Ties, Lavender, Echeveria, Rocks


Albie immediately curled up on the rest of the ties, and I set up to make more lavender.

I’m still experimenting with technique, but I try to make a shrubbery’s worth of stems each time, so if they change I can call them varieties or cultivars :) #miniaturejustifications

I’m using paper-wrapped stem wire, purple superfine sand (Activa Scenic brand) for the flowers, tissue paper for the petals, tacky glue, and cardstock painted  grayish-green for the foliage. Most tutorials call for lycopodium as foliage, but I’ve decided on this well-designed and versatile punch from Punch Bunch.


I got my birthday order from The Miniature Garden, which included some 28-gauge paper covered stem wire, yay! Turns out what I’ve been using is 26-gauge, so voilà, the first (subtle) variety. (The #28 is on the left.)


I cut 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) lengths of stem wire and rolled one end a scant quarter-inch (6mm) in tacky glue.


Rather than dip the glued end, I pour the sand repeatedly over the stem wire. This builds up and preserves the shape of the flower.

drying stems_032016

The sanded stems are placed upright to dry. (The fluffy ones you see on the left are made with Flowersoft, a poofy kind of scatter that I’m considering using.)

The petals on top are made from tissue paper punched with a small flower shape, cupped with a ball stylus, and glued to the flower.


In the foreground you can see the Flowersoft flowers with petals cut from waxed paper tinted with a marker. Behind those are the sanded flowers with tissue petals.


The lavender spikes are planted in the mounds with an awl and glue.


These ones were built on #26 wire stems.


The foliage is shaped with a stylus and glued in around the stems to create a pleasantly convincing, if stylized, base.



Making more echeveria hen and chicks to cluster in around the lavender mounds. If you look closely above, you can see once again the difference between #26 and #28 (on the right) stem wire.

paperclay_rocks_unThere’s an entire molds-worth of paperclay rocks dried and awaiting mineralization. These will be nestled and half-buried around the lavender, poppy and succulents bed as an unobtrusive border.

Happy vernal equinox (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere)!


Lavender, Ties

lavender_031916-1I mentioned that Argo Wool Works also grows lavender. There are a few good approaches to making miniature lavender, and after a thoughtful review, I’ve adopted a hybrid technique. This is always the question in miniatures: how best to convey a feeling, an illusion of the real thing? Absolute adherence to reality, or a simpatico synthesis of appearance? Answers often surprise me, as did this lavender.

lavender_031916-2These are the start of the demonstration lavender beds outside the AWW showroom, as planted in the egg styrofoam and sand-covered mounds established earlier. I’ll post a more step-by-step later, when I’ve more available time. I think the method is worthwhile :)

The final observances of my family’s multiple March birthdays have been celebrated. I was delighted to receive an unexpected gift from one of my oldest, dearest friends, who noted my quest for fabulous silk ties with a large bag of said items. Her husband — another oldest, dearest friend — is a professional wearer of ties.ties_031916.jpgThese are the top five I pulled out for the squiggly vintage Chippendale sofa, and/or throw pillows. The far left is out of focus, but is a delightful fish pattern. The next is an exquisite gray/black circular motif… on through a classic understated Paisley, a retro-looking I don’t even know what, and a brilliant Escher tribute.

Adding to the Spring bounty is another bestowal of wood veneer and samples that would have otherwise gone into landfill, from family member Tony. This is a large roll of oak veneer, and samples of bamboo, cut both horizontally and vertically.more_veneer_031916So, so beautiful, and interesting! May your cups runneth over with unexpected gifts and bounty to share.



Her favorite color remains blue, and she can fly like this bunny.


My favorite modern miniature of all time.


The Thing Missing From My Life

Short answer? Paperclay. Long answer follows.


I settled in to finish the long back foundation wall, literally before the storm and power went out. Above you see the carton materials wrapped from the left side wall and primed in Ceramcoat “Mudstone”, then the beginnings of the long traverse using various parts of egg carton. Then I noticed something.

A while ago, our thoughtful reader and observer Barbara W. had sent me a mold from Woodland Scenics. Although sized as “boulders” it occurred to me that at 1:12 scale they would make excellent rubble, the kind I was using in the foundation.


