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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Hallowe'en, Everyone!

It's raining here and it's cold, and we have had no trick-or-treaters at all. My husband and I are raiding the candy. I thought I'd say goodbye to October with this picture:

Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are a favourite of mine, so I've adapted Joann Swanson's Consummate Bibliophile to represent DEATH, who always speaks in capitals. He is winding down with his friend Jack (who lights up and flickers), with a dish of candy and a goblet of wine. They have a 2-man,  mythical-characters-only book club. DEATH has doffed his cloak and scythe (they may appear next year) and donned his smoking jacket and fez. The discussion of their chosen book appears to be quite, uh, lively....

Monday, 28 October 2013

Miniature Pawn Shop Project; The Build is Finished

It's been a longer haul than I thought it would be, with my husband taking over the final fitting and gluing. (I threw my back out, making bending over the piece rather painful.) We had dry-fitted everything beforehand, but for some reason things went out of whack when we started gluing pieces together. However, the building portion of this project is now done, all that remains is a little bit of  "set dressing" in the form of moss, dirt, moisture etc. on the cobbled surfaces.

The front view shows the streetlight, the drainage channel in the cobbles, and gives an idea of what the whole thing looks like. We omitted the drainpipe, as there just wasn't room in the alley; the spout would have splashed too close to the building, which would lead to rot, which would lead to the building collapsing - well, I'm speaking as if it is all real, you understand!

This shows the faux wall with its barred door - I think there is something perhaps just slightly illegal going on in that (imagined) building. The three gold balls of the pawn shop sign show up very nicely in thisphoto; they were made of mini Christmas balls, as there wasn't a gold bead to be had in this city, on a purchased wrought iron bracket.

Here is the view in the other direction; the stained glass window in the side wall is visible through the shop window. The display window assembly slides out from between the upper and lower facades, to allow access to the shop interior. The door opens, but human wrists just don't bend properly to get in that way!

Now it's on to tweaking a Hallowe'en vignette, then filling the shop of the CMHH '12 vignette, and then I can start filling the pawn shop. All in all, I am very pleased with how it turned out; I don't know of too many pawn shops in miniature, so this might be quite unique! Oh, and I have to paint the outside of the box and frame it, of course. As the shop space is where the smaller pieces will go, this vignette won't need a glass front, routing out the channels for glass or plexi is always difficult as they have to be so narrow. One thing I won't have to ask my poor husband to tackle this time. I could not have finished this without his help.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

CMHH '13 Project Is Cobbled

Well, it was fun googling images all the different types of cobbling used on European streets, and I found a style that would do what I wanted it to do; it is a combination of The Schnoor medieval district in Bremen, Germany; the medieval alleys (steegjes) of Maastricht, The Netherlands; and some British and Scots alleyways and ginnels. So, this afternoon I cobbled the vignette:

There is a drainage channel in the alleyway, you can just see where the cobbles next to the green door go vertically in rows rather than horizontally. There is a treble row of these vertical cobbles, with the middle row being lower than the other two; this is where the water will, eventually, run. The keyhole splash stone will be the next thing to go in that alley, and then the drainpipe will go above that.
The upper façade has been made, plastered and aged, and is now ready to install. The false door and wall, the green door unit and the upper façade unit are still removable at this point, to give me room to do the cobbles and downspout. Tomorrow, hopefully, things can be glued permanently.
My first attempt at cobbles was terrible! I allowed a small section in the back corner to dry overnight, and ripped them all out the next morning. These new cobbles are left-over strips of paper clay bricks, sponged in sections with six shades of watered-down paint, then cut apart, jumbled up and glued to
the base of the vignette box. I had just enough with some to spare to do this cobbled street base. It's a good thing that, like  most miniaturists, I am a pack rat!
The cobbles need to dry thoroughly, then I can seal them, add moss, dirt, and wet areas; my family is challenging me to try and have dried horse dung in there as well, in miniature, of course. I think I can actually figure out a way to do this, finely chopped raffia bits in brown paint with a bit of sand and glue - hmmmm!
Still to be done are the window, handle and bars in the false side wall door, the street light installation, and the pawn shop sign; three gold balls hanging from a wonderful, purchased wrought iron wall bracket. Also, of course, the drainpipe, splash stone and a couple of wooden brackets under the edge of the overhanging second story. I do hope I can achieve all that tomorrow. Other projects are sending their siren calls my way, but I won't allow myself to leave this particular one until it is done.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Well, I Did Get Stuff Done Today

