Welcome to my life . . . .

This is a blog about my passion: dollhouses and miniatures. This particular blog was started to follow my miniature dream: to create a Victorian Mansion. But work on my Mansion is slow. Very slow. Sloth slow. Ice Age glacier movement slow. Why? Because I am easily distracted by other personal miniature projects (I have 50+ roomboxes and 15 dollhouses in various stages of incompletion) and because I work for a miniature shop and am often up to my elbows in miniature projects that aren't mine! So, I thought, some artists work in a particular medium (woods, watercolors, clay, oils, etc.), I work in progress . . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Verde: It's not easy being green

My best friend's birthday is in November (just like mine) and we get each other "Birithmas" (Birthday and Christmas together) Gifts.  My other friend's birthday is also later in the year (not as late as November) and so she gets Birithmas gifts too.  I enjoyed making our gifts in the past (Beach Stall Birithmas Gift) and starting this early in the year, I fully intend to make this year's gifts too!

But I had no ideas.  Until reviewing my friend's photos and saw this window display decorated for Christmas from her trip to New York City:
Queen of Hearts Window Display
I love bright bold colors and I liked the fact that this was not a "traditional Christmas" scene of trees and nativity scenes.  I loved the sparkle/glitter too.  He's hard to see but my favorite part is the little dog down in front of the Queen:
And they sparkle!
So it was settled: My friend is getting a NYC shop window roombox!  I figured out a design and how to get lighting into it.  AND, I couldn't resist making the inspiration for the project: the little green sparkle dog!
The chihuahua starting place
 This little dog from Falcon seemed like a close enough match.  Even though Mom is certain that the actual dog statue in the window display is a Chinese Crested dog, my friend is getting a chihuahua.  I painted him green first (except his face because for some reason I recalled his face as being gold sparkles in the picture, and not green).  (Did you just scroll back up to check?  LOL)  Then I glued green thread to his tail to create the poof wispy tail the statue has.  While tail glue dried, I covered him in the green sparkles (except his face).  Using a sheer ribbon I sewed a gathering stitch thru it and created his colar:
Getting green (with envy?)
His tail is tied up while the sparkles dry but I intend to fold his tail down to mimic the statue.  This is about the time that I had the brilliant idea to double check friend's photos to discover my memory was faulty and his face is green!  So back to painting:
Anyone else thinking "You're a rotten, Mr. Grinch" like I was while painting?
Tail is still tied down but otherwise he's done!
His tail did not turn out as I'd had liked.  I guess I needed silk thread instead of polyester or something.  So I am not putting it on his ears and paws like the real statue has.  He is just supposed to create an effect; not be an exact replica, right?
His name is Verde.
Now, came the uneasy feeling that although this project works great for my one friend, the other one is not a shop gal (she detests shopping, especially clothes shopping).  That's why we get along so well: just like her, the only shopping I enjoy is for food or miniatures.  But I like all of us having the same gift (cuz I'm making one of these for myself although mine will have a chocolate shop window display).  I had no inspirational ideas for other friend so she was going to get stuck with shop window display gift too -- maybe she could do chocolates too?

Until this morning at 2 am when my dog woke me up (as she usually does between 1 and 3 am) to go out and as I stood there waiting for dog to return from the yard I had a design epiphany!  So other friend is now getting her own awesome kick-butt roombox (which I will make one for myself as well).  That design I will show/tell you about once I get it cut/assembled, but let's just say there may or may not be a shark involved.  Yes, I love Birithmas gifts: apparently it's because I also make one for myself while making ones for my friends!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I'm a Terrible Sister

My little sister is a high school English teacher.  She also likes miniatures (not obsessed with them like I am, but she enjoys them).  A few years ago she bought a tissue box roombox (small room in the front to decorate and it holds tissues in the back) for her classroom.
Unfinished Tissue Box Roombox for sale in the store
And periodically I make scenes from novels for her to swap out/put in the roombox.  Some past years' scenes were Harry Potter, Game of Thrones (thanks to a 7" high Daenerys Targaryen figurine I found in a Walgreens of all places!), Huck Finn (sailing along on his raft), and Pride and Prejudice.  They are not always perfectly 1:12 scale, but high school kids don't care: they look forward to seeing the scenes swamped out.  And anything that gets the kids attention regarding reading is good as far as my English teacher sister is concerned!

So, in December of 2015 I came up with a great Christmas gift for my sister -- I'd make her another scene for her roombox.  And I had a wonderful idea for the scene (from my favorite Nathaniel Hawthorne novel): The Scarlet Letter!  But finding or making a Puritan miniature lady ten days before Christmas is hard to do.  So Hester Prynne must wait....I quickly switched to another idea when I spotted this whale in the toy aisle in a store: Moby Dick.
Great White Whale is more grey than white, but that's ok.
But, ten days before Christmas is not the best time to cram in an ocean creation either.  So sister got an empty box wrapped up for Christmas.  Well, not completely empty: there was a note inside that told her the gift would be completed around January 15, 2016 (and since my sister knows how awful I am at deadlines she had to know that that really meant don't expect it done before February 15, 2016).

