Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting Funky

One of the background guests at the night time Bug Party in Halfland wanted to get down and then get on up again. This smooth jazz cat asked for blings on the wings and hot pink fuzzy shades. I personally wouldn't smoke anything (well, actually I probably would if it had no ill effect on health) but this guy has some kind of cigarette in a twig holder. He'll chill during the bash and groove to the music, food and wild bug company that will be celebrating all around him.
Here you can see the wool fiber smoke tendrils unedited on the end of his white wire cigarette, a close up of his painted silver head of a pin belt buckle and translucent specs lenses. It took me quite a while to figure out that two joined cells cut from aluminum mesh filled with clear glue lenses (colored with permanent marker ink once dry) would make such tiny scale shades. I kept changing the colors of his costume as he developed so the antennae got a few coats and too much texture (it's ok). The trickiest part was attaching pieces of wire to the sides of the glasses and then get them to act like over-the-ear arms over his antennae (works). Then the frames were black, then painted silver, then flock over with pink because I didn't dig the uneven texture of the silver. Couldn't get any smoother at this micro scale.

His groovy attitude came about after I positioned his legs and arms in this position. Once that happened, his character screamed to recline and kick back. You can just tell his moves on the dance floor are fierce. This Party is going to be fun.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Did Somebody Say Mouse?

My feline companion and Line Producer kept looking deeply into the Mouse House set wondering why I kept giving this box so much attention. Surely I must have been waiting for a mouse?!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Check Out the Library!

Illegal levels of fun, I had a ball making the miniature books for the Writing Mouse's Library. Each is a handmade journal of his, filled with the notes of daily events that take place in Halfland, in his neck of the woods.
I made 17 additional books to the 3 I'd made previously, for a total of 20 for the set. 16 on the tall shelving next to his desk, 1 on the side board, 1 on the mantle, 1 on the rug, and 1 that he'll travel with when with Rana.

I am so naively optimistic when embarking on these simple tasks, thinking I can knock out a bunch of books in a couple hours. It took me two days; 1 to craft all the covers with specific papers I had prepared in the color theme, add the end papers and headbands, cover tooling effects and then latches, locks, and hardware.

Today was for making all the text blocks for their interiors. (list of what was used above) At first I glued each page together to tame them for binding, but quickly found that the easier way was to make them as the mouse would have made real books. I sewed sets of signatures together and then attached them to the spines. I was surprised at how much the illusion was furthered by using a dowel as a mold to round the spines and then compressing them inward with clips to indent on either side. These look to me to be for all the world genuine Writing Mouse journals in his library. I can imagine their pages filled with his scratches in ink.

Especially after fabricating bits of excruciatingly small hardware to a few select volumes. I used miniature hinges bought at Kit Kraft last year, and bent them to act as string latches. (They work). I used a piece of an old earring that Cirelle donated as an, accidentally, eye-shaped (perfect!) filigree lock on the large pink book, for cozy reading by the fire. Once I'd fashioned the lock, I was doomed to make a key to fit it. And so I did, using pounded gold wire coated with layers of metallic paints and matte medium to build up the texture. It hangs from a silk hand-braided wire cord so it can swing on the back of the Mouse's desk chair as he moves.

I love the touch of a tooth pick dipped into metallic paint and carefully daubed onto the hardware for smaller-than-the-head-of-a-pin rivets. And how short thick volume, with the Flor de lis on its spine, was made from a no-reason impression I'd made years ago with iron paint that I rusted. There were four small holes punched in the design so I filled them with grains of sand as uber tiny "seeds" and then painted them gold. (Please see what a nice looking book it turned out to be on the shelf in the top photo, right side.)

I'd like to thank everyone who sends me materials, like Yaz and her sister for the amazing hand marbled papers they made in Turkey, Mark for the bar of Mast Bros. Chocolate from Brooklyn, NY b/c their wrappers are all beautiful and hand printed with great patterns, friends who included notes on special Japanese paste papers with an ideal seed pattern, a swatch of perfect green Italian end paper snatched from some forgotten source, etc. etc., for their contribution to making these books, and the project overall, that much more delicious.

