Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Well I didn't get old on purpose!!!

Recently my rhuematologist said those words that I'd been dreading, "Deb, it's time for you to start physical therapy". Oh, I know it's something that I need to do. And I'm the first to admit that it would be nice to be able to stand up long enough to cook dinner. Not that the veiw from my kitchen floor isn't interesting, but it's really hard to reach the stove when I'm sitting on the floor waiting for my back to unlock. I also understand that arthritis and degenerating discs will be easier to control if I teach my muscles to compensate for the weakness in my bones. My brain tells me all these things but yet a little voice in the back of my head says, "Oooooooooooh, this is gonna hurt soooooooo bad".

The first step was to call the PT office and get an appointment. When a chipper, young voice answered the phone, I reminded myself that it would be unreasonable to hate her just because I have house plants that are older than she is. I gave her my name and the name of my rhuematologist and explained that I was calling to set up an appointment. She was really sweet and started thru the questions to set up my file. We got thru my name, address, age, etc and then she asked, "Why do you need to see a physical therapist? Is it the result of an accident?"

I couldn't help myself. I blurted out, "Well, I didn't get old on purpose!".

She may be young but her reflexes aren't that great coz I heard her burst out laughing before she could hit the mute button on her phone.

With my appointment scheduled, I had a few days to think about the whole thing. The biggest initial obstacle was convincing myself that I could leave the house and go out in public wearing sweat pants.

When the big day arrived, my hubby drove me to the appointment. When I walked in the door the first thing that caught my eye were all the machines. Row upon row of shiny machines. BIG shiny machines. Machines with bars and straps and belts and pulleys. I immediately had a flashback to 8th grade World History and the pictures in my textbook of the torture devices used during the Spanish Inquisition.

My hubby may not be young but he still has good reflexes and managed to grab the back of my shirt when I bolted for the door. As he pulled me back thru the door I hissed, "Fine. But if that therapist's name tag says Torquemada, I'm holding you personally responsible."

Turns out his name is Dave and he's a very nice young man. He didn't make me use any of the torture devices since it was my first visit. We'll be doing those later this week. He pointed to one that has straps and pulleys on it and said that would be the one we'd start on. I'm going to Google it just to be sure it's not a new version of the Rack.

The good thing is that since the therapy is focusing on my back right now, it doesn't effect my hands and I can still work on my minis. I'm adding a line of day beds to Deb's Minis and finished three of them already. I always get delighted when I do something new. My muse and I spent about four hours playing with designs for bolster pillows before I had a Eureka! moment and scared the cat again. I'm happy with the end results of the day beds. Now if I could just figure out how to shrink myself down and snuggle in those soft pillows for a nice nap.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

While We're On The Subject of Monkeys....

As long as we're on the subject of monkeys, I'll ramble a bit more about my experimentations in photography. After I got the technical side of it figured out (more or less and I'm definitely still learning), I started looking at the types of pictures I was taking and the subjects. I realized that most of the pictures I was taking were "Grand Canyon" shots. In other words, I was pulling back and trying to get as much into the picture as possible. Then it occured to me......well, actually it hit me upside the head like a wet mop.........that if I'm taking pictures of miniatures, I need to use my camera lens on a smaller scale as well.

So I sat back and thought about that for awhile. Wide angle shots are great for an overview of the whole dollhouse, bed, etc. But once people have seen the entire dollhouse, they want to go inside and look around. Let's face it, when it comes to looking at dollhouses and miniatures, it's like peeking inside someone's home. We want to see the details close up and explore all the hidden treasures.

I turned the monkeys loose and we started taking pictures at odd angles and from different perspectives. At first there were a lot of discarded pictures that were crooked or had really strange looking content, but the monkeys got better. I discovered that if I positioned my camera in the place where I would be if I could shrink myself down and stand inside the house I got pictures that make the viewer feel as if they're really there! That was a real "Eureka!!" moment! (and scared the poor cat when I actually yelled "Eureka!!" at the top of my lungs)

I used to consider the photograpy side of marketing miniatures to be something of a chore, a neccessary evil that just had to be done. Now that the monkeys and I have spent some time learning how to use the camera with the right setting and the right lighting we're having a really good time discovering how to get those great pictures that bring the viewer into my little world. Yep, it's become very satisfying.

