Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Birthday to Me.......Look What I Got!!!!!

Nobody warned me that dog walking is very dangerous to your health! 
I am 53 years young today and have my first broken bone!
Yep, I have broken my wrist and have a nice brand new cast in which to celebrate my Halloween birthday.
The good thing is that it is my left arm, the bad thing is it hurts a lot!
The traction........which seemed a pretty medieval way to treat a 21st Century person, went well I am told so it seems unlikely it will require pinning.
I did get a couple of much nicer presents though.
 Two cheeky mandrakes by Mags
 My husband bought them from her very well stocked and busy stand at Alexandra Palace.
Absolutely love them.
 My lovely husband also bought me these fabulous pieces by Stokesey Ware from their Victorian kitchen range. They are so beautifully crafted in traditional earthenware.
 I will definitely age and distress the corks ready for The Cauldron Shop.
 Lastly I had to have the bread crock.
 Who says that witches wouldn't have a few classy pieces in their kitchens? Not me! The collection is very extensive but can be added to slowly which I like.
Their fine china is simply to die for.
I had to begin a collection from this artisan as they are based in Stoke Newington a north London borough where I was born and bred. I only moved to leafy Hertfordshire on having children. 
I can't believe that miniature fine china is now being made 5 minutes from where I was born!
 My parents 'bought' me this tea set from Sally Meekins. It was made specially for Ally Pally and as I had purchased her pumpkin set a couple of years ago I knew it had my name written on it.
It has all been hand painted and is so delicately made on fine china.
This set is also destined for The Cauldron Shop. I am thinking of a round display table upstairs........
Happy Halloween to you and yours.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Lighting Up The Cauldron Shop........Another New Challenge

While I am in total agreement that all the best dolls houses should have lighting I have always found installing it an absolute disaster. 
A little while ago I made the decision to only install LED lights in all my future projects. With this in mind I ordered everything I should need from my favourite supplier, Small World Products
 For the first time I am having a mix of LED lights and more traditional bulbs because I am going to attempt to light up all the fireplaces. This also meant I needed to obtain the materials for making the leads longer on all bulbs as they are sooo short.
This another of my big moans about lights. Why do they always come with such short wires?!
Well this is the main kit: a transformer (starting top left, down and across), a 3LED light strip, a dual unit connector (more on that later), a flicker unit (for both lights and fire places), extension wire, shrink tube and single LED lights. 
 I have also bought a heat gun that is used for paint stripping for the shrink wrap.
 Wire strippers to expose the ends for connecting each length of wire.
 Lots of red and amber lights for the fireplaces
Phew, seems like an awful lot of stuff for one small shop!! I have already installed the longer LED strips on the ceilings of the shop too.
The LED light strips do come with much longer wires than normal lights so I won't have to mess about with them thank goodness.
 The first thing I had to do was strip the wires on the red bulb. It has the normal two wires and I have to say this is the hardest job of all. No matter how careful I am my wire gets shorter and shorter as I accidentally cut straight through the blooming wire! Patience and a very gentle hand are needed here. 
The extension wire has to be carefully spilt down the middle and then pulled apart to make two wires to match the bulb wire. 
This has to be done at both ends of the extension wire for finally fitting to the power unit/flicker unit.
 You should end up with something like this at each end. 
You need to have quite a bit of metal wire showing to make the next stage easier.
Next step is to cut a small length of shrink wrap tube, slide in over one of the wires and then join each piece. You have to wind the ends together quite tightly as you want to make sure you have a good connection.
The shrink wrap tube then slides over the join.
Last but not least comes the heat gun. A little blow over the wires shrinks the tubing and forms a very firm join........
I have never attempted soldering so I have no idea if this is an easier technique or not but it seems pretty pain free if fiddly. I will try and do a whole buch in one sitting I think as the wire stripping gets much easier with practice.
Now all I need to do is test the bulb.
More on that tomorrow

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Dress Rehearsal.......The Cauldron Shop.

