Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dole cupboard

I made a little hanging dole cupboard yesterday.

A dole or livery cupboard was used either to store food in the private areas of a medieval or early Tudor house for the use of the family, or was used to distribute left over food to the poor, usually in a church or in a great house.

It's related to an aumbry, which was also used for food storage.  Both pieces of furniture have piercings or spindles so that air can circulate.  In fact dole cupboard, aumbry,  almery cupboard and livery are often used interchangeable.  Some sit on the floor, and others hang on the wall.

It's very rough because I really bodged it together, mostly out of balsa wood, which guarantees that a piece is going to be extra rustic :)  But the door actually opens and closes and I like the effect when it's hung in the bedchamber.

There's one of the beautiful cushions Flora gave me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Stairwell and kitchen hallway

I've been moving my workroom around, and I've finally got the three pieces of the Castle off my worktable and onto the perimeter of the room, so I can wire them all together.   I used my first homemade sconce to light up the minstrel's gallery in the Great Hall, so I moved the lantern that used to be there into the stairwell/kitchen hallway.  I also made another side table for the hall.  In medieval kitchens there would often be a room devoted to the final dressing of dishes for presentation at table -- I'm imagining this little space performing something of that function!

Here it is at night:

And here's the kitchen this morning:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Medieval / Tudor door tutorial

For the last couple of days I've been working on one of the three (possibly four) doors I need to make for the ground floor of the Castle's kitchen wing.  This is the first time I've made a door using boards (all my others have been just solid pieces of wood scored to look like boards).   I took some pictures of the process in case it's of help to anyone else out there.

First of all I traced my door opening and made a pattern.  Then I prepared the raw materials: five 7" lengths of 1/2" x 3/8" dimensional basswood strips.  I whittled each one a little along each edge, front and back, taking immense care to make them uneven :)  Each purchased piece of basswood had a bold, black barcode printed onto it -- I whittled those off, which made the surface of two of the lengths look even more hand-hewn.

I glued the lengths together and let the assembly dry.

The next step was to cut the curve for the top according to my pattern, which I did, with my craft knife. I made the horizontal door braces from balsa, because I wanted to carve them more heavily.  I took the face off the balsa pieces to make them thinner (braces should be thinner than the door boards) and then beveled the top edges.  I glued them in place.

After sanding, I started painting the door with a watery mixture of raw umber and burnt sienna -- heavy on the umber.  I added a little more sienna for some of the boards, a little more umber for others.   I brushed on some black in places, too.  This is supposed to be a relatively new door -- an old door should be darker and more battered.

Then I varnished it with clear, water based varnish mixed with some more umber and black and let it dry.

Time for the final details -- nails and a handle.   I made nail heads out of gunmetal head pins by cutting  them short, pressing them through the balsa wood braces by hand and then pressing them home into the bass wood door with something hard.   You could paint your head pins black first, to make them look more like iron, if you wanted to.

I made the door handle from the bar part of a jewellery-making toggle set (I make jewellery so I have a lot of this stuff hanging around ... I was digging through my gunmetal finding box for the head pins and saw the toggle :))  It's glued into a little slot in the door.  Again, you could paint it black for iron.

That's about it. The door won't really be opening and closing much, it's mostly for show, so I'll tape it in place at the back of the kitchen, like so...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My William and Mary room :)

I've collected so many things circa 1670 - 1710 for the William and Mary house that I'm using the ground floor room in the Castle tower for them.  They seem to be happier all together, and I like looking at them and imagining the building we're going to make for them!

