An Exaltation of Yuccas

I’m excited to share photos of some incredible yuccas, made by two different miniature artists, both starting from the same kit.*

*Uhh, to clarify: each had her own kit. Two artists, two kits, two locations. Nancy finished first. Not that it was a contest.

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This is Nancy Bristow’s work. (Nancy has been making miniatures since the 1970s, and it was she who finally identified the Braxton Payne pots I had bought at auction, and pointed me to his obscure website.) She hand-colored the leaves using markers, and I love that she styled them curling out and upward. So pert and jaunty! They’re planted in BP pots she “aged”, and used bird grit as gravel.

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Here’s a shot of Nancy’s work-in-progress, adding knot holes to the stems. I noticed she chose to curl the leaves first, before attaching to the stem. Brilliant! It is so gratifying — and informative — to see how other makers work with my kits. One can learn so much.

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This is Keli Minick’s interpretation of the yucca tree kit. Look at those colors! I love the graceful trunk, and the stubby branch. Two completely different plants! She suggested using round nose pliers to separate and shape the leaves after attaching — which makes the process much less tedious. And she kindly pointed out a typo in the armature instruction sheet. Argh!

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Here’s what the Broad Leaf Yucca Tree kit looks like to start. This is the green leaf variation; cream and white are also available. (I believe Nancy B started with white leaves; Keli with cream?)

What would you make of it?

Sincere thank-yous and expressions of humbled awe to Nancy and Keli for allowing me to share their work. 

Sea House Pavilion Remodel: Flitting About

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I finished planking the Sea House Pavilion front entry remodel — though there are still stain touchups to do. This build is very different in that components will remain modular, to facilitate access and photography, rather than be a single, connected structure.

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Inside walls are stained eggshell white. The main living area ceiling (the underside of the sleeping loft) is in, made from bead-board paneling. (Here barely seen, as IRL).

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You can glimpse the original Pavilion roof ceiling, now lifted to accommodate the sleeping loft.

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A view of the sleeping loft addition, and a roughed-in kitchen wing and shower stall (fireplace removed.)

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After deliberation, I chose varnished cork for the sleeping loft floor, which occupies three bays. Many more decisions remain, especially since I’m thinking ‘nest’ rather than traditional bedroom. Think ‘sleeping in a pile’ (my favorite!) from Where The Wild Things Are. Because post-sea-level-rise living will probably benefit from that.

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I made my first-ever ELF Miniatures order, for this kitchen trolley kit, as well as an under-counter sink and 2-burner stovetop surface for the kitchen wing. I am smitten.

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The kitchen wing occupies two bays, and will have a countertop with sink, prep area and the two-burner electric stove (powered by rooftop solar panels.) There’ll be non-opening cupboards below, and an under-counter refrigerator. Two walls are paneled in horizontal bead-board, to which there will be shelves attached; the third wall is papered in the same vintage San Francisco map as the ceiling. The window is made from this weird thick glass disc, a bag of which I found in the crap/craft store.

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Moving on to greenhouse hydroponics. I did a bunch of research to arrive at an aggregate vision of what a system might look like on an off-the-grid tiny home scale. The grow vats are restaurant jam tubs. I made some wonderful Georgie Steeds lettuce and cabbage kits, and from there worked out optimum growing layouts. I fiddled with the vat top layouts, and used the Cricut machine to cut the final patterns.

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I noticed many hydroponic systems had these sort of “grow rings” around the cutouts. They appeal to my graphic sensibility, so I laboriously added them to the system. They can barely be seen beneath the lush growth, but we and the devas know they are there.

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To the greenhouse I added rails and slats to support the grow vats. I’m experimenting with wire and shrink tubing to evoke a water and nutrient circulation system. One of the challenges is keeping each of the wings modular, yet connected as a whole. In that the greenhouse and kitchen wings need to connect to the solar panels and water collection systems located on the pavilion roof and aft deck. As do the roof gutters need to funnel rainwater into the cisterns located under the pavilion. And so on.

