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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Down Below and Up Above

 For the first time in a couple of years, Tasmania is experiencing a continuously hot summer.  Why does the rest of the world seem to like hot weather?  I hate it!  Not only did my brains melt about a week and a half ago rendering me incapable of thinking clearly but trying to actually do anything is a little like trying to swim through molases.  No doubt you'll see more typing and spelling errors than usual in this post for which I appologise in advance.  And if I come off sounding wackier than normal, it's because at the moment I am.

Dreaming of cool, damp caverns at least inspired me to get a few more layers of paint on the walls of the Magicians Cave.  They are now looking much more like natural rock although there are still places, especially in the grotto, where there is no paint.  Anyone else who's planing to make a cave; stop and consider how you'll get a paint brush into tall the nooks and crannies first!  The door which was made from impressions in the clay at the same time as the stone walls has been painted a woody brown but needs more work.  A wooden railing of prebought balusters prevents anyone from falling down off the raised platform.  Wires for the lights have been threaded through the back wall but the lights are also not yet finished.

On the top floor, I've done some work in the bedroom and wardrobe.  Strips of balsa wood in a grid pattern make a panelling effect on the walls.  The plaster coving that had been intended for the solar tops the panelling in the bedroom end.  It was painted a creamy white to match the panelling, then the detail of the coving was picked out in red, green, blue and gold.  As expected, I made a mess of the corner, but hopefully once filled and patched it will be less noticable.  Because the original plan was to use the coving in another room, I don't have enough to do the wardrobe as well.  I haven't decided whether to buy more or leave the top of the wardrobe walls plain.  What do you think?

 The bed is made of balsa wood, wooden beads and some fancy panels.  It reaches from floor to ceiling as it holds the ceiling up.  Unfortuantely it is a trifle too tall and actually makes the ceiling arch up a little.  If I decide that I can get it out again with out pulling it to peices, I'll cut it down just a little.  The bedspread is a printed lawn fabric and evtually there will be matching bedcurtains too.  The green behind the fancy panels in the bedhead needs changing to something else.

Finally, I played a little with the lighting in the crypt.  I used part of the clear plastic pack the lights came in, covered it with swirls of blue and green glass paint and put a light bulb inside to create a creepy sort of glow that eminates from behind the stairs.  It looks quite good in real life, but in a photo it looks like this:

Not so good.  Are light effects always hard to capture or am I just a lousy photographer?  I'll use the same method to light the grotto in the Magicians Cave.  Perhaps I'll manage to get a better photo of that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Australian Talent

January 26th is Australia Day, the anniversay of the arrival of the First Fleet and the day when Australians celebrate being Aussie.  So to celebrate I'd like to share with you a selection of delightful blogs about miniatures created by talented Australians.

Here they are in no particular order:

In sunny (or is that rainy) Queensland Christine of Hollyhock Cottage is creating a 1940s cottage inspired by her love of the works of Enid Blyton.

Lidi of Basketcase Miniatures hails from New South Wales and is a IGMA member.  Her specialty is weaving baskets in 1/12th scale.

Sydneysider Linda of Linda's Miniature Musings  has worked on diverse properies such as a WWII shop, a witch's residence and a french chatteau.

Still in Sydney is Norma of Make Mine Mini.  She's currently rennovating a house rescued from the rubbish and so far it's looking fabulous.

Tasmanian Linda of Une Petite Folie has created the most amazing french style mansion.

Fluffy Bricks is a blog that "showcases interesting, beautiful, and bizarre dollhouse miniatures."  Although the blog's owner is Australian based it shares wonderful miniatures from around the globe.

Queenslander Marion has created three blogs.  The Witches Cottage  details her work on a cottage she began as part of a class with Rik Pierce.  The Florist similarly charts the progress on her florist shop (gotta love the bricks/stonework here) while Marion's Miniatures showcases her other miniature works.

Sandra from Sydney runs the blog Snippets from my Studio and creates the most amazing smaller scale houses and items.

There are more talented Aussies out there.  Some no doubt that I've missed when making this list, some whose blogs I've yet to discover.

