21 Nov 2015

Unpacking and My Workspace Reveal

HI! I'm still here!  Just hidden behind these boxes! I decided to move in September and had to put everything on hold.  I'm so very sorry for the sudden departure.  It was an unexpected opportunity and I could not be happier!  

My last workspace looked like a giant heap of rubble with a tiny 2' patch of carpet to sit on and create.  It was an overwhelming mess. I knew it was going to be a big investment but if I didn't do something I'd have to pack up everything and put it all in storage. So my challenge was to design a workspace without losing a bedroom in the process.

I couldn't find very many guest-room/craft spaces online so I thought I'd share a bit of what I've done to give some inspiration to those who might be interested, or stuck, or buried.  For me, half the battle of making miniatures is figuring out where to keep everything!  The work space is essentially an "L" shape around the perimeter of the room.

Unlike my last space where I could barely see the floor, things are stored neatly with two tables, one desk with scrapbooking paper storage cubes, two "garage style" wire shelving units, and a lot of storage boxes and drawer units. My polymer clay, tools, tech, paints and fabric are stored in large plastic bins on the lower shelves and my furniture, food, Re-ment pieces are stored in the coloured cardboard boxes along with paper, plexi sheets and photo accessories.  The Alex unit under the dollhouse stores large photo backdrops, flooring, foam board and extra large paper.  I might also have gotten two cans of gold spray paint and glitz'd some of the pieces up...  

Ikea had these great boxes as part their TJENA line. Perfect for storing chairs, sofas, tables and other pieces that could easily roll around.   I prefer having my minis on display but it often leads to falls and breakage so putting them in boxes is a much safer bet.  (I've got some nice labels to replace the stickies eventually).

The boxes come in a variety of colours and the smallest size includes dividers.  I was able to spilt each box up to best fit the furniture.

As for my 1:12 space - the kitchen is officially painted!  I picked out a dark grey (Behr: Intellectual) for the walls, and settled on a cabinet colour (Martha Stewart: Cobblestone).  Things had veered too far into looking like a traditional farmhouse and I needed to bring it back into the modern style. What's that?  I've painted the cabinets 3 times now?? HIDE THE PAINT BRUSHES!
Now that the boxes are being put away I'm starting up again. It's definitely much more motivating to work when you have a proper space! 

9 Aug 2015

Wide Plank Flooring and Renovations

Before I left on my summer holidays I was able to complete a large portion of the floor.  I had looked around at different hardwood designs and loved this London residence, the Taluba Rasa, with the matte contrasting planks set in a basket weave.   I decided to look for something a little less complex and found I really like contemporary spaces like this one with traditional flooring and very modern decor and furnishings.  I settled on an oak floor with an oversized wide plank, a matte finish, and laid in a herringbone pattern.  My floor will also have boarders around cabinets or transitions between rooms.

I wanted to show you first what I had to work with the past couple of months, here is a bit of photographic evidence as to why I've been a bit absent:

I took everything down so that the structure could be made of 1/4"  MDF.  I also added in an extra window on the back wall which added another 3" to the width of the room... (the good/bad of making a custom dollhouse!)  You can see the extra strip on the bottom right.  The original didn't include a dining space but I like having the option now.

Now with the room ready to go I went out and found veneer for my floors at a local wood shop. Originally I was going to do a mix of birch and oak, but after doing a test piece I decided to only use oak.  This particular variety was labeled as "white oak".

I used a paper cutter to slice my pieces in 0.5" x 2.5" to get that modern look I was going for.  I only had to change the blade once for 300+ pieces!  Please beware that oak likes to split with the grain so whereas birch cuts more smoothly and straight.

The next step was inspired by Otterine's timely post, I followed her example and used masking tape to secure the pieces for staining.  I like this method better because I didn't have to worry about the glue ruining the stain application.
Below: before staining

After with different mixes of Minwax stains: Natural mixed with either Weathered Oak, Special Walnut and Classic Grey or a combination of all three.  The dominant colour was Weathered Oak.
The subfloor is a piece of mat board with brown paper covering to fit the base of the room. Notching out the corner where the walls point out.

The design is drawn in pencil taking into consideration the lay-out of the cabinets and marking where I wanted the herringbone pattern and the boarders.  I decided to have two separate areas.

The most difficult part was laying out the initial pattern.  I still have no idea how to get the design down with mathematics even after reading several real life hardwood laying sites. So I did some guess work and just played around until they formed a line and taped it down.  If anyone has any helpful hints as to a how to measure this out please let me know so I can do it properly in the next room.

