Monday, 30 June 2008

Up Against a Brick Wall

My dream library would have an old brick wall stripped bare with beautiful masonry framing a stained glass window. I considered lots of different type of materials for the brick wall. Clay, foamcore, sand paper, but Juhana suggested using an old note board made of thin cork. After some consideration and material tests I found it quite suitable and got to work.

The first phase was to draw lines throughout the sheet to keep all tiles in equal size. Then using a very hard pencil I forged in the outlines of the tiles into the soft material.

I made the wall in small sections to save material since the wall was dominated by the huge window.

After putting all pieces together I glued them on a piece of paper. Then I mixed acrylic paint in the shade of mortar and painted the cracks with it.

Then I continued with different shades from tile red to black using a very very dry brush. Layer after layer of slow phases paid off, I think. I must apologise that I forgot to take pictures of this phase. Finally, I used a white watercolour pencil to highlight the cracks and a black one to highlight the bricks. The result is quite nice even from up close.

The Attic

According to my original plan I was to build an attic to my doll house. So I removed the original flat roof and replaced it with a half roof supported by the wall in the middle. Then, with Juhana´s help, we sawed window openings to two pieces of plywood and attached them to make a pitched roof.

The library will be the room on the left, featuring a huge rose window on the sealing and another small cathedral window on the wall. As planned it will have a spiral staircase leading to a balcony and there, thru a secret passage in the bookshelf one can pass to the nursery behind.

The nursery will be too low for most of my dolls to stand straight, so the idea is that is was originally the attic converted later into a nursery. At some point I even considered making a folded ladder often used in attics as the only entrance, but then I couldn´t have realised my dream of a secret passageway thru a bookshelf - its such a classic.

The original idea for the window in the nursery sealing was the studio of Sweeney Todd. This would have been wonderful if it wasn´t for the fact that the space was so darn low. You may ask me why did I make it so low, but is wasn´t by choice. There is only one place in our home where this huge thing can be placed and that is on the small bookcase that use to serve as a old diorama set of mine. If the roof would be even a one centimetre higher it would reach the sealing of our own apartment.

So, Juhana came up with the idea of adding a dormer to the attic in order to widen the space that was high enough for the child dolls to stand. I am still not sure do I like the idea. On my opinion the roof looks now more like a staple than a normal house. Besides a dormer window like that is so "Wish upon a star" and Peter Pan instead of Tim Burton feeling I want for the room. Oh well, we´ll see. Maybe I´ll tear the whole thing down in the end...

The Hallway

The entrance to a house gives the important first impression so the hallway was next in line. Being a tiny space, no more than a corridor made it possible to go a bit overboard with. I already had the perfect little Chinese tea table made of dark rosewood to be placed on the end of the corridor, so an oriental approach was required. Then again I was making an old house form the era of Art Nouveau and thus I came up with a mixture of the two.

My first inspiration: Chinese gold leaf lacquer panels

My second inspiration: Gustav Klimpt

Instead of gilding the walls completely with gold leaf - this was my original plan - I ended up painting the base with fine paint made of gold pigment dust and arranged the tiny squares of gold leaf into a seemingly random formations on the surface. Then a layer of varnish on top and the walls were finished. I really liked the result that was both modern and retro at same time as well as oriental and very Klimpt, I think. I used the wall as a backdrop for a doll photo shoot before I glued them in their place in the house. Here the doorway has been covered with a piece of golden gift wrap so the contrast between shining gold and my more matted style is well demonstrated.

The hallway will have a dark wood floor and doors, but those will be another chapter indeed.

The Marble Staircase

The very first thing that to me defines the whole house are the staircases. I had just won the one for the library on EvilBAY so I then put my efforts upon the one in the dining room. This one was suppose to be an Art Nouveau style so I searched for references on Flickr. I found one staircase that carried a light air that pleased me and used it as an inspiration. The staircase I had to make was to be a lot steeper than the original one and I´m still not sure about the railings, but the warm marble and the slight curve really pleased my eyes.

I began the work by drawing the outline of the staircase and the curve below to a sheet of foamcore. I cut out the framework and made an identical piece and the stepping boards. Unfortunately I did not take pictures of this part of the process at all. The first picture is from the staircase after is has been coated with plaster. It is merely a coarse form but I could see it ready and perfect before my eyes from the first moment.

After the plaster has dried I sanded the surface and used water to wipe of the grinding dust. Then I painted it on layers. First an equal surface of white, then touches of warmer shades layer after layer and veins of brown to complete the marble look. Then endless layers of varnish for depth and gloss. I only painted the steps and left the side part white, since it would seem unreal to build a whole staircase from marble no matter how wealthy one is. I want to preserve the realism in my house, want to be able take pictures that make people think whether it really is real or not.

As you can see the floor reveals the scale quite easily and even though I really like the colour and texture of the original floor, I really need to do something about it. But that is one of the last thing on my mind, there is so much work to be done.

The Doll House Project

It is the doll house project that is the actual reason behind me starting this diary, so lets get on with it.

