I came across some photos of Charles Matton's work and had to go find out more about him. His "Boxes" are amazing! Each Box depicts an exquisite miniature recreation of a real or imagined location. Elaborate libraries, studios of Classical sculptors, rooms of famous writers - even simple bathrooms become works of art. With painstaking attention to detail Matton creates scenes that truly transport the viewer.
Matton, based in Paris, is well known in Europe, and his work is featured in museum collections in France and Japan. His box scenes were also the subject of a book, Charles Matton, published in 1991. Exhibitions in Paris, Venice and Tokyo have drawn crowds fascinated by his tiny detailed worlds.
Matton says, "I create two kinds of boxes: those whose purpose is to recreate an atmosphere that has delighted me, a memory whose existence I wish to perpetuate; and the more objective pieces that are the result of a detailed examination of the "realistic truth" of a certain place."
I wish I could go to Paris and see his work in person, but we'll have to settle for these photos. Visit his website to see even more!
This month we have another tutorial from Judy Kingsley of Chelsea, Quebec (check out her fabulous fireplace project that was previously featured.) Here she shows us how to create a beautiful slate-shingled roof using textured cardboard. Click on the photos for a larger view.
- Textured pulp cardboard, such as that used in egg cartons or in wine boxes to separate rows of bottles (you can get them from a wine store)
- Acrylic paints in brown, burnt umber, dark burnt umber, orange, off white, grey, lead grey, lichen grey, etc.
- Ruler, pencil, scissors, paint brushes
- Paper for guttering
Paint the cardboard in whatever base colour you want for your shingles. For slate a brown or grey base works best. While the paint is still wet, lightly brush on other colours in small areas. You want to avoid having an even colour on all the shingles or slates.
Let your cardboard dry completely. You can dry brush extra detail later.
Once dry, cut out the shingles, varying the length and width. Paint the edges so that the cardboard doesn't show. I also paint around the back edge because I like these old slates and shingles to lift up slightly and I don't want to see any unpainted cardboard.
Once the shingles are cut, mix them all in a pile so that you will be picking them out randomly.
Paint your roof the base colour you used for the shingles, so that any spaces between them will not show. Pencil in horizontal lines to follow for gluing on the shingles.
For gutters around dormers or chimneys, cut a narrow piece of paper a bit longer than what is needed and paint it lead grey. Let dry. Fold it in half lengthwise and glue one half along the dormer or the base of the chimney and the other half to the roof.
Glue the shingles one beside the other, starting from the bottom edge of the roof and working towards the top. Overlap each row slightly. Don't cover the guttering completely with the shingles. Leave the top row along the peak until last, after both sides of the roof have been done.
One side of the roof is finished!
View of a dormer window and roof edge.
After both sides of the roof are finished, cut narrow shingles and glue them along the peak.
This is the roof from my attic roombox, showing the roof peak and dormer.
Once the roof is entirely shingled you can add detail. Use tiny dabs of off-white or orange paint to simulate lichen, or glue on bits of greenery for moss.
This technique can be used for many landscaping and finishing purposes. Create flagstone walks in your gardens, stone floors or walls, beautiful fireplaces and chimneys. Experiment with shapes and colours to get the effect you like.
I've been meaning to post this on my website for a long time (it's like, #752 on The List), as I get asked about the TreeFeathers name a lot. I just got another inquiry about it, so it's now been bumped up to #1! Which means I can cross something off The List, yay!
So, what the heck does TreeFeathers mean, anyway? I'll admit, it made more sense back when I was making Christmas tree ornaments for a living, but then the miniatures took over.
Well here it is: TreeFeathers is an old family joke in a branch of my family, the Trefethens. The Trefethens came from Cornwall originally, and settled in Maine in the 1600s. Apparently, Cornish names can only be understood by the bearers, because for the last four centuries or so Trefethens have become accustomed to the following conversation:
Trefethen: Hello, I'm [insert name here] Trefethen
Non-Trefethen: Tree-what? Tree feather?
So it became a joke name in the family (there's also a ThreeFeathers variant - you can tell what branch of cousins someone is from based on which version they use.)
I also like the sort of "Where the Sidewalk Ends" silliness of it. My favorite book of poems ever! And the source of the only poem I ever learned by heart, besides Jabberwocky:
Teddy said it was a hat,
and so I put it on.
Now Dad's saying, "Where the heck's
the toilet plunger gone?"
Aren't you glad you asked?
