The Wall…I think I mentioned it back in June?? *in progress pics*

You probably surmised from the title of the post that I was working on a wall for the dioramas, right?  Umm. Yea. You might remember that I made a faux brick wall a while back out of my Arch-Nemesis Foamcore:


Suffice to say that between my klutziness, my general dislike of the substance and a constant on-going reorganization of my workroom that the foamcore brick wall was….a casualty.  Masking tape could only repair so much, after all….

Not that it was much of a surprise but I did curse a bit.  Not too much though, since I knew I was going to have to make one out of MDF at some point — this just prodded me to do it a bit faster.

I actually started making the wall back in June for the diorama base. I’d cut the piece of MDF, and marked out the lines for the bricks…..But I kept putting off working on it because of two things: 1) bricks are tedious & 2) my dremel is prone to overheating and doing it during high summer seemed more likely to kill the dremel (which is $$$ to replace).  I did however want to replicate the same kind of brick patterns I used in the foamcore version (more or less) so that factored into the time.

This is how it looks after the day spent applying layers of paint and washes to it: (it’s a crap photo but you get the idea of how it looks, at least…right?)


I was really pushing to get it done today (I spent the last few days finishing the dremeling) but I think it’s too late tonight for me to try to start applying the mortar. Regarding the mortar –need to do a few experiments with it first before I know which way I’m going to go with it. I’m thinking grey like the previous wall, but we’ll see. Maybe tannish grey?  I also want to be able to get a good look at it in the daylight and see if I need to tweak some of the shading and highlights on the bricks.

Ok I hope I’ll update with a finished wall by the weekend!

More progress on the Dioramas: dorm room/ student lounge/ academic office

The weekend didn’t go as I planned. That’s ok. The trip has been rescheduled to later this month and I spent most of Friday and Saturday in bed, and ignored the computer.  Sunday…Sunday my body was feeling better but I didn’t feel up to facing human beings in person or online. So I stayed home (from archery practice as well as from Lowes or Home Depot) and decided it was long past time to get those pesky-half-done-but-not-quite ready-roomsets closer to being done!

This is going to be a kind of short post but I wanted to share how it’s going so far:

You can see the various walls and doors: (I know it all looks a bit rough right now.) It needs another coat of paint and some window treatments (for all 3 sets). I’m also keeping an eye out for fabric that I can use for a rug. or something. We’ll see.


The windows are all from my old (UK) dioramas. We cut them out and posted them over. Splicing them into the new MDF walls was a trick and I am thankful that Mark had the patience for that part since I sure didn’t! I did get to do the spackling though to try to hide the join/seams into the walls.


Mark was awesome in making me the two new doors (and he even made the hinges!) He’s now gone back to working on the house related stuff (he just built himself a worktable to make real 1:1 scale doors for our house). We were originally going to use that stain (on the doors) for our house but out of the can and on the wood it’s much darker than we wanted so….back to square one on that one :S

Here you can see the as of yet unfinished floor:


I want to make a wood floor (mock hardwood) which I can use for any and all of the rooms.  I have the strips of wood cut to size and now I need to stain them and attach them. After I do that I’ll coat them with some lacquer/ PU and see how they look. Hopefully good. LOL.

I’m also working on a new brick wall: (sorry for the blurry pic)


The point of this one is to replace the one I made earlier this year out of foamcore. >:(

Despite my best efforts I can’t get over my intense dislike of the stuff (or its inability to cope with the wear and tear it suffers at my hands!). I know hundreds of people swear by it, and use it for all their diorama needs. Good for them!  But …it’s not so good for me…

So–I had an offcut left from the room-set walls and it’s just big enough to use as a short wall. So I’m going to try using that and see how it goes. I should update later this week (probably towards friday) with *hopefully* finished room set pics!

Bricks & Stones break my bones…but foamcore drives me Nuts-o!

Yea I have a lot of different projects on the burners right now –in fact I’d have to be a professional stove with double the normal amount of burners to handle all the pots I’ve got a’boilin! mrgreen

One of those was making a brick wall to use for backdrop image when I’m shooting photos of stuff—-for Etsy & for using in Friday Monologues. It took me a good week or so to get the wall done. It wasn’t fun.

I’m not that happy with it  because there were too many places I made mistakes and it shows.

However, it’ll do the job and that for now is what counts.

I have to say here and now that I am not, never have been and never will be a fan of foamcore.

Please don’t try to stone me you folks who love the stuff.  I know it’s manna from heaven for a lot of people, and it’s the greatest stuff ever. For you. 😉

It remains burned into my consciousness as the crap that professors made you use for pointless art projects (when in the day a piece of foamcore cost 6 bucks instead of  1 buck at the dollar store!) Anyway.  I still think it is the stuff of the devil.twisted It’s flimsy, flaky and just too prone to damage. Ok, that last bit is probably just down to me being a klutz and needing sturdy, break resistant stuff around me!

