Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beginning Miniaturist

In any story of my history of being a miniaturist I have ever written before today, I would blame my parents for instilling in me the creative gene to make miniatures because they didn't buy me a dollhouse. 
Well, I need to correct all those stories, because I now have proof they did buy me one, I just don't remember it.  Now, I can say they are the reason I had those dreams of miniatures.  Actually the dreams aren't surprising as my dad is an O gauge train enthusiast.  I recall in one house he had a whole room (some would make a library/office he had a train room) for his train layout. 
Is there any wonder that when my adult children finally leave the nest that I am going to take over one room for my studio?
My mom has been scanning slides to digital format so that my husband can create a video/slideshow for their upcoming 50th anniversary.
Yesterday she emailed me this:
She labeled it Beginning miniaturist?

Well, she got that right, it really is too bad I don't still have that house.  Because I now I am going to be hunting a copy of it.  If anyone knows what it is, then by all means tell so I know what to look for on ebay.

This past week, my mom went with me and my daughter to the show in Nashville.  My mom didn't go in, but when we ate lunch we had show and tell.  (Show and tell at lunch is a required part of any mini show trip.)  Later in the day we made it to the Miniature Cottage and I picked out a Maureen Thomas rabbit doll and my mom paid for it.  Wow! that was cool.  Thanks Mom!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Storing and Organizing Minis: display units and covers

Displaying minis does not have to be a challenge – think of it as a way to be creative.  I really love sharing my minis with others, but I love looking at them myself.  So my ideas now are how can I show more in the same space?  Or how can I show more of the special items that don’t yet have a home?

Recently I enjoyed reading a webposting by an online friend Wanna Newman.  She had shared about her new display cabinet.  you can read it here.  It inspired me to think about my own display units and covers.  I share this post about the advantages and disadvantages of the different types I am using and also how I am being creative in displaying my minis.

Dust is not our friend
Any miniaturist will tell you that dust is not our friend.  Starting out due to cost, I often chose not to have a cover for my finished project and that was not a good thing.  I have several projects that I gave up trying to keep up with the dust.  These projects would get dismantled and some parts even had to be thrown away as they had become damaged.  It is my current attitude that any project I make from now on should have a dust cover of some sort.  Thankfully for those that I don't have one for, I do have some good shelving units and other covers that I will move to different ones as I like.

Keeping it fresh
Because of an increasing desire to display more of my miniatures I have started doing new things.  I have gotten creative with different levels and in layers.  It started with a cheesedome that I added a base (the black and white one) and initially had in my studio area, but I soon moved it to the living area.  I have talked about in a prior blog.  That dome holds items that may have a place to go, but it isn’t finished yet or it doesn’t have a home.  Putting them in the dome lets me see them instead being hidden away where I can’t enjoy them.  Since I blogged about it, I came across this dessert stand and it has stayed there ever since.  Note the black and white base has a turntable under it.

I enjoy rearranging things. For example, I used to rearrange the living room about once a year.  Moving to this house five years ago, I haven't found it to be that easy to do - so instead I rearrange my miniatures - usually with the seasons or holidays.  Rearranging them encourages me to dust and also gives them a new light - keeps them fresh.  One way to keep it fresh is to display them around your home.  I have cats and sometimes small children so they don’t sit out just anywhere.

My house has an open floor plan so my kitchen is open to the living room with a bar height counter in between.  At first we did not have bar stools so I have taken over this counter to display miniatures.  It is actually really cool as I can look at minis while I wash dishes.  Here is what that area looks like:

Another way to keep it fresh is to turn around a project that normally is seen from a particular side, like a dollhouse.  Switch the house so the front can be seen first or vice versa.  This is where a mirror behind is nice to have.

Store display designers know that variety and similar grouping will encourage the eye to look longer so I have incorporated that in my display areas.  I do usually change with the seasons or for holidays.  I may choose to set out things that are a similar theme or colors as well.  I use different heights to give focus or more weight to a piece.  Because I am rearranging some of the pieces to put them on more prominent display, it also means that I am rearranging other areas. 

Display units
I have two different ones plus a glass fronted secretary. 