 Each piece of wood is glued using Alene's Craft Glue and a Q-Tip.

This glue dries really fast!  Any boards that seemed to lift up just needed an extra press of a finger.  No heavy weight required.  I had a couple of gaps which I filled with thin silvers of discarded stained boards.

I only finished the edges at the end. I measured again the boarder in the places where the pencil had been covered and used a craft knife to cut one straight edge.

For now I've added long strips of unfinished oak for effect.  I plan on cutting proper strips and staining them in the coming weeks when I return home.

I hope you all have had a great weekend!  I've been travelling for a bit and enjoying time with family. and probably won't be able to work on minis for another week or two.  I have a long list of mini blogs to catch up on to tide me over in the meantime ;)

2 Jul 2015

The Paper Doll

Have you ever wanted to walk around inside your dollhouse?

Well, I've tried.

Several times actually.

And while I am currently pulling out hair trying to get my custom dollhouse structure built (4th time re-cutting the walls, now in MDF, which is a winner), tracking down materials, and slicing hundreds of little planks of veneer to complete the floor (so many!)...
I thought I might share with you some of my previous miniature work from before I started this blog.  I know I've linked to these images before but I thought it would be nice to have a post about it right on the site.

Through the years I have tried different ways of inserting myself inside the miniature space by video, physically (above), or most often by including a paper cut out of myself (below), which I referred to as the paper doll.  That was the inspiration for my blog name when I started.

Below are some images from different series I have done.  They are printed large scale, some as big as 30 x 20 inches.  If you want you can see more images here.

For the first series I did I used real drywall for walls, popsicle sticks, pen pieces, and food tubs.  I really focused on the lighting and how it played in the space.

I then started adding in a paper cut out version of myself into the scenes and adding a bit of whimsy into the narrative.  It meant shooting twice, once just me and the second of the miniature room and the cut out picture of myself in the scene.

And then things got a little fancy, I went from drywall to foam board and I could suddenly make rooms very quick and with a lot more windows.  Lighting played the biggest role in all my decisions.

I also created some deconstructed miniature spaces too.

I developed a style that was kind of dark and a little haunting.  Why is the girl always alone and in the dark?  This was always such a difficult question because that wasn't how I wanted to work.  I felt limited by my ability to cast a realistic light into the scene and keep the whole thing lit.  If you've ever tried to photograph your miniature in a realistic manner you know how crucial and how crazy difficult this is to do.

Enter my favourite series yet, the one that I feel best represents my choice of narrative and style.  Bright and colourful with a whimsical narrative that balances the uncanny and the everyday.

A couple of you mentioned lighting backdrops for windows in the comments last time, while this isn't a how-to by any means right now I do have some tips.  I've learned that when lighting miniatures you need all the light you can get.  You need diffused light into the front of the space and anywhere else you can get it (basically have a bright space around the roombox or dollhouse) as well as a single separate direct light into the windows on top of the diffused light.  This one light should mimic how the sun casts the light in your own home.  I like to use paper backdrops in all my scenes so this means configuring the lights so that you can accommodate both the lights and the paper backdrop.  I know, I know it's hard to explain without pictures. Maybe sometime in the future.

Now I do have some good news.  While I have been away for (glup!) months mostly redo-ing things you've seen already like walls and windows, the flooring is half done! So I will be posting about that next... and try not to disappear again ;)

20 Apr 2015

Loft Series: Custom Windows

The very first thing I start with when making a room or scene is the window placement.  How many and what kind of view?  While shooting several different sets with miniatures I've learned that the window is always what brings the most lifelike illusion to the photograph. I've also learned that custom handmade wood windows are extremely tedious and difficult to make! (I applaud all you who have mastered that art!)  You might remember in my loft series I made these really large windows.  I needed something simple without the hassle of cutting and gluing tiny sticks of wood in straight lines.  If I didn't have access to a laser cutter now I most likely would have continued using this method for all my future builds.   So if you haven't discovered this method and need something simple I encourage you to give it a try!

First you need transparent printing paper.  I got mine from a local printing/photocopy store.  These sheets of transparent plastic are most used with overhead projectors.  They sometimes come with a protective backing on each sheet.

You can go about making the grid lines either manually or digitally:  
1. You can take a ruler and permeant maker and draw each line right onto the transparency.  
2. Draw the lines on plain printer paper and scan onto your computer.  Then use an inkjet printer to print onto the transparency.
3. Use photoshop or another drawing application (as I did) to make a grid and then use an inkjet printer to print onto the transparency.