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I leave you with a view of Georgie Steeds’ Nasturtium kit. It’s just barely finished, plonked in a Braxton Payne pot and glop-waxed to the bench. I love nasturtiums; they’re ubiquitous in NorCal gardens. I’d very much like to twine these throughout the greenhouse wing, while also keeping it detachable. We’ll see.

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Sea House Pavilion Remodel: Greenhouse Wing Leaded Glass Windows Complete

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The leaded glass windows for the Sea House Pavilion greenhouse wing are completed and installed.

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Here’s a mildly different view. (It’s late, and my studio lighting is rubbish.) But if you were the caretaker of an historic heritage seaside resort that was abandoned because of sea level rise, wouldn’t you want a place to grow fresh greens and fruit to supplement your subsistence gatherer lifestyle?

I know I would.

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And I would want it to be beautiful.

 

Sometimes, things work out better than hoped for

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The topic of this and last week’s Santa Cruz commute thinking time was about how to render the Sea Rise Sea House Pavilion’s greenhouse windows. I knew I wanted to do something leaded (or leaded-esque), and I knew the inevitable off-square measurements of the actual structure would be a nightmare to fit.

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I’ve built two wing extensions on either side of the main deck to increase the living space area. One side is the greenhouse, and the other will be the shower and sleeping alcove. For the greenhouse leaded glass, I drew my designs using 9-point (1/8-inch) lines, which seem reasonably robust for a seaward structure. They’re cut from black cardstock, and glued front and back to non-glare Plaskolite, which provides a semi-opaque — and salt-spray burnished — surface.

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My initial approach was to tediously center the Plaskolite within the 3/16-inch framing. (Of course if I was more dedicated, I would have routed a channel in the one million each of the frames, or, have built them with three layers of stock. But I’m not.) As I was fiddling about with measurements and drawing and cutting prototypes, I realized the best — and squarest — way is to cut the panes and cardstock leading a scant larger than the outside window openings, and glue them atop the frames. Then, trim out with thin strip wood.

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It looks just fine! Intentional, even. The two layers of cardstock, glued to the Plaskolite front and back, look believable. Even the little schmutzes of glue make sense in a marine environment (although they are easily cleaned up.)

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Here’s the whole structure-in-progress, including the new roof extension, which might be where the sleeping quarters wind up.

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And here is the main — or one of the many — reasons I drive down to Santa Cruz each week: for Ruby, now four months old. She lights up a room, no batteries, routing or wires required.

Skiff, Brackets

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Scarlett has grown into a far more helpful studio cat. Here she continues the weathering process on the underside of the Sea House Pavilion Squat roof, while I work on building a wee skiff.

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I eBayed this circa 1989 Midwest Products skiff model. I love this kit for many reasons: The superior 36-page construction manual and a full-size plan. Each of the 117 steps has a little checkbox next to it, to track one’s progress. And shipbuilding vocabulary: inwales, cleats, chafing plank, stem and false stem, strongback, painter, breasthook, skeg, knee and quarter knee, transom, fairing.

Here is step 109, Inwales:

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Even with the apprentice skill level 1 rating, there was still plenty of late night swearing, especially setting up the framing. I realized very early on how glad I was that the finished model would be heavily weathered.

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Making the oars was possibly my favorite part. They’re built from dowels and stripwood, whittled and sanded into final shape. (Still have to varnish the second one.)

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The outdoor shower is old Reutter Porcelain, tragically discontinued. One of my all time favorite pieces!

At some point, the Sea House Pavilion was retrofitted with sturdy brackets, much like the foundation of the SH Warming Hut.

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This time, made much easier by cutting the components on the Cricut machine. I used the scoring tool to mark angle folds and placement of the bolts, which are two dots thick. (Note to self: hmmmm, maybe make available to sell? Have good metallic cardstock by Neenah. Am thinking of drawing contemporary and or retro wrought iron patterns, too?)

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Recently, most of my building has been in the quiet of late night. Scarlett keeps me company on the studio thinking couch. Good kitty.

 

Fiesta Yucca

FY01-02_both2Two first-ever specimens of yuccas — finished potted plants, not kits —  will soon be available over at MMS+S. I’ve boldly named them Fiesta Yuccas, a taxonomy unique to nancyland, which means they’re not strictly exact replicas of yuccas one might encounter in this mortal coil. The leaf pattern graduates from a rich medium green to lime to sunflower, tipped in gold and striped with moss. The flat leaf pattern looks like a very appealing mandala. Sure to add light and life to your arrangements.

