Monday, January 30, 2012

The Little Things

I've just spent some time making the little things that count the most - the human details that bring a house alive...

Writing table, quills, a packet of letters and a miniature of a loved one

Some old books for the bookshelf

An apricot rose in a bowl

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Slowly Getting There

I've spent a couple of days constructing the parlour room box.  I started with a room box as I didn't want to take on a huge project and not have time to dedicate to it (running around after 18 month twin boys can take the wind out of your sails for anything else!).

It's also a little test to see how many things I'm able to make myself, and how many things, realistically, I'm going to have to buy.  I love shopping, but it is amazing how little things add up, so where I can make something, I will, and use up things from my craft cupboard rather than instantly buy something (New Year's Resolution Alert!).

I made the room box by sneaking off some wood offcuts from the loft conversion we did at the end of last year.  It was all a bit 'dead of night' and secret, as I'm not fully out of the miniatures 'closet', so to speak. You'll have to forgive the wonky angles!  The window is especially appalling, with cracks everywhere, but it's a first go, so there are bound to be mistakes.

I laid floor boards to cover the mess on the MDF, from Sussex Crafts, and they improve the room dramatically!

I treated them with linseed oil and then a coat of antique pine wax to give them a bit of age and dirt.  I think they are still quite 'mahogany' in colour, so next time I think I'll stain them darker, which would be better for the period.  

A few more props, and it is starting to look less like a disaster, and more like a room!  The andirons and fireback also came from Sussex Crafts, and I like them a lot, but I think the fireback is too big.  I'll use it in a different room later.  There's still a lot of finishing to do, at the moment I am debating whether to use skirting or panelling... decisions, decisions!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To paint or not to paint...

Having a bad cold means that I can actually enjoy a little bit of blogging, and finally post a few pictures. Here are the Christmas presents that I was lucky to receive, a half moon table by Masters Miniatures and a painted gravy boat, creator unknown. 

 The table is beautiful, much nicer in reality than the photo here, and also much nicer than the photo on the Masters' website. It is sleek and simple, and fits really well with the simplicity of the parlour. The gravy boat caught my eye - I'm not overly fond of pink, but the little detail of the head really intrigued me... I don't know who made it, but it is lovely.

I painted this little picture of a lighthouse in watercolours, and framed it.  I was quite pleased with it, and wondering what to put in the other frame below it, when I realised something horrible... My printed painting of a the Stuart princess is much more detailed, and I'm afraid that the two of them together will only show up the hand-made nature of my little lighthouse:

See what I mean? This leaves me with three options - one, I replace the lighthouse with a printed picture, two, I try to recreate the picture of Louisa-Maria (probably badly), three, I ignore the problem and hope no one notices it except for me. What do you think?

Oh, and I cannot, cannot believe that I actually have some followers, especially because lots of you are people who have really inspired me, both with my minis and to get blogging.  I think a give-away is in order!  I'll sort something out and get back to you when I'm feeling a bit better,


Monday, January 9, 2012

Parlour Fire Screen

As I've said before, I really love McQueenie's Miniatures, and this is probably my favourite piece, a fire screen.  I finish the wood with boiled linseed oil and then give it a coat of tinted furniture wax, but other than that, there's nothing else to do except put it together and embroider something to go in it. 

 I did this embroidery a while ago, and didn't know what to make with it (this is often the problem with embroidery - finding uses for it!).  It is based on a French silk design that was manufactured here in Lyon in the 18th century, when the industry was booming.  It is slightly Rococco in taste, but will go well in the parlour to balance the whiteness of the plaster walls, which I find quite stark and bare at the moment.

Parlour Chair

    Having family for Christmas was great, as I managed to sneak off a few times and get round to FINALLY finishing a couple of projects that had been lingering forever.  Like this petit point chair.  The chair was a McQueenie kit, which I love - they're so easy to put together, especially with my complete lack of wood work skills!  And I'm really sorry, but I've done the classic thing and lost the source of the petit point pattern!  If I find it, I'll let you know.  It was quite simple, and although petit point is not my favourite type of embroidery, I liked this one.  If I find the time, I might attempt a matching chair, but I wouldn't count on it...

