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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Introducing Big John

Big John is in his late teens. His parents run the inn (no, I am not likely to make an inn!), so Big John serves the fast food at the Tudor market; ale and meat pies. He is a little shy, because the girls tease him as he blushes so very easily. He is quite the catch, inns are always good for making money; however, his parents affianced him years ago to the second daughter of the innkeeper in the next village. She will be ready trained to work  the inn, will be able to brew a good ale, and be a good help-meet for Big John and his parents, as they get elderly. In between, she will cook, clean, have babies, weave, spin, sew - life for women in this period was no picnic!

Big John dearly wants to grow a beard and mustache, but his facial hair is so sparse that right now, it would be kind of a joke. He is big for his age, hence his name; if he lived in the 21st century, he would be a football halfback. In the Tudor era, however, his very size makes patrons of the inn most unlikely to get rowdy....

Big John's costume is a Sue Harrington design, from an old issue of the Dolls House Magazine; a mini friend sent me some photocopies of Tudor costuming to use for my Tudor dolls. His belt buckle is a doll's shoe buckle I purchased a dozen of many years ago; a bit big for a Tudor, but maybe he is very proud of the thing! He is holding a leather ale jack in one hand, and a pasty or meat pie in the other; whether it's for himself or for a customer, I really don't know....

Monday, 26 January 2015

Please Meet...Brother Theobald

Well, that went a little faster than expected. This is the Tudor monk, Brother Theobald. He is the infirmarian for the local monastery, and is going to the market to buy non-local herbs and imported medicinal plants for his work in the monastery sick-room. (I kind of ripped off Brother Cadfael!)

He is wearing a dark brown, homespun habit. The rope belt, with its three knots signifying the monk's promises of obedience, chastity and poverty, is new and white. He is wearing leather sandals with a chamois leather insole, brown garment leather straps, and a sole and heels of rough suede from an old elbow patch. You can get an awful lot of soles out of one single elbow patch! The suede helps the miniature monk to stand. He has his scrip over his shoulder, but has left his gathering basket with the inn keep, in order to have his hands free to check through the "foreign" medicaments.

Monastery infirmarians, besides looking after the health of the monks, were also used by the local people as physicians and apothecaries, especially the very poor who could not afford to purchase medicines or hire the services of a so-called doctor. Brother Theobald has a pudding bowl haircut, with a palm-sized tonsure on his crown. When I was a child in The Netherlands, priests still kept the tonsure, although they were no bigger than a silver dollar by that point. I don't believe religious orders use them any more, though.

His little suede shoulder bag was a Camp MiniHaHa tidbit in the Year of the Castle Room Box, finally put to good use! The monk's robe and cowl (which I lined for tidiness) were designed by Sue Harrington, for Dolls House World Magazine. As it was a photocopy from a friend, I don't know the date or issue number. His hair is silver grey viscose.

That leaves 2 additional men and 4 ladies....

Zombies No Longer

It is amazing what a little bit of paint will do, now they no longer look like zombies. I still have to adjust the whites of their eyes a little, once the current paint dries, and then add gloss varnish on the eyes and the mouths. Using gloss not only seals the paint, but makes the eyes "alive".

They are wearing their labels around their middles, so I can keep track of who is supposed to be what character. You may notice the 3 men all have ears, while the 4 ladies don't. Because the ladies will wear complete, Tudor-era head-coverings as well as lots of hair, ears would just get in the way. The men, however, will likely have their ears showing, so they get them applied.

Next up, drawers for the monk, and sandals on his bare feet. The ladies will get shoes, stockings and pantaloons (not in period, but people will turn dolls upside-down!) The other two men will get shoes or boots, stockings, and trunk hose. Those are the easy parts; the hard part will be the clothing itself; only the monk has "simple" clothing. The biggest of the men gets boots and a leather jerkin; that should be fun, as I haven't tried gluing tiny seams on leather. I may resort to sewing for that, if I can find my leather needle. If I get enough done, I will add another photo this evening; if not, you will have to wait until tomorrow.