Whenever I am about to attend a dolls house fair I always have a dress rehearsal of the current project in order to clear my mind of all the items I definitely don't need!
I have finished the shelving for the top floor displays and then remembered that I had a chimenea made by Nikki  for her Kensington debut. It fits just beautifully against the wall and doesn't dominate the small space in the same way as the fireplaces I has tried.
 I have also 'sooted' up all the individual fireplaces in the main shop using a mixture of railway modelling soot and glitter. I decided to dirty up the surrounding floor as we all know floo travelling wizards and witches are likely to make a bit of a mess!!
 The upstairs is meant to be a sort of witchy kitchen shop.....A place for all those little pieces I love to collect really!! My Diagon Alley will only pay lip service to Harry Potter in many ways as I do adore gathering together items that take my fancy and then working them in to a scene.
 Here you can see my wonderful collection of witchy themed teapots by such wonderful artisans as Nikki, Lory and Jaqueline Dunn.
 I also want to add a few witchy recipe books and was pleased to find these by Pixie Dust Miniatures on Etsy. I quite like this little display with the brass cauldrons and Lory's gorgeous candle display but they may be moved in the final scene.......
I have also been collecting these marvellously witchy bisque pieces by an Ebay seller called Blue Sky Miniatures. He makes a varied range of pieces not just for Halloween at amazingly reasonable prices. They are extremely fine and beautifully hand painted.
Remembering this is a Cauldron Shop.....there are a couple of very special ones hiding on the top shelf waiting for a real place of honour!
The main shop floor where most of the cauldrons will be displayed is also taking shape, minus cauldrons......I know, I will get there eventually!
Here I will also display all the copper pots and utensils especially loved by the wizarding community. Mostly because I think they are stunning!
The range looks just right but I am going to enclose it in its own fireplace, not fully but I have tried out the structure around it and this will finish it off nicely.
I haven't done anything with the fire baskets yet as I have been waiting for some lighting supplies to arrive. I am planning to light each grate so that each.....cauldron, yes I promise there will be cauldrons.....can bubble away self-stirring and all.
 The corner mantle is a perfect place for pots and pans and eventually I will hang the utensils and floo powder containers. Still lots of gaps but I am learning not to expect to finish each project completely but to wait........
 The range will also have a couple of copper pieces but if you look closely you can spy.......a cauldron!! Made by the very talented Mags and bubbling away.
These pieces are what started me thinking of all things copper. They are the most beautifully made pieces with tiny rivets and brass handles. They are perfect copies of the real thing and bought them a long time ago now from a US site J. Getzan Dollhouse Miniatures
My photographs do not do these pieces justice so do pop into their webshop to see the fabulous range of items they make. A real shop to browse and drool!! Still Christmas is coming. Hint. Hint to my family!!!

Friday, 14 October 2011

So What About Those Cauldrons?????!!!!!!

The last couple of days I have been playing with all sorts of different ways of making cauldrons.
This is the collection of shapes and sizes I have got together. It includes a range of lids, various mini glass bowls, some lovely cast iron cauldrons from Sussex Crafts and some bubble floats in different sizes (I was given this idea by Brea, whose blog is a must for us dabblers!!)
 Plus the water balloons for the paper mache idea.....Suffice to say Lily loves them!!
 I tore up lots of newspaper and made up a weak PVA mix just like on Blue Peter many, many years ago. 
Let me just say my preparations took longer than it took me to realise that my paper mache idea was not going to work. My balloons were too small and too slippery. My newspaper pieces were too big. My patience was running too thin......End of that plan.
 So, I covered all my shapes with foil and moved on to plan B and C, using Paperclay and Fimo. 
I would cover the shapes in my chosen material and the foil would stop any sticking.
I had some grey Fimo in the drawer so I started with that, thinking that if my first attempts by some miracle turned out fabulous I could always paint them.......Optimist is my middle name!
Here are my prototypes in the oven, no Nigella cup cakes for me!
 Only three survived the baking. The tiny one simply refused to be separated from its cap.
Whenever I get out the Fimo or clay I am further filled with admiration for all the wonderful clay artists who make the most wonderful tiny pieces. I just find it impossible to get a smooth, untainted finish.
Maybe I will be able to refine the finish but the shapes work. 
 Impatient as always I did try to remove the inners too quickly which resulted in some cracking. Must remember to let them get cold next time.
Here are my Paperclay efforts. Even got a little creative here, woooo hoooo, tried a little pumpkin thingy idea with one of them! Once again they are a little rough and ready, maybe I can tidy them up when they are fully dried? Maybe they will look better once they are painted?
It seems as if the foil idea is working and the clay hasn't stuck fast. 
I will be good with these and let them dry completely over night, and then sigh....
I have yet to try the ping pong balls. I might try cutting up the bubble floats and covering them completely in the clay or fimo, I might build a stack and then cover the whole stack in clay/fimo rather than build from individual cauldrons, I might.........
I know I'm burbling but maybe I'll get it right tomorrow!

