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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year 2014

We are recovering somewhat from the incredible amount of snow Mother Nature decided to spoil us with this Christmas. Today, the snow blower arrived that my husband got for Christmas (I'm trying to keep him alive!), which means, in terms of Murphy's Law, that the storm that is supposed to be heading our way will likely bypass us. I won't miss it, as we have had over a meter (3 1/2 feet or so) of snow in the last two weeks.

Santa brought me a mini! My youngest daughter gave me this delightful telescope (an eBay find) and the Tudor era map.

They will go into the apothecary shop setting, old medical professionals used to like being mysterious in order to impress the customers. The map is printed on photo stock, I'd like to try and age it a bit, has anyone tried to age photo-stock images with paints or inks?

Just to prove that I haven't abandoned the Apothecary Workshop, the front opening has been beamed and plastered, and is waiting for its paint; as well, the roof louvers have been painted, aged and applied, ready to be shingled. That can't happen until we do the upper half of the chimney stack, the next part of this project. It's kind of messy to do clay work with a house full of holiday stuff and our visitors, so that has been postponed just a little. Once the chimney is bricked, we can assemble the roof. I am working on it....

We are celebrating New Year's by going to the early, 2D showing of the latest hobbit movie. My daughter is hoping to have some friends in, so we "oldies" will lurk in the family room with the TV, while the youngsters play board games etc. all over the living and dining areas.

A Very Happy New Year to you all. May all your hopes and wishes for the new year come to pass, and may you enjoy the year in health and happiness, with lots of minis!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A Very Merry Christmas 2013

This is the view outside of my bedroom window when I woke up this morning:

We have had very wintery weather the last 10 days, more than 40 cm of snow followed by freezing rain and ice pellets, and yesterday evening some more snow fell. It looks like a Christmas card outside. The sky is pale turquoise blue, and the sun is shining through the ice on every twig.

These photos are for all of you who wished for a White Christmas, but live in places where this just doesn't happen! Now we get to move the new snowfall out of the driveway....

My Christmas room box is having its debut on the blog. It is a design from Janet Brownhill, whose work I really do admire, that appeared in a Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine several years. ago. This year, with the help of my daughter's friend, it also appeared on the mini Wiki Treasures Advent Calendar. Lots of paper clay work, and some experiments with artificial snow and other things, including some organic materials, have created a little Christmas scene that I am very proud of. It resides in its own box, which has a drawer underneath to hold the battery packs for the lighting, or any other thing one might like to put in a small drawer. The snow was given a little sparkle by a very light dusting of "diamond dust" sparkles on it, which catch the light like real snow sometimes does. The bricked wall slides out for access to the interior of the room.

The chickadee is the official bird of our province, and we see them all winter long on our birdfeeder, which meant I had to add them in miniature, of course! These three were modelled out of scrap Fimo and then painted with the aid of a bird book. The snow out of a jar also adhered very nicely to the logs, the window sill and frame (no glass to avoid reflections), and the little overhanging roof over the door. Good stuff, but once you open the jar, it pretty much dries out and can't be used again.

I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas, lots of good food and good company.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Still Working on the Roof Structure

The roof is slowly being built, in between all the other things that keep one busy prior to the very busy - insane, really - holiday season. I kind of wish Christmas was just a religious holiday again; the incredible commercial hype, and people's general bad attitude this time of year, do not make a good holiday any more. My youngest daughter, who works retail, comes home exhausted every evening, full of stories of angry, demanding customers....

Looking into the upper room from the front of the building, you can see the echo of the lower story doorway design. The floorboards are iron-on veneer tape, a job my C-in-C took on, and have been stained in my favourite Ipswich Pine. At this point, the inside has paint on it, a textured suede finish in a pale ivory colour. Because the ultimate view into this room is going to be very limited, I decided against putting in timbering. However, I will do a bit of timbering on the outside of the doorway, the panel has been set back a bit to allow me to do that. This area might only get one light, so it will be quite dark at the best of times.

These are the roof louvers, which have been assembled around a balsa wood core to make the whole construction sturdier. They will be painted, and the little roof panels for them will have slate tiling like the rest of the roof.  I would like to try using lead tape to make flashing around them, they did use lead for things like gutters and downspouts in the Tudor period, so I hope I am sort of correct.

