A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

The following is a randomly selected newspaper headline from many years ago:

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Next Project - The Behemoth

I bought and decorated this house some years ago. It was the first proper kit house I'd bought and it taught an important lesson - don't buy cheap (well, comparitively cheap) houses. That's not to say that I had any problems with it, it was easy to assemble, the exterior finish is quite good for the price and it has concealed magnetic catches to hold the front closed. The problem I found with this house were it's dimensions. The rooms are 35cm deep, the height from floor to ceiling on the three lowest floors is only 20cm, the top floor only 17cm. This means that the back of the rooms is hard to see into and tend to be very dark. Electric lighting would fix the latter problem, but any sort of hanging light would hang so low that the dolls would poke their eyes out on them as they wandered about their home! In addition to the depth of the rooms, there is another 21cm of depth in the faux basement. I bought the house because I liked the basement look and houses with basements are hard to find down under, but it made the house so deep it was hard to find a suitable place to put it, both while I was working on it and after. I have another similar kit house (without the basement) and a couple of years after I first decorated it, I took it apart and reduced the floors from three to two, making the ceiling heights of each floor 1/2 as high again as they had been. The final result of this work is the "Victorian House" which is a vast improvement over the original. Of course the windows in the front of the house were left at the wrong heights and I decided to leave the front that came with the kit off the house and use a clear covering. Basically, the house became a big box with a shelf in the middle and a clear front. I could have made that myself from scratch! The moral of the story is that it's best to buy good quality houses with good dimensions in the first place or to make your own houses from scratch. Conesquently, although I was more or less satisfied with the house pictured above when I first decorated it, I was never thoroughly pleased with it. Then a few weeks ago I was walking past this house and suddenly saw, not a house, but an entire castle trying to break free! I could see the crenellations across the bottom of the roof, the front steps turned into a drawbridge (etc). At first I just said "well that's just plain crazy" and tried to ignore the idea, but like all the best crazy ideas, it refused to go away. Eventually I had to sit down and think it through properly. The bottom floor/basement could still be below ground level and house a kitchen, catacombes, a treasury, dragons cave or dungeon. The next floor up could be the Great Hall. The next floor would be removed to make the Great Hall double the height, allowing more light in and providing space for a gallery of some kind. The top floor could be the royal bedchamber. But what about a solar, armoury, still room, library, servants quaters and other castle type rooms? Not to mention, where were the staircases going to be? Soon, the idea had expanded from the original house to include an added tower housing these extra rooms. Typically, towers are taller than main buildings which will make the castle at least one metre tall and about 3/4 of a metre wide. At this point I stopped and said no, you can't possibly do this, it's too big and there will be no room to put it. At around the same time I had the idea for a story set in a new fantasy world. Not surprisingly for a fantasy story, there was a castle that featured prominently - the home of the monarch. As you would expect in a castle it had a Great Hall, a dungeon, a sorcerer's library, catacombes, secret passages, etc. As the world and story began to develop, I looked again at the plans for the dollshouse castle and realised that Highcroft Castle, the home of the kings of Oronia, was in fact the same castle I had been planning to make. This then led to my knowing exactly what was going to be happening in the dollshouse castle's Great Hall - the coronation feast for the new queen, attended by all the different peoples of Oronia (including elves, fairies, centaurs, etc) just as it happens at the end of the story. It also gave me more definate ideas for a few other rooms too. This put the castle idea back on the table. Or rather on the floor as I am currently thinking that the castle should be designed to be floor-standing mainly on account of I don't have a cupboard or table large enough to accommodate it. Of course, I doubt I have enough floor left to accommodate it either, but I'll worry more about that later. At this point, I've more or less given up worrying about practacallity; keeping the house/castle to a reasonable size (I'm even toying with the notion of yet another tower!) and restricting my ideas to things I can reasonably expect to be able to make. How for example am I going to make a centaur? I can't even make a believable loaf of bread our of polymer clay. Horses and men are far more tricky than bread and a combination of the two - yikes! It'll probably end up being a good likeness of a pile of dragon dung! But again, this is something to worry about later on. More immediate concerns are questions like "what will the tower be made of?" and "where do I need to cut holes for stairs, windows and doors?". Another problem is the exterior finish. To go for a more realistic effect like using real stone pieces or stenciling with stone-look compound will be both expensive and incredibly time consuming when you consider the amount of exterior there is going to be. The same can be said of making a stone effect with clay (much as I did the roof of the Bakery). That leaves some sort of paint effect. At the moment I'm thinking of using one of my stonework stencils and a can of spray stone effect paint. It should be reasonably fast (especially working in the Aussie summer when the paint will dry almost instantly) and hard-wearing although probably not as realistic as some of the other options. I need to do some experiments to see what works and what doesn't. First of course I have to strip out the existing house. I've already pinched the people (they're now redressed and inhabit the bakery). I should be able to remove the skirting board and other details intact (I hope) for later use. Then it is a matter of disassembling the whole house, cutting door/s in the side to give access to the tower, then the house will be ready to become a castle!

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