The Tomato Nation Fall Challenge wrapped up last night - the $100k goal was not only met, but exceeded! A total of $111,352 was raised to help schoolchildren all over the USA through projects listed at DonorsChoose.org. Way to go, everyone! As one person posted, "Times might be tough, but Tomato Nation is tougher."
Funds raised: $111,352
Donors participating: 1162
Children reached: 19,577
Of course this also means that we will once again get to see Sars publicly humiliate herself in a tomato costume. This year she has pledged to take the train - in costume - from NY to Washington, DC, where I'm sure she'll perform another hilarious tomato dance. You don't want to miss it!
Last year's dance at Rockefeller Plaza:
The Dollhouse & Miniatures Blog has been posting useful articles to help you plan and finish your dollhouse. Familiarize yourself with a variety of tools and materials and the particular uses for which each is best suited (I always wondered what the heck "gouache" is for.) Learn basic techniques for painting or installing wallpaper. Get pointers for choosing a scale or style. The Dollhouse Decoration Checklist is particularly handy, giving a step-by-step checklist, from sanding and priming to installing final trim. I'm looking forward to more posts!
Last night I saw legendary B.B. King in concert. It was one of the best shows I've ever been to... the guy is just AWESOME! At 83 the shows may be a little shorter, but he can still make that guitar sing like nobody's business. When he lets loose singing, his voice is as powerful as ever, still full of passion. And his face - oh, I love his face! Probably the millionth time he's played some of those songs, but he still seemed just as in love with the music as the very first time. The band, I must add, was fabulous! They clearly adore him; the drummer didn't even flinch when B.B roared out, "Don't rush me! I carry a knife, and I cut drummers!"
That was one thing I really loved about the show - B.B. and his band seemed to be having so much fun, and enjoying the music and each other and the audience so much, being there was like a real "moment," not just passive witnessing of a performance. I feel so grateful to have had the chance to see him. And inspired!
And much less disturbed by my upcoming 40th birthday, which had been bothering me with thoughts of the end of my youth, and looks, and potential, and dreams, and future... B.B. had lots of advice for "young people over 50," (especially the men, which included leading them all in a couple rounds of "You Are My Sunshine" to all the ladies in the audience.) To see him up there at EIGHTY-THREE, and despite having to be helped on and off the stage - he's still playing, still singing, still joking around and loving life. And still writing new songs, too! We got to hear his hilarious paean to the wonders of Viagra, and the title-track of his new CD, "One Kind Favor," which he says his kids don't like (as the favor is to keep his grave clean.) Gave me some much-needed perspective and lightening of the heart.
So in the words of B.B. King: "Oh, I like that part, I'ma do it again!" I think that's good advice.
Even store windows in Paris have that certain je ne sais quoi! These lovely miniature porcelain ladies were spotted in a jewelry store window by Claudia Strasser on her first day in France. Check out the rest of the photos at The Paris Apartment. Oo la la!
The Tomato Nation Fall Challenge is moving along! Only $700+ needed to hit the $75k mark, at which point a generous donor has pledged to contribute $10,000 in matching funds - so keep it coming, folks!
The Challenge is running until October 31, and the goal is to raise $100,000 to help fund educational projects through DonorsChoose.org. Read my original post, or visit the TN Challenge page for full details.
Total as of October 22: $74,253
Students Reached: 10,906
Get in the spirit for Halloween with a visit to Candid Canine, Christine Verstraete's blog. Her most recent articles, "Halloween in Miniature: Wicked Witches" and the follow-up "Not-So-Wicked Witches," give a humorous look at the portrayal of witches in miniature. Some wonderful photos of miniature artisan dolls!
Pictured: 'Gladys' by Gina Gagnon of Lone Wolf Mini Creations.
Thanks to the hard work and persistence of the etsyDAM Team (Dolls and Miniatures,) there's a new top-level category on Etsy! As of October 6, artists can list their work under "Dolls & Miniatures." Etsy sellers have long wanted this category, rather than being restricted to listing their items under Toys. Congrats, here's hoping it boosts your sales!
etsyDAM Yahoo Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/etsyDAMs
etsyDAM Team Blog: http://etsyDAM.blogspot.com
the nonist » Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut
"Yesterday I came across a truly gorgeous book of photographs by Candida Höfer titled, Libraries, a title which pretty much says it all, because that is just exactly what it is, one rich, sumptuous, photo of a library interior after another. It’s like porn for book nerds. Seriously."
