Running Out of Time

Eeek! Twelve days until this build needs to be done! I’ve been oscillating between sheer panic and feeling confident I’ll get it all done.

I thought I’d drop in with a little update on what I’ve been working on during the past few weeks.

I’ve been trying to get some of the details in order. I worked on sketches, paintings, making more paint brushes, and also built the little shelves to store my paper and extra brushes.

Started adding paint to some of the furniture.

I made some flower arrangements for my tiny artist to paint. These were really fun to make. I was a florist for many years and love playing with flowers. I don’t know why it took me so long to have my 2 hobbies merge.

Then I tried slicing my fingertip off while cutting plexiglass for the windows. The plexiglass had been giving me such a hard time the past few weeks and I was excited because I finally found a tool that would easily cut through it. I was using my craft knife to cut the plastic film that protects the plexiglass and sliced right into my finger. It was a stupid mistake. Luckily I didn’t need stitches, but it did slow me down a little.

Next up I needed a railing for the balconies. My first design was way too busy. I really liked it, but the curls of the design and the plants fought for attention. I ended up with a very simple railing that I was able to make with my Cricut.

Our family has a game where we hide little plastic animals around the house (a baboon in a shoe, a koala in the shower, a brown bear wrapped up in a phone charger, etc.). This build has been a popular hiding location. For a while there was a plastic squirrel, who wanted to be an artist, living in the studio. Now there’s a rather wild cat that’s taken up residency in the upstairs apartment.

The window coverings for the upstairs neighbor are pleated off white curtains. I finished off the upstairs curtains today. I think I will need to add a more domesticated cat to one of the upstairs windows.

The downstairs neighbor will have aged shutters. I thought I was going to be done with the shutters today, but realized I’m bad at simple math and needed to make 3 more. Thankfully they come together quickly. The pieces are cut on the Cricut. I used mat board from the framing department of the craft store. The rest is just glue and paint. The downstairs French door will have shutters and a curtain.

I planned to use the French doors from the original kit on the inside of the studio. I realized that they were going to look too short with how tall I made the walls. So I came up with a plan to make them taller.

After removing the doors, I cut the bottom brace off of the door frame. My original plan was to modify the doors so that I could still use them in the space.

I added about 1.25″ to the frame. I think Legos are my favorite underrated miniature tool. Great for making corners square and keeping lines straight and flush.

This is about when I started to realize that I was planning on putting clear glass doors into a wall that goes nowhere. So, looking through the front you would just see right out the back and that kind of ruins the illusion of there being another room on the other side of the door. I played with the idea to just put curtains on the door, but I was worried that the quality of light shining through would also ruin the illusion.

So I designed a set of doors, on my Cricut, to fit the space.

This is my inspiration:

This is where I left them at the end of my work time today. A little more paint, some aging, and a door knob and they will be ready to install. I’m attempting to make them so that they open. We’ll see how that turns out.

Here they are leaning in place. That back wall is held in place by magnets. I wanted options for viewing and taking pictures. I’m not happy with the bright aqua walls. I have plans to tone down the color. It will still be a shade of aqua, just not under the sea aqua.

I still need to cut the hole in the back wall for the doors. Since it’s MDF I’ll need to use my jigsaw. I usually do all of my jigsaw work outside. However, Mother Nature wanted to throw an obstacle my way. We got over a foot of snow Monday and Tuesday and the table I use to cut wood on is buried in snow. I guess I’ll just have to dig it out. Oh, the stories our builds could tell.

I’ll leave you with a picture from last night’s sunset. The sun finally came out after 2 days of snow and turned the sky the most delicious shade of pink. We live in a very wooded area and I could just see it through the trees. The pink was almost gone by the time I found an area open enough to get a picture. I’m so happy I was able to capture it.

More Facade

The facade saga continues. So much cork. One of the running themes of this build is “I need more”. This time it was more cork. I ran out with one row left to go.

After a quick trip to Micheal’s I was able to finish off the bricks. There are so many places that aren’t quite right, but I’m hoping they can just be chalked up to character. Once all of the brick was in place, it got painted black.

