Thursday, January 31, 2013

Refining the Upper Floor

Hmmm...I'm not so sure of any of this.  I replaced the fur throw on the master bed with my new linens, and I'm not in love with it.  I put the fur in the bathroom and that isn't right, either.  But, the shower head is installed, so that's progress.  And, in the kids room, I painted the desk blue.  I was absolutely positive that Tootie Pie would say pink, but in a completely uncharacteristic move, she went with the blue.  Which is not the same shade blue as the chair.  Hmmm...

Meh.  The black smear on the wall is courtesy
of Ole Fumble Fingers (moi).

Love the walls, love the bath set, needs a new floor

I guess this looks better.
I'll keep tweaking things.

Taking the Challenge Very Seriously

I had two reasons to join the Undersized Urbanite Contest: one, envy for the participants of the I'm a Giant Challenge, since I didn't learn about it until after it "ended", and two, because I loved Christina's sales pitch:
Dreaming of a Smeg fridge? You can have one in your dollhouse, for only a few dollars if you are up for the simple DIY. An ultra modern house maybe?
Look!  So Shiny!!
That is my backsplash!  That
is not, sadly, my wall ovens
(these $#*'s have three!)
Why, yes, I am dreaming of a Smeg, although wall oven, since you never asked.  And, for many reasons, top most being lack of money and lack of space, I will never have one.  But that is what is so great about dollhouses.  If you really covet an item, you can satisfy it with a (relatively) quick DIY.

Some things on my long-time wish list that will be in my dollhouse eventually, if I can ever figure out how:
  • Arco lamp - documented here, but I found someone who makes something similar and the base is made of stone.  I'm waiting for a response on how he makes or gets them like that.
  • Madeline Weinrib flatweave rugs - I have saved quite a few images and all that is needed is some more fabric printing
  • Arne Jacobsen egg chair - I haven't forgotten, I'm still trying
  • Eero Saarinen tulip table - this has been going on for a while now, too
  • Silver dining room - got it!
This project has eased some of my desires, or at least shrunk them to 1:12 scale.  Now, if only keeping my real house clutter free was as easy as with the dollhouse.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bathroom Papered and Temporary Flooring

All the rooms are papered and have flooring.  I think the bathroom floor is too jazzy, and I have another floor waiting in the wings.  My daughter insisted we buy some glitter paper "for the bathroom", and I figured that this one was at least not in a sugary shade.  But, I already had designs on a New Ravenna tile pattern for the walls.  So, this is where it stands now.  The thing covered with tape in the corner is the shower head glue drying.  I also had to hang the capiz shell lighting fixture, even if it is very, very crude at this point.  I am planning on fashioning a coin cell ceiling cover and the chandelier will drop down on a bit of wire.  But I couldn't resist just hanging it with tape for now.

So, the whole house is finished in terms of the walls and floors.  Here are the before, and the after.  What do you think?

Milk Jug Dollhouse Capiz Shell Chandelier Tutorial

Finished and ready to hang

It took enough time, but the capiz shell chandelier is complete and just awaits electrification.  It got easier to line up and iron the disks with practice, but it was still tedious.  It turns out that to melt milk bottle plastic, you need the iron on maximum heat, which is a different setting than for orange juice top rings.  Which is different again than needed to melt the plastic that makes up notebook dividers.  I know because I have tried to iron them all. 
Begin by hole punching a milk gallon jug more times than your grip will allow, and then many more times.
Line up the circles.  Try to limit the number
you are trying to fuse at once.
Line up the disks - it helps to work on a dark surface since they're small and nearly invisible - and cover with parchment paper.  The fewer disks you are working with at a time the better.  I found that three was about the maximum that I could do quickly.  Any more would shift too much to maintain a modicum of reason.

Next, plop the iron down from the
top.  Don't approach from the side
as you would normally iron, because
it could shift the disks.
Put the hot iron on the parchment from above.  It helps to use the edge of the parchment rather than the center, because the circles will move at the lightest grazing.

You will know when the
circles are fused because
 the paper will become
more transparent when
 they are melted
When the circles turn transparent, that means that they have melted.  If the disks have stayed lined up, they should be fused.  Let them cool before you attempt to remove them from the paper.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If you'd like longer "strands",
 put groups of three
slightly overlapped, and iron
 where the two groups meet

When you have enough groups of three, line up and iron these smaller groups to create longer chains.
String your strands to a frame, or create a frame
out of strips of milk jug.

