Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Work Begins At Last......Witch E.T.Grubb's Emporium Part 1

I am not good at beginnings. It takes me a while to set to a new project. I spend a lot of time sourcing and researching, too much time. I find lots of reasons not to start - I haven't a long enough stretch of time today, I need to make a few flowers, I don't have enough paper, it will be hard so I need to make sure I know what I am doing etc etc.
This has been the problem with my witchs' emporium. I have mostly built the core and primed everything but have been putting of the main build. But I have now got out the tiles and started work.
The kit is Sid Cooke's Empire Stores which I bought for a song on Ebay a while ago. It was very easy to put together but I have to say that there are a few things I was really surprised by considering the reputation and price of these kits. The windows are plastic and there is not any internal window or door architrave. The external doors are only moulded on the outside and are pretty rough. The internal doors are basic Dijon doors and are not particularly exciting. The kit does not even include acetate for the window glass which is really mean. The side arched windows are a very pretty feature but do not have an arched window frame!
These points do not really effect me because this is going to be my first attempt a major kit bashing. I have begun to cover the outside with dressed marl stone from Richard Stacey. I chose this brick, dressed marl stone, because there is no need for grouting and I am pleased with the colour. Plus it was really easy to cut by simply scoring with a craft knife. There has been a problem though, I did not order all the bricks at once and one batch is a completely different thickness to the five other boxes. The second problem is that instead of ordering a new box and using the thicker bricks inside, I thought I could get away with it on the fa side wall. Big mistake cos it is now the thing I notice every time I look at the house. Why did I do it? I had to buy another box anyway.....Tip one: buy more bricks than you need and buy them all in one go from the same batch number! Richard Stacey does have a website but you can't order from it which is a bit of a pain.
I have also papered the ceilings ready for painting. I am intending to keep everything pale grey as a backdrop to all the wonderfully coloured hats and dresses and accessories, but I want to use as many different textures as possible. 
One of the things I love about a new project is that anything is possible and while working I start to plan all sorts of different things for the house and gradually it all takes shape. I have lots of ideas for this shop trying out lots of different techniques, it should be fun.
I have decided on this paper as the backdrop in the shop to match the outside but I will be adding different things to it. I also bought three bay windows for the larger windows because I liked their shape, and I will customise these.
My main problem at the moment is time but my eldest starts work for his university placement year on Monday and my daughter will be working at her summer job, while my youngest will be recovering from a week in Palma Nova which will mean I won't see him until 12 every day for a while. I still can't work out why three independent, busy grown up children take up soooo much time! Oh well I am sure I will be moaning the house is too quiet when they all return in September!

Monday, 26 July 2010

What Can It Be..............?

Look what the postman delivered to me this morning. A very bubbly cake I thought! The poor post lady looked very confused and looked in her post bag for the envelope she felt sure should be covering this naked parcel! On opening these are all the goodies I found safely snuggled.....
A wonderful bird stand, a dragon skin witch's hat plus some very useful extra goodies all from the fabulous Nikki. The hat is fabulous and very cleverly made. I also received
......the vine that began my attempts with wire. I had to buy this one because I desperately wanted something truly fab for the front of my witch house. All I can say is photographs do not do justice to this piece. The delicacy is amazing and it is so light and completely flexible. So beautifully crafted, thank you Nikki I love it!
As usual Nikki is so kind and generous with her ideas and she sent me these to help me with my own trials...
All the types of wire she uses in her own work, plus an example piece to show me how she works. How truly generous! I have some lovely bunches of grapes that I hope will do the vine justice as I think the vine will look superb loaded with luscious fruit.
Plus I could not resist Jayne's new items on Etsy and have added a Silly Lily to my collection of naughty plants! These will all eventually find their way into 'Roots and Shoots' my Diagon Alley herbologist shop. I just love sourcing for new projects!
Jayne also kindly sent me all these wonderful pots which I am really grateful for as it is so hard to find differently shaped pots in the UK. These will certainly be put to good use as I have been in a flower making mood lately. Thank you so much Jayne and all the girls are behaving quite nicely towards Lily at the moment but I don't trust that Nancy!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Trial Number Three and a Big Thank You.......and 144th furniture

