Wednesday, 17 September 2014

All Things Honeydukes......

Where has this year gone? Well for me it's been a year that has fully confirmed that I am a member of the "Sandwich Generation", I no sooner get one of the children sorted before an increasingly elderly parent demands my time, money or energy. There seems to have been very little time for me over the past few months further complicated by the addition of a new puppy who, while adorable, has proved as mad as a bucket of frogs!!
I have made very slow progress with Honeydukes but am getting there bit by bit. In fact I have made a resolution this week that if I am going to remain sane I have to allow myself the time to do what I really enjoy, which is playing with my toys ensconced at home with the phone off and the doors closed for at least a couple of hours a day.
So, where am I now......
 The outside brickwork has more or less been completed. The pavement has been laid, grouted and sealed.
 The brickwork on all three sides has been laid....
 grouted and washed within an inch of its life.
This was an incredibly time consuming process because of the rough facing stonework. I tore my fingertips to pieces doing this with a mixture of sponges and nail brushes. I am dreading doing the chimneys.
 It was also fiddly around the windows a door but I just couldn't see an easier way to accomplish the look.
 Once I was finally happy that all the excess grouting had been removed I tries to age the corners and edges with acrylic washes. This technique is not my strong point as I am so cowardly with the paint. Plus this is real stone so it should have its own definition. The last task was three layers of a PVA was to give it a shine and strengthen the whole structure.
 This whole building was designed from scratch as a 'copy' of the Honeydukes at Universal Studios so each stage has been a bit of a fingers crossed moment but the side/roof pieces fit into place quite nicely. They will be held in place by the back roof as well so they should stand up well.
 Then I began layering more stone slates but no grouting this time thank goodness. 
I have gone for an aged pink upper floor although not too dingy as I thought the contrast might be too great as the green shop floor has not been aged at all.
 The roof has lots of dormer windows including one very large window. All these have been painted and slightly aged. This seemed to take forever and I still have the dormers to make along with all the chimneys. I am quite looking forward to the challenge of these constructions as they will all be quite new experiences for me.
 The upper floor will essentially be a storage area for all the sweets with maybe a small area for sweet making. I have not really decided yet. I have built a panelled false wall to cover up a slight design fault and also the fill up the angled roof space. 
The flooring is oak floorboards and the cut out is for the pink spiral stair case. You can see the difference in the clean green of the lower floor against the dirty green of the storage room. I think the walls also need a dirty wash as they are a bit pristine at the moment. The flooring can be removed as for the first time I have routed channels for the lighting. This came about because I had to have brass ceiling lights in the shop area. I am not very competent with my Dremel and the routing is awful but it should do the job and can't be seen. 
So, still lots to do but I have broken the back of the main construction now. With a fair wind behind me and a period of good health for my oldies I should be able to crack on with it. 
I hope life has been treating you all well and maybe I will meet some of you at Miniatura this weekend my first show of the year and I can't wait!!

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Book for all Miniaturists and Anyone Who Admires Beautiful Things....The Big Book of a Miniature House by Christine-Lea Frisone

I have long been an admirer of the wonderful work of the French miniaturist Christine-Léa Frisoni and at last her book is available in English. This book is a beautifully presented and full of advice, tips and techniques perfect for all levels of miniaturists. It provides clear step by step instructions on how to build and decorate a beautiful twelfth scale house but is also a perfect reference book for anyone who wants to learn Lea's gorgeous methods of building, furniture making and decorating.

The book begins by making the plans for the house and clearly showing all the materials required for the project. The most interesting part about this process for me was how much Lea uses normal art products from Bristol board to plain strip wood. Her tools are not fancy power tools and I found it very helpful to be shown how beautiful houses could be built so simply. Once the main construction has been completed we are then shown how to build up each room by adding chimney stacks, panelling, cornices and eye-catching details. The main point that Lea makes is that you have to plan and take time with even the smallest details but if you measure and cut accurately you will be able to produce interesting rooms to decorate and fill with your own miniature pieces. It appears that anything can be achieved with card, paint and imagination.