Every miniature has a story or a meaning, now.  When I look at this scene, I see the settee by Kris Compass, the blue and white delft-ware that Ewa sent me from Poland, the silver decanter that Flora gave me and the dummy board that Susanne made, as well as the clock kit that one of the girls made at Knit Wits, the chinoiserie secretary I painted, the needlework I stitched, the hydrangeas I made .... It's so full of memories, and I've only been at this such a short time!  I can only imagine how layered with meaning are the mini- scenes and houses of those of you who've been doing this for decades :)

My favourite artist has always been Holbein the Younger. I love portaits more than any other artistic genre, and I feel that Holbein's technical mastery and his insight into human beings made him able to show me real people, bridging the centuries between their world and our own.  I remember the first time I went to the National Portrait Gallery in London, and saw some of his work in the flesh, as it were -- I went to swoon over the anonymous portrait of Richard III (did anyone else have crushes on historical figures? :)) and eventually came face to face with Christina of Denmark and The Ambassadors.  Amazing.

Anyway, when I saw this miniature version of Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling by Euro Minis I had to order her (from eBay) -- and I had just the right frame for her in my frame collection! (Sorry the focus is on the dresser and not the foreground, but I like the fact that Gentleman with a Cane is peeking around the corner at Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling ... :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Current photos of the Great Hall - June 2010

I rolled up my sleeves and did some wiring this morning, and tidied up the Great Hall, so I want to show you what things look like right now.

(The empty window holes are still driving me crazy -- I MUST do something about them ... grr ...)

I hung the new chandelier, and I wired in my homemade rustic bracket sconce, and it works!  Huzzah!

Here's the aumbry -- I haven't put on the hinges and the little doodad that holds the door closed because ... I lost them :(  So the door is just wedged in there :)  But I'm really pleased with the way the finishing worked out.  It's mahogany, and I didn't want it to look like mahogany, because that's just not even close to being period.  So I stained it with oak, which toned down the red, and I varnished it with a mixture of varnish and some raw umber, and then I aged it a bit with some black brushed on, especially at the bottom.  It really brings out the extra rustic carving I did :)  I think Tom's fruit bowl looks super on top!  I'm really pleased that I bought the kit -- it was the most expensive single item I bought in England (30 GPB) but it's totally worth it for such an iconic piece.

Oh, and a package arrived for me yesterday from eBay seller rowan307 -- a set of hand decorated wooden tableware suitable for Medieval/Tudor settings.  I really like it!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Miniature 1:12 scale delphinium tutorial

Master mini flower maker, Tallulah Belle, has shared some very useful tips about making paper flowers in the comments section -- especially about forming the flowers, glues and gluing techniques! She also regularly shares great information on her blog :) Thanks, Tallulah Belle!

Here's what you need:
  1. a sheet of paper (I used ordinary pink copier paper).  Delphiniums tend to be pink, blue (both pale and deep), purple and white.
  2. glue (I used Aleen's Clear Gel Tacky Glue because I'm a glue freak and happen to have it around, but white glue would work fine)
  3. tweezers (I couldn't find my needle nose tweezers, but they're the best and most precise)
  4. an eraser or mouse pad -- something with enough "give" in it that it will let you shape the flower
  5. an embossing stylus or empty ballpoint pen (biro)
  6. 1/8" hole punch (that's about 3 mm) -- if you have a 1/8" flower or star punch that would be ideal, but the plain circular hole punch makes a pretty good delphinium :)
  7. NOT SHOWN -- green florist's wire, fairly fine
  8. NOT SHOWN -- bugle beads -- small tube beads -- clear, dark green or the colour of your flower
  9. NOT SHOWN -- either a maple leaf punch (about half an inch wide) or be prepared to cut a few  leaves by hand :)
  10. NOT SHOWN -- dark green paper, or paper painted dark green

I painted my paper with acrylic paint -- a slightly darker pink and a slightly lighter pink.  I could have make my painting more bold and contrasting.  Or I could have skipped it entirely :)

Punch out some holes.  I didn't count how many I used -- 30?  something like that.  I'll count next time :)

Shape each little flower on the eraser with the stylus or pen.  You want to press the stylus into the centre of the paper circle so that it cups up.  You could make tighter cups for the top of the delphinium and looser ones for the bottom, for a touch of rigorous realism :)

Ah!  Here's the wire and the bugle beads!  I used a piece of wire about three inches long, and glued five bugle beads on it.  You can vary the number of beads you add from four to five -- it will keep your delphiniums from being too uniform.  Let this dry.

