Saturday, 30 July 2011

Edwardian Dolls House: the Morning Room

An Art Nouveau design carpet in the Edwardian dolls house 
The morning room, or boudoir, was where the lady of the house would entertain her friends, write letters, update her postcard collection, give instructions to her housekeeper and relax. It was a 'women only' place.
   I wanted this room to be fresh and light so chose the pale blue and white colour scheme. I made the chaise longue  and screen out of cardboard covered with fabric. The carpet I stitched from a pattern in a doll's house magazine. It is an art nouveau design, popular in Edwardian times. I collect blue and white china so made a display in this room of miniature pieces.
  In real life, I live in Iris Cottage. A friend gave me a miniature copy of van Gogh's 'Iris' painting for this room. The other Iris painting is a Japanese one I cut from a magazine and framed. I had found a little vase with irises on it and made the iris flowers to go in out of tissue paper.
 The writing desk and chair are white wire ones which I painted brown so they would look like wicker. I made the wicker table with waxed linen thread stained brown with shoe polish. The blue beaded bell pull was a gift from a miniaturist friend.
   This room is one of my favourite rooms in the Edwardian dolls house. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Miniature Museum: Georgian and Victorian Room

Georgian and Victorian miniatures 
This room in my miniature museum contains Georgian (18th century) and Victorian (19th century) furniture, costumes and accessories. I wanted to pick items that were indicative of the fashions of the times.
  My favourite pieces are the exquisite costumes. These are hand stitched by Paula Kunac, a talented dressmaker. She finds the finest of fine silks and trimmings to make the clothes in authentic styles.
  The woven wall hanging shows people in Georgian dress in an outdoor scene. The framed paintings are of Queen Victoria and her ladies-in-waiting which is  a copy of a famous artwork, and a pretty village setting. The Victorians romanticised rural life in their art into pastoral idylls, conveniently ignoring the poverty and harshness of the life.
  The furniture is pieces common in middle to upper-class homes. The Georgians liked their chest-on-chest bureaus and the padded slipper chair was popular in Victorian boudoirs.
  In the back right-hand corner of the room I have placed another of my lucky finds. It is a statue of Venus de Milo made of crystal. The black and gold sewing table I made from a slice of cotton reel, part of a chess piece, a button, and three little beads as the feet. A spray of black paint  and some stick- on  gold peelies made it look quite elegant. The little spray of roses on top is made of tissue paper.  

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Barbara Brear, Miniaturist: Book Maker