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The taller of the two is slender and graceful, with three branching trunks. Both specimens are potted in Braxton Payne terra cotta cylinder pots. Of course.

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The shorter one, potted in a slightly smaller cylinder, has the same three-leaf cluster structure as its taller sibling, and projects a powerful presence. The trunk armatures remain pliable and can be curved or straightened into most any form.

That I have arrived at not one, but two! specimens that tilt my acceptance meter to ‘yes, this is worthwhile’ is a tremendous achievement (she who regularly invites to tea the three-headed monster of perfectionism/paralysis/procrastination).

So that means I get to post a cat picture.

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Here is our yearling+ Scarlett, sleeping out the very foggy summer on a side deck bench. Every time I walk by she rouses enough to meow some variation of “Mao, wow!”

I smile every time.

 

Treasure Map, Yucca Kit

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Maddie drew a treasure map. The iconography is bold and challenging on many levels, not the least of which is her rendering of the letter “R”. Type designers, bow down, maybe even despair a little bit, that you might ever envision an “R” this way. I’ve not yet heard her telling of the map story, only that the thing that looks like a Crusader shield is an “X marks the spot”.

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I’ve listed the first yucca tree kit over at MMS+S. It includes both an armature kit and a leafy clusters kit, with a choice of three base colors: white, manila or green. I plan on making kits of just the leafy clusters available, for those who want to make their own armatures, and eventually just supply packs of leafy clusters sans instructions, for those who get it and want to build more yucca plants. Every build needs at least one good yucca :)

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So many possibilities! There’s one more versatile yucca houseplant kit in the queue, and after that, it’s on to making specimens. I’ve drawn a different leaf cluster, longer and finer, and am working with a smaller gauge armature, just for the finished trees and plants.

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Here is Maddie, studying the most recent Eric Carle book, and Ruby, being what contented two-month old humans are. Kind of my world right now :)

Rousseau 1:12 Mural First Cuts

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I sketched out and constructed a palm plant motif in Illustrator, then reversed a copy of it to make the most of the painted papers.

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Here are my first cuts of the pattern from two of the painted papers, flung onto the wall. I was working against the losing of the light (because hey, Game of Thrones). They will work splendidly as a middle background layer, when arranged.

Still undecided how I will stick them down.

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It took me a couple of cuts to get it right, but here is what a (partial) painted paper looks like after four passes of cutting. Still plenty of material for hand cutting parts available.

 

Rousseau, Painted Paper, Collage

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A few weeks ago I came across this spread in the April 2017 issue of House Beautiful. It’s a wall mural inspired by the imaginary jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau. Designed by Laurel Canyon homeowner Molly Luetkemyer, it was painted by LA artist Jeff Robinson.

I was instantly smitten, and thought a miniature version could be the perfect third wall for the MMS+S set. Since I am currently very keen on repurposing and/or drawing from my considerable hoard stockpile of materials and supplies, I grabbed a peaked MDF wall from — um, actually I no longer remember what build it was from.

Years ago, I dabbled in some cut painted paper collage paintings, inspired by Eric Carle. I love this method of illustration. For this 1:12 wall, I plan on using hand- and machine-cut painted papers augmented with markers.

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Here is the wall (MDF, 12 x 17 inches) with the preliminary foundation background painted in acrylics. I’ve been studying Rousseau’s jungle paintings, and making note of elements I want to include: light to dark background gradations; sky, moon/sun, jungle; exaggerated plant details; simple two-tone object shading. In Luetkemyer’s inspiration mural, she says the plants are based on California’s landscape, and I plan to do the same. What an awesome opportunity to draw all my favorite plants and flowers: yucca, ficus, succulents, sansevieria; gorgeous orange and red mystery fruit; outrageous florid orange and yellow flowers.

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Using 14 x 11-inch medium-weight drawing paper and acrylic paint, I’ve begun making my papers, starting with the greens.