Stumbled on the above article and its accompanying photos today, and what can I say but "wow!" If you love books, then these gorgeous photos will make you drool. I'm definitely putting Librarieson my wish list. Imagine doing the Abbey Library of St. Gallen (the oldest library in Switzerland, pictured here) in miniature! The thought of making all those books makes my eyes glaze over.
The internet has opened up a whole new world to miniaturists - online groups and discussion boards, the ability to find tutorials and other do-it-yourself materials at the click of a mouse.
Now Gaye Coonce of Anderson, CA, has taken the hobby another step forward. She's the mastermind behind Creating Dollhouse Miniatures, a video blog just chock-full of miniature eye-candy. Virtual tours of dollhouses and personal collections, tutorials, inside looks at artists at work - all the best videos of scale miniatures in one place!
"I have spent thousands of hours on YouTube watching countless videos and posting the best," says Gaye. "Many people don't know that there are videos of miniatures on YouTube, and YouTube isn't child-friendly. Handpicking the videos and posting them all to one place that is all about miniatures eliminates that problem. It's also another way to promote miniatures and the artists, and introduce the world of miniatures to a whole new generation."
In addition to the 100+ videos available, Creating Dollhouse Miniatures is a great resource of links and information about the art of miniatures.
Gaye encourages miniature artists and collectors to create a video and submit it to the site. "Anything that promotes the art of miniatures!"
Artist's video blog: Creating Dollhouse Miniatures
Artist's website: My Small Obsession
The annual Tomato Nation Fall Challenge is here again! The Challenge is running until October 31, and the goal is to raise $100,000 to help fund educational projects through DonorsChoose.org. That will buy a lot of academic, art, and athletic supplies - and once again, TN blog author Sars in a tomato costume! This time she's pledged to take the train to Washington DC in full tomato regalia.
Donors in the TN Challenge are entered in a drawing for some great prizes - be sure to follow the instructions on the Challenge page to be sure you're properly entered. Along the way there are some mini challenges and the chance to win more prizes. There is no minimum donation amount, even $10 will help, so join in the fun and help some deserving school kids!
Total as of October 10: $48,345
Students Reached: 7,526
"DonorsChoose.org is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund.
"Proposals range from "Magical Math Centers" ($200) to "Big Book Bonanza" ($320), to "Cooking Across the Curriculum" ($1,100). Any individual can search such proposals by areas of interest, learn about classroom needs, and choose to fund the project(s) they find most compelling. In completing a project, donors receive a feedback package of student photos and thank-you notes, and a teacher impact letter."
MiniMaker has added great new tutorial on making drippy candles to her site, just in time for Halloween scenes. Be sure and check out all the other projects and printies she has available while you're there!
I've added a search function to the blog - it will also search my regular TreeFeathers website at the same time, so if you're looking for tutorials or something you'll see everything available from both places. Cool, huh?
A couple weeks ago I put a fun map gadget on here (requires Flash) that shows where visitors are coming from. Kind of fun, people are visiting this blog from all over the world! Hello out there! So I added a translation feature. I've switched out the Yahoo translator for a Google one. The Yahoo one seemed more accurate (at least from what I could tell, comparing the page in French on both), but the Google one offers a lot more languages. I put it at the top left, right under the blog archives, so it's easy to access.
I'm trying a new layout. It was bugging me how the sidebar just went on and on, so I'm trying out a 3-column arrangement that I think organizes things better. Still not sure I like it, though... Post a comment and let me know what you think. Is it too crowded or too hard to read this way?
October is National Dollhouse & Miniatures Month! Many shops are having sales, so it's a great time to pick up some of those minis on your wish list. There are also all kinds of special exhibits, contests, classes, and other festivities going on around the country. Visit your local miniatures store to find out what's happening in your area, or check out these links:
National Association of Miniatures Enthusiasts
I bet these wee people are related to the little guy who turns the refrigerator light on and off...
Les Minimiam, created by Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle.
There's a new team in town! If you buy or sell miniatures on Etsy, then you'll want to check out the etsyDAM Team (Dolls and Miniatures.) They're a group of doll artists and miniaturists who have joined together to support one another and share their love of dolls and miniatures through discussion, sharing of techniques, and encouragement. The team was formed to help promote their Etsy shops and to spread recognition for the Doll and Miniature arts, on Etsy and beyond.
They've also set up a blog to share doll and miniature information, new work from team members, and other news and information from the worlds of doll and miniature making. I've added it to the handy-dandy list of Mini Blog links in the sidebar.
