Friday, March 20, 2015

The Willowcrest Build Begins

Images of Willowcrest c/o Greenleaf

A while back, I bought the Willowcrest Dollhouse kit from Greenleaf. OK, it was December of 2012, so it looks like I wanted to get it purchased before the world ended from that whole Mayan calendar fiasco, eh? When I first got into dollhouses, the Willowcrest was "out of print." Greenleaf had stopped making it, and it was hard to come by. I fell in love with the house the first time I saw it, so I searched fruitlessly on eBay for years. All of the used kits that came up went for prices far higher than I wanted to pay:

Then a HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY moment came, and Greenleaf brought back the house! Yay! And then I bought it! Yay! And then it sat under my bed for a few years. BOO!

For a long time, I was going to make my Willowcrest a "mythology house." I was going to decorate each room to go with one of my favorite myths. It was a fantastic idea on paper. But when I thought about actually trying to do the myths justice, my enthusiasm failed. It would have been a LOT of work to make the house like I was envisioning it in my mind. My skill set just isn't there yet. Period. Maybe someday!

Recently, I finally let myself off the mythology hook. I was thinking about the Willowcrest and how it really needs to come out from under the bed because I wanted it for SO LONG and then I got it and it just sat there collecting dust? Really?! It had to end.

And so Willowcrest Mortuary came to be. I mean really, could you come up with a better name for a mortuary than Willowcrest? I think not.

It's not going to be a mortuary like the kind you see in Six Feet Under (although I do own that on DVD and will be watching it again, yes I will) because there is no basement, and I'm not building one. Instead, the "embalming room" is going to have to be on the second floor. And the office/ storage area/ living quarters on the third floor. The entrance and funeral room will be ground level. And that staircase? That's gotta go. The staircase will be on the mysterious "4th wall" that you can't see. The "4th wall" is also housing the unseen body elevator. Naturally.

World: Hey, Blondie! Mortuaries aren't built like that!

Blondie: Whatevs.

In order to prep for my build, I went hunting for mortuary/funeral director catalogs from the past. At first, I wanted Willowcrest Mortuary to be set in the 1950s or 1960s, but trying to find imagery of funeral stuff from that era is quite difficult. And you don't want to google "embalming" too many times if you don't have the stomach for it, and I DON'T. The funeral industry is quite mysterious. I recently read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty -- (extremely good book!!!), so I now know why it's SO HARD to find catalogs with mortuary tools/needs/history info in them. It's all a secret. So there. You can't know unless you're in the biz. The End.

But I refused to be deterred!! So I found the National Museum of Funeral History and looked in their museum store and found a book called The History of American Funeral Directing by Habenstein and Lamers and went and bought an old, cheap edition from amazon marketplace. SCORE!

The only problem? It's mostly text. Now, given, the text will be extremely useful to me -- and interesting because I like to learn mah brain about all kinds of things, including funeral directing history -- but I could use more visual research. It does show the mechanisms for that whole pesky "you buried an alive person" kind of thing though:


It also shows these embalming tools from 1880:

Alas, it does NOT show funeral homes from the 1950s.

Alas, it mostly shows the cool handles that used to be on caskets. Super cool handles. Very few caskets. Sigh.

What I could really use is a stack of magazines or pamphlets or catalogs from the trade. I need to look at pictures. And do some light funeral-ly reading. I've learned about one trade magazine that was called "The Professional Embalmer" and I've READ about one that was called "Casket and Sunnyside," (haven't seen any actual copies of that -- it's very elusive) but they're ridiculously expensive online or unavailable completely. Wah. So if any of my readers have an elderly mortician in the family who has a bunch of old catalogs and magazines in the basement, call me. I want to look at the ads.

But anyway.

No, there are not a bazillion mortuary supplies available out there in 1:12 scale. There are some from amazing and awesome artisans, but they are pricey (worth it!!). It remains to be seen if I'll be able to pull off the whole funeral home on my own or if I'll have to buy things for it. I see a mixture of both creating and shopping in my future. And I also think I'm going to move backwards from the mid-century to the late 1800s or early 1900s. Fine, Victorians! You win!

And you know what every good mini funeral home needs the most, right? An actual casket. I don't put dolls in my dollhouses (except for random owls or animals), so there will be no wee body. But there will be a CLOSED casket in the "viewing room" downstairs -- that big room on the right in the photo above. I kind of feel like I can't get started until I get the right casket. I've been searching and searching. I'm getting close. I can feel it.

