The Garden For Me

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I am not a gardener at all. But it does not mean that I do not appreciate them – I just know that I have neither the training nor the enthusiasm to perform all the especial rituals that they require – nor do I have the design skills to imagine what they will turn out to be in the end.

The front yard at my studio is a case in point – it is slowly turning into an animal refuge site as the trees and shrubs planted some thirty years ago by my late mother continue to grow into harmony with each other. I was thinking to hew it down and make a flat desert of it a few years ago but I think I will just let it become whatever it will biologically and just trim around the electric lines.

Ah, but here are the gardens for me. Seen at the WA Miniature Exhibition in Cannington. Expensive, but probably no more so than equivalent 1:1 scale plants from Bunnings plus the potting mixture, water and fertiliser. And these never need trimming.

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Brothers And Sisters, Let Us Spray

 

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I am not too proud to admit that I am not too proud. I take pride in that admission…

I think it is the effect of this afternoon’s spray painting. I have been on a journey of discovery and adjust now scrubbing the evidence off my hands. But the fumes are still circulating.

First discovery: Like inkjet printers that can clog up if you do not print weekly, airbrushes can also get into difficulty. Apparently I did not wash through the spray channels sufficiently on my new birthday airbrush, and found it plugged solid.

Fortunately I had a cleaning kit that a friend gave me and enough solvent to break the blockage down and sweep it away. I must be extra careful to rinse in the future.

Second discovery: Old paint is not good paint. My Tamiya white acrylic paint could be mixed and coaxed back into life, but it lead to a rather zombie-like first coat. It sort of lurched out of the gun. Sanding and more topcoats improved it in the end. Moral? When it gets to the last two drops, clean out the glass jar and save it for future custom colours.

Third discovery: When you are dealing with 1:12 scale and larger, commercial spray cans from the local hardware warehouse are a good resource. You need to pick and choose, but with proper selection and a not-too-exotic palette, you can get a great deal of painting done cheaper than you can with 10 ml Tamiya jars. Plus the fan is large and you can get more even coverage.

Fourth discovery: Even after making a mistake and deciding to re-do a day’s work. you can still economise in material by taking apart the defective project. I changed horses in mid-stream a day ago and decided to do things differently. Resigned to the loss of a sheet of foam-core board and a metre of expensive strip wood, I was delighted to find that I could snap apart the original parts, sand down the glue fields, and reuse the materials in a new design. Very little waste.

Fifth discovery: No workshop that is busy making things ever has enough space to set things out to let them dry, set, or cool down. You spend half your time juggling things.

All this aside, the project of the miniature theatre flats and furniture is going well. The internet is a wonderful source of information about actual practice and you can adopt their methods in some cases to give the same result on the tabletop as they get on a wooden stage. The next obstacle will be to design coherent sets for a production with some eye-appeal for the miniature audience. I think I need a stage designer’s eye for this, but don’t have it. I will just have to ape what I see others have done in real life and hope for the best.

 

 

Not All Little Worlds Have To Be Real…

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A great deal of artistry and hard work is expended by miniaturists to make their little worlds real. Of course they are always real in the mind of the builder – that goes without saying – but there is a driving urge to make the viewer see the realism as well.

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This leads to ever more attention to detail, whether the little world is a motor car workshop or a Victorian parlour. There is always something that can be added. The makers of scale cars, aeroplanes, dollhouse furniture, etc. have long realised this and have taken to supplying food, tools, computers, packages, weapons, spare parts, and decorations for all the different scales. You can get lost in the contemplation of this as you look at the miniature.

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Note: the ladies who do dollhouses hold a yearly exhibition that is well worth seeing. They have had the bright idea of putting the delicate and detailed miniatures and dioramas at a little distance behind a barrier to prevent damage from hands  and then supplying small sets of binoculars as viewing aids so that you can go over the displays centimetre by centimetre. Good thinking!

Okay, here is where we leave Kansas, Toto. My Little Studio has always prided itself on the combination of real human figures with car scenes and now is going to start doing the same for historic scenes. If I was a competent model builder and miniaturist I could make detailed dioramas and structures  for backdrops and then pose real people in them – alas my miniature building skills are rudimentary, and my purse not deep enough to afford the ultimate in detail that the real hobbyists do. Things would look fake.

And yet…and yet…there is a division of reality that is fake and everyone knows it…and applauds it. It is …the theatre. The theatre and the photo studio. In both these environments reality is truncated, reduced, suggested, and edited for effect. The solid wall of a house becomes a theatrical flat, and a stage set is comprised of many different elements butted up beside each other and nailed together. Joins can be visible and no-one feels bad. Architecture can be implausible, as long as it allows the actors to move well and produce the action for the audience. The audience is always in the front and frequently a little higher than the stage.

Conveniently, this is also the position that a still camera occupies on a miniature set.

So, I have taken stock of the 1:12 scale furniture that I already have, and purchased some more. I’ve scored big on 1/2 price 1:12 scale window frame and door kits and started painting them in suitable colours. I even have 1:12 scale hurdles and enough stairway to make a fake movable stage stairway. I am going to start cutting stage flats to accomodate these elements out of 6mm foam core board and covering it with the appropriate scale wallpaper or brick paper. I already have a medium sized 1:12 stage upon which these elements can be erected and taped together. Like a real theatre, once one production is finished, the flats, stage furniture, and props all go back into storage until needed for the next one. The joy of using 6mm foamcore board is that a 30 cm x 20 cm basic flat is light, cheap, and rigid, and can be faced on either side with a different finish.

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First Hazel Leaf Theatre stage production will be ” The Duchess Of Dartmoor ” and I will start casting as soon as the sets are done. I think it can be completed in three sets; Milady’s boudoir, Milord’s study, and the garden. It is a romantic melodrama.

Remember that miniature theatrical producers are superstitious about opening nights. It is traditional to wish them ” Break a fingernail…”.

Heading Image: Goldfische Studio’s production set for The Pearl Of El Paso. A 3-d film set and detailed as the motion picture camera is unforgiving.