Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

Mom has a great wood and tin lantern in her dollhouse. The woman who made it said she would only make that one. Since mom loves that lantern, I thought I'd play around with some card stock and see if I could make her something with a similar feel.
 I used gold rub 'n buff to highlight the details of the lantern. The candle is a white toothpick in a painted brass finding. The windows look like they contain old glass.

 After the lantern was finished, mom was talking about hanging the lantern next to her (dollhouse) front door. I decided that it needed a hook to hang from. I didn't permanently attach the lantern to the hook, because I thought it would be easier to put up in two parts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Making An Advent Calendar

My workspace is in the dining room. That means that whenever there's a holiday, I have to do some major tidying, so that my supplies are much out of sight as possible. While I was cleaning up today, I came across this great Christmas card which I'd stashed away last year. I thought it would make great advent calenders. You just need an exacto knife, card stock, glue, and an old Christmas card with a small scene.

I cut my calender out of the bottom left corner of the card. I made it about an inch across, trying not to cut any of the people in half.
I cut the windows next. I cut the windows from the front, so that the windows could follow the shapes of images in the calendar. I also made the windows open from all different sides. I then scored the fold of the window from the back of the card. The back of the exacto blade worked well for this.

Then I used the tip of the knife to gently open all the windows, and smeared the back of the card with glue. I used Tacky since it was nearby, but a glue stick would probobly be better.
Gently press the calendar on to a piece of plain white paper, keeping all the windows open so that they aren't accidentally glued shut. I think it's easier to trim the backing to size after the glue dries. Finally, I ran a gold paint pen around the edge. You could add tiny paintings behind each window now if you want, or just leave it plain the way I did. Whit glitter on the snow, or gold on the lamps looks nice too.

I don't have a photo of the calendar finished, because I had to hurry and wrap it before my mother saw (it's going in her stocking). Update: it took me a year, but here's the finished calendar! You can see more about the Christmas tree here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I'm posting photos of some old projects tonight, because my semester is almost finished, and I've been too busy tying up loose ends to work on any new miniatures. I made these dresses a few months ago out of very thin silk. They were really just an excuse to play with all my laces and beads. 
The hangers are only a temporary measure. I'll probably crumple and drape them over beds or screens eventually, which will make the torso of the flapper dress below look a little more natural. Right now, it looks too much like a cylinder of fabric.

  P.S. I just realized that I used the same silks for these two dresses as I used on the fans. The colors in these photos are much closer to the real-life colors of the silks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Tiny House Makeover

I found the (approximately) 1/144th scale house below at a local show. It was in pretty sorry shape. The porches and gables had (painted brass) dark green trim that had been bent out of shape, and the interior had a very strange musty smell. It had also been furnished with a couple clunky pieces of cast metal furniture. I decided that, between the bad furnishing, smell, and broken exterior trim, it was time to give the house a makeover.
I started by ripping out the furnishings, getting rid of dried up old glue blobs, and painting everything a coat of soft white. I'm leaving the roof and front pieces untouched for the moment, because they will be easy to do after the interior is finished. The cleaning and new paint got rid of the smell, so I started papering.
The floors and walls were in slightly rough shape (visible wood grain, and some gouges from removing the glue) so I used a heavy paper that wouldn't wrinkle over the bad spots. Then I started adding baseboard and cornice trim to the rooms. I decided that the time period of the house would be modern day, so I hand painted some trendy Chinoiserie patterns for the walls of the tiny dining room. I have a few more pieces/details planned for this room, but I think I'll probably switch to working on the living room next.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Painted things and Pencils

I've been having more fun with a few quick repainting projects. This bowl started out white, but I painted the inside and top band shell pink. For some reason, I'm really drawn to pink at the moment. I keep painting things pink, buying myself pink shirts, and I even framed a watercolor with a bright pink mat. You can see that I used quick dots and dashes to paint this, so it didn't take long at all.

 This little guy on the other hand, took a bit longer. It would have been easier to paint him in disassembled pieces, but he was already glued together very strongly. I tried to use old colors on him, but looking at the photograph I think I could have done some real aging to him as well.

