is disappearing; however, I beg to differ! The Netherlands publishes two mini magazines, Germany one, the UK three or more, and there is a good one in Spain as well. Shops have been opened in Italy and Turkey; go to a  big show, and there will be vendors and artisans from around the world. Japan produces an excellent series of (pricey) magazines and books, and if you visit eBay on a regular basis, you know that lots of minis are being made in the Far East these days.
We are probably dealing with switching over from brick-and-mortar stores to electronic stores, and once the economic slump settles, I hope some of the old shows will return.

On my must visit list are the Chicago shows, the Philadelphia Show, and the IGMA show in New York. I am lucky, in that I can drive to Castine, ME and back easily in one day, so I've been able to visit their shows of teachers' and students' world-class miniatures.

I need to finish knitting those socks, so I can get back to working on my minis....

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Miniature Embroidered Medieval-ish Tapestry

Miniature needlework is one of the things I really enjoy; if I see something that speaks to me, I do it, even if I don't actually have a use for it right away. This was one of those pieces. It came as a set of 3 graphs for a folding screen, in Pamela Warner's book, Miniature Embroidery for the Tudor and Stuart Dolls' House. I didn't particularly want a folding screen, but I did want a millefleur-type tapestry, so I decided to join the three graphs together to make a single hanging.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the right-hand graph with the pond had an extra row on it, not until I had begun on the other two parts in an attempt to get the thing to match....

Anyways, it completely threw off the other two graphs, so I had to fudge somewhat in the foliage of the tree. It worked out in the end, and I am quite pleased with. Originally, the thought was to hang it on the main bricked wall of the Tudor market hall council chamber; however, it may be too big for that. There is the castle we began at Camp MiniHaHa two years ago, it would fit well in that. However, that castle is far from complete, I still have to carve the wall blocks into it.

My December issue of Dolls House and Miniature Scene arrived this week, and it has a really good wizard costume in it. It is supposed to be Merlin, but it reminds me too much of Saruman from Lord of the Rings - the long, white square beard is too reminiscent of Sir Christopher Lee's characterization in that film. Next month we get a costume for Morgan Le Fay, another villain. But perhaps she could become Nimue, a sort of villain but also Merlin's protege for a while. Hmmm, perhaps the castle, if and when it is finished, will house a wizardly pair. That would allow me to use some of the wizardly gifties and tidbits from CMHH, as well as have a nice, big wall to hang the above tapestry on.

Back to this tapestry; it is likely the one and only large, fine-count piece I will ever do. I think it is 36 ct. linen, and every stitch of it had to be worked under a 3X magnifying lens, using a single strand of floss.
My family used to hide when I was working on it, it frustrated me that much at times.....

Thursday, 1 November 2012

This Computer is on its last legs...

This computer, which is fairly old as far as computers go, is constantly conking out. As a result, a new one has been ordered, and will hopefully arrive soon. That means that I may have some problems posting on the blog, if it coincides with another down period.

I will continue, but there may be a bit of a lag until the next post....

In the meantime, if the weather gets sunny, I'll take another batch of photos of miniatures to share with you. Keep well, and hopefully we'll be back in touch soon.