Not to mention all the perfect seeds and pods Cirelle gathered and brought over, and those Marcie sends from Atlanta, Georgia. And a long "overdue" mention of the incredible hand-blown glass bottle that sits on the mantle (built especially to feature it there) that kind reader Enui in Italy sent me years ago. By the way, for anyone wanting a fast way to change the color of glass w/o brush strokes showing, I found that I could shift the bottle's pretty aqua blue color to the green I needed for the chalet by using a yellow permanent marker over the top.

I seem to get around to pressing everything sent into 1/2L. service at some point or other. Thank you, all again!

Can This Title Be Made Any Larger?
[Utterly & Completely] DONE!!!!!!
Mouse House World Complete

In order to build in as much unity, cohesiveness, and calmness visually as possible:

1. Stay with color theme; Mud brown canvas, greens, rose, magenta, pale orange, vivid orange as accents.
2. Stay with symbolic motifs; Seeds/Pods, Eyes/Glasses, Books/Journals, Roots (Answer Tree), Writing
3. Stay with concept/meaning; Wisdom in Consciousness of the Tree, Role of Mouse as Scribe for the questions people ask, a cheerful, comfortable home sanctuary.

Follow your established protocols and then create within their perimeters. Savor the finesse. And be sure to:
Project Rule #6: Sacrifice anything that is making the task difficult.

I thought I was at 97% 2 weeks ago. Seems I was actually at 60% because I worked and humped hard yet another 40% to actually completely finish this world. So, either my 97% meter is off-range, or I made this set at 137% of completeness. Probably both things are true.

I do know that I had the time of my life making it. I stole moments doing it, before dawn and instead of doing things people were waiting for. I was possessed because of the fun it was. I really liked how it was turning out.

I learned an enormous amount about the Writing Mouse and his role in Halfland. Enough such that he could absolutely take center stage in his own illustrated story book, and may very well.


At a certain point, with enough details, a place becomes alive on its own. Here you see the Mouse's writing desk and accoutrement. To make the buried Answer Seeds I first 1. cut a hole in the set floor, installed a clump of dried kitty grass via tape on the underside; 2. painted, flocked and arranged a clump of various clay and real seeds that were half buried (with sifted mulch for soil) applied to a base of matte medium; 3. the Seed Answer mound is covered with a preserved dried leaf treated with matte medium for durability.

Here's what I've learned;
There are seven root/pod beings with faces in the chalet that represent the wisdom of the Answer Tree. The Writing Mouse sits at his desk and hears the soft voices of people whispering their important questions into the ear hollow on the truck of the Tree above.


Spent some time enhancing the root/mud/pod faced fellows. Leaves form the upper lip on the mantle guy. The eye of sauren guy has a seed jar near him with a tiny smeared, muddy paw print. The natural features on one of the roots were augmented with the Flexall and then finished with seeds, pods, and paint. Mr Pod lips now has careful color and two buck teeth made of seeds. The main face now has a seed pod pupil that can be positioned to shift his gaze.

He transcribes the answers to those questions he hears form the wisdom of the Tree onto seeds and scrolls made of birch bark and buries them in the middle of the floor of his house. They accumulate over time until the answers are drawn up into the Tree, eventually to grow out and be readable upon one of the Tree's thousands of leaves. Of course, by the time this transpires, no one could have remained that long to search among the leaves for their answer. After so long, all questions become irrelevant.

I learned that The Writing Mouse eats his meals with Rana in her large cottage, where he emerges from the tunnels under the roots of her hearth.

I learned that each chapter/tale in Halfland is entered visually through the opening of another of the Mouse's beautiful journals.