This was the last bit of work. I've been feeling guilty that I haven't done much with my draw plate (from Micro Mark.) I don't like tools to sit in a drawer for months on end! 
So I pulled out the smallest basswood strip I had on hand. In my experience, it's definitely better to use long, soft pieces of wood with this tool. I always break the wood several times in the process of pulling it through the holes, no matter what I do though!
These extra thin dowels are perfect for miniature pencils! I still need to finish detailing them. They need the little metal caps that hold the erasers still, and I want to dip the points in black paint. I went with traditional yellow pencils this time, but it would be easy to make them in any color.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


 Back in September I posted about the boxes I'd made (here) with the help of my square. The boxes I made then were finished with matte paint. It occured to me that I could make the same type of boxes look much fancier with a shiny lacquer finish.
The first box was painted burgundy and black, and sized to fit a large perfume bottle. I dotted some red paint in the corners of the lid, but found that the colors were too close to show up well, especially in photos!
Since I found that the dark colored backgrounds were difficult to decorate, I switched to lighter colors for the next boxes, and used a combination of hand-cut Victorian images and painting  to decorate them.
The blue box stayed empty, but the pink box got a surprise!
The lining is padded white silk satin. I love to make jewelry using swarovski crystals! I'm honestly not one for jewels or crystals most of the time, but when I'm doing jewelry, they make the pearls and other bits come to life. I seem to use the pale blue and amethyst colors most frequently. The colors are a bit more interesting than plain diamonds, but not as bright as the reds or greens. It took me a long time to buy the swarovski, they always seemed expensive! Instead I used to hunt through bags of sequins to find the tiny punched circles that fell out of the hole in the sequin centers. Or you can get the smallest plastic jewels available (about 1/16th" across), stick them down with double sided tape, and cut them smaller. Both of these are time consuming methods though, and the results aren't nearly as good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Just wanted to mention that there is a post about my micro garden sheds on the IGMA blog! They showed both the shed I made in Nell Corkin's class at the Guild School (more about my Guild School experience here,) and the little green shed I built after taking the class.  Please go take a look!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Things to Do With an Extra Table

 One of the nice things about Mom and I both liking miniatures is that a lot of things get passed back and forth between the two of us. The white table below was originally supposed to be for one of mom's dolls. I distressed the table, and two matching chairs, for her. When the set was finished, however, the size and shape of the table just didn't quite work. Then mom stumbled across a slightly smaller rectangular table that was perfect for her project, and suddenly the round table was extra!
Looking at the beaten-up finish of the table, I suddenly pictured it in the home of an absent-minded scholar.  I'm getting to the end of the semester at college, so I guess piles of books are on my brain! I chopped off half the table foot, and propped it back up with a slim leather book. The brass lamp came from my mom's collection. I feel a little guilty about the lamp. It has the most fantastic patina- just the right amount of tarnish! I swear she gave it to me, I didn't steal it, but I also know she had plans for the lamp. I may end up giving it back. The little white vase has a few daisy-like flowers, most of which are dead! I made everything except the table, lamp, teacup, and vase.

 The stacks of books took longer than I was expecting. I added a few with silk covers to give variety. I'm still planning to add more piles when I get the chance.

 I already had the bottle of ink made. It looks very strange in the photograph above, it's actually only half full the way that the very first photo shows. I'm not sure if you can see it, but the pen has a tiny brass nib. Lastly, the dirty tea cup has left a few rings on the table! I made the rings a bit darker than I would normally, because the tabletop is so busy (I'm still planning to add more chaos). I wanted to make sure they would be seen. I also realized, looking at the placement of the teacup and the angle of the pen, my imaginary scholar is probably left-handed! I'm left-handed, so I tend to arrange things that way without realizing it. Oh well. At least the ink is on the right side. (P.S. I'm sorry, the pun was unavoidable.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Pretty Project

