Preparing for the overhaul...

Monday, June 25, 2012

What Happened To My Studio?

I'll post pictures, once I have everything more or less back together.

Right now, I'm still trying to restock things.  Having lost my studio and all its accumulated detritus, I've been forced to really think about what I need--which has been a good thing.  Surprisingly, I need more than I thought!  I'd hoped to keep things relatively minimalist from now on, so as to focus on specific current projects.  And, ultimately, I think that'll still happen.  We'll see.

For my (not quite a) Lincoln Home, I intend to make as much, myself, as possible.  In my spare moments, I've been daydreaming about various woodworking plans for fireplaces, wainscoting, etc.  But, nobody ever goes it alone, and I've also been--in preparation for actually getting going--purchasing from the following vendors: Sue Cook Miniatures, Les Chinoiseries, Houseworks (for strip wood) and Chrysnbon.  I'll have a better sense of what wood I'll need for the molding, once my design is finalized.

I also have a few future purchases planned, especially for tile--but I'm still working out what I'll need.

I'm also looking for design inspiration--especially for furniture--as my budget doesn't permit some of the pieces I really want.  So, instead, I'm going to learn how to make these things, myself.  And hopefully, if I succeed, sharing my newly found techniques.

Who are your favorite suppliers?

Anyway, on to my story.  As you already know, it was an eventful winter.  One of the issues we dealt with was rain.  And flooding.  And, at the end of last year, discovering that our foundation needed some pretty extreme repairs.  So much for the home inspector!  Anyway, as a result of this combination, we got lots of water--and wild animals, some very large--in our basement.  Cue destruction of property.

Ultimately, I gave up and admitted the sad truth, that it was a total loss.

After several months of (unrelated) misery, and a renewed conviction--on both mine and my husband's part--that we deserved to enjoy our lives, we set to work repairing it.  And, being mindful of creating a studio for this specific space, rather than trying to cram everything I already had, in my much, much larger studio (at our old house) into a Hobbit hole (which would be our new house), I taught myself a few organizational tips:
  • Label everything.  Having lots of bins, organizers, etc only works if you can actually find what's inside.  One survivor was my storage cabinet.  It's a great idea in theory, but not so much in practice...unless you label each drawer.  Now I finally know what I have in there.  I also labeled my storage boxes.  One HUGE loss was my collection of Al Chandronnait barrels, bins and boxes, many of which aren't made anymore.  I'm still really sad about that.
  • A place for everything, and everything in its place.  If there isn't room for it, you don't need it!  I have a 3-drawer Rubbermaid wheeling cart, which I LOVE, because the drawers are large enough to hold a standard-size sheet of dollhouse flooring or wallpaper.  I can lay everything out nice and flat, and keep my piles of goodies protected from dust, cats, etc.  The other drawers have been devoted to kits.
  • DON'T accumulate!  It's all gone now, but I can't tell you how many hundreds of dollars I wasted on wood strips, trims, etc I never used.  I bought it thinking, this is pretty, I'll use it somewhere.  Uh huh.  So unless it's truly unique, or limited edition, stay away!  Having one of every kind of trim under the sun does not, contrary to popular belief, make completing your project easier.  Half the time, I swear, pawing through my disorganized piles slowed me down and confused me so badly that I ended up buying duplicates, anyway.
  • Throw out your scraps.  You don't need them and will never use them.
  • Don't try to do too many projects at the same time.
  • Invest in a cork board.  You can pin your inspirational pictures, design sketches, etc on there.
  • Always make room for your books.  Knowing how to create something in polymer clay is more important than having a huge pile of polymer clay handy, just in case you decide to do that project you've actually already forgotten how to do, because the class was last year and you've long ago lost your handout.
  • Keep your handouts, etc organized in a binder.
  • Don't ever let it get to the point where you're tripping over a sad morass of sawdust, scraps and howling cats as the printables rain down on you like snow.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Where's the Flocked Wallpaper?

I guess I just love fuzzy things.

But how come no one makes it anymore?  I had quite a nice selection in my (old) studio, which, like the space itself, has gone the way of the dodo.  I was so sad to find out it was gone, and have been searching for more ever since.  As I've absolutely no idea how one might go about making flocked wallpaper--at least, not without serious supplies--this is really pretty frustrating.

Know of any (reliable) sources?

And what else do you wish you could find?  Also on my own personal wishlist are...
  1. Furniture pieces (such as Houseworks manufactures in basswood) in hardwood.  I'd so like the opportunity to order mahogany cabriole legs, splats, etc.  For us inferior woodworkers, who lack the skills to create cabriole legs ourselves, this would truly be delightful.
  2. Better tiles.  I loathe plastic tile sheets; they never come out quite right for me.  But my dollhouses would, I'm certain, love a delft tile surround on at least one fireplace.
  3. Better kits for kitchen furniture--like ice boxes.  As I lack the funds to purchase one of Ken Byers' lovely ice boxes (complete with period authentic hardware...drool), I find I'm stuck.  Chrysnbon makes a nice ice box kit but, of course, it's plastic.  Although I'm planning on experimenting with said plastic to see if I can make it look like anything, well, to be honest, I'm not optimistic.
  4. Better dollhouse bathrooms--in kit form or otherwise.
  5. Historically accurate wall-to-wall carpet.  You know, with an actual design on it.  If you don't believe me, check out pictures of Lincoln's (real) Springfield Home, etc.  This stuff was in common usage for quite some time, as the quality of the wood used on the floors themselves was so bad.  But it was, of course, patterned--usually with something of an oriental look.  Like hotel carpet today.
  6. Better carpets generally.
  7. Windows with actual window panes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

NOT the Abraham Lincoln Dollhouse!

