Saturday, July 01, 2006

Pat Thomas: She's Mighty Mighty

Photo copyright Pat and Noel Thomas
Found it! Like Sven (scarletstarstudios.com) said, asking the question begins the answer (condensed concept). Last night I wondered aloud here how to integrate my new plaster cottage walls with its wooden door. Whilst strolling through my favorite miniature building artist's site today I found THE PERFECT reference image I'll use to create my little house.

The site is Noel and Pat Thomas' (http://www.thomasopenhouse.com/house_sale.html)
And If one can use their artist's eye to see past the less-than-worthy quality of photos of the Thomas' works posted there, they'll find Master Work on display, along with some pretty enlightening descriptions of their techniques. They've written dozens of print articles, possibly still available through magazine back issue. (http://www.thomasopenhouse.com/tips_howto.html) on everything from the importance of scale for miniature roofing shingles and how to age them to remarkable realism to making clever faux bird droppings, in case you don't have natural access to any. Hope you'll enjoy a nice scroll stroll through there.

Below is a shot from one of their classes Works of the Imagination: Ruin--Italian Garden Gate and a little tip tutorial from them on their method of making such realistic model bricks.



Fimo Brick

© 2002 by Pat and Noel Thomas


When I started, I wanted to use brick colored Fimo, but, because I couldn't find any, I used a combination of Rosewood (3/4 of a pkg.), Red (less than 1/8 pkg.) and Terra Cotta (1/2 pkg.), with good results. I think experimenting with assorted colors works well because you can imitate the natural variations in brick colors. Not all full-size bricks were made from the same mud, nor were they all baked at the same heat, nor for the same length of time. You can even mix bricks from different color batches. Experiment!

In this case, experimentation allows you to use a lot of household appliances for crafts you'd never have been allowed to use as a child. You will need a blender or food processor, a pasta machine, a sheet of glass, a bottle, an Exacto knife, a T square, and an oven. To save money on a large batch of bricks, try to buy Fimo in large blocks. If your miniature shop doesn't carry them, try large craft suppliers, or bead and jewelry supply shops.

1. Cut Fimo into pieces and shred in blender or food processor until the pieces are tiny, making it easier to combine colors.

2. Work clay bits back together with your hands into a lump, and flatten. Using a glass bottle for a rolling pin, roll out balls into sheets about 1/4" thick.

3. Blending and rolling: Feed each sheet through pasta machine rollers. Fold, and repeat 3-4 times, working the clay down to the thinnest setting on the machine, repeating until the colors are completely blended. At first the colors will marbleize, but eventually they will blend to one color. You made need to feed the sheets once through the spaghetti cutter to get them to mix. If you are using only one color of Fimo, you'll only have to roll it out until the texture is smooth. Finally, fold the blended sheets together and feed through the thickest setting on the pasta machine, until you have a smooth, blended slab (or slabs) of clay, about 3/32"-1/8" thick.

4. Lay slab on glass, and with the Exacto knife, score the brick shapes (approx. 5/8" X 1/4") into the clay. Don't cut all the way through the clay. Texture surface to look like brick (I used a nail brush, pressed randomly over the surface, but, for more realism, you might try brushes with different sized bristles, so the marks vary in size).

5. Bake bricks on the sheet of glass for 30. min. in a 250 degree oven.

6. When cool, break slab into bricks on scored lines. The bricks can now be "cracked," or "broken," dented, edges softened, and other imperfections added with the Exacto knife. Glue down with Elmer's white glue. Age the color by painting with Raw Umber tube acrylics, thinned with a little water, and/or experiment with olive greens, ochres and other earth-tones for more variation. Grout, smoothing some of the grout out with a damp sponge, so the grout is not quite up to the level of the bricks.

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