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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Easter Greetings

Friday we had a serious sleet storm here; it rained freezing rain most of the day, cancelling Good Friday church services around the area.

Easter is a celebration of the renewal of life; today, for a while, the sun came out so I took a photo out of my kitchen window (I was still in my pajamas!) to get a photo of the sun on the ice-covered trees.
This seemed to me to be a good reminder of that renewal of life....

I haven't done much in minis the last week or so, as I am trying once again to finish some other projects. Those are nearly done, and when they are, I think I have figured out how to make a decent miniature belladonna plant. Yes, it is poisonous, but in small quantities such things could also become healing plants. Besides, if I remember correctly, women used to put belladonna drops in their eyes, as it dilated the pupils; that would appeal to all the males nearby. Of course, eventually it would also hurt the woman using that poison!

I wish you all a joyous celebration of this season of renewal; there is a saying, March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion, and it definitely held true again this year. My early tulips and irises are pushing up under the leaf mulch, but this area of Canada won't be considered frost-free until the end of May....

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Matboard Seems to Have Reacted Well....

I decided to bite the bullet and grout my book vignette sidewalk, and I am fairly pleased with the way it turned out. For the grout, I mixed some drywall compound, a dollop of dark burnt umber paint, and an equal dollop of white glue. Then I mixed that to a homogenous mass, and used my fingers to push the grout in between the matboard granite sets. Then I used a damp paper towel to wipe off the excess. And another paper towel to tidy up....

The colour is a bit lighter than I wanted, but I was afraid to add too much paint and have the compound decide not to dry! It looks like old sand/dirt/cement, so it looks like what I wanted it to look like.

If you decide to try this, remember you MUST give your matboard at least 3 coats of outdoor matte sealant (the bottle on its side in the background), letting each coat dry thoroughly. I only had one granite set top peel off, and that can be easily re-glued in place. I allowed the matte sealant to drip in between the individual bricks, so the sides of the matboard would also be waterproofed.

Now I can plant moss and weeds.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Granite Sets Sidewalk

Sponge-painted the sidewalk for my book vignette yesterday, now I have to give it three seal coats and then see if I need grout. The spaces between the bricks are rather too noticeable, right now. I've used drywall patching for this in the past, and then flooded the (sealed) bricks with a dirty water wash to tone down the white compound.

The front right corner is supposed to get a street light....

Today was my working day, so aside from the sealer (I use outdoor matte sealer pre-grouting), it is unlikely I will get anything else done.  The edges of the base will get a nice oak strip finish once the whole project is finished. And once the grout is done, I can plant some moss and weeds at the base of the book foundation.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Paving Going In

The square sidewalk tiles I had planned on using for my altered books vignette just didn't look right; I know I've seen old sidewalks in Europe with these little square gray paving stones, but something was off. So I decided to go with granite sets, or bricks; I think these used to be made by prisoners, the real origin of the phrase, time with hard labour!

I used mat board (mount board) for these, some pieces with a slight texture; I decided that if these sets were made by hand, there should be fine tool marks. The sets were cut with scissors, for an uneven, handmade look, from 1/4" (less than 1 cm) strips cut with an Exacto knife; I wore out two or three blades!

With this method, sets are laid lengthwise to create a kerb; then the rows are filled in in a staggered pattern.

As I thought I was done, I realized that I couldn't have a straight edge where the book walls meet the sidewalk, so I peeled the last sets in each row off, and replaced them with custom-fitted ones; and I found a pre-painted kerb I just had to saw to fit, so I could shape the granite stones around it.

Now I have to paint them to look like worn granite brick-shaped stones....

Friday, 4 March 2016

St. Johnswort Is Finished

Yesterday (Thursday) I worked, so no minis got done. However, today I decided to finish the flowers and it all got done. Fiddly, but it should look good in my Tudor apothecary garden.

I figured out that if I sort of twirled a corsage pin carefully in the centre of my tiny flowers and star sepals, they would slide up the stems without breaking, providing the wrapping didn't come off the stems first. And provided the glue didn't skin over almost as soon as I put a drop of it on a container to dip my little blossoms in! However, I persevered, and all things considered, I am pleased with the result. The last flowers are being assembled above; the main stem to which they will be attached is sitting in the spool holding the antique silk thread I used for the stamens. Each tiny set of stamens is tipped with orange paint....

