Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lois' Cottage my spare time I make doll houses. Not pretty little dollhouses from pre-cut kits: custom dollhouses and all the stuff that goes inside them. I usually make them from scratch, cut from foam core display board. The furniture is balsa wood, and the furnishings are sculpted from polymer clay which is cured in the oven right in the kitchen at home. I use acrylics, tempera and enamel paint to finish everything. Sometimes I incorporate metals such as copper and punchable tin. The vegetation is made from mosses, shells, pine cones, sticks, small stones- you name it. The 'river rock' base of this particular cottage is made from antiqued pistachio shells my friend Jule saved for me. I use a lot of 'found' stuff because I like the challenge of figuring out what to use it for and how make things....and it's affordable. Making miniatures is an expensive hobby if you use kits and purchased items, a lot of enthusiasts do just that. Some people are collectors, and some are artisans. I am the latter, and I learned to make things out of necessity because I couldn't afford to buy them and I loved the hobby. I have used kit that were given to me as gifts, but none of them have been used to make what they were intended to make originally, because I 'kit-bash' them, which is  changing out certain elements and replacing those with custom parts. I save everything from the kits and eventually they're used for other projects. I make dolls, too.

I use Xacto knives, disposable scalpels, dental picks and scrapers, pins, Emory boards, and a small hack saw and miter box to cut and shape things. I also have a Dremel tool with detachable sanding and cutting heads. It's the most elaborate tool I own. Everyone has their own personal preferences.
This outside window is made from balsa and found plastic. I think the  'glass' is actually part of the clear clam shell packaging from the cell phone I bought last summer. The bird bath is the inner seal from a half gallon OJ  carton- the ring was cut off and saved for something else. The faux plaster on the exterior of the cottage is a layer of the paper which covers the foam core- it was stripped off, flipped so the rough side faces out, then reapplied with a layer of white glue and painted. The wind chime to the right is  thread and clay painted with metallic nail polish.

 I wish the photos were clearer, but my cheesy little 4 pixel digital camera doesn't take close-ups very well!

This is a part of the rear exterior of the cottage, showing the vegetation, river stones and a few fun things- a toad house with a painted copper roof and to the far right, a green turtle shell, made from a 'push mold' I made from a silver ring I own.

This is the upper room of the two-room cottage. The stuffed chair is polymer clay over a wire armature. All the other furniture pieces are cut from sheets of  balsa wood, which are purchased in packs.( Occasionally I buy a specialty piece of fancy molding or mill work.)

The food stool, night gown, socks, boots and pitcher and bowl are all polymer clay, as are some of the more detailed 'fancy' books. Other books are made from scraps of balsa covered with paper.

This is the downstairs main room.Once again, the fireplace is clay over wire. There is a stack of wood inside and it's fitted with a battery-powered artificial candle votive flame. All the furniture is painted balsa. All of the furnishings except the 'crystal ball' and candle holder on the table are sculpted from polymer clay. The corn stalks in the corner are balsa shavings with clay leaves. The candles hanging by the fireplace are pieces of thread dipped in wax. The rag rug the cat and rat are sitting on are braided embroidery floss.
This is a detail photo of the side board cupboard. The fruits, vegetables, bowls and books are polymer clay. The crystal ball is a clear marble glued onto a jewelry finding. The tarot cards are paper with designs drawn in colored pencil.Yes, there is a cup of coffee. You should know me by now!
This is the main room of the cottage. Look closely at the blue bookcase on the right hand wall and you will see a skull next to the books, and a tiny white goddess figurine on the next shelf down.

The buckets of kindling are scored balsa wood and found sticks. The broom is a twig of sweetgrass. There is a bubbling cauldron on the top of the fireplace, a grimorie, and a green mortar and pestle. The brick floor of the fireplace is balsa wood that has been scored and painted.
This final photo is a detail of the upper room.The mattress is cloth ticking stuffed with the cotton from a medicine bottle. I usually make clothing from clay because it drapes better than fabric and I have control over the position and color of the object. The cut-out in the floor is how the witch gets upstairs- there will be a rope ladder installed as soon as I find the correct  diameter of utility string to make it from. I tried a ladder made from twigs and didn't think it looked quite right and hit on the idea of the rope ladder, then ripped out the balsa wood floor to change the configuration of the hole.

All of my dollhouses and vignette boxes have a story to go with them. I draft the story, then cartoon out the house or box. This one is a  simple witch's cottage in the woods.The witch is out wort-cutting, but she's not too far away, she's left her tools-and a cup of coffee-on the table.Her hat and cape are hanging next to the book case. Lois wanted an orange tabby cat in her cottage, so I made one from a push mold modeled from a pewter charm and then detailed it into shape before firing the clay. The rat on the rug is a little 'bonus' I threw in at the last minute. I figured the cat would be busy while the witch was away!


  1. Oh, my word, that's beautiful! I've always loved doll houses, but have never tried to make something like that before. Very nicely done!

  2. Amazing! You have such patience!


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