Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Not So Fond of Faux

The convenience of faux foliage cannot be denied.  It never dries out, turns brown or dies altogether and certainly we have come a long way from the ugly plastic flowers of my youth.  HOWEVER...when it comes to Christmas, I like the God made decor!  

Give me real tree even if the ones we cut on our property have holes and droopy branches that must be wired up to hold heavy ornaments.

 Very simply decorated this year since we will be spending Christmas with our daughter and her family.  Had to leave a tree for the house sitters, who are dear friends, however.

 Today I am working on transforming three ugly faux wreaths from Hobby Lobby bought for the second time three years ago. (That story at the end of this post!) I was looking for something that we could hang in the church on a huge blank wall in the sanctuary that would not be too heavy. They have to be hung sixteen feet in the air and we do not want to rent scaffolding to hang the wreaths.  The solution was to buy faux plastic wreaths and add real greens to hide the not so real look of the green plastic.  This considerably reduced the weight of an enormous (four and half feet across)  wreath of real greens.  

 The first year I made these for the church, I spent hours cutting pieces of wire to secure the greens to the faux wreath.  The second year, in a light bulb moment, I used two of the individual faux stems to twist around the real greens.  I twist one place on the base of the real steam and one at the top of the real stem to secure each of them.  I cut real stems about 12 inches long.  Be sure to work in the same direction hiding the new piece's cut stem under the top of the last cut stem.  

Not only do these look much better, they bring a wonderful fresh Christmas scent into the church.  

Now for the disaster story!  No these did not fall on anyone's head thank you very much.  However, I was late getting to church after Christmas when it was time to take these down.  Our maintenance guy very helpfully did it for me and threw the wreaths (forms and all) into the dumpster.  I had made three separate trips to Hobby Lobby to purchase these faux wreaths with 40% off coupons to reduce the price of $159.00 each.  The dumpster had already been emptied by the time I got to the church.  Do you blame me for driving around to try to find the garbage truck to retrieve them?  No luck.  I called the city to see if I could get them back and was told they would have been mashed beyond salvage as the truck was filled, and did I really want to dig through dirty diapers and rotten table scraps?  NOT that they would allow me to do it anyway because of liability issues.  So the next year, they had to be purchased again.  LESSONS LEARNED... 1. Do it yourself to be sure.  2. If you cannot do it yourself, be very specific in instructions to helpers. 3. Never be late.  (okay, I did not really learn the last one too well)

Christmas Services at St. Mark's, 431 Richmond NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 

Christmas Pageant & Festive Potluck
Sunday, December 17, 5 p.m.
*Worship Followed by Farolito Construction and Placement
Sunday, December 24, 9:30 a.m.
Christmas Eve Family Service
   (Children's Christmas Story)
Sunday, December 24, 5 p.m.
Candlelight and Choral Midnight Mass
Sunday, December 24, 10:30 p.m.  
*Carols, Kegs and Nog: A Festive Carol Sing and Potluck
Wednesday, December 27, 6-9 p.m.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

You Will Never Know Where You Will Meet a Harry Potter Fan!

Today, I made a quick run to the nearest library to pick up The Velveteen Rabbit for use in my Sunday School Class tomorrow.  I am reading it to my Junior High class and if you are really interested in why add a comment below and I will explain.  Of course, the closest library to my house did not have a copy on the shelves so I had to go all the way into town to the next nearest to find it.  Having been shut in all day during a snow storm, it felt good to to be out of the house and I also stopped into Home Goods.  While in Home Goods, choosing small Easter Gifts for my five grandchildren, my phone rang.  

As I browsed, I was talking with my friend Julie who asked if I was still doing Harry Potter Camp because her grandson was now old enough to go. I must have been enthusing loudly because another shopper, asked me about Harry Potter Camp.  Over the darling bunny plates, I shared a few things with her about it.  Turns out she is a huge fan of Harry Potter, herself, and might join us for an evening of fun volunteering. 

