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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Faux Coral Reverie

Hi folks,

I've continued work on my Grand Parlor miniature fireplace since my last post.  This has been fun!

My first step in bringing this fireplace surround to life was to create the texture that will become the basis for everything else.  And to do that, of course, I am continuing my underwater theme.   I wanted to create a texture that "lived well" in the space, and what better than creating the impression of coral?

To establish the texture I wanted, I used a test piece of Foam Core, Unsanded Adhesive and Tile Grout, a putty knife and an old toothbrush.

I applied the unsanded grout to the Foam Core Board in about a 1/8 inch layer, maybe less.  Just enough to give the grout depth that allowed me to manipulate it for texture.

I actually went over the entire fireplace once to establish the basic texture, and then re-stippled the entire surface again after a couple of minutes to improve the texture impressions and make them a bit finer to match the scale of the house.   I then took a piece of fine sandpaper to knock off the points of the stippling.

When completed, I ended up with a nicely textured fireplace.  I've placed a small frame (you've seen this in other places in the house already!) to help me get a sense of the size and effect of the "completed" fireplace.

The final Overmantel will be quite different than above, but again, this is that "visual cue" thing I have to do to really plant the vision in my head.  I think this visual process I have to go through is all about proportion.  I seem to be able to "morph" my ideas in my head, but I also seem to need the visual cues to help establish proper scale.   Unfortunately, I am not the guy with the calipers and fully realized drawings in place before I ever touch anything.  I've tried. . . and it ALWAYS fails.  So I live with my little handicap.  :0) 

As you can see, I also put a few pieces of Foam Core Board around the edges of the Overmantel to assist my visioning process. 

Having established the basic texture I wanted, I now turned to determining the right "shade" of color for the fireplace.  

The technique I used to obtain the color was to use Floating Medium. . . That wonderful invention that helps to keep paint from totally covering the piece.  I used very, very small amounts of the paint that I used for texturing the walls of the parlor.  

If I had to guess at ratios, I would say that I put about 2% paint into 98% Floating Medium.  I played with the amount of paint until I got the coverage I wanted.  It is hard to see in the photo, but there were about 5 tries...the final one on the right is what I decided upon. 

Above you can see the textured and colored fireplace.  I wanted this very pastel effect, because this is going into a room that is highly colorful, and I don't want the room to look like a circus tent!  This understated, pastel green does not look all that great on a white background, but it comes alive when put into the room.

I then added all of the base trim to the front of the fireplace, using mounting board.  The "carved medallion" is painted white, and the background of the medallion is also stippled just like the fireplace to create a textured (coral!) background.  I used a very, very light touch on the medallion texturing, because I wanted to ensure that the texture was an impression, and not otherwise noticeable.

Here is a shot with some of the decorative detail laid onto the colored fireplace. The little metal swirl is a copper paperclip.  This was taken before the medallion and other base trim was glued on.

I've progressed to the point that all of the base trim has been added, and the mantel has been painted and glued on.  I did decide to just use the mount board for the mantel, as I feel it is quite realistic looking as is.   I have more trim to put onto the fireplace surround to complete the portion of the trim that evokes that art noveau effect, and of course, will be adding the fish and seaweed detail to the front, once it has been prepared and colored.

I am excited about where this is going!  It is a bit fanciful, but I think that still works with the Steampunk Theme, so I am staying with it.

Next steps?  That scary "feature" that I mentioned, and the Overmantel!

Wish me luck!  I have ONE piece of wood for my "feature", and I am very unsure of how to accomplish what I want to again, I stretch beyond my comfort zone!  But isn't that what all this is about? Learning and creating. . . pushing the envelope.  I have a love/hate relationship with that process!

Until next time!

Doug S

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fireplace Mantel Mockup

Howdy folks!

Before I do anything else, I'd like to welcome two new followers! Thanks so much Elizabeth and Ilona, I look forward to getting to know you!

I wanted to share with you the next project I am working on for my Steampunk Chateau.  Its been a very, very busy couple of weeks, we've had a visitor and lots of "extra" activities recently, so I haven't been terribly focused on the miniature scene.   As a result, I've not gotten too far along on the project, but since this fireplace surround is a complex project, I thought I would go ahead and get started on posting about it. 

