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 . . . .

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lighthouse demolition

 Remember this dollhouse (Prior blog post about this project)?

Real Good Toys Lighthouse

Customer decided the Currituck brick look wasn't going to work for her: she wanted it displayed on the balcony at her beach house (or on her living room table when she wasn't at the beach house to monitor the weather on her balcony). Even though I put 4 coats of UV protective sealant spray on the paper bricking, after 3+ years it began to fade in the direct sunlight and salt air, and some of the brick papers were loose.

So she's hired me to remove the bricking, sand it down, and she wants it painted all white (similar to the Okracoke lighthouse).

Sanded down to the raw wood

Paper has been removed. Glue residue, brown primer paint, and most of the siding has been sanded off with my Dremel oscillating sanding tool. 

Gave it 2 coats of primer:

And contacted customer to see if dark brown roof and trims should be painted black or not. But customer has been told she needs surgery at the end of the month so she's asked that I put the project aside until she's recovered and can research how she wants it to look.  So customer's house has been put aside and I'm back at my mansion again!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Constructing the Dream

Finishing my friend's Birithmas gift and having a few quiet days to myself has created a vortex of creativity and motivation I haven't had in years. I pulled out my mini dream house (The Mansion; aka Fantasy Victorian Mansion, because it's not time period authentic). I have very few photos of the house all together (both bases, with the Main House on one base and the Addition House on the other base) during construction. But the rooftop has never been fully assembled or even roughly put in place for very long...
Feb 2018 photo House in Progress (missing the top roof)
Feb 2018 photo showing "stone" being attached
Late 2018 photo doesn't have addition side in full view

I realized I was hitting 2 major stumbling blocks with this project. First issue was minor in theory but massive in reality: the bases were built to my specifications, with wheels, to make it easier for me to roll the main house and addition house together and apart so that all rooms could be seen. HOWEVER, the wheels vibrate the house so much that things would fall over inside and finicky delicate electrical connections, like sconces and fireplace embers, would frequently need repair/reconnections. Every time I would roll the house out to play, I knew I would have to spend an hour or so putting things back, regluing anything that had broken when it fell over, and reestablishing the electrical connections (which involved removing a wall or two).
Have to remove this wall to reconnect the sconce and fireplace embers that are in the adjoining room

Wall fits snuggly back in place once I'm done, but still a pain to have to do every time

So I knew the wheels needed to come off the bases. But with no solutions for moving the project easily and the looming task of removing everything out of the house and off the base so I could flip the base to get the wheels off, I had postponed working on the project for the last 5 years. But that ends now:
Took Main House off its base and made the base rooms' openings larger since it was already tipped on its side for removing the wheels.

Was pleased to get wheels off, and decided to keep going...

Finished construction! Addition rooftop rooms are assembled and roof pieces are assembled and glued.

Stained the roof panels the same stain as the shingles that will be glued on.

Second issue is that the house is overwhelming. There are 29 or 30 rooms (depending on if you count the Luggage Storage Room and Laundry Room as separate rooms), and that's not including the hallways and outdoor spaces. And I easily get distracted. I should methodically work on it, room by room, but I get excited about one aspect in one room and start that room (Hi, Ballroom Ceiling) and then bounce back to another room (gotta finish the trim molding in the Lady's Sitting Room), until I find the perfect pieces to kit-bash to make the cabinets for the Butler's Pantry! And then I wonder, why did I leave this cut out in the molding of the Ballroom Ceiling? Why aren't these 2 pieces of door trim glued in the Lady's room? Did I just get distracted and not finish it or was there a very particular, very important reason I didn't finish it?  And I get stuck in stalemate, scared to work on the house, because I don't remember what I was doing.

So I am spending this week getting the exterior fixed up. I know I won't complete it. But I can make a lot of progress on it. And then I need to focus on just one room. Either the Conservatory, or the Foyer, or the Lady's Bathroom. I can do this. Stay focused...in the meantime, here are some pictures of the pretty floors in the Mansion:
Library's flooring

Guest Room's floor

Lady's Bedroom floor

Friday, February 9, 2024

Birithmas 2021 thru 2024

My 3 friends have never met each other, but they are collectively responsible for this project.

First inspiration came from my old neighbor and friend, Chip. He posted this picture from a "hippies" Facebook page and I fell in love:

I loved the colors, the flowers, and the vines overhead! But I couldn't envision it as a miniature scene; it needed something more. Then I was talking with my other friend, Maria, about her home town, Arequipa in Peru. It is called the white city since most of the buildings are white with white roads. And the pictures I googled inspired me:
Street in Arequipa

Another street in Arequipa

And it began to form in my head: mostly white street scene on one side and the colorful restaurant scene on the other side! But I have no time to create a new project...

