Thursday, November 29, 2018

Maryann drew my attention to a recent article in the Guardian. Excellent read! Simon Garfield explains miniaturists in a nutshell; I understand myself so much better now. Follow the link if you would like to know why miniatures are big.

Yes, I'm still alive. Life is a bit surrealistic at present but I smell cinnamon and pine needles and a holiday break on the breeze. Let's chat soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hold the Door!

Cat wants out. Sorry Cat, it's a Nowhere Door! The Nowhere Door is installed. It gives me pleasure for many small reasons; the lintels aligned perfectly, there's a little gap under the door for the wind to whistle through in winter, the staircase will fit next to it with a millimeter to spare. Although I hoped for all these things, they happened more by accident than by careful measurement.

This is where it started. After thinking it over, I decided that I couldn't live without a door with a fanlight without illumination. Part of the house had to be dismantled to cut a hole in the back wall. In the process walls got dirty and I had to repaint.

Tidied up and measured for the door.

The Del Prado Dollhouse has a plastic front door with a fanlight (left). It will be installed at the front of the house in the future. I made something similar for the Nowhere Door, using several layers of card stock.

With my own studio door as inspiration ;-)

Somehow I lost track of my intention to take photos for the blog, and when I saw again, the door was finished...
I used some pretty lace tape behind the fanlight once again and the doorknob and back-plate were made of card stock and an electrical contact point. I painted it gold, and even managed to cut out a tiny keyhole. Very satisfying.

Note about working with card stock: It's easy to cut with a guillotine or scissors and one can shape it with an emery board, which makes it a pleasure to work with. Once I started painting it warped and blistered here and there. I don't think I'll use card stock again, wood feels better.

Sneak peek at the soon-to-be staircase through an outside window. I'm making slow progress with that but it's coming together.

When one door closes, another always opens. That's how life works. Important doors have closed for me in the last few years, and for a while, it seemed like every new door I tried was a Nowhere Door. Lately, there's an open door in the distance and I'm so excited to see where it leads I feel like screaming at the Universe, 'Hold the door!'. If it's the right one, it will be open when I get there.

It's been a scandalously long time since I wrote a blog. Thank you for continuing to read, and welcome to my new readers. In real life the studio is busy, the new writing job is going well, and a tarantula had 780 babies. That's newsworthy of its own post, but I'm quickly going to latch it on here if you want to continue reading.

The ball that looks like a mushroom in the foreground is the egg sac.  It's about 5 centimeters in diameter. You can see the tools I work with and in the background the glass incubation box.

 Yep, 780 babies in there! They are 7-8 weeks old. At this developmental stage, they are referred to as 'eggs with legs'. The yellow dots that look like their abdomen is actually the egg they developed from. As soon as I opened the sac and saw that it was viable, I sent the picture to the breeder who mentored me through the process. Breeding tarantulas is not like other kinds of pets, it's so complicated that a viable batch is huge news. Within half an hour of posting the photo, all the babies were sold.

 Babies in the incubator. They are about 2mm long.

Over the next several days, each little spider was carefully transferred on the tip of a soft brush to an individual deli cup with special soil and kept warm in the incubator. The little spiders were delivered in batches of 100 to dealers all over the country. They will stay in their small containers for up to two years until they've grown enough to be sold to hobby keepers.

I kept a few of the babies to raise for my own collection and will show progress pictures as they grow. Right now they are what's called first instar slings. They don't eat yet; they are still absorbing nutrients from their egg and although they can wriggle their legs, they can't walk. When they molt for the first time (in the next week or so), they will be second instar slings and will start on a three-times-weekly diet of dead insects, since they are too small to catch their own food.

You might wonder what happens to baby tarantulas in nature if they are so weak and dependent? The mother tarantula guards the egg sack for up to nine weeks. By that time the slings have molted for the first time, and the strongest ones eat their siblings. When the mother opens the egg sac the babies disperse. Some will die of hunger and some will be eaten by the mother if they don't get out of her territory quick enough. Only a few survive. Since virtually all tarantulas are endangered and some species have disappeared entirely from nature, breeders intervene to try to raise as many as we can.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Miniature Fair

Hooray!  It's only a few sleeps until the biggest little event of the year.  See you at Miniature Fair this weekend.
There will be a number of workshops to make dollhouse items. I will present  the Little Birdhouse workshop.  Contact Maryna at 082 922 0883 for workshop details and to book your spot.
 Birdhouse Workshop R 130

 Polymer Clay Bunny R 270
 Bookends R 100
 Utility Trug R 90
 Disterssed Shelf R 140, Distressed Table R 140
 Woodland Scene R 130

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Teapot for Jodi and Other Stories

Jodi Hipler at My Miniature Madness is building a dollhouse called Storybook Cottage. It's got a teatime theme and I'm enchanted with the house even if it's far from finished.
Ages ago I made a few mouse teapots following a Youtube tutorial by Christel Jensen. Christel is one of my long-time miniaturist heroes, and together with Angie Scarr probably the reason I started making polymer clay food. I see that Christel has taken the teapot video down, but there are still some delicious cupcake tutorials on her page.

