Thursday, 30 June 2011

Miniature Museum: The Library

The 1:12 scale library 
This is the kind of room I'd like to have in my real-size house!
   In this room, I was determined to have all real books that can be read, no fake mock-ups or blank pages in here! I have gradually added to the collection over time. My latest acquisition is a book in French of Napoleon's love letters to Josephine that I got in Akaroa this year. On the table is a book of Vermeer's (my favourite artist) paintings. Other books include 'A History of New Zealand' and 'The Baby's Bouquet' by Walter Crane.
   Each time I go to a NZAME Convention, I buy a miniature journal, bound in leather and stamped in gold with the convention name and date. In it I write (in teeny, tiny letters) my experiences of the weekend's events.
   Barbara Brear is a South African bookbinder who makes beautiful 'open' miniature books in 1:12 scale. The covers are of the finest leather and the endpapers are marbled. Barbara makes them as real books with turning pages, then glues them so they stay open. The ones on the table are an illuminated medieval nativity and a Victorian botanical with drawings lilies and orchids. They are little works of art!

Monday, 27 June 2011

How to Make 1:12 Scale Toys

Toys for a dolls house nursery
For the nursery of my Edwardian dolls house, I needed to make lots of 1:12 scale toys, suitable for that time in history. Toy soldier skittles were easy and quick to do.
To make the skittles you'll need:
  • 6 wooden toothpicks with carved ends
  • red, white, blue and black paint
  • a square of balsa wood
  • a pin with a round black head
  • black paper rounds from a hole punch, cut in half
  1. You paint just the carved end of the skittles. Do not cut that end off - leave the toothpicks whole so you have something to hold on to while painting them. Undercoat with white paint. Stick the toothpicks in a sponge or polystyrene tray to dry.Then paint blue trousers and red jackets and black helmets. When paint has dried, dot on black buttons, eyes and mouth. I use a toothpick to do this part. Finally, cut the painted, carved ends of the toothpicks off and voila! - toy soldier skittles!
  2. Paint the square of balsa wood white. When dry, stick the black paper semi-circles on, in this pattern - 3 at the back, 2 in the middle row, 1 at the front. Stick the skittles on to them. I like to leave one skittle lying down so it looks as if it has been knocked over.
  3. For the ball, cut the head off the pin, leaving a length of a few millimetres so you can stick this into the balsa wood. Then the ball won't roll away.
And there you have it, made in about half an hour, set of skittles for your dolls house or toy shop.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Edwardian Dolls House: the Nurseries

Edwardian dolls house day nursery
Well-to-do families in Edwardian times often had a day and a night nursery The day nursery was used for play and eating meals; the night nursery for sleeping and dressing. I wanted both of those in my cabinet house, imagining that a boy and a girl lived there.
   I bought a set of slightly smaller than 1:12 scale furniture from a dollar shop. This was fine to use as often the real nurseries had child-size furniture. A quick sand and paint job and decals applied spruced them up. My husband, horrified at the price of bought brass beds, decided to make some. He enjoyed that so much that he made the brass beds for two of the other rooms as well.

1:12 scale Edwardian night nursery 
   Of course, most of the fun of doing the two nurseries was in the making of the clothes and hats, the toys and books. I researched popular toys of that era and made them in 1:12 scale. Teddy bears and golliwogs were the 'in' things in those days. Also wheeled ride-on toys such as bears and elephants, and the perennial favourites - the rocking horse, dolls and toy soldiers. And a dolls house, of course!
   Little Edwardian boys and girls were dressed in  mini versions of the navy and white sailor suits so I made those too, with boaters to match. Like all the cupboards and drawers in my miniature buildings, the night nursery wardrobe is filled with 'things' - underwear, scarves and dresses.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Tearooms: Wedding Cake Display

Miniature wedding cakes on display
The top floor of the tearooms is set out as a display of wedding cakes. The floral arrangements I made with ribbon roses and fronds of artificial ferns, stuck into brass urns on top of columns that are 'real' size wedding cake pillars. You can buy those from cake decorating shops.
   I made the tables and covered them with material cut from an old blouse of mine, white muslin embroidered with tiny white flowers. It used to be my favourite so I was pleased to give it another 'life' once it became a bit the worse for wear. The chair was a dolls house miniature I painted white and reupholstered in gold material.
   And the cakes! Some I bought, some I made and the tiered one in the middle of the long table is a plastic bubble bath container! The teeny tiny bride and groom cake topper is a metal miniature. It's hard to see in this photo but on the round table is a tiny Swarovski crystal glass that I filled with pale blue and pink Fimo sugared almonds. They were fiddly to make, believe me!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Tearooms - The Cafe

A miniature tearooms 
This floor of the Tearooms is set out with tables and chairs in a cafe setting.
   I was lucky enough to buy some of polymer clay artist, Jewel Lewis, sets of teapots, plates, cups and saucers. She does wonderful work in millefiori patterns in such tiny details. They are works of art!
1:12 scale teapots
   I painted up the bookcase on the back wall to display my collection of 1:12 scale teapots and tea canisters. I've collected those at various dolls house and miniatures fairs and conventions.
   The paintings on the walls are all of pretty scenes featuring tea party settings. I'd cut them from magazines and framed them with miniature picture framing wood. That's a bit trial and error for me - measuring and cutting accurately are not my strong points!!
   All in all I think I achieved the look I was after for this room; fresh, light and somewhere you'd go for a relaxing afternoon tea - if you were only 5 1/2 inches tall!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Tearooms: The Bakery