First of all I must say a big thank you for all the compliments and help I have received these last couple of days regarding the plants and flowers I have shown on my blog. It has been so encouraging and a real compliment. I must make it clear though that most of my plants are made using the kits designed by Bonnie Lavish and sold in the UK by Templewood Miniatures. Some are made from scratch using punches or flowersoft and I am confident enough now to start making my own, hence all the work I have been doing recently trying to learn how to use wire.So today I worked on Trial 3 following more helpful advice from Nikki,
This was the small sort of vine that I showed yesterday. I decided to chop up the giant vine and cannibalise its branches. I think this now has a better shape and will fit in my witch's potting area. It still has to be coated in PVA.
Here are the remains of the giant vine plus some extra practice goes at very fine strands. There is also a trial wand in there too. I am hoping to use these pieces for topiary and various plants depending on how well my painting turns out.
Oh and while I am thinking about painting, Hobbycraft or is it Hobbyland I can never remember, is having a bit of a sale. When I was in there today, buying more wire...., looking around as you do I saw that a whole load of the acrylic paints have been reduced from £2.49 to 99p. They are the ones in bottles not the tubed ones. Anyway a very good reduction. Plus the pots of textured fibre 'paint' in white or natural, which is great, has been reduced from £4.99 to 99p.
Just a thought for anyone with one of these shops near them.
This is the fabulous 144th furniture I received with my little houses from Pear Tree Miniatures. This link will take you to the site and then you have to select 144th for the menu of 144th items if you would like to have a look. I can't tell you how sweet these pieces are and all hand painted. I have just put them out on the bookcase to show but I am thinking of papering the back panel in order for the tiny pieces to stand out a little more. Not sure if the red paint is a little too dark and it may add a bit of contrast too.
Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

When At First You Don't Succeed........

......ask those who have! A couple of weeks ago I received a lot of help and advice concerning branch and plant making. I have been trying the Nikki Rowe method over the last couple of days. This was my first effort. I used a thick piece of florist wire for the core and then wrapped it in the florist wire Nikki recommended. Then I painted it with two coats of PVA glue and when it was dry I did a test run with acrylic paint to see if it would take the paint and it did! Success. It looked ok so I thought I would try a vine for the outside of my witch house.
This attempt is about 30cm long. For the main stem I used the thicker wire and then attached longer thinner pieces in order to create the thinner branches. I made the mistake of using covered florist wire to start. This was not as flexible as the copper coloured wire so I switched half way through. I have to say I spent ages twisting and shaping and should never have tried to be so ambitious. I also realised towards the end that the whole thing is much to big and clumsy. The branches are the right sort of width but the stem is much to heavy.
I compared it to a few of the pieces I have of Nikki's and it looks like a vine for giants! Very heavy handed. On the bright side it is another learning process, my next attempt will be better. I have covered this in PVA so that I can use it for trying out the different paint colours it may even find its way up the side of a house eventually who knows. I did learn, once again, how long these sort of techniques take and I haven't even got it right or painted it yet! This led me back to Etsy where I bought the vine Nikki had for sale! I will keep going but I want the vine at the front of my house to be perfect and I think it may be sometime before I get close!
So next time only use the thinner wire and keep it small and much more delicate. And try again.....
I did, however, get a delivery today of a couple of things I have been waiting for -
two 144th scale houses. Aren't they wonderful?! I saw them on the Pear Tree Miniatures website and the wonderfully helpful Barbara made them up for me. They are obviously ideal for my toyshop and they are beautifully made. They even have interior staircases and fireplaces.
The pictures do not do them justice. I think I am going to leave them unfinished as my intricate painting skills are not the best. Plus I like the 'model' look of them. I am still struggling with the 144th kits I purchased, well actually I have put them away in hope that the fairies will make them while I am in bed! The pieces have proved a bit too small and fiddly for me but I will go back to them after my gardening spell.
I also bought some of Barbara's 144th furniture which is amazing and I will post pictures tomorrow.
Oh, anyone been to the Madrid fair? I am trying to persuade my husband that we need a romantic weekend away in November.......