Monday, January 23, 2012

From The (Under) Ground Up

Having started work on the castle in the underground Crypt, I decided to stay below ground and work on the Magician's Cave this week.  It is situated next to the Crypt in the room that was the kitchen.  After spending a lot of time trying to plan the layout and features of the cave and failing to find anything that really worked, I decided the best course was just to forge ahead and let the space evolve on it's own as I went along.

With no logical access to the rest of the castle, the room needed to have a false door in the back wall to give the impression it is connected.  I decided to put this in the back left corner of the cave and so cut a platform out of polystyrene so create a raised area and step down from the door.  With this in place it seemed logical to put the shelves next to it so a pre-bought shelf unit that had been hanging around forever was glued onto the back wall.

This left the right corner empty.  Looking at the way the cave was taking shape it seemed it wanted to have some sort of semi circular structure in this corner.  I had wanted the cave to have a well or pool of some kind, so the structure became the grotto, a partly walled in area containing a pool of water.  More polystyrene was used to make a gentle rise in the floor as you enter the grotto and a slope down at the back to hold the water in the pool.  A sheet of cardboard was cut to size to curve from the side of the shelves on the back wall to the side wall.  Cut outs in the sheet create the door/entryway and some extra windowlike openings to the grotto.  A post of balsa wood is the support for a stalagtite like structure within the grotto and another at the front of the cave itself.  Lumps of scrunched alfoil were glued onto walls and around the tops and bottoms of the stalatites  to create extra depth.  All this was then covered with a layer of air dry clay to create a rough, natural stone like texture.  It has been given one layer of paint, but will need several more before it really starts to come together.

Rather than sit idle while waiting for the various stages of the cave creation porcess to dry, I worked on some of the other rooms.  On the 'ground' floor above the Crypt is the Armoury.  I painted the walls of the Armoury a pale bluey green and glued the pre bought faux tile sheet around the bottom of the walls.  A floor made of tongue depressors was laid, stained and varnished.

Directly above the Armoury is the Solar (which used to be the bedroom).  The walls in here were painted pale blue.  The Eagle panels I bought from Tom Thumb Miniatures were then added, separated by strips of balsa wood to create a panelled look.  I laid the floor before adding the lower part of the panelling only to realise that I failed to allow for the depth of the flooring when measuring the strips for the panelling.  Oops.  Now I need to cut them down before I can add them.  I've also added two sconce lights on the back wall and threaded in the bulb for the fireplace (which will be on the side wall in the big gap between panels).

Up on the top floor there has been little work done.  Stiff cardboard has been glued onto the walls and ceiling to cover the imperfections left by walls being knocked out.  About three quaters of the floorboards have been laid.  If you have been paying attention, you may remember that last week I said that the eagle panels I used in the solar were supposed to be used up here.  Well, the fancy gothic coving I ordered to use in the solar arrived durring the week and when I tried it up againts the wall of the solar, I discovered that it would interfere with the spiral staircase.  I would need to leave a gap in the coving for the stairs to pass through.  Instead, I switched the plans for the bedroom and the solar, hence the solar has eagle panels and the bedroom will get the coving.

 In addition to all this, I've given the castle a new name: Dawncrest Castle.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Famous Folly!

The Oriental Folly has hit the big time!  When I went to the DHE forum this morning to see what was going on I noticed a new entry in the "What's Happening" section entitled "Turning a Retreat into a Folly".  Retreat?  Folly?  That all sounded  kind of familiar so I followed the link through to DHE's blog and was chuffed to bits to discover that the folks at DHE liked my Oriental Folly so much they wrote an entire blog entry about it!  What an honour!  You can read what they had to say on their blog by clicking this link.

