Saturday, 30 March 2013

A new venture

Alas, Jam Jar Beads where I've been selling my miniature food themed jewellery in Sheffield city centre is no more. But all is not lost! Opening today is make + MADE, a craft cooperative  made up of local artists.

I sometimes feel like a hobbyist as this is a part-time gig for me, so was very pleased when the lady behind Jam Jar and make + MADE invited me to sell there. If you're near Sheffield, come check it out at 49 Leopold Street (opposite the Bessemer pub).

You'll find some of my stuff (bottom left of the above photo) as well as lots of different kinds of handmade crafts for sale by local artists. It should be a great place to buy gifts for others, or even yourself!


Thursday, 28 March 2013

1/12th Egg and Soldier Tutorial

Here is the tutorial I made a while ago showing how to make 1/12th scale egg and soldiers.

You will need:
White polymer clay
Transparent polymer clay
Medium brown polymer clay
Liquid polymer clay
Chalk pastels in ochre tones
Sharp blade
Soft bristled brush
Ceramic tile to work on
Yellow/orange oil paint
Ceramic 12th scale egg cup and saucer
Gloss varnish
Matt varnish
You may need superglue.

1.       Before you begin, you need to ensure your work area and hands are clean, because unbaked polymer clay is a fluff magnet. I like to work on a large, blank ceramic tile, as this can go straight in the oven when it is time to bake the clay, without having to move your work and risk unwanted fingerprints. It helps to use a white tile, as fluff shows up better on it.
2.       Let’s begin with the eggs. Condition some white clay by rolling it in your hands until it is easily malleable. Unconditioned clay can crumble, and make it harder to work with later on. Roll your white clay into a sausage about 0.5cm in diameter, and then cut into sections about 0.5cm long. Roll each section into an egg shape, by applying more pressure at one end than the other. Once you get the hang of it, it’s satisfyingly quick and easy! Don’t worry if there are little bits of fluff on your egg’s surface, the next step will cover up all but the largest imperfections.
3.       Using your blade, scrape a small amount of your chalk pastels to form dust. I use a mostly ochre and a little bit of reddish brown, but it really depends how light or dark you want your eggs to be. I wouldn’t recommend making it too light, or it will be difficult to see the contrast of the shell against egg white later on. Brush your egg gently with your soft bristled brush until you’re happy with its appearance. 

4.       Place your egg in the ceramic egg cup, as this will hold it in place and let you see how it’ll look in the end. With your blade (which you’ve carefully wiped clean of pastel dust of course), roughly cut off the top of your egg, so that the white is showing. It looks better if it is several small cuts rather than just one sweep, as egg shells never crack uniformly. Using your pin head, create a small dimple of a well in the egg white place, this is where your yolk will go.

5.       To make the egg yolk, pour a very small amount of liquid polymer clay on to your work tile. Next to it, mix up some yellow and orange oil paint until you get a yolk colour. This only needs to be literally a couple of drops’ worth. Mix this yolk coloured oil paint in with your liquid polymer clay, being careful not to add too much. If your liquid polymer clay covers a penny, you only need a ball bearing of paint to tint it.

6.       Using your pin, carefully add the yolk one drip at a time. You won’t need much! Put your egg to one side, it’s finished for now. 
7.       To make the toast, condition all your clay first, then mix 2/3 white polymer clay with 1/3 translucent polymer clay. Add the medium brown polymer clay a pinch at a time until you’re happy with the colour you’ve achieved. I always add the darkest colour only a little at a time, as you can’t take it out once it’s in and it nearly always changes the tone more than I imagined it would. The finished bread mix should look like untoasted bread.

8.       Using your fingers shape your bread mix into a long square sausage. It doesn’t matter how long it is, but the height and width should be approximately 1x1cm. The corners should remain rounded, so use your fingers, rather than a blade.

9.       Using your blade, scrape yet more of your chalk pastels to form dust, but this time it needs to be darker as this will give you your crust colour. I use dark brown and a little reddish brown. Apply with your soft bristled brush.

10.   Slice the bread using your clean blade into thin slices of no more than 1mm thick and lay all the slices flat. Don’t worry about the end slices, no-one likes the end slices!