Problem is, I dream big.  I wanted to have part of the bow of the boat in the scene.  Or maybe a harpoon hurtling thru the air at the whale.  Wait, that's too violent for a school setting -- well, it is really? High school is already pretty violent all on it's own with those surging hormones, teenage death glares, and attitudes.  Anyway, forget the harpoon; avoid that whole issue.  Focus on the boat - can I do that? Maybe a boat in the distance?  Oh crud, the distance -- the horizon!  I need some back ground or back drop to this scene or else the whale is just swimming along in a striped wallpapered room.  Swimming along...I still need to figure out the waves/water.

Those dopey waves intimidated me.  Do I use Scenic Water (by Deluxe Materials)? But then I have to create a sealed clear box to put the scene in or else I'll have liquid spilling out everywhere before it can dry.  Can I chop away at styrofoam to create the sea? But then how do I nestle the Whale into the "water"?  It won't look very natural.  I want breaking wave caps and textured depth.  Do I use Solid Water or Making Waves (by Deluxe Materials as well)?  After researching (Deluxe Materials Website) I discovered that I really like the concept of Making Waves and I sell it in my store so I really should know how to use it.  Experiment time!

By now it's the end of February and time to move forward (only a month behind schedule).  But there are customer projects, taxes to be done, ill children, Spring Break, ill husband, sick myself, etc.) and here it is, almost the middle of April (are your taxes done?), and my sister still does not have her Christmas gift.  I am a terrible, bad, no-good, rotten sister.

Today it's getting done!

Step 1: Make the base.  Using Dap wall spackle (Goes on pink! Dries White when it's time to paint) I created the waves starting with 2 clumps that I fanned out and pushed together to create humps and lumps:
Dumped two wads of spackle onto my board
Spread them out, pushed parts together...
Used a paper towel and lifted the spackle up until it folded over itself creating my caps
I remembered to make an indent where my whale will go right in the middle (wrapped the whale in plastic wrap and pushed him into the pink wad).

Step 2 (after the pink spackle dried white): painted the waves in various shades of blue, darker at the board and lighter as it went up.
Spackle is all white - some areas cracked but that's ok
Painted various mixtures of blue, gray, and black; some white plaster still shows thru
Dry brushed some white for the crests and breaking caps
 After the layers of painting were applied, I sprayed it with a high gloss sealer:
Even after drying it was glossy, resembling water
It was so glossy even after drying that I didn't need to use the Making Water - it resembled water enough for my tastes.  So I glued the whale on...
As it will be seen by the students in the roombox
Reverse side will not be seen as it will be in the roombox, but if sis decides to turn him around, it'll look good this way too

Looking down on my whale in the ocean
So the whale is frolicking in the ocean waves...Not bad for a day's worth of work.  I ran to a local scrap-booking store and bought a piece of paper that has the sky and an ocean view of sand or islands in the distance to use as a back drop.

He's an odd substitute for Hester Prynne, but he'll do.  And now I can release my guilt over ignoring my sister's gift for so long and move ahead on some other 2016 Christmas gifts that I need to be starting soon if I am going to get them done by the holidays!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Plant Roombox

This was a quick little project we stuck in between the other customers' houses we are finishing.  It is a shadow box kit from Real Good Toys.  Customer wanted a small space to put plants so this 4-1/2" deep by approximately 14-1/2" wide roombox seemed perfect!  I was to stain the exterior, Magic Brik the interior walls (How To Magic Brik: My Previous Magic Brik Project), and Magic Ston the interior floor: a simple and sweet job.  Until I opened the box to assemble it and realized the box is MDF and not real wood so...no staining.

For those that have never tried (i.e. for those who haven't accidentally forgotten and stained MDF anyway), MDF doesn't stain well.  There is no grain to enhance or actual wood to create that beautiful richness when you stain it.  MDF just absorbs the stain, becoming a brown color with streaks of darker brown depending upon your brush strokes.
Porch Floor made of MDF we stained
I pointed this out to the customer, but she elected to have us stain it anyway: she isn't interested so much in what the exterior is like: she is more focused on the interior!  Most of the exterior isn't seen anyway because who ever looks at the back of a roombox?  And, most likely, the roombox will be on a bookshelf or up against a wall.
All of this will be against the bookshelf and never seen
I also debated about attempting to faux paint it to look stained as I had read about in another miniature blog (Late Victorian English Manor) but I was too chicken to try experimenting on a customer's project that had such an immediate deadline.  There would be no time to practice or experiment with new techniques.  But it was a good lesson to learn that if customers have their hearts set on a stained exterior I ought to convince them to buy Alessio's shadowboxes or roomboxes which are made out of real wood!

So on to the interior...
Per customer's instructions, we Magic Brik'ed the interior walls with red bricking.  Then we sponge painted over them in white, leaving some spots of the red showing thru.  We started the Magic Ston to create the stone flooring:
Step 1 for Flooring
Step 2 for Flooring
Customer wants a light gray stone flooring, but I don't think the monotone gray looks very realistic.  So I painted some of the stones to add a touch of realism:
Step 3 for Flooring and front trim is glued on
Sconces are in:
With lights on....
I don't know exactly what type of plants the customer is putting in this box, but I grabbed some off the shelves here at the store to see how it'd look with stuff in the room:
Finished box
Customer is picking the box up tomorrow before she heads off to the Chicago Show where I'm sure she'll find all sorts of fun goodies for her roombox!

Now I've got to get back to work on the Little Lost Cause or the Donation House!