Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tudor kitchen details

I built and added to the kitchen over a long time, and I still keep adding whatever feels appropriate.  I had to remove the table to show details in the back.

Most of the utensils are typical small things that you find at flea markets and in thrift shops. The oven shovel is a wooden coffee spoon. I made the meats from air-drying clay, and I slaughtered the pig and the fowl from a toy shop. I managed to make a rotating spit from bits of champagne wire.

Some close-ups to see details better. They need no explanations, except perhaps the brass bottle, which is a souvenir made from an old cartridge. I have several of these, they fit in very well in all kinds of dollhouses.

Some important features of a Tudor house include wall brackets. There were no regular lights, so people would carry candles or oil lamps and put them into brackets. I put in brackets here and there made of broken junk juwellery and beer can rings, but I have also made this iron-wrought candle holder (black wine-bottle foil). The candle is made from a bit of dowelling, painted to look like tallow, with a tiny bit of sewing thread for a wick.

Tudor kitchen

Also in a Tudor house, the kitchen is the most fun to make. I was content with the kitchen as it was after I had painted the walls and the fireplace and started filling the kitchen with furniture and utensils.

I consulted my book on Tudor dollhouses about the kind of kitchen tables they had. Tudor kitchen tables were made of trestles with boards on them, not fixed so that they could be put away when not used. They had holes to hang on hooks on the wall. Masters would put notices on the board for the servants - hence, notice board. The trestles came in many shapes, such as the comb trestle, which is what I made. (Two weeks before, I had no idea what a trestle was, still less a comb trestle. You learn so much when making a period house).

With the table, the kitchen looked like this: 

The dark shelf on the right is something I had before; it was a wall shelf with a set of porcelain kitchen tools. These went to the Victorian house, but the shelf was too large. Now it fit here as a dresser. I made the bench by the window from bits of wood.

However, on further investigation I realised that a Tudor kitchen would not have this kind of fireplace. They would have an inglenook. By this time I was so confident that I made an inglenook with instructions from a book. It was a lot of work, but I am very pleased with the result. I removed the old fireplace (and later used it elsewhere) and built in a whole new wall of cardboard. I had to sacrifice three centimetres of space behind this wall, but otherwise I would have to break the outer wall of the house.


I added details described in books, such as the oak beam for mantelpiece, fireback (an unidentifiable buckle I bought at a flea market), horse brasses, pot crane, chopping block and meat hooks. My dollhouse discussion group said the hooks looked too modern so I changed them later. I also wanted to make a rotating spit, but it took me some time to figure out.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Tudor roof

It took me a long time to decide what colour I wanted for my house. Tudor houses were dirty white, yellow or pink. I hate pink, and white was boring so I opted for yellow.

What I definitely wanted was a new roof. Tudor houses had either thatched roof or wooden tiled roof. I tried to make thatched roof, and it was a pain. Also this was a rich house that would certainly have tiles. Dollhouse books describe how to make tiles, but I bought a bag in a shop. I glued them, one by one, and painted with oak stain.


Solar is what the Tudors called their bedrooms. Beds were the most important furniture in the house because it showed how wealthy you were. Rich Tudor people had a Great Bed. The most famous Tudor bed is the Great Bed of Ware, on display at Victoria and Albert Museum in London (although right now on loan elsewhere). I built the bed for my house with this remarkable bed in mind.

In the top left picture you can also see a chest. If you have read about my Victorian house you may recognise it, but I have added metal hinges and decorations, all as described in a book about Tudor dollhouses. 

Timber framing

Tudor houses are timber-framed (or half timber-framed). My house was timber-framed on the outside, and it had ceiling beams, but it had no frames on the inside.

This is the upper floor, also known as solar. Note that there is no fireplace in this room. Tudor houses were cold. I knew already how to make naturally looking timber frames after I had done my antique shop. I used wooden strips that I cut uneven with a craft knife and hammered with a rubber hammer.

Then I did the same on the middle floor, which is the Great Hall.

