Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Magical Menagerie Has Walls and A Roof......Next Shop Unveiled!

The exterior of The Magical Menagerie is almost complete. I have spent nearly a week Art Macheing all the walls. It was a long, long job.
 Two reasons it took forever. Firstly, I like a smooth finish, so I have to make sure the surface is laid at more or less the same depth and it then has to be smoothed down with my fingers and various flat tools.
 Secondly, I decided to glue on most of the moulding before applying the ArtMache for the first time with this kit. Usually I mark out where all the moulding goes and then apply the Mache. Why I decided to change I do not know.......It was a BIG mistake!!! I had to be so careful which slowed the whole process down dramatically. Plus it was much harder to do. Plus no matter how careful I was mache still went where it should not!!
 I haven't put the windows in yet because I want to match them with the interior woodwork and I decided not to work on that part of the project at the moment. Once I start looking at the interior rooms I know I will get distracted by the fireplace, or the doors, or the cages..........
I am keeping to the master plan.
 I have had a lot of trouble getting this kit to fit properly and you can see here the gap here. No amount of sanding or tweaking has helped but the double quoin strip has helped disguise the flaw.
I have decided to move on and put up with it.
 I am trying to make all the roofs look different from each other so I have tried to slip these tiles a little as if the roof is suffering from dis-repair or low flying dragons!!
 These are Richard Stacey weathered tiles and are very varied which was perfect for my roof. At the moment they look a little to bright so they will be dirtied up when I age the whole exterior
 I will add lots of dirty paint to all the exterior walls to match it with the look of the other shops in the Alley.
 A peek through the top window into the dragon room.
The street paviors are also down and ready to be aged. I will leave the front door panel all in brick but I have still some moulding to add. The two strips meant for this panel have disappeared, have absolutely no idea where they are so I am in the middle of painting two more. Gremlins on the loose again!!!
 As one exterior comes to an end another one starts. I have put together the carcass of 'Flourish & Blotts'.  This a Sid Cooke County kit that I was lucky enough to win on Ebay for half the list price. It was untouched and still in all its original packaging. 
So here I am back to moulding painting!!
This will be my last shop for quite a while as I want to work on the interiors of the five I have started. There is all the lighting to be done and all the exteriors still need finishing off as well.
Plus I need to start emptying all the boxes of furniture and props I have lying around before my workroom explodes!!

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Magical Disaster! When a new products works too darned well

It's been one of those weeks when nothing seems to go as planned. Not anything major thank goodness just time consuming and more than a little irritating! My lovely Lily went in to be be spayed which is a very standard operation these days but a puppy who doesn't feel well is much the same as a baby - or a man - who doesn't feel well. Very time consuming and surrounded by guilt when you just want to scream!
Anyway as we have been confined to barracks I have managed to get in some mini time all be it with a puppy on my lap.
 I decided to try out a new product on the wooden mouldings after not having much success with the crackle products on the market. After four under layers I painted on the new product and then covered with the final top coat of black.
 The effect was dramatic and almost immediate. In fact it was too good and too dramatic, no subtle crackle here.
Then as I looked closer I realised that the paint had been stripped right back to the bare wood. Straight through my four layers of cream and olive/gold.
I was not a happy bunny I can tell you. 
 This is what I used and it definitely works. It will be perfect for weathered floorboards and lots of other applications but not for my moulding. So I rubbed them down and more or less started again. Grrrrrr!
 I have also laid the flagstones down in the ground floor room of the Menagerie. These are from Richard Stacey and although they lay beautifully they were quite difficult to cut with my meagre tool collection.
 Now they need to be sealed, grouted and distressed.
 My dragon room on the upper floor is going to be quite stately in  a singed and sooty kind of way. So I have laid beautiful mahogany floorboards from Miniature Wood Supplies.
 I have drilled lots of worm holes and then used a walnut stain so they are not too red in colour. Then I 'varnished' them with a brown glass paint to bring out a gorgeous shine. 
 Eventually the mouldings have been finished and they are now mostly glued into place ready for all the ArtMache to be applied to the walls.
 The quoins supplied with the kit were only supposed to fit down one side but when I attached to door I discovered I just could not get it to line up properly. No amount of sanding or tweaking would get the door and signs to align. More grrrrr!!!
Luckily I had extra quoin strips from a previous kit so I have covered the gaps with the extra strips. 
This kit seems to have required a lot more sanding and tweaking than usual. Sid Cooke kits are very snug, they require a lot of preparation before decorating and if you don't do things in the right order, or remember how painting the front door will effect its fit, they can prove very irritating.
Once I had put on all the mouldings bar one or two strips, I started looking at its shape and tried to work out how it would fit on the end of my Diagon Alley.
I then realised I had bricked the wrong side wall! The side I had bricked was in fact the back. More grrrrr!! So I had to get out the brick slips again.
It has always been part of my very long term planning to 'beautify' the backs of my shops, eventually! This will be my test case, all sides will be finished off. Apart from all the lighting wires of course, I will just have to remember which is the back!!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Just Had to Share.....

