Preparing for the overhaul...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Introduction to Plant-Making

Hi.  So, for a variety of reasons, I've had to downsize--and simplify--my crafting operations.  Which had actually turned out to be great, because it's led me to discovering something new that under other circumstances I never would've had the courage to try: plant making.  At first, I was held back by a) the fact that paper crafts intimidate me and b) there really isn't a lot of readily available information out there.  Unlike in the rest of the art world, where people pretty much have the confidence to share techniques, a lot of miniaturists seem to be a little...less into sharing.  Which is unfortunate, but a subject for a different post.

There are some kits out there, and some leaf sheets and things that you can purchase from a variety of different suppliers, and I've tried them but with generally disappointing results.  So this is my own technique that I've been developing--and am still perfecting, more posts to follow--that uses computer paper, a mouse pad (retro!), craft paint, a high quality printer, and some scissors.

First, as far as creating the leaves, there are a couple of things you can do.  You can just paint paper and then cut or punch out some leaves (Hanky Panky makes some really nice leaf punches) or, if you're feeling ambitious, you can get crafty with some pictures of leaves and PhotoShop.  Which is what we did.  My better half is the computer savvy one.  Whatever you do, before you paint, spray both sides of your paper with two fine coats of Matte spray.  I use Krylon.  

Then, if you're using a leaf sheet--someone else's or one you made yourself--paint both sides before you cut anything out!  Paint the back an opaque color, or a mix of different colors, and then paint the front with a wash.  Just enough to tint the paper, not enough to obscure the design.  This will serve two purposes: soften the lines and make them more natural, and make the little white bits when you cut out your leaves less noticeable.

Me, cutting out some peperomia leaves.
I like to keep all my different colored leaves together.  Here, I've done the same leaves, one with a more yellowish wash and one with a more greenish wash.  Most varieties of plants come in a bunch of sub-varieties and even within the same variety, there's a lot of variation based on sun exposure, soil content, etc.

The main tools here are a mouse pad, to shape the leaves on, and the same Kemper tools you use for polymer clay.  I have a couple small/extra small double-ended ball styluses, here.  I have a few other sizes as well, but these seem to work the best for me.  Our local craft store, such as it is, carries virtually nothing anyone would want so I've gotten most of this stuff on Amazon--and gotten some very good deals, too!

These leaves came out super blue in a lot of the pictures, I have no idea why.

Embossed versus non-embossed.
What I did to shape the leaves was first press an intent in the part of the leaf where the stem attaches, score over the main veins and then flip it over and crimp the edge of the leaf on the reverse.  I found it easiest to use both styluses at the same time, one in each hand.

Some leaves that are done.

Now I cut some stems.  I didn't really know what I was doing the first few times, so I cut the stems way too long--about three inches each.  Closer to two is more than sufficient, at least for such a short plant as this.  Experiment!

Green-coated floral wire.
 Then I dipped the tip of each "stem" first into some white tacky glue and then into some superglue.  The brand I've been using, that I'm very happy with, is Vibra-Tite Instant Superglue.  My better half purchased it and has generously donated it to the cause.  After the stems were dry, I touched up the edges of the leaves with the same paint I used on the back.

You can use Reynold's Wrap for anything.
My leaves, hanging out in some floral wire until I need them.
Then I took them outside into the fresh air...
Then my teenage, er, "decorating" skills came in handy.  I used gloss spray, because these leaves in particular tend to be quite shiny in real life.
One of the finished products in a Clive Brooker mossy pot.

Then, I made another peperomia, since I had a bunch of leftover leaves.  Indeed, I have even more leaves but I'm planning on using them as ground cover in another project--stay tuned, more pictures (hopefully) to come in the next few days.  This time, I used a larger pot and, after scouring the internet for inspiration pictures, decided to make it a little wider.  I put some Paper Clay in the bottom and, about halfway through sticking in the stalks, realized that the white was going to be visible and so painted the top with burnt umber craft paint.  So I recommend doing that before you start!

Again, for some reason, this came out looking really blue--I blame my halogen work lamp.
Sometimes, once the plant was getting a little more "fluffy," I found it easiest to place the stems into the Paper Clay with tweezers.

So that's it, to begin with!  More is coming; I'm currently working on some potted trees, and on a few other smaller potted plants.  I haven't really gotten into flowers yet, but as one of my projects is a dwarf lilac tree (we have one outside, near our screen porch, so I look at it a lot and always think how lovely it is) I'll have to!

Questions?  Thoughts?  Suggestions?

Thursday, September 12, 2013


This is my first mini plant effort:

After having, not the greatest success with other people's leaf sheets, techniques, etc, I decided to experiment a little and make my own.  I've produced a couple of plants since this, and I think the learning curve is fairly steep, but it's still definitely very much a work in progress and a learning experience.  I'll talk more about my techniques if anyone's interested...if I still have any readers!

I hope everyone reading this is doing well.

Where I've Been

So clearly, it's been a long time since I've posted.

Things have, in the so-called "real world," been rather busy.  Sometimes in a good way, and sometimes in a very bad way.  We had a death in the family, and some illness.  I, myself, have been very ill but am recovering now.  My husband and son are doing well.  My son is now walking and talking and doing all kinds of exciting things.  We moved!  I downsized my craft area, out of necessity, and so learned an entirely new miniature skill set.  Or, rather, am learning.

My son in his new chair!

Where we were.

Where we are now.

My craft supplies have a smaller, more organized home now...

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Post About Nothing

I've finally finalized a design I really like for the library...the first was lame and the second, as it turned out, wouldn't work in my space.  I'm hoping to post pictures soon, but since in the process of discovery I've used up a couple of key supplies...there's a delay.  On that front, actually, I've been having some very pleasant correspondence with Green Gables Dollhouse, which has been supplying the most recent part of this adventure.

