Saturday, February 24, 2018

Plinth box, architrave, dado

The post title sounds a bit like a counting rhyme, doesn't it?  That's one of the things I love about building dollhouses.  You learn things about all kinds of things. Like architectural terminology.
Meanwhile, back at the dollhouse, the cat has left the room.  Not surprising really.  Mrs Smithi from next door came to see what all the banging is about. 
Her full name is Brachypelma Smithi, she's a mature 12cm (5 inch) tarantula, and the loveliest neighbour one could wish for.  Quiet and tidy, a dainty eater, and she's very handy with a thread!  
After she shooed the cat out, she took her time inspecting every corner of the master bedroom, which is the room in the dollhouse I've made the most progress with. 
I've finally decided on a colour scheme for the house.  Blue.  Blue is one of my favourite coulours.  When I found the chiffon blue paint, all my decorating ideas fell into place.  It is a soft and restful colour, and so pale as to be nearly white.  I can use it as the unifying colour in every room. 
In this room, I've made true Victorian tripartite walls.  Wallpaper found on the Internet, rescaled and printed, goes below the dado rail.  Chiffon blue along the middle, and white above the picture rail and on the ceiling.  I haven't painted ceilings and finished cornices yet, need to figure out the electrical wiring fist.
Apart from painting walls, I've been very busy with wood strips.  The skirting boards and door frames are made of strips from the original Del Prado house kit.  They were marked 'roof beams' but I guess I'm so immersed in kit bashing now that I can just use what I like, wherever I like.  The dado and picture rail is made of square and half round pieces of bamboo window blind.
I neatly circumvented the need for mitred corners around the door frame, by making an architrave over the door mantle.  
 I think it also looks much prettier than the original house plans.
Around the bay window, I built a casing with wood strips.  I was wondering how I'm going to make the seam where the window joins to the house look neat.  A casing to hide the join is such an elegant solution. 
You will notice that around the bay window casing and door frame, I made plinth boxes with the skirting board.  I did have to mitre the corners for these, but it was worth the effort.  It makes the whole room look so much more complete. 
Henning criticized my decision to paint the skirting boards white, and not leave them the natural colour of the wooden floor, but after looking at lots of pictures on the Internet, I decided that either would be correct, and painted skirting boards go well with all the other painted rails in the room. Shortly after Mrs Smithi left, the cat started spraying corners to stake his claim to the room.  Seems like nothing around here is mine, sigh.

I am so happy with this room now, and I've already started work on the hallway, where I'm adding Dutch blue.  In the next few weeks I need to tackle the staircase, and electrical wiring.  I've never worked with either of those, so I'm doing lots of research in my free moments.

Wishing you a happy weekend!


Note about Mrs Smithi:
Tarantulas do not commonly live in South African homes, thank heavens!  Mrs Smithi is a pet tarantula, a terrestrial species from Brazil.  She is not poisonous or aggressive.   Tarantulas make the best pets ever, for so many reasons.  They are quiet, clean, and fascinating to watch.  They need very little care, and can be kept in a small space.  Mrs Smithi lives in a terrarium next to the armchair where I sit to read.  She's very good company.  I thought that people who keep spiders are creepy, until I got my first one, and fell in love!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sweet Little Birdhouse

I will be teaching a workshop to make this sweet little 1/12 scale birdhouse at the Miniature Fair on 24 March.  There will also be a tutorial e-book available soon, and kits.
This will be the first workshop I teach in three years... feeling like a total beginner :-) but hooray, I'm getting back into the swing of things!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

In the Pink

I dyed a batch of mohair fabric this week.  It's been a few years since I took out the large dye pot to make my own colours. I've forgotten what strenuous, messy work it is.
First, the fabric is washed and excess water squeezed out.
Then comes stirring in a boiling dye pot on the stove.  I was happy to rediscover my special Dodo dye spoon in the box with the dyes :-)
 When the colour intensity looks right, the fabric is ready to be drained and rinsed.
Several rinses in cold water to remove all the excess dye, and neutralize the acidity of the dye bath.  After this the fabric is lovely and soft, and ready to hang out to dry.
Drying on a line under the trees, away from direct sunlight.  The beautiful bougainvillea flowers pick up the colour!

These pieces of fabric will be packed into kits to make a teddy bear called Erika.  Everything to make the bear and her little kitten and bunny slippers is included.

Available on my website HERE.

I'm still musing about the direction I want to take with the dollhouse.  Now that am over my  mental block about colour, a whole world of possibilities has opened up.  Here are three people who have influenced my thoughts this week:
The Dutch artist Peter Gabrielse.  If you are not familiar with this miniaturist's work, have a look at his website.  Peter also has an Instagram account.

Claude Monet's home in Giverny.  A person who could make colours have a party in every room.  Never too bold, nothing clashes.  I could live in a house like that.