The left side false wall has been built, clad, aged, and fitted in place but not glued in yet. The half-round windows are in place, and I believe I know what I'm going to do next. The original design had the shop upper façade wall extending over to the left-hand false wall, which really doesn't make much sense, so I will  extend the upper façade out to the left as if it is a jettied second story. This means it will overhang the alley-way but not join up with the left-hand façade. The plan will require knocking out one of the wall supports hanging from the vignette box ceiling; hopefully, I can do it with a minimum of damage to the MDF of the box, as it has been glued in place for some weeks now.
The brown door still needs its door handle, window glass and bars on it, as I'm thinking of it as the back door to a betting shop or something of the sort. I'd really like  to do a bit of a drainage channel in the middle of the pavement between the two shops; that would allow me to create a trickle of moisture effect from the corner behind the green shop door. I don't know if I can fit that in as the doorstep of the green door is low. For a drainage channel to work, the pavement has to slope ever so slightly into the centre. If I do go with the drainage channel, I will put a "lead" gutter pipe in the corner, maybe with one of those key-hole shaped splash stones I've seen in older North American cities. Good opportunity for some algae and moss work on the stucco and the cobbles!
The wonderful Victorian street lamp I picked up will fit nicely on the façade of the false side wall. It's a battery LED light; all I have to do, I am told, is to adhere the metal back plate to my building, and then the rare earth magnets will hold the lamp in place. It came without instructions, of course! There is a tiny switch just on the edge that will face out.
 For fun, I tried doing some decorative plastering, using a large jewelry finding, in the square area above the false door. While this one isn't deep enough to be easily visible, I think I may use some silver Art Deco brooches I have of deer in trees and the like, to make some molds for future use as decorative plaster elements. I have at least one small and one large one, they remind me of gable stones in the medieval streets of my childhood home town, Maastricht, in The Netherlands.
Tomorrow, if all works out, I hope to install the upper façade; once that is done, I can glue the green door unit in place, as well as the false side wall unit. Then it is on to cobblestones, each of which will have to be modelled individually from paper clay. Maybe I can figure out an assembly-line method and speed the process up a little. The cobbles I remember from my childhood were rounded on top, and sort of squarish in shape, so perhaps a log shape that I cut the top slice off may do it. I'd have to round the top off again each time before cutting the cobble off.
 I just may have the "build" of this vignette done by this coming weekend!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Didn't Accomplish Much....

First off, welcome to Beatriz. I hope you enjoy visiting this blog.

With help, I managed to hold a page for the MiniTreasures Wiki Advent Calendar this year, so it will be a learning curve for me to get a photo up. As I am a bit of a computer idiot, I will start on that on Monday, giving me lots of time to sort things out! I had tried last year, and couldn't figure it out, but did save the project I want to feature in hopes of managing to get in this year. Yeay!

Yesterday was my birthday, and one of my gifts was a Breyer horse kit for a 1/12th scale horse to paint and "wig" to my taste. This should be fun, I will have to research horse colours in the period for which I will designate this particular horse. I already have a dapple gray and a bay for my Tudor market scene, although both need the appropriate tack etc. for the period, but this horse may just end up between the shafts of a buggy kit I've had sitting around forever; the finished product could go into my between-the-wars market scene. As a child in The Netherlands, the milkman, baker and pig swill people all came around with horse-drawn wagons, well into the fifties. At times during school vacations I'd be allowed to travel a few blocks with the tradesman and that was such a big deal for me!

Today, I visited an antiques show, and I actually picked up a mini. It is a twelfth scale bisque baby, arms and legs articulated with copper wire, that I will have to dress. In my stash for a nursery shop project, I have a Moses basket, so I have put the poor naked babe in that for now; once the pawn shop project is built, I will do some tiny knitting. Some years ago, an acquaintance who does machine knitting gave me some very fine single ply sock yarn ideal for miniature knitting, and I know I have an old Swallowhill Dolls knitting kit somewhere in my stuff. That nursery shop is another project on my UFO list! Now I do not allow myself to start a new project before finishing the previous one, to avoid further cluttering up my space, which is why I set a deadline for the pawn shop project.  

