Monday, July 11, 2016

Don't Look Back - scene in a cup

Some might assume that a tea cup project needs to be a tea time scene, but I am happy to prove that is a totally unnecessary assumption. This project was inspired by the cup and saucer.  I bought this recently at a yard sale along with a few other related items. I wanted them mostly as I thought they would work with my other items with this style. I didn’t necessarily purchase them for making a mini in. 
I set up a display in my living room on a shelf I have just for this purpose. I rotate the displays here as I feel like it which is usually at least with the seasons, but sometimes more often. As I was quite busy, I didn’t actually finish this display. I kept adding things and then didn’t get back to finishing it. But I walk by in every day as it is near the door to my bedroom.  
Several times as I walked by I pictured something on top of the cup. This wasn’t something I already had. Instead it was something that would need to be added. I have various prints from this same artist and one in particular came to mind. I went to that print and said, yes, I believe it could work.

Fill the cup

There are a number of ways to fill the cup.  In all likelihood, I might could have just glued a heavy paper/card to the rim of the cup and that might be ok. My concern is that over time the paper could sag. Also I was planning to stick things in and knowing that, I thought it best to have foam at the top. I use builders foam often, so this was my go to solution.
I cut a circle first and then smaller blocks that I would stack underneath. I did have to angle the side of the circle as I wanted it to be level with the rim. I also wanted the foam rim to match closely to the cup rim, so I used my craft knife to cut away a little at time until I was happy.  There was a gap in a couple of places but figured I could cover them with the landscaping product.
I did have to add in the triangles (at bottom of pic) to force the foam to stay in place. I wanted this as pressure versus glue as I was gluing to ceramic.

Landscaping basics
I drew a rough outline of the path and then painted brown and green.  I adjusted this until I was pleased with the shape.

Next I applied glue to the path and sprinkled on fine brown ballast from my stash. I patted this in place and let dry a while before shaking the excess over a paper plate.  The excess was then returned to the bag. I allowed the brown to dry before I moved to the green.
Next was the green.  I used two different products. One was a very fine medium green foam. The other a mix of lighter green and yellow. I mixed these two together until I was pleased with the result. Then I added glue to one section of green at a time, repeating the sprinkle, pat and shake process. 

All these products are stored in plastic zip bags. I prefer the zip bags over a non-zip bag as tape just didn’t work for me. I use a bead scoop for getting a little or lot of product from the bag, instead of just shaking out of the bag. It also helps to keep some of the product out of the zip area. 
Road sign
The pole is a bamboo skewer painted white and cut longer than I needed. The extra length was to stick in the foam. I did use a needle tool to poke a hole in the foam rather than force the pole. The sign itself is heavy card. I used my craft knife on the end of the skewer to open a slot for the sign to slide into. Sign glued in place and skewer glued back together best I could. The paint helped hide any gaps. I hand-lettered the sign with an extra fine point pen.

I knew I had a bunch of thicker paper holes in my stash. I pulled out this bag and decided they would work for the largest ones. I did use a my swirl punch for the smaller ones also using some thicker paper. I used a double ball stylus and paint brush end plus a foam pad to shape the mushroom caps. 

The stems are round wood toothpicks painted white. I was able to get 4 stems per toothpick as I wanted the narrow pointed part for most of them. The caps and stems were glued together and then I painted the caps red. They were then glued to the scene. To help with placement, I did punch a hole in the landscaped foam but mostly in the landscaped grassy part, as a deeper hole wasn’t needed. After the mushrooms were all in place I went back with dots of white on the red.

Morning glories
The vine is made from strips cut from the edge of copy paper and then painted. These super narrow strips tend to curl on their own but I did some strategic gluing to get it in place. To get length, I just glued them one to the other. The curls made same way but added as I was working the flowers and leaves.

The flowers are more hole punches from thin paper. I cut a slit in them so that I could make a cone shape. To shape them, I rolled them against my finger with my needle tool. Then glued them and then painted. 

The leaves were some punches that I purchased with a group. 