This book is also very pleasant on the eye. It is extremely well photographed and would sit very comfortably on any coffee table alongside any real life book of interiors. Each process and room are clearly shown in full colour with every detail brought to life and designed to inspire both beginners and those of us who have been playing with miniatures for a while. All the interior rooms have different flooring and each technique is carefully photographed and explained at each stage. These careful and thorough explanations are perfect for someone like me who is not hugely confident with a paint brush or craft knife.  

I have not been able to put the book down yet, every time I open it I seem to learn something different. I can't wait to put the building techniques to good use, I will certainly be adding panelling to my rooms in the future following Lea's instructions. I want to try making the furniture and individual lights but most of all I want to learn Lea's art of 'less is more'. It is the layering of processes and materials that I will take away with me and return to time and again. This book inspires it has also taught me so much that I can take into my many projects I just love it, also it is a book to enjoy as well as to learn from.

Put it on your birthday wish and Christmas wish lists 'The Big Book of a Miniature House' by Christine-Lea Frisini or it is the perfect present for the friend who just doesn't understand the amount of time we spend playing with our 'toys'!! 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Back From the Desert Across the Pond.......California Trip 2014

It has been a very long month in lots of ways. I have packed my 22 year old daughter off for a year to work on a specialist cruise liner, she will be taking groups of tourists around the archaeological sites of Europe. You know the type of thing: " It's Tuesday, it must be Ancient Greece". She has a Masters in Archaeology and saw this as a great way to visit all the sites she has read about during the last four years. Here she is learning how to put out fires as part of the boat safety training, doesn't quite send home the right message!
No sooner had I waved off my lovely daughter than I was packing my suitcases for our bi-annual road trip. This time my better half had decided that we would follow the gold trail to California. As some of you are aware I am not a great traveller but the old boy works hard to keep me in miniatures so I try and pack my bags with good grace.
Well I am now home and over the jet lag, more or less unpacked and thinking of all the things I would have done differently as you always do. Here is a small selection of the places we visited and the things we saw.
This was our beautiful base in Palm Desert, about two and a half hours from Los Angeles, surrounded by the palm trees that have given this area it's name and style. This is a golfing and tennis community near Palm Springs and indeed it is smack bang in the middle of the desert.
 Our first trip was to Temecula Old Town. Essentially a pioneer town of the 1880's which despite a huge expansion in the last thirty years is trying to recapture it's historical background. I could not quite work out if any of these buildings were in fact old but they were cute.
We also had a fabulous breakfast here in a traditional diner that first opened in 1957 and I am pretty sure had not seen a makeover since. Pancakes to die for
 Indian Wells Tennis Centre saw us sitting in amazing sunshine for a two day visit. We have been to quite a few tournaments and the setting of this one, in a desert surrounded by mountains was pretty spectacular. It had a very relaxed atmosphere and was not as crowded as some of the bigger tournaments are.
The Palm Springs Ariel Tramway is very popular with both locals and tourists. It takes you from the 90 degree desert floor......
 .......up to the top of a very chilly 40 degree mountain chalet, where we had a lunch with a view. As you can see I was a little under-dressed for the snow!!
 Of course when in Palm Springs you have to pay homage to Marilyn and have a frappacino in the Starbucks right next door.
For the next week we would be hitting the road for our all-American road trip, two thousand miles through California, Arizona and Nevada. Miles and miles of, well not a lot really, except sand, gravel and dirt plus the odd cow or shack. Goodness America is a big place.
First stop, the Grand Canyon with the Pink Jeep Company. We decided not to drive there ourselves but to go via Sedona and give the old man a day off driving so he could sit back and enjoy a few glasses of Californian wine.
 The red rock mountains of Sedona were absolutely spectacularly beautiful. The back drop of all the most iconic westerns I watched as a child, so familiar I immediately felt at home in this Western themed town. 
 While in the area we also visited Jerome an old mining town with a reputation for bad behaviour late in the Nineteenth Century. This town sits high up in the mountains and this picture shows one of the town's bordellos perched on the mountain edge. I love the wrap around verandahs a definite idea for a miniature project. 
 Next stop Las Vegas and here is the night time view from our 54th floor hotel room at the Wynn Encore. 
 The show stopping wonderland of the Wynn and Encore.
 Lighting Alice in Wonderland style.
 Giant sparkling butterflies and balloons in a hallway.
 A flower wonderland to hide the casino.....
.......with a fantasy tree lined avenue.
Yep the Wynn hotels were pretty amazing and the Strip is long, colourful, heaving with people and I could not wait to leave.
I really did not like Las Vegas at all. Glad I saw this 7th Wonder of the Modern World, will never go back.
 Broke the long drive back to Palm Desert with a trip to Calico ghost town which was small but perfectly formed.
 Time to rest those weary bones after traipsing round Vegas. Love the bench!
Our last organised event was to watch the Mighty Ducks ice-hockey team in Los Angeles. That was really good fun but incredibly bitty compared to the sport I watch every week and so noisy with continual music breaks as they swept the ice every 2 minutes or so.
What I did discover is that US sport is as equally expensive for a fan as it is here.
Tickets, food and clothing all top prices.
This left a few days of shopping and chilling by the pool which pleased my husband immensely as he  is definitely a lizard at heart. I didn't buy as much mini stuff as I thought I would mainly because we just didn't have the time to visit the areas where the dolls house shops were, I always forget how huge America is plus like the UK internet shopping has taken over from the high street in an even bigger way. If I had planned better I could have ordered more online and had it sent to the house we were staying in. Next time......
On the plus side my kids are very happy. Converse, Vans, Levis, Abercrombie, Uggs and Ralph Lauren are all hugely cheaper in the US so they will have a great time unpacking their goodies.
So now I am back home, it's been raining on and off all day and I don't care because tomorrow I will return to my Honeydukes project and my youngest is coming home for Easter.
Happy Days!!

