Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Lake District Live 2019 - The Preparation

Lake District Live is the only show I usually manage to attend as most of the other shows are down below Birmingham, and that's just a bit too far for my elderly vehicle. As it is, we usually have to weld something back on after the Lake District run.

The class list is generally announced around February, which sounds like loads of time to prepare, but when you're trying to keep a household running, as well as a business with a time-intensive product, time slips away from you pretty quickly.

The Horse Room is pretty full of supplies, hobby stuff, and Magpie stock, so I work in the kitchen, which is just in the next room. My son is very good about not touching (the cats not so much), so I was able to set up a small folding table to hold my work-in-progress items and appropriated one counter for my supplies, so we could still use the table for meals.

 My brain was so fried this year that it was April before I had any inspiration for the scenes classes. Especially the Pets scenes, since they had an open theme. Finally, a new game I had downloaded for my phone gave me an idea, I was going to make a cat cafe!

These cafes are becoming more popular, though there aren't any closer to me than Edinburgh. For those who don't know, they are coffee shops who have a live-in staff of cats who hang out, doing their cat thing and amusing the customers.

My cat cafe is called Café Miaou and features climbing shelves, comfortable furniture, books, magazines, snacks, games, and cat toys... as well as the cats.

Last year my husband committed an amazing feat of haggling at a local vintage show and we brought home nine room boxes full of dollhouse furniture. I detached the furniture and stored it away and stacked up the room boxes for later use. And now I had found a use for one!

These boxes are rather unusual as they have a solid back and a lattice on two sides. The solid wall had a sort of chintzy wallpaper, so I painted it a dark grey and added a strip of cardstock to make a white skirting board. The latticed walls I "glazed" with some sheets of plastic to make windows.

Then it was time to start thinking about furniture. At first I thought I'd make a counter with some seating off to one side, but the box is fairly shallow, so I couldn't have much space behind the counter and when I started stressing about coffee machine and cakes, and extra dishes, I knew I wasn't on the right track. Instead I decided to focus on just the seating area.

In that lot of furniture from the show, I had a rather decent couch set. The pillows were glued onto the seats, so I had to pry those off and try to peel off as much glue as possible. I wasn't thrilled with the fabric as I'm not a fan of chintz, but I didn't want to go to the bother of reupholstering anything, so I painted the fabric instead.

I simply watered down some acrylic paint until it was, well, like water, and then brushed it on. I used an old brush so I could really scrub the paint into the fabric.

Before painting

After painting
 I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. The colours mostly hid the vines and toned down the flowers, so the fabric looks like a funky polka dot print instead. The colours for the furniture set the colour palette for the rest of the room.

After a further rummage through my furniture drawers, I found a bookshelf, coffee table, and a chair, and decided I would need to make a couple of tables. The bookshelf is from some Lidl dollhouse furniture which I painted so it would fit in better with our funky colour scheme. The chair came from the same vintage show as the room boxes, and the table from a carboot sale.

After deciding on the furniture, I made the climbing shelves as these would dictate the placement of many of the other decorations. These are just bits of balsa wood painted and glosses with some Modge Podge. Once these were glued in place, I turned my attention the the walls

A few years ago I had printed out a massive collection of variations of the Chat Noir picture with the idea of using them to cover one wall of the Magpie's Nest, but I thought this would be a much better use for at least some of them.

I picked over my stash and made a pile of my favourites which I then mounted on some black cardstock and glued somewhat randomly to the walls.

The side table and cafe table are made from balsa wood and some big wooden beads I had bought with the idea of using for lamp bases.

 The bookshelf I mostly filled with items I had made previously such as boar games, newspapers, magazines, books, and a bowl of cat treats. I also made items such as a large scratching post tower, cat toys, feather sticks, food and water bowls, and a lamp for the end table.

I used google to get some ideas for my cat shelves and loved the idea of a flexible bridge.

I have had a needle felting kit in my supplies for several years, but this is the first time I was brave enough to use it. I'm always saving supplies because they're "too good to waste", so I made an effort to break that habit here. I needle felted this mouse mouse and cat tent, though I cheated a bit and used sheets of felt for the actual tent. I also later used this technique to make a santa hat for another scene.

We had a rather intimate moment when the dolls fell over during the move back to the Horse Room.

While I was working on Café Miaou, I was also working on my Myths & Legends theme. I had chosen to represent the myth of the Kelpie, so I started off by making my loch. This too was a room box, but one with angled sides to create a little forced perspective. I gathered up some of my scraps from the B&Q off-cuts bin, cut out my box pieces, and painted the landscape on the sides, built up the shore and water texture on the base, painted that, and then assembled the box using hot glue.

 Making the box was easy enough but landscaping takes some time. I made tons of these little batches of cattails. The heads are seed beads glued to a wire, painted brown and then flocked. I cut slivers of rice paper for leaves and then combine them with the cattails.

