A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

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

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to leave a comment. I assure you I always read and appreciate everything you have to say. Unfortunately, thanks to Blogger being, well . . . Blogger, I can not respond to comments nor leave any on your blogs. They simply disappear into the ether. Occasionally I will remember to respond in the next blog post I put up, but usually these good intentions slip my mind. So if you want to ask a question or get a response to any comments you may have please leave an email address or other contact method in your comment and I will get back to you.

I have also added a separate page to the blog for the Tower of Magic with a brief summary of all the rooms of the ToM in the one spot. The link is just below this and above the main body of the blog, or you can just click here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Giveaway at Piskies and Poppets

Debie of Piskies and Poppets is currently offering a mystery give-away to a lucky follower of her blog. She makes the most lovely dolls and has some useful tutorials on her blog. You'll find the details of her giveaway on her blog Piskies and Poppets.

Welcome new follower . . . .

A warm welcome to TINK, Dollshouse Daydreams newest follower. Her delightful blog can be found here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Pyramid - Week Three

The main feature added to the Pyramid this week was the sarcophogus (coffin).  This was made from polymer clay and painted in gold, blue and red after baking.  The clay was wrapped around a roughly sarcophogus shaped lump of alfoil to reduce the amount of clay (and baking) required.  As you can probably tell from the photos, sculpting things from clay is not a strong point of mine.  The head dress is clearly uneven and the arms are suited to a sumo wrestler oh, and he has no chin.  Either this guy was the ugliest Pharaoh ever or he should have fired his craftsmen.  As the tomb is in 1/24th scale, the sarcophogus is just over three inches in length.  It rests on a dias of balsa wood painted white. 

Also on the dias are some of my other efforts with polymer clay; some small "offering jars" which would be filled with oils, spices and other afterlife necessities.  At the foot of the sarcophogus are five golden canopic jars.  Technically, these would be more likely to be something like alabaster rather than gold, but it was easier to paint them gold than to try and paint them to look like alabaster.  In the back corners of the tomb are two "oil lamps".  These are very simple polymer clay bowls set on a tripod of toothpicks.  The final piece I made from polymer clay is the somewhat goofy looking black cobra on the floor to the right of the sarcophogus.

I was going to add a lot more to the Pyramid by way of grave goods; golden thrones, chariots, chests of jewels, etc.  Once I saw it with the sarcophogus in place, I reconsidered this.  Adding too much stuff is going to make it look messy and detract from the wall decoration.  I asked the question in the DHE forums and the concensus of opinion seemed to be the same as mine; the tomb just needs a few more trinkets scattered about, but nothing large.  Now I just need to figure out what those trinkets will be and how to make them. . . .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Sunset Garden - Week Three

Not much has changed in the garden this week. I spent too much time working on the Pyramid instead. The foam and pollyfilla ground had dried so it was given a quick coat of a grassy green paint to make it look less like it had been snowing in the garden. The stream and pond base was given a coat of blue. This will change to a more muddy colour suitable for a pond before I add the water.

Where the stream emerges from the back wall I built a pile of rocks. The idea here is to conceal the fact that the stream emerges from nowhere. The rocks look a little out of place at the moment but will hopefully look better once there are "plants" growing bewteen the stones.

Having made the garden look much neater than at the start of the week, I then made an absolute mess of it by cutting a path out of the foam base. This channel was filled with air-dry clay and a texture plate was then pressed over it to add a stone pattern to the clay.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome New Followers!

A quick word of welcome to the newest followers to the blog.

Norma of Make Mine Mini is a fellow Australian (by way of New Zealand, but hey, no-one's perfect).

Cynthia of Briarwood Miniatures also has her own Etsy store here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/BriarwoodMiniatures but be warned, clicking this link could be expensive!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Pyramid - Week Two

Long ago I collected an assortment of Egyptian themed ornaments which have been boxed away for many years.  After a lot of searching, I finally found the box and discovered within it things I'd totally forgotten about.  Unfortunately all these treasures turned out to be too big to fit inside the Pyramid (including them in the Pyramid is of course why I'd pulled them out).  I did try positioning some of them in the Egyptian Hall I did in 1/12th scale some years ago.  This freed up the pair of small sphinxes from the Egyptian Hall for use in the Pyramid.  I also means that at some point in the future I have to do another Egyptian themed roombox so I can include the left over ornaments.