At least I have my painting plan for the outside. It's going to be white with a green roof. I found the PERFECT inspiration photo, and it just happens to be from a Real Life funeral home. The Universe is clearly ready for Willowcrest Mortuary. It's ON!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Svetlana: The Wee Widower-Chaser

A few nights ago, I dragged Ollie out of the dollhouse room with some of his furniture and made him stand around in a tiny tower to pose for photos. He was very confused. But I knew something that he didn't know, so it all made sense to me. Ollie was soon going to have a neighbor.

A long time ago, I bought this "Love Fort" off eBay. I'm a sucker for anything that has a tower:

It came from China, so all of the directions are in Chinese. Luckily, the seller had made a photocopy of the directions to translate them into English:

Not every word is translated -- just the important stuff. Everything is shown visually, which really helps. The kit comes with the tower and everything in it -- furniture, flowers, lights, wallpapers, etc. It's very thorough:

I'm a terrible judge of scale, but I did know right away when this showed up that it is NOT 1:12 scale, which is what I'm used to working in. I'd say it's more like 1:24, or half scale. Here, you can see it next to my 1:24 Buttercup for comparison. Luna Lair looks adorable next to it, yes?

But there was still this guy to deal with:

Yes, it's true, Ollie has a stalker. Or to be more specific, a widower-chaser. Her name is Svetlana, and I got her from HandmadeByNovember on Etsy. She's SO FREAKIN' ADORABLE!!! But she also wants to marry Ollie and move into Luna Lair with him. He's not having it:

Despite her small stature, she's very domineering. She's an owl on a mission:

Alas, she will have to live in her own home! And I just happen to have one that is just her size -- well, perhaps a wee bit large. Whatevs. One of my dear mini friends was the first person to see Svetlana on Etsy. She was pondering whether or not to order one of these tiny owls. My friend also came up with the perfect name for Svetlana's new home when she suggested Twilight Tower. I'll be carrying the moon theme into this build, too, so it's perfect:

And because I knew my friend wanted one, I bought her a wee owl, too!!! This is Svetlana and her sister. They flew alllll the way from Russia together to be here. I don't know Svetlana's sister's name yet because she isn't speaking to me (jet lag), but I'm sure her new caretaker will tell me one of these days:

Ollie is very relieved to know at least one of these girls is leaving:

Also? Gretchen the Building Inspector approves. Of the tower's box, anyway:

So yes, I'm building another dollhouse. Add it to the list! WHEEEEE:

Is it just me or does Ollie look slightly less grumpy than usual? Maybe he likes Svetlana after all...

Monday, March 02, 2015

Tale of the Tiny (Great) Grandfather Clock

I am incredibly blessed to have found some very talented, generous, loving, imaginative, creative friends. I'm completely spoiled by them, and I love it!! Over the years, they've continued to knock my socks off with fun presents that arrive in the mail with impeccable timing. Like I'm having a horrible day, and then something magical shows up via the U.S. postal service. For Christmas this year, I received one of these gifts.

It all started a long time ago -- like maybe a year ago? I was emailing back and forth with some friends. I took a picture of myself with the camera on my iMac to show something -- a miniature, a zit, a cat, a hair style? I dunno. So I sent the picture to my friends, and then April asked me about the clock that was behind me in the photo. It was sitting on the bookshelf in my home office, and she wanted to see it more closely. I quickly cleaned all of the dust off the clock and took some photos of it from a few different angles. This clock was my Great Grandpa Blonderson's. It's a Seth Thomas clock, and it's a real beauty.

So time went on, and I forgot all about it. Perhaps I mentioned that I wanted to make the clock in mini for the Heritage Room in the Beacon Hill? Or perhaps I just thought that in my mind and didn't write it or say it aloud. I don't remember. I just know that time passed.

Imagine my shock when I opened a Christmas package from April and saw The Clock. In 1:12 scale. PERFECT MATCH. Whattttt??? Are you kidding me???? I boinged up and down and squealed quite a bit and immediately had to call my father, "OH MY GOD, APRIL MADE ME GREAT GRANDPA'S CLOCK IN MINI!!!!!"

There really aren't words to describe how perfect this clock is. I may have peed a little:

Here is the real clock with the wee clock. See it sitting right there at the bottom of the photo?