Various shades of grey paint were added to make it look more like stone.

Then came the grout. I used grout left over from a house project. It was so messy, but it makes such a huge difference.

Getting closer to being fully grouted.

Done!

The grout lightened up the color quite a bit, so I added more layers of paint to make it a bit darker and a little grungier. I’m sure this isn’t the last of the paint.

At this point I started cutting plexiglass for the windows. Well, that was my intention. What actually happened was I destroyed a sheet of plexiglass trying to cut it for windows. It just wouldn’t cut as easily as other plexiglass I’ve used. I was so frustrated, so I decided to move on to another project.

So, I decided it was time to cut the cork around the removable wall. I found replacing the blade on my craft knife helped a lot in having a nice smooth cut. I made a bit of a mess out of some of the cuts because of a dull blade. I should be able to fix those areas.

I knew this area would cause problems. The cut goes right through the grout line. I’ll have to try to figure out a solution. I got so frustrated by it all. I just wanted to throw it in the river. At this point I decided I just needed to walk away. I’d take a break and then start fresh in the morning.

This morning I woke up and decided to go get more plexiglass. While at the hardware store I decided to pick up the trim for the frame that will go around the box. After some careful measuring, cutting, painting, and glueing I had a frame. The new plexiglass cut more smoothly. So now most of the windows have glass all ready to install.

Thankfully, today went so much better than yesterday. I no longer want to throw it in the river. I’m in love again.

Last week, while I was working on the grout my dog needed to go out. As I was standing at the back door waiting for the dog to come back in I glanced over at my work area. The way the light from my work lamp was streaming through the windows was almost magical. I’m really looking forward to taking pictures of this build.

Problem Solved

The plan was to have a balcony outside the studio. I planned the stonework around it. I made plants for it. I made it’s upstairs neighbor and glued it in place. Everything was going according to plan. That is until I realized that it will be in the way of the removable wall.

Doh!

Trying to come up with a solution has been bouncing around my brain for weeks. Originally I thought I could either glue it in place or connect it to the removable wall. If I glued it in place I’d have a really hard time getting the wall out. However, if I attached it to the removable wall there would be a bald spot where the balcony was in the brickwork.

Then inspiration hit. Magnets!

I carved out small holes in the balcony and used super glue to imbed strong magnets.

Then I carved holes into the wall so I could imbed magnets there.

You’ll notice the brown paint. I used it as a way to mark where the holes were so the magnets would line up properly.

The magnets are strong enough to hold the balcony, and all the plants on it, in place. All of the plants will probably be glued in place to make moving the balcony easier.

Problem solved. The balcony can be removed when the wall needs to come out and put back in place after.

Here’s a slow motion video of the magnets doing their job. It made me laugh when it snapped in place like this for the first time. I wasn’t expecting it to do this, so I had to take a video.

The next problem to solve will be how to imbed magnets to hold the wall in place. The magnets I have might be too big. I’ll focus on it more when the removable wall is done. I glued the doors in place today and plan on working on more stone work tomorrow. Then time to paint some more. I’m dying to install the plexiglass into the windows and doors. Since I don’t want to scrape paint off all of those panes I’m making myself wait until the facade painting is done.

A Quick Update

The removable wall has been started. The windows have been added. Some how the door is too small for the hole I cut, but I’ll be able to fix it with the frame.

All of the areas painted black have their stonework done. Once the windows and doors are in place I’ll finish adding the rest of the stonework.

While I was waiting for glue to dry I decided to start painting the stones. I’m kind of loving it so far.

Lots of touch ups and some weathering in my future. I’ll add grout after the painting is done.

Well, that’s all for now. I just wanted to give you a quick update on how the cork stonework was working out. I’ll be back soon to hopefully share a solution to a problem that had been stumping me for weeks. I just have to make sure it will work first. Until then have a great week!

The Facade

It’s starting to look like something more than a big box!

Thanks to the Cricut the windows came together really quickly. They were cut out, glued together, and painted with a first coat of primer.

