A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

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

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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, July 30, 2012

Tasmanian Miniature Extravaganza 2012

Saturday and Sunday saw the bi-annual Tasmanian Miniature Extravaganza held in Hobart.  Despite the grandiose name, it is just a fair like any other and the only dedicated miniature fair held in the state.  All the main miniatures shops in Australia had stalls there, including Lorraine from Fairy Meadow Miniatures who hopefully won't be mad at me for "borrowing" this photo from her facebook page:

Lorraine's stall is in the foreground with some of her hand dressed beds in the bottom left corner.  This photo was taken at a fairly quiet time as it was much busier when I was there.

There were also some lovely roomboxes and houses on display.  Here are a few:

Brambly Hedge scene made by Jill Miller.

A selection of Christmas themed stalls

1/24th (1/2") scale Tudor houses

Close up of one of the Tudor houses, this one by Pauline Rice

Aren't those Tudor houses gorgeous!  I kept Tilli firmly buried in my pocket as I passed those; I had a feeling if she saw them she'd want something like them creating for her house.  I did let her take a look at some of the 1/24th furniture on sale and she picked out this bowfront chest of drawers:

Dan was also riding in the same pocket and was disappointed not to find a new hat to replace the one that came with his suit but was crushed in the mail.  In fact all three of us were a little disappointed with the items available at the fair this year.  In previous years there were some stall holders with handmade items and some without internet shops meaning you could find items at the fair you hadn't seen before.  This year, if you couldn't find it on the internet, it wasn't there.  I did manage to collect a few things for the Georgian house though.

 There are four Chipendale style chairs for the dining room . . . . and six plates to make six place settings on the dining room table.  That's because I still need to find two carver chairs to match the side chairs.  Or because I'll only have four place settings and have two plates spare depending on what I decide will look best.  I also bought a range of copper items for the kitchen including pots and pans and utencils.  In the Georgian era, tea was usually drunk out of small bowls or cups without handles the way it was served in the orient.  The oriental style tea set I found is perfect.

Walking back accross Hobart to where I left the car (the only place I know to park for free in Hobart is a fair hike away from the venue) I passed this building and couldn't resist joining the tourists in taking a photo:

It's home to the Law Society and has a marvellously inspiring Georgian facade.   I'd love to make it in miniature someday.

Back home, my own Georgian house is looking a lot less grand than the Law Society.  In fact from behind it's positively a mess!

Yes, I've been getting wired.  I still need to wire up a few wires into plugs and then I need to tidy this mess up, but once that's done I'll finally be able to do something with the outside of the house.  Inside, I finally got to turn my fires on and see if my bead and glass paint embers worked.  I'm glad to say that they do work, in fact I think they're better than many ready made fires.

The Drawing room fire alight.
Not only do the fires glow, they flicker too.  Well, actually it's more of a flash than a flicker but it's still a great effect.  Can you blog a video?  I'll have to see if you can so you can see the flicker/flash yourselves.

The Nursery fire alight.

 The Dining room now has it's two floor standing candlearbra installed in each back corner to illuminate the room.  The remaining lights in the house have all been remade since last week's disasters.  Instead of curving arms they have simple flat balsa wood supports fitted onto some prebought mirror frames.

The Bedroom has two double sconces.  All these lights are made with newfangled bi-pin bulbs.  They are so much more sleek and gracile than the old fashioned screw in kind.

The Nursery has three double sconces. These are the simplest in the house as the kids wouldn't have had the best of anything in their room.

A double and two singles for the Drawing room

A double sconce for the study, plus two singles on the bookcases not shown here.

A double wall sconce in the Hall plus a pait of candle sticks on the side table.  There are also lights in the basment I haven't photographed.  I'll show them to you next week. 

When installing the lights I made one big mistake.  Most of the fittings have more than one bulb, thus more than one pair of wires coming through the same hole in the back.  By the time the wires are poking though a small hole it's impossible to tell which belongs to which bulb and when you try to wire a plug onto the end you don't know if you're attatching wires from the same bulb or different bulbs in the one plug.  So a good tip is to mark the wires before installing the lights so you know what you're doing.