The Canadian artist Marina Bychkova, whose dolls are commanding hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The incredible workmanship and attention to detail in the video makes it clear why her work is so highly valued.

And finally... a blast from the past.  Faded photos of my first experiments with fabric dyeing in 1994.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Safety Noses

I love the shape of these teddy bear safety noses, like a little flower. Noses like roses?   I just uploaded them to the web shop HERE.

To the new readers of my blog, welcome!  Many of you are probably dollhouse makers, because that's what I've been writing about a lot lately.   So, if you didn't know, for years I've been a toy designer and I have a teddy bear and doll making supplies shop.  I took an extended break while I dealt with life issues, but I'm easing back into business, and I'm zealous in my efforts!

 #safetynoses #teddybearnoses #softtoymaking #amigurumi

Friday, February 2, 2018

Terracotta Floor for the Del Prado Dollhouse

I couldn't post about the kitchen floor earlier, because I couldn't find the Cat.  It's heard that I'm looking for something starting with C.
I Cornered it at last.  I decided on terracotta, with slate accent tiles, to finish the floor of the kitchen. 
Here's a close-up look.
This part of the dollhouse happened effortlessly, and I'm very pleased with the result.

There were a few ideas for things I knew that I wanted in the kitchen, and had saved on my Pinterest Board
This is Marion's kitchen.  In her build of the Del Prado house, she added a false wall and turned the stove at an angle.  This makes the kitchen so much more interesting.  I simply had to have that too!
I wanted my stove to stand at a slightly raised level.  This was often done in old houses.  You can see where I marked the space for the stove, and glued a piece of card stock to the floor to raise the level.
If I was going to go to all the trouble of making individual tiles, I wanted an interesting layout on the floor, with accent tiles.  To help with the layout, I drew a grid on the floor.
Then I went ahead and made lots and lots and lots of little terracotta tiles, using polymer clay.  I started with a block of basic SculpeyIII terracotta colour, and rolled the softened clay to a thickness of about 1.5mm with a pasta machine. I happened to have a little 11mm square cutter in my stash, an impulse buy at a cake decorating shop.  I was very glad when I found it. 
I pressed out the tiles directly on to a ceramic tile, then lifted away the waste clay, and baked the little tiles directly on the ceramic tile.  That way they stayed nice and flat. 
Every time I rolled out a new sheet of clay, I added a little bit of scrap clay, either light brown, or black, so that the colour of the terracotta tiles would have slight variation, just like real tiles.  Whenever the clay rolled out unevenly, or there was a fold line in the clay, I left it like that.  It all adds texture and realism.
I didn't have a cutter for the slate tiles, I just cut those by hand.  I mixed black and white clay to make a really dark grey, then added silver glitter eyeshadow to give it a bit of sparkle.  It shows up as white spots in the photo, but in real life it looks beautiful.  In this close-up view you can see that the tiles are quite uneven in size.  Real life slate tiles would be cut by hand, and would have slightly uneven sides too.
I decided that I would have a round of terracotta tiles, followed by a round of slate, as a border around the room.  Then I would fill the inside with tiles laid diagonally across the floor.
I started gluing the tiles in an L shape, and used a scrap of card to align them before the glue set.  With each new row of tiles, I added an L inside the previous one.  This helped me to keep the spaces even. 
Completed floor.  Where the stove is going to be, I used slate tiles, and made a herringbone pattern. 
If you are curious about what needs to sit on that square of raised black slate, this is what I have.  I constructed the kitchen range and its surround years ago during my first attempt at the house.  Now that I've seen Studio E's incredible recently completed stove and hood, I realize that I have a huge challenge ahead of me to make this look better!
I let the glue set for a day before I started grouting.  The grout was an accidental discovery.  A while ago I bought what I thought was pre-mixed crack filler in a plastic bucket to fix up some spots in the studio wall where I took a shelf down.  I must have been looking for the cheapest bucket, and not paying attention to the labels.  When I opened it, I discovered that the contents was slippery and runny.  The bucket says it is plaster skim.  I have no idea what one would use it for, but it makes lovely dollhouse grout.  None of the grittiness of crack filler, and it has a slightly gluey texture which helps it to adhere. 
 I mixed black acrylic paint into the mixture to make grey.
Rubbed it into the tiles with my finger and let it set for a few minutes.
Then rub away the excess grout with a damp rag, using small circular movements, so as not to remove the grout from between the tiles.
When the grout had completely set, I used a dry cotton rag to put a gloss on the floor.  Polymer clay buffs to a lovely shine without the need to apply any kind of varnish or sealer.

So there's another floor finished.  I'm tempted to try using polymer clay to create old fashioned patterned linoleum to use in the attic rooms.

Happily, I've also figured out the perfect colour scheme for the interior.  I'm nearly finished with the master bedroom walls, and the colours make my heart sing.  But I will keep you in suspense over my choices, and how I came to them, for a little while!