While those were in their various stages of drying I made the frames. The frames were so easy to make when all of the windows are exactly the same size. I had them set up like an assembly line and had them done in a night.

They all fit so beautifully.

This next part was mentally holding me hostage. I knew what needed to be done, but man those mean little thoughts that like to creep in and cause doubt are no joke. Thankfully, after that first window was installed I was able to quiet those little voices a bit.

Here’s a glimpse of the chaos I seem to prefer to work in. I had to cut 4 of the windows in half. That was nerve wracking.

Once some of the windows were in I had to test the fabrics I picked for curtains. Originally I had planned on lots of different curtain styles to create the look of multiple apartments. However after seeing the the fabrics in place I think it looks too busy. I think instead each floor will have its own curtain style.

There will be 2 balconies. The one on the top floor will is now glued into place and has a coat of joint compound smeared all over it to help create a stone look. The balcony for the studio will probably be glued to the front wall that will be removable.

I’m avoiding building removable front wall. Those pesky little voices are creeping back in. I know what needs to be done. I know how I want to do it. I just need to do it. So, I decided to paint myself into a corner. I started bricking the facade. I’m using cork. I’ve used it before and hope I can get it to do what I want. The bricking is going quickly, but I keep running into areas that need to be taken care of (windows and doors on the top floor, the removable wall on the middle floor, and the doors for the bottom floor), which then makes me focus on finishing up those areas so I can keep bricking.

This is where I stopped tonight.

Facade to do:

  • Glue the top floor doors into place
  • Insert windows into the top floor wall
  • Build removable wall (including doors, windows, and balcony)
  • Brick everything
  • Paint everything
  • Insert glass into windows
  • Balcony and window railings
  • Curtains in faux windows

Then I can get back to the inside where the list is possibly longer. Ugh! I just have to remember to just keep moving forward. How do you eat a 2 ton elephant? One bite at a time.

Limitations

Turns out I’m really bad at making things square. I had thought I had done a good job of centering the studio in the larger build, but as it turns out I didn’t.

I’m about an 1/8 of an inch off. I know it won’t be too noticeable. When I started creating the facade I noticed I was also pretty bad at getting the floors an even distance from the front. To remedy this I measured 2″ in from the edge and glued a piece of wood along the line.

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This way all the facade pieces will be more even than before. Clearly, as you can see in this picture, I need to work on my measuring and cutting skills too. Well, if I’ve learned one thing during this build is that it’s all fixable. It will get covered later.

 

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I hung door and window templates hung in place so that I could get a sense of what still needs to be done. If you look closely you can see my dog, Bolt, in the background. He’s usually right under my chair. I’m always worried I’m going to roll over his tail. Thankfully he’s pretty quick when I start to move.

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The windows and doors need to be tackled. I’ve tried to put it off as long as I could. There will be 4 full size windows, 8 partial windows, one full size set of French doors, and 2 partial sets. That’s all.

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So, after reading and watching lots of dollhouse window tutorials and a few full scale window tutorials I finally decided to jump in. How hard can it be? With my aforementioned inability to measure and cut accurately its a bit harder than I thought it might be. My first try turned out uneven and crooked. So on to Plan B.

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I broke out my Cricut. If anything can cut a straight line it will be the machine designed to cut straight lines. I designed a couple different window designs to try and spent yesterday cutting them out. I used mat board instead of wood. It seems a bit more forgiving.

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The design on the left was my original thought. It looks good in pictures, but in person it looks a bit flat. So I went back to the drawing board. The design on the right looks better in person and is what I’m leaning towards. With a successful window test done I went ahead and designed the door files to cut out with the Cricut.

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Tomorrow will be a cutting marathon. Hopefully I can get all the windows assembled and maybe one of the doors. I’m also starting to fill in the facade with more wood. Inching forward, cut by cut.

Balcony Botanicals

I’m making small steps in the creation of the facade. I’ll share pictures when I get a little bit further. For right now most of my facade progress is mental. In the mean time I’ve been working on some adornments.