First, I'd like to share my inspiration fireplace surround.  You can see it above printed out with my printer that is on its last legs, and is also about out of the black ink.  :0) 

I absolutely love this Art Noveau fireplace surround, and was originally going to place this in the Entry.  But as you know, I decided to use another fireplace surround that I purchased at the Portland Miniature Show in the Entry, so this idea was still out there, and I decided that an adaptation of this was truly perfect for the Grand Parlor I am working on right now. 

As you see in the inspiration photo, there was no firebox with the surround, so I get to make up the rest!  I started by building the firebox so that I could set the depth of the fireplace surround appropriately.   

I added the front and sides to the "assembly" (its all propped together right now!).  The small dots you see in the back of the firebox are straight pins holding the wings of the firebox to the back while it dries.  I really love working with Foam Core!  It substitutes for wood in so many places, and in the finished product, you would never know! 

I also added a back to the fireplace surround that fit just behind the firebox.  It is hard to see in this picture, but that back goes about twice as high as the base.   

The inspiration fireplace has a carved medallion in the center.  I wanted to emulate that.  I created the design for one half of the medallion on one piece of mounting board.  I cut out that piece to create a template to use to ensure that both sides of the medallion matched.  I then used that (half) template to draw out the above piece, using the center line to make the two halves of the medallion the same size. 


I also wanted to preserve the carving around the center medallion in my version of the fireplace surround, so I also cut those from the mounting board using the same basic procedure. 

Here is where the fun begins!  My daughter donated a pair of beautiful, but broken, earrings to the cause, and I cut the bangles off of one of them with a wire cutter designed for working with jewelry.   

Here I begin to depart from the inspiration fireplace, since when I was playing with placement, I decided I preferred the jewelry bit placed as you see it in the above picture far better than the original placement of the carving in the inspiration fireplace.  It just "looks Steampunk", by which I mean it feels more like Art Noveau than the original.  :0)  My particular version of Steampunk is going to be highly influenced by the Art Noveau aesthetic... I think it lends itself well to the "unique" and "elegant" Steampunk vibe. 


Once I had the basic shapes of the front of the surround in place, I created three differing sizes of "mantel" out of mounting board.   Two are slightly smaller, and one larger. 

In the final version, I haven't yet decided whether the mounting board is sufficient for the application, or whether I want to cut these out of wood. It depends upon how things go with the later stages of this project. 


Here you see the way the three mantel pieces fit together to create a "molding".    You can also see that I departed from the inspiration fireplace by squaring off the overmantel, because I like the overall effect in my parlor room better.   

The tracing along the top represents some detail I am hoping to create along the top in the later stages of the fireplace surround build.  I'll post about that later. . .  for now, it is represented in mock up to help me visualize the final effects.  I process EVERYTHING visually, these little "crutches" are necessary for me to operate! 

Above is a shot of the fireplace surround in mock up form in it's entirety up to this point.  I will be adding a molding to the opening of the fireplace, as well as base molding.  

Now that the basic shape of the fireplace has been finalized, and representations of those shapes have been cut, I have turned to the decorative elements of the fireplace.   I found the above picture frame in a Goodwill store.  Not my idea of a beautiful frame, but it presented opportunities to me in regard to decor for my little fireplace. 

These little details will honor the look and feel of the original fireplace, while supporting beautifully the underwater vibe of the Grand Parlor.  I liked the seaweed pictured above as one element that I wanted to recreate on the fireplace. 

Time then to break out the trusty Amazing Mold Putty and the Amazing Resin to cast a version of the seaweed.   You see above that after casting, I have cut off the bottom of the new cast at the right point to allow it to fit into the final space allotted for it on the fireplace.  

I also liked the little fish elements spread all through the Goodwill frame, so also made a casting of two of those.   I don't want TOO much detail on the fireplace! 

Here are my little molds.  Rather frumpy, but hey, they work!

This finishes the basic mock up of the fireplace, other than the elements that make up the overmantel.  I'll be posting at least a couple of posts on finalizing that area.  Meanwhile, suffice it to say that there will be a "feature" just above the mantel, (again, if I can carry it off!!) and a mirror or framed picture (haven't decided for sure yet) above on the Overmantel. Take a look at the inspiration photo and see if you can guess what the "feature" will be.  If you do, you can see why I face that with some trepidation!  

I posted at this point, because I find the photo above intriguing. . . . I thought it would be a good "cliffhanger" for the next post.  : 0 )) 

Hope this finds all of you well and happy!  

Doug S

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Green of My Sea

I have been continuing work on my Grand Parlor. . . and here it is as it stands today.  Wild colors and textures reign in this room!

The Grand Parlor Progress

Some may wonder at my choice of color combinations, and at the wildly elaborate elements I am using as part of my work on the Grand Parlor in this miniature house.   So I feel the need to "splain" myself! 

Sea Squirt Courtesy of Anthony Pearson - Flickr

I absolutely love the beauty and wonder of the seas.   The ocean is just alien enough that it brings us a new appreciation of the earth and all that is in it.   The green seas teem with an alien and unique life that implies a glorious, intelligent and creative being behind it all.  

We feel the wonder and power of the Creation, and it connects with our souls.   This elevation of the uniqueness and wonder of nature, as well as the wondrous works of man, are fully a part of the Steampunk movement. 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!  Courtesy of Wikipedia

Fascination with the unique has been  popularized by movies like Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and Lemony Snicket.   Some of these films were made well before the full recognition of "Steampunk" as a movement, yet set the foundation for this incredibly creative genre. Steampunk is a compilation of ideas from many, many references to unique, over the top, fascinating elements of nature and of industry.

Steampunk Airship - Second Life photo Courtesy of Torley on Flickr

H.G. Wells 'The Time Machine',  Cassandra Clare's "Clockwork" Series for Young Adults, and Gail Carrigers' novel 'Souless' (all of which I love!) successfully plumb the depths of these unique and absolutely enjoyable styles, and bring in the elements of fantasy and science fiction which thread throughout the genre. 

Along with the well known elements of the Victorian age, Grunge elements, and the Automatons that have crept into the genre, there are significant references to the wonders of nature, the seas, the skies and the earth.  

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Courtesy of Bryon Taylor

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne is one of the most well known literary references, but the Legends of Atlantis and visual references to the Roman God Neptune all have become well known visual cues for the Steampunk Aesthetic. 

Hence, the strong references to the ocean you are beginning to see in the Grand Parlor!  See, somewhere in my head it all makes sense. . .  but it may never to some folks, especially those not steeped in the Steampunk genre.  But there  you have it!

My Grand Parlor is inspired by these references to the sea in the Steampunk genre, and so, I hope you see not wild colors, but the beginning of those nautical references influencing the choices in this room.
To begin the process of addressing the walls for the Grand Parlor, I covered all of the interior surfaces with mounting board.  This was to help strengthen the walls, and to crisp up the edges of the window and door openings.  I ran out of card before I was had to piece the back wall together.

So I Spackled the wall, and thought for sure I had taken care of the problem. 

Jorge, my little helper, and I then painted all the walls a light aqua green.  I was careful not to completely cover the mounting board, to let some of that show through, as I knew I wanted a bit of variation in the wall colors.

I wanted more variation, and also to get a closer match to the paper I plan to use for the flooring, so I then took a metallic green by DecoArt called 'Dark Patina', and added equal parts of Floating Medium, which enabled me to paint the new metallic color over the aqua without complete coverage. 

I used a Sea Sponge to spread the color, allowing the original aqua color to bleed through, and twisting the sea sponge enough to distribute the color somewhat evenly...though again, since I wanted a variable wall color, I darkened here and there to help create movement in the wall color. 

Everything went swimmingly (forgive the pun!), until I was all done.   I loved the variation in the wall color, and the sheen of the metallic paint.

But lo and behold!  I see seams!  Grrr. . . 

So back to the drawing board I went, attempting to cover the seams....

And overall, I did succeed...but of course "THE CAMERA" picks up the seams anyway....sigh.  But it looks much better, and I think with the other distractions such as curtain treatments and moldings, we should be able to create a new "Feature" using those seams.  :0)) 

I leave you with a glimpse of the construction in progress.  I love the way the colors set each other off, while maintaining a very different look in the two modules.  I am very excited to move this forward more, and see the completed rooms together.  

Hope you've enjoyed the next chapter in the saga of the Steampunk Chateau. . .   

Until next time!