This narrow one is a commonly seen unit in stores that I came by second hand (my mom let me have for my birthday a few years ago – thanks Mom!).  The advantages to this unit is that is enclosed and it has a light and the glass shelves are adjustable.  Also having glass on three sides is a plus.  The disadvantage is that the door doesn’t close well (there is a gap all around it) and the access is narrower than the unit is deep and it isn’t that deep to start with, but quarter scale items fit well. 
Because the light is at the top, I always try to arrange the items so that the light can reach the lower shelves.  Another advantage this unit has is a mirror back.  Now that I have a unit with mirror, I will try to have that in future ones as well.  The mirror allows me to display those four-sided projects (like a dollhouse) and the side turned to the back can still be viewed – often quite well.  The key to this is to not push the project too close to the mirror and also maybe set it at an angle so that it is a little easier to see.

My other shelf unit is actually an entertainment unit.  We splurged on this when we got the new house.  It has two towers that can stand alone, combined with the top – although it does have a bit of a gap even without the dollhouse (my daughter's) in between, or combined with the top and the tv stand that is presently separated.  When this unit is all together there is an additional shelf that goes between the two towers and above the tv stand.  But that extra shelf isn’t required to be used (that shelf is presently under the loveseat so it is out of the way).

 The tv stand has glass shelves as well, but it is all electronics. If ever we change to something else, this stand will be taken over for minis. 
Here is how the unit looks all together and how we had it for several years - well at least the unit not the items inside as they moved around.
Advantages of this unit are for starters the flexibility of the different combinations, but it is also lighted.  Really cool the way it lights via a fingertip touch to the right hinge and it comes on – up to three levels.  Now the lighting does not always reach the lower shelves, so like my other unit, I do arrange the projects to hopefully allow as much light to each project and every shelf as possible.  That is a slight disadvantage, but definitely liveable.  (I have considered adding some led light strips to the sides of the door – it does have room and could probably be done fairly easily, I just haven’t gotten around to it.) This unit also has adjustable shelves so that is a plus considering how often I like to rearrange items.  I also really like that this unit is quite deep.  When I have someone to look at my minis I usually open these doors so that I can pull things out or let them get closer. 

This unit does have good fitting doors, but it also has holes in the back of it to allow for electronic items that have wires.  This allows dust in.  I don’t use them for my lighted miniature projects as those usually have covers or the big plug won’t fit the hole.  I would have to add a connector to the wire, which I just haven’t gotten around to.

The Secretary

I got this one for my birthday as well – back in high school.  I even used the drawers for clothes back then, but in my living room it is just for storing linen for my dining room table.  The top is all display.  The disadvantages of this are that it isn’t lighted and it isn’t very deep.  When I have people over and they look at my minis I do often open the doors of this as well.

Built in

This floor plan came with the built in shelf unit.  I was really pleased with that.  What I didn’t think about was having outlets put in the inside of it.  Then I would be able to plug in the projects that have lighting or have lights attached to the shelf.  I also have to make sure that items displayed here are covered.  The top shelf is a bit high so we keep my hubby’s penguin collection up there. 


Here’s a close up of the shelf I display minis on. 

This is a closer picture of the penguin display

In both these shelves I am using several risers to elevate some projects.  Risers can be tins, boxes, or parts of boxes.  Also other items to look for are dessert stands or candle stands or holders.  For example, I separated a photo cube – the kind that is U shaped and slide together.  This is one way to use a plastic box that has a scratch without interfering with the view of the item inside.
The biggest advantage to risers to me is that I can put things in front of them and showcase more things together in a smaller space. 

Below the mini shelf is a shelf of my scrapbooks.  In between these books, I have another display cabinet.  It doesn't have minis in it right now because of where it is and what I needed to display. This one is smaller.  It came secondhand as well so is missing one level of glass.  The item on the lower shelf would look better if I added a riser below it that raised it above the wood frame of the door.  This unit does not have any lighting and also would have the same issue with the narrower opening, but the door is tighter, but still dust can get in. 

As mentioned above covers are important and I would venture to say almost necessary.  Covers can take many shapes and I have many different ones.  I like to look for them in second hand shops.  I don’t skip over it if it doesn’t have a base as I have found that I can work around that.  If it is clear then I might just buy it. 

