Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Greetings

No, that's not a miniature!  It's our house under a layer of December snow.

I haven't been working the past three weeks due to a nasty virus, from which I finally recovered just in time for Christmas Eve. 

I am going back to work on my new project - orders for a number of room boxes - tomorrow, and will post pictures later his week.

A bright New Year to all!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Koko Wrecks the Halls

This seems the season to put up a picture of this piece, which I finished just before the IGMA show in September. 

Any miniaturist who has a kitty knows that this kind of thing can happen!  Cats seem to be sure that roomboxes and dollhouses are really for them to nap in. They probably wonder what we are thinking when we clutter it up with furniture.

The cat is by Sylvia Mobley, and the table is by Mayberry Miniatures.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miniature Miniatures 2011 Desk Calendar - For Sale!

The Miniature Miniatures limited edition desk calendar for 2011 comes in a clear plastic CD case that opens to stand upright on your desk.  Each month has a picture of one of my favorite pieces. A brochure with "about the artist" and a brief description of each picture is included. Makes a great gift for any fan of miniatures; order soon to be sure of delivery in time for Christmas!

The price is $12.95 per calendar plus $2.00 for U.S. shippping. (Please contact me about shipping costs for international orders, or for more than one calendar.)

To order, you can write me at: Nell Corkin, 4584 Seneca Drive, Okemos, MI 48864, USA, or email me at  I accept postal money orders, Paypal (, checks (made out ot "Nell Corkin") and Visa/MC. (Note: for credit card orders, I will need the expiration date,the 3-digit code on the back of the card,your zip code and, of course, the credit card number. Please do not email these numbers; either send by mail or email me for my phone number and best time to call.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Philadelphia Miniaturia and Local Show Tomorrow

The "Philly Show" - actually in Cherry Hill, New Jersey - was great, as always! Thanks to those who stopped by my table - it was great to be able to speak with you in person.

I brought a few pieces home, and tomorrow and Wednesday I will be showing them at a small art show in our neighboring city of  East Lansing. If you're in the area. please stop by! In addition to my work, there will be paintings, jewelry, works in wood, glass and metal and much more. I love to show miniatures in a setting like this, to remind people that miniatures really can be considered a form of art.

Show details: Trillium Gallery "Road Show", Orchard Street Pumphouse, 368 Orchard Street, East Lansing, MI 48823.  Hours: November 16 & 17, 11am-7pm.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gate House Interior

For some reason, I am only able to load one picture per post at the moment....

Here's the interior.

If you are coming to Philadelphia Miniaturia this weekend, I hope you will stop by my table to see the Gate House, and to say hello!

The Finished Gate House

Just in time for Philadelphia Miniaturia!

Like the Garden Cottage I made earlier this year, the Gate House just didn't look quite finished until I added a weather vane, which is assembled from brass etched parts I buy from an English maker. It's very fragile, so I made an extra one in case of disaster.

I didn't have an appropriate table, so I had to quickly make one. I bought the turned legs in England a few years ago.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Gate House: Second Floor

 This is the front of the gate house, with the second story installed.  The second story overhangs the first on all sides, which helps to create a larger living area.

I've added a fireplace on one of the side walls. The open box you see in  the second picture is actually the stairwell, which is closed in so that the stairs won't be visible in the finished piece.

I tend to avoid building stairs unless it's absolutely necessary. They take a lot of time, making the piece more expensive without adding that much interest to the interior.

With the larger second floor, I felt that the house was beginning to overwhelm the base, so after these pictures were taken, I added a 3/8" piece to the front to make room for more landscaping.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The other side

This is the front of the gate house. As is the case with the original, there is a bench on the left side. A good place to leave deliveries, or to sit while witing for the gate keeper to come downstairs.

You can see the 4 x 6 note cards with elevation drawings of the house in the background. They are propped up so I can refer to the measurements when I'm cutting the timbers for the walls - and there are a lot of timbers!  I use N scale 2 x 8 and 2 x 6 strip wood for the timbers, and stain them using Minwax stain pens; usually "Provincial", a light brown.

