Sunday, 30 December 2012

Life with Arthur

Once again Hello
I've decided to document my step by step with the $20 Arthur dollhouse that I scored from the thrift store.  My daughter Sam, my sister Bev and her friend Dave and I decided one day last summer, to do a
Value Village Crawl, by which I mean that in one day we were going to visit every outlet within a certain radius.  We managed to hit 3 in good time but the 4th we were racing to get to before it closed.  With 10 minutes to spare we walked in and behold... there it was, The Arthur.  It was the fastest I've ever shopped!  I even found some additional crafting items but the dollhouse was the 'cherry on the top'. I wanted a little house and to be honest I already have a tinnier little house that I keep wanting to complete but INSPIRATION, that greatly important element, is not leaning in that direction yet.  Having rediscovered so many country pieces that have been stored away for such a long time in the garage, I have decided that I shall at least have a place to showcase  some of them if I can get the Arthur underway.  Space planning is perhaps not my strongest talent but it is crucial for maximizing a 3 walled space.  With The Arthur, the biggest hurdle is the placement of the staircase.  I really dislike the fact that the front door swings right into it and that the open front door entirely blocked the entrance to the kitchen.  Where to put the stairs once removed is now the issue and I have to decide fairly early on so that I can cut the openings and then build around it.  Last night I decided to begin by gutting the house and removing everything I didn't like.  The porch, the door, the windows especially the 2, way too tiny and completely useless little ones in the front above the porch.  I have already sealed them off and I am ready to putty over them.  Goodbye.  I have blocked up the stair opening as well and removed the walls dividing the lower and top floor.  I plan to re-install but not just yet. I am going to have a fireplace either on the exterior wall or in the middle of the house and I also plan to have the house electrified.  By the way did you know that you can usually get transformers from the thrift store that you can adapt to your dollhouse?  They are so cheap there and not so cheap at the miniature store.  The voltage is stamped on the back of them and can be anywhere from three to twelve volts here in North America.   More about that at a later date.  I am looking for a very simple style for the Arthur and will be using a few cliches' in my quest for an American Country atmosphere, BUT I am also making it contemporary.  I'm not certain that it will be as I envision and frankly I know from past projects that at some point the house will 'fight me'.  There is only so much that it will put up with and then it digs in and says,' NO'.
I have slipped in the proposed new door and windows just to get an idea of how it will look.  Not sure yet if I want shutters on the upper level or not but nothing is finalized yet.  So now, let me present
the beginning of my mini dollhouse project; life with the Arthur.

Life with Arthur / photo journal

October 2013:  F.Y. I.
  Updated Arthur renos for this doll's house are  entitled " GREEN DOLPHIN STREET"  and include some tutorials as well as photos of upgraded rooms :D
Here again is the Arthur "as is" from  the thrift store.  It's a cute little house but I needed to make some changes.

pretty beat up

I blocked up the teeny tiny windows on both sides.  They make no sense in practical application

This is the house stripped down just before I removed the ugly porch and re-cut the door and window openings.

Look at the size of these giant hinges!  They were hot glued to the wall in great blobs and were very difficult to remove.  I think that this kit was given to a young child and so it didn't matter what it looked like just so long as it stood up to the rough play.  Speaking of rough play, the first christmas that I can recall was where my dad had put together a toy barn and silo that he built for us, his four preschool children.  I had watched him busily at work on it for a long time and it was fabulous!  He built it out of balsa wood and it was intact for perhaps minutes before we, his children, broke it right before his eyes.  All that hard and meticulous work, destroyed.  Why did he build it out of Balsa Wood in the first place, I ask?  That was the last of                                                                                              

This is the staircase with a possible re-positioning and the dividing wall pushed to but up against the side of the front door.  I haven't decided yet if this is what I will do.  The tub is a plastic one that I found at the drug store and I plan on painting it and adding hardware.  I used it gage the space required and help plan the layout.

This is the facade with the new windows and door  added.  Since the house will showcase the American country and folk art collection I wanted the exterior to reflect the interior. The house will have a small brick stair and stoop and a metal handrail leading to the front door.  I have a lantern and I shall also add a mailbox.  I am leaning toward a 'wood' siding
but I also want brick to factor in.

An angled view of the Arthur with the new windows and door

Still can't decide if I want the upper window to have shutters?
Hmmm, let me think ..... to be continued.

