Friday, May 22, 2009

From the silly to the sublime







I'm the first to admit that I'm very eclectic. (that's a nice way of saying that I have strange tastes and the attention span of a gnat) Seriously tho, I do like to change styles with each and every project. I don't like to repeat anything that I've done, which is probably a handy way for an artist to feel. So I switch around a lot and the changes are usually drastic. For example, I spent a couple of weeks making a very realistic Ghost Town Stage Stop complete with crumbling plaster and a rusty tin roof. The next day I had a lilac and mint green french cafe on the table......the frilliest house I've ever done. (I called her Fifi behind her back)




Wandering thru my galleries is like being caught in a time warp with Salvador Dali. One minute you're looking at a Second Empire victorian mansion and then suddenly there's a Japanese Edo Period house with sliding rice paper doors. I've done a New Orleans French Quarter house from the 1930's and a party boat for the Grim Reaper. Seriously, check out my galleries and see for yourself. There are days when I think a good psychiatrist could make a fortune on me! Split personalities manifesting in minature! LOL!


I think we're all like that to some degree. One of the great things about miniatures is that we can let our fantasy world out of our heads and bring it to life on the work table. We can create the dream house we'd love to live in...........we can visit any time or place in history or even in the future.........we can indulge in the things we wouldn't dare to do in real life......... And the best part of it? It's completely legal!




Anyway, the picture on this entry is of those little quarter scale houses I've been messing around with. If you'd like to see more pics of this one, go here: http://www.debsminis.com/sea_side_rose_quarter_scale_dollhouse.htm I got some excellent close up pics there.




I think I mentioned putting teeny, tiny roses on bushes for this house and they did turn out rather pretty. My eyes should be uncrossed in about two weeks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Punk..........Tudor?????


Isn't that just the strangest thing you've ever seen? Well, maybe it's not as strange as a live cow painted neon orange, but it ranks up there in the top ten!


I suppose I should explain this because right now you're probably wondering what I've been drinking. It's somewhat disturbing that I come up with this stuff when I'm stone cold sober.


So, as some of you might know, I love to make thatched roofs with fake fur. I've done quite a few that way and no matter how many times I do it, I still get the giggles every time.


The process is to glue fake fur onto a roof, then use a fine tooth comb to apply varnish to the fur. Combing the varnish thru the fur puts in the thatching lines and gives you the control to shape the thatch. It's really a great look and while it's *very* messy, it's easy to do.


Well, it's easier if you don't have a weird sense of humor that takes over. The first time I did the fur roof was when it hit me. I had just picked up the comb when I realized that I'd put the world's worst toupee on a dollhouse and was about to give it a comb-over.


That did it. I ended up talking to the house just like a beautician talks to a customer to pass the time. Somewhere in the conversation I developed a really horrible french accent. I'm not sure but my theory is that I was channelling Maurice Chevalier and Vidal Sassoon.


One thing led to another and I finally got the roof done but my sides ached from laughing so hard and I had these really funky fur gloves on my hands from where the varnish had stuck and picked up stray bits of fur. I've never had so much fun with a mini in my life! I still get tickled every time I thatch a roof. Isn't it great to have such a wonderful hobby that you laugh out loud from sheer joy?


Anyway, I did a thatched roof on a quarter scale house today and as always, I got the giggles. This time it was before I even started with the varnish. I make a horizontal "part" about a quarter inch down from the top and combed the fur up before using varnish to comb it down over the roof ridge.


I couldn't help it. I sat back and looked at it and, well, it was quite awhile before I could catch my breath. I'd made a little punk tudor!!






Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Willowcrest is available again!


Everybody join hands and do the happy-dance! The Willowcrest is finally available again! Oh, this is a joyous day in the world of miniatures! This is the house that EVERYONE wants and no one could ever get. These would show up on eBay and, well, let's just say that the bidding wars got pretty ugly.


So Dean and the good folks at Greenleaf listened to the cries of miniaturists out in the dollhouse wilderness and re-released the Willowcrest. To make it even better, it's on sale from now thru May 25th, '09. How cool is that!


Trust me on this one...........this kit isn't going to stay on the shelves long. The demand for this house is amazingly high. The place to get it is at the Greenleaf webstore here: http://shop.greenleafdollhouses.com/Willowcrest-Dollhouse.html You don't need a code for it. The price is already slashed and the free shipping (US only) applies automatically.


Grab one and build it or grab one and stash it, but definitely grab one! Take out a second mortgage on your poodle if you have to, but don't let it get away from you. Out of all the houses I've built and all of the houses prominently displayed in my home, the Willowcrest is the crown jewel.

The More Stoned I Become The Boulder I Get


I can see the rocks! After all this time, I finally see the rocks!


I should back up and explain that huh. It does sound a little bit odd.