It's time for me to go back to putting plugs on the end of wires and trying to figure out why some of the bulbs already wired up aren't working.  Then I need to finish the outside of the house, fix the covings, install a few skirting boards and I think I'm finally ready to start furnishing the house!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kikkerikotep's Revenge?

 Do you remember when I credited Kiki's red eyes to the fact that he'd been awake for the past few thousand years?  Being unable to rest for that long is sure to leave a body in a bad mood, right?  Well, I'm starting to think that Kiki has found a way to get his revenge on me for making him so rest-less.  I'm now pretty sure that the Georgian house is in fact cursed . . . and who knows more about curses than a mummy?  Is the curse Kiki's way of getting back at me for locking him into a sealed temple/tomb for thousands of years with no company and nowhere to lie down even if he did get sleepy?  Perhaps if I slipped the sarcophogus from the Unwrapping Party in with him for a while work on the Georgian house would go better?  Or maybe he's just mad because I gave him the silliest vaguely Egypitan name that came to mind?

As you've probably guessed, work on the lights for the Georgian House has not run smoothly.  I set out to make three different types of lights for the house.  The first type is the floor standing candleabra.  I had four ceiling lights I took out of Dawncrest Castle that I decided to adapt into candleabra.  This actually started out quite well.  I carefully removed the hanging chain from the top of the light and unscrewed the bulbs for safekeeping.  Next, I hollowed out a piece of balsa wood dowel so that the bottom of the light fitting sat snuggly inside it.  The light was glued into the balsa which in turn was glued onto a longer pole with some feet shaped out of more balsa wood on the bottom.  The power cord was glued down the back of the pole where it would be out of sight and this is the result:

Foregoing the fact that the lighting highlights the fact that the coving/cornice still hasn't been fixed, do you notice that the light is leaning against the wall?  Well, that's because when you whack a heavy metal light fitting ontop of a structure made of out light-weight balsa wood it becomes just a little top heavy . . . just enough that it prefers falling over to standing up.  Still, if I glue it in place it should be OK.  So, I made three of these and set them aside to paint them later . . . . .

The next type of light is the simplest; a basic candlestick.  I made four of these out of small plastic toy chess men.  All they needed was the top cutting off to make a flat surface and a quick soak in hot water to melt the glue holding magnets in their bases.  They're hollow, so these two actions left an open chanel to pass a power cord through, but before wiring them up, I set them aside to paint them at the same time as all the other lights . . . .

The final type of light is the wall sconce and far less simple than the first two.    Right or wrong, when I think of Georgian era lights I think of thin, gracefully curving supports in almost an 's' shape, so this is what I wanted to achieve.  I took a cotton bud, cut the ends off so I was left with a hollow, strong tube.  The tube was too rigid to bend into a curve, so I tried putting it in a pan of boiling water for a few miniutes to soften it which did work a little, but not enough to create the graceful curves I wanted.  The best I could do was a simple bend per piece that was ultimately just a loose ninety degree bend.  A flat bead was pushed over the top of the tube to create the candle holder while the base of the tubes were fitted into pieces of balsa wood carved into a teardrop shape which formed the wall plate.  At this point they looked pretty terrible, uneven, wonky and ugly, but a coat of paint might have made them look better . . . . .

So, now all three types of light were ready to be painted.  I took them outside and attacked them with a can of gold spray paint and waited for them to dry . . . . and waited . . . . . and waited . . . . and waited . . . . and waited . . . . . To cut a long story short, the rotten things are still tacky even now and most have marks where I had to pick them up and bring them inside before  night (and rain) fell.  All the different surfaces painted; plastic, wood and metal are still tacky, although understandably the wooden surfaces have dried better than the others.  What I have now is a mess of sticky, ugly and at least half ruined light fittings that I doubt I can use.  At least none of the wiring and bulbs were put into them yet and can be used later; later being when I think up a better way to make the sconces.

Like I said; this house is Cursed.

At least some of the other things done to the house this week actually did work.  Mostly.