I pierced my frames with a hot pin, then made
a frame from wire.  I will electrify it next.
You could string these to a wire frame, or, for a more static fixture, you can cut out a length of milk container and fuse the strands to that.  You can even electrify your chandelier, as I plan to do.  How you arrange you circle strands is up to you.  You could even do a full-sized version using hot cookie cutters instead of a hole punch.
 I think that milk jugs are quickly becoming my favorite medium!  Transluscent, malleable, and free.  How much better could it get?

Kid's Bedroom Carpeted and Wallpapered

Another room is papered and carpeted: the children's room.  We went bold with a large, crazy kitty cat wallpaper and fuscia carpet.  I think I will paint the rolltop desk, either pink or white.  I am also noticing that the doors need a frame.  The blue chair and cradle don't go, so I'll need a replacement chair at least.  This room still needs something, but what?  Only the bathroom needs flooring and wallpaper now.  I may make the May deadline afterall, baring any disasters. 

Some Shows I May Attend

This picture excites me in a
way I cannot understand
I want to play with this!
In order to make good on another of my New Year's resolutions (and, I am proud to say that I have made the bed every day this year; aleast, I made my own; Tootie Pie's will have to wait until 2014!), I researched Miniaturist Events.  So, I am venturing into the waters of an Enthusiast, which is usually how they describe crazy people on the nightly news.  Hummingbird enthusiast, petunia enthusiast, gun enthusiast.  I guess I feel there is a stigma to crafting in general (although blogs are making that word hipper) and dollhouses specifically.  It's just one step away from a So Truly Real  doll QVC addiction or a Beanie Baby collector; those people are NUTS in my book. - In Warren, NJ in April - In Sturbridge, MA in June - In Michigan over the summer.  The website misspells "entrance", so I know it's in Michigan, home of poor spellers and mixed metaphors.  You can't have your cake and one in the hand.  That's the coup de Ville. - On the border of NJ and Philly in November.

Has anyone been to these shows before?  I have no idea what to expect.  Should I join an association like NAME?  Am I taking things too far?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Buddha Head Statue and Master Bedroom Carpeting

The completed Buddha
statue.  In my house, my
husband didn't like my Buddha
head and we had to get rid of
it.  But this dollhouse is mine,
all mine, so Buddha head stays
Bedroom floor done!  I used
the pot that was on top of the
armoire for the Buddha and
replaced it with the green
I received my embossed felt today and immediately installed it in the master bedroom.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could have carpeting this quick in the full-sized world?  The other project I completed today is the laughing Buddha head statue.  I silver painted the formerly green and gold speckled vase, turned it upside down and hot glued the bead on it.  Now it is art.

So, the master bedroom is done except for the linens (my seamstress misplaced the first cut and pinned pieces and I haven't made new ones yet because I lost the muslin), and I have pretty much filled up the living room with as many accessories as it can handle.  Yes, I have a seamstress (my mother-in-law).  I am still working on the capiz shell chandelier, and I will move into the bathroom and children's rooms next.  I will probably just print some tile for the bathroom, and I have the wallpaper and carpeting selected for the children's room.  Then it's just a process of refining everything.  This is so much fun.  And, as a extra bonus, every morning when Tootie Pie wakes up, she asks "Is there anything new in the dollhouse?", and usually the answer is affirmative.  So, it's like a puzzle every day to figure out what I changed or added.  Yeah!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Love NY! Bookcase Finished

Back when I taught science, I learned about a free professional development opportunity at the American Museum of Natural History.  It was funded by a STEM grant and provided free per diem coverages (for you non-teachers, that means that the school gets money for a substitute during my training).  There was no way my principal could say no.  This is the third and final year of the program, and it is so wonderful.  I get to interact with thoughtful, educated individuals in a world class museum, and work with fossils and sequence sturgeon DNA and the like. 

In addition to the thrill of attending the museum, I get the opportunity to go into Manhattan, which is rare for me nowadays.  I take an express bus and relax while someone else handles the driving.  It is so superior to the regular bus and subway - it is civilized; and expensive.  It goes up Sixth Avenue, starting at 34th Street, which is the southern end of the Fashion District.  Fabric stores, button stores, and bead stores are close to heaven on earth for this crafter.  The wonderful Free People coat that I picked up for a song at the Daffy's Going Out of Business sale popped some buttons, so I had to go to M & J Trimmings.  They have paillettes and Swarovski crystals, ribbon, tassels, nail head trim and all things I love.  I love New York shopping, especially the districts: lamp district, flower district, antique district, flea market district.  I picked up some great beads for mini pendant lamps, as well as some beads that will serve as accessories (owl beads!  A blue laughing Buddha head!  A skull!)  Where else can you score these things?  Oh, and the bag of small brass tubes will fashion another version of the Kelly Wearstler Kaleidoscope brass sculpture.  Oh, and I did end up getting new buttons for my coat after all.

