Friday, March 27, 2009

Phil O'Dendron

I get really tickled when I find a special miniature. I know I'm easily amused but there are some miniatures that just appeal to my sense of humor. This little book by Blue Kitty Miniatures is one of them. When I saw him, I knew he had to come live with me. Isn't he adorable? I named him Phil O'Dendron.
There was quite the mini disturbance when Phil arrived today. I won't go into details, but you can read about it here. I think I have all the scorch marks off the wall and the dragons are sedated.
My hubby usually takes everything in stride but when I told him about the disturbance, he asked if I'd been mixing up my meds again. Okay, so maybe I got a little too involved with my minis today, but damn, it was fun.
I've discovered that minis bring out that side of me. For example, a few weeks ago I was cleaning the living room and needed to move C'est Si Bon off the glass table where she resides. I moved the dolls off the patio first and laid them on the floor under the table so they'd be safe. I cleaned the table to a sparkling shine and replaced the house, totally spacing out that I hadn't put the dolls back. A little while later I was walking thru the living room with my hands full and noticed the dolls laying on the floor. Now I often talk outloud to myself when I make a mental note so I don't forget things. The talking to myself doesn't bother me. However what I said was a bit disconcerting. What did I say?
"You need to pick up your dolls"
I don't think that's something a middle aged woman should be saying to herself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Greenleaf Spring Fling!

What's better than a Cadbury egg and three pounds of chocolate bunnies? The Greenleaf Spring Fling contest!

I love spring because there's so much new life bursting out everywhere. Everything gets green and fresh again. After a winter full of brown and grey, I can hardly wait for things to turn green again.

The folks at Greenleaf are as excited about Spring as I am because it's time for the annual Spring Fling contest. And what is a Spring Fling you ask? It's the best miniature contest ever. Every year Greenleaf releases a new kit with a super low price and invites miniaturists all over the world to get creative. There have been some fabulous entries in the past but this year is promising to be the best ever.

Greenleaf designed a totally new house this year! It's a 1:12 scale dollhouse kit with two rooms and the coolest design for a dollhouse you ever did see. People are already excited about what they're going to do with the kit and they just started shipping out this week! If you hear news reports about mailmen being stalked over the next week or so, you can put it down to Spring Fling.
I've already had a chance to build one of these little darlings and they are such a delight to build! For an expert builder, there's plenty of challenge with all it's potential but it's still easy for a novice to build. That was definitely planned by Greenleaf because this year they've added a junior division of the contest. How cool is that!
To find out more about Spring Fling and how to get your kit and enter the contest, visit Greenleaf here.
I've put together a little slideshow of mine. This one isn't entering the contest since it's going up for sale in my Etsy store this weekend. As the Editor-in-Chief of the Greenleaf Gazette I sometimes get to test new prototypes like this one. Some lucky person is not only going to get a great dollhouse, but they'll get one of the first of these houses ever built.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving pictures!

So, way back before I started off on my miniature adventure, I was a computer geek. To be specific, I fixed computers. It's something I enjoyed a lot because, well, I'm a Virgo and fixing things is something that we Virgos just loooooooove to do. I spent a few years working for one of those major cable ISP's when broadband was new (Yes Children, that was back when the earth was cooling and none of the dinosaurs had a laptop) Working for the ISP was interesting because I was one of the pioneer members of their corporate escalations/customer retention department. On one hand that was kind of cool because we had all the fun tools and complete liberty to fix anything that came across our desk. Not only did I have access to things in the network that most people didn't know existed but I could tell customers, "Okay, grab that screwdriver and let's pop open that computer case and see what we've got in there". On the other hand, I never got to talk to anyone who wasn't seriously pissed off so that part sort of dulled the luster on my crown of geekiness.

Anyway, before that gig with the ISP, I worked for a huge tech support company. I won't name names, but in the 90's they provided all the tech support for Apple Computers. I loved every second of it! Apple is such a cool company to work for. I was the technical training manager so I got to be in on all the new products and worked with Apple's research and development department. (now there are some true geeks!)