Would you like to come inside and join me?

Friday, February 13, 2009

300 Monkeys: (or: Learning about Photography)

My approach to photography is a lot like the theory that if 300 monkeys typed for 300 years, one of them would produce the works of Shakespeare. In other words, I play the odds. If I take as many pictures as possible from as many different angles as possible, somewhere in there I'll get a good picture. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time editing pictures. LOL!

But I'm learning things along the way. I learned how to use a white or light blue background to reflect the light properly. Since my miniatures range from tiny embroidered pillows all the way up to large dollhouses, I needed a large space so I set up a permanent photography table with a white sheet fixed to the wall and draped over the table. That was easy and it eliminated the background "noise" as well. Then I learned how to use the macro setting on my camera and it quickly became my new best friend. When I replaced my camera last year one of the things that was a neccessity was a good macro setting and as high a resolution as I could get. I drove a salesman crazy because he didn't understand why I needed to take pictures of things that are only one inch tall.

So with my nice, white background and some practice with macro settings, I made progress. My pictures were beginning to look a little more professional...........or at least they were showing the subject matter a little more clearly. But I still wasn't getting the quality I wanted and determined that my lighting was a problem. I have three 100 watt bulbs going in the studio and while that's good for my eyes, it's not ideal for pictures. Outdoor light is always best but hauling a background out to the backyard as well as a huge dollhouse just isn't feasible. I tried the obvious solution first........a drop light with an aluminum hood. You know the ones I'm talking about. They sell for a couple bucks at any hardware store and have a clamp on them so they can be fixed into convenient positions. Okay, that was marginally better. At least I had a little more light focused on my subject matter but it still wasn't quite right.

I fixed my hubby his favorite meal and then broke the news to him that the new shop lights he'd just bought for the garage were now residing in my studio. Fortunately he's a good sport and didn't fuss at all. He just went and bought another set for the garage. The shop lights definitely made a difference in my photography! They're on a stand and adjustable both in height and angle. Now I had the background, the right camera and proper lighting! My pictures were definitely looking much better.

There was still a constant battle with shadows. I used the drop light as a spotlight but it didn't always give me the consistent light I wanted. Then I discovered the Lumiere portable photography studio. Actually, that discovery was fairly easy since my hubby had placed it under the Christmas tree! The photo box is excellent for pictures of the dressed beds that I sell and that alone thrilled me. But the lights were exactly what I needed to use for baby spots to take the shadows out of my pictures. I was doing some serious happy dancing when I saw the pictures taken after I pulled it all together! I'm still doing a lot of experimenting with lighting and the settings on my camera. I have a lot more to learn but it feels really good to have a grasp on the basics.

Obviously, I'm a complete novice when it comes to photography but I realize that in order to display my work properly and professionally, I need to have at least a small skill set with a camera. So I'm continuing to practice and learn. As with any skill, practice is the key. I play around with the camera, experimenting with the lights and trying new things.

Today, I was playing around with backlighting. In my experiments I've discovered some beautiful effects by focusing light in one area of the picture while using shadows for contrast. I'm sure there's a name for that but I have no idea what it would be.........I just called it "I have some free time today so I'm going to play with the lights and see what happens when I back or side light a subject". LOL

Thursday, February 12, 2009

C'est Si Bon

Fifi is now offically C'est Si Bon, a french tea shoppe. I was so delighted to finish her today! Actually, the chairs are still being stubborn so I have two of them tied to the mini table saw tonight and am sure they'll stop fighting with me soon. But the chairs are all that's left to do and the rest of the house is finished, photographed, added to my website and moved out of the studio into her new home in the living room (yes, she got front and center). C'est Si Bon is open for business!

I must admit that I'm happy with the way this house turned out. It's definitely not my normal style, but it's been fun to work with light and airy colors.

Here's a pic of the exterior of the house and the patio. More pics can be found on my website (debsminis.com) under the "New to View" link.