Enough name dropping. Jodi, I'm sure I could do a better job if I tried making one of these teapots now and I would love to send you one to add to your cottage kitchen. If you would like a mouse teapot please let me know what colour you prefer and I will get onto it. You will most likely only receive it at Christmas for reasons below.

On to Other Stories.

You might have noticed that there have been no new posts on my blog for a while, that I've stopped commenting on the blogs I regularly follow and dropped off Facebook and Instagram.  I hope everyone haven't been having too much fun without me. As soon as I settle into my new routine, I will be back in full force.

What happened?  I GOT A NEW JOB!!! Yeah, I know. I already have several. But this one brings me closer to a dream I had almost given up on. I've always wanted to be able to say that I'm a writer. Real writers get paid for writing. Well, it's finally happening! In June I started working as a writer for a company that employs a whole team of writers. We even have editors who read the stuff we write and return it with lots of red marks. And then we get paid. I love it! (Ha ha, Emily and Sharon, I know you are reading this with your pencils tucked behind your ears). I'm not going to tell you who the company is or who our clients are, but I might talk in general terms of what I'm writing about in future.

For those of you enjoying summer in the northern hemisphere, I'm jealous as I sit at my computer under a blanket. If you are suffering from the heat wave in Europe, I hope it rains soon.

Writerly yours

P.S. One of my tarantulas is going to have babies at the end of August!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hi Everyone

This is a quick update on the comment notification issues we are having in Blogger.
Yes, Blogger is aware of the problem.  It is not clear whether it has something to do with GDPR.  They just say that they are 'tweaking' the system and it should be back to normal soon.  They don't say when soon is, let's hope it's SOON!

Several people have suggested this workaround:
As soon as you post a new blog, leave a comment on it, and tick the 'Notify Me' box before you post it.  You will receive email notifications of any comment below yours.

If anyone is still battling with GDPR compliance, HERE's the best summary article I've found:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Plan A, B, C and D...

Ta-da!  The right hand wall of the Del Prado dollhouse hallway is finished. 
Here's the colour reveal you've been waiting for months to see.  I'm continuing with Chiffon Blue on the upper part of the walls, white above the picture rail and the dark blue on the bottom part is called Dutch Blue.  The hallway is going to look suitably formal, just the way the Victorians liked it.  The colours work well together.

I've been reading with amazement and admiration how some dollhouse builders make something, change their mind and do it over, then change their mind and do it over again.  The hallway is going a bit like that for me.  But I'm starting to realize that it's worth working one's way down the alphabet starting at Plan A, till you find that thing that works best.  Here's how the hallway developed so far:
You will remember that right in the beginning the walls were grey.  I hated it.  Looks like a prison corridor.

The first big change came with Plan B, when I switched to blue, which is a much softer colour.
I decided to divide the wall into panels.  But it looked incomplete.  It wanted something more, like a decoration inside each panel.
My first brilliant plan was to use my Cuttlebug (die cutting machine) to cut out medals to glue in place.  I even had a die that was the  perfect size and shape.
But I found the solid white centre part too overwhelming.  Then I had a not so brilliant plan - cutting out only the edges and the flower detail and sticking the pieces down individually.  After hours of untidy cutting and strips that broke and tore, I gave up on that plan, and all the bits of paper went sailing into the dustbin.  So much for Plan C.
Next, I rummaged in my costume jewelry stash and found this silver pendant.  I like the design and it has lots of texture, but it had some drawbacks.  I have only one, which would mean making a mould so that I could replicate it.  Even then, it's a little bit too small.  I would have to rethink the entire layout of the wall.  So I coshed that.  But I'm keeping the pendant in mind, it might feature somewhere else in the dollhouse later.
Finally, I found these pressed metal decorations in the bead drawer.  They fit perfectly!  And best of all, I have a whole handful of them.
Several layers of white paint later the wall is perfect.
Even with several coats of paint, there is lots of fine detail on the metal pressings. 

So this is where I'm at right now.  I really can't put off working on the staircase any longer.  That will have to be the next thing I do.