This group went together to buy a bunch of different colors and shapes from dealer that offers both punches and punched petals. One individual did the ordering and then separated them into smaller amounts to send to or each group member. I glued the punches to the vines and later went back and painted all the leaves to match the vines. 

Egg-shape flowers
Again I used the swirl punch for different sizes. Then I shaped each flower with the double ball stylus. Rounding them from the back and then dimple in the front. Then I painted them. The leaves for these were also some punches from the group but were heart shape and cut them in half to use them. To give them dimension so not glued directly to the grass, I added a bit of foam to the back to elevate like a short stem.

To make these I started with a strip of paper. I used my craft knife to cut petals of similar shape and size. Just slightly curved cuts.
The center is a roll of paper that I frayed the edge of the tube.

 The green leaves were from my stash. I purchased them online or at a show. I could have easily hand cut these as they are similar to the other petals. I repainted them to match.

Star-flower/lily (orange and white flowers)
Since I made the egg flowers I decided to stick with making these as well as similar to the illustration as possible. 
They were made similar to the daffodils with different petal shapes.

I thought these were too much and so I took artistic license to not include them. I find them too much of fantasy. Sure that doesn't exactly make sense with the other flowers I made already, but I am just drawing a line and not making these. It's the whole the yellow flowers are too small relative to the leaves thing that bothered me.
One thing about doing a project based on a picture or drawing is how much of the picture will be done. Sometimes the picture has a depth that would simply be difficult to achieve in the space available. With the trees this was indeed the case.
The trunks are made with dried plant material. I choose the shape best to match the trees I had room to do. The greenery is just the cluster landscape foam sold for trains. I love this stuff. The shape was general. But the choice to flatten the top is because I want this project to fit in a plastic box.
Before I started this project I told myself that I would find a bead/charm to do the owl. I wasn't particularly interested in making one in clay although it was a possibility if the bead/charm thing didn't work out. Indeed I was able to find a suitable charm and even ones the right size and without any loop to be cut off.
This product is sold for going inside of a clear locket. It is flat on the back, but I was ok with that, rather than creating in clay.
To add feet, I cut a piece from the hole punches.
I cut the tail at the same time and this also gave the charm a place to sit and something more to glue to the top of the pole.

It took me several weeks to get back to this project because the next phase was the doll. I knew that I wanted to make this using cloth covered wire. I knew I could do it so the time delay wasn't me procrastinating like often happens, but simply real life activities keeping me busy.
To start the doll I used a wire pin template (pins in a block of wood a the wrap points) I made for some previous dolls.
This is the result of the template
Next I shaped the body by squeezing the legs and arms together, then painted the feet as shoes. I also added some tissue paper to the feet to build up the shoes.
The socks were also tissue paper and I painted. The lines are done using a 20/0 liner.The technique is to make sure the brush is wet and roll the brush through the paint to get a fine tip. I also like to use extender which is an acrylic product that extends the drying time but also thins like water but with different properties than water.
To give the body depth, I knew I wanted to add stuffing or something. My something was batting used in a jewelry box. I wrapped the stuffing in the middle and then wrapped with white silk ribbon. I applied glue to the ribbon to keep in place. I didn't use a lot of glue, just enough to hold it in several places. I could have tried to match the color of the ribbon to the finished color, but I figured painting the ribbon would hide some of the glue marks and make it look better. (I was right.)
After completely wrapping the torso, legs and shoulders, I painted the body blue.
I then added tissue paper pants. These were painted as well.
Next was a tissue paper jacket/sweater that was also painted. Here's with the black base coat only.
 I think the tissue paper did well cover the ribbon. I wasn't worried to much about the top.
The white tissue paper was to keep me from getting the yellow edging paint on the blue.
Next was to paint details on the jacket. I used my liner and a 3/0 round to paint with. The dots were made either with a double ball stylus or a needle tool. I repainted anything that was too big when creating the dots. Black dots in the egg flower shapes here were added after the red dots.
To finish up the doll, I decided to use a plastic bead for a head and gave her a face. The hair doesn't show in the illustration so I went with curly blonde. The hair is bunka unraveled, glued on and then trimmed.

