As some of you may already be aware, the past few days have seen severe bushfires devastate parts of Tasmania. Firstly, let me say that I am not personally affected by this at all and the worst of the fires are at the opposite end of the state to where I live. There are however thousands of people whose lives have been destroyed by the fires. The town of Dunalley has been destroyed with the local school, bakery, sawmill and many farms wiped out. Thousands were evacuated from the areas affected and many no longer have homes to return to. Electricity has been cut to nearly 10,000 houses due to burnt infrastructure. 100 people are considered missing by authorities and although they expect most of these people are safe, they are searching eight properties per hour for human remains.
If you can spare a few dollars and would like to help the people whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by these fires, please visit the Red Cross website by clicking here and make a donation.
Over the Christmas period, I made a start on two new properties. The first is a ladies boutique based in DHE's Corner Shop kit. At one point I had plans to build this shop from scratch and make it bigger and grander but as I am working with a roombox literally under my feet because I have nowhere else to put it, I reluctantly decided to use the smaller kit.
I altered the basic kit by extending the front/side wall so that the staircase could be placed inside the shop rather than outside so that I end up with one two storey shop instead of two separate spaces on two different levels. The outside walls were finished by using a brick stencil and my mix of "brick paste" on the lower half and acrylic paint mixed with texture powder to create a stucco effect on the upper portion. The roof is covered in vinyl tile cut into shingle sized pieces.
Inside the walls are covered in a scrapbooking paper with white, grey and silver stripes. For me this is a very dull colour palette, but it really doesn't matter what colour the walls are; by the time the shop is filled with stuff you will have trouble seeing them anyway.
The ground floor is "tiled" using a black and white check scrapbooking paper which was pasted to the floor and then coated with gloss sealer. That rug on the floor? Oh, that isn't covering an ugly wrinkle in the paper, the fact that there will always be something ontop of this spot in photos is just coinsidence. . .
Upstairs the floor is covered with popsicle sticks laid in a random plank pattern and stained and sealed. The staircase is not yet installed because it still needs more sanding. The stairs that came with the kit are about the shoddiest piece of junk I have seen come with a proper dollshouse kit from a company selling "adult" houses. The surface of the steps were as pitted as the surface of the moon and the stairs were joined in several places with joints that looked like they'd been assembled by a five year old. The glue used in these joints was either extremely cheap and ineffective or they just didn't use enough of it because one joint fell apart. The stairs have been filled and sanded and sanded and sanded and I think I'll still be trying to get them smooth this time next year.
The stairs were not the only part of the kit where cheap glue was used; one of the windows that came with the kit arrived in pieces, the other fell to pieces when I tried to paint it, the door is still in one piece, but it won't hold up to a gentle breeze. The pre-glued pieces of roof were also falling apart when they arrived, but as I wanted to take them apart to extend the roof I'll not complain about that. All in all I get the impression that the Dolls House Emporium have cut costs as far as they can and sacrificed all semblance of quality to do so. I'm also not keen on the way the kit is designed to open. The front panels are left loose and the ground floor front rests on the table, not on the base of the kit. So if anyone not familiar with the shop tries to pick it up or move it, the bottom front is liable to fall off or simply get left behind and in either case it is likely to be damaged. In the past I've otfen thought that DHE don't think through their designs terribly well and the Corner Shop is definately a further example of this. So to cut a long story short, I am not reccomending this kit to anyone.
The second of the two properties I've started making is the Apothecary. Like the "Bakery" from a few years ago, this property will have a subterrainean chamber, in this case housing the apothecary's work room, beneath the shop. The underground room is built inside a flat-packed MDF cube shelf unit. Once assembled, curved ribs of foamboard were glued to the ceiling and a piece of cardboard glued over them to create an arched ceiling. Plan A was to then cover all this in clay and use my impress moulds to create a brick effect. I already had my brick stencil out to use on the Boutique, so I figured why not do the Apothecary the same way? So I went with plan B, stenciling the bricks.
The stencilling process is fairly simple. Use spray adhesive to temporarily fix the stencil where you want bricks, smear some brick paste over the top, remove stencil and wait until dry.
It's a method that works brilliantly on the flat outsides of buildings, but it's not so great on the inside because the stencils are not designed to go right up to the edges of things like inside corners. So once you've stencilled the middle parts you have to freehand the edges up to and around the corners. And curving arches . . . not so simple. To make matters worse, working in the confined space inside the chamber has lead to many of the bricks being smudged and smeared accross the wall. It is a mess, so I've decided to go back to plan A, the only problem is that you can't work with air dry clay in 30+ degree heat; it dries before you get a chance to work it and because it dries so fast it has a greater tendancy to crack. So work on the apothercary has come to a halt until we get a cool change.
In fact it has been so hot lately that doing anything that involved movement of any kind just seems like way too much work so I've been sitting idle and working on my cross stitch for some of the time I might otherwise have spent working on miniatures. People say I finish miniatures quickly, but no one can accuse me of the same when it comes to cross stitching as I've been working on this one for at least five years. In my defence it is huge, about 40x30cm and I do only have an area about 10x10cm left to go.