The main focus of work on the Pyramid this week was the decoration of the inside walls, however.  For the upper walls which angle in with the slope of the pyramid I cut three triangles of cardboard painted a dark midnight blue.  I used glass painting / faux leadlighting relief paint to create gold stars positioned in rows on the cardboard.  Once dry, the carboard panels were glued in place on the walls of the Pyramid.  For the lower walls I also cut pieces of thin card to the correct size and shape.  These were also decorated with faux leadlighting paints using patterns of Egyptian figures traced from books and downloaded from the internet.  For anyone reading this who's never tried it, try going to Google images and typing in "free glass pattern" or just "free pattern" and you will be amazed by how many patterns are out there for free.  The images were first outlined with relief paint and when this was dry they were "coloured-in" with faux leadlightng paint.  Again, the wall panels were glued in place when dry.

The walls still need some trim adding around the edges to tidy everything up.  Once that is done, it's on to the contents of the tomb!

Finally before I go, a warm welcome to new follower Minnie Kitchen.  You'll find her blog here.  As her name suggests she makes extremely appetising miniature food. 

Sunset Garden - Week Two

The garden is starting to look a little more like a garden now that the walls have been painted and a tree has even made it's way into the garden. Painting the walls was a long process . . . A word to the wise, don't try painting things in Tasmania in the middle of July. Why? Because it's cold and wet and it takes forever for each coat of paint to dry.

I started by sealing the dried clay with PVA glue mixed with water. The walls were then coated with successive layers of paint in shades of grey and brown. Some layers were applied as a wash (the paint watered down), some were sponged on and some were drybrushed on. I kept adding various paints in different ways until I had a wall that looked fairly convincing as stone. When I was happy with the walls (or was it when I was just simply sick of fiddling with them and decided they'd do?) they were given a coat of clear Matt sealer. Next, I started work on the ground. I wanted to raise the ground of the garden up off the MDF base so I could create a pond. Obviously, the pond needs to be lower than the ground or the water wouldn't sit in the pond, it would spread through the garden. The ground was raised by cutting a block of oasis foam into slices about a centimetre thick which were then laid over the base of the garden. I cut a channel for a stream and pond with a craft knife and added some contour to the ground by pressing gently on the foam. The foam was then drenched with a mix of water and PVA glue to help toughen it up and hold it in place. Over this I poured some watered down pollyfilla to smooth out some dips I didn't want in the ground and again to toughen the foam up. As oasis foam is designed to absorb and hold water (and as it is still cold, though slightly less wet) this is still drying out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sunset Garden

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that the original plan was to add a garden wing to Highcroft Castle that was eventually canned due to lack of space. I knew what the garden was going to look like, so I've decided to go ahead and do the garden as a stand alone roombox (or should that be gardenbox?)
The garden is being built in a roombox bought and decorated many, many years ago. The room I originally put in the box was very dull and because it was decorated a long, long time ago it is very ameteurish. So I stripped out the room, leaving the basic box with solid MDF base, back and sides and clear perspex front and top. The outside of the box came painted in a creamy yellow gloss - not inspiring but sufficient given the back and sides won't be very visible when the finished garden is squeezed in place between other roomboxes.
The upper two and a half inches of the inside walls were painted in a very pale sky blue acrylic. This served as a base for successive layers of watercolour paints in an attempt to create a sunset sky. A large redish circle was painted on to create a setting sun. Painting things like pictures or scenery is not a strong point for me, but I'm quite proud of my sky, even though I wasn't brave enough to try adding clouds.
Next up came the garden walls. These are a couple of inches shorter than the actually roombox, allowing the sunset to be seen over them. The walls were made from foamboard which was covered with a layer of air-drying clay on which a random stone pattern was pressed using a toothpick (just like the catacombes in Highcroft). Once the clay has had a chance to dry properly, they'll get some coats of paint.
The finished garden will have the fantasy theme it was going to when it was going to be Highcroft's garden with faeries, dragons and other mythical creatures in residence. There will be a fountain and a pond full of fish spanned by a small bridge.