Barbara Brear
Barbara Brear is a South African book binder who makes exquisite miniature books in 1:12 scale. She is a member of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA). Barbara kindly agreed to answer my questions about her work.
W.  What inspired you to take the leap from making ‘real size’ books to 1:12 scale ones?
B.   I was already “into” miniatures when I started doing my full sized book binding courses and my teacher said “You must look on the internet – there is lots of stuff on miniature books” (the internet was quite new then!!).  And I just started experimenting on my own.  The books I made then I thought were fantastic, but if I look at them now – bleurgh!  But gradually, gradually one aspect after another improves and gets finer.
W.  Of your open books, which one/ones are the most popular?
B.   By far the most popular book is Mrs Beeton’s cookbook.  I mean everyone has a kitchen table that needs a cook book open, don’t they?  I used to keep track of total number of orders so I had stats.  Now I don’t anymore but I know that book was WAY ahead.  Then the Nativity’s are the next most popular.
W.  Where do you source the paper, leather and marbled paper? They are so fine!
B.   All from different places.  We have a lovely paper shop called the Deckle Edge where I get my paper and boards.  The leather – I have to buy a whole skin and then it is skived with a sharp blade to get it super thin.  There is a lot of waste but without the thin leather the book is not in scale and the corners are clumsy.  The marbled paper comes from a specialist marbler in England.  Her business is Jemma Marbling and she specialises in fine papers for miniatures.  Expensive, but worth it.  
W.  How long does it take to make a book from start to finish?
B.   It takes just under or over an hour depending on the finish.  I am an obsessive timer.  I know how long it takes me to do EVERYTHING from making a white sauce to washing up to making tea!!  And I keep timing myself with my books and it is nearly always 58 minutes!
W.  How did you get involved in the miniatures world?
B.  Like all miniaturists (and how often do you hear this EXACT phrase?) “I have been fascinated with tiny things FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER!!”  I remember making little tiny books as a child and I can remember a holiday where I spent every free moment with my nose pressed against the window of a dollshouse shop in Heysham, England.  On the last day of my holiday I took all my pocket money and went into the shop.  I DESPERATELY wanted the little writing desk with the drop down shelf and the green felt writing surface but all I could afford was a toaster and three flying ducks!!!  (You will be pleased to know I now own the most EXQUISITE writing desk!!!!)
   And then I found the book on Making Miniatures by Venus and Martin Dodge.  I started on my own and still I thought I was the only adult in the world who wanted to play with dollshouses.  Then someone at school brought along a newspaper article about a Miniatures Club in Cape Town.  AMAZING!  I joined and that was when my second life started.
W.  I imagine you have a dolls house yourself –can you tell us about it?
B.  I went on a Dollshouse Holiday in England and made my house there.  I did not glue it together but flat packed it and couriered it back to South Africa.  It is still a work in progress but you can see it all on my web site along with lots of “How did I do it” tips.
A 1:12 scale open book
The Nativity in miniature
Here are photos of the three books of Barbara's I own - the Nativity is on the prie-dieu in my Tudor dolls house chapel, the Victorian Botanical is in the library of my miniature museum and Mrs Beeton's cookbook is in my Edwardian dolls house kitchen,

 Barbara has a website where you can see more of her beautiful work. Many thanks, Barbara!

Mrs Beeton's Cookbook in 1:12 scale 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Edwardian Dolls House: The Governess' Room

A 1:12 scale Edwardian governess' room
I had fun making this room personal to me. On the wall above the bed is a miniature of an engraving of two Victorian children that I have had in my bedrooms since I was a child. The books on the wall shelf are copies of my favourite books.
 The framed photographs on the dressing table are of ancestors of mine photographed in 1886. I'm lucky enough to have my family's leather-bound albums from that time and have miniaturised photos from it to use in other rooms of the house also.
   I made almost everything in this room. All the furniture is from kitsets made of New Zealand native woods. To fully appreciate the timber, I didn't stain or paint it, only polished it with beeswax.
   The wicker chair was my first attempt at this, using waxed linen thread then staining it brown. I found the weaving quite relaxing. The rugs, cushions and bedcovers and all the clothes in the drawers, wardrobe and trunks are hand-stitched.
    All in all, this room kept me busy for quite some time!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Finding Miniatures - the Hunt is on!

A miniature Victorian shell arrangement 
Part of the fascination of this dolls house hobby is, for me, always being on the lookout for miniatures. I just love the hunt! Second-hand stores, garage sales, $2 shops, antique fairs, even the kids' toybox are all likely places to find a miniature that would be perfect for my latest project. Not forgetting dolls house and miniatures shops and those wonderful catalogues to browse through for hours.
    I never throw anything away without thinking, 'Mmm, what mini can I make out of that?' Things like a ping-pong ball for a lightshade, an old blouse for a tablecloth, wrapping paper for dolls house wallpaper, tissue paper to make flowers, or a sterling silver charm from a bracelet used as an ornament in 1:12 scale. No trip to the beach is complete without a hunt for the tiniest of tiny shells to make a Victorian display to go under a glass dome, or tufts of dried seaweed or lichen to make a bush in a dolls house garden. I think miniaturists are dedicated to re-using and recycling.
    Of course, all these found items, as well as materials to make minis, need a storage place, and I think miniaturists need more storage places than most people! Because the things we hoard, that we might just need some day, seem to breed in their cupboards till the shelves are over-flowing. Whoever thought making miniatures meant 'small'!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Miniature Museum: The Sculpture Room