The other news is that I finished painting the bookcase, and I added some accessories.  The clock, books, shell dish and canisters are all from the free Barbie bag, but painted silver and white.  The green rocket on the left is a doodad from my in-laws collection, and the sculpture on the right is a mica rock hot glued to a wooden game disk that I painted silver.  I have to do the same for the beads, because they don't stand up on their own.  I threw in random shells, but I will work on the styling a bit more in the future.  I needs more color.
Ta ta, cheerio.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Keystone Update

Since returning to work, changes to my dollhouse project will be more subtle in the coming weeks.  Here is a list of my progress since the last update.

Master bedroom: This is more of a list of what I haven't done: I haven't yet hung the shade.  I haven't yet completed the linens.  I am still waiting on my embossed felt to come in to carpet the floors.  I had to fix the paper on the sideboard, because one drawer had come undone.  I basically just rearranged the accessories and added a sculpture inspired by Kelly Wearstler's brass Kaleidoscope.  It is a gold tinsel pompom that I trimmed down.

Living Room: I added art.  At the last minute, just before taking pictures.  Also, my Eames chair came, which I loooooovvvvveeeeee.  I am still working on a bookcase for under the window.  I am actually making it from wood and not just painting an existing bookcase.  But, I am painting it, naturally.

Dining room: I painted the sideboard silver.  Now I cannot open the drawer any longer*.  I would like to shave down the back legs, because my herringbone floor curls up a bit around the edges and the sideboard tips and the Wiinblad head vase falls, and foliage comes loose, and it's a pain in my bazumpus.  I added a Chinese bowl on the table, and I am very close to completing my chandelier.

Kitchen:  I fixed the caving ceiling, repaired the wallpaper, and added a Paul Marrot print over what should be the bar, but is just working as another horizontal surface for our residents to place their Croonchy Star cereal atop.  We've lost another container of milk.  I think my daughter keeps placing them in the fridge.  I am in process of reinstalling my Steampunk art that was damaged in the collapse.  Oh, and I got another shell side chair with the Eames chair.

* Correction: Tootie Pie read this, went to the dollhouse, grabbed the sideboard, and pulled out the drawer.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Following, Then Veering Away From, Diane Ravitch

I followed Diane Ravitch's blog for less than a week.  She has around 20 new posts a day, and it was domineering my feed, so I unfollowed it.  For those of you who don't know, she is a "historian", but she specializes in education.  Many of the education blogs that I read mention her often, so I felt, as a good educator, I should follow her, too.  But, it seems that I just cannot process that many blog entries a day, nor am I as incensed about the shabby treatment of teachers these days.  I just cannot be that invested in the anger anymore.

Slaves would risk their lives
to receive an education.

As fate would have it, the book that I am reading, School, has an introduction written by Diane Ravitch.  I learned a lot from this short prelude; for instance, that middle schools were established because, during the industrial revolution, people wanted some children to be able to enter the workforce before the eighth grade, which was the typical age of graduation.  But, she seems to be a proponent of universal education for all until age eighteen, regardless of ability or even desire.  The lack of interest in education is one of the huge untold story of our times.  Not long ago, everyone from frontier settlers, to slaves, to women, to immigrants, all craved an education as a way of bettering themselves as individuals and as a people.  Today, I'm afraid that some people emphasize a good start in life to the point of absurdity, but a ever-growing number do not care at all, and they assume that the school will take care of all things educational.  And this is one reason why our nation is in a free-fall decline.  

In many places, children still
do risk their lives to obtain
an education.
The job of engaging students currently falls on the teacher.  I say this is not part of our job, and it is time to stop trying to educate the mass of apathetic and disinterested.  Sorry, Ms. Ravitch, but our public school system is clogged with unruly troublemakers and unenthusiastic learners, who come to school, unprepared and unwilling to learn, either because they are compelled by law to do so, or so that their parents will not have to bother with them and their poor behavior for the better part of the day. And this is lowering the amount of learning that occurs, because the pace of a classroom filled with only one of these disruptive students is slowed, but a classroom with five, six or more of these types generally has no flow or learning occurring at all.

