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.

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.

Two Right Feet

I’ve put my pumpkin project on hold the last few months. Those darn shoes have had me stumped. That is until yesterday. I needed to drop my husband off at the airport, which gave me the perfect excuse to visit the closest dollhouse store to me. After spending too much time taking it all in I found a pair of little white tennis shoes. They are made of a soft metal and painted white.

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After getting them home and taking them out of the package I realized there was something off about them. Turns out they were 2 right shoes.

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I used a metal file and tried to reshape them a bit. My original plan was to use only the front half of the shoe, so I ended up cutting the shoes in half before repainting them. I’m hoping the one on the left looks a little less “right”.

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This is where I last left the pumpkin box:

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And for a refresher, here is the inspiration:

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This is where its at now after repainting the shoes and finally starting to glue things in place:

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I’m pretty happy with it so far. It will possibly have an acrylic cover over it. I want to try to include the words “dive into fall!” on the acrylic to tie more into cover of the magazine.

The art studio build is moving along slowly. The walls have been made taller and squared off by adding some MDF to the original slanted walls. I’ve also filled in the holes for the windows with some foam core, I just haven’t gotten pictures of that yet.

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I’ve also taken apart the front panel of the Serendipity Shed to get a better idea of what the front of the building will look like. It’s rough, but I can sort of see it.

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Now, if you need me I’ll be cutting eleventy billion pieces of wood for the herringbone floor.

Unreliable Brain

After hours of contemplation, plotting, and planning I’ve made some changes to my plans.

I’ve decided to not to do the arch. I didn’t like how tall it was going to make the whole build without really adding substance, if that makes sense. It would be a distraction. I’ve decided instead to do a small section of a larger building. It keeps the focus on the art studio, while offering opportunities to add life behind other windows.

I set out this week to pick up some MDF to start the outer box. I learned that my mind isn’t the sharpest when thinking on the fly. While standing in the hardware store I completely lost all sense of space and dimensions, changed my plans based on this confusion, and bought MDF in the wrong sizes. Once I got home I realized the errors of my ways and vowed never to trust my brain again. Thankfully I could return the wrong sized pieces and then started over, this time with my measurements in hand.

I’ve got the whole outer box together now, just haven’t taken a picture of it. Next will be adding the shelves in to frame out where the kit is going to be.

Also, I’ve learned that stepping outside of your comfort zone is a surefire way to second guess everything you do. I’ll just keep plugging away and it will all come together…I hope.

Let the Fun Begin

Last week was February break for my kids. We try to plan a trip to escape the cold and snow of New England. We headed west and didn’t stop until we hit Hawai’i.

It is also the week that the new Creatin Contest kit is mailed out. I was extremely sad to leave Hawai’i, but really excited to get started on the Serendipity Shed.

I had put our mail on hold, so even though we were got home on Saturday I had to wait until today to get it. Pure torture!

The dry fit went together so quickly. I love it’s little footprint. I plan on increasing the height, so the footprint shouldn’t change much. It might get a little wider, maybe about 6-8″.

My plan is to raise it up on arches with a cobblestone street or walkway that goes underneath.

The challenge will be how to make it obvious that it’s not a stand alone structure, but a piece of a building or city block.

I love the work of Michael McMillen and Michael Garman. I’ll probably try to incorporate some of their techniques to convey that my scene is just a small part of a much larger whole. The trick will be to do it in a way that doesn’t draw attention away from the main subject and also doesn’t look like a scene from Saving Private Ryan.

We’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work I can always rethink and rework.

There’s a really rough mock up of my thought process so far. The arches are off scale from what my plans are. I’m not very good at eyeballing.

I plan on making the windows taller and make them open like the French doors. The doors might need to be made taller also or I might be able to get away with just adding a transom window. I want to raise up the roof a little and flatten it out since it’s just one floor of a much larger building. There will be a lot of brick and stone work, as well as a bit of “iron work” for railings. Window boxes dripping with plants will add some softness to all the hard elements. Inside the studio there will be herringbone wood floors, some plaster architectural accents, and maybe faded wallpaper (if not there will be plaster walls).

That’s all I’ll think about for now. The list can go on and on. However, I think my first step will be to build the arch framework to see if it will work.

Inspiration for 2019’s Creatin’ Contest

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This year’s kit is the Serendipity Shed. I’m so happy it is on the smaller side, help ease me back into larger projects. It would make an adorable floral shop, farm stand, or bakery. However I see something a little different.

 

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Beaux

Big open windows providing lots of natural light.

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O’Keefe

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Every surface littered with tools and supplies.

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And walls adorned with inspiration.

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m planning on making an artist’s studio. More specifically an artist’s studio in France during the early 1900’s. I’m seeing beautiful architecture that has been neglected during the frenzy of creation.

A look inside an artist’s studio is undoubtedly a view into the artist’s mind. A place of creation and personal haven, the studio, like a diary, is full of an artist’s personal baggage… It is a place where one’s greatest artistic triumphs sit beside one’s greatest failures, finished pieces among works in progress, where piles of books, clippings, and other specimens of inspiration or just general interest collide, to form great ideas and eventually great works of art. It is both a place of joy and disappointment; inspiration and frustration. But most of all it is a necessary place in which an artist may grow.   – Lydia Andersen

To do this I’ll need to raise the roof some and flatten it out (not a fan of the slant). I’m planning herringbone wood floors, enlarging the windows, and adding transom windows over the French doors. I’ve yet to decide if I want this to be set in a garden or in some way as part of a larger building. I think once I get it I’ll be able to picture it more clearly. Until then I’ll keep keeping on with my little pumpkin project.