Friday, 28 December 2012



I made this lantern from two distinct pieces.  The black metal support is from a rather cheap dollhouse chandelier turned upside down and then repositioning the chain supports.  The 'glass' is from a toy dome that had I was able to detach from its original use and then glue to the overhead black frame.  The lamp lights but I  didn't want too much glare so I didn't turn them on but when lit the veining on the glass which is the skeletal remains of a chinese lantern plant, glued onto the surface, looks like a forest of trees in leaded glass.  God did all the work there, all I did was highlight it.  This project made me happy.
the right side of "Gothica' has a Realife blue chest of drawers with working lamps, a bowl of gourds, blackberries in a basket , a squirrel, and a piece of architectural fragment and a religious icon on it.  A stack of old newspapers in a bundle that Janine made for me is off to the side perched on a crate. A line drawing of a raccoon is nailed
  to the wall.  The yellow chest opposite supports the gothic mirror above it and an iron grotesque, grapes, books, candlestick etc.
Here is another look at the right side of 'Gothica' called this because of the Gothic mirror over the old
french chest.  I hand painted the chair and made or remade nearly all of the items inside.  I started this project over 12 yrs ago but put it aside until this past spring.  I needed a quick fix.  Something I could actually get finished and so I started playing with the story and here is what it turned out to be.
This used to be an abandoned out building on an enormous estate and held weaponry for the huntsmen
and servants of a baron.  Over time the shelter was forgotten and a very pernicious vine took over and  
obscured the entire structure.  New owners surveying the estate happened upon it and chopped back the vine to discover a little sanctuary where all was cool and quiet through the heat of the summer.
There was never a door but one was fashioned and used in the winter but otherwise it is always opened.  The vine they had to let stay as it now was a supporting feature of the wall and it is kept tightly in check as it tries to crawl again across the ceiling and the walls.  Not wanting to modernize the space, much has been left as it has always been with the exception of electricity but even that is minimal and often the lights of the ancestral candelabra is the only means of illumination.  It is beginning to get chilly in the evenings and the wool flannel lap robe is at the ready.  The last harvest of the summer garden has been brought in and its distribution has yet to be decided.  We will have to wait until the gardener returns....

Lights on Nobody Home

 Here is the lamp lit up.  Do you see what I mean about the tiny veining like tree branches in the forest?
I am not surprised that this has turned out hazy.  It was either bleached out with the flash on or what you see here.  So this is what I'mma gonna do. I'm am going to buy myself a new camera that will
produce better photos and save myself the aggravation.   I wanted you to see 'Gothica' with the lights on.  A moody piece.

Of all the photos I didn't expect this one would be the only one in the series to actually work???!!! But there it is.  And that is all she wrote.


I found some additional country pieces in the box I stored them in. The blanket box 1860 is signed       'S S'96.  I placed some more of Pam Grant's cushions within.  The braided rug is signed Sadie Ludicke.
The mini "Old Glory' flag, was a label from a piece of clothing.  The eagle wall plaque was cut from a magazine and glued to cardstock and aged by me. The tea towel was made to drape by lining it with tin foil.  I have used this method several times and it works a treat, as the British say.  You don't have to use mountains of glue or hairspray to get the folds to stay put and if you don't like the way it looks you can easily change and redo with a gummy mess.  I haven't applied this yet to drapes but I don't see why it couldn't work there too.  It would depend on the weight of the fabric of course but the results especially for things like polyesters and other synthetics that fly away and are difficult to use, are tamed,by the foil lining.  It works for me and I have told both Janine and Fatima" Fats' to give it a try too.
Silver service by Ken Chellis .  It is just sooo elegant, wouldn't you agree?

This chicken started life at the top of a pencil.  It reminds me of the Kelloggs' corn flake rooster.  It is sitting beside the Barely Big Enough painted table.  I love the Grandma Moses style painting on the door front.  I find it charming. The other cupboard is signed SS 1996 'and depicts the sun, moon and stars and I had forgotten I even had it so it was like Christmas all over again.  The green sideboard that it sits on looks to be Shaker in design and has a 'R B' scratched on the back side.  The 2 drawers are very delicate and beautifully crafted.

The photo to the left is composed of what I've already talked about in isolation.  The cow picture is also by 'Deb' 1993. The tulips look so cheery to me.
My favorite flowers are roses, pansies and tulips; in that order.  I can see that I'm a little out of focus.  I need to do better.  You know I discovered by accident that I didn't need to have the teeny tiny captions that I started the blogs with?  It was frustrating to do all that typing and then squint to try to read it.  I wish my daughter had told me that I could make the print bigger.  Bless her heart she has helped me so much, but I wish she had told me that!  There is just so much hesitation with me.  I am fearful of messing up, erasing Boy! that I've done 2 times already.  Practice makes perfect. And I'm working at it.
I found this arm chair that you can only see part of, in the box and although it looks worse for wear now, I have plans for its future.  I have already started a inspiration board and one of the photos I've settled on has a winged back chair pulled up next to the fireplace.  I am going to be really short of space in using the Arthur to showcase this collection.  I don't think it will all fit, neither do I want all of it to.  It is supposed to be a home and NOT a museum.  Anyway, I'll worry about all of that tomorrow at Tara. After all.,tomorrow is another da....oh, sorry....hehehe.  The yellow tulips are more painted seed pods and the throw cushions by cushion queen, Pamela Grant.  A slice of the chocolate cake I made sits on mini 'Val Dor' china plate.
Oh, wow! I chopped the chicken's head off. Nothing to Crow about.  Forgive me for I have punned.