The nursery room in the above photo is now more or less ready for someone to move into.  The walls have been finished off with some wooden panelling made out of strips of balsawood.  I made a fire surround for the room by making a temporary mould of the pre-bought surround for the blue bedroom and making a copy of it in plaster.  The copy is decidedly imperfect, so I painted it black as the colour tends to camouflage the odd lump or bump.  Imperfect is fine for this room as children in this era seem to have ranked lower than some servants, so their room would have had the oldest, most beaten up fittings and furnishings.  Besides, once a fender has been added around the fire for safety it will conceal the fire surround even more.  Some simple coving/cornice was made from three strips of balsawood stacked to create an inverted step and painted white.  It looks surprisingly effective, but is very hard to cut to make a neat corner join.  A little filler in the corner a touch up of the paint should do the trick.

 I used the same method in the study and discovered that although inside corners might have been difficult, ouside corners were impossible.  A lot of filler and a lot of paint will be needed for the corner above the bookcase.  Adding the coving/cornice in here highlighted how low the ceilings are, the door arch goes right up to the coving, but that's not the worst of it, just look at the fire overmantle:

It actually extends up above the height of the coving!  I had to cut the coving to go around it.  Actually, I don't think this looks too bad, it just makes the overmantle look more monumental and overstatedly grand.  Well, that's my excuse.

 The kitchen has a new sink.  Typical of the era, it is a "lead lined" wooden sink.  The lead is just metallic paint but is quite convincing enough.  I'll add a drying rack on the wall beside the fireplace so the heat of the cooking fire will help to dry anything washed in the sink and possibly a cistern/tank on the wall above the sink. 

There's still a lot to add to the kitchen, but it's already starting to look crowded in there.  By the time I add a table in the middle of the floor there will hardly be room to move in there.  Guess I'll need to hire a skinny cook to work in there!

Last week I had the quality bedroom furniture I bought twelve months ago to go into this house set out in the bedroom.  Ideally, the bed needs to point forward so you can see all it's fine features, but there's no way to fit everything in the room with the bed that way.  It has to do diagonally as in the photo or with the head against the side wall (where the dressing table is).  The wardrobe came with the set, but is it really era appropriate?  

Having doubts about this furniture in this room I boxed it up again and pulled out some bits and pices from my store of unused furniture and  tried some alternatives.  You have to imagine the bed with a grand canopy over it and add some extra chairs, chests of drawers and so forth, but ulitmately I think the room done this way is more Georgian feeling than with the other furniture.  I think maybe I'll go this way and make a separate roombox for the "good" furniture later on . . . . Or in other words, expect to see it back here next week and the alternate furniture back in it's box.  (It's the curse, it's pervasive!)

 Taking a break from the house entirely, I finished off the 1/24th scale lady doll I made from polymer clay way back when I made the people for the Dig Site.  At that point she was scuplted, baked and her face was painted, then she was set aside as I won't need her until I start work on her 24th scale house.  Eventually.  I decided to finish her now for two reasons; first this house is cursed and is driving me nuts and second, the Tasmanian Miniature Extravaganza is being held in Hobart this weekend, I'm going and I might find something for her house while I'm there and I will need here there to check the sizing and get here approval (hey, it's her house after all).  I couldn't take her for a day out in the nude now could I?

Her dress is a piece of lavender linen while the bodice is a piece of silk ribbon.  Her hair is done in a simple bun.  At some point in this process she decided she wanted to be called Tilli.  Tilli isn't from any particular era as I don't know what sort of theme her house will have yet, aside of course from "small".

To go back to the Tasmanian Miniature Extravaganza and clarify things, it's not all that the name suggests.   The "extravaganza" is just a fair, pure and simple and it's only held every other year.  Still, it does attract most of the "big" miniature retailers in Australia and it's always crowded.  I have a list of things I'd like to find there and will show you what I do find next week.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Firing Up

More work on the fireplaces this week with the fire inserts being made.  Unfortunately, the inserts are basically black, most of them on a black background and therefore they do not take good photos.