I used paper clay to fill the crack in my monk's breastplate, and with a touch of paint that break is nicely masked. My fancy Tudor lady's neck break is near invisible; I stuck a portion of toothpick up into the head, and left some below the breast plate, for added strength. The protruding portion was then jammed into the felt body and glued into place. The broken ear is invisibly repaired, nicely hidden by hair.

As I was enjoying a sense of accomplishment last evening, my younger daughter deposited a bag of body parts on my lap: "Mom, I just don't have the time, would you like to assemble, wig and dress the people for my Darling family/Peter Pan house?" What can a retired mother do, except agree to try and find the time.....

My daughter used Sue Heaser's book, Making Miniature Dolls With Polymer Clay, to sculpt these figures, quite a few years ago. Some of these dolls, if not all, will have jointed legs that should be able to sit; so here are Wendy, Michael and John, Peter Pan and Mr. and Mrs. Darling. It was her first attempt at polymer clay sculpting, that book is very good for beginning dolls' house doll makers.
However, this lot are going at the end of the queue; I will share their house with you in another post, as it is under radical reconstruction currently. We are awaiting doors and windows for it right now.
This is not one of my projects; it is a joint project between my Carpenter-in-Chief and my younger daughter for which I am only required (yeah, sure!) for input from experience....

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Blank-Eyed Zombies or The People of the Tudor Market in Progress

Right now I am quite gluey, so I hope I won't get tacky glue all over the keyboard. The power stayed on, but we did get 10" or 25 cm of snow overnight; my poor Carpenter-in-Chief has partially cleared the driveway, enough so that our daughter could get out to work. Unfortunately, shops here have Sunday opening hours from 12 to 6 p.m.

An overview of my work area; four ladies' bodies, one set of recycled Tudor clothing, and three men with bodies, in a box. I am still not entirely satisfied with the lady body, my feeling is the torso is too long for the legs; perhaps I should make my next set of ladies' lower legs somewhat longer. To this point, the bodies have been sewn on the sewing machine, but from here it is glue and hand-sewing. I hope you are interested, a little at least, in the process.

To make sure that the legs are even and the body is balanced, I test it for stability. It is not stuffed at all at this point, just the pipe cleaner leg skeletons pushed into the felt body. If everything works, it's on to gluing the bottoms of the felt legs to the polymer clay legs, and sewing up the lower cm or so.
Then the legs are stuffed lightly, followed by the body; at this point, I hand-sew the centre back seams.

Here you can see the pipe cleaner arm armature being sewn and glued to the felt that goes across the shoulders. Her head and body stand ready for arms. More gluing and hand-sewing, then the arm piece is balanced across the body piece, and the shoulder seams are hand-sewn across. Following that, the head with the chest plate is glued onto the felt body, and held in place overnight with elastic to make sure everything holds together.

A box full of miniature zombies! The men are already glued up, while the ladies are elasticated until the morning. Then I get to paint faces. Right now, they are all rather creepy....

The pipe cleaner armature allows me to position the arms. The legs can't really bend enough to "sit" the miniature people properly; they can only sit with their legs straight out in front of them. In order for them to sit convincingly on a chair, you have to give them flattened polymer clay bottoms and shape the legs to whatever seat they will be placed on, i.e., the upper pipe cleaner legs would go to the edge of the seat, while the lower polymer clay legs would have to touch the floor. That means they can't do anything other than sit, of course, as there would be some distortion of the skeleton. (Can you see the snow outside the window?)

These bodies are from the Sue Atkinson book, Making and Dressing Dolls' House Dolls in 1/12 Scale, published by David & Charles. For clothing patterns, it is by far the best book on the market. Most of the garments are lined, meaning there are no raw edges. Where it isn't possible to make proper hems or line items, pieces are bonded with iron-on interfacing. Most of the dolls on this blog were dressed with patterns adapted from this book; the Tudors, however, are being dressed from a variety of sources, found in British miniature magazines, as the book starts with Georgian fashions, which is too late for my Tudor era people.

Once the faces are painted, the little zombies will look rather more human....