Please note that now the little side table has a tiny acorn pipe (made as a gift for 1/2L. by Sharon Ferg)that has another cap filled with orange saffron as fresh pipe tobacco under a copper lid. Spent pipe tobacco is dumped out onto a leaf. For diehard fans of Nightmare Before Christmas, you'll recall the wonderful detail they made of the back of Jack's Santa sketch made for reverse angles. My homage to that is a proper back on the Mouse's seed painting for a realistic view when seen from behind, through the tunnel. One of my favorite props so far was this infinitesimal candle flame made of florescent glitter scales glued onto a piece of mica (pencil in shot for scale).

Above the mantle is a proper portrait of the Mouse's partner, friend, object of adoration, Rana. I took her sketch and put in in a forest, shifted the colors to match his house and printed it out. I cut it to fit a miniature frame, purchased from a jewelry supply, that I embellished with small seeds and the smallest acorn and cloth leaves. Once installed, I had to knock back the intensity of the portrait colors with translucent taupe and walnut ink, so it blended into the room as much as possible, to keep it from being too busy. Canvas texture was added to both paintings by pressing a piece of canvas into a top coat of gloss medium.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fire Making Kit

Planning to send animator supremé, Nick Hilligoss, a package this week that will include some of my secret ingredients (on left) for hand made campfires*, like the one just made for the Writing Mouse's Chalet. (*I see from the link above, I still need to add some char to the ashes as well.)

Micro Set [very nearly] FINISHED!:
Mouse House Interior (part 2; the Furnishings & Props)

Halfland Rule #8: It is always easier build on top of something that exists already rather than to start from scratch.

Cirelle donated a precious miniature upholstered chair to 1/2L last year. I had a small scrap of colorful brocade from Mood Fabrics left over from another project that had a nice traditionally elegant pattern. I managed to piece the bit of fabric to cover the chair, although there are seams showing I'd rather weren't there. I built the chair a new larger base to cheat the overall size up a bit, sewed coordinated cushions into the lap.


The rug was an oval cut from a cream colored woven placemat hand-embroidered with custom dyed matching yarns and floss to look like a cozy braid rug.
I wanted the walls, ceiling, roots, and furniture to create a brown base/canvas that the bright greens, rose pink, magenta, and orange props could be seen. The place is underground but it should look bright and cheerful despite that.

Picked up the cabinet for $1 at a craft shop which gave me a base to work from that otherwise would have taken me a lot to construct from nothing. I painted it with oxidized copper paint and fitted it with mesh "glass" door fronts, made embellished knobs for its six doors. Made dollies from painted lace, and proceeded to outfit it with ink bottles made from random beads from my boxes. The glass bottle seen lower right with a blue tone when sent to me by reader Enui in Italy (how nice a gift!). It took me quite a while to figure out that a bright yellow permanent marker would shift the color to green, stay transparent and not leave any brush marks. (the bottle had its own spot built for it on the mantle later.) The lighter tall glass bottle filled with small gold seeds is a blown glass bead finished with other beads and findings to make it an apothecary jar. Seeds and scrolls (made by Downstairs Jean) and bundles of dried petals got crammed in all the spaces of our busy writer's den.
His chair by the hearth with tendril of wool-strand smoke on a bed of hand painted deer moss ashes. His tiny twig side table holds a portrait of a friend (thinking of changing the two portraits in the house into seed paintings instead), a candle for reading, and an acorn and vine pipe (gifted 1/2L by Sharon Ferg) with a skosh of saffron tobacco in an acorn cap bowl. (Please click to enlarge for detail)
His writing desk nestles in a tangle of natural roots and is kitted out with leaf motif marquettery box (all hardware hand made), ink wells made from the odd grebble bits from drawers in the shop. His upholstered desk chair has a simple twig back and holds up his old cane. There are Rana-scale (1:3) bottles filled with different kinds of seeds tucked into all the corners in the house because while the Mouse lives in a world that makes sense for his size, he also lives in Rana's world as well, he's just mouse-sized in it. They often pass certain jars of seeds back and forth between them to share them.


