Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Painted Bookcase for the Nursery

There are several pieces that have never had a good home in the nursery. The silver cup and porringer, along with the bent spoon I made over, have been moved countless times. It occurred to me that an unfinished wooden bookcase I'd purchased from Bed Miniatures was just about the perfect size for the long and narrow room. 

I added feet made from Tiny Turnings, then got to work on the painting.  I based the  flowers for the bookcase loosely off the flowers from the curtain fabric (below). I didn't want to copy the fabric exactly, but wanted it to have that same delicate feel.
The post describing how I made the nursery's balloon shade can be found here
You can see in this photo how the cheap metal of the bent spoon looks different from the silver pieces. I'm thinking that a little silver rub'n'buff may help the spoon blend a little better.  The walls of the nursery are hung with fashion plates, which you can just see in the photo above. I got really interested in the full size versions when I was around twelve, so of course my dollhouse had to have them too! 
I filled the lower shelf of the bookcase with readable books. I've had a little box of books just waiting to fill a bookcase. I went through and picked out the most youthful titles for the nursery.  The Teddy bear had been hanging out in the playroom, but I like him much better down here. He's one of my favorites, and he was getting lost in the crowd of bears in the playroom. For some reason, I've never been a huge fan of teddy bears in real life, but I have a hard time saying no to the miniature ones!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Small Before and After

Last night I did a quick makeover.
I've had this little bent baby spoon in my nursery forever. I don't even remember purchasing it! It's not an expensive one. It's made of cast metal, and not particularly well done either. If it were on it's own that wouldn't be a problem, but  I have it sitting next to a delicate sterling porringer and cup from Peter Aquisto. The craftsmanship of the sterling pieces just highlighted the chunkiness of the spoon. It's always bothered me that it
 I used a small set of metal files to reshape the spoon. The bowl of the spoon is quite shallow, and I didn't have any tools to deepen it.  However, I was able to reshape the outside of the bowl, so that the edges are thinner, giving the illusion of a deeper bowl. The biggest difference came from getting rid of the excess metal on the handle. The files left some scratches and rough surfaces, which I scrubbed off with steel wool.
Last of all, I buffed the spoon with a silver-polishing cloth, which brought up a bit more shine than the photo shows. The cheap metal is still a slightly different tone than the silver pieces, but at least it won't look as out of place. I have a few more little updates in mind for the nursery, so I'll take prettier photos once I've made a bit more progress!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Surprise Gift

Life has taken a few crazy turns lately, and it all came to a head over the last week. I think the chaos is nearly at an end, but posts may be a bit inconsistent for the next few days. The other day, Mom surprised me with a tiny present...
Mom is a bit obsessed with David Edwards' tiny miniatures. Her kitchen has a bunch of his wooden pieces, if you look closely. She was lucky enough to buy one toothbrush for her cottage years ago, before David Edwards' work became so difficult to purchase in the U.S. While he is still making miniatures, only a tiny bit of surplus stock is for sale online.  Unfortunately, Mom's toothbrush disappeared several years ago, during a spring cleaning, and was never seen again.  She's been searching for a replacement ever since.
(I took a million photos of this scene, and could not get the toothbrush in focus. Sorry!)

A few weeks ago, Mom found a woman who was selling three of the toothbrushes. Two are going back into her cottage, but she surprised me with the third. I've placed it on Pheobe's dresser, for maximum visibility. The only other options were the vanity or washstand in the master bedroom, and the vanity was too crowded, and the washstand too hidden.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Painted Dresser Quandry

I bought this little chest of drawers unfinished. I'm still messing about with the decorative painting, but I'm starting to get an idea of the finished look. I never quite know how any of my painted furniture will turn out until it's done, since I tend to just jump in with paint and start doodling. One thing that won't be on the finished piece are the rose-painted knobs. I couldn't decide what to do with the drawer pulls, so I just hurriedly dabbed on some pink and green, thinking I'd paint the inside a soft green (similar this desk I painted last year) But, thinking back to other projects, I realized I have a tendancy to pair blue and white with various shades of green (my first painted piece of furniture used this color scheme). I impulsively decided to  paint the drawer interiors bright red instead.
I'm also still trying to decide whether I like the "aged" look of this chest or not. I used a little drybrushed paint to dirty up the white, but now I'm wondering whether I went too far. The blue and white swirls (and the red!) are bolder than my usual look, and it's really throwing me off. I keep trying to tone the flourishes down, then deciding I like them better darker, then second guessing that again! I'll probably end up sanding down and repainting this thing five times over before I make up my mind!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tutorial: A Georgian Miniature Portrait in 1/12th Scale