Gotta go. Fernando is calling from the studio and asking if we can dump the lilac paint and mix up some adobe plaster.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In "The Zone"

I just looked at the calendar and realized that I've lost about a week somewhere. Actually, that's not all that unusual when I get sucked into "The Zone". I've been known to lose a whole month, so one week isn't all that bad. The creative Zone is kind of like the Twilight Zone except there's no ominous voice-over in the background. .....unless you count the voice of a lonely husband asking if you're ever coming out of the studio and making wistful references to the days when meals were home cooked and not ordered in. (if there wasn't a phone in the studio with the chinese delivery place on speed dial, we'd both starve)

It happens to me sometimes when I get so into a project that I obsess and can't seem to tear myself away from it. I'm an insomniac and usually I wish that I could get more sleep, but when I'm really into a project, I look forward to sleepless nights because it gives me more time in the studio. Pitiful, huh.

So, Fifi is almost finished and is so enamoured with herself tonight that she let me get away for a couple of hours. Her interior is completed and furnished and when I left her just now, she was preening in the reflection of her lights in the windows. The exterior is done as well and all that's left is the landscaping. I spent a couple of hours today gluing tiny leaves and roses onto trellises for her while the paperclay dries. It'll be ready to paint tomorrow morning and after the paint dries, putting in the fences, grass and accent pieces will be fast and easy. I must admit that she's turned out beautifully and all of Fifi's plans have been perfect for her.

One little bit of stubborn behavior has been with the chairs. I'm happy with the way the tablecloths came out and even the teeny little folded napkins on the tables, but the chair covers have been putting up a fight. Every design I've tried just hasn't come out quite right. So this evening, I lined up all six chairs and pulled out my dremel stylus. Holding it to the seat of one chair, I announced, "Okay, enough is enough. If you don't start cooperating with me, your friend here is going to have more holes than swiss cheese." There was silence from the chairs. I hit the power button on the dremel and cranked it up to 10. Over the whine of the motor, I said, "I'm not kidding. And the dremel is only the start. If things don't start working out better, I'm getting out the jigsaw. I know at least a thousand ways to turn wood into sawdust, so start talking". Amazing how cooperative things can be if you just motivate them properly. I think I have the perfect design idea for the chair covers now. We'll see how it works out in practical application.

I'm not sure what's worse........me threatening little chairs at dremel point or the fact that my husband thinks it's perfectly normal.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


The good news is that when I went into the studio today I was pleased to find that no sawdust had been spilled during the night. Fifi is still in a snit, but at least she didn't take a dremel to the new dollhouse kit. Of course, before I went to bed last night I did take the precaution of hiding all the dremels, bench sander, jigsaw and anything else she could have used to destroy Fernando. (that appears to be the working name for the hacienda)

I suppose I should tell you a little bit about Fifi. It's not that I don't love her........actually, I totally adore her. But she's very much a prima dona and that requires that I give her exceptional treatment. Some dollhouses are like that. I've worked with more than my share of divas and prima donas but then again, I've also worked with some of the most relaxed and serene dollhouses too. Someday I'll tell you about my Beacon Hill and my Glencroft. They were both such tranquil dollhouses during the building stages.

Not all of my dollhouses get working names while they're being built. Some of them are content to be known by the name of their kit or the formal name I assign to them when they're done. Then there are the ones who take on so much personality that they get a pet name.

I'll start at the beginning. Fifi is the Storybook Cottage kit from Greenleaf. I'm the editor-in-chief of the Greenleaf Gazette and the original purpose of building the Storybook Cottage was to develop several future tutorials for the Gazette. It's my habit to put a house into dry fit before I do anything else and that's when the house and I start "talking". I should pause to mention here that I don't actually hear voices when I talk to my houses. I may be crazy but I'm not insane. LOL The talking phase is simply a part of my creative process when I open up to the potential of the house kit and determine which direction we're going to go. I'll decide up on a theme, decor, any bashing that needs to be done, color palatte, ect. Sometimes the chatter gets so intense that I feel like I'm simply a conduit between the house and my Muse. But for all general intents and purposes, it's easier to just say the house and I are chatting.

So, the Storybook Cottage and I began chatting. I thought it was a little strange that she had a French accent, but I've learned to take these things in stride. She began with telling me, "My name is C'est Si Bon". My high school French is a bit rusty, but I remembered enough to know that means "It's so good". I told her, "Okay, we can do that". Now my mind was working more along the lines of the Eartha Kitt song so I was beginning to envision the house of a kept woman with expensive tastes. Oooooooh no, that's not what she had in mind at all.

