Monday, August 29, 2011
Artie seems quite taken with May (in the purple gown) but is less keen on Ana in the green. I'm sure he'll feel differently once Ana grows some hair.
It was another week of working on dolls. I didn't make any new dolls this week, just dressed some pre-bought ones I had on hand. Like Artie, Ana and May are Heidi Ott dolls and both wear gowns of silk dupion. Artie has had his old toga/wrap shortened into a tunic and (finally) has some pants on underneath. No more embarassing moments for him when the wind blows. Over this Artie is wearing a burgundy velveteen robe fastened by a leather belt.
None of these three are completely finished off yet and neither are the other dolls I'm about to show you. Everybody still needs something, be it hair and headdress, shoes, make-up, jewellery or trimming, so if you see something that looks a bit rough, I am probably going to fix it.
This is the doll I made last week who through misadventure ended up without a nose or mouth. By covering his disfigured face and dressing him in a brocade fabric he's ended up looking like a very well-to-do Arabian thief. He does look a little out of place in the castle dressed this way so at some point in the future I may have to find him a more suitable home.
The kitchen is now fully staffed. There is the cross-gender head cook who looks convincingly male with "his" padded belly and slightly shaggy beard. He has a maid and a boy to help him out in the kitchen. On top of the shelves on the right are some new additions to the kitchen, some hand painted platters from ebay.
Another Heidi Ott doll is Theron. He is the castle's huntsman, hence his practical tunic and leggings. His boots are made from real leather, as are his wrist guards and belt.
In the Library the snoozing wizardly type, Almos, from last week has now been sleeping so long his hair has grown long and has also managed to grow a pointy wizard hat. He still needs his slippers painting and a few accessories though.
Chester the collapsing centaur from last week has covered up in a leather vest and a matching armband covers the crack in his arm. He still needs some hair, his horse parts still need painting horse colour, but already he has found an admirer in the form of Garnett. Garnett is a porcelain doll wearing a black under gown with a red silk surcoat trimmed with brown "fur". Maybe it's just because she's still bald, but Garnett is not (in my opinion) the most sucessfully dressed doll ever.
Finally for the week, Katie is looking better now that she has some hair and has attracted a new friend, young Cailin.
To finish with some good news, the missing package of doll moulds I had been going to use for the women of the castle has finally arrived in Australia. It's taken it three weeks to travel from Miami to Australian customs (I presume in Sydney) when it took the other package just one week for the same trip, starting at the same time. I guess the women just wanted to stop and do some shopping on the way. They should be arriving here soon, too late for the castle, but I will need some more girls for the Witch Shop later on.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
I think Teddy will find a home on Hetty's bed in the Witch Shop, while Boris the Bat will have a small nest in the rafters/beams above the Reading Room where he can write down everything that's discussed. If you're confused, it's probably because the rafters don't exist yet, but I'll get there eventually.) Luvita will squeeze into the shop in somewhere.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Last week I said I was expecting my people moulds to arrive any day and I was right. . . . . Well, half right anyway. The four moulds I purchased were shipped in two different packages. One arrived within hours of my last blog post, the second? Your guess is as good as mine. I looked up the tracking numbers for the two packages, the missing one was sorted in Miami on the 7th and then disappeared, there are no further entries as to its whereabouts. At the moment I'm very worried that it's fallen out of the airplane and will next be seen when it bobs ashore on some isolated tropic island. Either that or someone misread the address and there are some postal workers in Austria trying to figure out what to do with it. The last time that happened the box arrived six months later very much worse for wear with post marks to prove it'd travelled to very corner of Austria before some bright spark recognised the label actually read Australia. Oh dear. Hopefully it's just delayed and will be here soon. Hopefully.
The two moulds I did receive were "Katie" and "David". David is a male designed to be 1/12th scale whereas Katie is a fairy who just happens to be about 5 1/2" tall and therefore can pass in 1/12th scale although she isn't quite right. Using these two moulds, I started playing around to see what I could do with them. I started with the Katie mould as she was less gracile than David and as I figure it probably easier to play with. After pressing the clay in the mould with a wire armature (skeleton) in the middle, this is what she looked like:
At this point, I was quite pleased. Soon though I realised I had had too much clay in the mould, meaning that she was thicker than she should be. Mostly this wasn't a problem except at her fingers which turned out two or three times thicker than they ought to be. Oh well, it was only a first attempt after all, so I moved on and tried to separate her fingers. Here's where I started to get into real trouble. Fingers stretched, squished, came off completely, got reattached and generally distorted. Still this isn't a problem, I just need to give her something to hold that conceals them.