I reviewed my on-hand options and chose a pouch of Creative Paperclay. I had never worked with this material before, though it was on my list. I chose some of the larger boulder forms and filled the mold. I forgot about it until I started the back wall foundation masonry. Then I noticed that the molded boulders had a similar texture to the carton materials I was using. Like, really similar.

The dried paperclay is a remarkable material. It is extremely stable and lightweight, easy to trim, and as I was soon to find out, paints very well.

back_wall_rocked_030616.jpgI reloaded the mold with the full set of rocks in paperclay to use around the rest of the foundation, and finished out the back wall with the few that had already dried (those in white), along with egg carton and packaging forms. It seems to take two or three days for the paperclay to dry thoroughly.


I applied the same set of acrylic layers and washes as the interior foundation.


Here’s a dramatic corner shot.


And the entire finished back foundation wall.


Although there is additional touch up and detailing to add, this needs to dry thoroughly. I could not resist gluing in some moss, though, to make it come alive. Thanks, BW, for the gift of the mold and allowing me to discover paperclay. The fun has just commenced.

Couch, Mounds, Stripes, Sea Wall Fail

couch_022816So happy with the results from the first of Kris Compas’s new line of kits, the Lisa Sofa. The micro-check fabric is cut from a thrift store-sourced man’s shirt. I used three strands of DMC floss to make the piping.


This was the couch last night. I thought I was going to use yellow piping — having also considered tomato red, plum, pumpkin and bright olive green — then opted for the charcoal gray. Keeps more options open for pillows and stuff.


The kit comes with unpainted cute fat feet. I used the aubergine acrylic the first set of doors was stained. The feet are not blurry in real life.

I am a bit surprised how well this curvy couch works on the covered porch. I had intended to use a sleek modern couch, upholstered in wool. Alternately, I have an old Houseworks Chippendale sofa kit, the one with the squiggly back. If I can find the right scale silk brocade, or maybe a fantastic Paisley man’s tie… then the wood base and legs could be yellow… The deadline for this build-along project is September 26. I don’t have to decide now :)


I cut slices of styrofoam eggs to build up areas of the ground and glued them to the project board.


I mixed thick glue and Ceramcoat “Trail Tan” and coated the mounds and surrounding area, then sprinkled on a fine sand/tea mixture. Still drying. In addition to farming wool, Argo Wool Works also grows lavender. There will be lots of it, as well as California poppies and succulents. I found this awesome echeveria tutorial from Annie Christensen of We Love Miniatures. Very excited to begin propagating.


Small progress on the Yipes, Stripes Meets Checks rug.


End of day Friday, B left work early and we went down to Sharp Park to watch the waves. We walked out onto the pier, and then along the esplanade. This is where a sink hole opened up in the sea wall a few storms ago. There used to be about eight more feet of walkway there. The sun was setting and there was a blowing mist in the air from the waves. A somber view of the ocean’s power.

Also, viewed together, the Yipes, Stripes rug and this photo have a certain commonality.

Foundation, Sideways


I’m about to go sideways on another project, so I want to catch up on what progress there’s been on the as-yet-nameless 2016 build. I’ve opted not to enter the HBS contest this year, and so will continue to post freely on this structure. This is a side foundation in progress, integrating the 1906 San Francisco earthquake salvage, which includes rubble as well as dressed stones, aka egg cartons.


Painted in a first coat of “Mudstone” with room for the support post.


I made one of Kris Compas’s bushel baskets from this month’s tutorial. Adorable.

2016-02-20 17.24.50.jpg

Here’s the backside of the build. I decided to add a deck off the porch to increase the living area. The main structure is not yet glued to the foundation, so I’m keeping add-ons modular. There will be more foundation elements to the deck, but I’m done with math and power tools for the evening.

Heading into a major multi-birthday month, which I believe in celebrating *fully*. It will include multiple three-year-olds. multiple 60-year olds — and others— as well as baby goats, cheese and fine, fine wine.


Foundation Rock Painting


Here’s the upside-down foundation with an “Espresso” wash, after drying overnight.

Delta Ceramcoat was on sale for US$0.97 (!) so I stocked up on these gorgeous earth colors:


If I wore lipstick I would totally want some in “Georgia Clay”.