P.S.  Blogger is misbehaving when it comes to leaving comments on my blog.  For some reason I'm not receiving notification emails when there are new comments on my posts.  When Blogger ignored my request for help, I went into settings to try and fix it myself, and all of a sudden everything went G+.  When I finally got rid of that, a whole lot of comments that I had seen, but not replied to, just evaporated into thin air.  If you haven't been able to comment, or your comment disappeared, my sincere apologies!  I hope that the problem is resolved soon.  If anyone has had a similar problem, and know how to fix it, I would love to hear from you.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

It's always cocktail hour...

They say it's always cocktail hour somewhere in the world.  It's true for other activities too. 
I've been attending a series of lectures in San Francisco, which is why you didn't hear much from me in May.  The fact that I'm in South Africa no longer matters, one can virtually participate in virtually anything online these days.  My night-time campus home in San Fran is only a click of the mouse away. 
The snag is the time difference.  I've become used to setting my alarm for 3am so that I can stumble out of bed to watch students in strappy tops stroll into the auditorium at 7pm while I'm huddled at my computer under a blanket clutching a cup of cocoa. 
I've done it for so many days that I lost count.  By the time the sun comes up in the morning I'm not sure which hemisphere I'm in, never mind winter or summer, sunrise or sunset.  My circadian rhythms are confused. 
Yesterday I saw a large bird perched on the fountain.  It was the approximate size and colour of an ostrich, only with short legs.  When I blinked it disappeared.  The same has been happening with creatures scurrying across the floor, seen from the corner of my eye.  I realized that I'm exhausted and I need a break. 
Last night I slept for twelve hours. When I woke up this morning I knew that it's a sunrise I'm seeing out there. 
I've had a leisurely breakfast, dusted the Del Prado dollhouse and today I'm doing nothing but work on the hallway. 
If it's cocktail hour in your part of the world, have one on me!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Meet Gene

In an age where my contemporaries are writing letters to Santa about laser cutting machines and 3D printers, I'm dreaming of milling machines and a lathe.  I just can't conform.
These are the kind of toys one can't really afford to buy with one's pocket money.  It could also easily turn out to be that toy that one absolutely had to have, just to figure out it's not nearly as much fun as it promised to be.  So when Elga Koster invited me to spend some time playing in her workshop, I grabbed the opportunity without a moment's hesitation.  Not only does she have the coolest equipment, she's one of the world's foremost carpenters in miniature.  Learning from her is a privilege bestowed on very few.
Gene started out as a number of blocks of wood cut to length and prepared for the lathe.
After careful measuring, first cuts are made on the lathe to determine proportions and guide future shaping.  She looks like a little robot doesn't she?  At this point my head was spinning faster than the lathe.  So many calculations and adjustments, and does this thingy tighten clockwise, or the other way around?!
Some time later this...
... has become this.
A recognizable doll.  So thrilling!
The milling machine is used to create flat surfaces, drill slots and holes for the joints, and a groove where the nose will be attached later.
Robot girl no more.  I'm about to cut the doll free from the waste wood at the end of the limbs.
 A dry fit to make sure that everything is in the right place.
Then some fun painting her with enamel paints.
Inserting and cutting off the wooden dowels for the peg joints.
Meet Gene.  She's a fully posable 1/12 scale penny doll in the style of dolls made in Germany and the Netherlands in the late 19th century.  They are also sometimes called Dutch dolls.  I'm going to have lots of fun dressing her in future.  She will be Hitty's best friend (I'm going to introduce you to Hitty soon).  For now she sits on my desk and keeps me company.
Below are some examples of antique penny dolls I found on the Internet.
Understanding how these dolls were made, I have lots of respect for them.  Even though they are called penny dolls and were meant to be inexpensive toys, hours of work goes into the making of such a doll. 
Would I make more of them if I had my own equipment?  Undoubtedly.  Smaller and smaller too!  Until then I will be happy to work with clay and fabric and do simple carpentry and dream of dolls.


This is where I am

I am around. I'm furiously busy, both in 1/1 and 1/12 scale.  I'm chatting with all of you in my mind continuously.  On the other hand, I have a deep yearning to be in a place of silence.  Ha, if the above is correct, soon the tension will become too much and I will burst forth with a volley of stories!

Monday, April 30, 2018

D is for Dog, every day

Attila and I have a secret.  Every morning, we meet at the kitchen window and I sneak her a little snack without the other dogs knowing.
It's been years and we've never been caught.
Rain or shine, when I put the kettle on, she's there waiting for me.  I love this quirky animal so much.
She makes a pretty picture.
There is an amaryllis plant outside the window.  Last spring, for thirty days, I took a photo of Attila and the flowers as they grew.

Here's a slide show.

Wishing you a lovely week.  And the devotion of a dog.