Doll hat
For her hat, I used a bead  on a toothpick for shape. I applied thin white glue to a piece of tissue paper and applied to the bead. Boy, waiting for that glue to dry was an inconvenience. Meanwhile I also cut a brim from paper. This was a round piece with a smaller round piece cut out of it. 

I glued the brim on to the tissue paper. Then I decided I needed another layer of the tissue paper on top of both. Once dry, I careful removed from the bead. It did get squished up, but I was able to reshape it. To finish it out with color, I just painted it all over one color then adding several similar colors in lines and swirls to try to mimic the straw pattern.

Hobo sack
Of all the things I thought was going to be a severe challenge, this wasn't it. But it was. At least until I applied glue and paint.
I tried first with cotton cloth. No way. I didn't want to try tissue, because I wanted to tie it.
Next I made a square of silk that I applied a line of glue to avoid fraying. This silk was some from my stash in off white. I've had this silk for many years and purchased the smallest amount I could at the store we got it at. I got several colors but for this type of doll any light color is a good choice. A good source is thrift stores. Silk isn't easy to care for so I think it gets donated a fair amount. The key is of course finding a light color. But I digress.
The silk square gave me the best chance of achieving this. But it was applying thin white glue and then later paint that made it able to be pinched and sort of tied into shape. 
Inside the square is a plastic bead that I had to glue to the middle to fiddle with the silk square.
The paint was a just a base coat. I let this all dry before I applied the little details.The stick is just some grapevine that I cut the right size.
The suitcase is two pieces of strip wood cut to size. I sanded all the edges before gluing them together. Then applied paint. To give it depth, I applied a dirty water wash (thinned black paint) and wiped off as I went. The handle is wire I painted after inserting it into the wood. The label/travel ticker is paper that I glued on and painted.
Overall this was a really fun project. I will say it was more challenging in some areas than I expected, but nothing I couldn't conquer with trial and error. It also feels really good to have completed this. This year hasn't been a year for minis so far. That's ok, because those other things were important and minis can wait.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sleigh Bed Village - How I made it

Do you ever have visions of minis that won't leave your mind?
I do and this is one of them.
Last year I started thinking about this project.  I don't even remember the exact beginning but it was to mix scales with the bed that had little houses on it in a pile of snow.  This is similar to art by Colin Thompson.  I even bought his book, "Pictures of Home" as inspiration for this project.
Initially I had thoughts of using this bed that I made 20 yrs ago with my club.  It has since been played with and damaged.  I had given the bed to my daughter 10 yrs ago or more when I downscaled.  (Oh, I just invented that as a word for minis.  But it does describe what I did - changing focus from larger to smaller scale in my case 1:12 to 1:48 or smaller.)  She said recently that the first thing that broke was only one foot so the rest may have gotten damaged in my storing it away until I was ready to fix it.  Lesson here is that if I had done so it would have been fixed and maybe not further damaged.  However I will say that the design of this bed was poorly done in that the sides were done all as one piece.  So the grain of the wood goes horizontal.  For the ends and feet this isn't so good structurally.  Last year I waffled around with fixing this bed, making a new one or buying one.  I never found one to buy and ultimately I put the whole project away in a project box.

Fast forward to now - I was inspired by the maker of the little paper houses I am using, Karin Corbin. She talked about making her 2015 set and shared pics.  So when I finished up the other projects Swaps Mall and then RA House additions, I was inspired to pull this one out.

After a brief examination of the earlier made bed, I pulled out the pattern I had from all those years ago.  I decided I would make a new one.  Only this one was going to have curved ends instead of flat in between the rails. I did of course browse the web including pics I had saved to pinterest to decide on that. This is a free form shape that I did cutting a pattern. 

I lightly glued two pieces of basswood together and drew out my pattern so I would make four end sides.  I repeated with shapes for my long rail sides to go between the end sides.  
The sets of three sides (2 end sides and 1 long rail sides) were all cut out and sanded to match.  Then I separated the pieces I had glued together so I had 6 pieces and all these were sanded very well including rounding the edges.  Well except where the end sides would match up to the long rail sides, I did not sand so they would glue together nicely.