I've always loved antique fans. For a long time now, I've wanted to try making some in miniature. This last weekend I finally gave it a go. Since I wanted the fan to look very delicate, I chose to make the sticks of the fan very narrow, and spread them quite widely. In many of the examples I looked at, it was hard to see the individual spokes, which were so close together there was no space between. I was relieved to find a few historical examples where the sticks were spaced the way I preferred.
This was my first attempt (above). You can see that the bottom of the fan got a little messed up on this attempt, but I kept going, because I wanted to make sure all the other steps I'd figured out would would work the way I thought they would. I used an old gold silk for the fan leaf and tassel. The colors are a bit brighter in real life.
I had a little trouble with the spokes of this fan, as well, but they came out better overall. I used a pinkish beige silk on this fan, and painted three little portraits connected by garlands of flowers . It still needs a tassel.
 This fan had perfect spokes! I painted a landscape this time, with a pair of flower-filled urns flanking the scene.

 Did I mention that these are less than an inch tall, and only about an inch and a quarter wide?  Unfortunately, even using the thinnest silk I had, they are still a little too thick to function, but I think with a bit more experimenting, I'll be able to make them in various open and closed positions. I'm also excited to try a few variations, like adding guards (which most, but not all of the fans I saw had) and maybe adding some painted flowers or gold designs to the spokes!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Time for Tea

The break in postings over the last few weeks was unexpected. By accident, I left my camera and memory card full of pictures a few weeks with my mom, and wasn't able to retrieve them until this past weekend.
This teacup was part of a larger vignette for a doll my mom was working on. The cup and teaspoon are only Chrysnbon, but Mom added the resin tea and I added pink flowers to the cup and saucer. I made the tea bag from tissue paper.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slacking Off

This another doll Mom made some time ago. She's one of my favorite, because if I were in her shoes, I'd probably sneak off all the time to read while I was supposed to dust too! I'm not sure why her face looks so shiny here, it's plain porcelain in real life. Unfortunately, I'm writing this post on the fly, so I don't have any better pictures.
On an unrelated note, I discovered this box the other day stashed away in my supplies. We finally around to clearing out the alcohol in our house a few months ago. None of us drink, so whenever we got it as a gift, it was usually just stuck in a particular cupboard and forgotten. While we were going through the cupboard, I spotted this great box. It's very shiny silver printed with black, and the various designs are lightly embossed.
I hoped at first that some of the top squares could be painted dark to look like cast iron fire backs, but the embossing is too light to really show up much when the design is painted out. But the silver finish can be dulled down to a pewter look by rubbing (dry brushing) dark grey paint over the top. There are a few designs that would work well for miniature shields, and a large cross that could work in a chapel. I'm thinking about using some of these pieces in an empty room box I've had laying about for a while, so stay tuned!

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Big (Micro) Project

Back in June I shared this 1/144th scale garden cottage which I made with Nell Corkin at the Guild School. The week was a lot of fun, and I went home really wanting to do more in the scale.
A few weekends ago, I did!  I decided to make another shed structure, because I wasn't confident I could build on my own. I also worried that the wood I used was not as sturdy as the stuff we used in class, so I wanted to keep the structure extra small to avoid problems.
I'm still working on the landscaping. The foam that Nell provided for grass and plantings had a nice range of colors, but mine is not as well mixed. It's slow going, because I really have to hunt for the bits with the right color!
  The bench out front is actually painted a sunny yellow, and then heavily weathered. I've added a few pots of flowers, but I still need to build up some of the bushes.
 I added a flat trellis with yellow roses along the left wall. This was a much quicker build than the freestanding one we made in the class.

I originally thought I might add a second floor crawlspace to the structure. But when it was time, I chickened out .
 On the right I added a big dresser. I had a difficult time figuring out what to put over here, since there was a lot of wall space but the piece had to be very narrow. I actually built this hutch as an experiment before I began the house, but it ended up fitting perfectly!
 On the right side is a glass bowl filled with yellow roses  from outside. The painting above the table is a micro watercolour of sunflowers I painted a few years ago. You can see more of them here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Good Man is Hard to Find, and Fake It Till You Make It

