Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Spring Trip to Miniatura......Are Fairs in Decline?

As part of the deal for having my workshop installed I agreed to give the garden a bit of a makeover following the building work. So for the last couple of weeks I have been taking advantage of some glorious Spring weather in order to dig, scatter and plant. I am not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination so it has been a really hard work and lots of trips to the garden centres. Having completed about half of the planned changes the weather has changed so I am back to working in a much smaller scale thank goodness!
As a reward for all my hard work I headed off to Spring Miniatura at the NEC this weekend with a small list of necessary supplies and hopefully a chance for inspiration. 
 My first stop was at the stand of doll artist, Julie Campbell, as I knew she has been working on lots of new characters for the show. I couldn't resist the glint in the eye of this saucy witch.
 Such a friendly and welcoming witch will be perfect for my Roots and Shoots wizarding plant shop.
 This young Weasley was a definite for Flourish and Blotts.
 Very studious like her Aunt Hermione I think. Julie's dolls are among my favourites and it was lovely to meet her and her daughter again.
I have decided to go with the staff nook in the upper floor of Honeydukes and I want it to have the feel of my childhood with a mix of '50's and '60's furniture and a bit of kitsch. This Sally Meekins  tea set seemed to fit the bill. I remember my mum had a whole collection of vegetable related kitchen pieces. They will find a place on a utility tea trolley. 
 I also spent a lot of time with Jane Harrop's kit display and came away with quite a haul.
 These pieces will either find a place in the staff sitting area or be saved for other projects. Jane and her husband are real enthusiasts, offering tips and advice to all visitors. Their website is a fantastic source for miniature kits in all scales.
For a little while now I have been conscious of the declining number of stands at both Miniatura and Kensington as many real miniature craftsman are retiring or simply moving away from miniatures altogether. This can be seen in the increasing number of general sellers especially in Birmingham. 
With this in mind I had decided before the show to buy a few pieces by Danny Shotton who produces the most fabulous pieces of hand crafted ironmongery.
I have the intention of having a garden shed showcasing his work. When I eventually get close to Danny's stand, it is always mobbed, I overhear him telling someone that this will be his last show if not for ever then for a good while. This leads to a bit of unexpected and panic buying by yours truly as you can see by these two little bags of goodies!!
Danny will still be selling by mail, there is not a web site, for a while at least but I would suggest that if you are collecting his pieces you don't delay.
His pieces are for sale on a couple of collector's websites but they are a lot cheaper if you buy directly from him.
I had a lovely day out, met up with some other mini enthusiasts and shopped far more than I ought but I must admit to being slightly disappointed in the drop in the number of stands. I do like to buy on the Internet but I love being able to see pieces too, especially if they are at the top of my price band. I am not sure Miniatura is offering this type of miniature at the moment. It is a great show for supplies, especially dolls houses and shop boxes but for me it may have become a once a year trip rather than twice. Saying that there are so few quality fairs even marginally south of the country I will probably still visit in the autumn!!
Hope your roofs are firmly nailed down wherever the wind is blowing tonight!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Mrs Flume, the Owner of Honeydukes Has Arrived.....Roof Windows in Place!

I asked Jo Medvenics of Pocket Pygmies to create a character for my current Honeydukes project. I wanted Mrs Flume to embody the sugar and spice of the 1950's with a witchy twist.
 As you can see Jo has excelled herself with this wonderful character who will eventually welcome all the students of Hogwarts into her sweet shop.
 She certainly has the shape of every 1950's movie star with the cutsie motherly look I so wanted.
 Her skirt has a haunted house pattern that will work perfectly with the interior colours of Honeydukes.
The welcoming smile will ensure all her customers enjoy their visit.
Jo's dolls are such a pleasure to own as each one is completely unique. Jo takes such care with each individual component of their costume which makes each one a treasure. 
The false dormer windows are on the back of the roof at last. I have fitted these first as if I have any problems these won't be on show and they will be good practice for the front windows which are essentially the ones that are seen all the time. I have also left space for the tall chimney stack. 
Two mistakes I have definitely made in my eagerness to see if they worked are: I forgot to stick in the glazing so now I have to add the 'glass' in situ and all these windows are to be filled with sweets and lollipops........the windows would have been much easier to dress before gluing to roof.
So now I can get on with the chimney stacks. I am going to glue on the brick slips before I attach the stacks to the roof as I think this will be easier to do on the worktop because of the steep angle of the roof. 
I have also decided to go with the slate for the roof, no more procrastinating onwards and definitely upwards!!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Honeydukes Building Continues....I Think I Have Hit the Wall!