The lion handles are a perfect match:

Even the back is perfect:

You can see that on the real clock, the sticker or label or whatever is coming off:

April even recreated that part:

After the initial adrenaline rush/bouncing around the house wore off, I thanked April and told her how grateful I was that she'd made me this beauty. She sent me some photos of the clock-making process and gave me permission to post them on my blog (many thanks, girlfriend!):

Hello, tiny columns:

And a perfect hole front and center:

The faceplate type thing going in:

A fresh coat of paint on a crisp, fall day:

This photo shows the marble detailing on the top. LOVE IT:

I seriously have no idea how she found such perfect lion heads, but she did -- and added her own rings to make the handles:

There's that amazing label again:

I'm still stunned that April made this clock for me. Looking at all of these photos right now is putting me back in the wwwwwooooooWWWWW phase:

This is the mini version, but I swear it could be the big version:

I will treasure this clock so much. I can't wait to finish the Heritage Room and place it in its rightful spot:

For now, it's in a hanging shelf on the wall in the dollhouse room so I can see it every single day:

Thank you, April. A million times, thank you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Invasion of the Wee Things

Ollie is very pleased that I've finally returned to working on Luna Lair. It's been FAR too long! The really great thing about this little house (Greenleaf 1:24 Buttercup) is that I can carry it around the Real Life house on a tray -- and straight to the couch. I've been catching up on DVR shows while steadily shingling. And if I need to keep the contents of the tray safe from the kitties, I can easily pop it into the dollhouse room and SHUT THE DOOR.

*sighs with relief*

One of my very clever mini friends told me the key to working with the Greenleaf half scale speed shingles (I'm using the Hex kind) is to use E6000, which is a type of glue I usually just use with metal or mirrors or something like that. I used regular Aleene's tacky with the speed shingles on the Rosedale, but apparently these smaller, thinner ones like to curl a lot with water-based glue. I had no problem at all with the E6000 -- except becoming slightly high if I used it for too long. Hey man, you gotta do what you gotta do for your hobby.

I loooove the look of speed shingles. I'll never go back to regular, individual shingles, which is a shame because I have a TON of them. I'll find a use for them at some point. The speed shingles just look so crisp and lovely:

As a reminder, the back story for Ollie is that he's a crotchety, old widower who lives alone in the house he built with his deceased wife. There's going to be a lot of moon decor with Luna Lair, but I wanted to have one bird-specific item on the exterior of the house. I got this fabulous 1:24 dovecote kit from Petite Properties. Then I sat it on top of the Buttercup kit chimney base to see how it would look:

The chimney base is a bit wider than the dovecote, but that's OK. I still think the roof is the best place to put it:

I decided to stick this all on top of the house to see how it would look. In the center, the dovecote looks odd to me. Kind of like a church steeple:

On the smaller roof over the door, the dovecote looks like a school bell tower:

Off to the side, I think it looks just right -- except TOO TALL:

Luckily, my awesome friend April is really good with Photoshop. She cut down the length of the chimney for me and sent me this photo as an example. I'm a very visual person, so this helps a lot. I think the dovecote looks great now! So cute:

However, I stupidly already glued together that chimney base, so now I have to get it back apart so I can cut it down. But now that I know where the dovecote will be, I can figure out how to deal with the very top row of shingles. Right now, they need either another finishing row of shingles right at the top or some kind of trim. I'm thinking on it. 

Ollie wanted to check on construction, so I had him pose for a shot:

He still just looks really mad, doesn't he? It's probably because the house is still so far from completion:

Meanwhile, I've also been working on my Briarwood kit. The kit came with a whole slew of itty bitty book stacks. Last night, I cut them out of their sheets, sanded off the laser cut connector things, and painted the page end parts with a gold permanent marker. Next up will be painting all of the spines of these bad boys, which will take 3 billion years. I can do it! Slowly:

The bunny art has been glued to the bunny! WHOOT! I also gave the back of the bunny a few coats of ivory paint and have been working on some furniture for inside the box as well. Ollie would be much happier if I would stop working on the bunny and focus on HIM, but I like to work on more than one project at a time. I'm also working on another third wee kit right now, but it's not ready for pictures yet:

I'm a much more content person now that I've been able to work on my hobby again. It's so relaxing, fun, and interesting to me. I've also learned how to be a little less impatient and a little more careful while working on my kits, which makes them prettier overall. I tend to be a sloppy painter and a sloppy gluer, so I'm working on taking my time and not rushing. NO RUSH.

Slow and easy wins the race, right?