The theory that art is created by removing the space around a shape is something I know. I work with that theory quite a lot actually. But when it came to paperclay I'd always had a hard time finding the shape. All this time I've been carving lines into the clay to create a shape instead of removing the space. The fireplace is one I did a long time ago and it came out so-so but when I compare it to what I've done this week, I can see a huge difference.


It clicked with me a couple of days ago and I finally saw the rock shapes in the clay! Wooooohoooooooooo! It's not exactly a life altering experience, but it's certainly an art altering experience! I've been working with paperclay for the past three days and it's a delight every time I pick it up and start removing the space to expose the rocks hidden in the clay. The results are very pleasing too.


The most surprising thing is what brought about this little mini-miracle. It was a blunt pencil of all things. I was digging for my usual carving tool when I thought that it might be a good idea to try something else. I dug thru all the wood carving tools and didn't find what I wanted. It finally occured to me that the point I wanted was something like an old carbon stencil stylus and I don't have one of those anymore. When my hand fell on a blunt pencil, I decided "oh what the hell" and gave it a try. Not only did it work, but something about the way it worked brought the stones to life. Who'da thought that all it took was an old pencil?


I'm having a bit of a hard time seeing the monitor screen tonight after a few days of working in 1:48 scale. I do love the tiny houses tho! They're just so darn cute! I have five of them on the work table right now in various stages of completion and anticipate having all of them done by the end of the week if I don't go blind first. I think the eye strain today is due to making teeeeeeeeeny tiny little rose vines. Think about it for a minute.........roses in 1:48 scale. Oh, I'm not making individual petals or anything! I may be crazy but I'm not nuts! But even the vining roses require a couple pairs of tweezers and a magnifying glass.
1:48 is probably the smallest scale I'll ever work with (famous last words but for now I really mean it) I look at 1:144 and get a headache just thinking about what it would be like to work in that small scale. A 1:144 artist once told me that she sneezed and lost half a house. I don't need that kind of stress.


That epiphany I had this weekend? It's going well. I had about two hours of fighting with something that didn't agree with my creative input, but once we gained an understanding of which one of us has access to a jigsaw, things progressed smoothly. Sometimes you just have to show them who's the boss.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Miniaturists


Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and miniaturists are subject to change. Just when I think I have things all lined out, the houses start talking and the Muse jumps in and suddenly everything has changed.


I have the baby lighthouse (half scale) assembled already. It only took two hours to put it together! Have I mentioned how much I love that new laser cut!! Greenleaf is really rocking the mini world with their new laser cut dollhouse kits. In addition to the Tennyson, they announced this week that the Brimbles and the Emerson Row will be re-released soon........also in laser cut! Woooooooohoooooooooo!


So, after the baby lighthouse was together, I cracked open the box for the Fairfield and put it into dry fit. The more I worked with it, the more amazed I became. There just seemed to be rooms appearing out of nowhere! Everytime I added another piece, a different room appeared and the whole structure changed. I felt like I was building Rose Red!!


And that's when she started talking to me. Apparently the Fairfield isn't going to be a lightkeeper's house after all. The baby lighthouse chimed in at this point and agreed, saying the Fairfield was just too tall for him. Okay, I'll go along with that. Then the Fairfield began whispering to me about old vines covering the outside and creaking floors inside that moan at night. Yes, she's going to have a lot of character before we're done. She's decided that she doesn't want to be built right away tho. She wants to get to know herself and decide what she wants to be. There are so many subtle nuances to her personality that it's going to take some time. I've put a design book beside her so when she makes a suggestion, we can add it to the plan.


Since the Fairfield was finding herself, I turned back to the baby lighthouse. He's such a cheerful little fellow! He likes the Fairfield but he's happy that she decided not to pair up with him. He asked for something smaller that would make him look tall and statuesque in comparison. I had the perfect solution for that and reached under the table for some quarter scale kits. He's decided on the tiny Magnolia for his lightkeeper's house and I must say that it's an excellent choice. The tiny Magnolia is just perfect in every way. Baby Lighthouse also asked if he could be weathered instead of haunted and I told him that's okay too. We'll make him look like a working lighthouse that's been on the job for a few decades.


After getting the Fairfield settled into her meditation mode and finding the perfect mate for Baby Lighthouse, I thought the Muse had taken the rest of the day off so I started putting the rest of the quarter scale kits back where they belong. That's when Muse jumped in front of them and slapped my hand. (she can be sooooooo bossy sometimes)


Muse had me pull out three or four other quarter scale houses and assemble them. I did so, wondering all the while exactly what I was going to be doing with them. After they were all assembled, Muse explained the plan. Talk about an epiphany!! All I could say was "Oh wow! Oh WOW!!" for the first five minutes. The next half hour passed in a flurry of digging thru this and that in the studio to find supplies and put together a prototype. When that was done, Muse and I happy-danced around the room. It's gorgeous! I'm not saying what it is till I get at least one fully completed and then I'll share. But it's going to be *awesome*!