 I gathered the sticks for my trees while walking my son to school and after hot gluing them into place, used reindeer moss and model railway foliage to give them some leaves. The rest of the landscaping is a combination of model railway products and natural items found on my walks. After everything was in place, I made a pile of lily pads from some punched paper circles which I painted with ink. Then I poured a layer of resin over the base for the water. When it was at the gummy stage I placed the lily pads on the resin where they floated and looked quite convincing.

 After the resin had fully cured, I brought the box back inside from the Wash House (where I do anything smelly) and added the last few details. I made a flock of birds out of brown Sculpey and painted them using reference pictures from Google. These tits didn't actually make it into the scene, so I'll save them for another project.

 Now it was time for my least favourite craft, doll making. I cheated a bit and used a press mold for the arms and legs, but the face I had to sculpt myself. I didn't have much flesh-coloured Sculpey except for my big block of terracotta, but I wanted this particular doll to be a pasty white Scottish child, so I used some of my large stash of air-drying paper clay. This material can be rather obnoxious to work with as it's very sticky, but the results aren't bad with some patience.

I created an wire armature to hold the limbs and made some rough clothes out of felt. Sewing is not my forte, but I am improving... slowly.

My son hates it when I leave my dolls in progress lying around as he says they give him nightmares. This poor kid just needed a little paint and some hair to make him look less zombie-like.

I had just discovered a tutorial for making curls with viscose hair, so I had to try it out. It's so simple even I can do it, and you just need scraps, which was fortunate, because scraps were all I had left of the black colour.

You just pull a little swatch of hair - less makes tighter curls - wrap it around a stick of some sort, brush it with water, and leave it to dry. Once dry you just slide the hair off the stick and you've got a curl! Many of you will be saying, "well, duh" at this point, but it was game changing information for me. I'm not great with hair, not even my own.

My husband was a little miffed that I used him as my inspiration when making a child to be devoured by the kelpie, but he'll get over it. I decided that a child who had been playing down by the water would have gotten pretty muddy, so I dirtied Dod up with a bit of watery acrylic.

She is totally going to eat that kid

Nobody but the dead know the true shape of a kelpie, but I thought I'd add some little bits to my horse to suggest she was changing into her monstrous shape as she ran back to the water. I didn't want to permanently alter my model, so wrapped the forelegs in plastic before adding my goo.

At first I tried latex, but it was too runny and would take too long to build up, so I had the bright idea to give my Realistic Water FX a go. This is a tube of a thick paste used to make ripples and splashes in scenes. The consistency is like a thick toothpaste and it dries clear.

I glorped some onto the plastic-covered hooves, moved it around with a toothpick, stuck in some Sculpey claws I had made, and then dribbled on some coloured ink. It took a couple of days to dry completely, but I was thoroughly pleased with the results. After I took the picture above, I used pastels to add some shading to the claws and then painted them with a glossy clear coat.

While all of the above was going on, I was also working on a side saddle for Nefertiti and her rider, Alicia. Nef is from the early 2000s, and Alicia is from the 60s. I bought them separately, but thought they'd look lovely together. Thankfully the saddle is mostly covered by the rider as I fudged a bit making the saddle horns and they don't look the best. The overall effect is nice though, I think.

My entry for the "Ponies at Play" scene was a rather last minute affair, made out of another of my spare room boxes from the show lot, and some miscellaneous furniture and items I had made previously for other projects.

My other pet entry involved my chicken coop and run which I had made a couple of years ago and, like many of my other projects, never finished. I finally buckled down and put together the little bits and pieces with which to furnish the run. Google furnished the ideas, and Playmobil many of the little items.

Part of preparing for a show is doing a little basic maintenance on some models. This usually just involves taming some mohair, but sometimes things get a little rough. Latex can go soft over time, and this dog was so warped he wasn't able to stand any more. I cut a bit of wire and carefully inserted it into his legs, which straightened them and made them a bit firmer.

In past years I would make up a little pack of hobby supplies for my raffle donation, but this year I just wasn't seeing anything interesting to put into the pack. Then, when making items for Café Miaou, it hit me, I'd make a kitten kit. I made some extra toys, needle felted a bed, knit a tiny blanket, and made a cat box and food dish out of Sculpey - the cat box has little poos and pee clumps in it. The kitten is a flocked Playmobil kitten. Naturally I forgot the packs of cat treats when I took this picture. Everything was wrapped in tissue paper and packed in a little tote.

Laura of Julip won the Lake District kit - she won my kit last year, too - but an identical kit will be in the Julip Live raffle in September.

I was putting the finishing touches to my scenes just a day or two before we left, as well as printing out the various explanation cards, price lists, and class lists which I would need, too.

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