11.   Lay all your slices flat. Now you need to add some texture and there are two ways of doing this. The easy way is to press sandpaper on the polymer clay. The long (but better) way is to use a pin to individually scratch out every single little piece of texture. I like to combine these techniques to get a good effect without losing my mind.

12.   Press a small piece of sandpaper on to each individual slice. Don’t press too hard or it will lose its shape, but you need to press hard enough that it leaves the texture behind.

13.   Then cut each slice into 4 strips to make soldiers. Using your pin, gently scratch and poke all the pale sides (not the crusts) of each soldier. Also use the pin on and sandpaper-textured parts which have been missed or look too uniform. This will take a while. 

14.   Create another pile of chalk pastel dust using your blade. This time it is to make your soldiers look toasted, so the colour depends on whether you like your soldiers hardly warmed or burnt to a crisp. I use ochre to dust the tops of the soldiers, then dark brown to highlight the edges and here and there. This dusting should really bring out the detail of the texture, so all that time spent prodding it with a pin will be worth it!

15.   Now bake all your eggs (still in the ceramic egg cups) and soldiers according to the polymer clay manufacturer’s instructions. Once done, allow to cool before handling, as the ceramic egg cups will hold on to their heat especially.

16.   To finish off the piece, add a dab of gloss varnish to the egg yolks so they really stand out. Use a thin coat of matt varnish for everything else. You shouldn’t be able to see it, but it helps to seal in all that chalk pastel dust and makes the piece more durable. Finally, you may need to glue the eggs into their egg cups, as polymer clay does not stick to shiny ceramic well. A small dab of superglue will do the job. I also used some of my leftover egg yolk mix to make orange juice as it’s the perfect colour for that.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Making of the Squirrel Tree Part 1

I don't own a proper dollhouse. Woe is me, a miniaturist who doesn't own a dollhouse! In order to rectify this, I've been making my own dollhouse from scratch on and off for the past couple of years. Only, it's not really a house, nor is it for standard dolls, but never mind.

As a child I was obsessed (still am) with Sylvanian Families, also known as Calico Critters in the States, and my favourites were the squirrels. So this creation is loosely based on the idea of a treehouse, much like the ones small children imagine little animals live in. The Squirrel Tree was built with them in mind, and follows a very loose 24th (half inch) scale format.

Please make us a home.
Here are the beginnings of the Squirrel Tree.

The main body is made from large catering sized hot cocoa containers salvaged from a cafĂ© I used to work in. The side branches are toilet paper rolls and the base is a corner shelf. I built up the roots with newspaper and used cardboard to add various features such as the porch and side room. Then I used a lot of papier machĂ© to add the texture of the bark and make the whole thing sturdy. This took a long, long time!

Here is the Squirrel Tree fully textured up.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Come on Spring!

It's feeling decidedly wintery here in the UK, despite it supposedly being the start of Spring. No fear, it can be Springtime in miniature land. And with that in mind, here are some lovely dollhouse miniatures I found on Etsy.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

My other, other hobby...

Miniature making is my main hobby, but I also enjoy sewing, patchwork quilting to be precise. It's a fairly recent thing for me - I only learnt to sew last year. And that's a generous use of the word 'learnt', I am very much a novice still, making it up as I go along and hopefully improving.

In my usual style, I decided to run before I could walk and committed myself to making my very first Baby Jane quilt in time for Chistmas. A Baby Jane quilt is based on the blocks from the original Dear Jane quilt, a quilt made by Jane A. Stickle in 1863. It consists of 225 individual patterns - each square and border triangle is different.

The original Dear Jane quilt

As you can tell, I am probably biting off far more than I can chew. If you want to check out my progress, or simply have a chuckle at all my beginner sewing mistakes, check out My First Baby Jane blog. Here's a taster of my first attempt at a Baby Jane block:

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Mmm cupcakes

So I know I shouldn't eat cupcakes every day - they're not the healthiest of foods. But there's nothing to stop me wearing cupcakes every day! One of my favourite things to make are my cupcake bracelets. Here are a few examples of them:



Thursday, 14 March 2013

Book Review - Making Miniature Food by Angie Scarr

I was clearing through my miniature stash and I found my faithful, old copy of 'Making Miniature Food and Market Stalls' by Angie Scarr, a book I bought years ago when I first became intrigued in miniature dollhouse food.


