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Monday, 30 January 2017

Working Away

It's meant a lot of coats of paint, a lot of sanding, and still more to go, but I managed to get the whitewash finish I wanted for the inside of my FAME vignette box. The top and bottom edges of the bay window will be enclosed, that's the next step, and then I can think about some decorative elements. One thought is to add small panels to the base of the window that match the panels on the manufactured door. The upper portion of the window will be wrapped, and will be the signage for the shop.

I started with a seal coat, as MDF is very thirsty; this helps the first coat of paint to cover much better. That first coat was a pale grey Ceramcoat paint. It covered perfectly the first application, by foam brush. However, the two subsequent applications of cheap dollar store craft paint were a pain! (The first one was applied with a foam brush, the second with a foam roller.)

The cheap antique white paint I used ran out, so I had to get another bottle, and of course, the dollar store didn't carry that shade any more. Therefore, I added straw yellow Ceramcoat to the white DecoArt paint until I got a less glaring white shade. The coats are then sanded back to allow the base, grey coat to shimmer through.

The floor is wide spruce boards, painted with very watery versions of the wall paints, with a finish coat of fine bees' wax polish. This gives a subtle glow, and smells wonderful too! I had to explain the whole concept of shabby chic to my Carpenter-in-Chief, and I'm still not sure that he actually got it.

One of my beefs with some of the shabby chic I see on the internet, is the very messy way in which it is done. It doesn't mean finishes that look derelict and abandoned for years, but finishes that have been worn and lovingly repainted again and again, with wear around the edges, so to speak. I see way too much massive sanding, very out of scale, on a lot of shabby chic projects.

Colour will be added, but it will be in the contents of the vignette and in the many variations of white and grey colours I hope to introduce. We'll see how it all works out; I have until Valentine's Day to get the "build" portion done, before I am allowing myself to work on the contents.

I am also trying to figure out a good way to hinge the side of the front, so I can easily access the interior of the vignette. It may mean using several small hinges, rather than a piano-type hinge as had been suggested....

Friday, 27 January 2017

FAME Club Project

So I am working on two projects at once, something I try not to do as it leads to getting sidetracked. However, this is our club project, and I'd like to have the initial interior/exterior decorating and assembly done before our next meeting, in a little over two weeks. To me, this means the structure is stable, screwed together, painted, with lighting ready to go in place, ready to fill with stuff from my stash.

It's a very simple shop, quite shallow, with a bay window. I hope to create a shabby chic flower shop out of it, as I have a lot of white wire furniture for one, not to mention years of hand-made flowers and plants that currently reside in egg cartons for storage.

The base coat for the interior was a light gray, covered by two coats of antique white; unfortunately, the antique white paint is not my favourite brand, but a dollar store brand and two coats are not enough. Also, I have made a mess of masking my corners. So I think I need to screw the thing together, before I mark the walls and repaint. Oh well.

The door in mine will be fixed; the whole front will, hopefully, swing out for access. My inspiration for the project is a cross between Iris Arentz's wonderfully crowded shops combined with near-white finishes inspired by a number of international artists. I found THE perfect example, but didn't know how to put a photo in an inspiration folder then, and of course, now that I've learned how to do that, I simply can't find it again. I hope to trip over it one of these days.

I am putting more leaves on the Japanese maple for the other project....

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

I'm Building a Tree

A few more leaves have gone on since this photo, but it is kind of a slow process! I ended up using a Copic Sketch pen to colour coffee filter paper, as I found that painting regular paper just didn't give me both the depth of colour and the required translucency. The skeleton of the tree is a nicely shaped twig I found in the garden some time ago, painted all over with tacky glue for strength. Despite that, I did manage to break one of the twiglets, see the whitish lump on the lower part of the bare branch? It is one of several thin coats of carpenter's glue, which has now dried clear and has mended the break in the twig beautifully.

The old thread spool is my "third hand"; it allows me to hold the tree while applying the leaves, as well as acting as a holder while the glue dries. The trunk will likely be cut a bit shorter, as Japanese maples tend to be lower to the ground than most trees. This is not an artfully dwarfed tree, just a "reaching to heaven" type; the one I have in my garden is one of the lower, dwarfed variety, which we coddle through each winter with its own little protective tent, hoping it will survive for another year....