Welcome to the new people who chose to follow this blog in the last day or so. I hope you enjoy my miniature efforts. Please write or comment as you wish; I love to hear from people and always hope to learn something new as I muddle along with my miniature world.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

I Am Working, But It's Going So Slowly!

No photo today, as blank-faced dolls with white felt and rosy Fimo limbs are not photogenic. Three Tudor men are ready to paint, dress and wig; the Monk, the Man from the Inn, and the Labourer. In the course of putting things together, I managed to

1. Break the Tudor Lady's neck
2. Break the Monk's breastplate
3. Knock the corner off the Tudor Merchant's ear
4. Make 4 ladies' bodies that are better suited to Hobbitses

So, if there is power tomorrow - we are having another snow storm - I will make 4 new lady bodies and assemble the Tudor Merchant Lady, High Class Lady, Market Lady and the Working Lady.

Until then, I am retiring with a darn good murder mystery under my down duvet.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Tudor Merchant Is Ready to Leave the House

The Tudor Merchant is dressed and ready to go; he has borrowed a hat, as his own is not yet ready. His hair, beard and mustache are gray, with some darker strands in the beard, as beards usually stay darker than head hair.

His own hat will be similar, but a colour to match his clothing. He has male-pattern baldness; his temples have definitely receded!

My flash photos are all rather grainy, unfortunately. I am quite pleased with how he turned out. Now there are only 7 more Tudor era people to go, not to mention the others I haven't given bodies, faces, wigs and clothing yet....

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Small Progress Steps on the Japanese Vignette and More Poppies

The first transom window for the Japanese Vignette was made using instructions (measurements in centimeters) from the Japanese book, but it looked terrible; far too small and silly.

The proportions are wrong, but time was involved in putting it together so I decided to do a slight alteration in order to make it look better. However, before doing that, I found my missing poppy kit on Tuesday, and decided to put that together. It was finished this afternoon, and turned out to be a Little Goodies kit from years back, that someone had given me. The technique is different, using beads to shape the centre of the plant, and the petals and leaves both had these cunning little circles at their bases, which you had to pierce and thread up the flower stems.

The paper is very thin, and reminds me of old-fashioned cigarette papers; no, I didn't smoke the bad stuff, but in post-war The Netherlands, my uncles and older male cousins all rolled their own ciggies! The kit was supposed to make 9 flowers, but there were enough petals for ll - I dug into my bead stash to find suitable beads for the centres. These will be quite a bit shorter when they are actually planted, of course. Although I am not sure this type of poppy would have been grown in medicinal gardens, my story is that the gardener is attempting to hybridize oriental poppies with wild poppies....

This is the new transom window; oh my, the Sailor Scouts have landed! Are they checking out if my Japanese house is a proper Japanese house? (The figures were on the kitchen counter, where I took the vignette for better light to photograph it, and I thought they looked quite nice in it - they actually belong to my daughter.) With the addition of two beams, the transom window looks much more in proportion.

Maybe I shouldn't have used the Sailor Scouts; once the vignette is finished, who is to say the Sailor Moon action figures might not decide to move in? The scale is pretty good, isn't it? In case you are not familiar with these figures, they come with removable faces (ugh!) with various expressions, and I believe there are also extra hands and things, along with their weapons, of course. The stands are articulated, and allow them to "float" in the air.

Next project to finish off is my medieval merchant; he just needs his shoulder seams and sleeves set into his robe, and his wig and beard, but that is better done by daylight and after a good night's rest.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Interlude - Dressing the Tudor Merchant

"This is what I have been forced to look like for at least two years; it is high time my dignity was clothed appropriately, don't you think?

"Well, that is somewhat better; I now have some cuffs, a collar, and a pair of sleeves. Keep going, please!

"Now that's more like it, rather suits my obvious dignity . My doublet has skirts, I am wearing a belt, and my money pouch is present. I wish to go to the market, therefore I will need a gown, a hat, and a stick. Think you might be able to keep on going, mistress?"

