Preparing for the overhaul...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pink Bats and the Tortures of Job

The pink bats...I'll get to that.

The tortures of Job...well, maybe that's a teeny bit of an exaggeration.  But not much.  It's been a rough week with our non-accepting family.  Rather than blather on and on about the importance of tolerance and equality, let me just say that this has also been a golden opportunity to appreciate the people in my life who really matter.

And, in the meantime, I've been taking out my aggressions on these windows!  Please, please, LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.  I, um, am going to have to re-make some of the windows, because I ended up totally destroying them.  But, during this--process?--I at least figured out what not to do.  And I think the final result is pretty good.  It is, at least, better than my first (or fifth) attempt.

First, dude, here's what NOT to do.
  1. Don't seal your project with Krylon, if you've used Quick Grip to put it together.  It makes the seams dissolve.  Which, like, is not what's up.  I ended up having to re-glue everything with Aleen's Tacky Glue.
  2. Don't pay attention to the color of the still-wet modeling dust.  That's how you end up with pink bats.
  3. Use MUCH LESS modeling dust than you think you need.  I'd only ever used it on rather flat, uninteresting shapes, and so didn't have much of a sense of how much detail you actually lose when you put on a (slightly) thicker coat.  My first attempt at cladding the window stripped it of all its details.  Like with everything else, I guess, tons and tons of super thin coats win the day.
So anyway...

First, I decided to change my window construction up a little bit.  Instead of putting the "glass" near the front and building up depth on the interior side, I decided to do the opposite.  It made for a more dramatic and, I think, realistic effect.  So I added 1/4" of depth to the inside, using strips of basswood and, where the window curves, 1/16" balsa.  I cut it across the grain, so it bent very easily.  After gluing it in place with Quick Grip and giving it a light sand, I covered the seam with a layer of DAP.  Personally, I like the kind that starts out pink and turns white as it dries.  This stuff is perfect for miniatures, because it has a very, very fine grain--like gypsum--and sands easily.

Ready for action!

This is the window, sans (additional) carving.
The first thing I did was carve in the "seams."  I used craft knife to score the lines, then widened them with a stylus.  Richard Stacey recommends scoring the lines after cladding, but I didn't find that this worked very well.  Maybe it works better on a simpler project, or maybe my skill is just lacking, but I wasn't satisfied with the realism of the result.

As far as realism goes, once again I owe a lot to my degree in medieval history!  Back in the day, when I was at university, I was really into "getting into the moment," and living the true experience.  Which, considering my other first was sociology, led to some interesting experiments!  Heh.  Anyway, I took a number of different classes, hoping to develop a better understanding of what life was actually like in the 1100's.  I slept outdoors, pickled lemons, ate mold, etc etc etc.  I also learned to make glass, and to create stained glass panels.  And one thing I learned was that with glass--and, to a lesser extent, with stone--you can't cut a true s-curve.  This is why real stained glass panels, and the windows that contain them, are assembled from such basic shapes.  It's an important limitation to keep in mind, and one a lot of artisans working with modern materials overlook.

After creating the "seams," I attached the "carving."  This little dude is made of Sculpey, and is by far the simplest of my planned (and, in some cases, partially finished) carvings.  It really helps, too, when you plan on making the same shape over and over, to make a mold.  Or, if you're not so inclined, there are tons of interesting molds for sale on Etsy.  This particular guy is actually part of a piece of jewelry.  I think he's supposed to be Aeolus, but I'm pretending he's a greenman.  He's also available for sale as a mold on Etsy (I think from, like, three different sellers), as are various other parts of the same piece.

I glued him on with Quick Grip, and let him set.
After my first disaster, I had the bright idea of underpainting.  In actual fact, I tried a number of different things: paint over modelling dust, paint under modelling dust, paint mixed with modelling dust.  Don't try that last one; you end up with pink bats.

This was supposed to be a terra cotta tile.  Don't worry, I'll make another one.