One of the really cool applications that came around in the 90's was a little bit of software called Avid Cinema. It was bundled on the Performa 6400 and turned the video world around. All the Apple Masters (a huge collection of celebrity musicians, artists and authors) were twitterpated and with good reason. This wonderous new technology had timelines and storyboards where you could drag and drop music and pictures to make movies. It was simple to use and opened up a whole new world for a lot of people. It was a little before it's time since digital cameras had yet to become household items, but oh, it was still glorious!

Storyboard video software is nothing new anymore since Windows grabbed the idea from Apple and started bundling something like it on all their computers. Now it's common technology and readily available to everyone.

You're probably yawning by now and wondering where my rambling is leading and how this relates to miniatures. In a way it does because slideshows and movies are a fun way to get our miniatures out there for the rest of the world to see. Our little miniature world doesn't get a lot of recognition in the mainstream world because people don't even know it exists or they think dollhouses and miniatures are toys for children. As miniaturists, we need to take every avenue available to us to share the joy of minatures with everyone we can. The internet has caused a resurgence of popularity because it made it possible for us to network with each other and even bring new miniaturists into the hobby. What better use for technology than to reach out to a younger generation?

Flashing pictures, special effects, and music make any content more appealing and storyboard software makes it easy to do. I spent yesterday playing around with some storyboard software and created some video slideshows set to music, then posted them to You Tube. I've seen all my pictures before but seeing them in that context made them all new and exciting. I hope that it has the same effect on others when they see them and maybe inspire a few to take up minatures as a way of life.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I hate it when she does that

Normally I love it when my Muse pops up and says, "Let's do something today!" Actually, I get really excited when she says that because it means that we're going to have some fun creating something. When she said it yesterday, I immediately ran back to the studio and looked at the pending projects. Would it be the half-scale Fairfield? I've built in 1:48 scale before but never in 1:24 so that was exciting to consider. Muse was silent so obviously that wasn't it.

Could it be one of the dozen beds sitting on the shelf waiting their turn to be dressed? They're all lined up nicely with fabrics and trims folded neatly and sitting on top of the beds. All I had to do was pick one and jump right in. I ran my hands over the fabrics and petted a couple of the beds but Muse remained silent. Apparently it wasn't going to be a bed.

How about dressing a living room set? There are a few of those on the shelf too! Dressing that Empire set is something I've been looking forward to. Still silence.

By that time I was getting a little annoyed with Muse but I reminded myself that when she repeatedly ignores my requests for certain things it means that she has an even bigger project in mind. I bit back my annoyance and twirled around in my chair waiting for her to talk.

I was on the third revolution and starting to get a bit dizzy when I saw the McKinley box sitting in the corner. I jumped out of my chair (not a good thing to do when you've been spinning youself silly) and landed on the floor somewhere in the vicinity of the box. No problem, I was going to have to get down on the floor anyway. I rested my cheek against the smooth, cool surface of the box and thought, "This is it." From within the box, the muffled voice of the McKinley said, "Yes!! I've been thinking it over and believe I'd like to go with a modern look and have selected my colors and wallpapers." I was happy. The McKinley was happy. I reached for the box to lift it up and set it on the table.

Muse said, "No."


Whaddya mean "No"????

Muse said, "No. The McKinley has some wonderful ideas but that's not what we're going to work on today".

Uh, okay. Reluctantly I set the McKinley box back in the corner and suggested that if Muse had something in mind for the day she'd better get with the program and let me know before we spent half the day just sitting there.

Muse suggested that I would benefit from some time spent in learning patience and then said, "Today, we are going to clean the studio and reogranize everything".

Have I mentioned that there are days when I'd like to lock Muse in the closet? Oh well. She had a point. I'd left things scattered here and there from my last project and honestly, the place was a mess. So I started cleaning up the clutter and reorganizing things on the shelves and in the drawers. About halfway thru the process I was sitting in the middle of the floor refolding stacks of fabric and sorting them by color and content. The cat was curled up in the middle of a pile of batiks sleeping with one eye open so he could watch me. Muse was perched atop the cabinet filled with landscaping supplies, shingles and wood trim doing her nails with my dremel. That's when it occured to me that cleaning and organizing the studio is a part of my creative process.