Unless it was a gift for someone! And that's how friend #3, Best Friend in Texas, also became responsible for this project's life. Best Friend and I usually exchange Birithmas gifts: birthday and Christmas rolled into 1 gift since we both have Nov birthdays and don't want to pay shipping twice within a month to then ship each other Christmas gifts less than 4 weeks later.  But, due to Covid, graduations, college tours and trips for kids, and health issues, I have not exchanged Birithmas gifts with my bestie since 2020. So I got to work on our Birithmas gifts!

I knew it was to be 2 side-by-side scenes (one side an open patio and the other a street scene) and I wanted a tile wall fountain in there somewhere. Mocked up a design with foam core poster fairly quickly.

And then the project sat still for a bit. I needed wood to cut the final design on. And I had to research various products to find just the right tile, bricking, doors, etc. for the exact look I wanted. And then when I finally had most of the pieces, I got started:

Got the wood cut and rough designed the fountain/pond

Using molds I bought from Gravik (Link to Gravik's Etsy page) I created the bricks, cobblestone, and wall stone for the floorings and street side of the scene.

Since I have to ship this project, I was thrilled to find a LIGHTWEIGHT Sculpey clay!

I had to create a realistic "white" clay (didn't want a bright white)

Although my "street side" of the scene will be white on white, I didn't think a bright white (how the clay is sold) would look realistic since no city stone would look that clean. So I had to add some tan clay to the bright white.
Finished clay after being baked in the mold

I didn't like how the 2x2 stone looked on the wall. If it were a floor it would have been fine. But being vertical it looked too large and blocky. So I used my blade to cut the 2x2 blocks into 1x2 and staggered them on the wall to create a more realistic wall fa├žade:

Then I used the bricking molds to create over 1,500 bricks (about 400 more bricks than I needed, but I don't math well so I had overestimated how many I'd need).

Added glitter to some, cuz why not?

Various shades of bricking

Laying the bricking down in the scene

Painted the MDF laser-cut door I had bought off Etsy to make it look like wrought iron and wood:
Painted the center black to resemble wrought iron

Painted streaks of brown hues on door edging to make MDF resemble wood

Both our doors together

Also bought amazing tiles from Gravik to create the wall fountain. Using paint, EnviroTex, and a product called Solid Water, I created the pond and fountain (Post about water effects).
Made ponds with Enviro Tex and plexi blister pack covers

The fountain caused some headaches since the water "stream" kept shrinking and breaking as it dried.  Took four attempts to finally get it to work.

As it dried, strands of "water" kept breaking where it met the pond

Finally finished with pond and fountain

Also made some pots to go in the narrow ledge shelf. Sawed a wooden bowl in half and created a back to cover the open side to create a half-round bowl. Then painted it to resemble terra cotta:
Full wood bowl on the left; cut bowl with wood backing in middle and on right

Painted to resemble terra cotta like pot

Unpainted bowl pot with flowers in narrow ledge on street side

Other walls were finished off with a textured spray called Orange Peel. I had used it before on my Moroccan vignette and thought it would work well on these walls, like a stucco effect.

The patio side

The street side

The spray I used

Prior project I had used the spray on

Then came my dilemma: My original vision had lattice and vines going over the patio half of the scene. But then that blocks the view from above into the pond/fountain.

With lattice in the way you can't see into pond fountain area as well

This way it's open and easily seen

So I made my friend's lattice first. Made it removeable so that if she thinks it blocks the view too much, she can remove it and fill in the brick hole with flowers or a bush or something.

People can always bend down and peek into the scene to see fountain wall area

Can really see the plastic under the dirt from this view - had to make sure she could remove it all if she doesn't like it.

And finally, I played, filling in some pieces to get a feel for its final destination (although it still will get alterations before it is "done"). My patio side will be the outdoor portion of a "restaurant", like the image my friend Chip inspired me with and the street side will eventually have many red pops of flowers on the bushes like my friend Maria's home town (I did decide to ditch the fountain at the end of the street as it seemed redundant - scene already has one wall fountain):

Cobblestone was also made using a mold purchased from Gravik

Chairs still need to be painted various colors

Can't wait to add all the details and more plants!

So, it was sent to her late, but friend finally received her Birithmas 2021, 2022, 2023, and now I'm counting it as our 2024 gift too since it didn't make it to her in time for her birthday/Christmas in 2023!