 Also at the show I saw a twelfth scale beer wagon complete with plastic heavy horses, barrels and driver, but I didn't buy it. And the most fabulous Greenland umiak (Inuit skin canoe) that appeared close to twelfth scale, complete with ivory fittings, harpoons, knives, and ivory and wood oars. Unfortunately, it cost between $500 and $700, so regretfully, very regretfully, I walked away. Has anyone ever made an Inuit miniature scene, I wonder?

My self-imposed deadline for the pawn shop was this evening, and obviously I haven't been able to meet it; we decided on too many structural changes that required re-measuring and re-thinking. So Monday it's back to work on that project, I'll be kind to myself and give me another week to try and get it done. Then there is the Hallowe'en project from a couple of years ago that just needs a little tweaking....

Friday, 18 October 2013

Further Progress on the CMHH '13 Project

Yesterday not much of anything got done, time just kept getting away from me. Today, however, I made the half-round polymer clay windows, and paper clayed the back wall.
Wet paper clay is a dirty gray colour, but you can already see the white at the edge where the clay is beginning to dry. The slanted lower wall of the façade is also coated, but this has dried. It does, however, show how a light wash of paint and some messing about with chalk dust can age the paper clay quite convincingly. Once the back wall is completely dry, I'll use a fine sandpaper on a stick to even out the edges.
The two brown semi-circles are the polymer clay window frames; the lower on has had its corner cut off, to fit better into the space. This cut-off will be hidden behind the false wall to come on the left-hand side, which is the next part of the project.
This was the first time I used Premo by Sculpey, and I am not completely sure I like it; I baked it at the recommended time and temperature, but found the baked frames to be kind of bendy, and the corner cut off without any problem at all, using a regular kitchen knife. I am used to quite solid, sturdy baked polymer clay items. I wonder if this result is part of governments' insistence on the polymer formula being changed to meet environmental guidelines.
On to finishing the spaniel on a cushion mat, while waiting for the clay to dry. I have a two-doll commission to start on soon, as well as some embroidered goods to finish off and mail to a client. Then I will probably have to buckle down to some Christmas shopping, as just about everything has to be mailed off this year. A couple of parcels have to go to Europe and Japan, so the sooner the better, I guess!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Miniature Needlepoint Carpet and Rug

While waiting for glue, paper clay and paint to dry I've been working at making some stock for my show shop; I do the Moncton Miniature and Doll Show yearly, and have gone to several CFB Shearwater hobby shows as well. My stock is extremely low at this point, so I dug out some old books and am re-visiting some fun Victorian designs.

This design is from an old Nutshell News booklet; there is a matching mat with a cat on a cushion. I just love the border of these, very Aubusson-rug inspired. This has now been in the works for four days, and I still have quite a bit of background to fill in. To avoid distortion of the canvas as blocking is a bit of a pain, I do backgrounds in diagonal basket-weave stitch. This rug is either 22 ct or 24 ct canvas. The edging, done in a long-legged cross stitch, is already in place ready to turn the hem. As I suspect all glues of yellowing with age, I sew my rug hems back with a herringbone stitch, which is quite flexible in case the piece needs straightening at some point in its existence. For those of you who don't do needlepoint, the constant diagonal tug of the stitches used may pull the canvas off-centre over time.

This rug, which I made for the parlour of my youngest daughter's dollhouse quite a few years ago, is a large one, 6 x 8.5", not including the fringe, worked on 24 ct canvas. I hand-knot all my fringes! Some dollhouse rugs have a fringe made of a bit of frayed-out fabric glued onto the bottom, and it looks like what it is - hence the hand-knotted fringes. I start them by wrapping floss around a steel ruler, then cutting it into bits approximately 2" (5 cm) long. These are then divided into bundles of 3 strands, and those strands are then looped through the doubled canvas ends using an antique, extremely fine crochet hook. Stick on some quarter inch masking tape, then cut off everything below the tape edge, and you get a very nice, narrow fringe.  It takes time, but  the effect is well worth it for me.