1:12 scale tearooms 

A miniature bay window 
What fun it was creating a 1:12 scale bakery in the ground floor of the tearooms. For the counters I used the plastic boxes that Ferrero Rocher chocolates are packed in. Part of the fun was eating all the chocolates!
   Some of the cakes I made, some I bought. I created the pavlovas using white bathroom sealant that I piped onto plates and let dry before gluing on tiny slices of Fimo kiwifruit and strawberries. They looked really authentic. Other cakes and pastries I made out of Fimo.
   For bread in various shapes and sizes, I used Crayola Magic airdrying clay. It dries white and can then be brushed with powdered pastels in shades of brown to give colour. The bread was stacked on a bakers rack and in baskets.
   An old dolls house 1:12 scale refrigerator made a drinks cabinet when I took the door off and put tiny Coke bottles and juice bottles in it.
   In the bay window I put the most impressive cakes!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Tudor Dolls House - Decorating the Exterior

The roof of the Tudor dolls house
I don't know whose suggestion it was to use cardboard price tags to make Tudor roof tiles, but it seemed like a good idea at the time! As I shaped and glued more and more and more of them, the bright idea definitely faded. But when they were all stuck on and painted with various shades of brown and terracotta, they took on a life of their own and I was pleased I'd put in all that work.
   I stained the vertical timbers with wood stain. In between them, I made a white plaster effect by mixing white paint, PVA glue, artist's sand and talcum powder. It needed experimenting to get the right consistency but was really easy to apply.

Planked door and infill bricks in 1:12 scale 
   The bricks were made with paperclay as I explained in my last Tudor house blog.
  The front door is taken from a pattern in the beautiful book called Making Dolls' House Interiors by Carol and Nigel Lodder. It is balsa wood with vertical lines scored to give the illusion of planking. The hinges and door handle are metal ones, spray painted black.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Miniature Museum: Oriental Room

Oriental themed miniatures
The Oriental room was fun to put together with its mix of commercial dolls house furniture and lucky finds from second-hand shops. I just love the hunt, always on the lookout for minis that are a little bit different.
  The large feature of the two geisha girls on the back wall is actually a cloth wallet from the oldest Chinese emporium in Auckland. The long woven silk hangings flanking it, decorated with birds and flowers, are bookmarks. The chest with the red drawers is a piece of dolls house furniture that I customised by decoupage with cutouts from a magazine photograph of the details on a real antique oriental chest.
   On the left is a carved screen that is real ivory. I bought it in Singapore 35 years ago. Even older is the green and blue pagoda. When I was a child, I had it as an ornament in my goldfish bowl! 
   The curved cabinet with the scene made of cork carvings was a real bargain - only two dollars in a junk shop. And the metal temple dogs guarding the entrance were found on the side of the road beside a rubbish bin. You never know what you'll find when you're out walking!

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Edwardian Dolls House: Decorating the Interior

Dining room, living room and study of the Edwardian dolls house
Now I had this huge cabinet, I wanted to decorate it in Edwardian style, setting it in 1910 as I had a beautiful photograph of my grandmother from that year. That meant choosing colours that were fashionable then for the wallpapers and paintwork.
   I divided each 'floor' of the cabinet into rooms using foamcore as the interior walls. Then came the perennial question - to have staircases or not? I decided against them as they take up a lot of room.
You have to imagine you are standing in the stairwells looking into the rooms on each level!
   For the walls I used ordinary wallpaper that had small patterns, scrapbooking papers and even fabric in the master bedroom. For the ceilings in some of the rooms embossed papers look like pressed tin and plasterwork. The manager of the local decorating store was very interested in the project and got in sample rolls of wallpaper for me. That was a huge help.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

How to Make 1:12 Scale Bricks

Bricks made form paper clay
For my Tudor dolls house I needed to make a large brick chimney and brick infill in a herringbone pattern  for above and below the front windows.That's a lot of bricks!
  I started by making the bricks out of sandpaper. First, I painted a sheet of sandpaper in several swirls of different coloured browns. Then, on the back of the sandpaper, I marked out horizontal lines then divided them vertically into the correct scale brick sizes. I cut them out with a craft knife.
  Once I had a pile of little bricks, I mixed them all up and stuck them one by one in a herringbone pattern in the divisions below the windows. They looked okay, but I thought I could do better to make them look really realistic.
   So I used paper clay. Shown in the photograph here is the bottom part of the chimney. I made a wooden form, rolled out the paper clay like you roll out pastry, covered the wooden form with PVA glue and gently pressed the paper clay onto it.
   While the paper clay was still a little damp, I used the edge of a metal ruler to mark out the horizontal lines. Then I used the blade of a craft knife to mark the vertical lines. It didn't matter that not all the bricks were exactly the same size as in Tudor times the bricks would have been hand made.
   Once the paper clay was dry, I painted the bricks using watercolour paints in shades of burnt sienna, Paynes grey and ochre. This gave a variegated effect, and, with the texture of the paper clay, the chimney looks just like the real thing!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

N Scale Mini Village

A tiny village in N scale
I am having such fun making this miniature village! As you can see, it is very, very small. It's the model railway N scale, that's 1:160, 1 inch equals 160 feet.
   I buy Kestrel Design kitsets. They are reasonably priced and come in a wide range of buildings from this corner pub, to shops, to houses, to railway stations.
   To get them looking very realistic, I hand paint the kitset pieces to take away that initial plastic look. For the brickwork, I first of all dab a layer of cream paint all over the pieces then quickly wipe it off. This allows the cream to settle in the grooves between the bricks. Then, (call me obsessive!) I paint the bricks with a toothpick, using three shades of different browns to get the variations of colour.
   The kitset pieces are made of styrene and glue together easily with the quick-drying polycement glue. Then comes the really fun part - landscaping the gardens of the houses and creating the street scenes with vehicles and people.