Yahoo Discussion Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/etsyDAMs
Fall of Roses Wedding Cake by BlueKitty Miniatures
Some more tips from the Small World group!
Glues & Paints
1. To stick plastic to plastic go to a model shop and buy the glue sold for plastic kits. In the UK it is called polystyrene cement when it is tacky glue in a tube and there is a very liquid brush on one called Metpak.
These glues work by melting the plastic and effectively welding it together. They don't work on all plastics and will destroy those that are very foamy like packing materials - there is another specialist glue that works on those but I have never needed it.
You can actually melt scrap plastic in the liquid glue and use it to fill in cracks in models.
For perspex there is yet another special glue used extensively by signmakers.
2. I made a glue holder when I was making furniture. I took a one pound coffee can and put some rocks inside to weight it down, and replaced the lid. Then put your puddle of glue on the lid. When it dries, remove the lid and bend it so the glue lifts up and you can peel it off and throw it away. This kept my glue puddle from getting lost among all the other debris that would collect on my bench. I also used masking tape to strap an empty film canister to the can and filled it with wooden toothpicks to use as glue applicators.
3. I like to use the little tobacco tins that DH gives me for paint pallets and glue. If you put the lid on between coats, the paint doesn't dry so fast.
Clay Tools - The one tool I go frantic if I can't find is an old bodkin thing, like a few inches from the end of a knitting needle in a little handle. Various sewing needles are useful, especially the larger ones and tapestry ones with rounded blunt ends. I use a lot of cocktail sticks. Ceramic tiles are useful to work on and bake things on (bake on paper, especially paper towel to avoid shiny spots.) Paint brushes for smoothing and manipulating tiny pieces being added on, also keep an old one for use with liquid clear clay, perfect for using to 'glue' clay parts together.
General Tools & Tips
1. I keep a little ball of the white "tack it" on the front of my work table, it comes in handy for holding things still while I'm working. I also use a little ball to hold items that I'm photographing - handy to tilt the item a little bit or hold the quarter.
2. I use a rubberized piece of shelf lining on my work table so that when I drop something it does not break and to keep beads from rolling all over. It is great for keeping anything from sliding around while your working.
3. I keep a mirror close at hand so that I can see my item from all sides, angles and heights without constantly trying to turn it.
4. Use a 2-tiered kitchen spice turntable to hold the item you are working on. Your tools and parts and pieces go on the bottom, project on top - easier on your back - and it turns as needed to view and work on all sides. I have several and I think I found all of them at garage sales. If not there, they are at WalMart, Target, etc. pretty cheap.
5. Do not put in the trash what you will later dig out. It is gross, but I do it all the time!
1. Egg cartons make great packing for little minis. You can also cut them down if you are only sending a few. But still be sure to pack extra around the carton so that it will be more protected.
2. Post-It notes are great for marking pages in magazines or books as you read them for items you want to refer to later. Put a word or sentence reference on the note and let it peek out of the magazine. Instant reference library! Saves me a lot of time finding that "article" that I knew I would want at some point.
3. Get a subscription to a dollhouse miniatures magazine. There are so many good projects and tips in every issue! You can often find back issues for sale on eBay or at miniatures shows.
Check out this article by Phyllis Rose of the Kalamazoo Gazette. Some good travel info if you're going to be in Hastings, Michigan, including a description of her visit to the National Miniatures Trust Museum.
Park shows life 1800s style; museum shows life in miniature
This month I have a great tutorial to share with you from Steve Bailey of Marietta, PA. I think of him as the Norm Abram of the mini world; you know how when you watch New Yankee Workshop, Norm just makes the most complicated things look so easy? Steve's tutorials are like that! Here he shows you how to build your own custom miniature shop or house from scratch.
"What I like best about doing a house from scratch is that you are not limited to style or shape of the building. You can just go crazy and let your imagination run wild and see what you come up with. I usually start with a rough drawing of what I have in mind and always change it a million times before I'm done!"
Tools & Materials:
½" plywood for the base
1/8" luan plywood for the walls (see notes on woods at the end of the tutorial)
square, combination square, ruler, or tape measure
- Dremel #565 cutting attachment and a straight router bit
- Dremel V-Groove bit
Dremel #580 table saw with a fine (100-tooth) blade
sanding block or small wood plane
flooring and wall finishes of your choice
doors, windows, trim
(And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear your safety glasses!)