I'm also trying to decide how, if at all I want to use my awesome grasscloth wallpaper.

Hopefully soon, too, I'll be ready for the big reveal as far as the living room ceiling.

Jackson was Yoda for Halloween.
On a final note, a question: does anyone have any good suggestions for "how to" books on flower and plant making?  Apparently Pepperwood Miniatures offers "how to" books of their own, which is really exciting considering the quality of their work, but they don't seem to respond to email.  I've tried several times, unsuccessfully, to contact them.  I'd really like to try my hand at plants (hello, greenhouse!) but I'm pretty inexperienced in this area.  And while there are some promising-looking kits out there, none of them are really for the plants I need.

How's everyone else?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thanks Everyone!

Thank you all, so much, for your excellent advice re: my lighting issues, and for your support in general!  I really appreciate it!  I did, finally--delaying dinner somewhat, I'm sorry to report--figure out what I was doing wrong, and it had to do, actually (as I suspected it might) with the terminal block itself.  I intend to do a post on this later on but, for now, all I have to say is wow, the Cir-Kit direction manual sucks.  The writing, and the actual diagrams, convey two different things; success came when I examined the latter while ignoring the former.  A variety of different tie-off combinations finally yielded success and, at least in my own mind, a logical explanation.

There's not a whole lot I can do, lighting-wise, until the rest of my lights come so I've moved on to some of the interior built-ins.  Tonight, I started on the library.  Jim is also doing some drawings for me, which will hopefully be readable by a laser cutter (I have a vision for the living room).

I needed a break from stone, stone and more stone, and from the exterior in general.  Tonight, Jim made me a beverage where the "secret ingredient" was my son's baby food.  He's now happily smearing it on his face (mangoes) as I write this.  Oh, for shame.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


So I'm trying round wiring for the first time.

Or not.

I'm fairly experienced with tape wire, and have never had any major problems.  However, it's not the most durable system on earth, and it can be hard to hide the tape.  So I thought I'd try round wire instead.  In theory, it doesn't seem that difficult.

However, I cannot get anything to work.

Usually, I have some idea of what I'm doing wrong.  This time, I don't.  I feel utterly defeated.  I'm not sure if it's how I'm wrapping the terminal block (a process for which there are no useful diagrams), how I'm soldering the connections (I don't think it's that), etc etc etc.  I've also realized that, alarmingly, I have no idea how to test the circuit!  Oh, for tape wire, where you just stick it in.

Any suggestions?

Copyright: My Two Cents

One of my favorite cases in law school involved the "Dead Dog" tee: the eponymous cafe's iconic "Black Dog" turned upside down.  You know, dead.  They sued, and Marblehead's own U.S. District Chief Judge Joseph Tauro dismissed the case.  Not only does he hail from my hometown, Judge Tauro (who also ruled, in 2010, that the federal ban on equal marriage was unconstitutional) has a sense of humor!  He wrote a little poem about "black dogs, dead dogs and dead hogs," using it to illustrate the legally salient point: people weren't apt to confuse "Dead Dog" with "Black Dog."  Parodies are legal.

The issue is one of intent: are you trying, in essence, to benefit from someone else's hard work?  The Black Dog Cafe became famous through its owners' hard work (and, like Marblehead's Stowaway Sweets, through some minor presidential intervention).  Admire them all you want, but you can't--legally, anyway--ride on their coattails.  Which, really, is where the legal gray area lies and the attempts to define "parody" begin.  Peter Hall wasn't trying to steal market share from the Black Dog Tavern; his tees were geared toward a different market entirely.  And as someone who lives in a tourist trap, myself, trust me: there's plenty of us who'd like some "anti-tourist" memorabilia.

But to the extent that parody is legal, outright imitation most certainly is not.  Parody is only legal to the extent that it's obviously not imitation.  Once you've ranged out of the patently absurd and into the dark forest of "if"--where you're even courting the possibility that someone could mistake your work for theirs--you're breaking the law.  Depending on what, exactly, you're doing you could be charged with a variety of civil penalties--and crimes.  If you're making use of someone else's work (or name, or reputation) for financial gain, then, depending on the facts of the case and your particular jurisdiction, it could be fraud.  And fraud, believe me, is very serious.

I was really disappointed to see that Brae, an artisan and blogger I admire greatly, is suffering from an apparently really egregious case of plagiarism.  Whoever said "imitation is the highest form of flattery" never got ripped off.  There's nothing flattering about discovering that someone's stolen your work.  It's a violation.

I've dealt with my own copyright issues; I mention one miniatures-related experience in my "FAQ" section and, recently, someone I thought was my friend sold some revealing pictures of me.  They were from my wedding album (which covered everything from "getting ready" to "finally leaving"), digital files she had access to because, at the time, I thought she'd earned my trust.  Particularly sad was the fact that the unsuspecting third party thought they were purchasing legally licensed ad copy.  Had we chosen to make more of an issue of it than we did (I was just happy to see the photographs gone), they--despite their ignorance--might have been in some trouble.

It's not cool to steal from people.  Even if nobody can prove anything, even if you skate off, scott free, into the sunset, you're still a loser.  Reputation is everything.  I'm all for forgiving and forgetting, but I saw some things in law school that changed my opinion of certain people forever.  I might get a beer with them, but I'd never risk recommending them to a potential client.

Anyway, I'm getting off my soapbox now.  As you might have guessed, the fact that I talk for a living isn't always a good thing.  But anyway, since this does touch directly on what I do all day--and, gods forbid, by way of stating the obvious this is not legal advice--I really felt like I had to say something.  I try (and fail) not to editorialize overmuch, but dishonesty is one of those things that gets me really angry.  And I can hardly complain about the fact that it happens if I don't speak out against it once in awhile, now can I?