Not the greatest leap forward in the design, but these little vents have taken more than a week to put together. I cheated, using very small strips from left-over miniature ship building to make the vents, rather than laboriously grooving each of the six panels. Each upper and lower edge has to be be bevelled to fit flush onto the angle of the roof, a lot of work.  Next, they will be painted and attached to the roof. The slate strips are ready and waiting, heaven knows when I will actually get around to that!

Thanks for sticking with the slower pace lately, I hope to get back up to speed again very soon.  A lot of people are visiting this blog; hopefully, this means I am not the only Tudor enthusiast in the world of miniatures. Let me know what you are doing, and what you think of my attempts....

Friday, 13 December 2013

A Little Fairy Tale

This may well be the very first Camp MiniHaHa project I ever did; if it is not the first, it would be only the second. This delightful fairy was a project taught by the late Joy Parker of Swallowhill Dolls, offered in the community hall down the road from Debbie P.'s summer cottage in Harbourville, Nova Scotia, which hosted Camp MiniHaHa for a few years in the very beginning. At that time, we were 10 women sharing rooms and sometimes a bed, in order to be able to spend time with like-minded miniaturists and learn something new while having lots of fun.

This poor fairy was intended to go into a dome setting, with driftwood, shells, coral and the like around her little tidal pool. She has outlived two domes, and is currently living on a shelf in my closet so the cat won't make off with her. The last dome lived on a windowsill in the spare bedroom, and we have no idea how that dome cracked - we suspect the cat may have knocked into it, or else a guest had an accident and didn't want to own up to it! While pouring the resin for the pool, a serendipitous accident happened, and the resin developed some interior fractures, which look like sunlight is shining on the tidal pool. There are real, very tiny shells and fragments of coral in that pool, picked off the beach below the cottage.

Her wings are printed on a transparency and decorated with Swarovsky crystals. I love this little fairy, and will have to keep my eye out for yet another dome for her to live in - it just needs to be high enough to accommodate her, and wide enough for a little beach landscaping. Her dress is made from vintage lame fabric (that "e" should have an accent on it!), which reminded me of fish-scales, and seemed appropriate for a seaside fairy.

In the meantime, the roof has been cut for the apothecary workshop, the interior painted and flooring installed, and it is time to get to work on the roof vents. However, it is getting closer to Christmas, and I am finishing off some close-to-being-finished handwork projects, so the roof will have to wait a few more days. Then I will do an update, hopefully, to be followed by how to apply the roof strips.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

How to Make Miniature Slate Roofs from Cardboard, Part 2

Between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, I cut nearly 64 feet (more than 19 metres) of slate roof strips. My poor thumb was about to develop a blister when I decided I was done. I just hope it is enough to do the entire roof with! The poor roof has had to wait until the miter saw could be repaired, and despite two days of soaking with penetrating oil, we still haven't been able to remove all the bolts. Something in the saw is making it difficult, to say the least, to move it to cut the angles on the roof pieces. However, my carpenter-in-chief has decided to go ahead tomorrow, come what may, as the saw  will move with lots of muscle power.

As you can see, it is an awful lot of strips! (Note the dirty water at the right of the photo, this is what I used in step 6 below.)

Here is the painting process for the roof. All painting should be done from the uncut edge downwards, as the layers of paint will create interesting texture, when applied with a bristly or stiff brush. From left to right:

1. Paint all strips with a dark burnt umber, making sure you cover the sliver cuts, the long bottom edge and the two short edges. Allow to dry. (Wet painted cardboard can be fragile: handle with care!)

2. Paint all strips with charcoal gray, double-check your sliver cuts and edges. Allow to dry. You can now tell that painting the cardboard has strengthened it, as well.

3. Using a 1/2" (1.5 cm) bristle brush, and pewter gleam paint (or a similar paint), dry brush here and there along the strip. Slate has some reflective inclusions, and that is what this dully metallic gray-silver paint step imitates. Allow to dry.

4. Using sludge green, a.k.a. English ivy green, a fan brush if you have it, and a nearly dry brush, brush on here and there along the strip. You want a streaky effect, that almost disappears into the background. This imitates the algae/moss streaks stone roofs develop. Allow to dry.