Click on photos for larger view and instruction details.
I usually start by making a rough pencil drawing of what I have in mind and getting the measurements so I can start cutting the wood. Remember, for 1:12 scale... 1 inch = 1 foot. If your building is 15 feet wide, that means cut the wood for the wall 15 inches. Also, remember to make your base larger that your building so you can landscape around it.
I start with the base. I like to use ½" plywood, but on this project the base is heavier because it was some material I just happened to have. Cut your base and square the edges. Sand off any sharp edges and then sand the top.
Using a pencil and a square (or a combination square, ruler, tape measure, etc.), lay out where you want the walls to go.
Using a Dremel with a #565 cutting attachment and a straight router bit, cut grooves for the walls to set in. This step may not be necessary, but I think it makes the building stronger.
Here I am dry fitting the floor. For this one I used regular floor tiles that I cut into 1" squares. It's a lot easier to do it now, before you have the building together. You can do the floors any way you like - tile, wood, etc.
For the walls, I like to use 1/8" Luan plywood. You can get a 4x8-foot sheet at your local builder supply store for about $10-$12. I usually cut it down to about 2" larger that I need to make it easier to handle. I use my Dremel #580 table saw, with a 100-tooth blade to cut the walls. I made a small table from scraps to support the wood since it it larger that the saw top. You can also use a saber saw with a hacksaw blade to cut the walls.
Here I am using an edge planer to square up the walls. I'm sure most of you don't have one of these, so if you cut the walls fairly straight, you can use a sanding block or small wood plane to fine tune the edges.
Dry fit the building again. I do this many times while I'm building a house, just to make sure I didn't goof!
I wanted the look of clapboard siding, so I made a mark every 1" up the outside walls. Then with my Dremel and a V-Groove bit, I lightly cut lines across the walls. This does take some time but I think it makes a nice look to the house. After you are done, be sure to sand the walls.
Now, using all my measuring tools, I marked where the windows & doors will go. Then I use a scroll saw to cut them out. I have a good Craftsman scroll saw, but this small one was a $5 yard sale find. It just needed a good cleaning and a new blade.
Another dry fit.
I often put wainscot or beadboard in my houses. Here I'm using wood splines that were used to connect laminate flooring years ago. Now they have the swift-lock, so they don't use these any more. A contractor friend had several cartons of these that he was going to throw away & I jumped on them! You can also use craft sticks from you craft store. I cut them to 3" an glue them on the walls. Next day a light sanding, stain and finishing. Above this I will wallpaper.
The building is starting to come together. The ceiling and roof are set on and I'm checking placement of furniture. Notice that the roof and ceiling are held up with ½" square wood that is glued to the walls. You can cut or sand these square pieces to make them look like crown molding.
I wanted the look of a tin ceiling. I glued on some of those splines to give it a textured look and then some aluminum spray paint. I also sprayed on a stenciled border. I drilled holes and mounted a string of 10 clear battery operated lights so that they poke through into the room. These can be expensive to buy, but every Christmas I see them at the Dollar Store for a buck or two, so I stock up. I hold the wires in place with the handyman's secret weapon... duct tape!
Finishing up. I painted the building with paint that I had left over from a home job. The lettering is vinyl stick on letters. For the stripes on the barber pole & corners... I painted them white & then went to my local grocery store - this is the tape they use to close the bags of fresh vegetables! I asked the manager if I could buy some and he just went in the back and gave me a handful of small rolls in different colors. The floor is down and the furniture is made. Now just the small stuff... curtains, etc.
So... that's how I made my barbershop from scratch. I have made a dozen houses this way. Each one I build, I learn something new or find an easier way to do something.
Note on woods: Many people prefer a wood like Baltic birch plywood (sometimes called crafts grade plywood) for building dollhouses. Birch has a tight grain and is finished on both sides. It can be pricey, though - a 4x8-foot sheet of Baltic could run $50 or more.
Luan is only about $10-$12 for a 4x8-foot sheet. It is only finished on one side, but since we usually paint or paper the inside... who cares. It is light but strong, easy to work with, and does not overtax power tools like some manufactured materials can do. It can be prone to splintering when cut; be sure to have a sharp, fine blade such as the 100-tooth blade in the Dremel table saw. Let the blade do the cutting... do not push or force the material through the saw. This will cause splintering.
I would say that if you are going to do a museum quality house, use the Baltic. Us poor folks are happy with luan!
I hope this helps you on your next building project.