Wednesday, May 6, 2015

White Orchid (nearly) Finished


I built the White Orchid six years ago and promised to post finished pictures. Well, it is about to be packed up for a move and won't see daylight until about Thanksgiving, so I took some photos to update you. (Click this link to see the building progress. Click on the images to see larger views.)

For those unacquainted with what I did here, I used the 1:12 scale house and fitted it out for its 1:24 scale occupants.

This is how she looks today. The opening above the door is meant to house a cuckoo. His polyclay body is baked but his feathers have not been applied.

I did not install the front door as  it would have taken up too much room inside. I wanted it open so as to be able to see in. None of the folks who have viewed the house have mentioned the lack of a door.  The settee was scratch built. The two thin dowels (plus a U-channel along the back edge) are sufficient to keep the ceiling from sagging, since I also left out the ground floor interior wall.

The landscaping is a mix of natural materials, plastic flowers and polyclay mushrooms. The base is contractor's foam covered with gesso and painted to look like sandy soil. The little men on the step are salt and pepper shakers.



The large mushroom is a Christmas tree ornament, just like the ones that decorated our tree as I was growing up. That, plus the creamy whiteness of the White Orchid's plastic, provided the inspiration for this house in the Bohemian forest.

The left side is fairly plain, as befitting its mushroom appearance.



The right side is a bit more complex with the bay window, so the landscaping has less detail.


The back reveals three rooms. A combination workshop and kitchen on the ground floor with a trundle bed for the one girl elf and a bunk room for the four boy elves and a shared sitting/dining area for all of them. (By the way, three of the elves were out when the photos were taken.)

The landscaping across the back just fills the narrow ledge. The cute little raccoon is a button. The red-capped mushrooms are showing up a bit dull in the photos. I blasted them with canned air but it left some dust behind.


The workshop is on the ground floor. The guys have been busy, with lots of toys already finished. The room divider holds some of the sugary goodies baked in the kitchen. Under the divider is a trundle bed for the female elf. It would not do for her to bunk with the boys.


You can see from the workbench that they're still at it. Look at the plastic stars on the walls. They are each wired with a tiny light. The stars themselves are real life mirror fasteners.

 The kitchen is small but efficient.

The stairway is constructed from contractor's foam painted with gesso. The bricks are ceramic. The little mouse band on the stairs was a set of miniature Christmas ornaments. With the bottom steps pulled away you can see the lever that activates the batter pack to turn on the lights. The channels for the wiring are carved into the backside of the fireplace wall, which can be moved away from the wall for maintenance. 

The common area upstairs has a dining area and some comfy chairs. 

There are books in the shelves built into the center gable. The lamps on the hutch light up,

The doorway leads to the bunk room.

The lady elf keeps her sewing machine upstairs, away from the sawdust and paint splatters of the downstairs workshop. The lamps on the end tables light up.

The wooden floor is a sample of window blind from Lowe's. It covers the lamp wires that feed up to this floor from the battery pack below.

The bunk room is fitted with hammocks. With the sloping ceiling, they worked better than bunk beds.


The closeup of the roof seen here shows what a nice covering the Krylon spray paint provided. It's in keeping with the satiny sheen of the raw plastic. The white spots are cut from craft foam sheets.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Pottery Shop Dressed and Ready to Party!


The pottery shop and studio is 99% finished. As in real life, there is always some tweaking to be done. Here is the Shadyside Potter as she stands today. (Click on the photos for a larger view.) The driveway has been completed, stepping stones made from terracotta air dry clay have been installed, the turf has been roughed up to show some wear from foot traffic, and tea leaves and coffee grounds now masquerade as dirt and mulch.
     The kiln still has a bit of a shine after several sprayed coats of matte-finish artist's medium. I've accepted that it is what it is and won't fiddle with it any more.