Friday, May 15, 2009

I see the Harbor Lights..........



Ooooooooh, this build has been so much fun! The new laser cut kits at Greenleaf totally rock! I built the lighthouse from start to finish in 6 days. There's no more sanding with the laser cut kits and that not only made the build go faster, but it was so much easier on my hands.





I'm a landlocked girl and always have been so it was kind of surprising for me to build a lighthouse. Never having seen a lighthouse in real life, I didn't even know where to start. Oh wait a minute. I *have* seen a lighthouse in real life, but it's in the middle of Kansas so I don't think that really counts. Anyone who would put a lighthouse in the middle of Kansas probably wasn't much on historical accuracy anyway. I couldn't resist adding a little dazzle to the floors after I found out that the floors in stone lighthouses often had a decorative pattern. This one has the moon phases which is very apt for a lighthouse, don't you think? All in all, I'm pretty happy with the way it came out.





Click on the video below for pics of the lighthouse and pier, or you can go to http://www.debsminis.com/ and find the album for the lighthouse in my 1:12 scale gallery.



Sing along with me!


~~Sittin' on the dock of the bay...............~~






video

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hangin' out with the Hippy Quilter




I have a best friend. Now that's nothing out of the ordinary.......most people have best friends or at least hope that they do. But my best friend is a little different. You see, we've been best friends for 30 years.

Yeah, I know. That number kinda freaks me out too. To put it into perspective, her oldest granddaugher is the same age now that I was when I met Kathy. There's something about that that just doesn't seem quite right ya know. Somewhere in the back of my mind, Kathy and I are still young. She's still a size three and I'm still a size seven (she's shorter than me) and we're still partying every night. There are still Harleys parked in the driveway and we're still cruising the country roads in her orange Dodge van. Then I open my eyes and reality once again hits me with the fact that we're middle aged and our days of Harleys and parties that last for a week are all over.

Kathy and I met when I was 17 and had just gotten married to my first husband. She lived next door to me and was recently widowed with two little boys to raise on her own. We were both scraping to make ends meet and life wasn't all roses for either one of us, but gawd, we had fun together! Over the years we didn't stay living next door to each other, but we've always been just a phone call away. When email came along, we were both delighted coz we could talk to each other all day and not have a phone bill the size of Mt Rushmore!! And we do talk to each other every day, all day long. We usually exchange between 15 to sometimes 30 or more emails a day.

Just one of the things that we have in common is the need to create. We're both earth mothers and at one time or another, we've done about every hand craft that there is to do. She could macrame a lot better than I could. My macrame always looked like something the cat threw up. We made halter tops out of bandanas and embellished our blue jeans. I don't think I should mention the live cow that we painted neon orange. I think the statute of limitations has run out but one can never be too careful about that sort of thing.

Textile arts are something that we both do in different forms. She makes bed quilts and I make art quilts. She sews pieces together and I'll sew anything that doesn't move onto a piece of fabric. We make some seriously cool crazy quilt needlecases together. She does the piecing and I do the embellishing. Those are pictures of one of them at the top of this entry.

When I took up miniatures, Kathy said "Oh cool!!" and encouraged me every step of the way. By the time I finished my first house I was telling her to pick a dollhouse and I'd build it for her. She picked the Lily and I built it to match the Sea Side Rose quilt she made for her bedroom. I'd made an art quilt for her out of scraps from the quilt so I had some of the fabric on hand to match the colors.

Kathy lives in Armpit, Oklahoma now but she drove up to Denver last weekend so we could go to the quilt show together. We had a great time!! After all these years together, we don't need to exchange words anymore so we could look at a quilt, look at each other and just know what the other one thought of it. Usually our opinions match anyway. We looked at sooooooo many pretty quilts and art quilts and got to talk to a few of the artists. There were plenty of vendors so we had a great time shopping too. She got a nifty new rotary cutter and I found lots of fabric in 1:12 scale. Oh, and we both got some new back supports for our work chairs because, well, let's face it, our shopping styles have changed a lot as we got older. Instead of being excited over the new jeans at the head shop, we're more excited over a good back support.

It's good to have someone to grow old with. I'm fortunate to have a friend like Kathy because she's a truly exceptional person. No one ever accused her of fitting into the norm but I don't either so together we make a good pair of outlaw quilters and crazy old ladies. Oh, one other thing. Before she left to go home, we loaded up a Laurel dollhouse into the back of her PT Cruiser (which is red with flames on the front end). So now her Lily has a new neighbor. We also planned how she wants her Willowcrest to look when I build it.

