in 1/144" Scale and N Scale
NOVEMBER, 2012: Paint mixing and color coordination are challenging. The process is educational (and frustrating) because mixing my own colors begets unexpected results. A harmonious color palette becomes ever more elusive. So I love the moment when Hubby Dan says, "I like it," which is my signal that it's okay to start painting.
Doot-dee-doo. I've finished cogitating. Here are some runners-up: Dollhouses To Go, Dollhouse Proud, and Mini Victorians. And the winner is... Victorian Dollhouses. I agree, it's not snappy, but it kinda says it all, doesn't it?
Landscaping is enjoyable because it's so rewarding. It completes a dollhouse. It's more forgiving than assembly, and can be accomplished fairly quickly (usually, around two weeks). As Hubby Dan would say, "You get a big bang for your buck."
On the other hand, I'm looking forward to assembling houses again. Even though assembly can be a bit stressful (there's little room for error), it's a cherished activity because it takes me back in time. I try to honor the Victorian aesthetic through my choices of exterior colors, interior wallpapers, and area rugs. For many years, a passionate dream of mine was to live in a rambling Victorian mansion... but that's not going to happen. At this point in my life, I don't feel up to maintaining an old house or pouring dollars into a money pit. But with these Victorian dollhouse kits, I'm living the dream without breaking my back or my bank account.
Reliable entertainment is needed to while away the drying time. I surf the Internet for examples of fine Victorian architecture, which I've compiled into a large personal library for my color research and landscaping inspiration. Abandoned houses are collected too, even though it's distressing to view them.
Earlier, while glue was drying, I decided to check out other aspects of grand Victorian homes, such as imposing staircases and impressive fireplace mantels. Somehow, this led to viewing vintage photos of Victorian families, which then led to studying images of Victorian sartorial elegance, which naturally led to photos of corseted women. A 15-inch waist was considered the height of feminine beauty, but only two types of women could afford to flaunt such severely whittled waists: The wealthy (queens and princesses sported enviable "wasp" silhouettes), and stage actresses (on whom kings and princes often bestowed singular favors).
It took a world war to free women from corsets. Wikipedia says that in 1917 the U.S. Government asked women to stop buying corsets to preserve metal for war production. Some 28,000 tons were saved, enough to build two battleships!
Women's fashions are eye-opening when you investigate the theories behind them. One premise is that men prefer women dressed in clothing that inhibits movement (it's hard to run from a man when you're wearing a hobble skirt and high heels). And obviously, a man's wealth is paraded via his wife's attire. The restriction of the Victorian wife's movement by bone-breaking corsets and skin-tight kid gloves "proved" her incapacity for manual labor, meaning she was rich enough to have many servants.
All I can say is thank goodness for elastic-waist pants, and I think that glue has dried by now.
Initially, I thought post-mortem photography disturbing (especially when it took a while for the photographer to find his way to the home of the departed). Well, the concept is still a tad unsettling, but the more I look at some of these photos, the more I find them poignant and even quite beautiful.
I promise to post jollier thoughts in future, just as soon as I stop procrastinating and get back to building miniature houses!
In the excitement, the only thing I forgot was the dry run. Darn, I glued the wrong pieces together, and it's too late to pry them apart because this glue dries fast. At this point, it's best to walk away and go watch a kung fu movie with Hubby Dan. Tomorrow, modifications will be necessary.
Closed-cell foam is difficult to carve with precision, but it doesn't need to be primed before pouring artificial water onto it. This type of foam is commonly used in shipping (molded to fit around precious gadgets such as flat-screen TVs and appliances), but it's hard to find vendors who sell it in convenient sizes for crafts.
Open-cell foam carves like butter, and it's easily found in craft stores and online, but it "gasses." Before pouring artificial water on it, you must prime the area with Flex Paste by Woodland Scenics®. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way. One of my miniature lakes started out pretty and placid, but over time large, stiff bubbles erupted. Now the lake looks like a geothermal system. One silver lining is that if I ever decide to create a miniature of Yellowstone National Park, I know some tips and tricks!
Lesson #1: Do Not Use Force. That miniscule, crucial (now broken) piece will go flying, never to be seen again.
Lesson #2: Any hobby that requires a jeweler's lamp and sharp blades is probably not for Type A personalities.
Lesson #3: Consider the structure and decorative trim as separate projects. Otherwise, say goodbye to sanity.
Lesson w/o number: Put down that blade! An emery board works just fine.
Lesson #4: Step Away from the Paintbrush... if you're not 100% sure about the colors.