The Pyramid - Week One

When I introduced the Pyramid in last week's post, I had only been working on it for a couple of hours, thus I am starting my count with this past week as Week One. The plan I had in mind for the Pyramid was to have a porch or portico at the entrance supported by a pair of Egyptian style columns. The trouble with this is that a 1/12th scale entrance like this is too large for the pyramid and there was no way I was going to make it look right. So I have pulled the portico off the front of the Pyramid and filled in the doorway to create a pyramid with four flat sides. The current plan is to add a pair of obelisks at the front to add some interest, I just have to figure out how to make them. To finish the exterior I gave each side a thin coat of pollyfilla and used the edge of a palette knife to mark out rectangular blocks. This created a nice fine line perfect for blocks laid without grout. Once the pollyfilla was dry, I gave it a thorough sanding, covered everything in white power and then gave the pyramid a couple of coats of paint (thus covering everything in white paint). The Pyramid was then given two more coats of paint, this time in a white pearl to make the stones gleam (hopefully) like limestone. The apex of the pyramid (the capstone or ben-ben) was covered in gold leaf and the stones of the base were painted in several coats of reddish brown with the goal of resembling red granite. With the exterior of the pyramid now finished, the next task is to start work on the interior. The original plan was for the interior scene to be in 1/12th scale, but it is a really small space and in 1/12th scale it will hold a sarcophagus and little else. If I drop down to 1/24th scale I will be able to include many more items and use half as much clay to make them. If only I'd thought of that before I finished off the exterior I could have added the portico back on making it half the size it was before. Dropping the scale down also solves the problem of exactly what is happening in the tomb. I can't add archaeologists in 1/24th scale because even if I find some 1/24th scale dolls, I could never dress dolls that small in the appropriate gear. So the tomb will have to be devoid of life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Welcome to another new follower . . .

A warm welcome to Lainie of Lainie's Little Things.

Wow, thirty-eight followers! It's still a thrill to log on and discover someone else is crazy enough to want to follow my blog. (Uh, no offence meant there folks.)

The Pyramid

Sometime over the weekend, I reached the conclusion that before starting work on my large Inn, I should collect all the DIY bits I need to make it - ready made dollshouse porch posts, brackets, maybe windows and some furniture (so I can make the house to fit the furniture) as well as more generic things like plain wood and balsa wood. Shopping for these things may take a couple of weeks because I'll try to get as much of what I want from one store, which means trying to find one store with everything I want, something I've never actually managed. After I place an order, I'll have to wait at least two more weeks for the order to arrive because it will have to come from Europe or the US. This also gives me time to consider the plans for the Inn more carefully before I start work, thus lessening the chances of my overlooking something important like enclosing a room in the middle of the house without adding an opening panel for access.

With the Inn pushed back to second on the list of things to do, I had to figure out what to do first. I was playing around with the bits and pieces I already had to see if I could do idea one more easily or if perhaps it would be better if I did idea two instead when I came to consider how to construct the idea of a pyramid. In my mind it was fairly easy, cut four triangles and stick them on a square base. I even had a 12" square piece of MDF just the right size for the base. So starting with the base at 12" sqaure, I figured the bottom of the pyramid itself should be 10" sqaure to allow one inch of external space either side and two inches at the front. Then it was a matter of figuring out what angle the sides should be at to create the right height and enough internal space. Once I had a basic triangle, I wondered if I could cut four of them from a single piece of foamboard (sometimes called posterboard) so I pulled out a piece of board and drew four identical triangles, managing to fit them all on the one board. Then I figured while I had gone as far as marking out the triangles, I might as well cut them out and see if they would indeed go together as I expected. Once cut out and with the inside edges bevelled, the pyramid almost fell together with remarkable ease.

This is how I ended up with an assembled pyramid ready to be decorated without ever actually making the decision to make a pyramid. Typically, of all the things I bought at the Miniatures Fair for all the projects I had in mind, I started the one that I bought nothing for! The pyramid itself is not anywhere near to scale, it is essenitally just an eccentricaly shaped roombox rather than a model pyramid. Inside will be a tomb, ancient Egyptian in style. There are three possiblities: first has the priests attending the tomb with offerings, perhaps even finalising the burial of whoever owns the tomb. Secondly, the burial could be long since complete and the tomb in the process of being looted by tomb robbers. Thirdly, the tomb could be in the process of being excavated by archeologists.

In any event, the main feature of the tomb will be the sarcophogus and the decorations on the walls. As the inside space is rather small, there won't be the room to add much more in the way of "grave goods", although I hope to be able to add some canopic jars (these hold the organs removed from the mummy), some offering jars and if I can figure out how to make it even a disassembled chariot for the deceased to use in the next world. Right now I am more concerned with figuring out the outside of the tomb. I spent and hour cutting up egg carton lids and glueing them to the floor and although they would make superb blocks for the exterior walls, the floor used almost all my saved egg cartons and it will be a long time before I go through enough eggs to cover the entire pyramid. At the moment I'm thinking I can make faux stone blocks from polyfilla or clay or use a stencil to paint the blocks. In any event, going around the corners and keeping everything straight is going to be tricky. I now realise I should have drawn some guidelines on the sides before I assembled them. There is also evidence that real pyramids were brightly painted when they were built, so do I make the outside stone coloured, or do I get more creative and give it a more imaginative paint job?