Later I went to the Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine's website to renew my subscription and saw the link to their online readers gallery.  I figured "why not?" and sent them a few photos of the Folly to add.  If they like them you'll soon be able to see the Folly there too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Crypt Version Two

With lights and moulding still in the mail I was a little unsure where best to start working in the castle because it seemed that everywhere I was waiting for something to arrive before I could advance too far with it.  The Crypt was the exception to this, so I focused my attention there.  The Crypt in the original castle looked like this:

Fantasy Castle - The Crypt by Alennka

 The stone walls were done with a stencil which was fine back in the day, but since then I've learned that short of using real stone slips, the best way to make stone is with air dry clay.  So it was out with the old walls and in with new air dry clay stonework.  I created an arch at the front by splitting a balsa wood dowel in two to create two half round columns on top of which sits an arch made of cardboard.  This too was covered in clay stone.

 When everything was dry I played around with the layout and decided to relocate the sarcophogus to the side wall.  The penant at the head of the sarcophogus is actually the flag that come with the Cumberland Castle kit I used to make Castle Starcaster last year.  I simply decorated the red velvet with some gold relief stickers, knocked together a quick stand to hang it from out of balsa wood scraps and hey presto! one awkward corner covered up.  The Crypt doubles as the castle's treasury or strongroom, hence the chest along the opposite wall.  I'm thinking of adding a shelf above it to hold another, smaller chest.  Another idea yet to be realised for the crypt is to add a ghost.  I'm sure I saw somewhere that you can get glow in the dark sculpey.  Imagine a hand reaching out from behind the penant that glows in the dark.

Although most work this week was in the crypt, I did do a little to other areas of the castle too.  I tiled the Hall floor with more air dry clay.  Now I have to decided what colour/s it should be.  Stone?  Black and White?  I also covered the upper walls with a beige and white patterned fabric.  The lower part of the walls will have wooden panelling.

 Like the Crypt, the Gallery above the Hall won't be upgraded with anything still in transit, so that too could be given attention.  First was the addition of a simple bench seat along the left side wall.  Both Dapper Dan my test dummy and Gil, a temporarily displaced castle resident, decided to try it out.

 Still in the Gallery, I temporarily tacked up this ceiling paper but can't decided whether or not to use it.  The yellow in the paper matches the yellow of the wall freize, but the aqua-y blue and green really have no reference.  Plus the patterned ceiling might make an already low ceiling look even lower.

 Then there is the Gallery railing.  Reuse the old railing as in the photo below or make something new?

The mailman has just been to give me even more decisions to make.  The additional lights have arrived so now I can (try) and decide exactly where they're going and put them there.  I've also recived the sheet of wall tiles and will need to decide if they're going in the Armoury or the Wardrobe and what will be on the walls of the room they won't be in.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Hole in the Wall

I don't have a lot of pretty pictures to show you this week as most of my time has been spent scraping and sanding walls and floors (the result of which is not really worth a photo) or searching the internet for components and ideas.  The one really visible change I've made so far is to put a large hole in the wall dividing the Gallery from what will be the solar. 

Okay, so I cheated and didn't really cut a hole in the solid MDF wall but rather I reused the arch made of balsa wood that used to be in the kitchen downstairs.  I cut down the arch so instead of reaching from the back wall right to the front of the castle there is now a doorway sized gap between the back wall and the start of the arch.  This will be the new access to the Gallery, replacing the ladder that used to connect to the Gallery from the Hall below.  I soaked the Tudor frieze wallpaper off the original wall, but I'm not sure whether to use it on the arch or to simply leave that wall solid burgundy.  The original Gallery railing is temporarily sitting in position.  Again, I've yet to decide whether to re use this as is, to re use it but paint it white to give a greater contrast between the railing and the deep coloured wall behind or to create a whole new railing.

When I first designed and built this castle, I deliberately made it with quite low ceilings so I could have an extra level without the castle becoming too huge.  I then hung lights from the ceiling.  The result was that it was impossible for anyone to walk accross the room without cracking a jaw on the lights.  So I've pulled out all the ceiling lights and ordered a heap of wall sconces to replace them.  I never liked the brass finish on the lights I had, but at the time they were all that was available in Australia.  Fortunately, the range of lights I can buy locally has improved and the new lights although virtually identical are black instead of brass.  I've painted the old brass lights that will be reused black to match the new additions.  It was amazing how much difference something so simple can have.  I think the lights look a hundred times better already.