I am using two sizes of punch, and allowing the paper to be coloured in streaks, in order to add more life to the leaves. Because filter paper is so thin, I have to punch a double layer of leaves through two layers of wax paper - for visibility - then peel everything apart, discard the wax paper leaves, and shape the filter paper leaves. The larger ones are getting three shaping creases each, the smaller ones just one. And no, I will not be making any trees for sale any time soon, unless the purchaser agrees to a cost of well over a hundred dollars!

The gate house has been mapped out; I think I know how to proceed. Instead of dowel supports, I am going to use half inch square basswood, which can be rabbeted to take the flat wall panels in between the large posts. The posts will be distressed to look more in keeping with the project. I don't think this will be a modern house, it is beginning to want to be a more traditional form of Japanese house.

 I didn't have enough decent basswood for the four beams required, but was able to acquire some of the not-so-great stuff from the local hobby store, for a price, of course! And it was their last piece in that size. There will be one fixed, barred door and one that will actually slide, hopefully, made from planks of basswood drilled to take the bamboo skewer bars, and the whole set into a basswood frame.

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Faux Door Does Look Better

The partially open door has been added, and I do feel that it improves the overall feel of the vignette; that wide open doorway, on the "street" side of the vignette, just didn't look right to me. It would have been fine for the back garden, which would be private, but not for the front entry.

With the addition of some "furnishings" visible through the open doorway, the impression will be, I hope, that the people in the house have just opened the door to let some air in. Somewhere in my stash of  mini stuff I have some Japanese swords and a samurai helmet on a rack, I'll have to see if those would work on the left-hand wall, as a sort of  tokonoma niche effect. And some geta sandals on the step would also look effective, I think.

The next part of this project is a major one, the construction and placement of the massive, street-side gate to the house. It involves dowels, boards, thatch, plastering, a barred window, and if I can figure out how to do it nicely, a lit lantern. The lantern will probably have to be made from scratch by me....

Once the gate is situated, I can "build" the fences and/or garden walls on the two sides, although they will, like the gatehouse, all have to be removable until the landscaping of the courtyard is finished.

The door was cut of mat board, painted to look like the same cherry finish as the walls, and then framed out with cherry-stained,  wooden strips. In order for the door to sit behind the wall, I had to cut off the board trim at the edge where the door would contact the door frame. The windows were made of cross-halved strips of 1/8" (approx. 3.5 mm) square wood, with the same translucent paper behind the panes as is in the transom window over the door. The door is half the width of the open doorway, plus a small amount for the overlap that would exist if there was another door to meet it.

All in all, I am pleased with the look now.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Bamboo Garden in Place

The bamboo bed has been edged in bamboo and has its dirt in place. The scruffy cat I picked up some years ago is seeing if he wants to live here, but I think I may need a cat asleep in the sun, rather than this one who is seeing something no one else can see.

I also dug out my stone lantern that I purchased years ago, with a view to giving it a spot in the garden eventually, perhaps lighting the path and set on a base of some kind. I still have to think about that one!

The garden is a piece of floral foam, glued to a mat board base and two mat board sides, then strips of old bamboo blind are added. The dirt is tea leaves. The stones under the step up have been swept, and I am pleased with how well they embedded themselves in the tacky glue.

Next up, I have to design the faux door to fit in the frame, and then to make it. After that is done, it will be on to the gate. I really want this vignette done, so I can go on to another unfinished project. With the step and the bamboo bed in place, there really isn't that much space that needs landscaping.
There is still the path to be made, that will take up space, and the gate into the garden will also demand its share of the floor surface. The gate is set at the same angle as the "house", so there will also be a small stretch of sidewalk, as well as a couple of walls and hedges.

If I can only keep the momentum going....

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Back to the Japanese Vignette

My back has settled down somewhat, I only need a couple of sessions with the heating pad now. In between, I am once again working on the Japanese vignette.

Today, I added the "stones" on which the step rests, made of Granitex clay which had been sitting around for years. It still works! I used a bit of antiquing gel on it to dirty it up, then laid down a heavy layer of tacky glue and sifted coarse, white sand on it. I can't remember where I got this sand, it was quite mixed, so when I got it I sifted it and got several grades of "sand" and "gravel" to use for minis.

The bamboo hasn't been planted yet, but you can see the bumps in the stems quite nicely in this photo. So far, so good! There is a ways yet to go, however....