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Show and Tell Time........

Recently Ira of Merry Jingle arranged a garden swap for those bloggers interested in swapping items for our gardens. The lovely Ira, who has taken a kind interest in my projects, allowed me to ask for wands instead of flowers. As you can see I received my items from Ira today, not only wands but these gorgeous hats. 
Here is the wand collection, I think my favourite is the Weasley style broken wand held together with string.
Ira also sent these beautiful perfume bottles, a lovely brown leather journal, a quill with ink pot and because it was a 'garden' swap a creepy plant.
Lastly but certainly not least this fabulous hat and scarf set, what every witch needs for the festive season.
Thank you so much Ira for organising us all. I love swapping as it gives us all a chance to get to know each other and share our particular craft skills. Great fun!
As I have been making up flowers I thought it was time to prepare the stands I have had sitting around to place in the windows of my florist.
I have made very simple plant stands from balsa and small wood pieces and painted them to match the overall colour scheme. All these flowers are made from kits by Templewood Miniatures.
So another job done!
There is one area of this hobby that I will definitely never try to emulate, doll making. This is a skill that is well beyond me so I am trying to build up a collection ready to show the hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley. This is the second witch I have been lucky enough to purchase from Joy of Adora Bella Minis.
Isn't she adorable.....She looks at home in the kitchen of my witch house at the moment but eventually she will be on the move, even a witch needs to shop!

Monday, 19 July 2010

New Beginnings, starting from the bottom......

This is where my next big adventure will start. A couple of weeks ago I had some work done in the house by my lovely builder Mark. While he was here I got him to lay the foundation for my Diagon Alley project. This project is going to sit on the bay window of my front room and so I asked him to line it with MDF and lay these fabulous slate tiles.
I found them in a local cut price tile shop and thought they were just the thing for a cobblestone effect. My husband nearly had a fit when he came in from work and saw it but he has come round now! I think it will  look superb when it is finished but I haven't decided if they need sealing or not. At the moment they look very natural and if I seal them they may become too shiny.
In for a penny and in for a pound, I also got Mark to tile the street in my work room. Not so flashy but I think it works.
The black tiles finish the look of this area and as most of the work top is under the houses I chose a much cheaper tile. I will paint the edge eventually, a winter job......
I also intend for the alley to be a bustling place full of life, post He Who Must Not Be Named so I am intending to have lots of characters in the shops and in the street to bring it to life. 
With that in my mind here are two of its latest residents
Two of Jayne's wonderful wacky plants. These will be going in my 'Roots and Shoots' herbologist's shop. The photos do not do them justice the detail is superb. Jayne also sent me a little gift, lots of sticky notelets and tabs. Ideal for making notes and lists, and I do like a list!
The sun is still shining here in the south but my son, who is staying in the Lake District has told me the weather has not been good for the last couple of days, so I intend to make the most of the lovely weather while I can. Which definitely means no house work but lots of mini - ing in the garden!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Some days are just.......

Nice. I spent the morning happily in my garden weeding and dead heading. Not a teenager or husband in sight I listened to a fascinating book on my ipod and had a lovely time.
Then at lunch time, with teenagers and husband miraculously appearing, I got changed and walked to the tennis club where I played three good sets with friends and enjoyed a chilled bottle of fizzy. Plus lots of terrible gossip and laughter of course. Then home, BBQ and a relax in the garden with the family.
So no minis but I have been shopping.....
Andy Pandy's coming to play! How brilliant are these little dolls from Sally Reader. I am trying to stock the toyshop with characters I remember from my childhood and these certainly fit the bill. Plus I ordered the rest of the Magic Roundabout characters......
......and Rosie and Jim who are a little later than my childhood era but I can remember having to watch them with my younger sister. Next on my search list are Bill and Ben and the Woodentops. I love Sally Reader's work her little characters really make me smile and they are beautifully made by someone you can tell enjoys her work.
I have also received these terrific wands and wand boxes from Lorraine. I had asked her to surprise me with the decoration of the wands and I love them. The two wand boxes are lined and contain two spiral wands. These will all be put away ready for Ollivander's, bit by bit my stash will grow filling with just the right items I hope.
I think I have decided what my Diagon Alley is going to comprise of:
          • The Cauldron Shoppe
          • Flourish and Blott's
          • Magical Menagerie
          • Ollivander's Wands
          • The Apothecary
          • Roots and Shots - Herbs and Plants
          • The Mad Hatter's
It will certainly have to be a very long term project!!! With a big stash of goodies collected over time but looking and planning is such fun.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Flowers, Flowers everywhere and not a pot in sight..........