Here is a pic on how the curved bed ends started.  I cut the wood from bass wood the right width and used the height of the wood.  Ok, to clarify, the height is the width of the wood (4 inches) that I cut it from. This means the grain goes across the width of how I will use the pieces. Then I got both pieces wet and I wrapped them around a dowel and this glass. The clothespins are clamping the wood to the dowel and the blue clamps were holding the dowel and the rest of the wood around the glass. I let dry overnight.  I loved doing this technique.  

Only problem was I had already cut the ends of my bed (end sides).  The shape of the dowel/glass combo didn't match, so I had to re-wet.  This time I laid the wet wood over two paint bottles.  Two for each piece - one under and one on top the end.  Then weighted them all down using bags of sand. Hindsight I could have done the wood shaping and then cut the end sides afterwards.
I did have to clamp the shaped wood to hold in the right place when I glued it between the end sides. And even then I had to reglue when I added the dowels.  So maybe add the dowels to the shaped wood and then cut the end sides.

Once my two ends were fully assembled, I added in the long rail sides. I added scrap wood at the joints between the end sides and the long rails for inside the bed. Not sure if this pic shows it very well, but the white piece is the scrap wood.  At the top can barely see that there is a join that the scrap is helping support.

Next I painted this entire frame in off white. I wasn't sure what color to go with. I did my sketches with color and was undecided. Granted the sketches helped me eliminate a few colors. I narrowed it down to red or a blue. I waffled on these two for a day or so.  I was all set to use blue, but when I went through my paint, I couldn't decide again.  So I pulled out my fabric stash.  

I pulled this blue and red pattern out right away and it screamed pick me.  

But I keep looking and pulled out several others.  I even waffled back to the red side and traditional Christmas red and green colors.  I laid these on the bed and I just couldn't decide. So I thought, let's switch gears and make the mattress.

I cut a piece of builders pink foam.  I used scraps thinking I was going to put in two layers. Silly me. I had to recut because I only needed one layer. Those scrap pieces of wood I used to support the end and rail sides made perfect supports for the mattress.  But I did decide that due to adding in batting that I would lower the mattress inside the bed. So I trimmed away a bit careful so that the support pieces still held up the mattress but lower than initially. This pic shows the notches I added.

Now I could play with the fabric actually wrapping it around the mattress.  So the first one I tried was the blue and red mix.  I added pieces of torn paper towel to give me a visual of snow.  My vision is to have a bed that sort of morphs into a snowy village, so I need the bedding to be colorful.  Well, I think I do at this point.

Next I decided I needed to finish the bed itself - the frame color and finish. I wanted to add some sort of decorative design. I had thought about doing some stencil painting. But I wanted something dimensional. So I looked in my stash to see what I could use. I found some paper doilies. I cut some different sections and combined them for the headboard. 

White on red is kinda hard to figure what it will look like so I did a test of various stains and finishes.

I was trying to decide if I wanted to add white back to the design with dry-brushing.  I really like the aged look in the lower right - using a brown stain that I then covered with a gloss.

Next I finished the blue and red fabric as the bed covering as it was the one I liked the most with the red glossy bed. Notice how much darker the red is now with the brown stain.  Also the stain in the nooks and crannies of the design didn't stay as much as I would have liked but I am still pleased with the color and finish.
Also there was a gap between the covered mattress and the sides of the bed.  To solve that I just added some additional fabric to hang down below the mattress into the long rails.

The feet were cut from some spindles I had leftover from another project. 

Then it was time to start adding snow.  I had visions that I would use the plaster cloth to help with draping.  I did use it but in hindsight and other steps, I think I could have done without it.

I removed the plastic after working the cloth and it was completely dry.  The cloth is very wet so the plastic helped to keep the bedding from being messed up.  Also it allowed me to be messier while applying the cloth.  I think using the plastic was a good choice for working with the plaster cloth.
I don't have a picture of the next two stages - I decided I needed to do the lighting. Also I added spackle over the cloth. 
This next pic does show the spackle added and adding the snowtex. When I added the spackle I worked around the lights very carefully.  With the snowtex it was slow going as well.  I added the houses as I went so I could add more snowtex to level the houses.

