Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Pargeted House

Decorative plaster work, known as pargeting, was the fashionable way to update your half timber house in 16th-17th century England. Inspired by Henry VIII's Nonesuch Palace (now demolished, unfortunately), designs could range from simple geometric shapes to fabulous fantasy creations, depending upon the skill of the craftsman and the taste - and budget - of the home's owner. The craft of pargeting is still practised in England today; "Pargeter" (the author Edith Pargeter, for example) has even become a last name.

I had wanted to make a pargeted house ever since I first saw pictures of some fifteen years ago; they are so unusual and charming! Until very recently, though, I coudn't quite decide how to go about it. When I finally tackled the problem head on, it turned out to require several different materials and techniques, including brass etchings, N scale landscaping bits and molded styrene shapes. Quite a lot of trial and error was involved, but I was pleased with the result.

The house sold at Philadelphia Miniaturia, and is now in a private collection. I will probably make another pargeted house, but not quite as eleaborate. this one has pargeting on three sides.

I gave it a cozy English cottage interior, with a half tester bed inthe master bedroom. The little dog on the cushion (upper right room) is by Sylvia Mobley.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Summer Studio

Once in a while I get an idea for a project, but have to let it simmer on the back burner while I work on other things. This is one of those projects. When I designed the Garden Cottage for my Guild School class, I was thinking about other outbuildings that might be in someone's back yard. An artist's studio came to mind immediately, but I wasn't quite sure about the style. I finally decided on a more modern building, just for a change of pace. We live in a mid-century modern house, so this studio would look very nice in our back yard!

A happy recent discovery was that N Scale flowers are becoming available. That's what the sunflowers are, though I repainted them because I'm much too fussy to leave anything "as is." The hostas (green and white plants) are HO scale vegetables that I assembled NOT according to instructions and repainted.

My good friend Terry Junger made the two in progress paintings on the easels.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Email Issues

I have recently discovered that some emails sent to inquire about my miniatures were apparently trapped by my evil spam filter, and I never saw them. Now that I am aware of the problem, it shouldn't happen again.  If you have emailed me in the last few months and never received a reply, please re-send your email for a prompt response, and accept my apologies.

At last!

After disappearing into my studio for a month, I have new things to show.  First is that storybook style cottage I mentioned in my last post.  I'm calling it "Charming Cottage":
It's a somewhat smaller version of the Glencairn Cottage I made a couple of years ago.The chimney was inspired in part by the Hugh Comstock "Hansel" cottage in Carmel, CA. I loved the niche for the flowerpot in the chimney, so I just has to include it in my version.

It was a bit of a challenge putting the curve in the roof, but I managed it by bending 1/64" plywood with the grain.

The interior is a bit dark - just like the full size houses. There's a sitting room on the ground floor and a bedroom upstairs. The fireplace is the same asymmetrical shape as the chimney. On the right side of the bedroom is a tiny porcelain cat on a hassock by Sylvia Mobley, which unfortunately only partly shows in the picture. 

If you blow up the photos, you'll see that I really should have been sure to blow all the landscaping foam out of the house before I took the pictures!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stay Tuned

Now that I'm all caught up on orders, I have plans for some new things to be ready in time for the Guild Show in September.

First up will be a new storybook style cottage, inspired by the fanciful homes designed by Hugh Comstock in 1920s.

It's in the design stage today - photos soon!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guild School Continued

I was so proud of my students, I just have to share the picture of all their cottages on display at thebanquet. The tables in the back row were made by Mark Murphy.

The button says: "I worked as little as possible at the IGMA Guild School 2011!" (We did, too!) I gave one to every student at the end of class.

The cherry on the sundae is that I will be teaching again next year - my Victorian Cottage this time.

Guild School Pictures

I've been working on orders, so I haven't had new pictures in a while. It seems like a good time talk about the 2011 IGMA Guild School.

It was my first year teaching, so I was very lucky to be assigned to an unusual and wonderful classroom in the old presidents's house. The house is almost at the top of the hell where the school is located, and has a great view of the bay. 

The class was held in the sun room, which you can see at the right of the building. There were so mant windows that even though we had a clooudy, rainy week, there was very good light.

Here's the classroom, after I had set everything up on Friday.
The staff at the Maine Maritime Academy are so friendly and helpful, I was able to set up very quickly and have lots of time left to wander around Castine looking for inspiring architecture - not hard to find, because the little town is full of 18th and 19th Century buildings of all kinds and sizes. I took lots of pictures! 

The week went by in a flash, and everyone finished their Garden Cottage a little early on Friday, so we were all able to rest up before the closing banquet. 

Continued on next post....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Off to the Guild School

I'm leaving for Castine today. Looking forward to meeting my students and getting away from the awful heat we've been having here in Michigan!