Which reminded me to share the above flyer in case you have a special child in your life who would love to spend a week in the magical world of Harry Potter. But hurry, we have a limited number of spaces, and those are going fast because of an incredibly low registration fee.  (Hmm, I am sounding like one of those ads for wrinkle cream I kept getting in my email!)  Once you are at the site, look down to the bottom right for a tiny little button marked registration and cllck on it for the registration form.
Click on the tab at the top of this blog, titled "Harry Potter Camp" to see more, and imagine yourself using a port key to travel to Camp Stoney.  

My friend Diane and I have been having lots of fun planning activities for the Maze Challenge in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  I especially like this idea, created by Matt Brocone for his new bride...

Image by Matt Brocone
The Wand has a magnet in order to pick up each of the little vials which also have a magnet.  Matt's Pensieve has memories of all the wonderful times he and his bride shared while courting.  In our version, we are using plastic test tubes holding a Bible verse about courage which the children will draw out as they enter the maze.  Before, they go in, they will write down a memory of what they have most feared and place them in the test tube. Later these will be burned at the ending Eucharist to remind us all that we can trust God with our fears. And yes, I glued a lot of little magnets on plastic test tubes yesterday!  And yes, there will be enough for the staff and volunteers to have one! 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Storing Memories in the Miniature World of Harry Potter

For several years, I have been thinking about how to create this in miniature...
As you might guess, I spend a lot of time online looking at miniatures and I came across this little cabinet...
 which I thought I might be able to transfigure into something a bit more elaborate.  First it needed to be gilded. And then I began to add some ornate elements made out of sculpey and beads.
The brooms and chocolate frogs will all be baked together.  The chocolate frogs are a much larger scale sized for an American Girl doll.
I could not get the sculpey to form a sharp point, so added beads to cap the arches.
Beginning to look like the inspiration photo!
Shopping for little glass vials to hold the memories made me wonder why I ever thought Dumbledore's office even needed this cabinet!  $6.00 to $8.00 dollars apiece stymied me for awhile.  Then, when I was cleaning out a drawer, I discovered a small package of replacement bulbs for a vintage set of Christmas lights...long ago thrown away.  Prying the bulbs out of their ugly green plastic holders and gluing them into silver beads made a pretty convincing little glass container.  Sadly, I neglected to determine that all the shelves in my cabinet were the same size and the top shelf was too short to hold these.  Thank goodness the glue was not yet set up and I pulled the bulbs back out and went in search of shorter beads.  No shorter beads but I did find some silver grommets that were just the right size.

I left the taller beads on the bottom vials since the wood part of the cabinet made raising the height of those important in order to be see with the doors closed.  

Altogether this was much easier than building the cabinet from scratch, and although not exactly a replica, I bet none of the children at Harry Potter camp this summer will know the difference! Although some obsessed Harry Potter fans might...

If any of you have an old set of Christmas tree lights (clear white) that you are planning to replace with LED's, I would love to have many more memory vials since the original cabinet had hundreds of vials.  My cabinet could hold 12 per shelf and I only have 9.  

Did I say Harry Potter Camp?
Shopping in Diagon Alley
Indeed I did.  Every summer for the past ten years, I have helped to organize and run a week long fantasy camp at Camp Stoney.  This year it will be during the Fourth of July week.  Camp Stoney is just a bit east of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It is for children from grades three through eight.  For more information visit
This is a Christian camp which includes worship and Bible study each day along with the magical world of Harry Potter re-created in props, plays, crafts, Quidditch, classes on potions, wand practice, care of magical creatures, divination (and yes, we talk about how only God really knows the future), astronomy, herbology, and runes.  The staff all wear costumes and play the parts of professors and prefects.  

One summer a younger camper came up to me at the end of the week and said, "Professor McGonagle, the lady they got to play you in the movie doesn't look a thing like you!"  Somewhat taken aback it took me a moment to respond, "Honey, you know that we have just been pretending this week?  I am not REALLY Professor McGonagle."  If only I could have stored all the memories of Camp Stoney more efficiently than just a few photos and my somewhat limited recall from weeks packed so full of fun and friendship.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gryffindor Great Room Update

In my last post, I showed
photos of the Great Room in it's beginning stages and then began to work on the fireplace.