Lesson #5: There are consequences when the first wall raised isn't square. Need I say more?
Lesson #6: Do not attempt outdoor photography of tiny dollhouses on a windy day.
Lesson #7: Know your rigid foam, to avoid water-feature effervescence down the road.
Lesson #8: Never use the same color on the clapboard and trim because... meh, it's kinda boring.
Lesson #?: Inspirational photos are great, but know when to look away (competing with full scale shortens lifespan).
Lesson #9: Very sharp blade = optimum results with the greatest of ease.
Prepping for a move, after you've been living someplace for almost 20 years, is a lot of work. And all of the real estate brochures say that "collections" should be put away so as not to distract potential buyers. Therefore, the contents of my hobby area were packed up and stowed away months ago. It was a sad day for me when I stretched packing tape across the top of the cardboard box containing treasured elements for building pint-size Victorian houses.
Unfortunately, it will be a while before I start building miniature houses again. Hubby Dan and I are going to build a new home out in the boonies of Missouri, near dear relatives. Why are we troubling to build? To address my intense fear of tornadoes, of course. Our new home will be made of concrete! It's the only way to face the wicked weather of the Midwest.
In the meantime, I find myself daydreaming about Victorian colors, wallpapers, and gardens… it helps to have something pleasant to think about while packing.
Until next time, best wishes for a wonderful 2014 to all miniatures fans!
I flopped back in my seat in disappointment, convinced I'd never be able to capture winter's solemn grandeur in miniature. One problem is the lack of realistic leafless trees in 1/144" scale. But to give up on an entire season, without even trying? That's disgraceful. If suitable material exists, I'll find it.
Update: I'm getting warmer in my quest for wintertime trees. Ngineering has photo-etched bare trees, which offer great potential. Another contender might be ostrich feathers, but this option promises to be a time-consuming effort, one that conjures images of me in my hobby area with a stiff neck, sputtering obscenities. Okay, feathers may not be practical for constructing bare trees, but I have a feeling they'll have other, exquisite uses. I'll play with some, and let you know.
I sorely miss building and landscaping dollhouses, but I'm reluctant to unpack craft supplies while living in rented space. Besides, I'd have to find the boxes first, which are stowed somewhere in the mountains of other unpacked boxes. To appease my growing anxiety about the lack of "construction" in my life, I decided to order Model Power's N Scale Victorian House. I've had my eye on this kit for some time.
It's a good thing I didn't postpone placating myself because, darn it, Model Power recently discontinued this product. Several resellers display the kit on their websites, but they only tease you with a picture and then post a warning in tiny letters, "Out of stock." Uh-oh. Thankfully, persistent Googling unearthed a few places that still had a kit or two in inventory.
All of the reviews that I've read about this kit are positive, even though it's 100% plastic. I can't wait to give it a go, and show you the results.
Nancy Oriol of Northeastern Scale Models [closed February, 2016] wrote in an email, "Your work is so nice." I doubt she realized how much encouragement I would draw from that simple compliment.
Boyd Newmant of Louisiana Railroad Company generously shipped the last two Model Power Victorian House kits in his inventory, to ensure that I would have one complete and perfect kit.
Back in the late 1980's, Margaret Kelly Trombly, curator at The Forbes Galleries, offered gentle guidance. I never met Malcom Forbes, but I appreciated his purchasing my dollhouse, especially when he could have had his pick of exceptional dollhouses by well known craftspeople.
Over the years, friends and strangers have given practical advice and kind praise. I look forward to continuing to learn, and to providing encouragement, deliberately or unwittingly, to others.
Building a new home is a serious undertaking. It is not for the faint of heart. Every single selection affects a myriad of other selections. A decision once thought final is now dubious, all because of a last-minute substitution, a simple color change, or the discontinuance of a fixture that I fell in love with months ago. Therefore, organization and flexibility are key. Goodness, I just realized that the experience gained from building miniature houses has given me the skills to cope with the construction of our home. Cool!
Another discovery is that life simply is busier when relatives are nearby. It's nice to spend more time with loved ones, something I missed while living in the Northeast. Nieces and nephews grew up without me, but I'll be here to witness growth spurts of the next generation and that's grand.
Now for the bad news... yesterday I spent some time online to update my address with various companies, when I learned some shocking news: Northeastern Scale Models will be closing at the end of this month! They are the manufacturers of some of the finest 1/144 dollhouse kits available. I think there's only one other manufacturer of 1/144 kits, but their product line is limited. There is a possibility that another company may take over NESM's line, but if not, what then? A truly distressing thought....