Anyway, a trip to Michael's (stone sample in hand) yielded a color that was actually a perfect match!  Which, another piece of brilliant advice I have is this: TEST THE ACTUAL COLOR!  Dude, the actual cladding mixture looks nothing like the dust in the packet.  The dust in the packet is a pleasant sort of dove gray color; mixed with a slurry of equal parts water and PVA (I used acid free, non-toxic bookbinder's glue), it turns an interesting sort of tannish green.  Don't get me wrong, I like it, and I think it looks bananas on a haunted house...but if I were trying to recreate Cinderella's castle, I'd be fairly annoyed.

So then I started painting my window...

His face is emerging!

I clamped it flat to dry, to minimize warp--although I still ended up having to add a strengthener in the back.

Then, after the tan dried, I brought out the details in the carving and the "seams" between the "stones" with a wash of black.  I actually did a couple of washes on the greenman's face--concentrating my black in places that'd end up holding coal dust, like his mouth--to bring out the differing planes as much as possible.

And let me tell you, by the time I'd gotten to this point I was really beginning to feel like Job.  As it is I'll have to remake several windows!  For awhile, I really wondered if I was experiencing--what?  Miniatures impotence?  It seemed like everything I tried worked worse than the last!

Then, finally, after letting the paint cure overnight, I was ready to apply the actual stone.

My son's teddy bear, and some liquid courage.

I tried to go really slowly, applying very fine, thin coats of "stone."

The back, before I decided to add a strengthener.

Almost there!
I did this over a couple of nights, allowing myself ample drying time.  Apart from everything else, I wanted to get a sense of what the "stone" looked like completely dry.  A few times, with earlier windows, I thought it was dry when it wasn't.

The actual window and the earlier, failed prototype side by side.

I was pretty amazed by the difference!  The window on the right (top) was a prototype that I kept abusing.  As you can see, using multiple thin coats really does make a difference.  You can preserve much more of the detail.

So I guess all that misery was worth it?
Finally, I tested the window in place to see whether I liked it.  I'm leaving it there, for now, until it's ready to get its "glass" and be installed.  Which is good because, in the meantime, I need to figure out what's going on in the third floor bedroom!  I'm still hung up on the--what?  Oxford grate?  I'm not really sure what the levitating fireplace is supposed to be about.

The (in my opinion) more thrilling carvings are on the porch, front door, and tower window.  Which are so not ready for pictures.  But, hopefully, I'll get there soon.



Michelle said...

What a triumph! They are amazing. I know from experience too that the modelling dusts can remove much of the finer detail, I've either opted to add only thin coats, or one thick coat (depending on what I am covering).

The 'Greemans' face I have seen before...I won't say where! Wonderful idea and I love it!

This is one amazing project and mini's are my source of peace from other stresses of life! :o)

Michelle :o))

FabShabbyRoses said...

Working on miniatures has saved my sanity from real life stresses a time or two! Your work is absolutely amazing! I enjoy following along with your project! Thanks so much for the sahring you do! Sincerely, Carolyn

About Me... said...

I love what your doing, so creative and just plain amazing!

When your done can you come over and work on my


Norma said...

Oh boy, a lot of work and a lot of trials and tribulations but what a stunning outcome!

Thanks for your note on my blog, yest it's my first degree - took me a long time to get around to it ;) Have applied for admission to Masters - call me crazy!!

C.J. said...

What are you studying? And, I think that's wonderful! I've always been glad I stuck it out and got an advanced degree. Especially when other things are less than charming, it's something you can always look back on and be proud of.

Giac said...

Hello C.J.,
So totally worth the frustration. That window is just wonderful. I love the finished piece. It might of been a lot of trial and erro, but as usual you are victorious.
Big hug,

otterine said...

Maybe the bats are albino? Is it wrong that I like your pink bat...but I get it, not for this project. :D Your end result turned out marvelous! A hint of fabulousness to come! Bravo!

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