Monday, 22 July 2019

The fourth Wall

I am pretty much all finished with the construction and decorating of each room.  I have a few locks, alarms and (mock) electrical outlets of various sorts to add in, otherwise the rooms are done; so it is on to the fourth wall.

I suspect there may be extremely well-organised and finely tuned planning type folk who do any work on the inside of the wall before it even gets attached to the house.  This is not for me I'm afraid.  I want the whole outside of the house done first.  I am sure it is a sort of psychological thing of working on a (real-to-me) completed building.  The exterior finishes would then 'suffer' if they were laid down to allow work to be done on the inside.  I also want the doors and roof on fairly quickly to reduce the amount of dust collecting inside the house.  My two main fourth walls, therefore, have to be tackled in situ.

The big debate

There are various schools of thought when it comes to finishing the fourth wall of an English-style dollshouse.  Some feel it is best simply painted in a muted colour and left alone so that it doesn't detract from the finished rooms when you open the doors.  This seems a very reasonable stance to me and makes for an easy finish to the project.

Others feel the fourth wall should look exactly as it would if it were actually a fixed wall in the house.  It is therefore completely decorated and trimmed and dressed and even furnished (fixed to the wall or on a small platform).  Generally these folk, treating it literally as the  fourth wall of their room, will complete this area at the same time as doing the other three walls.  One room at a time.   This seems a very reasonable stance to me and makes for an easy finish to the project.

I never have any idea of which way to go.  On every project I have honed my procrastination skills in respect of the fourth wall and just entirely ignored it until I have to deal with it.  I have then gone on to compromise and try to find a middle ground where the walls get decorated and the windows dressed and I leave it at that.  Any furniture standing against that wall simply stands in the house.  That takes some thinking about as you don't want to see the backs of most things or obscure the view, but there is usually some sort of wriggle round it if you choose the item carefully. 
This seems a very reasonable stance to me and makes for an easy finish to the project.

I am very happy with this level of distraction that the decorated 'doors' create when viewing the open house and it does mean that the windows look finished when seen from the outside.  That will do nicely for me.

Let's start with the dormer

When you start any work of any kind, it is wise to sort out every little thing you are going to need before you begin.  In this case two kinds of trim, two kinds of paint, wallpaper, two kinds of glue and a bunch of different tools such as scissors, saw, mitre block, brushes, rules, pencil, eraser and probably more.  This is a vital step - you will understand why later.

I removed the roof from the main house and flipped it over to work on.

I was nervy about doing this as I didn't want to damage the finished work on the outside.  Luckily it seemed to be OK and everything was lying neatly in place underneath

Here comes another 'don't skip this' step.  Make a (very scribbled) plan of what you intend to do.  This helps in a few ways.  Firstly the orientation has been flipped and your left is now your right so it is important to be clear which colour paint or wallpaper goes in which place.  You want to think about any trims you might want to add and how they will interact with the edges of the room and trims you have in there.  They must be clear of those edges or the roof won't close properly.  In my case I also needed know where I wanted the white paint to go and I like to avoid drawing all over the actual piece and marking up with pencil.  It often bleeds into glue or paint if you leave it behind and it is sometimes hard to rub out.  I like to have the measurements all worked out on my diagram and then use masking tape to outline the various spaces.  I don't want to be continually working out what goes where as I go along; so, the rough sketch with measurements keeps me on task.

Eventually I want to improve all the windows in my build and try and make them look like sash windows.  I will need to add a lot of trims (starting with the dormer) and want them ready to go when I need them.  So, although I only need a few for the dormer, I may as well paint the lot.  There are a couple of pieces of dado rail here too that I will be using.

Another handy tip..... buy the very best quality trims you can find/afford.  I get some very good quality wood ones from J & A Supplies when I am at a show, but I can't see them on his website.  I didn't do this with these trims (1/8th inch x 1/8th inch square).  I wanted so many I bought a ton of cheap ones from Hobby's.  They immediately want to bend as soon as paint touches them [painting all four sides pretty much mitigates this] and they are not super smooth to begin with and the wood produces quite a lot of nubs when wet.  All this will be manageable but better quality can save you some blood sweat and tears.

Here is my quick way of painting these -

Dab some generous dobs of paint along one edge.....

....... rub it along the wood gently, keep dobbing and rubbing all the sides and work your way along the trim roughly a third at a a time.  Leave them to dry.

I did the maths and I painted 27 trims x 19.5 inches x 4 sides x 2 coats and that's about 350 feet of fiddling with paint.   Don't be deterred it is a pretty pleasant mindless task and they only took a little over two hours..

Dormers are notoriously badly made - it is not my assembly skills - more the maker's design/cutting.  The worst of this particular one is the bottom of the window which luckily is a sort of overhang and looks fine from the outside but from the inside there is a decided gap.