Nusrery Fire without surround

The two bedroom fireplaces each have a slighly curved recessed back with a small oval shaped firebasket.  The firebasket is a block of balsa wood carefully carved to shape.  A big block was then cut out of the middle top of the balsa creating a hole for the "fire" to sit in.  The front of this hole was covered with some lace to act as a grate to hold the coals in.  As the fireplaces are back to back I decided to cut down on the number of light blubs needed by cutting a hole in the backs of the fires.  This was actually a necessity for these fires as the bulbs I have are flickering units, two bulbs per unit and one of them about an inch long - no way it would fit in just one of theses small fires. 

Bedroom fire with surround

The coals and embers were added over the top of the bulbs by cutting some clear acetate sheet to size and covering it with a messy mix of black and red seed beads and yellow and orange faux leadlighting paints.  Once dry, the paints glue the beads firmly in place and the acetate simply slots into place and can be easily removed if I need to get at the bulbs beneath.  Having done all this, most people would immediately plug the bulbs in to test the effect.  Unfotunately, although I have fed the wires out to the back of the house I haven't hooked everything up yet.  Hopefully everything will work and look OK.  Hopefully . . . . .  Still, they look quite fire like even unlit.

One floor down, the fireplaces in the Study and Drawing room were made much the same way.  The fire baskets are of a different design and made out of cardboard, balsa wood and some mesh, but everything else was done the same way.  For the back of the fire in the Study I used some of the leftover marble tile paper from the Hall floor.  Not the smartest idea as it highlights the difference between my hand painted marble attempt and the way a marble effect should look, but by the time it's been dirtied up with a little soot, hopefully it will all blend together.

 Staying in the study for a while, I've installed the arch over the doorway and made a start on the bookshelves.  The shelves are balsa wood with cardboard fronts.  Some air dry clay was used to make the backs of the top shelves curve forward to meet the front edges.

Perhaps the biggest changes this week are in the drawing room.  Not only does it now have a fireplace, it also has some dado frieze wallpaper , coving/cornicing around the ceiling, windows and niches.

 Here you can see one of the men who lived in the house before I started to renovate it has dropped by to check on the progress.  It's a relief to see that he looks right at home in this setting - It means I must be getting something right!

If you look closely, you'll see the joins in the coving are very badly done.  It's partly because the pieces of coving themselves were different thicknesses and partly because the house is made of ply wood and has been taken apart and reassembled so many times that nothing is quite straight or square anymore.  Some filler and touch up paint should disguise this problem in this room . . . . But I'm not sure what to do about the Dining room coving.

 The wider coving makes the poor alignment show up even more than it does upstairs.  What is really annoying is that I had this coving perfectly positioned, I just didn't keep watching it until the glue was totally dry.  It looks like it got up and had a disco between when I put it there and when the glue dried.  The only way I can think to fix this is to take the coving off and start again. . . . . but I'm almost sure to rip the wallpaper if I do that, not to mention break the plaster coving.  Nothing seems to go right in this house, perhaps it's cursed?

 Anyway, here's the Dining room fire place.  Again a slightly different design, but made the same way as all the others.   I've also made embers to cover the fire in the kitchen range, but seem to have neglected to take a photo of it.

The next major task for this house are the lights.  Yes, I know most people would have installed them before now, but I change my mind too much to be able to position the lights until the house is almost ready for furniture (if not until after it has furniture).  The lighting will be fairly minimal - no ceiling lights as the ceilings are all too low to handle them, just wall sconces and floorstanding candlearbra suplimented by some hidden lights.  Sigh, do you know how many things can go wrong with lights?  Somehow, adding electricity to a cursed house is not something I'm looking forward to.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Marble Madness

There hasn't been a great deal of progress on the house this week.  I seem to have eaten something that disagreed with me and I spent a day or two wishing I were dead and even when that stage passed I really didn't feel like doing anything that required intelligence or steady hands for another few days.  The only thing that I did do for the house was to paint the fireplace surrounds for the Dining Room, Drawing Room and Library with a faux marble effect.