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

AAAAAGH! Lower Back Problems....

I've thrown my back out and can't move much, so there will be a slight hiatus on the blog. I did try to paint paper, standing up, yesterday, but it is too uncomfortable.

The most comfortable position for me right now is flat on my back on a heating pad....

Sunday, 8 January 2017


This turned out just as I had hoped! It still needs a proper, edged flower-bed, but it fits very nicely in that corner of the Japanese vignette. Two days' work, I must be crazy....

I started by stiffening a piece of coarse cotton thread with glue, and allowing that to dry. Once it was dry, I wound it two to three times around portions of my stems, actually bamboo skewers, and glued it down. I did this by eye, so it would be irregular. Tomorrow, I'll post a close-up, as I hope to have the flower-bed done then, so you can see the nice little joints in the bamboo.

Once that was dry, I painted the thread-wrapped skewers with green paint. The joints are highlighted with a dry brushing of lighter green paint, which adds dimension to the rings of thread. Then I started on the leaves.

I have a punch with three sizes of sword-shaped leaves on it, so I punched about a hundred or so of those in three shades of green-painted paper, to add variety. The leaves were creased down the centre to give them dimension, and I began gluing them on to very thin strips of curved, green paper stems. The top of each bamboo stem has three sets of three small leaves, pointing upwards. Then I did a couple of rows of the medium-size leaves, transitioning from 3 to 5 per stem. At the base, I used the larger size of leaves, sometimes mixed in with the odd medium-size one. The lower end of the stems will be left bare. Tomorrow, once they are thoroughly dry and planted in their bed, I'll spray them with a clear satin spray.

I need to paint paper for Japanese maple leaves, and then punch myself into a stupor as I'll likely need hundreds, to fill in my Japanese maple tree, which will go on the other side of the doorway. I've saved a very nicely-shaped branched twig from the garden for that.

Friday, 6 January 2017

A Few More UFO's, UFO'S No Longer

I put together half a dozen "crystal" candlesticks, and two ewer-and-basin sets, two covered chamber pots, and a soap dish, all Chrysnbon left-overs I picked up from the yard sale table at some show years ago. The blue pieces still need to be painted; there is also a set of men's shaving gear with this set. Once I decide which project to use these in, I can decide on the colour. Right now, I'm thinking ivory with gold accents, which would fit just about anywhere.

While looking at this photo, I realized I didn't like the door step into the Japanese vignette. So I did something about it.

I designed and made a small step-up platform, following a photo in the Japanese book I'm working with. This will have "cement" footings, gravel underneath, a fence on one side and a bamboo plant in a small raised bed on the other - as of now! In front of the step-up I plan to place a flat "boulder" or perhaps a rock-studded paving stone, I haven't quite decided yet. The granite rocks on my patio won't be accessible again until April or May because of the snow, so whatever I use I will have to create.

I'm also going to add a sliding door panel, as I feel the opening is way too big. On Pinterest I found a photo of a very nice one, from The Guys from Texas, designed for their tea-house class. It will have a solid bottom panel with trim, and a 3 over 3 light window in the upper part, and be fixed behind the right-hand wall to look as if it has just been slid open.

Then I have to design the gate; this is a huge affair with 2 sliding doors, a slatted window in the peak, and a central thatch roof as well as two smaller side thatch roofs. For the thatch or straw, I will try garden raffia, sewn on the sewing machine to an interfacing backing and then decorated over the sewing lines with embroidery to mimic twine tying. This gate will have to be pretty much free-standing, as I can't fix it in place until the courtyard landscaping is done.

The landscaping is, after all, the focus of this vignette. There will be a Japanese maple, the  bamboo, hydrangeas, hostas, possibly an iris if I can figure out the Japanese version, which has a much looser ruffled petals, a small water feature, and a stepping stone path, with bamboo fences here and there and pine tree hedges on the edges. Now is the time to see if post-Christmas, I can acquire some in-scale looking pine stuff for the hedges and perhaps, a cloud-form tree.

The book I'm using is in Japanese, which I can't read, so I am going by measurements given in their sketches and what I think they used to create the scene. It's kind of a hit-and-miss process, as I'm guessing at all the small measurements. Somewhere, I know I have the instructions for a boulder water barrel with a bamboo dipper and pipe, which would work very nicely in this scene. The hard part will be to create a serene setting, so I have to practice self-control in regards to the garden plan.