Start applying the little florets to the stem.  You can either dip each floret in your glue as you go, or smear glue on the top part of the stem and just press the florets into it.  I tend to be a dipper.

Work from the top down, row by row.   You can jiggle the florets around quite a bit while the glue is still wet.

At some point you want to add florets up at the top.  If you leave a little wire sticking up at the very top, above the top bead, you can add florets so they taper up to a point.  Very realistic :)

Punch a few dark green maple leaves (these were out of mulberry paper).  Mess with them a little on your eraser with your stylus so that they curve a bit.

Glue them in place underneath the flower.  This is absolutely the hardest part of making this flower -- getting the damned leaves to stick in place!

After having made a bouquet's worth of these, I think I'd like to try adding some extra details.  Some delphiniums have a contrasting centre to each small floret -- these seem to be either white or black.  (I've just learned that, in delphinium circles, these contrasting centres are called a "bee".  I learn something new every day :)  You could add a spot of contrast to each tiny circle before you cup them into florets, or you might try adding them to the finished flowers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mini delphiniums

When I was last in Toronto I picked up two discontinued delphinium kits (these were very old stock -- the company that made them no longer exists!) and I put them together over the last two evenings.  I'm going to post a tutorial on the basic method a little later, because I think it's a useful one for similarly constructed flowers, but I wanted to put up this photo, if only to have posted two days in a row :) 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tudor / Medieval wall light tutorial

I've been longing to try to make a light fixture for ages, and today I just knuckled down and did it!  It's a little crude, and I know I can make it better, but I thought it might help someone else attempt something if I wrote down the steps and showed the results :)

Here's what I used:  a ready-made 1:12 scale eaves bracket (but you could use any piece of wood or a decorative corbel or something similar), a bead cap and a screw-in candle bulb complete with wire.  I stained the bracket walnut.

I drilled a hole through the bracket.  Well, in the case of this bracket, because it has a hole in the middle of it, I drilled two holes -- one at an angle from the top of the bracket into the hole and another straight in from the back into the hole.  This actually was quite convenient because it meant I could use a rather short drill bit :)  If I had a solid piece of wood, I would have used a longer drill bit and just drilled diagonally from the top of the bracket and out the back.

I painted the bead cap black and glued it on the top of the bracket, over the hole.

I was a little bit nervous about how fiddly this next step would be, but it went swimmingly enough.  I removed the plug from the light bulb assembly, cut the ends of the wire off cleanly, straightened the wire and pushed it through the hole from the top.  When the wire got into the centre cut-out, I used a thin knitting needle to make it turn the corner and kept pushing.  Voilà!  The wire obligingly exited the bracket at the back :)  I'm sure that the next one I make, it will be possible to hear me swearing all the way from Canada!

And here's the socket in place -- a bit gloopy from the glue, but just as planned.  You can see a bit of white wire coming through  the centre hole of the bracket, but that's easily fixed.

You can hardly see the wire now, because I've pushed a little glue up to the top of the cut out hole, glued the wire in place and painted it black!

Now to make the light socket look more like a candle. I would have used a bit of drinking straw, if I had had any around.  Instead, I rolled a piece of light card tightly around a thin paintbrush, tested it for fit, and then glued it together to form a tube.  When dried, I slipped the tube over the socket.  I may add some decorative white glue blobs to represent candle wax (considering I leave white glue blobs whereever I go, it would be nice to have some that were MEANT to be there :))

And here's the fixture stuck to the wall with Museum Putty!  Of course I need to decide where it's going to live, drill a hole, glue the fixture to the wall, refit the plug, etc., but I'm pretty pleased that I've finally actually made my own light fixture, blobby though it may be!

