Saturday, 27 June 2020

Bakery room box

 Recently, I have been making a lot of miniature breads and cakes.


I have never been good with clay, but some time ago I attended a workshop where I learned some basic techniques that made me more confident to experiment. Now I have a variety of stuff that demands nice display, and what can be better for displaying cakes than a bakery. I have been planning to make a bakery for a long time, but as usual I need to find an interesting point of departure. It is tempting to buy a shop kit, but that's not much of a challenge. I needed, firstly, an open cabinet, and secondly, glass counters. I also considered having some cafe-style tables and chairs, but decided they would obscure the cakes.

Now, my most important insight about starting a new project, even when you have a good idea of what you are doing, is to go through your stashes. When you, like me, have been collecting rubbish for years and years, as well as buying stuff you don't need at the moment but might need some time in the future, you totally forget what you have. In this case, I was looking for something else when I found these two cabinets.


The one on the left I bought many years ago and never used in anything because it is too large for a 1:12 project. I tried to use it as a book shelf, but it didn't work. The one on the right I bought at a car boot sale during one of my very last weeks in Cambridge, mostly as a farewell souvenir, because it is also too large, but I thought I might use it in a project one day, and as you see I was right. Just what an old-fashioned bakery would have. Scale won't be a problem in this particular project.

Rummaging further through my supplies, I found small transparent plastic boxes, probably from fancy chocolates, that I use for sorting small things. Suddenly I saw typical bakery counters!

I am getting cardboard boxes with my grocery deliveries that are just the right size for a room box. The first step was, as usual, just to put in what I have for a rough sketch.

The table  is something I made a while ago to practice making furniture from craft sticks.


It didn't match the cabinets so I painted it dark. The till is a metal pencil-sharpener.

Then I needed to decide on floors and wallpaper. If you wonder why I put so much energy in floors and wallpaper in my room boxes when my focus is on displaying something - it is absolutely essential. Sloppy background will ruin your project. So sometimes planning and building backgrounds takes longer than the rest of the project. When small things are to be displayed, too conspicuous backgrounds may kill them. Floors and wallpaper must go well together. They must obviously also go well with the rest of the objects. Sometimes it takes several attempts before you strike it right. Fortunately, I now have a good-quality printer so I can print several papers and test. I don't think I ever get it right at first attempt.

Eventually I decided on pretty Art Nouveau paper from Jennifer's page, my favourite site for printies. With such a colourful wallpaper, floors should be more discreet, and after long deliberations I choose a conventional, but unbeatable pattern.

Now on to details. Large cakes can be displayed on cake stands and platters, but for smaller cakes and biscuits I needed trays. Again, going through stashes is helpful.

These came with sets of miniature cutlery, and they fit precisely into my counters, but of course they needed to be painted. This looks more realistic, doesn't it.

First preliminary fitting:

Now I need to make more bread and cakes to fill the shelves and counters.

Come back soon.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Messy kitchen, part 2

The second part of my messy kitchen project was focused on details. The joy of a project like this is thinking of all small things that add to the authenticity, as well as tell a story. This scene tells a sad story, but it cannot be helped.

To begin with, I removed all objects from the box and added mold in the corners and dirt on the floor.

I made this really disgusting green mold by applying a thin layer of glue and rubbing in green oasis foam. I think the result is very convincing. Dirt is simply diluted brown paint.

Next, I put back the units, the fridge, the table and the cupboard and started playing with small objects. I put them in and removed and moved them around. Some items I initially was sure would be there proved superfluous, for various reasons. Some were slightly wrong scale, and you could see it. Some just didn't feel right. Also while I wanted chaos I didn't want to overload the scene too much.

When I thought I had found the right place, I fixed the item with a glue dot - it can be removed if needed. 

After a couple of intensive hours, here is what it looks like.

Of course, you cannot see all details in this picture, so let's have a closer look, clockwise from left bottom corner.


There is a garbage bin, a shopping basket, a dustpan and a pair of rubber boots. More or less tidy. Maybe not used too often. The bin is a shampoo bottle cap; the rest are commercial items that came in different lots. I have painted the basket.

A flattened package of cereal. It was already flattened when it arrived in a lot, and for once I didn't have to mend it. An empty bottle of juice - eye-drop container with a label cut from a catalogue. Quite a few objects here come from my retro kitchen, now demolished. The towel rack is made from a cooking-oil bottle cap, and the towel is a bit of a full-scale towel.