It's been a great week because I got to hang out with the Hippy Quilter and I'm going to get to build another Willowcrest. Life is good.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea.......


You and me, you and me, oh how happy we'll be............If you know the words, sing along! Why am I singing "By the Sea"? I've been in a very nautical mood lately. Since the arrival of the Greenleaf Lighthouse Dollhouse, I've been caught up in researching historical lighthouses and delighting in the new laser cut kits. Have you seen the laser cut lighthouse yet? Oh, it's a treat!! The cuts are so smooth and precise that it's a joy to work with. Greenleaf has set a new standard for dollhouse kits with it's new laser cutter. It's a dream come true!


I'm building the lighthouse for a friend of mine who is an historian and collects lighthouses. He grew up in Maine and admits to sometimes being homesick. So he came over with his books and notes on lighthouses and we devised a design plan. He wants the lighthouse to look new and pristine. The exterior will be a traditional red and white and the interior will be antique white and a nutmeg brown. I learned a lot about lighthouses during our planning session. I was intending to make the floors hardwood (I do so love hardwood floors!), but he explained to me that wood and wallpaper aren't the norm in lighthouses since salt air quickly deteriorates those materials. So we decided on plaster walls and stone floors. Yay! I get to play with paperclay!! I'll do some nice stonework floors for it.


Before I started on the lighthouse, I asked my friend what kind of lightkeeper's house he would like to have. He decided that he'd rather have a functional type of lighthouse with an outbuilding for equipment to one side instead of a house. Works for me! So I built a little equipment shed for him. Then I got to wondering how to put the shed alongside the lighthouse. I'm using the Greenleaf Harbor Bay base for the Lighthouse (which is just gorgeous by the way) but it doesn't have room for the shed. I considered the obvious solution of simply adding onto the wharf style base but that seemed rather mundane. I wanted a bit more of a challenge. Then it hit me! A pier! It needed a pier!! Not bad thinking for a land-locked girl who has only seen the ocean once in her entire life!
So I grabbed some scrap wood and my jigsaw and started buzzing. It only took a few hours to come up with a neat little pier with rope railings and seasoned planks. I was so pleased with it that I wrote up a tutorial on how to make it. It's pretty neat because it has load bearing supports under it (which make it look more realistic too) so it could be used for a full size house too. I'll run the tutorial in the May Greenleaf Gazette. It's even adapable to sit on either side of the lighthouse base. After I finished it, I spent about an hour just playing around with it. It's just cute and demands attention. It's hanging around the studio now just waiting for it's lighthouse to be finished.


I'm about halfway done with the lighthouse and having soooooooooo much fun with it. The new laser cut is sweet as sugar to work with. I keep having to remind myself to go eat and sleep. I'd rather just keep working on it. It's a "Zone" thing.


Just when I thought that it couldn't be any better, Greenleaf released a half scale lighthouse kit too! Mine is on the way to me now and I can't wait to get my hands on it. I've been dying to work in half scale so this is the perfect opportunity. In fact, I've had a Fairfield (a lovely gothic victorian mansion in half scale) sitting on my work table for about two months being rather insistent that it must be built. I'll combine the two and use the Fairfield for the light keeper's house. Perfect! As sweet as the lighthouse and the Fairfield are, I'm going to take a different approach to them and make an abandoned lighthouse and a haunted lightkeepers house. Oooooooh, this is gonna be fun! Just to set the record straight, when I do haunted, I don't make ghosts and skeletons and Halloweeny types of houses.........I do rather realistic and eerie houses. You know the kind I mean---if you had to pass by them at night, you'd cross to the other side of the street. My fingers are just itching to get started on them!


Then Greenleaf took it up another notch and released the Tennyson in laser cut! Be still my heart!!!! Oh, it's so sweet! I took one look at it and immediately thought of the book by Kate Chopin, "The Awakening". I love that book. This house strikes me as a combination of Edna's artist house and the restort by the sea. I've come up with my own interpretation that takes the artist house out of New Orleans and puts it by the sea. It will be light and airy and very romantic. Picture silk curtains blowing in the breeze and delicate colors. I think my palette will be white, green and just a tiny hit of rose here and there. I don't do feminine houses very often, but the Tennyson is already telling me that she's going to be a romantic.


Hmmmmmmmmm.............a sea side house. Two lighthouses. Yep, I'm feeling very nautical these days. I suppose I could say that's because my father was in the Navy during WW2, but he was stationed in Wisconsin so I probably didn't get any love of the ocean from him. It must be just falling in love with the Greenleaf lighthouses and that new laser cut. If you haven't seen the lighthouses (both the 1:12 and the 1:24), the lighthouse base or the new Tennyson, pop over to http://www.greenleafdollhouses.com/ and check them out.