I covered this with a piece of (already painted) leftover simple coving.  The configuration doesn't make a lot of sense in real life world but will suffice for this roof flap which simply gets lifted up out of the way.

Each side of the roof has the wallpaper areas outlined with masking tape so the rest can all be painted white.  The centre room will be all white as it is the kitchen so there are only two small wallpaper additions.

As I said the inside edges were pretty gappy.......

.........  but a coat of paint improved them greatly

So to the wallpaper.  I always make a template for any wallpaper even ones that seem to be simple rectangles (they never are).  The wallpaper itself is not particularly cheap or easy to find so best to get it right first time.  This template is just a piece of ordinary A4 printer paper.

This is the area to be papered.

Here comes a bit of an aside.   Way back when, I bought an A1 portfolio very cheaply from eBay which stores my wallpaper beautifully; no rolling and then trying to flatten it, no knocked up edges or grubbiness.  I commend it to you.

This is where tragedy struck and following my first instruction would have been useful.  I don't have any green wallpaper big enough to cover the space.  Yes, I have checked here there and everywhere on line and no one has it.  It was on its way out of Dolls House Emporium when I bought it on sale several years ago.  A couple of other folk had it but they don't any longer.

 As for the grey paper I don't have a shred of it.  There is absolutely no hope of getting this one as I bought years ago from some Etsy maker (in New Zealand I think!) who made to order and was also 'winding up'.  I did waste a lot of time 'just checking' though.

I have a white flap with two unpainted areas waiting to be covered.  I could just paint them white and get in with it but I did the 'plan', cut and painted to dado rails, measured and masking taped up the two areas carefully....  all of which was a complete waste of time and brain power if I just end up with a white flap.

So the current state of play is me walking away and controlling the urge to rant or cry and eventually coming up with a not very great solution.  Come back next time if you can stand the excitement of watching paint dry.


Sunday, 14 July 2019

Probably my last plants

I was looking through my stash of things to see if I had a pot for my proposed Swiss cheese plant and discovered a white rose kit which was a lovely surprise.  This led to continuing the stock check to see if I had enough vases or pots or whatever for my proposed three plants; inexorably this led to me treating myself to these.

I wanted to share this purchase in case you are looking for perfect scale, hand blown, paper-thin glass at a price you can afford.  The vendor is just the very best.  Glasscraft
Nothing here costs more than £7 ($8.80) and the cute tadpole in a jam jar at the front was all of £3.50 ($4.40)

The bon-bon dish is 'silver' with two gilded cranberry glass dishes

The perfume bottle has a removable long-stemmed perfume stopper and is incredibly dainty

apologies I put the stopper back in wonky.
With enough vases now but still no answer to the Swiss cheese plant container I decided to press on.

Ladies Mile Miniatures

as usual I added veins
wires glued to the back

I made a cardboard pot; later it was painted silver grey.  In these pictures it is at its inception with the surplus cardboard on its bottom waiting to be cut off, trim added and then painted.

When the leaves were all cut to different lengths but not yet finished, they were shoved into their proposed embryonic container and placed in the room to see if they were going to work.
chair at the front with plant at the back??
the reverse version??

The grey pot was soon discarded as it was too clunky and I found this over-size vase/pot in my things and used this.  The leaves were bent into shape and glazed with Americana triple thick brush on gloss and glaze - any pva glue will do the job.

The first decision for the final room was this

After eating a pizza and wondering what to do with the lovely little 'table' in the box the next iteration became this.

now centre front and small rocking chair added into the left hand corner

 It sits very well on its pizza box spacer, smack bang in the dormer window grabbing all the light it can.

So, on to the roses.  I have shown you a picture of the real plant first, so you can see how careful Theresa Stringer is in making her plants realistic.

Rosa x alba 'Alba Semiplena'

White rose of York

the real one
great kit as always Ladies Mile Miniatures
ten and and one extra

Looks best in front of the mirror .......

............. but I wanted them on this side of the hall where there was going to be a painting but I think they will be too 'busy in front of that.  I have a fetish for symmetry.

This little tweak will cost me a good amount of money as I now have to buy another Jim Coates Trumeau mirror for the other side of the hall for perfect symmetry.  The postage will cost me as much as the mirror.

My second flower was a rose.
Pink Standard Rose 'Maiden's Blush

the real one

Ladies Mile Miniatures
in process

 I loved making the buds.  The pieces for these buds/centre of the rose are cut on a sort of angle - like a child's windmill so they 'want' to overlap each other.  If you just gently roll them between your fingers they fold over each other beautifully.