I have previously proposed, unrealistically, but wishfully, that we adopt a three-strikes-your-out program for public schools.  If a child cannot seem to sit and behave and allow learning to take place, then after three disruptions, he or she is expelled permanently.  If we want school to still be compulsary, then the parents will then be responsible for their child's education.  That will likely make 99% of students toe the line enough for the level of education to rise across the board.  I know, I know, it will never catch on because it is anti-child and anti-liberty and so on.  Who cares that what's currently happening is also anti-child and anti-liberty, since we're doing no one any favors by allow children to act out in school, and our very liberty is at stake because an uneducated populace is easily manipulated.  I can't help but think that if parents are threatened with either footing a private education bill or, heaven forbid, their child staying home with them all day interfering with their television viewing, that they will become much, much more interested in their child's progress in school.  One can dream, right?

But, I came up with another idea, one inspired by Ms. Ravitch, although unintentionally, since she called it anti-intellectual.  In the early part of the twentieth century, there were many proponents of IQ testing and then tracking students in either college prep (top 20%), vocational training (middle 20%) or life-skill classes (bottom 60%).  The difference I suggest is that, rather than have the students selected by IQ, to have them choosen by the teachers.  This would give educators some leverage in discipline, of which we have none today.  I have often thought how the dullards could really use training in just how to handle basic life tasks, such as balancing a check book, how not to have more children than you can take care of, how to feed those children something other than soda and candy, and other things that the ruling and middle class assume everyone knows.  Not everyone knows these things.  Some people do need to be protected from themselves and their stupidity, and if some children can't seem to follow basic classroom protocol, maybe a course in how to act in school, public, and life is just what they need instead of fractions.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Dollhouse May Soon Be Condemned for Structural Problems

New direction for
the capiz chandelier
Hi!  There is going to be a slow-down in the rate of posts since I returned to work this week.  Mini making is taking a backseat, but it was fun being able to "play" all day while it lasted.  Teaching is such an all-consuming profession; it leaves little time or energy for any other thing. 

I switched gears on the dining room lamp yet again, not in the design, but in the process by which I am achieving the design.  Rather than stringing the disks together, which is not working out with glue, and doesn't hang right with the same stringing technique that the full-scale world uses - it seems that miniscule circles made of plastic don't have enough weight to pull the string taught - I am fusing the disks together.  I provided a sneak peak, above.  Like most other projects, it is tedious, and time-consuming.  And I don't quite know how it will turn out.  In a way, it's exciting.  Oh, and the "one milk cap full of hole punch confetti" comment on my last post?  More like, fifteen half-pink milk container fulls and one serious case of carpal tunnel.  According to my calculations (WARNING: math ahead!!!), if I have a square pendant, with 3 strands of six circles on the inside, and 5 strands of three disks on the outside, that would mean I would need to punch:
  • 6 x 3 x 4 (six disks long, by three strands per side, by four sides) =    72
  • 3 x 5 x 4 (three disks long, by five strands per side, by four sides) =  60
Which means I need to punch 72 + 60 disks or 132 punches.  YeOuch!

My shade
Also, I finished one window covering for the master bedroom.  The drapery hardware is a plastic coffee stirrer with two star beads as finials, and the fabric is a free swatch from the Shade Store.  Shhhhh!  That is our secret, the Shade Store thing, kay?  I fabric glued the cut swatch to the straw.  Voila.
My Arco lamp had its neck
Second floor collapsing onto

Another mini task taking up my time is fixing up what I've already completed.  One step forward, two steps back.  This is a toy, and it is being played with, and it is sustaining damage.  My Arco lamp proved to be "unsuitable for play".  The floor above the kitchen caved in.  I want the dollhouse to be a pristine, museum quality piece; my daughter wants it to be "well loved".  I'm trying to strike the same balance in my own home.  For those of you keeping score, Tootie Pie is winning.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lighting for the Dining Room

One milk cap full of hole
punch confetti +
Hour upon hour of tedious
stringing =
The first planned, faboo, lighting fixture for the dining room proved a bust.  It was supposed to be a sort of Sputnik chandelier, made with cross shaped cross-section coffee stirrers.  I couldn't get that one off the ground.  But I promised something faboo, and faboo it will be.  So, still proud of my milk container wall art success, I was considering a similar project for my dollhouse.  Instead of cutting them with a hot cutter, I could simply hole punch out the disks.  That part would be easier.  But then...