Being a Virgo, I don't mind cleaning and actually enjoy organizing things. Okay, let's be honest.......I'm a really OCD Virgo which means that organizing things is just what I do. But when it comes to the studio, that organizing process is a Zen experience. As I sort thru supplies and the tools of my trade, ideas some to me. When fabrics are tossed into a pile, I see combinations of colors and textures that I might have overlooked before. While I'm moving wallpaper around I consider how certain designs would go together in a house and before I know it, I've got a new decor planned. I come up with all kinds of ideas when I'm sorting thru the bins of wood scraps!

Today I have a freshly cleaned and organized studio, a design book full of new ideas, and Muse sitting on top of the desk saying, "I told you so".

I hate it when she does that.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It may be small, but it still needs to be comfy!

Wanna know one of my wee obsessions? I think that miniature furniture should be comfy. Yes I know, the dolls aren't real people and they won't notice if a bed is comfortable or not. That doesn't change the fact that my brain insists tiny furniture should be soft and inviting. For one thing it adds to the goal of realism in miniature scale and that's always a good thing. But my obsession goes one step beyond that to actually making the furniture so comfortable that if you let your imagination take you away for a moment you can really feel yourself sinking down into deep cushions and downy pillows.
I'm very sensory oriented so that probably explains my obsession but I love being able to put it to use in miniatures. When I dress a bed, I use fabrics that are a delight to the senses. I combine different textures in each bed to create a piece that's not only visually stimulating, but are also irresisitble to touch. Run your finger across the top of a bed and feel silky satins, soft cottons, sensuous brocades and delicate lace. I like to add in surprising touches of velvet and buttery soft suedes. Most of all, I like to create a contrast between the wood and fabrics that brings out the best of all textures.
Recently one of my best clients asked if I could get him a specific style of living room furniture. I dug around thru my dealer catalogs and found the style he was looking for. The next thing I knew, we were discussing re-upholstering the furniture to match the decor in his miniature living room and how many pillows and throws would be just right. Somewhere in the middle of that conversation I realized that we were discussing a custom order and that I'd be venturing into a new type of miniature textiles. I was delighted! For one thing I like trying new things but mainly I loved how our conversation of "what if" had naturally evolved into a real dressed living room....something I'd thought about but had never gotten around to making.
I'm going to digress just a little bit about how much I love the planning process. I spend a lot of time with my clients when they request something special. It's a rush for me to discuss miniatures and get a visual of someone else's ideal dollhouse room. I love to find out what kind of wallpaper they'll be using.........what type of flooring.......will there be heavy woodwork in the many windows........will the room have lamps or will it be a little dark......... Those questions not only delight the miniaturist in me, but it gives me the information to create the furniture to make that room picture perfect!
The conversation can go on for days and even weeks. I like to learn everything about the room. I want to know the era of the house and what styles are represented in other rooms in the dollhouse. I ask about the story behind the dollhouse or roombox and what kind of people live there. Finding out the personality of the people living there is one of the most important things to know since the furniture will reflect that personality. So in addition to getting to know my clients, I also get to know their dollhouses and the little people who live there (even if there aren't any dolls in residence) When I learn things like "she's a very practical lady with strict victorian sensibilities but she does appreciate the finer things in life", I know to make a bed that's spartan and functional yet has the softest cotton blankets and a silk bedspread. Learning that "she's a world traveler who likes the exotic, yet she still has a sense of girlish whimsy" leads me to making a bed with unique and sensual textures and just a light touch of femininity. I think the planning process is so much fun for me because that's when the creating process begins.
That ties into my obsession with making comfy miniature furniture. I don't perceive it as dollhouse furniture.........I see it as a small representation of our dream homes. Therefore the furniture should be as inviting as it is in our big houses. Chairs and sofas should have soft cushions that sink deeply when pressed with a finger and pillows should be fluffy. A throw casually tossed over the arm of a chair or daybed is close at hand to snuggle under if one should want to drift into a sweet nap. All these little comforts come together to make miniature furniture that transforms a dollhouse into a miniature home.