 First I had to coat the fireplace with a primer paint developed for plastic, which I purchased at a hobby shop specializing in car and train models.  Now other paints and glues will stick to the plastic.

I wanted to add the Gryffindor crest to the mantel, so captured an image of it from the internet and resized it.  Then began to build it up with sculpey to make it three dimensional.
  I was surprised to find that the sculpey stuck pretty well to the paper after it was baked.  I just had to glue a few pieces back on.

Even with the crest, I thought the large expanse of the fireplace could use a little breaking up, so made a bit more decoration for it.
I also added a stone back wall and now need to go outside and gather some wood to build a fire!  I think a fire grate made from silver dragon charms or maybe gargoyles would be just the right touch, so will be searching for something the right scale next time I am in town. Oh, and I need to glue some of the marbles (really seed beads) from the box onto the Parcheesi board.

How many of you noticed that the crest is crooked?  I glued it on and went to bed.  It was straight when I put it on, but did not realize that my glue would not dry quickly and that weight and gravity would make it move.  Now it is firmly attached.  Wonder how much it will irritate me? And do I want to craft a whole new crest, because I am pretty sure will not survive being pried off?

Friday, March 17, 2017

WHAT is wrong with this picture of the Gryffindor Great Room?

Usually when I begin a miniature build, I put furniture and accessories into the space so I can visualize the end result... and magic happens.  In this case, the magic is missing.  "Why?", I kept wondering.  And finally it hit me.  Everything looks too new! Of course the raw plastic fireplace dominates the photo and screams to be coated with plaster and soot, but every thing else, except the study table to the left, looks as though there was never a messy teen aged witch or wizard anywhere close, so now I must figure out a way to distress the furniture.  Some time ago, I read in a miniature blog about using a nail file on upholstery to make it look worn. I tried to find that blog again to see if there were more details, but sadly could not.  If only I had pinned it on my Pinterest boards.  Some spots on the oriental rug would be good as well?

I began with the portrait of a young Professor McGonagle, since I was too busy yesterday with birthday celebrations to take on anything difficult.

 This little frame was ordered from Minimum World Ltd in England, along with several others, because of its ornate details, which you need sunglasses to see because it is so very, very shiny! So I got out my black acrylic paint to dampen down the shine.

 Better, but I think I still need to add a few white specs to represent the chips that must happen to all ornate gold frames over the years.  This frame is plastic, so I need to make a trip to a hobby shop and pick up some paint that will stick better than acrylic. The green color is reflected from an Arches watercolor pad I was using to block some of the sunlight so there was not so much glare on the glass.  I like that color and may try to add it as well.

I will also use those paints to distress the very bright and shiny light fixtures which will be installed once the walls and ceilings are finished.  I choose to purchase battery operated Led light fixtures because then wires do not have to be hidden.  As yet, there is not a huge selection of these, so I will modify what I could find. I love the shapes of them, just not the finish, except for the copper ones which could be used just a they are, but I intend to add a wash of verdigri to patina them.

They came very well packaged, unlike the beds for the girls dormitory that needed some re-gluing after traveling from China in very flimsy boxes.
This little quilt is the practice quilt that my friend Rhoda made to check for size.  It will be replaced with one that more closely matches the Gryffindor colors. 

I am hoping that when my friend Jo Anne returns from her trip rafting the Grand Canyon, she will knit some tiny little house scarves to add to the scene, and of course there must be plates of half eaten food here and there.  

I ordered some cunning little plastic takeout containers that actually close better than full-sized ones, but somehow, I don't think they will feel at home in Hogwarts, and the house elves would be horrified!  So I will fill them with Sculpey food and use them in the planned artist studio, the only 'thought about" adobe dollhouse, and make some for my granddaughter's dollhouses.
Tacos for the adobe dollhouse, yum!  But I digress, so off to work on that fireplace!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dollmaking in the Miniature world of Harry Potter

Professor Sprout is now dressed and ready to be installed in the Miniature Greenhouse I created several years ago.  