Hoping for better luck, I tried another doll, this time with the David mould. I did a much better job of getting the right amount of clay in the mould and thought I was doing well, but in removing the doll from the mould, the bottom half of his left hand got stuck and snapped off. Every doll I have tried in the David mould has suffered the same problem with this hand. I tried making countless left hands without bodies in this mould and everytime the same thing. Urgh. So I had to carefully prize this last bit of hand out of the mould and reattach it to the hand. This pretty much wiped out all the finger impressions made by the mould, effectively meaning I had to sculpt the hand again from scratch. Want to guess what one of the main reasons I wanted a mould for? Yep, so I didn't have to make hands from scratch. This doll ended up with fingers more deformed than the first and to make matters worse, I later snapped one off when I was dressing him. This doll is the one snoozing in the library chair. I wonder why he's wearing long sleeves that almost totally cover his fingers?
Switching back to the Katie mould, I started on another doll. This doll was originally going to be posed in the Dragon Study room on the top floor, leaning over the rail and waving to someone below. In this position, I decided that it wasn't necessary to separate the fingers and left them as they came out of the mould. (Chicken? Me?). I did decide to alter the face and the doll slowly morphed into something unexpected. I looked at the face I had made and then flattened down the chest to create a male . . . goblin? I'm not sure what he is, but I'm really quite proud of him. I've dressed him in a red brocade vest and silky black pants that give him an Eastern look. Perhaps he's a Djinn?
|The two dolls from the "Katie" mould|
Going back to the David mould, I made another doll and focused on messing with the face again. This time I got a face more in line with what I had in mind, albeit very stern and authorative. He was perfect so I'm sure you can all hear the "but" I'm about to introduce. I baked all the dolls I'd done at the same time and the next and last doll I made fell over in the oven, landing right in his face! I pulled him out half baked, but the damage was done. He now has no face, just a flat plane at a slight angle with eyes painted on. I'll either stand him in the castle facing away from the front or create an oufit for him that includes a face scarf of some kind.
The fifth and final doll I made was again from the David mould, or rather half the David mould. I used the upper part of David and attached it to a painstakingly scuplted horses body to make a centaur. By the time I'd finished fussing over him, he too was perfect. Has disaster written all over it doesn't it? Well, I braced his body with balsa wood supports when I baked him to ensure he stayed upright, but failed to account for the fact that although the clay shrinks slightly when baked, the wood doesn't, which I think is why the supports intended to keep him stable ended up causing his feet to lift of the ground, his legs to crack and somehow the whole lot went down, wiping clean the best face I'd ever made in the process. After he had cooled down I pumped glue into his various leg cracks and slathered them in polyfilla. Once sanded and painted, I think he'll look as good as he should have. He also has a crack in the back of his neck (long hair needed) and in one arm (sleeves?). Harder to disguise will be the funny bows in both arms. People, even centaurs, don't usually bend between the elbow and the wrist.
|The Centuar is still very much in-progress|
Unless the woman mould (called Chelsea) arrives soon, I'm going to use bought dolls for the rest of the people in the castle because I want to finally finish the castle and have very little faith in mail services not to have completely lost the remaining moulds. As you may have noticed in the first photo, I have already started to dress a cheap porcelian doll as a cook and "he" (who actually started out as a she, but once you glue on a big beard who can tell?) has a porcelain kitchen maid in the works to give him a hand. I'll probably reward Artie for all his hard modelling work in the castle over the past months by giving him some proper clothes and a place in the castle as well as one or two glamourous ladies to keep him company.
|My first attempt at making wings from Fantasy Film for the first "Katie" doll.|
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Anyway, I'd better stop sidetracking and get onto some miniatures. Last week I reached a point where I was happy to start populating Castle Starcaster, but as yet the "people" moulds I want to use to do this haven't arrived so instead I decided to work on the long neglected exterior of the castle. I have spent the last six months trying to find a suitable pattern or design to use to faux leadlight the windows and found nothing. So I decided just to go with the basic leaded windows that came with the kit. This allowed me to finally glue the windows in place. The catch is that without electric lights inside the castle, the windows just look like black holes. I'm going to try coating a piece of mirror paper with some amber gallery glass paint and putting this behind the windows in the hope this will give them a "lit from within" glow. (Remember that I modified the castle so that the fronts lift off rather than hinge open, so the insides of the windows won't ever be seen and can be blocked off like this).