 As a lover of tiny things, I've always been fascinated by antique miniature portraits. Back in January, when I posted the love letter vignette above, I used a 1/144th scale cast metal frame to create a miniature portrait in 1/12th scale. But though the metal frame was effective, it didn't capture the delicacy of the full sized frames. After experimenting with some bits of chain in my supplies, I was able to come up with a more historically accurate version. The first few steps of this project are very simple, and will make an effective frame.  The last steps -adding the loop to the top- are MUCH trickier, but really give the miniature an authentic look.
gold chain with oval links (links should be approximately 1/4" long)
gold chain with tiniest links possible
printout of a portrait approximately 1/4" tall (I used an image from a real antique miniature, found through a Google search. Remember that these will be tiny, so portraits with a strong contrast between the figure and background will be most effective.)
double sided tape
tacky glue
super glue
gloss medium (mod podge or similar)

small scissors
wire cutters

 1.Use the wire cutters to separate one link from the larger chain. This will become your frame.
 2.Spread a thin layer of glue (tacky or similar) over the picture, and place the frame on top. The glue should be thin enough that you can still see the portrait. Allow glue to dry.
 3.Fill the frame with gloss medium (mod podge or similar) and allow to dry. This bonds the picture and frame together, and creates a "glass" cover for the picture.
4.When gloss medium is dry, cut away the excess paper from around the frame. You can easily call the project done at this point, but to add a tiny hanging loop, keep reading!
5.This is where the project gets tricky, simply because of the size of the loop you need to make. You will need to cut a piece of chain 1 and 1/2 links long. *
6. To glue the loop onto the frame, arrange both the framed picture and the tiny metal loop on a piece of double sided tape. I stuck the tape to a small box, for ease of handling. Use a toothpick to add a dot of super glue and bond the pieces together. Allow to dry thoroughly before easing the miniature off the tape.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

When Grandpa Babysits: A New Source for Mini Fabric

Over the last few months, Mom has been talking about this idea for a doll. We decided that the baby must have gone home before Grandpa dozed off (no child endangerment here!) Despite having a very clear idea of what the grandfather doll should look like, Mom took a while to start working on him. As it turned out, Mom's delay meant that the perfect fabric fell into her lap!
The dolly in blue was an undressed porcelain piece we bought at Philadelphia and costumed ourselves. The teddy bear is the one from my flocked bear tutorial. The book (cover) came from Jean Day, and the rest of the miniatures were in our stash.
The fabric for the grandfather's trousers was a lucky thrift store find. A cotton shirt in the mens' section was the perfect weight and scale for miniatures! We always check out the tie section for tiny silk prints, but hadn't thought to look anywhere else.

Here's a close up of the shirt fabric turned miniature trousers. I love that the stripes are made up of even smaller dots! Finding any in-scale patterned fabric can be difficult, but it's particularly hard to find patterned fabric suitable for men. We'll definitely be scoping out the shirt sections of thrift shops more carefully from now on!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sturbridge, Continued

Before every miniature show, Mom and I like to guess which item on our table will sell first. We've never been right. In fact, the piece(s) that sell first are consistently a complete surprise! Things we've guessed will sit on the table because they're specialized enough to need a specific buyer are often the first to go!
The first sale of the evening were two tiny paper toys, to Molly Cromwell (the organizer of the Sturbridge show) herself!
I might have made the first sale, but two of Mom's dolls sold just minutes later. The French maid, who I posted just before we left, was the first to sell.
The same customer also bought this cook. Her basket of vegetables was a last minute addition from Mom's stash of props just before we left. I loved how the bright, fresh colors of the vegetables popped against the plain grey of her dress. Mom has made several cooks in similar outfits over the last few years, but I'm always amazed at the distinct personality of each doll. This jolly cook in red and cook plucking a chicken are wearing similar dresses and aprons, but they look like completely different characters to me! 
P.S. I've been noticing a lot of spam comments lately, so I'm putting word verification back up for a few days to see if it helps. Hopefully this will cut down on the problem!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Back From the Sturbridge Minature Festival

We came back from the Sturbridge Show exhausted, but in a good way. I only had the chance to take a few photos of our table as we were setting up, so please forgive the mess! We were close to the entrance doors this year, so we really got caught up in the excitement of the customers as they came in. Because of a combination of bad timing and weather issues (Hurricane Sandy!) most of our previous shows have been haven't been too well attended. Because the preview on Saturday night was a bit quiet, we were worried that Sunday (General Admission) wouldn't draw much of a crowd. But Sunday ended up being one of the most crowded shows we've been to in a while!
I tried out a few new display methods for this show. Since most of what I make is pretty tiny, they often don't show up against our grey velvet backdrop. In the bottom right corner, you can see one of my new hanging displays. I bagged all the little paper items I make, like letters, envelopes, etc. and made big labels with a sample of each different item.   
As always, Mom's dolls were spread across the table, with my little accessories tucked around and between.
This big board of watercolors was a new display for this show. The maid sitting on the scrub brush was one of my favorites of Mom's dolls. The customer who bought her had liked her at the preview show the night before, and came back the next morning to see if we still had her!
We did get a few quick breaks to go shopping. I bought a few pieces of unfinished furniture from BED miniatures, a dresser kit which I'm hoping will fit in the master bedroom of my dollhouse, quite a few brass findings, and some flocking and plastic greenery from Ladybug. The fabric and lace at the bottom of the photos were a few of Mom's purchases from JoAnne Roberts Miniatures.