Friday, November 7, 2014

Search light

Before you send out a search party for me, I'm still here!  I've just been busy and with a beautiful summer behind us, I have not had much time to spend on my miniatures.

Autumn is definitively here,
the days are growing shorter again, it is time to turn on some lights.  
I always find it difficult to find a light fixture which I like and which I can afford.  

For my Blue Salon I have used cheap light fixtures which I slightly modified, added a couple of embellishments and gilded.  Although they're not quite the style I would like, they will do for now. 

In the center of the room I would like to add a chandelier.  I have a beautiful chandelier by Ray Storey which I have used here to try out what it looks like.  It is far too big for the room though.   

With a lower voltage like 9V or even 6V the lights are dimmed and look much better.  The wall sconces would benefit from that also, although in reality the lights don't look as bright as in the photos. 

I am curious to hear about your light choices.  Where do you buy your lights?  Do you make your own? 

 Progress is slow on these rooms.  The rooms need furniture.  I have collected many lovely small decorative items, but no cabinets or tables to display them on. I have so many ideas for furniture and maybe a lovely carpet, but I haven't had the time yet.  Hopefully this autumn and winter I'll be able to dedicate my time to making furniture.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inviting inspiration...

The painting below by Adriaan de Lelie is called 'The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz.' (1794-1795).   Some of you may remember that I used this painting as the inspiration for the two reception rooms in my canal house 'Herengracht'.   Jan Gildemeester owned the house at the end of the 18th century and had the two rooms shown in the painting remodelled to use as his art gallery. 

The rooms in the painting still exist, almost exactly as they were in the time they were painted.  They are part of a canal house at the Herengracht which, unfortunately for us, is not open to the general public.  So, other than in photos, I had never actually seen the house inside. 

That is, until two weeks ago!  I was very kindly invited to come to the canal house and see the rooms in person.  Needless to say I was very excited about this.


A selfie of sorts ;-)  Of course this photo is all about the gorgeous overmantel with mirror and the double doors in the background.  These are the doors which you can see in the painting.

A copy of the De Lelie painting is reflected in the pier glass between the windows.  The room felt rather familiar to me, which wasn't that surprising as I have spent much time looking and studying photos of it. Very unreal.  This photo reminded me of a photo I took a while ago of my miniature room...

I have always intended to put a pier glass between the windows and now I am even more convinced I should put a long mirror there.   My rooms are not exact copies of the real rooms, but I think they have the same feel.  The similar yellow colour of the curtains is a lucky coincidence.

Here's a peek into the magnificent stairwell.  The incredible stucco decoration was created by the sculptor Jan van Logteren in 1736.   It depicts Apollo, God of sun, light and music, and the muses Clio (history) and Melpomene (tragedy).   Above them sixteen musicians with their instruments.

Sunlight streams through the windows of the beautiful cupola into the stairwell, providing a wonderful play of light and shade.   Wouldn't something like this this be fantastic in miniature as well?  I still have a lot of work ahead of me ;-)

The visit was very inspirational and I feel privileged to have been able to look around in one of the most beautiful canal houses in Amsterdam.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pigments, porcelain and patience...

If you have been reading my blog posts for a while, you may remember I have written about the miniature porcelain painting classes I take once or twice a year.  I really enjoy them and for a long time now I have wanted to buy a kiln so I can paint porcelain pieces and fire them myself.  

Unfortunately kilns are very expensive so buying one wasn't really an option.  Until a few weeks ago when I managed to buy a small kiln without going into bankruptcy.   The kiln goes up to 1000ºC which is more than enough for firing porcelain glaze paints (they need around 800℃).

Although I have painted porcelain before, mixing the paints was always done for us.  So, the first thing I did was make a colour chart with the pigments I have.  I had a lot of fun trying different mediums and learning how to mix the paints.   

The firing process itself takes 6 to 8 hours.  One of the more difficult things is to keep my curiosity under control and not peek inside the kiln until it has cooled completely.   Ah, that pesky patience!

 Here I tested different mediums and different firing temperatures with quick little sketches on tiles.  My painting technique needs to improve, but it will over time.  I also need to paint smaller so I am on the hunt for tiny brushes.

I had some cheap dishes in my stash and wanted to see whether I could fire them in my kiln, so I quickly painted them with a little design based on an old Chinese piece.   Here again I tested different mediums and mixes to see how it would look once fired.  

I made a bit of a mess in some parts, but I was impatient and fired them anyway.  Again, technically they're not good but as an experiment they were a success.  I must do better next time though!

These pieces are only test pieces but they look rather nice in the Arts&Crafts inspired dining room in my first Canal House.  I now need to practise, practise, practise until I achieve pieces I am happy with.   I've got a whole set of china for the dining room waiting to be painted...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A little Tune...

In July I drove to Tune in Denmark with two miniaturist friends to attend classes at the summer school there.   First we made a stop at Egeskov Castle, a beautiful castle with wonderful gardens,  well worth a visit.  But the main reason for stopping there is because it is where Titania's Palace is housed.    Titania's Palace is a miniature castle which was commissioned and worked on by Sir Neville Wilkinson from 1907 to 1922 for his  daughter Guendolen.

I had seen Titania's Palace before when it was still on display at Legoland.  I think the castle is a much better setting for this wonderful miniature Palace.  Taking photos of the rooms was very difficult because of the glare from the windows on the protective glass.  My photos are therefore not the best, but I'll show you just a few anyway. 