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And then some warms:

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It’s getting late, and I’ve run out of room on my drying rack, so my helper cat and I are calling it a night.

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Nancyland’s August (or Fogust, as we say here in the Bay Area) home page splash image is made from two of the above painted papers, layered using the magical “Lighten” blending mode in Photoshop.
The lyric snippet is from Grouplove’s “Colours”, a song Maddie and I both enjoy singing along to when it comes on the radio :)
Lyric snippet update: The National’s “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”. Listening to on repeat.

 

Armatures, S-Town, Cricut

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I’m working on a yucca-and-others armature kit. It involves hand-tearing a lot of brown paper into narrow strips. One of my best-practice recommendations will be to watch a movie (that does not require eyes glued to the screen) or better yet, listen to podcasts. As of this writing, I’m listening to S-Town, again.

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My husband’s employer was hosting a TSA Pre certification opportunity, so after we enrolled, he cut work early. After a pleasant luncheon in the Presidio, we took a stroll through the Legion of Honor Museum, where this very antique clock caught my eye — hence the S-Town reference. If you’ve not listened to this brilliant piece of true life storytelling yet, I encourage you to do so. I promise it will simultaneously break and uplift whatever is left of your tender, jaded heart.

Here’s one of my latest exchanges with the wonderful customer support worker bees at Cricut:

Nancy Enge: Any progress with the SVG import capability?
Nancy Enge: My experience says no.
*** Deepak joined the chat ***
Deepak: Hello Nancy

Deepak: We are still working on it.
Nancy Enge: Hello Deepak
Deepak: Let me try from my laptop.
Nancy Enge: Try what?
Deepak: Uploading that image
Nancy Enge: Deepak, don’t waste your time
Deepak: Yay!!!
Deepak: It is uploading on my laptop
Nancy Enge: Yay what?
Nancy Enge: That is just normal technology

Nancy Enge: As you can see: a mess
Nancy Enge: All of the score line lines are thrown hither and thither
Deepak: We are continuously working to provide better user experience.
Nancy Enge: Of course you are
Nancy Enge: I did not mean to imply that any of you are slacking
Nancy Enge: Especially you customer support staff
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: I was just checking in on this most troublesome problem we have encountered
Nancy Enge: for the last few weeks
Deepak: You know today I got an user who is not able to upload an SVG image, I tried it on my laptop.
(04:12:36 AM) Deepak: It didn’t work.
Deepak: However I tried your image, it worked.
Nancy Enge: Welcome to my world
Deepak: So I was so happy.
Nancy Enge: Hehehehe
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: Simple SVGs work
Nancy Enge: It’s those with lines meant to be score lines that are problematic
Deepak: Yeah, you are right.
Nancy Enge: Why this is the case, I have no idea
Nancy Enge: I am a designer, not a software engineer
Nancy Enge: Dammit :)
Deepak: I am not sure with whom you you talked. I have your image and photo, I will show it to our product specialist
Deepak: Next 2 days is my week off.
Deepak: I will update you by Monday.
Nancy Enge: Thank you, Deepak. I have talked with three of your brethren to date
Deepak: I have already saved details.
Deepak: I will drop an email on Monday after checking with him,.
Nancy Enge: I know those of us who upload our own designs are Cricut’s minority users, outliers…
Deepak: For us everyone is important.
Nancy Enge: We would all like to believe that :)

Deepak: There are some technical bugs; we are actively working on it. We are not in the business of selling machines. However, we are in the business of winning hearts.

Deepak: I will surely get back to you on Monday.

Nancy Enge: *cough*
Nancy Enge: Sorry, I’m laughing so hard I almost spilled my drink
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: I appreciate your efforts on our behalf, Deepak.
Deepak: Thank you so much! :)
Nancy Enge: So, I’ll keep trying
Deepak: For your inconvenience I am adding $10 Store credit to your account.
Deepak: Using that you can purchase digital cartridges.
Nancy Enge: Ugh
Deepak: It will reflect on your account within 48 hours..
Nancy Enge: Thank you, though
Deepak: You are welcome
Deepak: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
Nancy Enge: No.
Deepak: Have a great night
Nancy Enge: You, as well.
*** Deepak left the chat ***