Some how I have attracted another font and the pictures have moved out of order!  What is  going on here?  This is soo not funny, Mr. Apple!

Well, it seems I have reached the end of the line and I'm almost back where I started from.  I have been
trying to load these pictures in order and No Luck.  They are all over the place and it is annoying me. Another thing is really bugging me, is the type... All the captions in my earlier posts are soooo tiny!!!
Who can even read them without straining their eyes?  I wasted all that time typing for so little reward,
even I can't be bothered reading it.  This is NOT how I wanted to begin.  Sorry folks! Eyy Yah!!  Wait a minute.....There is No folks; there is only Me.  Talking and typing to myself and wondering if I will ever be any good at this. No problem, no one is going to look at any of this.  I'll just pretend that nothing has happened.  Now I feel better.  Starting over, as of now.

American Country Retrospective

the Arthur 'as is' from the thrift store for $19.99 and close to $200 dollars for all the new doors and windows.  Am I crazy???
the painted cupboard is from a vendor in the 1990's called Barely Big Enough.  I had and have a love of folk art in miniature and I collected American Country like it was going out of style,... and it did.  These unique pieces are needing to step outside the boxes and have a real home.  Below is a detail of the hand-painted table top signed 'S S 1996'.  It has a beautiful crackled finish to it.  The sampler on the wall is courtesy of an old friend Pamela Grant.  I made the orange tulips in the blue urn and you will see them again in another shot.  I purchased the brass kettle at the Seattle show and in trying to age it by heating it up on the stove, the bottom dropped out!  Whoopsie!!!! .... My bad.
The white frosted layer cake is my work as are the metal cookie cutters that were made from the cutting edge of the waxed paper box.  By cutting the strip in half length wise then gluing the circlet around a dowel or a paintbrush   and then adding a handle you can have as many cookie cutters as your heart desires at very little cost.  Just handle with care.

the folk art table top ...,  LOVIN IT!!!

What a wonderful set of hand-painted drawers from Barely Big Enough.   The windsor chair is by 'W S C' and I think it may refer to William Clinger.  That name sticks in my head.  I don't have a name for the slave doll but the stacking shaker boxes are Al Chandronet ( hope I spelled his name right).  I made the log holder from a toilet  bowl freshener painted to look like "iron. "  My sister Bev said it "looks like wood. " So it does, so it does.   Hmmm, In that case, I made the basket to look like wood.  Note to self, work on faux and run everything past Bev, who won't let you get away with anything. 

