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.