The library bookcase built into the wall next to his desk will soon be filled with miniature books like the two quarter leather-bound journals made below. One has a pocket built into it that holds a feather quill pen. These were made from an existing cloth-covered Japanese folder that I cut up, trimmed with leather, and painted to fit.
Lower right are additional fine papers I've prepared with paints and dyes to bring the Mouse's color scheme to the shelves below. They'll look terrific next to the small seed jars and other objects there...
Once the books are made, and a clay pot of mid-scale red geraniums are installed outside the left eye/window of the chalet, this entire set and all her props will not only be made but also completely installed and completed in full. Utterly.

I really wanted to begin a set (that I thought would be quick and simple) and see it through in one sweep to prove to myself that I could close a deal. Tenacity.

I think I've figured out why the last 3% on these projects seem to take 100% of the previous effort in order to finish. It's either I'm wrong that the 97% point has in fact been reached, or perhaps that I do these projects at 150% and the last 3% is in reality another 47%. I think it's a little of both.

Having the time of my life with it all though.

Micro Set [very nearly] FINISHED!:
Mouse House Interior (part 1)

Oh, hello, Would you like to tour the newly finished Micro Set of Halfland's Writing Mouse House Interior? Follow me... First, we'll go back a bit...
Constance started me off when I assigned her to take the raw box materials (upper left) and the furnishings I'd made and arrange them to reflect how the Mouse's Chalet Exterior was configured (top center). She began installing the mantle and cutting away the tunnel and windows, which became the Answer Tree's face, and wiring in various roots for this subterranean lair. 

After she left, I started plastering the interior with Flexall (flexible cement) and with leftover sanded grout when I ran out of Flexall. I tried to "build-in"  the furniture and features as though the walls were earthen. I added slopes and bulk as needed with newspaper and masking tape and plastered over the surfaces again.


Next came several layers of acrylic paint in raw and burnt umber and terra cotta for the "flesh" areas. Highlights and lowlights were added with pastel chalks/pigments to emphasize the Face without being too direct. I like to keep everything as ambiguous as possible so the viewer can see at least two things at once in each element. Halfland.
The mouth/tunnel leading to the underside of Rana's cottage hearth as seen on the finished set, as well as during the progression of its development underneath. The lips were constructed out of some of the root pieces I nabbed on the curb after a tree removal a few years back. The teeth were a wired strand of natural beads called Job's Tears (nature already makes them all with holes for stringing!) that I'd tainted with a paint tarter patina.
The large scale main Face as finished (upper left) whose right eye is the Mouse's sleeping nook lined with colorful shred. As I went along building the root shapes and decorating the Mouse's house with stacks of seeds throughout, other less obvious faces started emerging as well. Their character was accented with various natural seeds, caps, and pods.

A large seed pod had several white and one black Job's Tears arranged inside of it in order to halfway suggest an iris and a rare pair of century-old eye glasses were wired over the opening (upper right). These glasses may be the only earth world scale actual objects used in the making of Halfland. The eyes on the creatures top center and lower left are natural b/w coloration (!) on the Love in a Puff pods that Halfland's Official Naturalist, Marcie sent me a few years back. Their teeth were tiny hard plant pods pickled with white. The red hair is Eucalyptus brush filament with another species of Eucalyptus button as a cap. They are eating red peppercorns.

The Writing Mouse wears nano-sized tiny specs himself as he spends his days listening to the questions asked of the Answer Tree in order to translate the wisdom of the crowd that personifies the Tree's roots. He transcribes the answers onto birch bark paper and seeds and buries them under the roots. In time, the answers he's written will grow out onto the leaves of the Tree. Of course, by then, no one will care what it is.

In Part 2; the Story of the Furnishings...

An Actual Note: Tarn Wing Idea

Found on recent online wanderings, these spectacular examples of fringed scarves as "wings" could be a way for me to suggest Tarn's human arm as a wing. (forgotten source for image on left, the one on the right I recall came from a Tumblr called White Witch.)
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