I kept another promise to you, which was to "play with feathers." After several hours of playing, I decided I wasn't having any fun. Trying to make 1/144" scale plants out of feathers is for the birds. It just wasn't worth the time and frustration. Frankly, I do believe it's possible with a LOT of patience to create amazing plants out of feathers, but another obstacle is color. Feathers tend to be dyed in flashy hues because, well, folks who prance in feathers prefer perky colors!
Unfortunately, chip LED bulbs have been problematic. It's critical that lighting be dependable as well as easy to replace in the event of bulb failure, so I sent out an SOS to a couple of hobby companies. John Thut of DCC Hobby Supply was kind enough to recommend a product by Woodland Scenics called the Just Plug® Lighting System. It seems an easy solution... I'll let you know.
Alas, I never got around to trying a Branchline kit. Instead, I stockpiled several Northeastern Scale Models kits just before NESM shut down, partly because theirs were more affordable.
Well, I got to thinking that it may be time to pursue seriously an idea Hubby Dan has for building our own microscale Victorian mansions using a 3D printer. Hubby Dan joined a non-profit group of inventors, artists, and free thinkers in the area; they possess a 3D printer and have plenty of smart people to help us figure out how to use it. As luck would have it, St. Louis boasts a superb assortment of classic architecture. Perhaps current homeowners would allow photography for 3D modelling? Replicas of prominent homes in our city – nay, in our country! – could be a meaningful contribution to posterity. Most mansions were built to last centuries, but you and I both know that Time marches on.... How many handsome houses have been razed to make room for Progress? Anyway, these are notions to ponder as I look into the legality of creating miniatures of private dwellings.
Well, I had another thought. Imagination comes in handy. Some people are astonishingly creative, while others struggle with inspiration. I'm one of those who occasionally struggle, but I have a computer, which means I can Google, which means I have instant access to pictures of the fruits of other people's imagination and labor. Googling opens the door to a vast photography collection brimming with handsome houses, of every style and hue, showcasing unique and colorful gardens. The Internet is a great place to gather ideas for your miniature outdoor scenes, without ever leaving your chair. But better still, I should stroll through a lovely neighborhood... it's a great way to burn calories while sniffing flowers.
I won't bore you with all my excuses, but one I will confide: My miniature landscaping projects are based on Google images of real houses and yards... and perhaps these latest property designs are just a tad too ambitious?
Well, what are the chances that anyone will recognize and compare the designs that I've copied? And what are they gonna do about it anyway? So, as soon as I finish dilly-dallying here, I'm gonna get back to work. I'm sure the minute I get started, I'll forget all about those dab blame excuses and just plain have a good ol' time!
BTW, I think that darn Midwestern lingo is creeping back in.
I finished View with a House, one of two ambitious landscaping projects, and hope you agree that it came out well. The second project is well underway, but it's that time of year when Hubby Dan and I spend a lot of time outdoors, busy with lawn-maintenance chores. And the only good thing I can say about that is that we burn calories.
Of course, we've been stuck at home for several months now because of Covid-19. This should mean that I have even more time to devote to miniature houses, but somehow, oodles of binge-worthy TV series – which we never had time to watch before – suddenly became paramount in our lives. We felt the need to catch up culturally. We finally discovered what everyone was raving about, 20 years ago, when we binge-watched The Sopranos. Years later, I understand why my lovable boss, an Italian and enthusiastic fan of the show, kept apologizing for using four-letter words in the office (if you watched that show, you may recall wrestling with your own involuntary vocabulary outbursts).
Anyway, I do look forward to showing you my latest project. Also, I hope you and your loved ones are faring well.
We’re close to closing the chapter on 2020, but I refuse to make a New Year's Resolution. It's just too hard to keep. Perhaps it's worked for me before, but I don't remember. It's best not to tempt fate, so this year I neither resolve nor promise to exercise.
Jeez, already I'm feeling excited about pulling out those old exercise videos! It's important for me to build endurance so I can sit in a booth all day at an arts & crafts fair. My cousin Alan, the guy whose toothpick structure rekindled my passion for miniatures, moved to Missouri this year. He's a fabulous artist, with a most impressive résumé, and he has "booth" experience. We hope to have neighboring booths at a local festival. I'm a booth virgin, so it will be delightfully reassuring to have a friendly, supportive face next to me.
But none of this can happen until life gets back to normal. It's possible that many of us don't even know what "normal" is anymore. Well, as another cousin wrote in his annual Christmas email, my wishes for you are that you have something to do, something to look forward to, and someone to love. With good health, what more do you need?
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