I discovered that there is a subtle difference in the shade and texture of tea leaves. Earl Grey has a slightly larger cut and is lighter in color than English Breakfast tea. Coffee grounds are more granular and are much darker than either of the teas. I used Earl Grey for the mulch around the stepping stones, coffee grounds for mulch under the bushes and trees, and a combination of the two teas with a touch of coffee grounds next to the driveway. For the path between the door and the kiln, I scraped off some of the grass and sprinkled a mix of all three mulches to indicate some footworn spots.

On the shop side of the building, there is less going on. After this photo was taken, I added a couple more pots on the ground next to the porch. The stepping stones here are also made from terracotta air dry clay. (Note to self: that bit of stone wall is crying out for a ceramic wall sculpture.)

The photo in the next picture was the inspiration for the driveway. I went to Walmart and bought two dozen eggs just for the cartons; the grocery store we usually use offers only plastic foam trays. The arrow is pointing to an inscription in the stepping stone. While the clay was wet, I used a pin to scratch KB 2013 into it. :) 
     The tea leaves, coffee grounds and loose turf were sprinkled onto diluted white glue that was brushed on the base. The top layers didn't touch the glue and had a tendency to blow around. I hit them with a good dose of hair spray, which keeps them in place while remaining invisible. Another part of the 1% tweaking that needs to be done is aging the stepping stones. They look uncomfortably new. 

Inside the shop, I added some posters and signs for a bit of color. I copied them from the internet and printed them on matte-finish photo paper.

I see two more spaces for ceramic wall art -- above the door and below the shelf.  I like this shot because it shows the skylight in the studio area.

One sign is posted in the studio. It reads: Keep Calm and Throw Something. This photo shows the back of the garage doors, which are perfectly flat. I faked the boards and cross bars by drawing them with a woodburning tool and doing a bit of shading with the paint to mimic the front sides.

Okay, so maybe the pottery is closer to 95% than 99% complete. There is still the potter himself or herself to make. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pottery Shop Landscaping Challenges


Before we get to the landscaping, thought you'd like to see this project as it's coming together. The roof of the pottery shop has been removed in these photos; it's made to be removed for easy viewing. In the background is the Beacon Hill. The general contractor is wondering when I'll get over there. This was supposed to be the winter of the Beacon Hill, but the pottery shop hollered louder.

The kiln is finished but for one step. Do you see the slight glare on the curved of the kiln? I painted the kiln with satin finish polyacrylic. Mistake. Kiln bricks are not supposed to be glazed. I've tried to dull the finish with washes of gray and ivory acrylic. It helps a little but not enough. I'm not sure what the step will be, so I'm moving on to the landscaping while I ponder. One thought is to powder some gray or black chalk or charcoal and gently rub it on with a fingertip. Actually, that's the only thought at the moment. Suggestions welcome!

There are some challenges with the landscaping. The lovely grass sheets have to be cut and fitted around the building and kiln. The sheets have a directional grain. The grain doesn't always run in the direction it should, which results in obvious breaks between sections. Not realistic at all. If you look at the strip to the left of the garage door you'll see what I mean.

Also, I haven't figured out how I'm going to make the driveway and walkway to the steps. I don't like the painted stone-finish paint. Another issue is the too-clean lines between grass and man made areas. The pads by the doors are bits of a plastic foam egg carton. They look like concrete pads that might lead to strips of concrete with grass between. 

One thought is to make some stones from left over terra cotta air dry clay, paint them gray and then put some white on as if they've been whitewashed, and line the driveway edges with them. I have some crumbles of green/brown flocking/foliage materials that can be put between them. If you click the next photo to enlarge, you can see a bit of the crumbly material close to the right side of the garage door. It blends well with the grass.

I had three of the oblong bushes like the one in front of the porch but needed smaller ones near the corner of the building. I cut one of the oblongs in two and glued some of the crumbles on the raw edges. I like the result.  I've saved some used coffee grounds and tea leaves for dirt and mulch. That's what is in the containers in the foreground.

Another challenge is how to indicate wear. The grass would be worn in paths from the driveway to the door and from the door to the kiln. Stepping stones? Indicate matted grass with glue & stain brownish? Or? Again, suggestions welcome!

Back to head scratching!