When I first discovered the miniatures world I started going to local fairs where I spent a lot of time and money on quite basic miniatures, mostly mass produced but hey, I didn't know any better!
Then on my first visit to Miniatura I was amazed that so many talented people were making such high quality pieces of such variety. I was even more amazed by what seemed then to be outrageous price tags and I still ended up buying safe, thing I had already seen on the Internet.
I remember going up to look at some ready prepared flowers which were beautiful and there was the most stunnin0 wisteria. I asked the price, £140, as we walked off I said to my husband, 'It's only paper I must be able to do that easily......' Ha!Ha!
Well as we all know nothing in this hobby is as easy as it looks and like everything else in life generally you get what you pay for. 
Having spent two days making these plants, from kits I can't even take credit for designing them, I am fully aware why that stunning wisteria had a price tag of £140. Plant making is very time consuming but also very satisfying and can make a difference to any dolls house scene.
It is also very addictive, once you make a yellow flower you want to make a white one, or greenery or a climber and so on! All my kits are from Kathryn of Templewood Miniatures and I find them very user friendly.
Oh does anyone know of any other websites that sell user friendly plant/flower kits? I would like to make a few more unusual ones.
So I haven't yet played with all the clay and wire suggestions so kindly offered to me, that will definitely be tackled tomorrow.
But I did get these in the post............
Very retro pull-along toys for my shop.
How cute are these, you can also buy them in kit form but I bought them made up. They are so reminiscent of the toys I remember from my childhood, they are just perfect.
And I also bought a log cabin for my dolls house floor which is a really honest little piece. All these come from etsy seller Twelfth Dimension and look right at home in my little Tudor Toy Shop.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

At Last Home Alone With My Minis....

First of all I would like to thank everyone who answered my cry for help. I have received lots of suggestions and tips for creating branches and vines so I will be having a day of trying them all out to see which one I can actually manage! I will experiment patiently and not expect perfect results from my first attempts! Honest!
  Had some time alone yesterday and today so I managed to get some work done on my garden swop and the toyshop. This shows the dolls house maker's workshop at the top of the house. I am trying to make as many of the accessories for this scene as possible.from scraps I have around my workshop. I realised quite quickly that that the balsa needed to be very thin, one batch of work in the bin....., and this type of balsa is very delicate. I did manage to make a couple of boxes, a palate and some mock dolls house wall sheets. I have also prepared lots of printies of wallpaper etc for the discerning dolls house buyer, mini style of course.
I have also been cutting up mini bricks, slate, wood flooring and wooden pieces. I had a couple of paper trunks that I think were used as packaging for minis I was sent, so I have painted these and matched them up with the toy boxes I painted the other day. I hope to fill them wall paper and wooden 'mouldings'.
My whitewood furniture arrived from Rob Lucas and I painted and distressed the final pieces for the shop. So now I can take my time and add the toys as I see them and finish the project slowly, not in my unusual mad rush! It is quite hard to find 144th pieces of furniture so I will be scouring the fairs and Internet.
I have also purchased this classic wizard from the talented Julie Campbell of Bella Belle Dolls. He is fab and I will be adding him to my Diagon Alley stash but I want to keep him on display rather than hide him away for two years!!