One of the great things about Blogland is the chance it gives us to find out about all the wonderful miniaturists whose work is new to you.
The indefatigable Debbie Wright of Tiny Treasures is always ready to share the artists she has discovered and just recently she introduced me to the gorgeous work of Maunela from Germany.
Her Etsy shop has a whole range of witchy goodies including this tiny writing set.
It is beautifully crafted and was a must have for my Hogwarts girlie currently sitting in The Leaky Cauldron.
 This absolutely teeny tiny wizard mouse is the work of Georgia Marfels who I first read about in the blog of Silke. I can't describe to you how incredibly cute this piece is.   
 The light was really bad by the time I opened my post today so the photographs do not do this piece justice at all. Georgia also makes amazing mushrooms/toadstools in all shapes and sizes, definitely on my wish list!
We are still up to our ankles in snow here and despite being a little bored of feeling cold, the photo opportunities are pretty wonderful!
Have a great weekend and if it's snowy and cold outside stay in the warm and play with your toys!!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Paper Clay Roof & Lots of Bits and Pieces

The paperclay experiment is coming to a close and I am surprisingly pleased by the 'nearly end result'.
The tiles have now had their mixed colours added after the base terracotta coat.
 I mixed up a selection of five colours: red, orange, brown, black and grey, in various shades and then just randomly touched up a few tiles at a time.
 I concentrated on areas where the white clay was showing through first and then tipped the kit up each and every way to make sure all the sides, edges and bottoms of the tiles received a tickle from the paint brush too.
It was quite a fiddly job and I still need to finish off with 'soot' from the chimneys but it has turned out much better than I expected.
I think I will also cover with a matt varnish to protect the tiles as I have noticed that every time I knock the roof, even slightly, the paint does chip off or scratch. The clay itself though seems very tough. 
 The project I have just started is moving along slowly but surely. I am at that stage now when everything seems to take ages and at the end of a session there is very little actual progress to show.
I am not going to mess around with this kit very much and have decided to use the quoins provided for the first time. These are made from MDF I think so are very clean and flat. 
I am going to match them with all the distressed red brickwork so they have had to coats of terracotta paint as a start and then I have smoothed on some Art Mache to give a bit of texture.
 When this dries they will hopefully look a little more brick-like. Then it will be back to the paint palette  !
 The mouldings have all been primed, given two coats of cream and one coat of my greeny/yellowy accent colour for this shop. This layered look will all be sanded, waxed, crackled and distressed to match the look of the rest of the shops. Phew! Time consuming but I want to keep the same sort of look throughout the whole street. 
 Last job has been to start the open brick work with the same bricks I have used before from Richard Stacey
 I lay them free hand because it doesn't really matter if they are a little off, using quite a liquid PVA glue as you can then slide them into place.
 These still need to be sealed and then grouted before I finish the walls of with Art Mache.
I have also marked where all the mouldings will be placed as I have learnt from experience it is very easier to glue the bricks away from the wooden mouldings.
I won't add the Art Mache until all the mouldings are painted and distressed. I prefer to put them on the kit at the same time. This means a bit of forward planning and it can seem that progress is sooooo slow!
Still when I have had enough of painting I can always play in the snow with Lily. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

The Magical Menagerie is on Fire!!!

It has been full steam ahead with the interior of the Menagerie mostly due to the wonderful lady who runs the online shop Dolls House Wallpaper. I bought this Brodnax print a while ago at Miniatura but as usual severely underestimated the amount needed for the whole house and inside door panel.
I spent an evening tracking down the same paper and eventually discovered this fabulous site which is full of Brodnax prints.
The ground floor went in beautifully despite my concern about the windows. They are a very curvy shape and I always seem to get in a bit of a tizz with windows but at last I seem to have got it right!
The key for me seems to be in painting the inner sills and ledges of the windows with a complimentary colour. Then you don't have to worry about the wallpaper fitting absolutely perfectly. I made a template of the windows and then cut out the shape with a very sharp craft knife.
  It took a bit of time and a lot of care but these are definitely my best attempt.
 The upstairs is going to be a Dragon Wizard's room. In my post-Voldemort Diagon Alley dragons have become very popular, small dragons that is.....think of fiery micro pigs!!!
So I want the wallpaper to look a bit singed.
 I tried matches....too powerful lost a few practice off cuts, joss sticks....not powerful enough and ended up using a disposible lighter to burn and dis-colour the paper.
Then I matched up my burnt wallpaper and where the holes are I smeared Art Mache as if the wall  exposed.
 I then had to wait overnight for the Art Mache to dry as I wanted to to distress it to look as if it had been burnt.
 I tend to approach paints with a great deal of caution. I am always concerned that if I make a huge mistake I won't be able to rectify it. So I usually start off much too drab and add layer upon layer....
 So one layer of my dirty water mix followed by smudges of black and brown pastel dust that I smoothed on with my finger.
 I then dabbed on a tiny bit of glue and which I sprinkled with red and black glitter. I wanted it to look fiery, as if the walls were touched by a dragon.
 Lastly another coat of my dirty water mix to finish off the edges. 
Oh and I emphasised the burnt patches with the pastel shavings.
 I was a bit concerned that having messed around so much with the wallpaper it would disintegrate once I tried to hang it but Brodnax paper is great quality and it went up nicely.
I know that a lot will be covered by 'stuff' eventually but I wanted to try and create the atmosphere of a room with a tale to tell.!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Did You Notice?........

There were a couple of shoppers loitering outside my Diagon Alley shops in the photographs I posted yesterday.
These were must have pre-Christmas purchases from two of my favourite artisans.
This wonderful witch is actually a hanging decoration. I am not sure I will ever hang it on my Christmas tree but I am sure she will find a place on a room box one day.
 She is the work of an extremely talented lady who as far as I know only sells on Ebay. Her work only appears a few times a year and gets snapped up very quickly. Her Ebay ID is wetpaintco and I usually find her items by pure chance.
I only have a couple of her sculpted pieces but I love them.
 The dolls and characters of Silke Janas-Schlosser are absolutely gorgeous but like the previous seller are very rarely available on the Internet.
I know Silke attends a few very prestigious shows but unfortunately not in the UK.
 Whenever her characters appear in her Etsy shop they are sold almost immediately so I was delighted to be able to purchase this girl witch just before Christmas.
What a great expression she has! I want to create some girlie witchy shopping for her eventually, definitely a basket full of cookies and sweeties I think. With that naughty look she may even have visited Fred and George's joke shop.