Dining Room Fire Surround
Drawing Room Fire Surround

Library Fire Surround and Overmantle

Library Overmantle
The Dining and Drawing room fires were both bought complete and simply painted while the Library surround was made from some of the various plaster pieces I bought from Fairy Meadow Miniatures some weeks back.  As usual when I try a marble effect, I'm not entirely happy with it, I think I always manage to make the veins to dark and thick and so they end up distracting too much from the details of the "carving".

 The desk in this photo is the DHE one I bought at the local Doll, Bear and Miniature fair back in May.  I justified buying it by saying it was to go in this house, but really I bought it beacuase I liked it and one rule of miniatures is that sooner or later you find the perfect spot for everything.  It does fit perfectly in the corner by the door, but I'm not sure the design is really Georgian.  Then again I've never been a stickler for historical accuracy . . . . So do I use it here or not?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Going Up?

With the rooms in the two lower floors of the house starting to look like something other than a construction site, it was time to drag the four rooms on the upper two floors into the same state.  Before I could work on the Study in the upper half however, I needed to install and finish the staircase in the Hall in the lower half below. 

Well, that and I couldn't wait to see how the stairs turned out!

If you've been following the progress on this house from the start, you'll know this staircase has given me some major headaches.  I've built, disassembled and reconstructed this staircase countless times over the past month or so and made the firm and final decision that the house would not have a staircase . . . several times.  This final design is a compromise on the original grand curving staircase I had envisioned.  For example the stairs only curve around a ninety degree angle instead of a hundred and eighty degree angle.  Still, I'm really pleased with what I did manage to squeeze into the house.  

The steps themselves are balsa wood painted to match the look of the marble floor.  A small gold fan shaped relief sticker decorates the side of each step. The railing is made from pieces of fan blades like this:

Each blade was cut down to just the decorative bit in the middle.  It was surprising how few I managed to break durring this process, I only lost about three out of twenty.  Next I used a needle and thread to sew them to the inside of a cardboard box so they hung from the top of the box.  This was to make them easier to paint using spray paint, not because I'd totally lost the plot!  A small slit was cut into each step into which the bottom of each spindle was slotted.  The handrail is a sausage of air dry clay pressed against the staircase to dry with the right countour and painted brassy gold.

And if you've been looking at all these photos of the staircase and thinking I must have a serious crush on it . . . . I do!  I am really thrilled with it and forgive it for all those earlier headaches.

One of the compromised elements of the stairs are that you can't see the top of them.    If you look closely at the above photo you can see a sliver of green paper on the left and a small wedge of marble on the floor beneath it.  That is about all of the top of the stairs that you can see now that I've gone ahead and built the walls for the study.  Oh well, at least I know they're there.  Behind the study itself is a small hallway that connects the top of the stairs to the door to the Drawing room at it's far end.  The open arch gives access to the Study and a fake door in the back wall gives the impression the house is bigger than it really is.  The hallway is decorated with yellow and cream stripped wallpaper with some "carved" panelling on the lower wall.

In front of the hallway is the Study itself.  The room has a dogleg in the back wall to allow for the staircase behind it.  As you can see, the room itself is still pretty much a blank slate with just one coat of a beige paint on the wall.  You have to imagine it with bookshelves, a desk and a roaring fire.

Next door to the study is the Drawing room.  This is painted in the quinessential Georgian era colour of sage green and will in time have some extra panelling detail.  At the moment it's being used to house all the plaster pieces and lights for the house.  Give me a week (or maybe two or three) and I hope to have all these bits installed and out of the way so I don't have to keep shifting them from room to room to make space to work.  The purple holes in the side wall will be faux windows.

 On the top floor, both rooms have been wallpapered.  On the left is the Blue bedroom while on the right is the cream room.  While the blue room will absolutely be a bedroom, I'm still wavering on the cream room.  It will probably be a nursery room, but I may make it into a sceond (adult) bedroom instead.

 Both top floor rooms are accessed via fake doors in the back wall.  These doors and the two fake doors lower down in the house are made of airdrying clay.  I used a real working door to make a mould which I then used to make the fake doors.  The results are passable, if you don't look too closely and given the amount of clay you need to make each fake door you don't save a lot of money compared to simply buying a fake door.

 Next tasks: Fireplaces, plasterwork and electrics!