    I found finishing was a little tricky - I didn't like the stiff effect that using the foam seat pad gave, so I made my own and filled it with fine sand.  This made a nice little sag in the middle, as if the poor little chair was used to having lots of people sit on it! 

 Christmas also brought a few presents, though my family was a little perplexed that I wanted such little things.  It's hard being the only miniature enthusiast in the family (well, Edgar the ginger cat likes miniatures, but usually only to play mouse with).  They find it difficult to understand that things which come in tiny packages are just as good as things that come in big ones!  I'll post photos very soon, as soon as I can find the charger for my camera... again!

Parlour Fireplace



  Over the Christmas break I managed to do quite a bit for the parlour, starting with the fireplace. I should let you know that I am a real klutz when it comes to woodworking - I don't have many tools at the moment, and even less confidence, so I usually make my fireplaces out of mount board. Foam-core is just too squashy at the edges, but mount board is fine.

      I rough plastered the chimney piece with a mix of plaster and PVA, which is a bit tricky, but does the job. For the stonework of the fireplace I used a paving stone stamp from Malcom's Miniatures on DAS clay. I loved this stamp, it really makes a good impression on the clay and is really easy to use - just roll out the DAS to 1 mm thick, glue on to the board and then start stamping away. This is why I love miniatures, there are so many cross-over crafts that you just never get tired of it! I used the white DAS for this, and acrylic paint. 

     The trick for painting stonework is to really look hard at some real stonework - it's never just flat grey colour, there are so many different shades and variations. I used grey, brown and some dark blue, followed by lots of washes using watercolour paint. Then, to get the smoke-blackened effect, I rubbed on artist's charcoal. I could have used old charcoal from the BBQ, but it is finally clean and in the garage waiting for next Summer! The charcoal has that wonderful, slightly shiny colour that is very natural and looks good on a mini scale.

     The stonework of the fire surround was made of individual stones, I didn't use the paving stamp for that, as it was a little too uniform. I topped it off with a rough cut mantle, and I am quite pleased with the result. I'll finish the hearth as soon as possible!

  Here is the finished fireplace with some of my favourite miniatures; a milk jug by Peter Aquisto, a copy of a portrait of Maria Louisa Stuart by de Troy in a Kay Burton Frame, and a small, faded Delft plate that was the first real miniature I ever purchased (at the age of 12!) It is marked on the back 'R A Dunford, 1992' but I have never heard of that artisan since!


Daviot House

   The house I want to start building is still very firmly in my head - as I have been so busy with non-mini life recently, I didn't want to take on an enormous project, only to have it linger and gather dust.  So I am constructing my house as roomboxes, which I will then transfer to the house whenever I get around to doing that.  This way, I'll feel like I've achieved something, rather than being overwhelmed.

  The house (in my head) is a Scottish vernacular house, dating from the 17th century, built from stone and whitewashed.  Inspiring examples are Traquair House and Hamilton House, Prestonpans (see photos), in Scotland. This architecture evolved from simple buildings that were added to according to the prestige of their owners, and predates the 'Scot's Baronial' style of the Victorians.  Note the really small windows, thick walls and heraldic carving.


The interiors are generally quite simple; stone floors and fireplaces, plaster walls and beams on the ceiling.  Some examples of painted ceilings exist, where wooden beams were painted with bright vibrant colours.

  It's always really difficult choosing a period for a dollshouse; I like a range of architectures and styles right up to, but not including the Victorian era.  My problem is that real houses are never fully furnished with things from the same date, but a range of furniture and accessories.  For example, you could find Jacobean, Rococco, Queen Anne, and late Georgian furnishings in a house where the same family had stayed for centuries.  I want my house, Daviot House to reflect that history.  So I've chosen an 1834 setting, but a house that is packed with family heirlooms.  Why 1834?  Well, it is the date on a sampler that has been handed down in my family, and a mini version of which I want to tackle in the near future.