The sculpture gallery in the miniature museum
The inspiration for this room came when I found the four Corinthian columns. Thank goodness I had decided to set up the museum in a bookcase because I was able to adjust the shelving height to fit them in. They are 14 inches tall. If I'd been using a ready-built dolls house it would have been another story!
   Then began the search for statues. Some of these are sold by dolls house suppliers as miniatures for 1:12 scale gardens. The black torso at the back was a lucky $2 shop find, and the bronze horse in the front was even better - $1 at a car boot sale. It's actually a die-cast pencil sharpener!
   I'd seen the original of the Venus de Milo in the Louvre, so I had to have the miniature of that. And I love proud Hercules with his arm draped round the skin of the lion he had slain as one of his twelve labours.

1:12 scale sculptures 
   I used clear plastic boxes and upturned, gilded column capitals to display the pieces at different heights to create visual interest. The flooring was another serendipitous find. It's 'real size' vinyl that looks like marble, and the 'inlaid' darker pattern squares fit perfectly into the floor area for each of my miniature museum rooms.

Monday, 11 July 2011

How to Make a Flagstone Floor for a Dolls House

1:12 scale Tudor kitchen with flagstone floor
A flagstone floor can look good in a Tudor dolls house, a rustic 1:12 scale cottage, or in the kitchen and scullery of a Georgian dolls house. There are several ways of making a flagstone floor.  The method I chose for the hall and kitchen of my Tudor dolls house was very easy.
   Firstly, I made a template of the floor out thin cardboard. From a building supply store, I got a lot of Formica samples (used for kitchen bench tops) that looked like stone. Some of the ones on display looked like terracotta tiles and I could have used those as an alternative.
  On the back of the Formica samples I marked 2 inch squares with a pencil.  These I cut out with a pair of heavy duty scissors.  Another way of doing it is to deeply score the lines with a craft knife and then snap them off. Sometimes the edges of the Formica  chipped off, but it didn't matter.  Those squares  could still be used, giving an aged, well-worn effect.
 Once I had a pile of the squares I  mixed them all up. Then, one by one, I stuck them onto the cardboard template with UHU glue. While the glue was drying, I put heavy weights on top to prevent the template from buckling so it would to dry flat.
 Finally, I wiped a layer of Polyfilla all over the floor. This acted as grouting between the flagstones. I was careful to wipe it off the surface with a damp cloth before it dried .
 The resulting flagstone floor looks quite authentic and, I think, is well worth the time involved  in making it.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Tudor Dolls House: Decorating the Interior

Plastered and beamed interior walls in a Tudor dolls house
If you think whitewashed walls with timber uprights showing, beamed ceilings and wide floor boards, you'll have the decorating elements for most rooms in a Tudor house.
   In a dolls house, these are easy to recreate. I used the white paint/talcum powder/sand/ glue mix I did the outside with, to simulate the plastered walls. For the beamed ceilings I stained lengths of thick balsa wood, carving slivers and pieces out at irregular intervals for the hand-hewn adzed look. The upright exposed timbers are thinner pieces of balsa, treated the same way. The floorboard planking can be scored directly into the dolls house wooden floors with a craft knife or awl.

1:12 scale panelled walls in a Tudor hall
   The public areas of the Tudor house were posher than the domestic rooms. It was all a case of showing wealth and power by creating settings to impress visitors. So you could make a hall (the largest room, used for dining and entertaining) with a flagstone or tiled floor, panelled walls and a large fireplace. The ceiling could be elaborate plasterwork or beamed and painted with patterns or scenes. If you have a steady hand, you could paint a frieze around the edge of the walls to add to the imposing effect.
   If you were a rich Tudor merchant, you wanted everyone who came to your home to know it!