I cut the unicorn tapestry from a catalogue, and two buttons with crests fit in nicely. But you have surely noticed a very authentic Tudor bench. In the meantime I had finally been to a very dangerous place, Maple Street dollhouse shop. It is just half an hour by car from where I live, and they have everything. Of course they have everything online, but I am less tempted shopping online than when I am there ans want to buy everything. But on that occasion I just bought a couple of Tudor pieces to add to authenticity. I would very soon learn how to make almost as nice things myself.

I bought a table, a chair (which was a rarity in Tudor houses; only the master would have a chair), a bench and a stool. They were all kits, and I assembled and stained them. I borrowed some utensils from the Victorian house, things that looked like pewter, which they would have in a Tudor household.

Tudor renovation

The first thing I did was paint the house on the inside. Normally you would paint inside walls before assembling a house, but I had to paint as it was, and it wasn't easy, especially behind the stairs. While I was painting, I removed the fireplaces and gave them brick back walls.

This immediatly looked much better. And as you see I made a shutter. In fact, I made two shutters for the ground floor windows. The book about Tudor dollhouses that I had bought was very helpful, both in terms of describing correct details but also suggesting how to make them. These are obviously lolly sticks.

That's what the ground and middle floor looked like after the first and second steps:

Isn't it amazing what a huge difference some simple panting makes! You may notice that I put a head of a chess knight on the newel post: pinched from Jean Nisbett.

Attractive property in need of renovation

I am now starting a new chapter in my dollhouse story. One day while I was at work my husband send me an email: "Available: Attractive property in need of renovation". We had just moved in our new house and made all the urgent renovations including kitchen and bathroom, so I thought with horror that he had found something else he wanted us to buy. I called him, but he wouldn't tell me. But when I came home, it was waiting for me. My husband hurried to say: "I-found-it-on-the-dump-if-you-don't-want-it-I'll-take-it-back" while I was looking at it, speechless and full of contradictory emotions: to adore my husband who found this beatiful thing for me, or to despair because he knew me so little that he thought I might not want it.

I felt a bit like someone who finds a neglected cat or dog: how could anyone throw away this treasure? There ought to be homes for unwanted dollhouses.This poor house was not just thrown away, it had been maltreated. It wasn't painted, either on the inside or outside. And it was full of silly half-broken furniture.

I moved the furniture to my antique shop and gave a the house a good scrub. That was all I could do until next weekend.But I ordered The Authentic Tudor and Stuart Dolls' House from amazon.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Lord Asriel's room

Our youngest son was visiting and admiring my dollhouse and roombox, and I asked him, mostly as a joke, whether he'd like me to make one for him. Interestingly enough, yes, he would, and when I asked what kind of room he wanted, he said Lord Asriel's study. Lord Asriel is a mad scientist and magician in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. He lives in a alternative world which means that his room could have absolutely anything. That was a challenge. What would a scientist with magical powers have in his room? To begin with, I made Newton's cradle with small metal beads. On the right, there is a strange object the origin of which I don't know, but I thought it looked just what Lord Asriel would have.

I decided that the wallpaper should be dark blue, and I used ordinary coloured printer paper which I splashed with gold paint. For the ceiling I used a bit of blue corrugated cardboard I happened to have, possibly a wine-bottle case. I made flagstone floor like the one I have in my Victorian kitchen only I cheated this time. I rolled out a bit of clay large enough to cover the floor and made patterns on it with a pencil.

I made a book case just like the one I have in my Victorian house, and I made a low table to put all Lord Asriel's instruments on. I wanted telescopes that could move, and I used cufflinks to make them. I used all kinds of springs and cogs and wires and weird-looking metal things and bottles. I made a standard lamp using a mini candlestick, a bit of a fluid soap pump and a brass button on top. I made a little table to hold the Golden Compass which I made from a schampoo cap and a hand from a broken clock. I painted magical signs on the compass with a golden pen. I changed fabric on the chair using a bit of a leather purse. I cut the map from a catalogue and made a frame from grill sticks. The Persian rug is cut from a pencil case. I used drinking straws for pipes. I don't remember how I came up with this idea, but it became an interesting feature. 

Of course I had to fill the book case with books. Since I don't print out anything from the web I had to use whatever I found in catalogues that would fit in Lord Asriel's library and that would be meaningful for me and my son. So apart from the obvious Oxford English dictionary I found titles such as The Secret of Life, Antimatter and How Professors Think.