And now for something completely different

This may look a litttle strange - my husband thought it was some kind of boat house.  Actually, it's the first floor of what is going to be a gate house. I've often seen photos of the gate house of a small English manor, and had been thinking of doing a version of it for quite some time. The  problem was that I wanted to have living quarters upstairs; and for a while, I couldn't decide how that room would be accessible from below without defeating the purpose of the gate house. (If they were outside, then anyone could just walk in.)

Recently, I found some more photos online that showed a door on the inside wall; it obviously led to a stairway.  The actual gate is in the middle of the structure, and when it's closed, the door is beind it. Now I had a solution to my problem, so it was time to build!  You can see the door toward the back on the right hand side. The stairway is enclosed, so it won't be visible when the next story is in place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Digory and I are very pleased with the finished Walnut Cottage.  Here it is, sitting on the table I made. Some extra paints and materials are on the bottom shelf.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Slight Detour

Before my new helper arrived, I was using a small table I already had to suppport the walnut house while I worked on it. Unfortunately, the table was so tall that poor Digory (that's his name) had to stand on a plastic box while he worked. It was very inconvenient, because he had to keep moving the box; so I decided to take the time to make a shorter table. Pictures tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My New Assistant

This Cornish Elf arrived on my doorstep last week after making the trip from Todd Krueger's studio in a stuffy cardboard box. He is being a great help with my latest project - a new walnut house - although he prefers to work at night, when I'm asleep.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I have begun work on a new project, inspired by a little visitor who dropped by. Pictures shortly....

After the IGMA Show

The IGMA Guild Show was wonderful. The new location in Teaneck, NJ is great, and conveniently close to The City. The hotel was very comfortable, and the staff couldn't have been nicer.  They even chased down pennies for me when I ran out of change!

There was a great variety of talented artists, including a number I had never seen before.  For several I spoke with, this was their first miniature show!

If you weren't able to come to the Guild Show this time, I hope you will make a point of attending next year. It's not to be missed!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guild Show

We're off to the IGMA Guild Show 2010 in Teaneck, New Jersey.

For show hours, directions and other info, click on the link under my picture at the right.

Hope to see you there - it's going to be a great show!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lyttleford Cottage

Just in time for IGMA!  A small half-timber house with a cozy interior.

I couldn't quite decide on a name, so finally settled on Lyttleford Cottage, after the imaginary town I invented as a home for my mini English houses and shops.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Victorian Cottage

This is something I'd been wanting to make for some time - a small Victorian cottage with board and batten siding. It turned out to be a lot more time consuming than I had anticipated.  One reason was that instead of using commercial scale siding with the battens (the narrow vertical boards) milled in, I decided to put them on individually. Figuring the spacing was a bit challenging, but I'm happy with the result.

The cottage is in the "Gothic Revival" style popular in this country from roughly the 1830's through the 1860's The steeply pitched roof, fancy trim on the gable ends and the board and batten siding are all typical of this style, which is also called "Carpenter Gothic."

The wonderful shake shingles (which I also used on the Garden Cottage that I'm teaching in Castine) are no longer being made, so I am hoarding them, and only use them when nothing else looks quite right.

The interior has a sitting room and bedroom.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Walnut Cottage

A walnut cottage in a summer landscape. The "hostas" in the center foreground were made from HO scale kits left over from the 1/4" scale flower arrangements I made for the Toy and Dollhouse Museum of Kansas City. I'm a huge fan of hostas, which grow very well here in Michigan, and have many varieties in my yard.