I think Real Good Toys' Lincoln Springfield Home kit is probably the best dollhouse kit on the market.  The detail is really spectacular, the proportions are excellent and, perhaps best of all, it lends itself really well to kit-bashing.  Of course, there are many other wonderful homes out there, but, for me at least, they each have some significant flaw.  Mostly, this is to do with proportions--both internal and external.  It makes no sense for a (supposed) grand Victorian manse, or Georgian palace, to have 8' ceilings, a tiny kitchen, and one staircase.  Also, too, there's the problem of simple size: big is good, too big is horrendous--especially when the space at hand isn't terribly well utilized.

This is, perhaps, my problem with modern architecture as a whole.  Which is probably why we live in an aged heap, ourselves.  But anyway, moving on...

I loved the Lincoln kit the first time I saw it...and then I was inspired by another pair of miniaturists, Paul and Dianne Trautt of Saint Charles, IL.  If you google yourselves and see this, guys, I'm a fan!  The Trautts built a wonderful, historically accurate replica of the real Lincoln Springfield Home using this kit as a base.  You can read more about it here.

Their biggest inspiration, to me, was in demonstrating a way to (finally) overcome a challenge I'd pondered on and off for years: how to make a Federal or late (American) Victorian-style home with a back wing.  You see this form all over New England, in grand homes and farmhouses alike.  I'm a big fan of historical accuracy, and the lack of extra wings (with their attendant kitchen placement, maids' rooms, etc) always bothered me.

I hope the Trautts don't mind too much that I'm stealing their idea.

Although, in my case, it's to build something entirely different.  Rather than the Lincolns' home, I'm replicating one build almost wholly in my imagination.  I've wanted to do something late Victorian for awhile, and, here, feel like I finally have my opportunity.  I'm altering quite a bit of the detail, both inside and out.  The proportions (and, in some cases, functions) of the rooms will be different, I'm adding a small formal garden--to wit, I'm enlisting a friend of mine with better power tools to build me a base--and, ultimately, it's intended to be a very different sort of house.  Much of Victorian "style" was pretty tacky, a fact which I find liberating! 

This is the floor plan of the actual full-sized house:

Abraham Lincoln's real house, and the only home he ever owned.

In my version--I'll try to post pictures soon, so this description makes more sense--I've lengthened the back wing, switched the rear parlor (which is now a small library) and the dining room, and increased the size of the dining room (which still connects directly to the kitchen).  The library is, too, a comparatively smaller and cozier space.  One of the things I don't find especially enchanting about the original house is that all the rooms are basically the same size.  The original dining room is very small.

I also reduced the number of bedrooms, possibly because I find decorating the same room over and over quite dull.  The boys' bedroom has shrunk and become a bathroom, the guest bedroom, thus, has become the master bedroom on account of the bathroom, and Mary's bedroom has become a children's bedroom.  Throwing historical convention aside, my dolls are quite friendly with each other and share a bedroom, modern-style.  The maid's bedroom is still there, as is the back staircase (although I've changed its shape), and the trunk room has become a work room for sewing, etc.  My dolls are upper middle class dolls, but certainly not gentry.  They have one servant, live on a small piece of land, and are in trade.  So, naturally, they do many things for themselves--such as sew their own clothes.

I'm still working on what the outside colors should be; if you have any suggestions for a scheme, then do by all means share it!

My other project, currently, which I'm also just beginning now is an American Colonial saltbox.  Again, I'm kit-bashing.  Historically accurate colonial house kits are very hard to find, which is odd, considering the fact that they lend themselves quite well to the typical design conventions of low ceilings, small rooms, etc.  One wonderful kit is the Lyndeborough, from Earth and Tree Miniatures.  I have this same kit in 1:12 scale and 1:24 scale.  I made on in 1:24 scale, previously, for a customer.  As I'm now doing this purely as a hobby, and refusing to sell any of my work, I feel liberated to create exactly the home I want.

My initial inspirations for this house--which isn't, design-wise, as far along--are the so-called "Salem Witch House", which is comparatively nearby, and several of the houses in Colonial Williamsburg.  I've never made a true colonial before--always ending up, somehow, with something a bit too Federal--so this should be interesting.  Right now, although I don't have the funds to purchase too much, I'm sourcing materials.

Thoughts?  Ideas?  What's everyone else working on?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

And I'm Back!


It's been almost a year, hasn't it?  You've all probably forgotten about me.  For those of you who maintain blogs, I haven't forgotten about you!  I've been keeping up with your projects, and greatly enjoying the progress.

So where have I been? 

In the past (give or take) ten months, I've...
  • had an extended hospital stay (but am now well on the way to recovery),
  • given birth to our lovely son, who is perfect,
  • lost my great aunt, with whom I was very close,
  • helped my husband through his own health issues,
  • and suffered the loss of my little "studio", if you can call it that.  Which, especially in light of everything else, has been very difficult.  No miniatures to help me relax, or take my mind off things!
 As things have gotten back onto more of an even keel, my husband and I have been able to start rebuilding my little workspace.  Of course, you're all aware, tools and supplies are very expensive so it's been slow going.  But the way I look at it is, now I'm free of all the old bits and bobs I'd kept, hoping to use some day but, secretly, knowing would always be junk.  We are, as it were, starting afresh.

This tabula rasa has given me the opportunity to really focus on what, precisely, I want to build.  I won't be finishing my old projects, as they've been lost.  HOWEVER, I WILL be starting a couple of new projects!  I'm really quite excited and, already, have started collecting a few supplies.  My beautiful Les Chinoiseries wallpaper arrived yesterday, which was quite thrilling.  My husband, of course, obediently looked at all of it with me.

Over the next few days (weeks?), I'll hopefully be describing these projects, and getting everyone--including myself--back up to date.  

I hope all's well with you, out there in internet land.