Domes - Glass domes of course are great option.   I like them because they can be easily cleaned and generally won’t scratch.  Domes are limiting in that not everything will fit.  They are generally round but I have seen oval ones.

Domes can be found made of plastic.  I have two that were intended as snow globes. Some online friends even talked about using plastic 2 or 3 liter bottles.  I did buy one, but haven't decided if I want to use it yet.
Here are two examples of domes that didn’t have bases – one I added just recently a dessert stand.  I made a foam base that fits in the dome – fine if the dome doesn’t need to be moved.  Previously I had used a glass plate for it to sit on.

For this one I used a foam board to make a base  - the glass rests on the lowest level (grey/beige one) and the other level (green grass) fits up inside the dome.
Other dome type options that I have seen are mason jars, bell jars (have a ball on the top) and vases.  I have a vase that has a curve to it.  It makes the inside smaller near the bottom what I would use for the top, but it could still be used for the right project. Really, any clear container can work but the challenge is making the project fit or being the size.  Something to keep in mind - will the way the container is made like its base that becomes a top block the view of what will be inside. 

One big advantage I see to a dome is that the project will be viewable from all sides.  I think it is great fun to make something that you want to look at all the way around.

Plastic containers
There are many shapes and sizes of plastic containers.  The disadvantage for me is the fact they are more easily scratched.  I have been told there is a product specifically made for cleaning plastic and it helps with the scratching but I have yet to purchase any.  I know I need to but I just haven’t yet.

I also have used many of the two part fitting plastic containers.  I bought a bunch of 4x4x4 inch cubes in addition to other sizes that I think might work.  I also have saved the ones from ornaments or other packaging - if they look good and are sturdy they are saved.

Doll protector cases – these are flimsy covers that have a lid that fits over the top to hold the sleeve like side in place.  The advantage these give is that the plastic can be shortened.  I don’t like the grooves on top but I still use it.  I put whatever project in it that doesn't have  cover that I want to display outside a display unit.
Custom cases - I only have one of those. This one was actually the wrong size for what I needed, but was my fault not the maker.  I use it to cover any project that doesn't have a cover.  Even the items that go under it get rearranged as this project fits in the entertainment unit towers not always under there.
I even use that cover for multiple smaller projects.  Here is an example I did once for a table centerpiece.

I made sure that everything I displayed that day was under a cover.
Here's a close up, see there are two houses under the cover

Collector car cases – I bought some matchbox size car cases and finally have started using them.  These are neat as the base fits up into the cover.  They are a bit short for a roombox, although could be done if the items aren’t tall.  I use them for displaying the odd item not yet with a home. Oh and for the last Quarter Connection convention we got one of the type cases that was bigger and the souvenir porch kit will go in it. 

What a tin as a cover you might ask.  Well yes, if the tin is cut open.  I did this for a half inch scale project.

The tin lid was cut open with my multi-purpose tool and a cut off wheel tip.  The box was fitted so a piece of plexiglass rests in front of the room and below the lid.  Course I rest the tin on one side and so the lid becomes the front.  I also have a tin that have as plexiglass window built in but I have yet to put anything inside it.  I will likely light it as it just has the one window in the side.

While I am talking about the insert I created – one source of plastic is packaging.  I do save good pieces of packaging for windows, inserts or other mini ideas such as a pond or sink.

Sports covers
Sports memorabilia is very popular so I take advantage of the covers offered for them to use for my minis.  Basketball covers are a good size for a bigger project like a house in quarter inch scale.  I prefer ones without the wood sides.  However for this particular project I think it works together.  These covers can be all plastic, custom made, part wood, part glass, part mirror and other choices.  Sometimes these may not be the way to go, but if the price is right, then I like it.
This project later had snow added, but the color of the house trim is still the same as the case trim.  It fits really well on the bar counter, and that makes it easier to see all sides of it when it is out.

Softball cases – I have two of these and I love them.  I got them for a real bargain as the bases were scratched.  But not after I was done with them.  Disadvantage is that they aren't tall enough for some of my projects that might otherwise fit.  Pic is not the best, but maybe it shows how nice the case is.

Small football helmet - My more recent pleasing find is perfect for many quarter inch scale projects and it is a small football or football helmet size.  Here is one I have.  It was given to me second hand so it does have scratches, but I use it anyway.