The inside.  There's a fireplace on the left wall, and a shelf holding books and accessories above the door.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another Way to Make Plates

I also occasionally use .005 white sheet styrene (available at hobby stores) for plates. It can easily be painted any color you like with acrylic craft paints.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nuremberg Kitchen

As sometimes happens, I've been so focused on working that i neglected to stop and take pictures.  Here's one of the things I just finished:

Toy kitchens have been made at least as long as dollhouses. Many were made in Germany, hence the name "Nuremberg Kitchen."  This one is an 18th Century version.  I love making these, because it gives me a chance to make lots of little detail parts. The hutch and settle are my own castings; the table and chair are scratch built. The accessories are mostly modified cast metal.  I make the plates by coating paper with about 3 coats of acrylic gloss medium, punching them out with a 1/8" hole punch, and making an indentation in the center with a very small nail set to give them some dimension.  For more elegant settings, I often paint the rims gold.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Whitledge-Burgess Connection

Ray Whitledge and Scott Burgess are teaching a great class, "La Coeur de la Maison" in Milwaukee, WI on October 13-16, 2010.  As you might guess, it's a lovely Country French style room. The original has two of my room boxes built into one of the back walls.  You can see it at:

You can increase the size of the image by clicking on it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Christmas in July

For some reason, I always start thinking about Christmas around this time of year. (Maybe it has something to do with a longing for cooler westher!) That may be why I decided that my class for Tom Bishop's 2011 Chicago Show would be a Christmas Dome.  Here it is:

I included the penny in the shot so that people not familiar with my work could easily see what the scale is. In the past, some people have signed up for my classes not realizing that they would be making something so small. Although they always stayed, and always successfully completed the project, I do prefer people to know what they are getting into!

The one day class will include making the tree and  painting and detailing all the other components, including the 1:1728 scale dollhouse. It's a fun project and doesn't require any special skills.

It's suitable for anyone, whether you have experience in 1:144 scale or not. If you are coming to the show, I hope you will consider joining us.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guild School 2011

I'm happy to announce that my class proposal for the 2011 Guild School has been accepted!  I will be teaching the Garden Cottage - see my blog posting for June 8th.

If you're coming to the Guild School and would like to try 1:144 scale, this is a great project.  It covers all aspects of the scale - construction, furnishing and landscaping.  No special skills or power tools are needed for this one, and it's fun to make!

There will be time in the class to completely finish the whole thing.  I'm obsessive about that, always take care to design my classes so that nobody leaves with a partly finished project. (Full disclosure: when I take classes, I'm always one of the last to finish, and have way too many unfinished pieces from classes I took years ago.  I don't want that to happen to my students.)

The Guild School 2010

The Guild School was one of the most enjoyable weeks I've had in ages. How could a whole week spent with people who share a love of miniatures be anything but wonderful? 

I took Mark Murphy's class, and made a beautiful Japanese tea chest.  Mark is an excellent teacher; everyone in the class left with a finished piece.  Here's a shot of mine while I was working on it:

I still have to stain my finished piece - that was something we were supposed to do at home, as it takes a couple of days for the stain to dry completely.  I've been busy getting together a sample and class description for Chicago International 2011, so I haven't done that yet, but hope to get to it this weekend.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Off to the Guild School

I'm excited to be heading to Maine for the Guild School today. A whole week of friends, fun, learning new skills and loads of miniatures - what could be better?

I may be able to post while I'm there; but if not, will give a full report - with pictures - when I return.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One more thing

I usually know when a project is finished. There always comes a point at which there doesn't seem to be anything to add. (Renoir famously said that he knew his painting of a nude was finished when he wanted to slap her bottom!)

I finished the little cottage and sent off pictures with my application to teach at the Guild School next year.

But...every time I looked at it, it just seemed to "need something".  I decided to put it away overnight and take another look the next day. Usually when I do this, I realize I have been over thinking things and leave the piece as is; but this time I knew right away what I wanted to add.  Here is the finished piece:

The weathervane is the cherry on the sundae, so to speak. It's a brass etching from Scale Link, a British company.  Here's the inside of the cottage:

Of course, a garden shed might be full of tools (ours certainly is!) , but I thought it would be more fun to make it a place where the gardener could take a break from work and have a cup of tea.  Notice the table made from a barrel.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Guild School

This week I'm getting ready for the IGMA Guild School, which will be held in Castine, Maine June 12-19.