Sprout is one of the four dolls that I made out of sculpey.  Her legs and arms can be positioned at the hip and shoulders, but I wish that I had jointed them at the elbows as well.  I am learning as I go!  All she needs is some darker eyebrows and the little tatted collar that is being created by a friend, Donna.  My friend, Barb, who is a wonderful creative quilter, helped to finish the dress after I made a mess of it.  She carefully removed the sleeves, trimmed them and then appliqued them back onto the dress, showing me how to use fray check to keep the fabric from coming apart, and a glue stick to hold things in place while sewing since God did not see fit to gift us with four or five hands!  Using some of these techniques, it was much easier to dress Professor Snape. Here is Professor Snape almost naked.  I sculpted him anatomically correct, but since some of my Sunday School class will be seeing this blog, I have added a modesty piece of fabric for this photo.  You will notice his arms are missing.  That is because it is much easier to dress a doll without the arms and then slide the arms up into the sleeve and over the wires. Either the sleeves are tight enough after the wrists are sewn together to keep them in place or if the sleeves are loose, you can get a syringe up inside to glue the sculpey arms to the wires.  I have not yet baked Snapes arms, and I have decided to joint them at the elbows with wire to that I can position them more realistically.
His pants will go on first, and then these leather pieces will be glued over to the pants and feet to make the boots.  The soles are made of black Sculpey. 

 Here you can see the boots, pants, vest, and clock. His collar is made from a small white ribbon glued around his neck.
Checking to see how Snape looks standing.
 Now we add his hair.  I had some very black straight doll hair, but it was hard to work with and looked a bit harsh, so (shh, don't tell) I cut a chunk from my own hair to wig Snape. 
 Now he need his arms glued onto the wires.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Nasty, Horrible, No-Good Day!

Yesterday the wind was howling around the corners of our house, the pinion trees were dancing in a St. Vitus frenzy and the cat refused to go out.  Above it all the Sandia mountains loomed in their majestic way as though to say, "this too will pass."  Something like what Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, "A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle; it is the pendulum, and when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it will go back."  She went on to say that there have been bad times throughout out history, but there are always reason to hope.  I am hoping for better times in our country and less wind on the mountainside.

  I had planned to work in the yard, trimming away the winter wizened branches and foliage of last summer's glory, but instead began planning my next miniature project.  For an upcoming "Small Works" show at St. Mark's, I plan to make a miniature cooperative art studio.  I think a sculpture, a painter and a potter will share this space.  The potter will be isolated with a french door from the larger open space to keep the clay dust down!  I am imagining large, faux steel and glass sky lights and brick walls.  There will be a sleeping loft for that bad boy painter who has been thrown out by his wife.  Are you seeing it?

I have been collecting images of studios for inspiration and making little tiny things to go into it.
Here are two different sizes of masking tape for the painter and a little square which I mocked up in paper for size, but will be made of wood.  On order is a cunning little miter box so the painter can construct his own frames...
And just to challenge my newly acquired skills with a slightly large miter box, I plan to try to duplicate this little potters wheel...

Well, so much for dreaming!  Here are some updates I made to Hogwarts Castle over the last year, during the time I took a lengthy sabbatical from blogging.

 Stonework has been added to the exterior.  There is a new window in the Great Hall and the Potions Lab and the Chamber of Secrets are now in the dungeons beneath the Great Hall. I purchased some wonderful dolls, furniture and accessories from a collector who was downsizing to add to the Castle which prompted the construction of:

 Minerva McGonagle's bed chamber because I had to find room for her transfigured self (notice the cat looking to jump on the bed).  I still need to cut windows into this space and add some light fixtures to reduce the gloom.