Friday, 14 February 2014

California Here I Come........

In a couple of weeks I will be travelling from wet and windy England to the sun of California. 
I will be staying in Palm Springs and visiting the surrounding areas plus San Diego, Sedona and Las Vegas. 
Sooooo, where are the best places a craft hoarder and miniature collector should shop? I know there are lots of hobby and craft shops and I have a very patient husband.
All suggestions will be very gratefully received. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

By George She's Done It!! Well Nearly........Honeydukes Window Update.

I have been working very hard since my last post with the three round bays for my Honeydukes project. It has been two steps forward and one step back, a lot of tweaking and painting plus a couple of 'put it down and think moments' but I believe I am nearly there.
 I chose to use plastic sink mats to provide the 'panes' for my tall Georgian windows which meant I had to fit all the other elements around the height and width of these mats.
My attempts to make my own circular plinths were not good enough so I had been waiting for some ready cut 3mm/10cm and 6mm/12cm circles to arrive. These were then cut, sealed with PVA/water, painted with brown paint mixed with PVA and the painted with 3 coats of my paint mixture.
 The bay 'tubs' are Chedders tubes cut to size and then covered with a top skin of thin cardboard cut from a cereal box. These then were sealed and painted and given an edge of very thin bass wood to give a panelled look.
 The 6mm depth of the panels was accommodated by cutting one of the larger circles and then topping the ledge with a 10cm circle. I made life harder for myself by choosing to have a lighter shade of the green inside the shop. This meant I have had to paint all the interior showing pieces a different colour.
 I have also built the two front bays sitting on a 1/32 piece of balsa to allow the front panel to open without too much scraping.
 The plastic 'pane' has had a number of coats of paint and been given a final coat of spray varnish.
 The pink shop sign has been cut to fit snugly over the window pane and reaches the top of the window opening.
 To finish the outside a top lid. 
 The almost finished look of the front panel. 
 The side window has the finished panelling detail on the bay tub but I have yet to finish the front two strips.
Internally I have carried the ceiling moulding through the top of the windows as this will not be seen from the outside but be hidden by the pink shop sign. I wanted the bottom bay to carry on into the shop to provide display ledges and there will be a display shelf under the moulding. I will probably have a tidy up around the windows once everything is finally glued in.
 So all is going well but I now have to get over the final hurdle.....the shop signage. The pink strips need HONEYDUKES in big dark green letters. I have decided to go with the Gloss Medium method after lots of research on Pinterest.
I used WordArt on my computer for the lettering and remembered to print it out as a mirror image. Then I made a photocopy of my lettering as my printer is an inject. I then painted a layer of the gloss medium onto the wood and the cut to size lettering. Made sure there were no bubbles and then left overnight.
The next day I sprayed the paper with warm water and rubbed off gently, very gently.
 Three bays, only one has come out well and even this has a few blimps. I am not sure what I did wrong so I have had to rub them down to start again. This time I have made spares so I am hoping to get the final two done in the next couple of days........more time wasted.
This will be the final, final look! I am hoping to start the exterior stone work next week if I get the windows done and finally glued in. I am hoping that this part of the project will be a lot less time consuming and progress will quicken up as I am off on holiday in a few weeks time and my daughter is also preparing to go abroad for nearly a year to work so I won't have all the time I want to play with my toys.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Shopping at the City of London Dolls House Festival This Weekend........