A drop leaf gate leg table , a Ni-Glo lamp a William Clinger windsor chair with Pamela Grant's petit point cushion on it.  Pamela used to make and mail me petit point cushions for no other reason other than she just wanted to.  Me not being a needle woman of any kind , I mean NO skill at all,  I was delighted to receive them.  Pam and I lost touch over time but after I pulled out everything from the garage and began grouping the cushions all together, I was astounded by the volume she had made for me.  I had her in my mind for weeks and wouldn't you know, we ended up at the same location and had a mini reunion!  I told her about my collection of her work and she told me she had begun writing romance novels and no longer did this tiny needle work as it was too small to see.  I hear you Pam.  I am lost without my reading glasses and even with them I struggle to see even big things clearly.  Ah, aging.  Miniatures stay the same but we don't.
The white china service on the table above was purchased in honor of my mother in law who has always used her "Valdor"china service for family 'do's'.  Art imitating life, Marg.
This windsor chair by William Clinger, has a writers platform and a small drawer under the seat  probably for writing materials.  The workmanship is so delicate.  On the floor is a silver tea service by Ken Chellis.  The lid is hinged and the handle is carved wood.  It has a matching silver tray as well as a lidded sugar bowl and a creamer.  There are those orange tulips again.  I had thought to make the Arthur into a Christmas house but with all this country furniture and all the tulips that look so good with the strong colors against the clean lines, I may just do a late spring house instead.  I made the pair of candlestick on top of the cupboard from jewelry findings and Q-tips. Beads and metal bits I have coming out of my ears!  I love them and in other posts I will show them to you.  Some of them are featured in Janine's MINWORKS blog and my perfume trays are in the bedrooms and in the bathroom of her chateau.  Like Pam Grant, my cushion queen, I enjoy making things for Janine's  projects 'just because' we're friends.
 'Deb' made the country cupboard in 1994 and the salt-glazed  pot  on top of it was  made in  1989 and is signed but I can't read the signature.  The crow serving piece is made by Yahna and the toys are unsigned  but I think the Uncle Sam is by the same person who made the slave doll.  I painted a dough box which has yet to be aged and Pam Grant sewed the nine patch cushion on the floor.  I propped up the paper Canadian flag to declare that although I'm American by birth, I am Canadian by choice.  
God Save The Queen. etc. etc....
I love doll's houses.  The first dollhouse I recall was in the schoolroom of the Vancouver Children's Hospital while I was a patient there.  Between the ages of 7-12 , I was in and out again for the same ailment.  Most of the time spent inside, was spent waiting to get better.  They don't call us patients (patience) for nothing.  I can't say I enjoyed attending hospital grade school but I eagerly anticipated the dollhouse in the classroom because up to then, I had never seen one before.  It would be considered a collectible now but back then it was used to bribe the students into finishing their lessons.  No workie, no playee.  This dollhouse was probably English from the late 1800's or early 1900's.  I remember it was front opening with a faux brick facade, a black front door and 3 levels with windows of real glass.  Inside was a hall and a central winding staircase and on all three floors on both far sides of the rooms were black metal fireplaces with coal grates.  Every time I was hospitalized, I hoped it would give me a chance to play with that dollhouse again.  Eventually, it got moved out and I never saw it again.  But the desire was implanted in my young brain that this was FUN and it was not to be forgotten.
Fast forward to my early 20's, when my husband said he did NOT want a whole lot of wonky, sagging cardboard boxes that I was using as a dollhouse (stacked one on top of another), to join us in our tiny apartment after we were married.  He asked me to scale them down and maybe keep them in a bookcase to help keep them contained.  Boy, was my nose out of joint. I did as he requested and stumbled into 1 inch to the foot, by accident and became seriously addicted to doll house miniatures and have been ever since.  Improvise, was the name of the game then and although crude and not worth anything to me now, gave me my first taste of  a'MAKE OVER'.  Nobody thought like that at the time.  Reduce, reuse and recycle was only if you were poor and we were.  Now only the well-off can afford the 'vintage junk' and the cast-offs that everybody desires.  I used to see 'beaters' in the parking lots of Value Villages now there are BMW's and Mercs. My how times have changed!   I have made 3 doll's houses in my past life and 2 have won Best of Show awards both here in Vancouver, Canada and at the Seattle, Washington show.  I have made numerous room boxes with various themes and have done a bit of commission work which took me longer than I anticipated.(it always does, doesn't  it?)  Now, I'm determined to start in again but space is at a premium.  I'm going to smaller houses now and try to get more into them.  Here is the initial offering.
'The Arhtur" by Greenleaf.  Found at the thrift store for  $19.99.  Lucky me!  I have plans for a Americana 'Country House'  I have some very nice pieces for it as you can see above.....

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Nights Before Christmas

Here are some of the tulips I've made from real plant material.   I believe no one does it better than God and so I am always happy to allow Him to do all the hard stuff.  In person these seed pods show veining, translucence and minute details that I could never achieve on my own.  The painting of the flowers, I did, of course.    The plastic cake pillar and the little garden statue on top came from an old piece of junk.  They were painted with bronze nail polish and acrylic paint and then aged to look old and weather beaten.  The picture on the wall is from a magazine and mounted onto mat board.

Here is another pic of the tulips and the peaches I have made over and over  because my sister Bev said looked like oranges.  In review they do.  But they are PEACHES.  The peaches I made from air dry clay.   Here is where less would probably been more.  I have to learn how to take close-ups.  The bird cage is a re-worked one that everybody and their dog has had at one time or another.  They usually come in red with a HUGE white glass bird on a perch inside.  I have a thing for birds and cages and I have made over several of these red metal cages with great success. 