Another element to consider in display especially for items that are covered and the viewer will want to see all sides is a turntable.  I have a few of my domes on turntables.  They are really nice to have.  I don't have any big houses so I haven't need to invest in larger table and turntable combos but those are out there if you need one.  The turntable does not have to be the same size as the base.  I am not sure what the rule of thumb but I would suggest half the size or just over half is fine.
Showing off
Now when I show guests my minis, I hand them a flashlight (got that idea from a mini museum I visited) so they can look at anything they can't see with the lights I do have.  I suggest a good bright LED one.  I also like to open up the doors of my cabinets and if they really seem interested I will pull out a project to let them hold or to show more details.  For all the display efforts I do have, the essence of a mini may be best viewed in the hand - if that is reasonable.  I do make a point to either glue down everything or use some good mini-hold which is a waxy substance that sticks and holds. 
This blog post shows pics of my many projects but focuses on the cases or display units to see more pics of a project check out my new picturetrail site.

Also I have created pinterest board just of display ideas I have found - some ideas mentioned here and others I found on the web and might use in the future.

Comments are always welcome...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

My webpage - photo-sharing - blogging experience - My PictureTrail site is up!

Some recent discussions about photo-sharing and trying to replace my pages (photos) posted on webshots sparked my brain.  I decided it might be cathartic to retrace my steps to this point. 

Early computer use
In the late 1990's my husband and I got our first home computer.  It was second hand but it got on the web - using dial-up but still on the web.  By 2000, we got another one - still second hand and this one got us Front Page - a web page editor.  In between the two computers, I joined a miniature group via yahoo groups - that sparked a desire to share my photos online.

Free web space and using Front Page 
Using Front Page, web space provided free via my ISP and my desire to share my photos - I learned just enough in order that I could create webpages to post them.  I didn't learn how to write html, just edit it enough to accomplish what I wanted.

Become a web designer?
Making my own webpages made me want to become a web designer.  Computers and the programs for them have come a long way from what I knew in my prior education.  In high school, I had a computer class that required us to write the code for a program line by line.  In college in the late 80's, I took a class in cobalt - again - still writing code.  That all seems to tedious to me.  Having experienced something like Front Page where one could use forms to add certain things I thought I could do the legwork as well.  I did go back to college in 2001 (during a lay off), but soon discovered web publishing/design wasn't for me.  It was still to tedious for my taste.  Instead I decided to stick with what I had being doing.  It accomplished what I wanted.
What I wanted was to share my photos.  I did that and more.  I even made pages that allowed me to sell some things.  Ok, that was basically the same thing - I shared photos of what I wanted to sell and interested persons could email me their order.  It worked.

Photo sharing sites
As other people shared their photos using various services, I did some comparison shopping.  One I liked was webshots.  I opened my own webshots account and started adding my photos.  As webshots improved their services, it got so easy to deal with them, I stopped adding anything to my webpages.  I did of course link to the webshots for the latest stuff.  I kept both of these going until in 2009 when I switched ISP's.  I upgraded from dial up to cable internet.  Wow that was a big change.  And the change also affected my free webpages hosted by my prior ISP.  They offered to continue hosting the pages for a small monthly fee, but I decided I would just move everything to webshots.  In hindsight maybe I should have kept the webpages, but I wasn't to know that until later.

Now I'm going to blog as well
In 2008, I started a blog - this blog.  I started it because it was a way to share my photos in the way I had done on my webpages.  I wanted to be able to talk about them.  Webshots allowed me to include a description, but it wasn't so obvious the description is of equal importance (to me) as the photos.  The blog allowed me illustrate how I made something which is one thing I really enjoy sharing.  It also allows me to share who made something that I am using in my project.  I have done a large number of swaps and I love using those swaps.  It is important to me to give credit to those swappers who swapped with me.  I don't always accomplish that as I wasn't as good to record who made what.  However I did solve that problem.  Well at least as long as I do the process.  I talk about it in a prior blog post.
After I started blogging, I continued to post my photos to webshots but with the how-to's on the blog and keeping webshots as the photo album. 