This too is an old pattern; the McCall's Crafts magazine it came from must be from the 80's. As my daughter's Edwardian dollhouse parlour is upholstered in rose and red velvet, this rug matches beautifully. I remember it as being a bit of a chore, repeat patterns can become boring rather quickly.

There haven't been too many additions to the CMHH Project today, just a bit of paper-clay work on the front façade of the building. I have to build up the courage to try and make my own half-round windows. I tried aging the leading on the windows, but only succeeded in making a mess, so that project was abandoned. I suspect the lead tape I am using, which came from a stained-glass store, doesn't react the way golfer's tape does; unfortunately for me, not a single pro shop here seems to have ever heard of lead tape for golf clubs. Well, it isn't a very big city that I live in, after all....

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

It's Tuesday - The Lights Are On CMHH Project '13

Well, the interior light is installed. It consists of a nano LED light, held in place by a pearl bead inside a Lucite trumpet-shaped bead, with a bit of necklace chain to hide the wires. This light has a switch on the back of the box, so I don't have to take out the display window every time I want to turn on the light.

The lighting shows up best in the bottom photo (and anyways, I don't know how to remove the other photo). You can also see the stained glass side window, as well as the stained glass transom window, both of which have yet to be antiqued. That requires oil paint, so it has to be done out of doors, perhaps tomorrow. The paper protecting the plexi window in the door is still in place, and there is as yet no door handle - I am going to try and cut my own door plate from some very thin brass I have in my stash, and then try to patina it and the door knob with a kit I picked up.

The door and side wall assembly aren't glued into place yet, as I have to paper-clay the back wall and that is easier to do in a larger space. Before I can do that, I have to build a couple of small windows that will sit in that wall; the original design has half-round leaded glass ones, that kind of appeals to me. I'm going to try making the frame for the windows with polymer clay, and texture it a bit to look like wood. The leaded glass windows will be lead strips glued down to blister pack plastic. The wall behind them will have to be painted black, to hide the fact there is actually nothing there. And I am still hoping to have the construction done this coming weekend.

Oh yes, in the wee small hours of the morning (around 6 a.m. or so) I realized part of the roof of the box is actually supposed to be sky; that has now been painted a pale bluish-gray, and sponged and dragged with a bit of white, to look like a gloomy, it's going to rain type of sky.

I still don't know how I'm going to treat the outside of this box vignette. Help!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

CMHH '13 Project Progress - Anton Pieck-inspired Pawn Shop

Because I am changing some of the design, it has become necessary to re-measure and recut a number of the project components. It was decided to drop the front steps up to the shop, as that meant a 6" person walking in would fall the height of 2 steps to the shop floor, unless steps and a landing were built inside. So, we dumped the steps; now the door seems too short for the height of the display window. This is the project up to this point, with the slide-out display window in place:

There is a space above the door that is calling out for a transom window, so that is what I've been working on today. The window will match the stained glass side window, and glass paint takes 24 hrs to dry. As well, for some reason there was no side wall beyond the door posts - just a narrow gap; therefore, a side wall has had to be constructed, papered and panelled on the inside, and beamed and plastered on the outside. It'll be hard to see, but I'll know it's there!

Once the transom and the shop wall are done, I have to move on to the faux door in the left side wall, and a small window or two in the back wall, to give the effect of a narrow alley-way. When that is sorted out and installed, I can continue on the upper façade of the shop itself, which extends over to the left side wall with an angled support beam. Then more paper clay has to be added to the façade, the side and back walls, and the cobbled street surface. Lots of design decisions! I had bought a wonderful double dolphin-head fountain, but as there isn't enough room for it in the little alley, it might go into the proposed apothecary garden project, to go with the Tudor apothecary shop which is in the very early stages of construction.

I'm rather stuck on how to finish the outside of this vignette; the front will likely be framed with half-round timber or something similar, but I haven't been able to settle whether to paint or paper the outside of the box. Usually I just paint, but I'd like to try decoupage with this one. Any ideas?