Well, he had sat around for a very long time. He will get his other clothing soon, plus a head of hair and a beard. The patterns for this clothing have very little in the way of seam allowance, and the working order is very different from what I am used to. There are still 7 more adults to dress for the Tudor market scene, perhaps I will get nice and sticky and give those poor souls at least a body and face this weekend (lots of tacky glue involved in making bodies!). There is at least one woman's outfit ready to be fitted, as Margery from the between-the-wars market (see early posts) started out as a Tudor cook....

The Japanese vignette has to wait until Monday, as I need to go into town and a car is not always available. As I also need to visit the library and the bank, I'll do several things at once after the weekend. Perhaps I can get some adults into the Tudor market scene to control the children and the animals, in the meantime.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Japanese Vignette Showing Some Minor Progress

My camera needs more light for flash photos, and I apologize. There has been some minor progress on the vignette, in that the two house walls are now assembled, and the raised floor has been planked and varnished.

Despite my best efforts, there is still some distortion in the walls; also, the base is slightly warped. My hope is that the winter, and the dry air in the house, are partially responsible! It will, however, be necessary to work with these problems. My story will be that this little house is quite old, something I can emphasize with vines and the like climbing around the walls and fences.

The next step is to glue the walls to the solid floor. Then I can add a single step, and begin work on the casement window that will go along the top between the house walls. Once that is done, the house portion of the vignette will be finished, and I can begin on the garden walls and the gate.

 A couple of years ago, I was able to score small samples of bamboo and grass window blinds, in a wide variety of sizes and colours. These will be transformed into fences and the like. The garden gate is a tall affair with a small roof, rather like a torii gate, but with sliding latticed panels, set aslant the front corner. On either side of this gate are fences, which provide privacy while allowing glimpses into the restful garden. There will also be a small section of fencing jutting out from the larger house wall. I really want to make a moon gate opening in one of these fence sections.

 In front of the larger wall I hope to place a Japanese maple, or perhaps a blossoming cherry tree - I am still deciding how much time I have to give to a tree! I also want to add a basin with a scoop, and if I can find a good spot for it, a deer scarer; something I'd like to have in my own garden, as the deer walk about as if they own it....

If time permits, I hope to do the transom window tomorrow; however, I am out of library books, and I need something to read myself to sleep with. Also, if I go into town, I will likely want to visit a shop or two, so time may again go a-wasting....

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Japanese Vignette Lack of Progress Report....

....although I am still working on it. The MDF for the two faux house walls decided to warp; I don't know if it was because of the iron-on veneer, but assume that may have been it. Today I sealed the raw side of the MDF and put on a coat of acrylic paint, once the seal coat was dry. However, the paint is taking forever to dry, under the weight of three large Art History books for each piece, which means I should probably leave it overnight to dry completely.

The warp showed up when I laid the door posts next to the walls; in the centre of each wall, the door post was even with the wall tops. It was supposed to stick out beyond the walls. Overnight I will move the painted walls and their weights to just in front of our fridge; warm air blows out under it and that may help speed the drying process. Because of the warp, I didn't want to take the chance of using a heat gun or blow dryer to speed the drying process.

The floor has to go in before I can place the walls; those walls have to go in before I can measure for the transom window. I really don't like waiting!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Japanese Vignette Progress Report

That was it this morning; the actual coat of stain has dried. This project was abandoned long enough ago that I used the wrong stain on these sections, Ipswich Pine instead of Cherry, so re-staining was necessary. As each coat takes 2 hours to dry, I had to repaint, and wait, and repaint, and wait, and watch time a-wasting. Then I  stained the wrong size of trim pieces; so once again, repaint etc., until some time after 7 p.m. this evening.

Bad photo! However, as you can see the faux window has been installed, although because of all the waiting for stain to dry, I did not get as far as I had hoped. Tomorrow the window bars should go in, as the freshly stained horizontal piece can dry overnight. Then the door posts have to go on, as well as the transom windows over the door opening, that still have to be made. Time to go through my stash to see if there is anything that can pass as shoji paper; otherwise a trip into town is indicated, and I hate to shop on Sundays. As well, there is a snowstorm on its merry way....