When adding the spackle and snowtex, I normally use a small palette knife that I have.  For this though I knew I needed even smaller blades to work around the lights and the houses.  I pulled out my clay tools.  Oh my those are fun to use as well.  So I will be using them more often.
In the front at the bottom was a layer I added with spackle that got broken off as I didn't wait for it to dry.  So I have this extra light sticking out.  I decided to move it over in the area to the right. I am actually very pleased with that change despite the re-work it required. 
I tend to do that with lighting - not plan as much as I should. I actually planned to use a string of lights, but then realized after using the plaster cloth that my layout would not work with the string as the placement of the houses wouldn't work.  My answer was to use separate lights and connect them together - all red leads together, all black(green wires with the led's I have) together and then used a coin battery and push button switch.

After adding the snowtex my next step was adding glitter.  I used white glue to do that. Working a small section at time, I applied glue, then the green bits and then glitter.  The glitter stuck to the green bits without adding additional glue. After each section, I shook off the excess. Also when adding the green bits - they looked best added around each house and not so much around the rest of the areas.  So added too much and assessed it at one point and removed some I had added.
As I was adding glitter to the snowtex, I also added it to the roofs.  A layer of glue and glitter, even though the houses already had been glittered.

One important note - when I turned on the lights, the roofs of the houses that I had painted over with white looked so much better. I had one roof I had not painted. I thought I could just use the white card.  It looked fine until the lights were on. Then the light shone through that one house differently. So I had to do something to fix it. I tried adding an additional later of glitter - nope, a layer of white paint on the glitter - nope, so I opened up the house and painted the underside of the roof.  It worked enough that I could finish this project.
The last two steps I did was to add smoke to the chimneys using fiber fill and cleaning up the bed.  I had to fix a spot or two that got messed up and also wipe off the glitter that stuck by static.

So here it is - my sleigh bed village

My favorite little house is that yellow one in the middle, but the others are great too.

And with the lights on

The back...

Those of you who live or have traveled in the South East US, will want to check out the back of the barn.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Raggedy House Updated 2015

The Raggedy Ann doll turned 100 in Sept. Wow! 

I was a reader as a child and I loved the Raggedy Ann books.  My mom made me a doll and here is a picture
My mom said that the hair was a labor of love.  Apparently it took a lot of time to do.
I very well remember that doll but sadly I didn't keep it.  

As I was filling my Swaps Mall, I ran across some swaps that were intended for one of my RA projects.  The RA House didn't have a container so I had not added a base that would use those swaps that were mostly outdoor.  Earlier this year I bought several containers including one that I decided would house this RA project. 

This week I made the base and used what swaps I could to fit the base.  I added some flower beds with edging to match the house.  The edging is made of thin card cut with scalloped scissors and then I used a hole punch.
The pond was a swap made by Wanna.  In the wheelbarrow (purchased) is a pot of flowers made by Pam Junk.  The flag and the round stones leading to it were also swaps.
As I was looking at my swaps to add to the base, I also discovered this sweet little vase of flowers.  I added it here at the top of this shelf.
More pics of this project

I intended to post this back in Sept, to celebrate Ann's birthday month.  So I am also sharing pics of the other various RA projects I have done in miniature.  I really can't get enough and can totally see myself doing more in my future.
In no particular order:
RA Trunk

RA Play in the Woods I & II
I made two different ones of this
This one I offered as a kit to my club and also at the shop in Nashville.
I love Andy as much as Ann.  Isn't his little boat cute?
BunnieAnn's Bedroom in an Altoid Tin

I started collecting RA things late in my mini hobby so many are in existing projects but I do add to my collection when I can.
This is a treasure I got earlier this year.  The artist is Maureen Thomas.  I have several other of her dolls and rabbits including another raggedy set.
Isn't that panda cute too?
I got this at a show in Atlanta.  A miniaturist was selling her collection.  (I can't imagine why ? ;-) )  So I got it for a really great price.  It was worth going to that show just to have picked up this wonderful piece.