Round disks, chandelier...Does anyone see where this could be going?  If you guessed a capiz shell pendant lamp, well, you're a strange person.  No one else could dream that up but me and you, weirdo.  It won't have that wonderful clinking sound that real capiz creates, but I'm confident it will look fabulouser than my half-baked Spunik plan.  I am able to pierce each "shell" with a pin, so that I can string them together, but I'm hoping to be able to simply glue them to a string.  This project is tedious enough without having to string together hundreds of circles together.  But super glue is only succeeding in affixing my fingers together.  So I may be doing quite a bit of stringing in the next couple of days weeks months. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Blurb on My Blog

I started this blog having no idea why I was doing so.  I had a vague notion that others were doing it and enjoying it, and so I set one up.  I wrote a post.  A very dull post.  And that was it for seven months.  In that time, I felt as if I had something to say about the education debate raging in this country.  Not many teachers weigh in on the debate, or at least not teachers who are still in the classroom, because there is a current gotcha political environment that keeps them quiet.  I have been extremely careful to not name names or identify students in any way, but even that makes me wary.  I don't have much to say that is positive in regards to teaching.  So, I try to stay neutral on the subject as much as possible and not use this blog as a platform from which to groan about my work.  "Try" is the operative word.  Sometimes it is hard.

I wanted my dollhouse more like this..
And less like this.
Also within that time, my daughter was reaching the age where a dollhouse would be appropriate.  And I got to thinking about my own design sensibilities and the miniatures that are available on the market today, and there seemed to be a disconnect.  I didn't want the wood-fired stove, the high-above-the-toilet water tank with chain, and the hand pumped water spout sink.  My dollhouse was going to be modern and fabulous; no washboards or lace curtains in my little home.  And so, I thought I'd try my hand at making designer miniatures.  Well, that is proving time consuming and difficult, but I am not quitting.  I may be sidetracking myself a bit with the latest dollhouse renovation project that I have taken on, but it seems to have created another opportunity with this blog.  I am starting to network.

So, I am hoping that this will lead to a different direction for The Hard Way.  My most popular posts are still not the ones regarding miniatures - it is a niche market at best - but they are starting to infiltrate the top five more and more often.  I have joined two contests, and a link party.  I am excited about this project.  I have found that I am much better at styling a dollhouse than I am at building one.  It has been a fun journey, and I am looking forward to where all these detours take me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Love Free Things and Paint, and Painted Free Things, and Free Paint

I have installed a steampunk art piece in the kitchen.  I found the component pieces outside a Salvation Army store, ground into the dirt.  When the prices at a Salvation Army shop are too steep, go hunting in the muddy parking lot for odd bits of plastic.  Clean them off, spray paint (of course), and you have great art!  Or not, the choice is yours.

Another great free find I made the same day was a giant bag of Barbie furniture.  The larger pieces, after a Clorox bath, made their way under our Christmas tree.  The stash was especially heavy on baby items, so Tootie Pie was thrilled, of course.  But, the smaller pieces, bleached, prove to be a treasure trove of decorative items for a dollhouse.  Sure, they are all technicolor bright, and nothing matches, but I believe in the restorative power of paint!   I painted the bottles that were on top of the Master bedroom armoire in Testor's gold paint, and they went from cheap to chic! 

I know that a lot of the contestants in the Undersized Urbanite contest are making all sorts of clever things, as they did for the I'm a Giant challenge.  Me, I'm wallpapering and spray painting things, for the most part.  Sure, it takes some creativity, but by and large, my dollhouse is a smaller version of my own home: someone else's trash with a new coat of paint.  Ah, well.
to Fab

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Master Bedroom Progress

Master Bedroom so far
My furniture in a 1970's
German advertisement
The future floor covering
I have two days before I have to return to work, so I am frantically trying to complete as much of my dollhouse projects as possible.  The majority of today I was at my daughter's school for her book fair and to volunteer during lunch.  So, I now have one and a half days.  Yikes.  Today, I worked on the master bedroom.  Oh, and I repaired much damage that Tootie Pie and her friend inflicted on the dollhouse when they started being silly and tossed the furniture around.  The chive flowers, of course, sustained critical injuries.  I have extra as back up for just such an emergency.

I found the make of the "Made in Hong Kong" furniture that I am using: it was made by Paul Kerkman for Modella.  The drawers on mine were red, so I papered them in the matching wallpaper, which is "gold on sea green mums" Lokta paper.  I'm still debating the bed, and so I swapped out the purple ETA math manipulative bed for the green, but I might spray paint that white, also.  I have printed the bedroom linens, and some were too turquoise, and the others I need to sew up tomorrow.  The floors are more messed up on the second level, so I am going to carpet them in  embossed felt, that I have to order.  Those with discerning eyes will notice that I took a photo of the children of the house, Calico Critters, and framed it.  I think it may be time to go back to work for real.  Here it is so far.

A shot of the corner...
...and of the modified sideboard

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