All together, it's not a particularly great amount of progress for a week is it? I'll admit, I did spend a lot of "miniature" time with my nose in a book instead. The "Atlas of Legendary Lands" is just as interesting a read as I had always thought it would be. For example, we all know that Christopher Columbus is erroneously famous for being the "first" to propose that the earth was round, but did you know that he didn't actually believe the earth was spherical? Instead, he believed it was pear shaped and that paradise could be found at the "pointy" end which he thought was somewere in the south Altantic. I promise I'll be more dedicated to actually doing something productive this week, especially if my moulds arrive in the mail . . . it could be any day now!
Friday, August 12, 2011
Four pieces of Bespaq furniture. This is a pretty lously photo, all the items look much better in reality. I bought these on ebay from a lady liquidating her stock, so for genuine Bespaq it was quite cheap. I bought them to use when I renovate my first castle. The plan for this (at the moment) is to make it into a sort of Camelot type castle as the people of the Victorian era would have imagined it; a little gothic, whimsical and very fanciful. I've also started on plans to rip my Gerogian house apart and completely redo it. I've decorated this house once and totally stripped it and decorated it again, but still don't like it, so hopefully it will be third time lucky for this house. The new plan features an entry hall with a grand staircase. And then there's the Retreat kit which I'm thinking about doing as an Edwardian era Writer's Retreat. And the 1/24th scale project. And about half a dozen other things. I'd really better hurry up and get Castle Starcaster and the Witch Shop done hadn't I?
To keep myself busy not getting anything finished, I bought this book this morning:
I first saw this in a bookshop about twelve months ago and wanted it, but the price was about $70, so it stayed in the shop. I later looked online and the cheapest prices were still about $40, so I still didn't buy a copy. Strangely, after not thinking about it for six months or more it was only over the past couple of weeks I thought about it again and wondered if the price had been dropped, but hadn't gotten around to poking about online to see what the prices were. Then this morning I was glancing at the sale tables outside a local newsagents and there it was. For $25 who could resist? It's a beautiful Hard Cover book filled with colour images that details the history of how people viewed the world.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
I had two goals to achieve in the castle this week; the lights and the fires. I had hoped to do the fires the previous week, but had a problem finding the things I needed to do so. Thus this week started with me going out to every shop I could think of that might just have some black seed beads until I finally found some. With that problem sorted, I made some andirons by glueing some wooden beads together and painting them pewter. I then glued some logs to the backs of them and then tipped some matt black and red glass seed beads coated in watered down PVA glue over the top. I've used this method to make some very effective fake fires before, but somehow something didn't quite work this time. True, I did forget to use some black paint to make the logs look charred before adding the beads, but there is something else wrong as well. Not enough beads perhaps? I'll have to take a close look at some of the earlier fires and compare them to see if I can figure it out.
My other main goal for the week was the lights. When I say lights, like the fires, I mean fake lights and not things that really light up. As this is a castle, candle lights seemed like the most obvious choice. I made candles for the various light fittings by dripping wax from a 1:1 candle into sections of drinking straw and poking a piece of cotton into the top to be the wick. When the wax was dry, the candles were carefully pushed out of the straws. To fix the candles in position on their various fittings, I remelted the bottoms of the candles and quickly postitioned them. I then dripped a little extra wax over the candles to give them a used, dribbly look.
The first light I started on was the chandelier for the Entry Hall. This was made from two chipboard scrapbooking accessories in a flower or star shape, one being slightly smaller than the other. On the tip of each petal/point, I glued a cylindrical wooden bead with a round flat bead on top of that. The two shapes were stacked on top of each other, connected by a larger cylindrical bead. It was then painted black and had some candles added to each of the flat round beads. The chandelier was then suspended from the Entry Hall ceiling on a length of chain. When it was first hung, it looked like this:
The next day it was hanging like this:
It had taken on quite a lean, which rather alarmed Artie, who wasn't quite tall enough to prod it back to the level. We think a cat must have been playing with it when we weren't looking.
Scattered around the walls of the Entry and Dining Halls are seven wall mounted candle sconces. These have balsa wood backs with a gold finding acting as a reflecting plate. The candles stand on a piece of cornice (or depending on where you live coving) about half a centimetre wide and attached at the bottom of the balsa backing. The final lighting task was to finish the three candlearbra started last week by adding candles.
With the major targets finished, I went back to my "to-do" list and decided the next thing was to make the extra foodstuffs needed for the kitchen as well as the other polymer clay pieces the castle needed.
For the kitchen I made various vegetables like carrots and zuchinis, a griddle with sizzling bacon for the hotplate, a meat and vegetable casserole in the previously empty pot hanging over the fire and some mice.
For the garden, there were some lilly pads and flowers and a pair of birds. The flowers were given some colour with chalk paints and they and the lilly pads were positioned in the castle's fountain and the Witch shop's garden pond.