Friday, 11 October 2013

I Promised Photos of My New Dog, plus Camp MiniHaHa Gifts and Tidbits

The sun was shining today, so I took some photos of my dog (miniature, of course) and the exchange gifts and tidbits I got at Camp MiniHaHa '13.

For now, his name is Brutus, and he is a hairy Irish Wolfhound. Brutus was made by Aleeta Kent, of Art Dolls and Miniatures, a real-life veterinarian who is a miniaturist in her free time. Aleeta lives in Grand Prairie, AB, Canada and was a fellow camper a couple of years ago who returned this year with this handsome fellow I had asked her to try and make for me.

One of Brutus`forelegs is lifted, as if he is walking, or perhaps the better word would be, loping along, long and gangly just like a real Irish Wolfhound. He has pads and claws on all four feet!

You can just see his claws on his lifted front foot. All four feet are slightly brown, as if he has been walking in the mud, and he also has some brown around his muzzle, perhaps he took a drink from a muddy puddle along the way. Irish Wolfhounds are one of my favourite dogs, unfortunately I will never own a real one, but Brutus is a good replacement - never needs a walk! He will go into my Tudor Market scene, once I have finished and dressed his master. Brutus is covered with natural wool `fur` in several shades of gray, one of the main colours of an Irish Wolfhound. I love him!

As well, I had promised photos of the gift exchange items and tidbits I got at Camp MiniHaHa this year. Each day at lunch, we get a bag of tidbits, little goodies each camper makes or buys. The photo below is of these tidbits:

The range is amazing: a roll of excellent printies, a bag of small tools, a bag of landscaping materials, lipstick and nail polish on a tray, perfumes on a tray, a melting pearl snowman, a stool, a lavender and a succulent plant, a pink chick in a basket, a tiny basket, watering can and bucket combo, a pin, a readable recipe book with chocolate recipes, a shirt, a fire extinguisher, a YSL attaché case, terra-cotta vase, handmade ceramic bowl with kitty kibbles and a printie for a cat treat box, cookies, a fly swatter, a kitchen witch, a cake, a robin with its nest and eggs, a Jane Austen bonnet and parasol, magazines and candles, a small quilled bowl, a  hobbyhorse, a suncatcher, and a wooden open and closed sign . Whew!
And then we have the exchange gifts; these vary for all campers, each evening after supper we draw names. Each camper who participates in this event brings 5 exchange gifts, so you go home with 5 different items, and everyone, of course, ends up with different items.

So this year, I came home with a ladies` fancies set, with the loveliest little necklace, hatbox, boxed set of shoes and a letter, most of which will end up in last year`s camp project; a spokeshave bench, which will go into the Tudor Market scene; a complete s`mores set on a cutting board, with extra marshmallows and a chocolate bar; a fish-pond in a garden; and a yummy cake and a tassel angel in a shopping bag - the cake will go into my between-the-wars market, and the angel will go into the projected Christmas market stall. We all oooh and aaah at the gifts each evening, and deep in our hearts wish for ones that particularly speak to us, and to be able to work them in a scene is a double gift. Sometimes, these exchange gifts are the spark for a whole, another project!


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Working Away at the CMHH '13 Project...

...with nothing much to show as it included fitting the window display shelf, and the two window frames. So, I will put in a couple of photos of the campers at this year's Camp MiniHaHa hard at work. Our new work space this year was very bright and spacious, so we kind of spread out. Also, we had a tool room with a tool operator handy right next door; most of us made several visits to Wayne's World for precision cutting as we changed our projects from the prototype - well, truth to tell, we all rarely work an exact copy, we are all too darned independent!

The prototype was rectangular, and many worked in that format; however, as I said, we are all very independent, so a number of people worked theirs in the vertical, creating a two-level streetscape rather than a single-level one. We were working with gator-board, which takes quite a bit of sitting for the glue to dry. Many people also used bricks to clad their walls, these also took time to dry. No one actually finished their project in the four full days of work, but we all developed our idea to the point where it would be simple to finish the box at home.

Here you have a group of campers intently watching a demonstration on aging techniques, and how to add variety to the brickwork. In the background, you can see a version of the prototype with its front wall removed, allowing you to see the inside of the box. The wall is propped below. The demonstrator is Iris S., one of the organizers of the camp.