Creative Station Art Mache Information

Following the comments on my last Blog post I thought that a quick link might be helpful.
This is the type I purchased from my local hobby shop. 
It comes in 1kg bags and I paid £8.99 I think.
It is very, very simple to make up and it goes a very long way.
I have found a website that sells exactly the same product Pullinger's Art Shop. In fact they are cheaper at £7.69 plus P&P which means I can have it delivered to my door in future!
I could not find any US sites but I did find a really helpful website with a recipe for this type of product,
Ultimate Paper Mache, which I hope will be useful for anyone not able to find Art Mache locally.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Using Art Mache For the First Time.....and a Kitchen Range.

I have been spending the last few days applying Art Mache to the outside of The Cauldron Shop. I am using this product after reading about it on Michelle's blog.
I bought a bag of it from Hobbyland and I have to say it was remarkably easy to mix up, just add water and mix......Mine is a little bit wet perhaps but it did go on very easily.
 I started with the front panel and marked out where the wooden pieces would be glued. Michelle suggested that this is a good idea as once applied the Art Mache is difficult to remove.
I have also learnt to start at the front as in previous projects I have run out of the necessary resources and a second batch is never quite the same as what you started with! 
 Once I had applied all the Art Mache I glued on all the extras. I did this while it was still damp which allowed me to push the window pieces into the mache rather than have them sit proudly. A look I prefer.
 I tried to smooth down the mache as much as possible to give it a rough, rendered look.
 As this kit comes in two pieces there will be a join between the two. I decided not to glue them together because they are so much easier to work on when divided. To 'hide' the join I am going to have a wood panel at the bottom edge of each unit.
 Another reason for the wood edge. I have routed a channel for all the fire bulbs I want to place in the fireplace. This channel can be hidden by the wooden panel hopefully.
 The top window frame slotted in very nicely.
 Being a small carcass also meant I could apply the mache in one sitting. This is really helpful as it means all side are more or less matching in the way they have been rendered.
 The continuing good weather here in England meant I could put all the pieces out in the garden to dry off!
I really liked this product. It was easy to mix and has worked out very cheap compared to some other products I have used. The bag I bought was £8.99 and I have covered the whole carcass with about half the mixture. The rest I have stored in an air-tight bag inside a tupperware box a la Michelle of course!
It does have quite a rough finish but it may be possible to sand it down?
It will take a couple of days for it all to dry off completely I think and then I will be ready to start colouring the walls. Must check if it needs sealing before painting.
During one of my sort outs I found this range tucked away. I had bought it on Ebay ages ago for a very small sum but was put off by all the pieces in the box and a set of very basic instructions.
I decided it could be an ideal piece for this shop and actually it was not too difficult to put together.
A good glue seemed to be the key.
Once it had all dried I painted it black and then highlighted it with Rub 'n' Buff Pewter. The knobs are bronze at the moment but I think I might darken them down a little bit.
I have filled the grate with coals sprinkled with red and black glitter. You can just see the twinkle.
It is just the right scale for the downstairs and I like it here I think. I have a few pieces of copper cook ware that will display quite nicely.
Oh, fireplaces have been grouted too, as you can see here. They still need to be distressed and 'sooted' once the mache walls dry.
And the cauldrons????? Don't ask, they are not going well.
Update tomorrow!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Owl Post......

Quick post because I just had to share these fabulous fellows with you.
They arrived this morning from Julie of The Cottage Kitty.
I hope you can see the character in these cheeky owls.
I have been waiting a while for Julie to make more owls so I was so pleased to discover them on Ebay.
Thank you Julie I love them!