Egeskov Castle
Titania's Palace (inside Egeskov Castle)
Titania's Palace, interior.
Titania's Palace, interior.
      Something in this little chapel below drew my attention...I have the same little book! Mine is a bit more worn, the velvet on the spine has almost worn away and the ivory cover is a bit chipped. But it is the same little book.  I found mine a few years ago on an antique market in France.  

Titania's Palace, chapel.
I have the same book!

In the evening we visited Ursula Dyrbye-Skovsted, who lives near Egeskov Castle.  We had a delicious dinner in her garden and very much enjoyed ourselves in wonderful company.  After dinner Ursula gave us a tour of her marvelous workshop and place of business ' Intarsia wood'  .  Wow, that was something else!  What a fabulous workshop!  The house and workshop are nearly 100 years old, and have maintained all the charm which the history of craftsmanship, passion and life brings.   Unfortunately I did not take any photos, but there are some on her website Intarsia ApS .

We left Ursula late that evening, and after a long trip with heavy traffic, relentless rains, roadworks and a detour we finally arrived at the school in Tune around 1:15 AM.  
It was all worth it though, as this was what we woke up to the next day:

Some of the buildings  and many seating area's of the school. 

My classroom.  This is where I spent most of my time the rest of the week (until 11:30 PM on some days!).

Not too bad ;-) 

Even during the occasional shower the view from my desk was wonderful.

 My teacher for both of the classes I took was Bill Robertson.  Here he is showing us a technique on the metal lathe.

During the first class we worked on making a wine decanting machine.  The machine holds a wine bottle which can then be slowly tilted to separate the wine from the sediment.  
My machine is not ready yet, although I did make most of the parts.   I am waiting for some tools to be delivered to me so I can finish it.  

 I had only once, very briefly, turned metal on a lathe, so basically I was new to the lathe.  There was a lot (!!) of measuring involved.  We had to turn three or four of each length so that we could pick the two most similar to use.  I made a few mistakes, so I turned more than required but that's all good experience. 
All the parts are screwed together, so we had cut nuts and bolts too.  So cool when the parts you have turned actually screw together!  As I said, my wine decanter machine is not ready yet, I'll write another post when I have finished it and show you how it all comes apart.

My second class involved more work on the lathe, in wood mostly this time.  We made a set of campaign chairs, the main feature of these of course is that they can be taken apart easily for travel.
The front legs of these chairs were turned on the lathe.  Trying to get four legs to look the same takes some practice!  Again, I did not finish the chairs, but that was not my goal.  My goal was to get acquainted with working on the lathe, and that I did!

It was very hot that week, so the last night of school my friends and I went to the beach for a swim.  Well you can see my friends' interpretation of 'going for a swim' ;-)  To be fair to them, they did go for a swim. 

After spending a leisurely Saturday in beautiful Copenhagen, my friend and I returned home on Sunday.  We spent the last night at the school as well which was rather spooky as we were the only two people there.  No staff, no teachers, no other students, just us two.  We had quite an eventful night with alarms going off and running into the security guard in the dark...but that's another story ;-)

For us Tune was just wonderful.  We will be back!

Thursday, July 31, 2014


...echo, echo, echo...

Hello everyone, I'm back.  There was a similar echo on my blog back in February I believe.  I'm sorry I left my blog alone for a few months,  I did not feel I had much to show you although I have been busy!

One of the things I did was make a miniature kitchen.  I know what you're thinking: 'What, another one?'.  Yes, yes, another kitchen.  But this time it was slightly different.  I was asked if I could duplicate an old handbuilt miniature kitchen, as closely as possible.  

So I did.  It wasn't easy.  In fact it was quite difficult as I had to copy the style and method of someone else's work.  I also tried to use the same materials which were used in the original kitchen.  Again not so easy as for instance the marble used for the floor and countertop is no longer available as the marble is mined at a different depth now and so looks different.
With the very kind help from a local marble company and some experimenting with oil paint I came close though!

New 'old' kitchen
Old kitchen

There are real tiles on the wall into which I scratched tile grids.  I searched to find tiles which have the same size and colour variation as the tiles in the original kitchen.   Again I was very kindly helped by a local tile company.  

I had put the old kitchen in the back of my car and showed it to the people of different companies.  They were all so kind, helpful and interested!  Which was much appreciated by me as of course my orders of 9 tiles and a tiny bit of marble means nothing to them.  

Exact copy of one of the windows.
Turning the handle for the oven door on the drill press.
The oak for the cabinet was provided to me by my young cabinetmaker neighbour.  He kindly planed the oak to the many various thicknesses for me which left me with the task of building the cabinet and stand.  As my machines are built for making miniatures and the oak was up to 2 cm thick, again that was not so easy.  But my little machines and I managed ;-)

As I don't have a lathe (yet!!) I thought I'd have to find someone to make me the different metal fittings of the kitchen too, but after some experimenting I found that my big drill press did the job perfectly.   So I made all the metal parts myself as well.  The only thing in the entire cabinet I did not make myself are the hinges on the cupboard door, those I found at the hardware store. 

Another thing I found difficult was trying not to make it look perfect.  The grouting for instance had to be done slightly rough and let's say 'sloppy'as that's how the original was done.   I did not go overboard with putting patina on it, as time will do that all by itself, just like it did with the original.

I put a few of my own miniatures in the kitchen to give it some life for the photos.  Although the new 'old' kitchen differs slightly from the original old kitchen on some points, I am very pleased with the result.  And I had fun and learned a lot!

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