Connie Sauve sent me a picture of the Noel and Pat Thomas dolls she made for our aution piece. They are amazing, and I can't wait to see the whole thing together.

For those of you who have asked for kits: I'm afraid my houses are really too complicated to make to be sold in that way. However, I hope to continue teaching at the Guild School, and would urge anyone who can to join me in Castine. I will also be teaching classes for smaller items, such as domes and room boxes, at Tom Bishop's Chicago International and probably also at Philadelphia Miniaturia in 2012.

I hope to be able to post at least once while I'm at the Guild School.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Getting Ready for the Guild School

It's been a very busy three weeks as I prepare materials for my class at the I.G.M.A. Guild School. So much to do!

I just finished the class prototype of "Garden Cottage", having sold the first one to a long time customer who called to ask: "Do I have to make one, or can I just buy it?" (Classes are not everyone's idea of a good time!)

I dictated directions into a small recorder as I worked; now I have to write them out and make assembly drawings.

I've assembled parts, made multiple lists, and the studio is filled with partially packed boxes of supplies. It's fun, but a lot of work! The very last thing I did was make and paint 15 of the tiny weathervanes (10 plus 5 extra, in case of disasters.) All the other construction will be done by the students.

The Guild School is a one of a kind experience, whether you are a student or a teacher. It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on - as the saying goes - if you happen to love miniatures!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The "Thomas Table"

Making a 1:144 vesion of "La Fenetre" turned out ot be quite a challenge! I had planned to use N scale strip wood, but the sizes I needed turned out to be so small that styrene turned out to be the only way to go. The red vertical strips on the second story, for example, are .010 " x .020".

The the roof over the first floor was chemically weathered copper for the 1:12 version we made in class. It simply isn't possible to do that in 1:144, so I used .005" styrene with .010"X .010" ribs. I painted it black, then added a dark brown wash with just a tiny bit of metallic bronze in it , then a verdigris color wash.

The side walls were plastered in the 1:12 scale version; I used gesso for the 1:144 scale version.

My favorite trick learned in the class was making the drain pipe at the bottom of the downspout out of masking tape. Just a few wraps of 3/4" tape, with more wraps of a narrow strip of tape at the top, some paint, and voila! It looked just like the real thing! So that's what I have Noel making on the table.

This isn't quite finished - there will be a Guild School mug full of paint brushes at the back left where that empty spot is. I'm still waiting for it to come, so I'm putting this aside for a bit to start putting the kits for my class together.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guild School 2011

Now that Chicago is over, I'm turning my attention to the Guild School. There's lots to do, especially in preparing for my Garden Cottage class.

First, though, I'm working on a piece to be donated for their annual fund raising auction. This is the last year legendary artists Noel and Pat Thomas will be teaching at the Guild School, so I'm teaming up with the wonderful doll artist, Connnie Sauve, to make a piece in their honor. Connie is making Noel and Pat dolls, and I am making a work table with an "in progress" version of "La Fenetre", the class they will be teaching this year. (To see it, go to:
I was lucky enough to take the class in 2009, so I have lots of photos to work from.

I've almost finished the 1:144 La Fenetre", and am about to set up the work table. I had planed to make a table, but remembered that I had a table by Mark Murphy (also a Guild School instructor) that somehow looks very "Noel Thomas-y", so I'm going to use that.

Pictures soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oreo was bored with the cat tree

I've had this lovely hanging shelf by Marcia Gardner for some time, and had always meant to put rooms in it. Then this porcelain kitty by Sylvia Mobley gave me an idea...

Come see Oreo at Chicago International!

Chicago Class: A Little Christmas

My Chicago class is filling up, but there are still a few openings. This is a fun project, whether you're an old hand at 1:144 scale, or just want to try it.

The scene includes gifts and a 1:1728 scale dollhouse. The tree has tiny crystals, which give the effect of lights.

"A Little Christmas" can be displayed on its own, or can be used as a Christmas decoration in a 1:12 setting.

There will be plenty of time to finish the project in this 1-day class.  I will also have a limited number of extra kits for sale for those who prefer to work at home.

For more information on the class, click on the picture in the right hand column.

Monday, March 28, 2011

House Plant

 Now for something completely different - a walnut house in a planter!

The idea came to me when I saw the beautiful hand turned bowls made by Tom Frey. The bowl I've used for this piece is cherrywood, with a natural rim.

The house, as always, is made from a real walnut, with acorn caps as roof and awnings. It's supported on oak twigs from our yard, and embellished with bits of dried grapevine.  The tiny landscape inludes agate pebbles from the southern shore of Lake Superior, collected for me by friends who were vacationing there.