I visited the City of London Dolls House Fair yesterday which is a new show and much smaller than its sister fair which is held in Kensington. There were a few more stands than last year and a couple of European sellers who I have not seen at UK fairs before which made it a worthwhile trip.
I was mostly intent on buying my lights from Small World Products and making my usual visit to the mecca of all things wood, Wood Supplies. This lovely enthusiastic couple carry a vast range of expertly sourced and cut wood supplies that are absolutely perfect for miniatures and dolls houses. I always stock up when I visit a fair and I knew they would be able to help me solve some of my Honeyduke window problems. 
I also bought a selection of glues from Jennifer's of Walsall another tireless dolls house supplier. Aleen's Tacky Glue has always been my glue of choice but is very expensive to buy locally and this time I decided to try two other glues in the range that I had not seen before. I used the Quick Dry Tacky Glue today to stick thin bass wood onto card and it was perfect for that job, no slipping and very quick drying time.
 I wanted a white flowered plant for my beach house and as a lover of cyclamen this little pot by Jan Southerton, The Flowerlady, was a perfect choice and I couldn't resist this super pot of lavender too.
 Angie Scarr was also at the fair and as I have not seen her work in the UK for a number of years I took the opportunity to stock up on a few of her famous canes that will be very useful for my Honeydukes project.
 Of course my sweet shop must have trays of mouthwatering chocolates and sweet treats and I was very pleased to see these little trays and tins on the Country Contrast stand. They will fill my counter perfectly. I was really tempted, again, by their wonderful range of enamelware, but resisted manfully.
 I couldn't resist this tiny Victorian theatre by Jacqueline Crosby Miniatures for my winter market  project on the toy stall.
 I had to visit one of my new favourite sellers, Jane Harrop, where I purchased these two dinky angels, again ready to be put away with my winter market project. Jane's 80 year old mother in law wrote a lovely little poem to go home with every angel. How lovely is that! 
 A very different item for me is this amazing tiny vintage doll by Victoria Heredia Guerbos. The detail is amazing and she is set to be part of of winter project. 
As predicted the Art of Mini stand was mobbed the whole time I was at the show and I am not surprised. Janny had a wide range of the most gorgeous pieces and I definitely intend to buy some of her furniture kits one day. As it was I just looked, sighed and walked away......see, I am learning!!
I was also severely tempted by an ice-cream cart on Cinen's stand but I was soooo good. 
I had a lovely time looking at lots of stands that while they didn't have items that fitted into any of my current projects were wonderful to look at and enjoy.
I hope that all the sellers had a successful day too because we want them to keep on making all their fabulous items.