It's a great event!  Imagine a whole week spent with a large group of peopple who share a passion for miniatures, in a beautiful little town on the coast of Maine. There are classes (I'm taking Mark Murphy's Japanese tea chest class), seminars and demonstrations, an auction, a sales night and a lobster dinner.
Way too much fun!

This year, I'm giving a seminar on how to make a 1:144 scale version of a real house.  I'll be using as an example the house from Manchester, MI that I made from May 27-July7 last year (see blog archive.).

I'm also submitting a proposal to teach a class next year. The project will be "Gardener's Retreat" - tiny garden shed based on small buildings I saw in Castine last summer.

It's a little more weathered looking than my houses usually are, but that look seemed appropriate for a garden shed. Here's the interior:

There will be more furniture, of course.

"Finished" pictures by Monday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Busy Month

I haven't posted for a while, but I have been busy!

My first project after Chicago was making a number of 1:48 scale flower arrangements for a truly magnificent house in that scale made by Frank Madder in the 1950"s, which has been acquired by the Toy and Dollhouse Museum of Kansas City.

Unfortunately, I can't post pictures because the arrangements are property of the museum, and I can't publish photos without their consent. If you happen to be in Kansas City, be sure to visit the museum - they have a wonderful collection, which includes some of my Baby Houses and one of my earliest walnut houses.

It was fun to work in a larger scale for a couple of weeks. I enjoy quarter inch scale, and sometimes do personal projects in that scale, just for fun. It was also a great chance to try working with HO scale flowers which, although reall on the large side for HO (1:84 scale) worked brilliantly for 1:48.  There were a few parts that I think I may be able to use in my scale.  Since they were kind enough to let me keep the leftover materials, I will be able to play around with them to see what I can do.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chicago International 2010

I'm in the midst of preparations for Tom Bishop's wonderful Chicago International 2010 miniatures show.  This fabulous show is not to be missed!  Collectors and dealers come from all over the world for the week long event, which includes workshops and sales rooms. For more information, visit:

I hope those of you who come to the show will stop by my sales table to say hello. I would love to meet you!

In these last few days, I'm making a few 1:144 domes.  I will post pictures in a day or two.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Here are the photos of the finished Cottages.  The interioirs are a bit hard to photograph because they are dark, as the real ones are. The furniture is mostly in the style of the 1920's - 30's.  The little cat on the ottoman in the bedroom was made by my friend, Sylvia Mobley.  I repainted the ottoman to match the furnishings.
And a closeup of the interior:

One of these was an order.  The other will be available for sale at Chicago International, April 16-18.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The landscaping has started.  As the process continues, my workbench becomes increasingly messy, as you can see!

I use model railroad lanscaping materials for my
landscapes because I know they will maintain their color and texture over time. The plastic box on the left holds fine ground foam in a mixture of medium to light greens, which I use for grass. (Adding a light color gives the effect of sun on the grass, so that it looks more real.) The flowers are little snips of bunka.

For the stones, I use real, tiny beach pebbles, which are readily available on lakeshores here in the midwest.  If you don't happen to have a lake nearby, you can use the tiny stones that pet shops sell for aquariums.

I hope to have these finished by this evening.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One more day

I thought the Glencairn Cottages would be done today, but forgot I hadn't made the shutters yet. Some projects are like that - there always seems to be one more thing to do.  I'm hoping to finish up the architectural detailing tonight, and start the landscaping in the morning.

Photos tomorrow for sure, whether it's finished or not!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Great thoughts

While working on the furniture for the Glencairn Cottages, I heard these wonderful words from the great dancer Martha Graham quoted by Dr. Christiane Nothrup.  Beacuse I believe we are all artists in one way or another, I want to share them:

"There is a vitality, a life-force, a energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever anytime. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others. If I add something to my time, then that is my prize."

New photos tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Shingles are Done!

As you can see, I still need to paint them.