A word about stamens - all flower makes start with adding a small blob of glue to one end of the paper covered wire to stop the petals being pushed off.  You need to decide if this is going to be visible or not and, if visible, what colour it needs to be painted.  In something like these roses they were not intended to be seen so they can be left like this.  The glue dries almost clear and takes on the colour of the green paper underneath so they are very subtle.

ta - dah

This story has a bit of a sad ending.  I bought these for the music room without really thinking about it and now realise they just don't look nice in there.  It proved difficult to find a place for some flowers in that room and, if I did, they really need to be yellow as the room is grey and gold, this pink just jars.  Hey ho, one for the sell-it box.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Cleome - Ladies Mile Miniatures

I absolutely love making plants.  I barely ever find it frustrating or annoying.  It is one of those tasks that I slide into happily; radio four drama (or two) to keep me company and an afternoon or a morning is whiled away allowing me to feel omnipotent and able to create a 'living' plant.

Ladies Mile Miniatures offers a fabulous choice of kits if, like me, you don't have the requisite punches and such like to work from scratch.  The service is excellent and prices good and quality top notch.

I chose a Cleome (Spider Flower) for my dining room vase.  This was a bit of a daft choice as this is a three to five foot high shrub and is rarely used as a cut flower because of its size.  Hey ho, I like them and I don't have any outside growing space because my house is part of a row of Georgian terraces so they are going to have to go in a vase.

This is how my blissful afternoon went along .....

Always a nicely packaged and presented kit with absolutely perfect instructions.  I won't do the step by step thing as it is done so well in the kit but I thought I would share some moments which might add something to your understanding of what's going on if you are doing your first flower kit and show you what 'tools'  I use to complete them

First thing is to take your wire stems and add a blob of glue.  The photo is to show you what I work on.  I have a glass tile - a few pence from B & Q years ago.  As you can see it is handy for any small amounts of glue or paint.  When it gets rather full it just goes in a wash basin of warm water and soaks for a  little while, then a bit of a rub and, voila, brand new again.

This photo is maybe a handy tip.  All my wires are poked into a bit of styrene.  I couldn't find my spare piece so I just grabbed the one I use to keep my drill bits in; but you get the idea.

I then discovered the blobs of glue were sort of running down the wire slightly so, with a bit of ingenuity, gravity was inverted.

This is a share in case you ever see one of these any where.  It is just the best way to keep glue handy and ready to go.  I used to keep my glue upside down in a mug until I had this.  The downside of that method is that the cap is always full of glue when you take it off.  This little stand allows the glue to stand in its own little puddle of glue without a cap and that seals it nice and airtight.  It comes free easily when you want to use it.  Absolutely ready to go at all times.  I can't help with buying one of these stands as it was bought at an American show years ago and I was told it was the last she would have.  I am sure some of you can make one like it for yourself .  The glue stand part of it just has a support and a base with a small groove in it for the nozzle.

Often the glue blobs are painted yellow to represent pollen coated stamens but cleome just have a bud filled centre so it needed to be painted a matching pink.  So the tip here is to just google and check out your real life plant to be sure you are on the right track.  I had some very, very, pale pink, acrylic paint (paint samples) so (here comes the next handy tip) I just mixed in a little red water colour to get to the right shade.  Both paints are water based so they mix just fine.  I couldn't paint the glue blobs with water paints as they don't have the sort of pigmentation and durability to do the job that acrylic has.

Pink bud centres all ready to go.

Tweezers are useful when making plants for picking up and placing things.  These are the three I own.  Any would do, but the bottom pair is very much the best for this task if you do have to buy some. 

From now on its a simple case of threading and gluing three lots of petals.

A small amount of glue behind each section.  The photo is to show you the tool used - a cocktail stick.

Left to right - three with three layers, three with two layers and four with the small first layer

How the flowers look when finished, now for the leaves.

From the left, top row; one side pale colour, the other side darker green, and the third shows lines drawn for the veins.  Bottom row of two leaves turned over to the right side.  On the left hows the indentation made near the stem and the right shows the stalk bent back ready to stick to the stem.  Using a mouse mat you make indented lines on the reverse of the leaf (all in the instructions)  I am mentioning it because I usually do this with a very sharp coloured pencil just a shade darker than the leaf colour.  I know it is on the underside but it can sometimes add some 'interest' and reality to the finish.  It looks crude in this photo but remember you are seeing the leaves much bigger than they are in real life.

They are a bit OTT but I love them.

I am feeling a very sad that I won't be making any more flowers when I have done the next two kits as this is to be my last project.

If you are considering having a go I would say a good rule of thumb is, if your eyesight and dexterity are good enough to thread a needle, you will be able to make plants and maybe enjoy it as much as I do.


If you are reading this across the pond - when I spent half my year in the States I used to buy from SDK Miniatures LLC which are also good to do.