I showed the arrangement on the cooker, corner unit and sink in the previous post, and I haven't added much. The kitchen towel rack is commercial, and the brush - doesn't this pink colour speak volumes about its owner? - is from a larger lot. It is a perfect finishing touch on the hob.

The clock on the wall is made from a spice-jar lid, and the clock face is cut out from a catalogue. 

I have added a few things on the table, including a shoe and a roll of toilet paper, neither belonging there. Another shoe has somehow got into a fruit bowl on the floor, and there are bottles everywhere. Only a few bottles are authentic, with real labels. They are in the foreground, to catch attention. The rest are eye-drop containers, painted green. There is also a food magazine on the floor - an ironic or even sarcastic detail.

On the fridge, an ice tray - almost all ice has melted. A bottle and a can of coke. And you cannot see that the fridge door has been mended, can you?

On the chair, there is another whisky bottle, a fake bottle and a cap - whose cap? In the foreground, another shoe, another bottle (nice wine, can this person appreciate it? Maybe someone gave it to them), another crushed package, an old cassette player, a crumpled newspaper - and a fire extinguisher! At least if there is a fire, maybe it can be stopped.

The cupboard is relatively tidy, with plates and cups and groceries, but there is another empty bottle and a tooth brush. And what is a champagne bottle doing there?

There are of course many further details I can add. A full ashtray. A withered plant. A half-eaten bread roll. But I will stop for a while. A project is never finished.

One final thing I made was a LED-strip over the cooker. It is not essential, but can be nice for display.

I am pleased with the final look.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Miniature baking

I have recently been teasing my Facebook friends by posting alternatively pictures of real and miniature cakes and biscuits.

When I posted this picture of Swedish cinnamon buns most friends thought they were real which I viewed as a compliment for my crafting skills.

I had to disappoint them:

Then I posted a picture of traditional Swedish "princess cake", and most people figured out it was a miniature, probably because I displayed it clearly on a miniature table.

I went on and posted this:

Of course you can see that these hazelnut buttons are real. But I thought it would be a challenge to make them in 1:12 scale.

I attended a course some time ago, when it was still possible, and learned some basic techniques. Not all miniature cakes can be made exactly the same way you bake for real; sometimes you have to cheat a bit.

First, obviously, I took two pieces of fimo clay. I happened to have a suitable shade of brown, otherwise you have to mix, as I did with layers of princess cake.


I baked them and then grated on a citrus grater. There must be better ways of doing it, but that's what I did.


The next step was when I had to cheat. I tried mixing the gratings with liquid fimo to make batter, just as you would with real biscuits, but it didn't work. So I decided to make a solid base and cover with grated hazelnuts.

This picture shows four steps: roll, cut into small bits, roll into balls and flatten.

Then I made a big mistake. I started covering the base with a mix of gratings and liquid fimo, but fortunately realised quickly that I needed to paint them first. Lesson learned. I painted with chalk pastels, starting with warm yellow, then light and dark brown. It is important to paint all over, on the edges.

Then I covered each biscuits with gratings. It takes time and patience, but if you are in a hurry you probably should not be making miniature food. 

To make hazelnuts for topping, I simply rolled out the same brown fimo and made tiny balls.

The biscuits are ready for baking.

However, I thought it was a shame to through away the failed biscuits so I made them into chocolate chip cookies.

35 minutes later:

As a first attempt and without any instructions, I think I did well.

To conclude, I want to point out that proper tools and materials are essential. They not just make the process easier, but ensure a much better result. Twelve years ago when I made my first food I thought I could do with what I had at home. Now I know better. So if you are considering making miniature food more than once, invest in quality tools.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Messy kitchen

It has been a while since I did any upcycling projects. I had planned to upcycle this kitchen for a long time.

It is good quality, but a dime a dozen, and my idea was to paint it with chalk paint, maybe distressing a bit. But as I started painting I suddenly felt I wanted to use it in a scene. Working on the book nook has made me eager to create more living environments. Some comments that I have received pointed out that the book nook very clearly told a story. I don't think any of my projects tell a story, not even the largest dollhouse. They are static, frozen in a moment. I want them all to tell a story, or many stories, but I haven't got there yet. I want there to be broken tea cups, spilled milk, dirty clothes, opened books. Tokens of presence.

This is why I decided to use the kitchen set in a scene of a messy kitchen. I haven't yet decided how messy, but I'd like to create an impression that someone has just left it in haste, and maybe this person hasn't been very tidy to begin with. The time will be vague 1960s-70s as I have many objects from those days.

I had already painted the kitchen units when I got the idea, and there wasn't much I had to change.