Camp MiniHaHa is a not-for-profit camp held at the end of each September in south-western Nova Scotia, Canada. Most of our campers are returnees, one of our US campers (hi Audrey!) was back for the third year in a row, and this year we also welcomed two campers from the Spokane, Washington area and two from Wisconsin. The rest came from the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. This was my twelfth year at camp, I think; I've only missed one year, very early on. We began with 10 ladies in a summer cottage on the cliffs above the Bay of Fundy, moved to the old United Church Camp in Berwick, NS with 25 people, and are now in the Digby, NS area with up to 40 people. Our campers have come from as far away as Hawaii, California, Montana, Missouri, Maryland, Manitoba, a northern Alberta bush community and a remote sub-arctic community near Hudson's Bay, as well as the UK.

If there is nothing spectacular to show on my camp project in the next couple of days, I'll share some of the treasures I collected while at camp; we have a goody bag at lunch each day, and a gift exchange each evening after dinner. As well, I got a wonderful dog I had commissioned, which I am very eager to share with you.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Back From Camp MiniHaHa '13 and The Project

The time, as usual, was too short and we didn't get as much done as we had hoped to do, but we ate lots of chocolate and had lots of fun. The camp project this year was a streetscape in a gatorboard box, but the prototype was a bit large for me - I am running out of space for large projects - so I brought my own, wooden box with me. I prepped a little, papering the walls, building the little side window, and panelling the wall below the paper, before heading off for Camp. This was the box on Day 1 (Thursday):

It is upside-down in this photo, while I was fitting the upper façade of the building. I had installed a baseboard, chair rail and framed the window by this point. This project came from Dollshouse Nederland, a small and wonderful Dutch magazine crammed full of excellent projects of all sizes.
Here it is a little later (Friday); now it is right-side up and the floor has been partially installed, ready to build the lower façade of the building. The upper one has been clad with paper clay, except for the slanted wall which is still bare wood. The little section of bricks is a left-over from doing the walls of the Tudor market hall; I find the bits useful for small projects like this one. The angles of the window wall caused me a lot of problems, and took up a lot of time to get right; as well, somehow my measurements didn't quite fit, so I had to add some pieces to the framing of the upper façade. And then, of course, there is the waiting for stain, paint, paper clay and glue to dry...
Sunday morning, the lower façade had been clad, and both the upper and the lower were aged; I used a very light yellowy-grey wash to dirty the white clay, and then used powdered chalk to age the pieces. There is also a beamed ceiling in place, not very visible unless you turn the box upside-down.  I am going to make some  changes to the original project, and put the door on the ground level rather than a couple of steps up; while the difference in levels is interesting, it makes no sense as you would then need a platform just inside the door and a set of steps down to the tiny sales level. This requires measuring and cutting a new door frame, for which I need the assistance of my resident carpenter on the table saw. More later!
The shop was influenced by the work of the Dutch artist Anton Pieck, and is sort of Dickensian in appearance. It is going to be a pawn shop, as I can display some nice items in the shop and the shop window that I don't have a home for right now. The bare section to the left will have a faux door, and the impression of an alleyway beyond that; these are also being redesigned a bit, as I want my alley just a bit wider than the original design had.
Besides a new door, I also have to install the removable shop window, which has a set of built-in display shelves. When the project is finished, the only way in is by way of the slide-out window construction, unless you happen to be a 1/12 scale person....
I splurged and bought a wonderful battery-operated Victorian LED street lamp, which will be mounted on the left wall. The shop inside will be lit by an LED light with the switch on the back of the box, so drilling is required for the wire. For this lamp, I hope to use a vintage Lucite bead as the shade; I have several trumpet-shaped ones which are wonderful for both uplights and pendant ceiling lights. Add a bit of brass tube and a back plate, and it should look pretty good. There will also be a wrought-iron hanging bracket with the old symbol for a pawn shop, three gold balls hanging from chains. I have the bracket, but have to add a hanging loop and make up the hanging gold balls.
That's it for now, I have to go and unpack some more. Back soon with some of the goings-on at camp and photos of the campers busily at work in the work room - a new-to-us very large space with spectacular natural light, and an impressive view of the Annapolis Basin of the Bay of Fundy.