The twig is auditioning for the position of Japanese maple; I may have to graft on an extra branch or two, but the overall shape of it is good. It's currently sitting in some modelling clay, but may eventually be planted in the garden.

There really isn't much "house" to be seen beyond the wall; I think all that may fit in the tight space is a shoe rack and perhaps a tiny bench. I'll have to see what the space looks like once the raised floor and the step are in.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Paint Drying Is Just Not That Interesting!

The Japanese vignette is on-going; the two house front panels were originally cut from inexpensive left-overs from cabinet construction, and they warped badly. That meant buying a replacement; as the plywood at the lumber store was also warped (!), I opted for MDF. First the fronts were veneered; next, the upper portion had to be sponge-painted to match the other walls of the vignette. Currently, the wood pieces that will form the trim, battens, window framing and window grill are drying from a couple of stain applications.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I hope to apply the faux window opening, frame it and put on the grill. Then the trim strips will go on, and the battens. Next, I have to make the raised floor, and the door frame and window area over top of it. That should keep me busy, and there should then be better photos!

Now if only I could find a tutorial on-line for a Japanese maple tree. If worse comes to worse, I can try to build one using photos as a guide. The tiny Japanese maple in my Real Life garden is bare and trying to cope with an open winter; no nice layer of snow to insulate it so far this winter, so it can't be much help to me until May at the earliest.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

My Wall of Shame: UFO Number 2, January 2015

Happy New Year, everyone! May you realize some of your dreams this year, stay healthy, and enjoy the love of family and friends, including furry friends.

This is what my Japanese Garden vignette looks like right now:

That is a jar of wallpaper paste holding up the short wall. I began this vignette a year or more ago, from a design in a Japanese dollhouse book I first saw at Anne B.'s house in the UK, and was able to purchase at the Arnhem miniature show subsequently. When my carpenter-in-chief built the vignette for me, I was aghast at the sheer size of it - I had expected something much smaller. But I started to work on it, only to run into problems installing the walls obliquely against the corners, the house part of the vignette. So the project languished, until quite recently.

Judy R. in Oregon was also struggling with a Japanese garden vignette, so we decided to start working on ours simultaneously, via email, in the hope of encouraging each other. For reasons that are unavoidable, Judy has had to delay her start, but I am going to get going and make all the errors in the hope she can avoid them later.

The major problem for me was how to fix those diagonal walls securely in place; and so it sat, until I thought to myself, but this is going to be landscaped, that will raise the floor level, and anyways, Japanese homes have steps leading up, so raising the floor will give something solid to build the walls against, and allow for the increased surface height due to the landscaping. Off we go, and I hope you will follow me on this adventure.

This is the page in the book the work is based on; it is a view through a garden gate to a house front, with lots of greenery along the way. However, because it is in Japanese, much of the construction will be guess-work, as that is a language I can't read and likely never will! The photo and the bird's-eye view sketch vary somewhat, so I am adjusting as I go along. For example, the photo shows the house walls to be shorter than the vignette walls, while the sketch shows them to be equal.

For starters, I don't like the rock garden walls. Fortunately, I have long owned a reprint of a turn-of-the-last-century book on Japanese gardening, so I will try bamboo fences, with moon gates with lattice work inserts, instead of the rocks and hedges. The book provides excellent designs for authentic fences, and the materials are usually easily available in $ stores or oriental markets. The walkway will be small slate stepping stones, set in a narrow gravel path, rather than large flat rocks. And there will be a Japanese maple somewhere, along with the usual interesting Japanese garden ornaments like deer scarers, stone lanterns and the like, and of course some chosen flowers.

First off is the interior part of the vignette; raised floor, tokonoma with scroll and flowers, shoe rack and mat. Once that is in place, I can work on the garden portion. Lots of moss, texture, and plants are in my thoughts at this point.

This is currently the major project, but I will also be working on smaller pieces for other finished or unfinished projects. I'm going to start with the other window, which should keep me busy for a couple of days, then go on to the raised floor and step. It should keep me going for a while....