This is the final view of the room before I sent it away to Sweden, carefully packed in my husband's car.The strange object in the left bottom corner is a bit of a broken latte whisk.

Antique shop

After I made the first room box I felt a desire to make more. Everything that didn't fit into my dollhouse, either because of a different style or just because there wasn't enough space, I could now play with in room boxes. A book that I found extremely helpful during rebuilding my Victorian house was Jean Nisbett's The Big Book of the Dolls' House that has tons of useful ideas, but also shows various styles and types of miniature environments. One of her examples was an antique shop, and I thought it would be a great project because in an antique shop you can have all kinds of stuff that doesn't fit together. I chose the largest wine box I had.

I painted the inside of the box with an ordinary paint and put in beams to make it look like a half-timber frame structure. I learned from Nisbett's book how to make wooden strips look old and uneven. I put in a floor made of dark wooden strips. Then it was just filling the room to the brim with this and that. The shop changes all the time because, as in a real antique shop, things come and go. Lots of things have moved into new houses and room boxes.

This is a picture from an early stage, before I started the Tudor house and the modern house, and before other room boxes. Most of the things here are leftovers from the Victorian house, although I did make some things specially, for instance the jewellery display cabinet in the front, with teeny tiny rings and necklaces. In the picture below, lots of things have moved elsewhere and lots of new things were added, but I also made paintings, clocks, lamps (thimbles and chess pieces) and other things that I use when I need them. I don't bother about scale. Everything I buy at flea markets and thrift shops goes in here, unless they immediately find a place elsewhere. There is so much I don't need to make anything for this room box. There isn't much challenge, but on the other hand it's fun to rummage through the shop to find something useful, just like in a real shop.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Working space

In Sweden, I had my workroom in the basement where I didn't have to put everything away after I was finished for the day. I kept all my materials in old cutlery boxes and plastic containers, and I had my mitre box and all tools at hand. I don't have a hobby room here so my writing desk is also my work bench. To manage it, I have a shelf with Really Useful Boxes (honestly, it's the brand name).But as every miniaturist knows, your materials tend to grow out of proportion. My shelf is not as neat anymore.

My first room box

When I first started playing with dollhouses the idea of a room box felt alien. There was so much to do in the dollhouse, why would anyone want to make anything else? I was, however, inspired by Eva Malmsten's rooms that were all in different styles, so eventually I saw the point. Eva makes her rooms in wine boxes, and I had never seen them in Sweden - or perhaps never bothered to look. I don't remember now why my husband brought me the first wine box, but apparently we had been discussing the option. It was soon after we had moved to our house, and I had a party where people admired my dollhouse, and a colleague said: "Oh I wish I had a house like that!" So I told her I'd make one for her. Not a whole house, but a room box. I asked what style she wanted, and she said Victorian, since she is a Victorian scholar.

You need to think slightly differently when you plan a room box because it has its space limit, its given breadth and depth and height. And you need to decorate the walls, floor and ceiling before you can put anything in.

 I started by painting the ceiling with an ordinary indoors decoration paint, and I put in floors cut from a placemat. For wallpaper I used a paper napkin.

 I made the window from a plastic fruit container and used a souvenir doll apron for the curtain, glueing a landcape cut from a magazine behind the glass pane. Then I made the heavy fabric curtains on top of that. I experimented with some furniture that I had bought at a flea market. The table seemed to fit in fine.

 In my dollhouse I have a fireplace that I bought on ebay when I was a novice and didn't know I could make fireplaces. But for this room box I made a fireplace, and I learned from a book how to make a credible coal fire.

I made the mirror frame the same way I made picture frames with lolly sticks and grill sticks. I made a sofa just like the one I have in my house, but it had to be smaller to fit into the room box. So scale is deceptive. I made a side table from a chess piece, sconces from paper clips and pen caps, a fruit bowl from a plastic medicine card and fruit from clay. The champagne bottle is a candle, and the cake is made from a plastic bottle cap. I cut the rug from an old shirt. I also made a fan palm and a marble pedestal to put it on, behind the sofa. The stupid thing is that the final picture I took before I gave away the room was hopelessly blurred.