Obviously, the oven had to be black inside, and the front white. I painted the knobs and taps that were far too shiny. I added a drain in the sink (jewellery finding). I distressed a bit, not too much yet, it will depend on how the project develops.

I had saved a good cardboard box, exactly the same size as wine boxes that I had used before for room boxes and that are impossible to get these days. I made the first tentative layout.

I wanted a door in the back because a door always creates a sense of extra space. This door has been used in several earlier projects - I am sure this is not the last time. I can make a door of cardboard, but I happened to find it as I was looking for something else, so I can just as well use it.

The lovely fridge needs a door so I will have to figure out how to make it.

The cupboard is not quite in the same style, but it will work if I don't find anything better.

I think I have mentioned repeatedly in my posting that when I work on a project I like to put in as many details as possible from start, even if I then need to take them out again. It gives me a better sense of what I am doing. So after I had painted the walls and ceiling and attached suitable floors, I put in the furniture and dozens of objects that may or may not be part of the final scene, but play a role in the process. For instance, one of the chairs got knocked over unintentionally, but I saw immediately that it would be precisely like that in the final scene.

I mended the fridge to my best ability with what I had at home. One day when I can go to craft shops again I can make a better door, but it will be in the background so will work for now - or so I hope.

I haven't yet decided how messy my messy person will be, for instance, will they leave the fridge door open, but in any case there must be at least some stuff there. I will also add fridge magnets and such.

Next I "dressed" the sink.

This is something I would never, ever have in my kitchen, but that's the point of miniature-making, isn't it - creating something you would never have in real life. I didn't want to use my nice vintage plates in this project, and they wouldn't even be fully visible. Instead, I made plates from egg cartons, gluing them together at random and adding some disgusting food remnants. The knives and forks are cheap ones from Tiger, but they were far too new and shiny, as pointed out by someone with whom I shared this step, so I aged them a bit. Soap bottle came with a lot. From the cabinet, a garbage bag is falling out. But I am most proud of my mold. I had never seen a mold tutorial so I asked one of my miniatures groups. I got plenty of suggestions, but as often happens, others' advice can push you toward an original solution. Lint from tumble-dryer! I want patent on it.

I am quite pleased with this assembly. It looks truly disgusting to me.

Next, I did the corner cabinet. I didn't bother putting stuff into it since it won't be visible at all. But the counter must be crammed and untidy. 

The objects are a mix of commercial, mostly from large ebay lots, and handmade or upcycled by me. For instance, I added labels to wooden playscale bottles. To make spilled milk I used Tipp-Ex. Few people today will even know what it is. In the Stone Age before computers, it was used to paint over typos in typewritten manuscripts. It dries fast and is perfect for mock liquids, but it is the first time I used it. I recently got a bottle from a friend who had apparently saved it for the past thirty years - thanks a lot! The baking trays come from an eye-shadow box, and I put some unidentifiable food there. The rotten fruit is some dried berries I had in my grocery stall project. 

The next step was the hob. I had a little pan with eggs and black pudding that I used as it was. I put some couscous in a pot and covered with mold since I now knew how to make it. There is also some general dirt and coffee stains.

Setting the table was exciting. Here I wanted spilled coffee, and to make it I used grey chalk paint mixed with brown acrylic. For the right effect, I filled the cup, then tipped it so the liquid ran out in a natural way. What was left of the coffee, I poured into other cups, then almost emptied them to leave a bit at the bottom. I made some stain rings as well - in real life, they make me want to yell. For cereal, I used a few fennel seeds and covered them with Tipp-Ex. I had made all the bread from Fimo at a workshop some time ago. The whisky bottle completes the image of the person who lives here.

I will stop here for the time being and consider further details. I don't think this scene tells the whole story yet.

To be continued.

Monday, 4 May 2020

A crime scene

A popular miniature format right now seems to be a book nook. Maybe it has been popular all along, but I have seen a lot of them recently, and they present a very specific challenge. Narrow and deep, they do not allow much space for manipulation and therefore demand careful planning.

I have been wanting to make one for a while, but I had so many other things to do, repairing my damaged dollhouses. I am not finished yet, but one day I decided I would make a book nook for a change.

The trick with a book nook is that the objects on the side walls need to be flat or semi-flat. Many projects I have seen are, not unexpectedly, street scenes, libraries and corridors. I didn't have anything in particular in mind. Usually when I start a room box I have a theme in mind, like I had with my shoe shop, yarn shop, flower shop or library. Or it can be an object that I want to build an interior around. In this case, I had no idea, except the format itself. I was going to use a box from cat sand, ideal size for a book shelf. I was thinking a Mediterranean street, with balconies on either side, stairs, trees, flowers. I found broken stairs that would go well in the available space.