The concept for renovating the castle is to give it the look of a Camelot style castle as people of the Victorian era would have imagined it.  This means absolutely no medieval realism, but instead a highly romantisised and glamourised ideal of what a medieval castle might have been with lashings of gothic influence.  With that in mind I spent time searching just about every miniature store I know of on the internet and found very little that was immediately suitable.  That doesn't mean I didn't find anything at all.

At Tom Thumb's Miniatures I found these wall panels:

The only way these could be better is if there were more than two different designs in the panels.  At first I saw them in the Solar, but for the moment they are destined to adorn the walls of the bedroom.

I've also bought some plaster mouldings from Sue Cook Miniatures in the UK.  I've ordered a selection of items from the "Gothic" range which will be divided mostly between the solar and the bedroom.

Finally, there are these tiles for either the armoury or the wardrobe/dressing room: Tiles

Hopefully, that is all the shopping I will need to do for the castle.  Of course need isn't the same as want . . . . .

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Folly Finished

The Oriental Folly is complete!  As you probably gathered from my last post, I spent my Christmas break making funiture for it and adding the other finishing touches.  The outside was finished off by adding pedestals for the foo dogs flanking the steps, gold medallions on the doors and windows on the side walls.

 The chairs in the photo below are made out of balsa wood.  Despite starting out as a flat sheet, the backs of the chairs actually curve thanks to some very nervous carving.  The table between them is also balsa wood while the stands flaning the chairs are houseworks legs, two cricles of mountboard and some beads for feet.

This side table is again made from balsa wood except for the scroll brackets at either side which were pre-bought.  The dragon is handblown glass.

The opium bed (or day bed if you prefer) is again mostly balsa wood with some precut panels.   Dan certainly seemed to approve of it.

The stepped unit is yet more balsa wood.  All the drawers and doors on the front are fakes, but look quite convincing.  I've trimmed the bonsai in the pot since I took this photo as it looked more like a sappling than a bonsai.

I'm not sure exactly what part of Asia the costume on display is meant to come from . . . . It's a little Japanese, a little Chinese and I think there's even a youch of Thai in there too.   I made a dummy from a lump of air dry clay and basically made up the outfit as I went along.

The circular shelf unit started with some cheap drawer units glued together to make a long base.  On top of this I made the shelves from balsa wood and wrapped the outside with cardboard to create the circle outline.

 With the Folly finished I decided to make a start renovating the Old Castle.  This is what it looked like before I started:

 As you can tell from the ripped stonework, the bodies strewn about the floor and the general denuded nature of the castle I had been pilphering items to use in other projects and letting this one fall to ruins.

This is (or was) the solar (sitting room) and it shows some of the reasons why the castle needs renovation.  The chair you can see at the back always falls over.  The lights are so low that to walk accross the room means setting your hair in fire from the candles and the shiny brass doesn't seem quite right for a castle.  the edges of the tapestries have curled and one has fallen off the wall entirely.  And the chairs that do stand up are kind of crooked and the seats are too low for an adult to sit in; the lady in the picture is sitting on a shoebox on the chair. 

So I decided to give it just a small, light renovation.  You'll hardly be able to spot the difference when I'm done . . . .  

Yeah Right.  This is how it looks now:

The top floor walls have been removed to create on massive space that will become the bedroom suite incorporating the bedroom, washroom and wardrobe.  The solar moves one floor down where a large hole in the wall will allow people in the solar to look out accross the gallery and down to the great hall.  The armoury wall has moved across about an inch making the armoury bigger while the room adjoining the armoury which never really has a purpose has disappeared becoming part of the Hall and a little bit of the armoury.  While the crypt will remain virtually unchanged the kitchen next door to it will become the magician's cave.  Next up I have the most onerous task of carefully removing the lights (this is the only property I have where the lights are real and working) and either moving them within the castle or replacing them with something I like better and saving these lights to use in the Georgian later on.