Now before we go any further, I should tell you that I'm not a frilly type of girl. I never have been. My tastes lean toward dark or earthy tones and tailored styles. Pastels are not my thing and I usually shudder at the sight of them. What came next was a real shocker.

In a tone that left no room for argument, she told me that she will be done in the most delicate shades of lilac accented with pale lavendar and mint green both inside and out. (that was when I started calling her Fifi behind her back) She said her interior would be wallpapered in the most feminine papers of soft lilac and mint, her floors would be green marble and she wanted an ornate fireplace with scrollwork painted to match her decor. Soft lighting and lace curtains would also be required. I nodded in agreement, taking down notes. She said we'd discuss the rest of the interior later, but first she wanted to plan the landscaping. Nothing would do but tons of roses in pink and lavendar, climbing up trellises and white wrought iron fences. The side bay window was to be removed and French doors installed in it's place. There would be a patio with a white wire table and chairs.

This is where the lightbulb came on over my head and I exclaimed, "You sneaky little thing! You're describing a frilly and feminine tea house!! You want to be a French cafe!! I have never, ever, ever wanted to make a tea shop, bakery, sweet shop or cafe and you've just tricked me into agreeing to it!!" Fifi batted her eyelashes and murmured, "But of course".

There's no arguing about it. The house always gets what the house wants. If you try to fight it, you just end up stalled out in the creative process and eventually, you do what the house wanted in the first place.

That's how I ended up building a frilly little French cafe. As long as I agree with her, Fifi cooperates with me and things are going very well. I have to admit that she's going to be a bit of confectionery delight when it's done and will probably be one of the prettiest houses I've ever built. We have a couple more weeks of work to do before she's done and I'm getting excited about finishing her up.

She's still very demanding tho. For some reason, I found myself changing a few things around in my living room dollhouse display yesterday (there are 8 dollhouses in my living room) and I wondered why I was doing it. Then it occured to me that I was preparing to make room for Fifi in the very center of the display. Oh well. I should have known that she'd want to be front and center! I think she's also gotten hold of my credit card because there have been three shipments of suppies so far and every single piece in them is destined to be a part of Fifi. I think it would have been easier to keep an expensive woman in this little house than to let it become a French cafe!!

Oh, and one other thing. I mentioned yesterday that Fifi was annoyed with me because I'd been dressing beds for a week instead of working on her. Well, this morning it became clear that she had noticed the bed "Eliza Dreams" sitting on the textiles worktable. The first thing I heard when I walked in the room was "I want it". I told her that the bed is not hers and that she doesn't even have space for a bedroom. She said, "I don't care. I want it. You can build an addition onto the side for it"

There are times when you just have to draw the limit. I threw a towel over Fifi, grabbed "Eliza Dreams" and ran out of the studio as fast as I could. From behind me, I heard the voice of Fernando calling "Don't leave me........................."

Well, here we are......

I've never been good at keeping diaries. Even as a kid, I felt silly about locking my diary because there was never anything written in it. Of course, keeping it locked and hidden did drive my brother crazy so that was probably why I had a diary in the first place.

Anyway, here we are with a shiny new blog. It's the cyber version of a brand new notebook.........full of potential and promise yet slightly intimidating. On the other hand, I've never run short of words so I'm sure I'll find something to write about. And since the thing I like to talk about most is miniatures, we'll definitely be chatting about them a lot.

I just finished four new beds so I'm a little tired tonight. I've also got a very miffed dollhouse sitting on the work table in my studio because I've been making beds instead of paying attention to her. Her working name is Fifi and she's the jealous type. A new dollhouse kit arrived today and it was so irresistible that I had to put it in dry fit to start the "talking" process with it. I have a feeling that it's going to be a Mexican hacienda but we're not sure yet. At any rate, Fifi is not pleased with this stranger intruding into her workspace when she's only 2/3's complete. I just turned the light off and left them alone to work things out. Tomorrow morning I'll either find out that they've made friends or there will be nothing left of a mexican hacienda and a french cafe but a room full of splinters. Only in the miniature world could I have an international incident occuring in my own home!