Now I need to learn to solder!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Such lovely gifts from Ewa and Susanne!

Yesterday brought two very special packages in the post.

Susanne from Past Mastery sent me the prize I won in her contest -- a miniature dummy board!

 Isn't he gorgeous?  He's "Gentleman with cane", painted by Sue after a full-sized dummy board dated about 1690, and he's PERFECT for my next big project, the William and Mary house!  Thank you, thank you, Sue -- he's just amazing!

(If you don't know Sue's blog, please check it out, especially if you're interested in the period between 1600 and 1800.  Or if you like art :) Or great stories!)

And I got a package full of gifts from Ewa in Poland, aka The Old Maid, who writes one of my favourite blogs, The Sunny Hours.

First were these two beauties -- without a doubt the most gorgeous blue and white china in my small but growing collection!  Look at how perfect they are!

And she sent me a package full of WW II era British memorabilia.  Dearest Ewa, these are amazing!  Among the goodies there's a book for recognizing aircraft, and there are two actual decks of real tiny cards -- one with world leaders at the time of the war, and one of British bombers!  I have to tell you why this is so perfect.  The bomber cards are ideal, because a month ago I found a tiny model of a Bristol Blenheim for the pub and had already decided that the landlord would be an ex-WW II bomber pilot!  Thank you so much for your kindness and thoughtfulness!

Now I'd better get to work on my own gifts for Caterina's Holiday Swap :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New followers -- hello!

Welcome to our newest followers!

Miriam Sans is a Barcelona artist who blogs here.

Ara is the proprietor of the Addams Family Mini-Mansion, and also has an Etsy shop, Bentley House Miniatures

Tebbina is a new blogger, whose miniature work is in my favourite period, the Renaissance!  You can follow her at Tebbinas Traum.

Tippaliisa is a Finnish blogger and minaturist.

AuntB lives in Ohio and is building a miniature castle!  You can follow her progress at Castle in My Mind.

Finnish blogger Peikko blogs at Peikkoneidin tarinat.

Sylvia is a marvellous Dutch miniaturist whose English blog is at lotjesdollshouse.  She also has an Etsy shop.

 Paky is the lovely Spanish blogger who will be sending me miniatures for Cockerina's holiday swap!  Her lively and colourful home is Paquicheli's Blog!

There's also mairin,  Elis and bhdonnarose, for whom I cannot find blogs.  If you have sites and would like me to link to them, please let me know!

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to follow this blog.  We really appreciate your visiting here, at the Tudor Dollhouse Project :)

Cockerina's Holiday Swap!

Alright, I've got my partners for Cockerina's Holiday Swap :)  (I have to laugh whenever Google  attempts to translate your blog name, Caterina, because it comes out as "the minis of the cute female cocker :))

Paky is going to send me items for her vacation, and I'm going to send items for my vacation to Carolina!

I'm going on an (imaginary) vacation to museums, art galleries and opera houses, and I'm not sure at all what I'm going to make for Carolina!  She likes shabby chic and spooky things, though, so I'll probably keep to that theme :)  What will I do????

Thanks so much to Caterina for organizing this extravaganza!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Edwardian roombox -- with English purchases :)

It's a perfect June day -- bright, hot, not too much wind.  I'm running around all day looking after the opera festival (we're rehearsing Don Giovanni right now, in preparation for a four stop tour of Nova Scotia),  but I had to make a little mini time!  I took the mahogany pieces over to Mum's this afternoon and photographed the room box as it stands now:

All the castle's cats are still hanging out in Mum's roombox -- I think they find the Edwardian era warmer and more comfortable than the Tudor, and that matters a lot to felines.  I think Mum's terrier is a little offended that four cats are using up all the hearth!

It's amazing the difference all the accessories make to the place.  It looks much cosier and more like home now!

I've got to go take care of some musical business, but I'll be back later!
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