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The balcony seems sufficiently full. I’m not sure if that’s the railing I’ll be using. It feels too busy. I like the middle part, so I might try creating something along those lines.

 

I thought I’d share how I made the geraniums. The window box was made from wood glued together to create a box, then painted to look vaguely cement like.

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These plastic flowers were found at Michael’s. I thought they looked like a good form for the flower base. Since they were on sale I took a chance.

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The flowers were pulled off and I trimmed the base to be more even. I glued a piece of wire into the bottom of the flower.

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Once the glue dried they were painted with varying shades of red.

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On my last trip to Earth and Tree Miniatures I found a tiny bag of bright pink paper flower shapes. I bought them since they were inexpensive and I figured they would come in handy eventually. I used a ball stylus and some craft foam to shape the flowers.

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The flowers were glued in-between the petals of the plastic flower. I didn’t worry about the paper flowers being pink and the plastic flowers being red. I applied red paint onto the pink flowers once the glue was dry.

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The dirt is styrofoam painted brown. The flowers were glued in first, then I filled in with leaves.

The leaves are from Jeannetta Kendall Miniatures. I used water colors to paint them green. The purple was added with an eggplant colored tombow marker. I added a tiny bit of water to have the marker spread a little so it would look softer and more natural. They looked rough before I shaped them. I used the ball stylus again and a dental tool to create the shape. The leaves were glued onto little pieces of wire and then pushed into the “dirt”.

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I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. The flowers are probably a little bit bigger than they should be, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m thinking this technique would be great in making hydrangea too. However, I have too much other stuff to do before I can try it. I’m feel like I’m so behind on the Creatin’ Contest build right now. I know it always looks worse before it starts to look better. Eek!

This weekend I’m hoping to get a good start on the 12 full and partial windows I need. We’ll see how it goes.

Next Steps

Way back in the beginning I had decided that I wanted my studio to be part of an apartment building. Since I’m not a completely crazy person I need to figure out a way to capture just part of the building.

I decided to pull inspiration from artists like Ichiyo Haga. However, mine needs to open up to reveal the studio. I’ve let the technical aspect of this intimidate me.

This is where I was last week. It was emptied out. I noticed the top was sagging a little so I put in 2 supports to brace it better.

I used some mat board to create a blank canvas. I needed to hide the spaces I won’t be furnishing so that I could get a better idea of what the outside of the building will look like. If that makes sense.

One of the things I’ve been mentally struggling with is how to keep the build looking like the kit. I’ve been using all of the pieces from the kit and adding more to it, but I know it’s possible to look at it and not know the kit was even used. So how do I keep the integrity of the kit while making my vision come to life?

I started with measuring and adding.

And then some sketching. There are a few mess ups, but it gives me a good road map of how to attack the front of the building. I’m aiming to keep the architectural elements from the kit intact. I’ll just expand them to repeat around the studio. There will be a couple of balconies, lots of tall windows, and a few French doors. The building facade will have a stone or brick finish. The windows and balconies will have iron railings. The center doors and flanking windows will be the area that opens up to reveal the studio. All of the windows will need to be custom, but they will look a lot like the windows from the kit. I may even cannibalize the kit windows. The front will be held on with magnets. This is where next week’s projects will be heading. Yay! Finally I have less of a general concept and more of a plan! It might just be 12% of a plan, but that’s better than 11%.

Last Day of Summer

It’s been months since I’ve written anything, but I’ve been slowly cranking out projects. And when I say slowly, I mean snails pace. Here’s a quick summary of the last few months:

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I finished the floor and I love the way it turned out. I wanted to wear it on a chain as a necklace for a few days, but decided it was a bit chunky for my normal style.

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The lantern is finished.

I’m thinking of abandoning it somewhere in Boston. I love the idea of a little bit of the wild being left in the hustle and bustle of a big city.

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I made an easel from pieces of walnut. I’m happy with the way it turned out. I know what I would do differently if I was to make another one, but I’m not going to point those things out.