To imitate shake shingles, I use randomly sized paper shingles that come on a roll.  Although they have adhesive backing, I ignore that and use white glue so I can be sure they will stay in place over time. The shingles are really HO scale (1:84), which is too large for 1:144; so I trim them down a bit and apply them so the rows are closer together. The fact that they come in a strip is convenient, but in a number of areas I had to cut them apart and put on one shingle at a time.

I had a bit of a scare a while ago when the manufacturer, Campbell Scale Models, stopped making these shingles. I couldn't find a substitute, and thought I was going to have to start making my own from brown paper.  Not a happy prospect.  Fortunately, I'm now able to order them again, so I must not be the only one who uses them!

I also finished the chimney and put the remaining colors on all the stone.  Next I will finish furnishing the interior. I leave final exterior finish till after that, when I won't have to handle the building so much. I'm hoping to have these done this weekend.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shingles and More Shingles

I've nearly finished attaching the shingles to the two houses.  It's a slow process, as the complicated roof requires a lot of special fitting. As so often happens, this is taking longer than anticipated.  Pictures tomorrow!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Stucco and stones have been added to the exteriors and are partly painted, though everything will get another coat. Like the Tower House (see archive) the stones are made from pieces of thin styrene strips, textured with gesso, and then painted. They  will get two additional colors, which blend into a tawny beige. The front doors - strips of N scale 2x8 wood, stained a light walnut color - have also been installed,

The upstairs walls and dormers are almost completed, but the gable end (with a large opening to make it easy to see the bedroom) still needs to be added before the roofs are installed. You can see the patterns for the gable ends in the background. There are two patterns because in this small scale, very slight variations occur from buuilding to building. I've found it's simpler to make a pattern for each one than to make just one pattern and have to adjust it.  The room on the right side will be completely closed when the house is finished. There is a small door in the bedroom, indicating that it's an attic space.

The rest of the chimney stones will be added after the roof is on.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back to work at last

It took longer than I anticipated to recover from that virus cold.  I'm finally back to work, and almost ready to put the roof on the Glencairn Cottage.  Pictures tomorrow!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Checking In

It's been quite a while since my last post. Once again, life has been interfering with art. I've been fighting a nasty virus cold, and though I'm slowly getting less sneezy and drippy, I probably won't be back to work for a few days. I managed to get the stone detail on the exterior walls finished before the virus struck, and will post pictures of that before adding the interior walls and the roof. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Progress on Glencairn Cottage

Life has been interfering with art lately, as it sometimes does, but I'm back to work again.

I've now finished the first floors of the Glencairn Cottages.

The floors are made from a single piece of model ship decking, which I stain and varnish.To ensure a perfect fit I make cardstock patterns, which you can see in the background. By cutting off the small extension, I can use the same patterns for the upstairs floors. This way both floors will be exactly the same size, which helps to keep everything square. This is very important in small scales, because even the slightest deviation means that the walls will be crooked.

I usually wait until the building is finished to furnish it, but it's easier to do built in features, like the fireplace and kitchen cabinets and fixtures, whiile there is still access from above. All items except the sink (a casting) were scratch built from strip styrene. The pulls on the cupboards are silver micro beads. I paint them white and then dot them with silver so they look less like beads. The refrigerator was inspired by a built-in refrigerator in my grandmother's house.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Glencairn Cottage

My first project for 2010 is Glencairn Cottage, a design I've made before. 

I keep detailed notes on everything I make in case I want to make another.  Usually, I keep them on 4x6 cards. However, this house requried the use of templates for several parts, so I used a large sheet of paper to make it easier to copy them all at once.

Taking the time to make notes and drawings can be challenging when you're in the midst of putting something together, but it really pays off later. Even if you don't make exactly the same thing more than once, design elements from one design can easily be transferred to another if you already have drawings.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I've just added a translator to the blog. You can go to the Babel Fish box near the bottom of the page and choose from the available languages.

I have taken time off during the holidays, and will be starting a new project on Monday.

Happy 2010 to all!

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