The lobster is only sitting there because I had the glue out and it needed gluing.

And here is the finished product; it will eventually need more leaves on the bottoms of the stems, but until they are planted, I will leave them bare because of other plants that may be planted in front of it.
I used a 3/16" (4 mm or less) five-pointed flower punch from Ruth Hanke for the flowers, and the paper is thinner, commercial printer or copier paper. The leaves of the flowers are wider than the leaves from the kit, but the colour is pretty much identical. I used some of my painted printer paper for the leaves.

That took nearly 6 days to finish! Now I am taking a short break, and once I have gotten my energy back, I will try to create belladonna plants for my apothecary garden. There is a tutorial on the French site, Minipat, but it uses dried flowers for the blossoms, while I prefer to use paper, so I'll have to figure out how to create deep, purple-pink, drooping bell-shaped blossoms.

By the way, most of my tweezers and scissors seem to be magnetic; anyone know how to de-magnetise them? It usually isn't a problem, but the stems of these bunched flowers and berries are so tiny, they just stick to the tweezer tips when I try to attach them to the flowers.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Now It's On to the Flowers, Day 1

My task glasses arrived today, so despite bad weather - sleet and freezing rain - we picked them up and guess what, up close I can see now! But a meter away everything is blurry....

However, I am noticing that reading, embroidery and close miniature work are much easier, so it was worth it. I am going to be one of those old ladies who have 3 pairs of glasses hanging around their necks!

Today, I began on the flowers. The tutorial for them was on the French Advent Calendar for 2007, which I think you find via the jicolin site. The plan is to tackle these the same way as the berries, and use leaves to hold the additional blossoms. The hardest part with these is the tiny tuft of frayed-out silk thread required to represent the stamens of the St. Johnswort flower.

To start with, I put a blossom on each of the 7 stem wires. Then I glued on the thread tuft. When that was completely dry, I carefully dry-brushed the ends of the trimmed tufts with orange paint. Next, I placed 2 small leaves; fortunately, there were exactly enough left in the kit for this purpose. (The kit was not for the flowers, remember!)  Then it is on to the individual blossoms; I think I will have to make 6 or 7 dozen of these, and just hope I have enough of the fine wire for that. Once the blossom and the sepal, a very tiny star, have been threaded onto the wire, I have to glue on the silk thread and wait for it to dry.

As you can see, it is the same method as was used for the berries. The tiny stars for the sepals are only a couple of mm, or perhaps 1/8", across. The blossoms are a little bigger. The US penny gives an idea of the idiotic scale at which I'm working. And the sepals are optional, but I decided I might as well give it a try. These bits are all waiting for their stamens, which I will get to work on and allow to dry before supper.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Well, It Took Three Days....

The berries are done! My eyes hurt! And I still have to make the flowers....

The paper for the leaves is very interesting in this Pascale Garnier kit; it reminds me of cigarette papers but can you paint those? (No, I never smoked but when I was a child in The Netherlands I had older cousins and uncles who rolled their own!) The instructions suggested creasing them by pressing down on them with the back of an Xacto knife, and it works beautifully that way. To fold the little stem, I pushed down on the back of it with the tip of my favourite bent tweezers. The photo below is of the first set of leaves and the berries at the top of the stems:

The last batch of berries is drying. I had to make myself go away to allow things to dry completely, so I did some embroidery in between gluing sessions. Step two is to glue the first sets of berries to the point where the tiny leaves meet the stems: 

They are starting to look good, aren't they? I am surprised, as this is an extremely fiddly process, and I had no real idea if it was going to look as I had hoped. Once this dries, I glued on a second set of leaves, the larger ones, and when they were dry, glued the remaining berries in place.

Once I added some more leaves - I'll have to add still more when I "plant" them - they began to look like the finished product. So here they are, 7 stems of Hypericum berries in various stages of ripeness. I really do like them:

But I definitely do NOT want to make more of these; however, the technique of setting the tiny berry stems on the leaves is one I will have to remember for other multiple flower heads. And once I get my new, task-specific glasses, my eyes should be able to cope a little better.

Now I have to start on the flowers that eventually turn into these little berries!