Say it isn't so - webshots to become smile, I'm not smiling
In 2012 - webshots became something else and stopped offering free space for sharing photos.  I was thankful for the space all those years even when their ads became annoying.   This new company was going to require both me and my viewer to have an account in order to view the photos.  Oh and it isn't free.  Really - well that really is too bad as I am not going to stay.  I don't think they wanted me as a free user to stay anyway.  I really felt bad for those who had upgraded their accounts to pay and now they want to move. 

What do I do now? Add more photos to my blog?
As much as I love blogging - I haven't been using the blog all along to share my photos.  I have many projects that pre-date my blog as my blog started in 2008 and I have projects from the 1990's although have been a miniaturist from before that.  Blogs being what they are - I don't want to just start adding random projects to my blog in order to get them out there. It was easy to add older projects to webshots - it gave me the means to arrange the projects the way I want.  I'm not saying I can't make the blog work for sharing photos, even older ones, just a different format than a photo sharing site.
Now that webshots is gone, I am back to the decison - the one previously resolved of where to move my photos.  It was relatively easy to make that decision - free space to free space.  I liked the way the webshots was organized or at least the way I was able to organize it.

So looking for a replacement - I have all these options to consider.
A website - mmm - well there are free ones - but they are limited on space.  One issue is the url that has more text in it - liveable.  Free websites can also be upgraded to add space for a fee.
A different photo-sharing site - gosh there are so many.  Some are free and some are not.  So the decision here is what do the paid ones offer that the free ones don't.  Do they provide the type of organizing I want. 
Use my blog...

My own website... maybe
So I would really like my own website with my own url- but I feel that for the purpose of sharing photos as my primary reason to do so - well that is not cost effective.  The fees per month seem small until I add up a year. 
That puts me back to a photo sharing site...
I tried flickr which is free - and they do allow folders but it didn't seem to organize them that way by default.  Instead they want to do a photo stream.  I don't really get this obsession with the now.  If I am interested in someone's projects I don't care if they are the latest.  I don't see photos as news.  I will keep looking at something if I am interested whether or not it was old or new.  I really want to organize my photos by scale as I know I prefer to look at a particular scale, but will wander into other scales.  I am not saying I couldn't make flickr work, just that maybe something else will give what I want easier.  Oh and I did try using Windows Photo Gallery to upload to flickr as WPG allows you to connect to them directly.  Only problem - the descriptions that I painstakingly copied from webshots to WPG don't get loaded when the photos are loaded to flickr - ok that is annoying.
I tried pisca - photos on blogspot go there.  They focus on the photo stream.  Again, I could probably get it to work, but what else. 
I checked out Winkflash which is what I use to print my photos that go in scrapbooks.  I like their album set up, but no something didn't work the way I wanted.
I thought about Facebook, but I rejected that as some people hate them and also why would I want to increase traffic to them. I also have like/hate relationship with fb.
Free webspace via my ISP?
I also checked my isp.  Yes, I had signed up for their webhosting, but their photo-sharing option was also focused on the latest upload.  Maybe with more work, I could have made it work, but then I have the possibility of moving again if I ever change isp.  There is no guarantee that they will offer to continue hosting for a fee.  They have taken the webpages option away if not already signed up for it.

I had tried picturetrail before.  I know several miniaturist use them to share photos.  So I explore this further.  Ok, well here is a problem.  My pictures are eating up space. More space can be purchased, but is there a way to avoid that.  I really like the freedom of albums they have. 
So I started working with picture trail, I upgraded my account to allow a certain amount of space and then I discovered their picture trail software download.  It is a means to do batch resizing, batch uploading, both of which are very helpful tools.  Using the batch resizing I was able to reduce the space I am using in half.  I now have plenty of space. 
I worked on this site for many hours getting it the way I wanted.  I am a perfectionist and I like to have descriptions, who made what and love sharing funny stories whenever I can. All that takes time.  Well I do have time, but it also takes the attitude to work on it.
 I am sure that if I looked at some of the albums there will be tweaks I would want to make, but  finally, I am ready to share. 
Here it is:

I told my husband as I was working on this in the last few hours, that if PictureTrail goes away, I don't know what I will do.  I really don't want to do this again.  However I will say that I learned from this experience.  Using the batch resize might make having my own webpages realistic again.