Monday, July 5, 2010

2010 Tamanian Miniature Enthusiasts Extravaganza

Yesterday I drove down to Hobart in the south of Tasmania (I'm from the north) to visit the bi-annual Tasmanian Miniature Extravaganza (this is code for Hobart Miniature Fair).  The fair is organised by the Miniature Enthusiasts of Tasmania, a dollshouse club based in Hobart and many of their members had roomboxes/scenes on display at the fair with the theme of "Through the Door".  There were some truely lovely displays, but as some idiot forgot to take her camera with her I can't share any photos with you.  It always seems like there are very few miniaturists in Tasmania, there are almost no dollshouse shops and if anyone asks you about your hobbies and you say dollshouses they never understand it.  Then you attend a fair like this where dedicated miniaturists are not only shopping for all they are worth, many of them are also displaying the gorgeous results of their efforts.

The shopping is the most important part of the trip of course.  It is a chance that only comes once every two years to buy from a wide range of miniatures and not have to pay postage and hope that the item/s don't get lost or broken in the mail.  I went hoping to find somehting so inspirational I would have to make it my next project to spare me the agony of having to choose what to do next myself.  No such luck.  As I've found to be usual at these fairs, there was surprising little in the way of DIY available.  A few exhibitors had a basic range of wallpapers, Just Wood Toys and Dollshouses had a selection of basic MDF houses and Fairy Meadow Miniatures had half a dozen Dollshouse Emporium kits, but no one really had any windows, doors, architraving, kit furniture, etc.  All the miniature fairs I have attened are like this, I guess these sorts of items don't sell well at fairs for some reason.  To someone like me who usually works by taking basic items such as these and twisting them to their own purposes, it is disappointing not to see them.  I had half hoped that I could find some of the narrow bay windows I've seen around to use in the big tudor-ish inn I have in mind, but no one was selling anything like this.  If I had found the windows, I'd definately have tackled the Inn next.  As it is, I'm still undecided as to what comes next.

Fairy Meadow did have the Toll House amongst their range.  I've looked at this on their website for over a year considering whether or not to buy it.  I love the kit with it's gothic-y windows and door and would love to own one one day, but despite my love of the kit, I can't see what to do with it when I look at it.  I decided to do Highcroft beacuse when I looked at the original house (which I had decorated years earlier but never really liked) I saw the castle.  It just appeared unbidden.  This is how I approach the decoration of most kits or existing structures.  With the Toll House, I've been looking at it for years, but still don't know what to do with it.  I also have half a dozen existing ideas that I can't choose from and don't really need to add another project to the list.  Thus, with no small reluctance, I left the kit behind.  In time to come I will probably hate myself for this.  If in time I do decide to buy it I will have to have it posted from Sydney which is usually quite expensive for something heavy like a dollshouse kit, even a small one, and there is always the risk that Fairy Meadow will run out of stock between then and now.  They are the only people in Australia I know of who stock Dollshouse Emporium products and they only place a new order at most once a year to ship the kits down under in bulk.  If DHE stop making the Toll House kit or if Fairy Meadow simply decide not to order the kit again, there goes the chance of owning a Toll House forever.  True, DHE will ship to Australia, but their fees for doing so are extremely painful.

As nothing at the fair supplied the vital requirements for any of the ideas for projects I have in mind, nor gave me any significant new ideas, I had to shop for all the ideas I had so that whatever I choose to do, I have something to start with.  For a Georgian (or later) project I bought a pair of Dresden figures.  For the Inn I bought an ale barrel on a stand.  For a garden I bought some autumn leaves and plant pots.  Then there are things that will come in handy . . . . eventually.  The male doll and stand for $10 was a fantastic buy, it usually costs a minimum of $10 for a doll, plus postage and with no stand included.  There is the raw wood screen and wardrobe.  The screen could work in the Inn or just about anywhere and being raw, can become any colour it needs to be.  The wardrobe, well, it will probably find a home in a bedroom somewhere, sometime.  I also bought a bag of 1/12th scale bricks.  I don't think one bag (50 bricks) will get me very far, but now that I have some I know are the right size, I'm hoping to create some sort of mould so I can make my own for future projects.  There were also a number of other bits and pieces, all shown in the photo.