In the library, the items on the desk were rearranged and had a large book on an equally large bookrest added to them. Another of Nicky Cooper's little dragons has moved into the castle and has taken up residence on the library desk.
With all of this done, I think I have achieved my goal of having the castle ready to populate by the time my "people" moulds arrive in the mail. Yes, there are still a lot of things that need fixing, replaing or adding, but I can class all of these as finishing touches that come after the populating phase.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
With a whopping 1943 views to date, by far the most looked at photo in my Flickr photostream is this view of the pyramid tomb. It has a massive 1457 views more than it's closest rival. It has raked up all these views in just twelve months while the rest of the top ten has had twice as long or more to attract viewers.
So why is this photo so popular?
The answer to that question is a bit of a mystery. Flickr keeps track of daily statisics about which photos were viewed each day and where those viewers came from. Mostly, views come from flickr.com itself or from search engines like google. Sometimes they come from links here on my blog or in the DHE forum or links people have put on their facebook or twitter. But everyday for about five months, a large portion of views have come from an "unknown location" and over the same period, this photo has been the most viewed each day. The logical conclusion is that a lot of people are following a link from a site Flickr can't identify to this particular photo.
Where this mysterious site is and why so many people continue to be interested in following the link that must be there is a mystery.
The second most looked at photo in my Flickr account (with 486 views to date) is again a photo of the caravan. This photo is almost identical to photo No. 10, the only difference being that this photo was taken at a tighter angle and shows none of the exterior of the wagon.
With four spots in the top ten, the wagon is clearly my most looked at project on Flickr, but it rather surprises me that all the wagon photos in the top ten are views of the inside. If it was me looking at the photos, I'd want to see both the inside and the outside. If everyone thought like me, then there should be inside and outside images of the wagon in the top ten.
My fifth most view photo is this image of the Mummy Unwrapping party in the dining room of the Victorian House.
Mummy unwrappings were popular in Victorian times, but despite the prevelance of Victorian era dollshouses, I don't recall ever seeing another mummy unwrapping in miniature, which perhaps has helped this photo to be so popular.
When I started to work on this room, it was going to be an ordinary dining room with a bit of a chinoserie theme, the idea of the mummy party was something of an after thought. Hence the party was probably an after dinner event in the evening, yet the window at the back shows blue skies and daylight outside.
The mummy's sarcophogus is made from air drying clay. Unfortunately, the face on the sarcophogus turned out with a perpetully worried expression.
So why is this photo more popular than other, more complete photos of the Bakery? Did I somehow ruin the look of it as I continued to work on it?
The seventh most popular photo is of my first castle. This was the first house I designed and built entirely from scratch. It is also the only house wired for light.
All those items I've been plundering for Castle Starcaster have come out of this castle and when Starcaster is finished, I'm going to renovate this castle. The small garden on the top floor will go adn a wall knocked down to create one larger room which will become the bedroom while the remaining room on the top floor will become the wardrobe/dressing room. The solar will move down to where the bedroom currently is. The kitchen needs a better oven and I might remove the wall between the Great Hall and the corridor room.
The eighth most looked at photo is of my "Dragon's Maiden" tower. The tower is a Gatehouse Kit by DHE.
As you can see, the knight is preparing to do battle with the dragon on the ground floor, but the minstrel has decided to by-pass the heroics and climb directly onto the balcony. His sudden appearance has caused the kitchen maid to drop the eggs on the floor, while the Maiden on looks out the front window on the top floor to monitor the progress of the knight.
The ninth most viewed photo in my Flickr account is this shot of the library of my Victorian House.
All the rooms in this house are very narrow and deep and my insistance that the library have two levels makes it look even narrower and deeper than the others. This is where the chess table I've been using as a temporary item in Castle Starcaster's Centre Room actually belongs.
As you probably know, I use Flickr.com to share photos of my miniatures (and some other stuff) on the 'net. I was looking at my Stats on Flickr and realised that my ten most viewed photos were a very odd bunch. So I've decided to share with you which photos they are in a series of posts.
This photo is the tenth most looked at in my Flickr account. It's a shot of my gypsy style caravan when not quite complete. The caravan was built from scratch out of balsa wood and foam board. Unlike some of the other photo's I'll be showing you later on, this is one I can understand being so popular.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
I've had a lot of fun this week spending my tax refund. I pre-ordered a pile of upcoming books from the Book Depository, I bought some chic clothes from Ezibuy and most importantly for the sake of this blog, some miniatures related items. Prime among them were some moulds to make 1/12th scale polymer clay dolls from Patricia Rose Studio on ebay.