Or at least I would really like to at the moment as I am definitely having a crisis of confidence with the exterior of Honeydukes at the moment. I don't like the match up of these bricks against the coarse stone of the bottom section. I have tried paint washing them but they came out too dark. I am now in the process of scrubbing and sanding them in order to lighten them up again. Hmmmm, then I have to decide what to do, keep them or take them all off. That will be a horrible job so I really want to avoid that if I can. 
I still haven't decided on the roof tiles either. I have slate, which I love but it is quite dark, and grey composite tiles by Minaco. Once I have scrubbed back the walls I will have to make a decision. I had wanted all my Hogsmeade shops to have a similar grey look but I am dithering now. Oh well, more scrubbing tomorrow....
 I am getting somewhere with the dormer windows now though. All the frames are painted and varnished, various shapes and sizes which has meant lots of different wood and gable shapes.
The sheer building mechanics has been a bit beyond my skills to be honest and they will require a fair bit of tweaking and bodging once they go onto the steeped pitch roof but I think the worst is behind me. Famous last words!
 The dormer pieces still have to be aged and sealed but I can see how they will fit together now. The tall, thin chimney stacks have also been put together ready for their bricks. So much wood has meant a lot of sealing in a desperate attempt to prevent warping once I start piling on the brick work. 
 I'm not sure what these parts are, gable ends? They are not perfectly cut but I can get away with slight deviations as wizards are well known bodgers! 
I can't begin assembling the windows on the roof until I have sorted out the exterior side walls. This has to be top of my list tomorrow then next week I can fit the front roof panel which has also been a right royal pain in the backside.
I designed this building and had my own plans cut out rather than try a kit bash. I have certainly made a lot of mistakes with my measurements, especially with the roof mechanics and size. Not sure I would go this route again. 
I am going to get this exterior done one way or the other next week or have a break from it altogether and have go back to the happy task of lollipop making.
Have a sunny Sunday!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Supplies for Minis That May Actually Do The Job!

I spend quite a lot of time browsing through items on Etsy and Ebay at jewellery findings, bezels, beads and all sorts of pendant glass. These items are used by lots of miniature artisans in many different ways so every so often I order a few bits and bobs.
Usually these orders end in disaster. The items are too big, too small or quite simply not what I was expecting at all.
So I go to Miniatura and look carefully at the stands which sell these sort of things or when in Hobbycraft I carefully study the many packets. Both of these sources seem to work out quite expensive and my success rate is no better.
 Today I received a package from an Etsy supplier that might change my success rate in a good way. I have been looking for tall glassware for Honeydukes and came across these in two sizes, 15mm and 20mm by 40mm, the 20mm size is perfect for Honeydukes but might be too large for other projects and........ 
 ......they even have lids. I wanted them for lollipops and cake pops as well as sweets, they might do the job quite nicely.
 These globes will certainly find a place in one or two of my projects. I ordered the 30mm and 20mm sizes. Perhaps the 30mm is a little too large but still of use.
These domes are gorgeous, they are not teeny tiny but as a lot of my projects are fantasy I am sure they will fit in. 
Although the findings are distressed bronze I will be able to paint them and match whatever setting they eventually find a home in.
Building a stash of items for any hobby is both time consuming and expensive so mistakes are really annoying, luckily these items were all winners.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Second Visit to the Tudor Witch House.....the Interior