'Making Miniature Food and Market Stalls' covers methods on how to sculpt all kinds of different foods, as well as how to make a market stall to showcase them. Included are tutotials on various fruit and vegetables, raw and cooked meat, fish, breads and cheeses. It also lists what kind of tools you will need, and contains a very useful table on different colour mixes (you very quickly learn that simply using polymer clay straight from the pack never produces realistic colours).


There are many great aspects of this book.

Firstly, the sheer number of different foods covered means you won't get bored quickly. I still haven't attempted every type of food shown, and I've been making miniatures for years.

Leek Tutorial
Secondly, every tutorial comes with ample photographs, and good descriptions that are not so wordy as to be difficult to follow. If you are a complete beginner, this is a good book to use, because it takes nothing for granted and really shows you step by step what to do. Plus aesthetically it's a joy to look through all those pictures of miniatures in progress (and finished). To see what I mean, check out this leek tutorial on Angie Scarr's own website. It's not the simplest of vegetables to make, but her instructions are clear and easy to follow. Don't worry if you don't own a pasta machine (I don't) but be prepared to spend a long time with a rolling pin.

 Finally, the biggest mystery to me when it comes to using polymer clay is getting the colours right, and this books takes a lot of the guesswork out by referring to its own colour table throughout. There will be a lot of flipping pages between the colour table and your project, but it helps the novice get a feel for how the colours blend and look after baking without having to sacrifice silly amounts of polymer clay finding out.

How to make a cabbage
On the negative side, there are a couple of methods described, which for me have never yielded satisfactory results. I don't know if I'm doing it wrong, or if there is a knack to it I've never developed, but I came up with my own methods for getting the correct look for bread and salami contrary to the book. Sometimes you have to just do whatever works best for you.

I find a couple of the colour mix suggestions to be a little off, but once more, this is often in the eye of the beholder, and polymer clay manufacturers do sometimes change their formulae, thus making the ratios slightly out over time.

Furthermore, as a beginner's book it doesn't cover many of the more advanced techniques that many miniaturists like to employ, such as using liquid polymer clay. I should mention that Angie Scarr has published other books, such as 'Miniature Food Masterclass', which I haven't yet read, so perhaps these delve into such techniques with more detail.


'Making Miniature Food and Market Stalls' is a great reference book for beginners. It is very comprehensive and will certainly get you started and ignite your imagination. But for the more advanced miniaturist, you probably already know most of what it has to offer. For me, it was a worthwhile introduction to making miniature food back when I was swimming with ideas but had no knowledge or experience. I was able to practice and refine my technique greatly thanks to the tips in this book.

My score for 'Making Miniature Food and Market Stalls' by Angie Scarr:

8/10 (That's pretty good!)

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Easter goodies

Easter is coming a little early this year, but I am prepared with some miniature chocolate eggs and bunnies. Yum is all I can say about these.



Friday, 8 March 2013

Wish me luck

As you already know from a previous post I sometimes get the urge to don ridiculous makeup and outfits and dance in front of other people.

Tonight is my dance school's yearly show. No photos or videos to share of this performance, as it's in an actual theatre and not in public as before. You would think this would be less nerve-wracking, since it's not out in the street and I don't run the risk of accidentally having my boss in the audience (what a relief). But I always feel a bit more pressure not to suck when I remember people have actually paid to watch me dance (I say me, I'm in a group so they mostly won't be watching me).

Plus the wonderful costume combination of neon pink and leopard print has me rather worried as that most certainly isn't my usual style. But who am I kidding, when it comes to dance shows, anything goes. And besides, I have previous form...

17 year old me sporting a rather sexy neon outfit and wishing I still had that figure!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Chocolate wonderland

So I was going to pretend this post was in order to inspire myself to make some new and exciting miniature chocolates. But in truth I just fancied drooling over some beautiful delicacies, and it would be rude not to share.

Pretty sure I've put on a couple of pounds just by looking at those...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Tiny Butterflies

I stumbled across GodsFlyingFlowers on Etsy a while ago, and have been meaning to share it. These handmade, 12th scale butterflies are simply amazing. The level of detail in such a tiny thing blows my little mind. They are so tiny, that they come with a warning not to open them over carpeted floor.