If you don't have a printer, or as in my case your printer doesn't print dark enough, take your file to your local business/photocopy centre.  They should be able to print it for you and most places have the transparent printing paper there.

Here is my grid:

I chose thinner lines for the mullions so that they wouldn't be too visible.  The window I was making had 3 large sections but remained as one piece.  I added thick black lines to show where the pieces of the frame would go.  These thicker lines were made based on the approx thickness of the framing I was using.  By adding these into your design your grid will be evenly spaced on either side of the framing.

The thickness of your framing depends on the thickness of your walls. I was using 1/4" foam board so my wood was 1/4" thick.

Next I glued the pieces together to make a frame using the dark lines as a guide.
The frame.
Paint the frame.
Glue the grid sheet to the bottom of the frame.

The Back.  Personally my roombox was only meant to be seen from the front so I never finished the back... to finish:

Make a second frame to give yourself a complete window.  That would give you a front frame, window grid sheet, and back frame. (Not shown).  
Place the window inside your wall and add strips of trim around the outer edges on the back.

You could finish with trim on the front too if you wish.

And there you are! Windows without the fuss. Or glue.  Or straight edge lining up. Or pulling your hair out because something just nudges a piece the wrong way and it all just falls apart... you know.

A big thanks to Mini Mod Pod for requesting this and then waiting so so long for me to post ;)  And for another cool idea for transparencies check out what the The Shopping Sherpa did with her cafe logo.  Makes me think a few more experiments are in order...coloured stained glass maybe?

Hope you are all off to a great week!  I'm looking at rain rain rain more rain and the possibility of snow... Good stay inside mini making weather. :)

11 Apr 2015

Rise and Shine: The Contemporary Bathroom

With only hours to spare I completed my entry for the 3Dminihouse contest for Shapeways last night.  It had me thinking of my last late-night contest build.  It was a bit of a mad dash as my delivery from Shapeways arrived on Wednesday, 2 days before deadline!  :D  I'm so glad I knew I wasn't the only one working away so close to the finish which kind of made it a little more fun and a lot less panic.

The faucet I designed and had printed actually turned out!  I can officially check 3D printing off my list of things to learn.  I printed it both in white strong flexible plastic and stainless steel.  I chose the stainless for the scene as it surprisingly rendered it extremely well and gives it a a bit of weight.  It has a pink undertone which was unexpected so the next time I might try sterling silver...but for now I'm really liking it's unique colour.  I also made vessel sink and another smaller faucet (not shown) and can see myself designing more elaborate pieces in the future.

Next to the faucet my favourite thing in this scene is the orchid plant! I've wanted one in miniature for a long time and knew this was the perfect scene to go for it. I got a real orchid, took measurements and then drew out 3 different petal shapes in photoshop (there is a great tutorial for cutting life size orchids here that helped). I brought them to the laser cutter and cut them out of regular sketching paper.  A little bit of coloured pencil in the centre, some wire, rolled up tissue, paint, and wood and volia!

Now let's talk that rain shower.  I was soooo close!  See the way the water looks to be going into the drain?  I had that at the top too and it broke too late into the build...    The invisible thread actually threads through a drain I made and out through out the bottom of the floor.  I will be revisiting this and taking another photo. I know it's possible to get the tension right so that it doesn't curve!

The towels were made with the help Studio E's fantastic tutorial using baby washcloths (I'm so glad you mentioned the baby onesies too Elizabeth!  I ended up using them since there were no white washcloths available.)  They look super warm and fluffy.

The shower panel is by Modern Dollhouse (I have so much on my wishlist from Marion's store!) and I tried to get the plastic to match the faucet, spraying it metallic gold and then dabbing silver. The moth orchid plant is sitting in the largest of the containers from ModernMiniFan's 6-piece Bath Collection, along with the matching tray, the box I used as a toothbrush holder and the makeup brush/lotion combo set. The tray is very pretty with the bit of edging on the sides.  I did have to cut my Re-ment 1:6 makeup brushes to fit the 1:12 scale but I think it was worth it!  The little stool is designed by Mini World Designs, I absolutely adore the shape and would love to have it made a little bigger so that it would be more of a chair for another scene.

If any of you are interested in a faucet like the one I made (or a smaller version) I'll put the files as available to print in a Shapeways shop.  I first have to clean up the disaster I made over the last two days across the house...miniature making explosion. Haha!  I'm looking forward to looking at all the entries, catching up on blogs and maybe getting some sleep?...have a great weekend everyone!


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