And then I had a idea. I had never done a dark scene. All my room boxes have been cheerful, inviting, colourful. But what if I made something sinister, like a crime scene in a back alley? It would give me an opportunity to try some things I had never done before, like scenes of decay and filth. (I was fascinated some time ago by a scene of a disgusting public toilet). And of course a book nook format is perfect for a scene like that.

Now, I am not a crime novel reader, nor a crime movie fan so my knowledge of crime scenes is limited. I decided that my back alley would have brick walls and cobbled pavement. I tried various brick printies before I was satisfied, and I tried half a dozen techniques to make pavement. The one I was finally happy with was a piece of cardboard that I scored a bit irregularly with a bone folder, painted grey and varnished.  That was the beginning. From there, it was just letting imagination fly.

I didn't take step-by-step pictures. I guess I was too enthusiastic and forgot, and when I remembered I was already halfway so it didn't make sense. However, I took pictures of various angles and details of the scene before I put on the roof and lighting, and with these pictures I can explain what I did and how.

So first the whole scene in daylight.

The victim is lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. The alley is extremely filthy. The garbage bin is overflowing, there are boxes, bottles, newspapers, cigarette butts - all kinds of litter you will find in a back alley. There is a door on the left and closed shutters above. (If you have followed my projects, you may recognise the door and the shutters; I have recycled them from the abandoned barbecue scene). The tin door in the back has a little window with bars.

The view from above will of course never be available, so this is just to show another angle.

As I said, I had never made deliberately filthy environments so it was new and required some thinking. Obviously, brick walls in an alley would be covered with graffiti, and I used markers to produce these, although I have little knowledge of graffiti. I had to search the web, avoiding artistic graffiti and instead focusing on vandalism. I put up a couple of signs likely to be found in an alley.

At the back, next to the stairs, I placed a garbage bin.


I had one that came with a large lot, and I hesitated a bit before sacrificing it, but it made such a good detail. I painted it with chalk paint and rubbed with dark wax to make it look rusty. I filled it with crumpled paper almost to the brim and then glued on some bottles (eye-drop dispensers), newspapers and Pizza Hut boxes. The latter are printies, and for once it didn't matter if they were lopsided because they would be crushed anyway.

I made a wooden crate with coffee stirrers that I also crushed and put some bottles in it - I had labeled bottles from another project. Lots of bottles in this alley!

From one bottle on the steps, beer is flowing down. I don't have scenic water so I took transparent glue and mixed some paint into it before pouring it over the step, then gluing the bottle in place. Bars on the window are cut from a plastic vegetable basket. The door knob is a jewellery finding. Both door and window surrounds are made with coffee stirrers. I painted the cardboard door with chalk paint rubbed with dark wax, just like the garbage bin. I really like this technique for rust effect.

In front of the green door, people have been smoking so there are crushed cigarette packets and butts. Yes, I can see that the butts are too large. The newspapers are printies, crumpled and smudged.

I tried different methods to make blood and finally poured a pool of nail polish. 

You may have recognised the poor victim: a Lundby daddy. I got him in a lot and was 100% sure I would never use him anywhere. I would be reluctant to use any of my nice, expensive dolls for the purpose.

My son with whom I shared an early stage of the project said that a crime requires five components: place, victim, perpetrator, weapon and motivation, and that I only had two: place and victim. I thought that a trail of dollar bills on the stairs point at the perpetrator escaping through the door in haste. (My printer manual says it is prohibited to print money, but I don't think it includes miniature bills). Motivation... robbery maybe? Revenge? This will remain a mystery. But he had a suggestion for weapon which I happily pursued.

I wanted dim lights for the scene and used battery-operated 20-bulb loop. I had experimented with them when lighting Womble Hall. It was far too dim there, but just right for this scene. Obviously I had to make a roof, but also a front screen to hide the bulbs so the light is smooth and even. The wires and battery case are on top of the box, but it doesn't matter because they won't be visible in a shelf. I can also cover them with cardboard.

Initially I painted the box with all-purpose paint, just to hide the images of happy cats while I was working. I then covered it on the outside with the same brick paper. This wasn't necessary, but looks nicer. I deliberately left the front edges rough, to match the decay of the scene. I painted more graffiti on the outside walls.

I am pleased with the project and proud of all solutions I came up with. I have put the book nook, appropriately, in a book shelf among my dollhouse books.

For all printables in this project I gratefully acknowledge Small Stuff's Print Mini.