Still painting and sawing today so here are some pictures of the interior of the Tudor Witch House. This house certainly needed a lot of items to fill it and it has changed slightly since these photographs were taken as I have found items to take the place of pieces I was not happy with.
 The living room has everything for comfortable witchy living including a host of scatter cushions by Julia Jeffreys of Bear Cabin Miniatures.
You will see as the tour continues that my colour scheme for this house is black and gold crackle. The fireplace looks very stately and is full of items from lots of talented artisans including the much missed Jacqueline Dunn.
 The study was not quite finished when this photograph but it is a room full of all the books a potion witch needs so as not to poison her customers! The real star of this room in the book stand by Karin Casper.
 The choice of colours for this house began with this bed that I found on Ebay many moons ago now. When I saw it I knew what I wanted for the main rooms and spent a whole summer spraying everything in sight!
The bathroom has been crackled within an inch of its life! I also discovered what could be made from a selection of beads taken from half price necklaces and charity bought finds. 
 I spent a lot of time with the adapted windows both on the outside and inside so of course they became small showcases within each room. This window is in the Living room and has a wonderful hat by Kat the Hat Lady and a selection of Sally Meekins gorgeous hand painted ceramics.
 The bedroom window also has a hat for very special occasions by Kat and in this photo is still to be finished off. This is definitely a more is best project, no minimalism here, actually most of my houses seem to end up rather full although I am learning that some times less is more.
 The study window has an orrery from Kastle Kelm Miniatures  and some of Lory's cute toadstools a house plant every witch should know how to grow.
 The kitchen has a more rustic look that the rest of the house and as you can see she is not keeping up with her washing up. For some reason I don't seem to have a photograph of the kitchen as a whole only individual pieces but I hope they give you an idea of the whole look.
 The pantry dresser if full of enticing jars of preserves that are a mixture of bought ones, from Kastle Klem, and some I made myself. This was the first project I made up my own jars both in the kitchen and bathroom. They are fun to do and really add colour to any shelf. Nikki Rowe's pumpkin flasks are ready to be used in an instant.
The kitchen table is chock full of so many items I don't know how this witch manages to prepare any food but she certainly has everything she needs for a healthy meal. So what is the green gloop filling up the cauldron? 
I have been getting on with the dormer windows and roof of Honeydukes today. I seem to have spent a lot of time on the roof without getting anywhere. The piano hinges I ordered are great, just not for this roof, so I have had to have a real re-think which resulted in my stripping out some of the beams. Why oh why haven't I learned by now to put in the hinges before adding interior decoration.
One step forwards, three steps back at the moment and I can feel myself becoming a little obsessed with this roof.  

Monday, 2 March 2015

Another Trip Down Dolls House Memory Lane........My Fifth Project, the Witch's House

There is only one thing worse than watching your own paint dry and that is watching someone else's paint dry so I have returned to my trip down Memory Lane. This was my fifth project and remains my biggest house to date. It is the The Guildhall from Maple Street Miniatures and it is a very large house but a fabulous kit from their Tudor range. 
 After discovering the wonders of Blogland I was inspired by the fantasy work of many hobbyists and artisans and this house was my first witchy project. It also gave me the opportunity to try out lots of new ways of creating an exterior for a house without the bog standard paper and paint.
 The kit came with wooden roof shingles and they were really easy to work with and I learnt that model railway scenic products are are great way to add texture and colour to the exteriors. 
 I decided that the house needed Tudor bay/box windows and somehow managed to build them with a lot of glue and numerous pieces of balsa wood. This house needed a lot of beams and it felt like I spent weeks cutting, distressing and staining. This was long before I bought my table saw, if only I had invested in this little power tool a year or so earlier! 
 I also covered the staircase with stained wood to give the house a completely wooden feel. The tiles are normal floor tiles from Homebase that I cut into small squares for a slate floor look. Buying very thin floor tiles is a very inexpensive and easy way to cover dolls house floors. I bought one pack and I am still using these tiles in projects today.
 The 'bricks' are from Peter Clark who does a range of card exterior finishes. All the cards are measured for cutting at home and they are brilliant. They are also very light so they keep the weight of the house down which is very important with a very large house.
I painted an undercoat to mimic grouting underneath the card bricks and then just glued them on.
I'm not sure why I have never used these again, hmmmm, on the Miniatura shopping list I think.
The chimney is from Little Homes of England who do a great range in all different heights.
 Still a work in progress are the climbing plants. As you can see I have not quite mastered the scale and I will take this down one day and replace it as I will most of the climbers, at the moment they are are a reminder of what not to do......
 The exterior is a mix of the card bricks and plaster. I used normal DIY ready mixed poly-filla that I applied with fingers, a stencil brush and a small art trowel (used for oil paints). I have never weathered this house because I simply was terrified of making a mess of the outside after it had taken me soooooo long to finish it. Maybe one day!!
I wanted lots of plants for the outside area for my witch's to grow herbs for their potions and to sell their produce to all the local wizarding families. All these are made from Bonnie Lavish kits.
 I am still building up the produce in the open area and the plants are still to be made and planted in troughs but one day this will be full and fruitful.
This area is full of items by some of my favourite artists. Dolls by Joy Cox and Silke. Mandrakes and chickens by Mags-Nificent Miniatures. All sorts of pumpkins by After Dark After All and of course Nikki Rowe's wonder gardening stand pumpkin staff and mandrakes.
I blame this project for getting me into the world of fantasy miniatures which led to my starting the huge Diagon Alley project that was to come next. 
I will post pictures of the inside of the house tomorrow after what I am hoping will be a eureka day with Honeydukes' dormer windows, feeling like I have bitten off more than I can chew with the huge roof but tomorrow is another day!