I will have to put something in the interior of the house, probably a tokonoma niche, and perhaps a shoe rack, to give the idea there is a whole house behind the brown wall. I'd kind of like a sleeping cat on the step, too....

I really am trying to finish some of my many UFO's!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Finished UFO

By temporarily withdrawing from a bunch of my usual activities, I hope to catch up a bit on the multitudinous UnFinished Objects I have sitting around the house, in all my hobbies, not just miniatures. (Quilting, embroidery, knitting and dolls' couture, among others; I have mentioned that I seem to have too many hobbies.)

Yesterday, I dug through my box of kits never done, and pulled out a potting table I purchased at Camp MiniHaHa back in 2009.

The bits and pieces, along with the instructions, are pictured above. I did make a few tiny changes, using thicker wood for the peg board, for example; that's the piece across the picket fence edge of the table. The peg are rather closely spaced, so I don't think they could be used to hang much other than potting tools, in which case the pegs are rather long. The shelves at the left are somewhat narrower than their supports, and are made of craft stick pieces. One of them is somewhat warped, not unusual for craft sticks, so I decided to add some tiny shelf supports to strengthen the structure.

And here is the finished item, photographed in the space for the garden of the UFO Japanese vignette.
I haven't decided yet whether I want to paint or stain the potting bench, as I really don't have a place in mind for it, and besides, I already own a perfectly nice potting bench, complete with pots, packages, watering can, dead plants and the like. This piece may end up in my Shop in a Box....

So that's that. Another item done. Now I'll go find something else to finish up. And with three kids, now all adults, there is a huge box of Lego blocks etc. to sort through; I intend to make up all the kits they got over the years, and store the pieces that way. By the way, there may be a one-off Lego and minis story one of these days....

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Playing With A New Plant

Happy New Year! We saw the New Year in with a case of the flu here, but we are just about over it now. While waiting, I did keep busy, checking out all the December 2016 Advent Calendar pages I could find. The French one had a wonderful new plant on it, so I decided to give it a go.

Did you pop the berries of the snowberry bush when you were a child? The scientific name is Symphorina, Symphorine in French. The lovely detail in the miniature is what caught my eye. I loved popping those berries when I was a child in The Netherlands, they grew all over the nearest city park. My Carpenter-in-Chief, as a child in Nova Scotia, also popped those berries, on the way to and from school. So the berries are also a bit of a nostalgia for childhood.

There may be a small Shabby Chic vignette in my future this year, and this is one of those plants that would tone beautifully in such a setting. You can find it at the blog jicolin, calendrier d'avant 2016, Dec. 16 - I really don't know why the blog won't let me add in a proper link, but just google jicolin and you will get there.

The maker used small styrofoam balls from Pascale Garnier, which were then baked to reduce the size; I prefer to use household items, so I used some model railroad scale apples for the tiny berries at the top of the branch. When I discovered these were much the same size as the poppy seeds in my pantry, I decided to use those for the second batch of baby berries I made.

When the tiny "berries" had dried thoroughly, I put more glue on the stems and added mustard seeds, shaping them a bit with my fingers. Once these larger "berries" were dry, I glued some extra seeds in the odd gap that appeared here and there.

Once the glue was dry, I painted the whole thing white for an undercoat, using a dry brush to remove excess paint from between the seeds, as it could hide detail. Once that was dry,  the tiny seeds are painted a very pale green, and the larger seeds pink in one batch and white in the second, again dry brushing to clean up detail. I found a tiny bit of cream added to the white paint toned down the starkness a little. (I was taught that one should avoid stark white and stark black in miniatures as a rule.) I used a brown micro-tip permanent pen to make the tiny dot on the ends of the berries, that represent the bottom blossom. (I used a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen - you have to use a permanent pen, or paint, to prevent smearing when varnishing.)  I had to touch up the green stems, then used satin varnish on the berries. For the leaves, I followed the tutorial on the advent calendar, as I had one of the suggested punches.

I tried to add a close-up of the berries, but the photo comes out sideways, although I rotated it previously; however, the computer won't let us - three of us have tried!

Then I spent a fair bit of the day figuring out how other miniaturists create those wonderfully shabby and chalky interiors, and making copious notes....