So, I still haven't decided what to do next.  Perhaps I could try doing everything at once?  First up though, I have to move Highcroft so I have space to work on something else.  Whatever the original kit house was made from (surprisingly it's not MDF, but something denser and darker in colour) is very heavy, so much so I had trouble carrying it when it was utterly empty and missing all the internal floors.  Moving it now is not something I'm looking forward to. The tower unit, being mainly a hollow plastic board is thankfully much, much lighter.

Friday, July 2, 2010

After Highcroft . . . .

First, let me offer a warm welcome to new follower Lisa.  You can find her blogs here and here.  She also has a miniatures store located here which caters to the widest range of scales I think I've ever seen in one shop.

Many of you have been wondering what I will do now that Highcroft is finished.  The short answer is that I haven't decided yet.  I have a number of ideas (which I will detail below) but have been holding off making a decision as to which comes next for two reasons.  First, tomorrow is the Tasmanian Miniature Enthusiats Extravaganza in Hobart.  (Typical Hobart, they can't have a Dollshouse Fair, they have to have an Extravagana instead.  For some reason all people from Hobart think that it is a big city and the only place of importance in Tasmania.  Would you believe that Hobart is even trying to bid to host the Olympic Games?  Of course, one expects Hobartians to be a little deluded - it's where all the Tasmanian politicians hang out!)  I am hoping to find two matching candlearbra's for the Great Hall in Highcroft (and you all thought I was going to leave them mismatched) If I can't find any, I'll have to buy online and pay for postage.  I may also find something that inspires a new idea, or changes my plans for an existing idea, hence my not wanting to make a firm decision beforehand.  The second reason I've not made a firm choice is that I haven't had the time to get out and browse the local hardware and craft stores to see what is currently available that might be useful and what is not currently available that I won't be able to use.  I would like to try using Builders/Insulation foam, commonly used for building dollshouses in the US, but so far no one in Australia even seems to know what it is, let alone keeps some in stock.

Now for some of the ideas I'm considering . . . .

I'll start with the largest, most ambitious idea.  Ever see the houses built by Gerry Welsh of Manorcraft?  If not, you can see samples of his work on his web site here.  I've wanted to have a house like his since I first came accross a picture of one and am working on a plan for a tudor-ish house four stories tall inspired by his various creations.  It will house an inn with tavern and guest rooms and also have space for a small shop and an open market area.  I am having a little trouble figuring out how to layout and access the rooms on the top two floors, but I'm pretty certain that the bottom two floors will work.  I just have to figure out what to build it out of.  Last year when I bought the Magical Mystery Tower kit (for the Magician's Lookout) I didn't use the MDF board that came with the kit  to use as a base and garden area for the tower.  This board is 56cm long by 32cm wide and a good size to use as a base for this house.

Next, there is the "Pyramid Tomb".  The plan for this one is to make a pyramid out four trigangles of some type of board and a square base, then decorate the inside to look like an Egyptian tomb, either as it was shortly after the burial was placed in it or as it is being examined by archeologists centuries later.

Heather's lovely "Wizard's Lair" which you can find on here blog here gave me the idea of doing a similar tower that is essentially a series of roomboxes one ontop of the other, each fractionally smaller than the last.  The advantages of this are that it can be made to be floor standing (hence I won't need to find a shelf for it) and it can be made as a series of roomboxes and when one box is complete, I can leave the tower and do something different before coming back to the tower if I want to.  I would also like to try Heather's method of making plaster panels for the walls (thanks again for the instructions Heather!), but the middle of a Tasmanian winter is probably not the best time to try it, plus I still haven't figured out how to prevent a cat from landing in the middle of the wet plaster.  The tower itself could be the home of a sorceress, i have a couple of different ideas for the contents of  a Sorceress' Tower.

Even though I'm not making the garden for Highcroft, I still have the plans for the garden in my head and could make the garden as a separate project.  It would be something of an enchanted garden with faeries hiding under leaves (etc), surrounded by stone walls with a gate and a fountain flowing into a pond or stream.

By stripping out old houses and by just collecting things that might be useful oneday, I have a growing collection of furniture, most of it reasonably modern, by which I mean Victorian.  So perhaps I should do something Victorian to use some of this.

I still want to do an Art Deco room.  In all the houses/rooms I've done, I have never made a bathroom.  Occasionally, there will be a bathing area, like the tub in Highcroft's bedroom, but never a dedicated bathroom.  Lately I've been wondering what would happen if I combined the desire to do an art deco room with the desire to do a bathroom.  An art deco bathroom?

And there are plenty more possiblities!