Monday 23 December 2013

A Merry Christmas, one and all!

Time for the last post of 2013, such an exciting year for me on the dolls house front.   I know many of you have followed this journey on my blog but if you want to read it in a less protracted form you can also find it in the on-line magazine on the website of Dollshouses Past and Present.  Part One is here and Part Two here.  

The third part will appear in February, all being well.   There's lots of fascinating stuff for miniaturists on the website and a great deal of expertise to be found there too.

And so to the last item in the window display.  I apologise for the quality of the photo - if any expert photographers reading this can enlighten me about taking photos through glass without getting so many reflections, I would be very grateful.

Perched right on top of the central breadbins you can spot a large paper bag intended for packing Christmas presents.  I remember that one year I had resolved never to wrap another present, so I'd bought a large quantity of bags of various sizes. When the dolls house group - the Herts Miniaturists - that I was a member of at that time decided that we were going to create Christmas scenes in a paper bag, I was spoilt for choice.

Cue slight digression:  the group was very much into putting room settings into unusual containers just then. It was one of our members, Norman Randall, who made several of my dolls houses for me, who first came up with the idea.   He produced a kitchen in an old enamel saucepan and then sent off photos of it to the Home Miniaturist magazine. (A little bird tells me that this creation is on its way to Small Worlds - thank you Sheila!)

His room-in-a-saucepan sparked a nation-wide competition and suddenly all the dolls house groups were thinking up unusual containers to put scenes into.   I particularly remember a large packet of washing powder with a launderette inside. The final winner of the competition was the plaster cast of a broken leg with a hospital scene inserted into it!

I think this was the same year that the Herts Miniaturists suggested "Christmas Past" as a theme for a room setting and since this blog post will be very short of photos if I only cover the Father Christmas-in-a-Bag - no photos of the process for example, because it all happened so many years ago - that I have decided to first give you a bonus scene that isn't in the window display. 

Blog followers will be familiar with the photo that appears beside the "About Me" paragraph of my blog.   It is taken from a series of photos taken the Christmas Day I got my very first dolls house. Based on these, I was able to recreate our living room that day and attach the room setting to a photo frame, in the same way as I described in my last post.   This time it was a double frame, showing the original photos on one side and the miniature room on the other. 

Everything that is in the original photos, I managed to reproduce in miniature.   Butterfly tells me she made the pram.   I believe her of course. The abacus caused a great deal of swearing, as did the tiny furniture in the house......

So back to Santa in the paper bag - it's once again very easy to do.   You cut a hole in the bag at the height you want and then build a structure to insert inside. You can use either stiff card, as (judging by the corrugations I can see) I did here, or better still, foamboard.   

Foamboard, or Foamcore is polystyrene foam sandwiched between two sheets of card and it's brilliant stuff for crafting.  As is polystyrene of course - just a reminder, since it's Christmas, of the wonderful Christmas creches I featured at the end of this post last year.   All of them carved out of polystyrene....

Poor Santa seems to have got himself into a slight pickle.   I rather think he's stuck.   Watching with interest at the foot of the chimney are two very early productions by Butterfly, tiny teddies made whilst she was recovering from her "A" level examinations.  

The only addition I have made to this very ancient scene is the Christmas creche in one corner...... 

I leave you with a close-up of the whole scene and the hope that Father Christmas makes it safely down your chimney on Tuesday night.......

Thank you for continuing to follow this story.   I wish you all the very best for a joyous Christmas and a peaceful and happy New Year.   See you again in 2014.....

Sunday 15 December 2013

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.....

Just enough time to squeeze in two posts before Christmas I think - so back to the breadbins.... 

I dithered for a while about posting the Santa story this week and then decided it was just too soon to bring him down the chimney.

So, since snow is likely to be around in the Czech Republic at the moment, at least in the mountains, if not in Bavorov itself, I decided to go with the snow scene first.

But before frost and snow descend on us, and overwhelm all the fungi on the forest floor, let's take a closer look at the fishing basket which houses Peter the Mycological Rabbit.

(I've just realised that none of the last three containers we will be looking at in detail are actually breadbins.  Never mind, at least they are not traditional dolls houses...)

Peter has been around a very long time.   As someone with a passion for fungi-collecting and another passion for all things miniature it was very natural that I should at some point combine the two.   This basket was very easy to put together - I found both the small rabbit and the basket in Ikea.

The various mushrooms have come my way either from friends who made them in clay or they are New Year's decorations from Germany or Austria.   Some are even real!   Those are the ones on the tree trunks lying on the forest floor. 

The fearsome spirit in the tree trunk at the back came from Denmark more years ago than I care to remember and both wooden gnomes were acquired in Germany, also many years ago.

Railway modellers amongst you will recognise the moss strewn across the basket and once all that was in place, all that remained was to make sure that Peter was fully equipped to go out and show off his foraging skills.

When I first started to learn about fungi - something that is fairly uncommon in England, unlike in the Czech Republic, where the greeting when you visit someone in the country is not "What's the weather been like?" but rather "Are there mushrooms?" - the leader on the first course I attended told us we should go into the woods and fields armed with several essential items.

First and foremost a basket - fungi do not do well in plastic bags.   Then a decent knife so that you can raise the mushroom from below the soil.  A toothbrush, or other small brush to clean off the worst of the woodland debris before taking them home, and a good small guide.   Last of all, a handbag sized pocket mirror.   We gawped at that.  Why on earth?  "Because", he explained, "you do not always want to pick the mushroom, but you do want to be able to see underneath so that you can identify it by the gill shape and colour..."

Peter has all of these, plus a nifty little camera for on the spot photos.  

The rather large knife jammed into the top of his trousers is a tribute to another course tutor who insisted on leaping across large logs and fallen tree trunks brandishing what could only be described as a scimitar.   When at rest, he also thrust it into his trousers.....

And so to the snow scene.   

This too was very simple to make.   You take a photo frame and remove the back for the moment. Cut a wide strip of card, the length to fit the perimeter of the inside of the frame, and the width to the depth that you would like your scene. Glue it into the frame and then glue what was the back of the frame onto the back of the card.

Oops, hang on a moment, it's better to decorate both the card and the backdrop first, before gluing it all together.   But it really is that simple and most of us have redundant photo frames lying around at home.

I'm afraid I haven't any photos from complete scratch because I already had a frame which had housed another scene so I did do what it is easier not to, which is paste  the new backdrops into an already constructed box.

The sky round the sides  is real life-sized wallpaper and the church at the back, as every Czech person reading this will know, is from one of the wonderful annual calendars featuring the work of Josef Lada.  I have been collecting them for many years and have some plans in mind for using a few more images in the future....

Once the frame has been glued together then you have to build a little platform to carry the scene.   Very easy if it is going to be a snowscene because clearly that's exactly what polystyrene ceiling tiles were made for.   And I was quite impressed with the effect of grey paint on a rather more pobbly one.   Just like a drystone wall....

A bit of white painted moss down the sides to hide the inevitable gaps and time for the snowman and snow balls to make an appearance.   More polystyrene for the balls..... 

and a cake decoration snowman plus a few cake decoration trees.... 

Then out come the children to play - they too have been in my collection a very long time - and another scene can take its place in the display window.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into how easy it can be to create a miniature scene and that you will join me next weekend for the last blog post before 2014 arrives.

In the meantime I hope you have a peaceful run up to Christmas, enjoying the preparations, listening to lots of Christmas music and singing along as well.   Thank you for continuing to follow my journey in Small Worlds.