I followed up with washes of “Roman Stucco”, “Trail Tan” and “Light Ivory”. Some stones were painted with a heavier wash of the light ivory, then dabbed off.


This is what the underside of the floor would like like if you crawled under the foundation and looked up. It will never be seen in the build, but I like knowing it’s there.


I was going to glue in joists and floorboards, but I’m just not feeling that crazy. Look at how different the stone color looks because of the light:


The exterior foundation walls are going to be built from salvaged dressed stone, with the occasional rubble and timber posts. I’ll be using egg carton:


And must now remember to buy the same kind (Judy’s Organic) to keep textures similar.


Here’s the start. It will be built at the rate at which I acquire cartons, which is equivalent to driving a rubble-loaded wagon back from San Francisco, so it will take a while. And that’s okay. The scenery is gorgeous :)

Lastly, I’ll share this PSA I made today. In the crafts store parking lot I looked down to see this perfect little horror of the most commonplace litter. Feel free to share :)


*steps down from soapbox*

Yipes, Stripes; Keystone, Geometry


Work continues on the Yipes, Stripes rug. A new working title has evolved: Stripes Invaded by Checks. It’s a very enjoyable and intuitive process watching it develop. Thus far we have the chaos of irregular stripes organizing themselves into more regular expression, as influenced by the surprise appearance of an upstart checkerboard pattern. I expect I’ll know how it’ll turn out at the end — when the length reaches six inches.

Making steady progress (and regress) on the new build. I finished the interior brickwork, and after a few color assays, decided on a soft white semigloss. There’s like four layers of gesso, some DecoArt Snow-Tex for mortar texture, floor and wall gaps filled with DAP CrackShot, and three layers of acrylic latex enamel paint. That’s authentic, right?


I’ve one more sanding and finish coat to do on the wall cabinet.

I glued in place the three interior walls, back porch wall and supports, and beams.


This is by far the most fiddling I’ve done with a base kit and am encountering many delicious measuring opportunities. The keystone pieces provided with the kit make excellent hide-one’s-crap-joinery structural reinforcing plates. I mentioned earlier how delighted I am with the hardware I ordered from Olde Mountain Miniatures. Here you see her star-shaped anchor plates and some punched paper bolts applied to the keystone.

I also stepped away from the aubergine-stained doors, opting instead to carry through with the gray stain. This leaves me far more options for adding color, and as I intend to use this build as a prop for photographing products, the more neutral the better.


The entire rest of the day was spent figuring out how to build the additional support posts, beams and window casings. I felt like Leonardo da Vinci contemplating Vitruvian Man or something, but I finally worked out the various dimensions (if not the angles; that’s what sandpaper is for). Then it was time to watch the sun set on this warm and mild day with a glass of wine. I’ll sketch out and record my findings tomorrow — many dimensions of strip wood are involved! — and work out how to correct the warp in the kit base board :(

No wait, I mean :) That’s tomorrow.

Aubergine, Overlook

Using the kit’s doors, stained aubergine, with the mullions painted oxidized lead black.


Yesterday I took a picnic lunch (not pictured) to Thornton Overlook, just north of Pacifica. So pleasant to sit outside with mild sea breezes and a majestic view. The Sea House Warming Hut is not far from here, in case a chill fog sets in :)


Looking south, with Pedro Point rocks in the distance.

Floors, Brickwork, Walls, Circus!


I use great books to weight the flooring as it dries flat. I like to think some of the principles and observations seep into the wood and inform the structure.


I filled the voids in the walls with foam core (smooshes into the corners nicely), thin kraft cardboard (looks like MDF, sandable) and wood glue (dries hard). One of the side walls has a large arch that used to open into another room; it’s since been bricked over.


The century-old oak beams are still visible on the interior walls. I whittle-aged them without stabbing myself. Oak is way denser than basswood :)


Oopsie! I mis-measured the height of the arch :/ The century-old oak beam supporting this wall is/was/will be, um, custom fitted.

Then I spent a lot of time staining and sanding. The weather today was mild enough —and not raining! —that I could do it outside. That was nice.

The exterior walls are clad in vertical board-and-batten, stained daffodil Keli yellow and classic gray.


Looks like the circus came to town!

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
—Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus