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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Secrets of the Nautilus Shell

Welcome back folks!  

I think that one of the most beautiful shapes in nature is the shape of the Nautilus shell. These shells are actually the natural protection for a very small octopus. Their graceful curves and myriad of colors are truly amazing, and there is a gracefulness and elegance that echoes the beauty found throughout nature.   

So when I was designing the floor for my Grand Parlor, guess where I turned!  I  The parlor now has two inlaid Nautilus shells that reinforce the undersea theme, while lending a grace and elegance to the space that belies the playfulness of the undersea concept.  A perfect device for my Steampunk Chateau!

The Chambered Nautilus Shell 

In fact, the nautilus shell is a perfect demonstration of the Fibonacci Sequence, which is a principle that was understood by mankind as far back as 200 BC.  We use it in math, science, art, and literature as a method to obtain balance and proportion.  So it truly can bring a sense of elegance to a space, whether used literally, as I have here, or used to develop the arrangement of space without direct reference to the shapes.  If you want to see more of how this principle is found throughout nature, you can watch the video I posted here.

Now I told you that these Nautilus shells in my parlor are inlaid.  But I have a dirty little secret.  They really are not inlaid!  Following I'll share my little secret with you, so you can see what a deceiver I really am!

I found a pattern on the Internet that I thought I could use as a pattern for the inlay.  And I actually DID start out trying to cut it all out and inlay it.  But if you will note in the photo above, the center of this pattern (and all nautilus shells!) gets extremely tiny.  This proved to be too much for the designer to manage, so we went to Plan B. 

I took the pattern and enlarged it to the size I wanted, and then cut the entire pattern out with a combination of a 360 degree X-Acto knife (pictured) and a pair of nail scissors!  This took me a bit of time, of course!  I was glad to finish up that piece of this effort.  My hands were sore before I was finished!

My original plan had been to create a copper inlay using those Oh so useful copper paper plates that would lay over the green and white floor, to create a counterpoint between the greens and the copper color.  So I decided that since I could not figure out how to cut the inlay with the paper plates, that I needed to paint the original design a copper color.  Above you see me in the process of coloring the black to become the copper color I wanted. You see the original printed paper with the design, and two of the cutouts I made, one painted and the other in progress.  

Since I was using the black background anyway, I decided to feature it as part of the shell pattern, which gives it a tad bit more dimension.  I love the look.  

Pictured are the finished paintings laid on the paper destined to become their final home.  They have not been glued, so you can see the curve in the paper caused by the paper retaining a memory of the contortions I took it through.  I would never forgive someone that did that to me!  

I glued the paintings onto the scrapbook paper I am using as the flooring, and completed that little task.  As you could see in the photo at the top of the post, the effect is rather magical. 

You will also remember my struggles with the fireplace.  After my last post, I painted the entire white portion of the fireplace surround with a Floating Medium and White paint mixture, which knocked back the dirty look, leaving the fireplace looking fresh again.  

I added several coats of Liquitex BASICS Gloss Varnish, which added a nice sheen to the white trim, and gave it some additional interest.  I think the effect is nice.

The jewel finding at the top of the mirror was black stone and brass trim.  I decided to take all the brass trim to white, which I think tied it in more to the rest of the mirror.  Unfortunately, those fine motor skills I discussed above have not been as finely developed as the job required, so it is not as clean as I would like it, but it is clean enough that it does not detract from the look in real life.  

Lastly, I covered the chimney breast with that lovely copper colored paper plate!  It ties the chimney breast into the rest of the room, I think, and sets off the white trim on the fireplace nicely.  There is much more to do to add the realism I am looking for before completed, but it is as far as I will take it for now.  I will finish it off when I do the rest of the interior trim for the room. 

At this point, I began to glue the floor down.  The scrapbook paper is now glued down on mountboard, which is then glued to the base of the room box.  

I also added Styrofoam and mount board under the copper and wood floor in the grand parlor.  The floor had warped a tad when I glued the veneer and paper plate onto the Foam core board, so I needed to flatten the floor, and also give the top surface support so that it will not cave in if it ever gets hit hard.  I don't imagine that would happen. . . but  you never know, do you!  Maybe one of the automatons will go haywire or something.  It is important to be prepared! 

Thus, we have now arrived at a final picture that is finally beginning to look like a room!  It is exciting to see something finally coming together.  I have been working since January of 2014 toward the point that something starts looking like a room, so it feels good to be there, even though I am still a long ways away from finishing!   

I still have some surprises up my sleeve for this room, but you will all have to be patient.  Those additional renovations will not take place until the three modules that make up the ground floor of the Chateau are attached.  

So, watch for some new activity in the kitchen soon!  

Until next time!

Doug S


  1. Hi Doug,
    As always, your ideas for this room never cease to amaze and inspire me. The curves of the shell design are sublime, and I think your use of copper/copper colour is so much richer than any gold colour could be, although my manor is full of old gold.....but that is a totally different project! The copper also lends itself beautifully to the greens in the room, and gives it all a much deeper, richer feel.
    We are all deceivers :) that's what I feel miniature work involves if you have to get the look you want....whatever it takes!
    I always look forward to your posts. :)
    All the best and take care

    1. Hey Vivian!

      I LOVE your "Old Gold" in your manor project! It has such an elegance and beauty, and it really does evoke the beautiful architectural details found in so many of the great examples of architecture throughout history.

      Copper is a wonderful metal, and is so very rich. I am sure that our Steampunkers will regret using it though! They will have to pay a pretty penny to keep it sparkling and shiny like it is right now! :0)

      Isn't it fun figuring out how to deceive the eye? I think that is the heart of what I enjoy about this whole endeavor. It is amazing what beauty can be created out of nothing. I've done a lot of things over the years, but the joy of transforming these little spaces into something enchanting has been such a joyful activity!

      Glad you enjoy my rantings and ravings in these posts. Sometimes I wonder what I am doing broadcasting my attempts to create to the world. But it is so wonderful to see what others have done, and I figure this way you all get to watch me learn. What better way to motivate yourself to finish something when you get to those places that feel like you will never succeed! :0)

      Thanks for dropping by! I always enjoy hearing from you!


  2. Hi Doug! I'm so surprised (in a pleasant way) by your miniature creation with the Nautilus shells, I think it's a great find for your underwater theme. Moreover, I fully agree with you: these shells are true beauties of Mother Nature! The results for your floor are stunning, it's fantastic work!
    I always have to take my time for reading English blog posts and I must confess that there are lots of words I had to look up with the translator. I don't mind because I love to learn languages, so I think I've got it all clear ;)!
    As I've said before: red (copper) and green (floor and walls) are opposite colors, so their combination in your project is beautiful and warm.
    I've built a canal house for myself and after 14 years I still have to create the interior, so I've learned a lot of your work in miniature and how you've created your miniature floors, walls and the fire place.
    I can't wait to see what surprises you'll have up your sleeve (I didn't know this saying...), so I'll wait patiently ;).
    Kind regards, Ilona

    1. Hi Ilona! Thank You for your comments! I am glad you are enjoying the floor update and the room decor. It is unusual, I must say, but that is what Steampunk is all about isn't it! Celebrating the unique and unusual. So I'd better go for it, right?

      I am sorry about the language I use, I use so many big words and a lot of "English expressions" in my writing, and I forget that it might be hard to understand. I'll try to do better. I probably won't succeed, because it is all just second nature to me,but I will try!

      You are so patient! I am 11 months in to my house, and I am so anxious to finish already, I want it all done tomorrow! I don't know why, I would probably just start the next project! But at the rate I am going, it may take me that long to complete mine too. I hope not, because I have too many new projects waiting in the wings!

      The expression "to have something up your sleeve" came from the idea that card sharks would put an ace up their sleeve to cheat at cards! I wonder what THAT says about me! :0)

      I so love your comments. They make me happy. I am glad you are learning something that you can use, that makes me even happier. I know however, that you do BEAUTIFUL things, so whatever you are learning is pure happenstance! :0)

      Talk to you soon!


  3. Hello Doug,
    The shell design on the floors is gorgeous. The entire room is so beautiful and you are very successful at interpreting steampunkk. The fireplace is also beautiful and it looks like moving water in the picture. Excellent work Doug.
    Big hug,


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