This shows the kitchen work island that began life as a potting table that  I purchased from the Miniature Club of  British Columbia (M.C.B.C.) show and sale this past June.  Again, too much stuff going on. I propped and orange tree that I made on the table and loaded the stainless steel surface (CON-TACT brand shelf paper) with all my hand made items.  I made all the french breads over the course of a few of the long nights in my STUDIO and between all the fruit and the bread and eggs,  I could probably furnish a tiny grocery store.  I Do get carried away at times;  all for the sake of the arts ( how noble of me)



A closer look at the peaches that look like oranges.  My sisters  daughter said the basket of brown eggs looked like potatoes!  What is it with these people!  They look like EGGS TO ME !??? (sigh)  Here's Hoping that the copper pots look like COPPER POTS?  I made all of them (except the seafood one with the lid) from instructions from 2 books by both Patricia King  and Andrea Barham.  The lids are Vintage brass buttons and the 'glass' lid is a plastic sticky disk used for scrapbooking.
I'm really pleased with the way the work island turned out.  I made all the cakes on top as well as the cake stands.  You should see all the cakes and pies I've made over the last 6 months.  Not all of them are created equal.  I can gage my progress by the type of cakes I have made and the stands they are on.  How do you like the whipped cream cake with the blackberry garnish?  The blackberries are from poppy seeds that I harvested from my garden, (thank you, God) and the foliage is preserved oregano,  also from the garden.  I make the cakes from anything that I think will work; fimo, paper, wood, clay, sponge, sand,  silicone, paint...etc. etc.  I'm not particular.  Sometimes I hit on something really good but there are lots of failures (naturally, I am not featuring them)  I have to get to know you better before I do. hahahh

Finally,  this last photo gives and over view of the work station with some of the  kitchen ware that I so enjoy collecting  and making.  I did not make the rose tree.  I bought that about 12 years ago at he Seattle miniature show.  I used to know the names of the artisans for the majority of my current collection, but my brain has stagnated for lack of use and unless the piece is signed I can't tell you who it is by.   In the picture of the brown eggs that look like 'potatoes'  the basket is Al Chadronet( probably spelled his name incorrectly, sorry Al).   Giving him a 'shout out'.  The wonderful lady that I bought the unfinished potting bench from, had taken a workshop from me many years ago when I made the BREAKFAST TRAYS  that you can see on my friend Janine's  MINWORKS blog.  I'm sorry that I don't have your name but I hope you like what I did with the potting bench.  If I get an opportunity to see you at the next M.C.B.C. in 2013, I will make sure I get your name for the credits
So this is what I have been up to for the last few months prior to Christmas.  I have a day job of working for a prestige fragrance company, but during the evenings I put on my 'mini hat' and become a Crafter After Hours and have been known for the marathon nights spent making miniature breads and flowers and what have you, until the sun comes up.  I have plowed some incredibly dark circles under my eyes for lack of sleep for the sake of this hobby.  I think many miniaturists can relate to this;  for when inspiration hits you have to go with the flow.  So the photos will give you and idea of what has been on the hit list for me.  I know it is a lot all at once and the pictures are not yet up to snuff.  I only just started learning how to use the camera and found out from my daughter Sam, that I was holding the camera upside down( no wonder it was difficult to take the shot) and that Zoom did not mean leaning into the light box but activating the lens control on the camera! hahahha  Okay, now you know my photographic skill level which is pretty low on the totem pole.  By the way, I must thank Ann, for the tutorial on "How to make a light box for $5 or less" on her blog AMAZING MINIATURES'.  It inspired me to get the ball rolling in the first place.
My sister Bev, who is my 'on site' and 'gentle' critic says I have too much in one shot and she is correct.  I shall have to break it down on the next blog that I post, but for now, it is what it is.  So on with the show!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

I'm Back!

After a 12 year absence and with the repeated urging and encouragement from two of my mini friends, Janine (Minworks blog) and Fatima 'Fats' of Beauxminis, I am Finally, entering the world wide web of show and tell.  I have only just learned to e mail and only just learned to use a digital camera.  I have always used  technology under duress and my first response is that I can't do it!  That is why I always balked at the idea of getting involved on-line.  This past year I have been the recipient of my son and daughters 'old' electronics which prompted me to give it a try and having tried it, to my surprise and delight, I REALLY LIKE IT!!!  Janine will be pleased to read this as will Fats as they both have been singing the praises of various artisans and creative sites for years and I had turned a deaf ear to it all.  Although, I had been inactive in the world of miniatures, I had continued to collect bits and pieces over the years and for the most part, I had all the supplies and purchases I had from' back in the day', stored in the garage  just waiting.  My collection stood still but the world did not and by the time I decided to start playing again with my toys the level of what others were doing in miniature was astonishing!  I'm an interpretive miniaturist rather than a purist and my favorite blogs are the 'something form nothing' ones that teach you how to see things as what they could be, rather than for what they are, so that is what much of my blog will be geared towards.... the Possibilities, praise God, that are endless ....ENJOY!