Doug S

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Material Change - [ Or My Copper Ceiling Adventures ]

Hello my friends!  Do you remember that cookie tray?   Well, I have been making LOTs of little cookies to put on that tray...upside down!  The result so far, you see below.

I've been steadily turning that little cookie tray into a copper ceiling for the Grand Parlor.   This has been a time consuming project, but it has been fun to see the humble cookie tray take on a new life. 

I began by casting approximately 75 little resin "carved" bits to add to the ceiling.  Here is a photo of some of the ones I had left when completed. 

Forgive the lack of clarity on the photo...this was by FAR the hardest photo to get right...and it still isn't very good.  I obviously have some "learnin" to do about closeup photography!

Casting these small resin pieces took me several days, working an hour or two at a time.  Resin is a great medium...but patience is a part of the package if you intend to do large groups of castings the way I did here. 

Not something for the faint of heart to attempt!  Perhaps only for the simple minded!

Once I finally finished casting and cutting the flashing off of each of those tiny resin pieces, I got to cut about a quarter of them to fit the edges of the new ceiling.  

Adding a couple of coats of 'Royal Ruby' Metallic paint by DecoArt turned the ugly little cookie tray into a beautifully copper covered ceiling!  I love miniatures!   Old becomes New, Humble becomes Grand...Trash becomes Treasure...what could be better?  It is like having the Midas touch...everything turns to gold. [or copper in this case!] 

Some of the sharper tacks in the box may remember I was going on in an earlier post about a "carved ceiling"....  Well, Yes, this is morphed a tad! I kept thinking about the theme of the room...that "subtle underwater feel", and just could not reconcile my "carved ceiling" with that.  BUT, I knew I wanted the darker, richer effect on this portion of my miniature ceiling. 

In the magical world of miniatures, it is quite a simple matter to change the story!  So I did.  My "carved ceiling" became a copper covered ceiling.  And I really like it.  It still has the over the top richness of the wood carved ceiling, but since it is now METAL, it supports my central idea much better. At least that is what I tell myself!  We must comfort ourselves in our eccentricities in whatever fashion we can!    

So now to the fun part!  Finger Painting!  I painted more fingers than I did copper tiles, I swear.  Luckily, I look good in copper.  

I then lined up every tile onto one of the ridged squares on the cookie tray using a straight ruler to ensure that I got a very even distribution of the tiles across the ceiling.  If you have big hands like mine, you understand the TRUE meaning behind what I just told you.  This took me hours...every time I tried to place a tile, I bumped another...LOTS of unplanned rework there! But I finally succeeded in applying tile to the whole ceiling in a cleanly distributed fashion. 

Here I hit another "little" snag!  I planned to apply molding to the edges of this ceiling all along, but leave it to me to leave something out of my planning!  Once I tried to apply that molding, I realized that I was going to have gaps in my ceiling because I was applying the straight molding over the bumpy is that rocket science or what?  But NO...I didn't figure it out until I was ready to apply the molding.  

After a little bit of colorful language...(OK..not verbally...just in my head!) I realized I would have to cut my beautifully glued and painted ceiling make flat edges for the new molding to lay against.  I used my trusty little utility knife to make the cuts...nearly fainting with fear that I would mess everything up and have to start over. 

Luckily, I was able to manage, and without too much damage, I was able to finally place my "copper" molding along the ceiling edges, and create a beautiful finish to the room.  I am a long way from finished with the ceiling, but all the basic work is now complete, so I will be moving on to new projects for the moment. 

I am sure you are all saying "WAIT!!!  You forgot something!" . . .  but never fear!  The molding is attached only to the ceiling, and fits down inside the room module perfectly.   I can continue to work on the room and not have to worry about cutting up the wallpaper or getting paint on the moldings.  It all lifts off to provide me with access to the room until I get the basic walls, floors, and ceilings completed.  Once that is done, I will attach the ceiling permanently, and according to the Advertising, all will be well forever and evermore.  

We shall see!

I hope you have enjoyed the story of the transformation of an ugly little cookie tray (or two) into a beautiful, grand, and rich copper ceiling!  I swear, I must find that fairy tale woman who could spin straw into gold...I think it would be much easier!  

Have a good day, and can't wait to see you back here again!  Until next time!  

Doug S