5. Using terra cotta and the fan brush, again a nearly dry brush, brush here and there along the strip. This adds extra dimension to the slate strip, and should just skim the higher points of the cardboard.
Allow to dry.

6. Mix up a couple of drops of white with a spoonful of dirty water - I use the water I rinse the brush in. This is messy; dip an old toothbrush in the watery paint, then gently run your fingernail along it to drop little spatters of white here and there. As this watery mixture dries, it looks like little patches of gray lichen, grayish in the centre and lighter around the edges.

The last coat to go on is a coat of satin varnish if you want a little shine, or matte varnish if you want no shine. This seals the paint effects. Allow to dry. The roof strips can now be installed.

Part 3 will be applying the strips to the roof surfaces, but this will have to wait a couple of days if the saw won't cooperate. As well, I have to make half a dozen roof vents to be glued to the front roof before the slate goes on. I'm going to try adding "lead" flashing around the vents, under the roofing strips, using the silvered copper tape I had been using for window lead. It didn't work too well for that, so I'll see if it will make good flashing, so it isn't wasted.

Friday, 6 December 2013

How to Make Miniature Slate Roofs from Cardboard Part 1

As promised, here is a tutorial with photos on how I make my cardboard roofs, in which people have expressed quite a bit of interest.  Start with collecting lots of cardboard, the type that comes on the back of writing paper pads is great, but the best cardboard, because of its size, is the back of flip charts. I no longer have access to this, as neither of us are working in offices any more, so I zealously save any and all writing paper backs.

Two of the pieces are thicker than the others, so I have decided not to use those on this project; it is best to use card of equal thickness. You will also need knives, blades, a long ruler and a pencil. Cutting through cardboard is hard on Xacto-type knives. If you have access to an office paper cutter or  stationery guillotine, that cuts the work down tremendously. (Metric measurements are as close as I can approximate; you can work out your own proportions if you don't have access to a British Imperial ruler in inches.)

Start by slicing your cardboard into 3/4" (approx. 2 cm) strips. You will need lots, each strip will only be covering 1/2" (approx. 1.5 cm) of your roof surface. Mark a line 1/4" (.7cm) along one long edge; this is where the strips will eventually be glued. Divide your marked strips in two piles, and mark the other long edge at 1/2" - 1.5 cm intervals, on one pile. Start the other pile of your strips with a 1/4" - .7 cm line, then continue on with 1/2"-1.5 cm as before, as the slates will overlap like a brick course.
While you can cut the half slates as you glue the strips to the roof, I find I get a more accurate fit if I start half of my strips with a half slate, and I also don't have to repaint that cut edge later.

 One side of  these card strips is white, this is the wrong side as it will not accept paint the same way as the raw cardboard side. Below the two white strips along which I have started cutting, you can see two completely cut gray strips showing the eventual overlap. Now cut all your slate strips as marked, taking off a tiny sliver at each cut, stopping at the marked line at the top, and once in a while cutting off a corner to suggest the odd damaged slate. For this cutting I use scissors, but if you are good with a knife, you could  use that.

As this will take quite a bit of time, and your fingers will likely get sore, this is where I will leave it for today. Part 2 will be the painting of the slates.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Still Working....

We've been putting the last little finishing touches on a couple of recently finished projects, such as framing and veneer, licks of paint and the like. Not very photogenic, which is why there are no photos. I am still waiting for the roof components, seems like every day something new comes up. However, one of these days they're bound to appear. And then I'll do a how-to on making roofing slates out of cardboard.

The Mini Wiki Advent Calendar is open, I have a spot on Dec. 23, when my page will open. The photos on my spot will appear in this blog on Dec. 25. As well, I've been following a French advent  calendar site, they do how-to's every day of advent. Check out this address,  "Miniatures & maisons de poupees", then click on "le calendrier de l'Avent 2013: although the site is in French, you can probably have google translate it. There are also links to previous advent calendars on their site with more how-to's.

If time allows, as I am finishing off other projects before Christmas, I'll post another flower how-to later this month, probably hollyhocks made with coffee filters; however, be prepared, they take several days because of the many steps involved, mostly waiting for paint and glue to dry.