 The little Quidditch trunk is here because I have not yet made a miniature Madam Hooch.  McGonagle was quite a strong Quidditch player in her youth and continues to be very interested in how her house does in the competitions.  The lace on the canopy and pillow was tatted by my great-grandmother Anna Ogden Womack and my sister Rosalind used it to create the bed linens.  This bed was not completely put together when I inherited it from Rosalind, but fortunately all the sewing was done.  I updated it to Gryffindor colors.

The matching sofa, chair and ottoman, I purchased at an antique store on Central in Albuquerque along with many other little pieces for $20.  The little red tables are from the Dollar Store. They are pretty rough and need a lot of sanding before you can paint or stain them, but by far the cheapest dollhouse table you will find anywhere.  You will see more of them in the boys and girls dorm rooms in Gryffindor Tower.  My sister, Rosalind, made the rug from a kit. 

Honeydukes has two new proprietors.  I sold the Halloween display from it to a a friend who collects miniatures, so now there are only Christmas and Easter items for sale.


 Snapes Potions Lab had to be doubled in size to provide support for the upper stories of the castle, so he now has a study/bedchamber at the far end.  Once the battery operated LED lights I ordered arrive, I will figure out how to partially screen his bed from the classroom area.  For now, I need the natural light to be able to see all the parts of this space.

I was so inspired by Hagrid, Professor Flitwick, Hermoine, Draco (incorrectly identified by the seller as Ron) and the two little witches now running Honeydukes that were part of my big purchase that I have now tried my hand at doll making.  I really enjoyed sculpting the dolls, but cannot say the same for sewing the little tiny robes.  I am not a great seamstress to begin with, and sewing on a 1/12" scale is tedious and frustrating!  Even worse is trying to make wigs that look somewhat close to real. Back to U-Tube to watch those tutorials again!
  Madeye Moody in the tan pants was the closest to being finished except for his hair.  However, Sati, our mean little cat has made off with his head.  She thinks she is the queen, but I wasn't aware she was channeling the Red Queen.  One leg of Snape's trousers is cut out and modestly draped over him, as he, and all the dolls are anatomically correct.  Professor Sprout needs gray hair, which I do not yet have, so will have to see if any of my friends will donate some at their next haircut.  Planning to use my own hair for Snape and doll hair for Trelawney since her hair is so wild.  Lots to do still. Be aware, if you make your own miniature dolls that you should not attach the arms until the clothes are on if you want to avoid breaking something.  Madeye's arm will need some Skelegrow as I ill-advisedly sculpted him all in one piece.  A special thanks to my friend, Vicki for providing the velvet, silk and leather scraps I have been using. 

Coming up in future posts, you will get a sneak peek at the partially constructed classroom tower, the nearly complete Gryffindor tower, and Hagrid's Hut. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Beware! The Chamber of Secrets Has Been Created in Miniature

Image via

Months ago, I began to create a Chamber of Secrets to go into the dungeons at my Miniature Hogwarts.  A busy spring and summer meant I never posted photos of it.  Here is how I went about creating the Chamber in 1/12" scale.
First I made a screen shot of a photo of the scary face from which the basilisk emerges.
Photo via
 Then I scaled it to fit my back wall and began to build the face on it with Sculpey...
This kept everything to scale.  You can see where I ran out of gray clay and switched to brown.  Not to worry, everything will be painted after baking the Sculpey.  You can't tell in this photo, but there is a sheet of parchment paper over the photo so that I can bake the head separately. 

 Under the brow there is some crumpled tin foil so that I did not have to use an enormous amount of clay and it would bake more quickly.

Checking scale with my little Harry Potter doll.

Painted the floor blue then installed the walkways.

And the pool in front of the face.

 Hmmm, the arch blocks the view of the face.  Will need to cut the top off and move it up!  Notice the not yet painted snake heads in the water.

Arch fixed so that there is a better view.  The lighting is provided by little LED fairy lights run along the floor.  The battery pack is hidden just to the right of the Chamber's door, which I still have not finished.  Struggling with the foam core holding the weight of the Sculpey carved snake hinges.

 Keep forgetting that I have not painted the snakes in the water.  Should I make that very scary Basilisk from the movie?