The whole matter started with my boyfriend Juhana´s mother offering me the old doll house of Juhana and his sister Riina from their childhood. The potential mother-in-law was staying at our place at the time and we talked about the house with fair amount of enthusiasm. She had though of renovating it herself in the hopes of future grandchildren that are happily expected more from Riina than us - I can´t stand children myself. Not that I hate them - well sometimes I do - but I somehow can´t seem to act naturally around them. One thing I know for a fact, though, is that no child, not even a one of my own flesh and bone will ever be allowed to tough my doll house or dolls. But I have wandered of from to topic and I thing I will do so often enough in the future. The old doll house affair ended when we asked Riina for opinion and she was honest enough to admit that she liked the idea of such house at the future grandparents´place even if my mother-in-law would have happily found something else to do with the space the huge thing was occupying.

But the seed had been left in my mind and all too soon it began to grow. I wanted a doll house and not just any house but the house of my dreams. You know the drill: "When I grow up..." and so forth. The thing is I have recently started feeling quite worryingly grown up yet the dreams one imposes to such phase in life are no closer than before. But then again there are several types of owning and for me it was more important to own an idea of my dream house than actually live in it, so it did not really matter in which scale my dream were to materialise. The scale is 1:6 chosen simply because of the scale of the dolls I collect. The house would be small in their scale but huge in mine - if that makes sense in the slightest bit.

My sister is a fellow doll addict and some years ago my folks made a doll house for her. The house was 120cm high, 100cm wide and 40cm deep. It had three floors and she had extensive plan to turn it into a students dorm for her Momoko dolls. Well, my dolls are a bit more adult than hers, but we´ll get back to that later. After the house was build for her, she had broke up with her boyfriend or few - I can´t seem to keep track, really - and moved into a smaller flat that had no room for such a monstrous contraption. She had also lost interest in the project as she often does with things and men so I dared to approach her with a suggestion. My birthday was coming and the bloody thing with its bothersomely huge bulk was blocking the way to the attic in my Mom´s place. So two birds with a one stone: I would get a present, Mom would get rid of it and as a added bonus my sister wouldn´t have to feel guilty about abandoning the thing there. Great!

So, after a painstakingly long way from my Dad´s car in the parking lot to my flat in second floor the heavy thing was in my bedroom. Juhana was not too happy with the new improvement of the doll regime already occupying a worryingly large amount of the bedroom, but he was still kind enough to help. The room heigh of the house was a bit too low for my FR dolls - being considerably taller than the Momoko dolls, but it would have to do. The windows, however, would not - they had to be make taller by far! This was were Juhana came in since even though good in crafts I never was very good with a saw especially when making round cuts that the arched windows I had put my heard on required.

The first view of the house after it arrived

Juhana enlarging the windows

The windows weren´t really the most modest part as one who knows me might expect. In fact I had already revised a megalomaniac plan at work on a scrambled piece of paper. I will enclose the sketch and the plan here for you to see.

"1) I plan to build a roof on top of the house creating a classic two storey library with spiral staircase and cathedral style rose window on a sealing.

2) A secret entrance thru a bookshelf on the library balcony will lead to a Tim Burton style nursery with a distorted tile floor and striped walls all in shades of grey and a tiny window with a view to the Nightmare Before Christmas cemetery! It will also have a huge industrial roof window quite like the one in Sweeney Todd´s studio. (As one might guess I love Tim Burtons visual style)

3) Below the nursery will be my cha-no-yu room with tatami lined with dark wood floor and white shoji walls with reflections of willow branches outside.

4) An art nouveau style staircase will descent to the second floor that has nothing but the great dining room with an white art nouveau fireplace and my very unfitting gothic dining set (this is a style crime of worst kind but it will have to do for now). And on top of the fireplace there will be a photo of the lady of the house, naturally.

5) In the first floor there will be a bedroom and bathroom divided by a small corridor. The corridor will have nothing more but the Chinese rosewood tea table with a simple flower arrangement , but the corridor itself will be gilded with extravagance. The bathroom is already tiled with blue mosaic tiles and I intend to keep it that way. There will be an integrated bathtub, a huge mirror and fresco of Botticelli's Venus on the wall. As a contrast the bedroom will be utterly minimalistic. All white with nothing but a black four poster futon bed with white chiffon curtains matching the ones on the window.

And I forgot to mention: I want real electric lights for every room of the doll house."

The plan has naturally changed now in a place or two, but the dream itself become more and more real every day. I will try to keep this diary up to speed and take pictures on the every step of the way, but I must admit I am many times too exited about the process itself and have forgotten to do so. Therefore this will probably serve poorly as a tutorial, but will hopefully encourage others to fulfil their dreams - what ever they are. (How corny that sounds...)

The Welcome, Beginning and so Forth.

Welcome to my blog, I should say.

I still have no proper idea of what I will write about here, but one might guess - and quite educatedly - that it will have something to do with dolls.

Dolls have become a passion, obsession and a severe addiction to me but recently. As a child I was far too enthusiastic to scrape my knees than to play with such girly stuff such as dolls. I though climbing and fighting much more proper to a boy of my age, which might be true, if it wasn´t for the fact that I was a girl.

But I do not plan to use this blog to write an autobiography, oh no. It is merely to burden more people with my obsession, and unfortunately and unavoidably with my dyslexia as well. For the latter I apologise.

Nothing much more to be said as an introduction, so better stop here and start with something more substantial.