One of the real pleasures of what I do is receiving unexpected gifts of natural bits and pieces from friends and family who have seen the walnut houses and think I might be able to use some interesting pebbles, tiny shells, fragments of bark, driftwood or fungi. I'm so grateful to them! It's helped me to build up quite a collection of wonderful things, which I dip into all the time.

The interior has a cozy bed, tables and a comfy chair; a shelf over the door holds books and dishes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Her Dream House

When I first saw Todd Krueger's beautiful mermaids, I wondered what kind of dollhouse these magical creatures would have. Finding this wonderful piece of driftwood gave me the "nudge" I needed to build one.

Perched on a piece of coral that is studded with tiny rhinestones, the house has a sand dollar floor and a sea urchin roof, supported by columns of coral and pearl.  All the furnishings are made from natural shells and coral bits; the decorations include gilded starfish and more impossibly tiny shells.

Everything is adorned with seed pearls, beads and crystals.

The mermaid seems pleased with her work, and is musing about whether to add just one more thing.

Come see her at Chicago International 2011!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Petite Patisserie II

This version of the Patisserie is a bit different from the framed one, but retains the overall composition and color scheme. 

You'll notice that the alcove on the left of the back wall is gone, and the inset shelves on each side have been replaced by "glass" shelves mounted on the walls. To accommodate the projecting shelves, I had to make the box about 1/4" wider. The baker's rack in this version is a bit larger, and is painted white. The total number of tiny cakes and pastries is about the same.

This version of the Patisserie and my other new pieces will not be available for sale until the Chicago International Show, April 8th - 10th.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Getting Ready for Chicago

I've finished putting together my class kits for Chicago. It's going to be a fun project, and "doable" even for people who may not have worked in 1:144 scale before.

Now it's time to make some new pieces for my table. I finished a walnut house, and am now working on a frameless version of the Patisserie. Pictures will be up shortly!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Living Room

This is a little room box I made for a customer as a special order. Note the 1:1728 scale dollhouse on the table at the right.

I'm planning to make some more open room boxes for the Chicago International show in April.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

More Room Boxes

I've been working away on room box orders. Today I'm finishing up another Patisserie, but won't be posting pictures as it's the same as the ones I made last month.  I'm also making an "open" room box (no frame) for this customer.  It will be a living room with a 1:1728 dollhouse; pictures will be posted in a couple of days.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Christmas Room

I always enjoy making Christmas things, no matter what the time of year. This room box is an order I finished this week.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Finished Kitchen and Patisserie

...and here are the kitchen and pastry shop for the other order.

My next project will be Christmas room box; and then more french rooms.

Finished Kitchen and Bedroom

I have to do separate posts for the finished pieces, as the program doesn't seem to want to upload two pictures per post at the moment.

So, here is one order; a kitchen and the bedroom.

Two More Rooms

Here are the other two rooms in the first round of room boxes.

On the left is the patisserie, with layout and colors inspired by Ray and Scott's class.  There are around 30 tiny pastries in the shop, made from
polymer clay and decorated. The projections you see on the exterior wall are display cases with mirrored backs.

On the right is an elegant bedroom.  The tapestry hangings on the bed are repeated in the window treatment. On the floor at the foot of the bed are two tiny porcelain spaniels in a basket by Sylvia Mobley. Because this is a French bedroom, I thought there should be an armoire, which I didn't include in an earlier version.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Room Boxes in Progress

The two French country kitchens from the first group of orders are finished. I meant to post pictures sooner, but sometimes I just become so absorbed in what I'm doing that I can't bear to stop and fiddle around with photography!

I followed the color way (red/yellow/blue) from a French kitchen Ray and Scott taught a few years ago. The original had blue walls, but the blue just didn't look very good with the wallpaper that will surround the room boxes when they are installed (propped up at right in photo). I played it down a bit by only bringing the blue up to a chair rail, and using paper with all three colors (Brodnax "Morocco", reduced)  above. There is "tile" on the back wall behind the stove and sink.

In the background are two of the frames, with the mats installed, and the beginnings of the other two room boxes, which will be a bedroom (left) and a patisserie (right).

When all four rooms are done, I will mount them in the frames and move on to the next group of orders.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Room Boxes

My first project for the new year is a group of room boxes, mostly for people who took Ray Whitledge and Scott Burgess'  "La Coeur de la Maison" class last fall. (See my "The Whitledge/Burgess Connection" post for July 25, 2010).

I have the boxes for the first group of four rooms assembled. They will be two French country kitchens, a French bedroom and a patisserie. The first to be finished will be the kitchens.  I've spent the last 2 days papering, installing windows and building the cabinets that fill the back wall. First photos tomorrow!

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