I realized that I haven't shown many of Mom's dolls on here lately. She made this fellow a while ago. Though she knew she wanted to put a frilly apron on him right from the beginning, he spent a long time in just shirt and trousers while she hunted for the perfect apron fabric. She also debated giving him a vacuum instead of dishes, but decided that it made more sense to wear an apron to do the washing up.
 I haven't done much lately. I've mostly played with a few other little pieces I picked up at the local dollhouse shop. I've always admired the China Closet's pierced bowls, and am lucky enough to own two small examples. You can see one of those below, on the Davenport desk by Julian Biggers. I'll have to take better photographs sometime soon, because this corner  contains some of my favorite pieces.
In any case, I started wondering if there was any way to make something that looked similar but was a little less fragile. I also wanted something that I could use in a shadowy corner without feeling guilty that it was hidden away. I found a shiny silver plastic bell (the type sold in packs in the wedding aisle of craft or party stores) among my stash and decided to see what I could do.
I forgot to take a before and in-progress pictures, but I'll do my best to outline the process. I used my set of files to first file a groove all the way around the rounded top of the bell, and then to take the top completely off.  With the top off, I could flip the bell over and add a flat base (where the top used to be). I also used the files to sand off the "made in china" lettering and other imperfections. Since I still wasn't sure that this crazy idea was going to work (it looked pretty rough at this stage), I didn't spend as much time refining the details of the casting as I should have. After that, it was simply a matter of painting the entire thing many, many coats of white until the original silver was completely gone.  I used a hairdryer to speed things up a bit, but it still took quite a while. When everything was flat off white, I added a bit of decorative painting inside and out. Last was a glossy acrylic top coat for protection and make the piece look like porcelain. It will never be mistaken for the real thing, but it's not a bad fake for an evening's work and less than $1 in supplies!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Another Painting

This was another watercolor attempt. I managed to get the scale right this time. I used a doll to double check the painting's head was a little smaller than life size.
Framing her was a little tricky. I usually keep the matting pretty neutral. Dark green or pale blue are generally my wildest choices. But this was a very warm painting, with lots of pink (it's a little washed out in the photo above). None of my regular choices worked. I tried the bubblegum-pink out of desperation, and was shocked that I liked it.

The frame color was a new shade of gold paint I was testing out. My favorite gold paint finally ran out a while ago, and when I replaced it, it seemed like they'd changed the formula to a much cooler (greenish yellow) gold.  This one wasn't bad, but it wasn't perfect either. It was a bit too warm/pinkish for most uses (though that worked for this painting!), and it needed quite a few coats. I'll let you know when I find my perfect gold again!

 One quick tip: If you plan to do a lot of framing, it's nice to save any matting mistakes (ones where I mismeasured, or the blade slipped, etc.) I use these mistakes to test mat colors before I spend a lot of time custom cutting one in the wrong color. Even a three mats in a dark, medium and light tone can sometimes help narrow things down!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not Quite Right

When I haven't painted in miniature for a while, I struggle with the scale. I was quite pleased with this woman- until I held her up next to a few miniature pieces and realized she's about 3x larger than life. Of course, this occasionally happens in regular life too. My first "life size" full-body self portrait ended up over eight feet tall! But miniature paintings tend to look 'wrong' if they are significantly over sized.
 I decided to frame her anyway. She may end up somewhere in our 'real' house. I have a small collection of these larger-scaled but still tiny paintings, and I've been toying with the idea of grouping them on a small section of wall. I'll post another painting with better scale on Friday.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Miniature Boxes

One of the tools we used a lot at the Guild School was a small square. It was a tool I owned before, but I reach for it a lot more frequently after the class! It made the construction of these boxes much quicker. I didn't even have to pull out my ruler!
This blue box was my first attempt. It's about 1" across.

Next came a green box covered in antique "scrap" images. It's difficult to see, but I painted the edges of the lid the same blue as the box above.

 The insides of these first two boxes are painted the same color as the exteriors.
Next came a rusty red box...
with compartments to store some of my hand cut dollhouse paper dolls. I still want to design a label for this.
Last of all was a painting set.
The tray is stored snugly inside the box...
but comes out when it's time to paint! I'd like to make a couple paint brushes to round out the set, but my attempts so far are very fragile and look a little awkward. I really wanted to have real bristles, but I'm thinking now that it may be better just to carve the end instead.