I have been watching and wishing for the Chelsea and David moulds for months, but patiently waited until now to buy them, not because the moulds themselves are horribly expensive, but the added cost of postage is enough to make your eyeballs spin. Buying them with my refund from the government is like getting them for free because all I did to get the money was spend fifteen minutes filling out my return. Most moulds for polymer clay I have seen have faces and figures that are less than beautiful but the thing I love about the Patricia Rose ones is how stunning the faces are. These people are gorgeous which suits me perfectly: I figure it's easier to take a pretty face and mess it about to be ugly than to make an ugly face pretty. Not only did I buy the Chelsea and David moulds which make dolls that stand just under 6" tall, I also bought the Lacey mould. At 3" tall she'll be perfect for when I start experimenting in 1/24th scale. And because I wasn't really spending my money anyway, I also got the Katie mould. She stands 5 1/2" tall, has a different face and figure to the Chelsea mould and has pointy elf/fairy ears. It will be another few weeks before they arrive in the mail, but I can't wait to start playing with them.
With this in mind, I decided that I am going to try and get the castle finished to the point of being ready to populate by the time the moulds arrive. That way I can start (attempting) to create my own dolls with the moulds to live in the castle straight away. My push to get the castle finished didn't start out too well however. One thing that needs doing is to add fires to all the fireplaces. I had enough "ingredients" to do the kitchen fires last week, but needed more to do the others. A trip to the craft store proved fruitless, the ##@@*&*^ place didn't have anything that was on my shopping list, so I either wait for them to get their act together (which will probably take a long, long time) or I scour the internet for what I need, either way it'll be a while before I can do the fires.
So, unable to do what I wanted and somewhat peeved about it (I mean basic black seed beads, isn't that something you'd keep on hand if you ran a craft shop?) I fiddled about with what I did have. I started in the bedroom. I decided to replace the table on the far side of the bed. The one that was there was an Angela Downton made one and thus absolutely gorgeous, but behind the bed it was hard to see and it's beauty was hidden. So I'll save that table for somewhere more prominent and instead made a quick table the same size from balsa wood with a bit of fancy trim around the edge. A quick rummage through my collection of accessories provided a mirror, some purfume bottles, a wooden box and a candlestick to sit on the table. More accessories filled up the small shelves on the near side of the bed.
The next thing the room needed was some rugs for the floor. After a little debate on what would work best, I pulled out the knitting yarn left over from the rugs I made for Highcroft last year and made some faux rag rugs. The rugs for Highcroft were all circular with the yarn spiralling from the centre. This time I made rectangular rugs by simply cutting lengths of yarn and glueing them onto a piece of fabric in straight rows. I think I like this effect better than the spiral rugs so I made another rug the same way for the Centre Room.
Finally in the bedroom and also throughout the castle, I hung some tapistries. The tapistires were printed on fabric and most had some decorative ribbon glued around the edges with loops of ribbon at the top to create hangers. The loops were fed through skewers painted gold and decorative metal beads were glued onto the ends of the skewer.
At this point I think the bedroom is pretty much finished - it just needs a fire in the fireplace. I don't think there'll even be room for a person to pose in this room, unless they climb into bed. In other words, if you can see anything you think is missing or wrong with the bedroom, now would be a good time to tell me about it.
Next door in the Centre Room I rearranged the furniture by moving the table back. I think the arrangement looks better now but I think perhaps I need to find a smaller chest/coffer/other piece of furniture to sit along the right wall. Once I finish off the candleabra sitting on the chest, this is another room that is pretty close to complete. Another rug at the back of the room and a cushion for the X frame chair perhaps?
Moving along to the Library, I have finally fixed up the slightly dodgy paintwork on the top of the back wall. The books and papers on the desk have been arranged messily but I still need some sort of table lamp to finish it off. I tried various feature ornaments to display on the three empty sections of shelf. I don't really like what I've got there now, but its the best that I have. I may have to try making something to fit here, but at the moment have no idea as to what.
Downstairs the biggest task left to go is the lighting. I want a big, ornate chandiler to hang from the ceiling in the entry hall but haven't figured out how to make it yet. Yet again, if there were a craft shop in town that actually had stock on it's shelves, I would probably have found some findings that I could adapt and incorporate into a chandelier. I also need seven wall mounted candle scones for the Entry and Dining halls and I did make some, but they're not right for the castle, so I have to go back to the drawing board.
So, will I finish the castle in the next two to three weeks? Possibly, if I am lucky enough to find what I need and if I totally ignore the Witch Shop which is pretty much what happened this week. I did make one piece of furniture for the shop though; a small shelving unit that stands by the front door and outside in the garden I added a flowering vine growing up the back wall between the door and the window.