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It still looks a little too new. I plan on giving it a few paint drips to help make it look well loved.  It’s fully adjustable.

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I’ve also made a few million paint brushes. Ok, maybe I’ve only made about 45, but it feels like a million. I think I need to make more. I plan on sharing how I made them in a future post.

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The canvases are made from wood stretcher bars I cut and glued together and fabric. The fabric is lightly glued to the canvas. I want to add nail head trim to some of them, but the nails I have are too big for the scale. The newspapers are scans of French newspapers I found online. I scaled them in Microsoft Word and printed them onto old typewriter paper and onion skin paper. The chair is a Chrysabon kit. I did a little dry brushing to make it look a little bit more like wood. It will be getting paint drops to help it look well loved. The rug has been aged a bit, but needs more work. I have a couple of more rugs that will be going into the studio that are still waiting for their turn to be aged.

Warning: The next few pictures are not for the faint of heart.

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This is what my desk area looked like this morning. This is the result of months of projects and a ferret who loves digging around in the polyfil. He’s also figured out how to get up on the desk, but I can’t figure out how he’s doing it. It’s not a big deal really. He just loves spilling water, knocking things off the desk (usually breaking them), and digging around in my carefully organized piles of junk making them less organized.

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I know it’s time to clean up when my work space is whittled down to roughly 5″x10″. Such a mess, but an organized mess. The funny thing is I know exactly were everything is.

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I’ve been using the build as a random storage area too. This needs to be cleaned out also. In the top left is a sofa I’ve been working on. I don’t like the way the tufting is coming out so it will be getting redone. Below the sofa is a round table from House of Miniatures. I thought I was going to use it in the studio, maybe as a still life setup, but the ferret has knocked it off my desk twice and broken it twice. It no longer sits level and I’m not sure I’m willing to fix it a third time. The rest of it is odds and ends of things I’ll be using and things that were just stuffed there because my desk was a mess.

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See? The mess wasn’t that bad. This is after about 25 minutes. Now it’s a blank slate, ready for new messes.

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So much more space now.

The kids go back to school tomorrow. While the summer was fun and full of trips, laser tag, and beach visits I’m glad it’s over. I’m looking forward to having a normal schedule again. Now I just need to think about what mess I want to make tomorrow.

Lots of Little Irons

The last few weeks have been a hodgepodge of projects. Some bigger than others.

I finished my tiny pumpkin project! I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s always a nice little boost to finish a project.

A few weeks ago I made the original walls from the Serendipity Shed kit taller and just a tiny bit deeper. The window holes were patched with some foam core.

This side of the walls will be seen, so they are getting the most attention. I want them to have the look of old plaster. To hide the joints and window openings I first gave the entire wall a thin coat of spackle and then sanded that smooth. I wasn’t a fan of the finished texture of the spackle. Next I decided to try glueing a piece of tissue paper over the spackle, thinking that maybe it would create a more worn plaster look. Sadly it’s created more of an old leather texture. I’m still not happy. I might try another plaster type product and see if I get a better result.

Since the walls had me a little stuck, I decided to keep cutting out wood for the floor. This is what I have so far. Clearly I need a lot more wood for the floor.

I’m kind of in love with the color and pattern. The pieces will be sanded and will be fit together better. I just needed to make a mock up so I could estimate how much more wood I would need. I have plans next week to drive up to my closest dollhouse shop, Earth and Tree Miniatures, to pick up some molding pieces and more wood for the floor.

And now for something completely different. I’ve been wanting to make some tiny little projects and decided to work on them in my Creatin Contest down time. I love this little house.

The roof is shingled and the sides have custom wood siding.

It even sits on a stone foundation. It’s about 2.5″ tall and 1.5″ wide. I’ll be ordering a tiny cloche for it to sit in. I’m certain I’ll knock it off the shelf if it’s not protected.

And finally, I’ll leave you with some pictures of a few more projects I’ve been killing time with.

While I haven’t gotten as much done with the Creatin Contest as I’d like, I have been keeping myself busy. I’ll share more of the finished projects as I get them done.