Anyway, I persevered through and made this: (in the 2nd one down Giselle is modelling in the pics just for the hell of it!).

See, this is where the nit-picky thing really rears it’s ugly head.

A lot of people just use bricks that the y print off of photos or they use scrap-booking paper (or fabric). I’d like to be happy with that for my use, but I … well. I just couldn’t. And I have heard that me putting all this detail in doesn’t make any difference at the end, so why bother with it?

But, I just had to. Really.

Anything else would have felt half-assed.  And I really do my damnedest to make sure I don’t do anything that way. Why bother if you’re not going to do it right, you know?

Yes, it meant I spent more than a week scribing in all those blasted bricks. And then more experimenting (and failing spectacularly with different options for mortar!) I’ve kind of got the mortar thing sorted so the next wall will be better (and it won’t be foamcore).

And just a few shots of Giselle because, well….she’s a fave!

I’ll be updating again as soon as I have some more photos (of stuff) to share! 🙂


Tutorial: How to customize barbie chairs

Getting 1:6 scale office chairs/desk chairs is really a pain in the ass.

This has come up for me a few times since I’m working on making college dorm rooms, library space &  1:6 office set-ups.  Invariably in all of these places you find the ubiquitous “office/desk” chair. The problem is that finding them ready to buy isn’t that easy.  And getting them in scale with your figures isn’t always as easy as it seems.

I mean, aside from the ZC ones…the rest of them out there….well. Let’s just say they don’t really fit my notion of an office chair.  (I’d love to drop $200.oo+ on a Vitra one –but hello, broke here!)  The office chair that the ZC dolls made is nice but it’s waaaay oversize for my Volks, Momokos & Blythes.  And yes…I know office/desk chairs come in different sizes.  I do. But this is about my preferences.  If I can’t buy what I want then I’ll make it. 😛

I’m going to work with two particular types for this tutorial.  (I’m calling this a tutorial but it’s more like a bunch of loosely written instructions to kind of run-with.) Mostly because they start off pretty close to what I want and the less I have to do the better, right? 😉

First go out and find the following chairs to work with: They are the chairs from the My Scene So Chic Salon & the chair from the Barbie My House Armoire & Chair set.

The thing that makes me most inclined to work with these is the fact that the bases are pretty sturdy & they bear a pretty good resemblance to the real thing.

The one with the grey wheels is one of the My Scene chair base and the one with the black wheels is from the Armoire Set.

Note: there are actually 2 types used in My Scene doll furniture and both are good with a little work. The thing to be aware is that the My Scene Salon chairs have one type that “clicks” back (apparently for washing hair in the sink) and one that was fixed.  I’m using the fixed ones as an example, but you can use the clickers if you cut down the mechanism and shape the hole to fit them.

Here’s what I came up with: the before & after:


  • Barbie Chair Base(s) *as described above*
  • Wood/Plastic/MDF/ Foamex (to make seat parts-use depending on how sturdy you want the finished piece of furniture to be)
  • Brass/steel/aluminum/ wire or bar (to make the back-rest post)
  • Black aluminum tape OR twine (and paint the twine with acrylics)
  • Glue or Contact Cement (I personally prefer cc)
  • Batting/Foam (to pad the chair with)
  • Fabric & Tyvek (to upholster the chair)
  • Stapler
  • Needle & Thread (to match fabric)
  • Acrylic Paints (for detailing)


  • Draw up an approximate size drawing of the seat you want to make, and the size of the back-rest.

  • I cut mine out of paper (I like to judge sizes that way) and then cut them out of foamex.  You can use cardboard (not good for long term use) wood (bass, pine etc),  etc. Whatever you use you want it to be fairly sturdy.


  • Remove the seat/top from whichever chair you’ve decided to use.
  • Drill/dremel/carve out a hole in the seat you’ve made to fit the post at the top of the chair’s base. (This is a good time to also carve out  the slots in the seat back & the back-rest where you’ll be inserting the brass/wire/metal to hold the back rest in place).

  • Check the fit (height wise) for the kind of doll you want to use this with.

  • I cut out batting (using those paper seat & back drafts) and glued it to the plastic. (Do yourself a favor and rough up the plastic or wood to help it adhere) This helps pad the seat and give it a bit more realism. 😛 At some point I’ll really go to town with one of these to see how far I can push them.
  • After the glue/contact cement has dried & you feel you’re happy with the amount of “puff” on the seat & back-rest then comes the fun part—you get to try your hand at upholstering it with your chosen fabric. I’d like to offer some how-to on this but I basically took some books out of the library and went from there. I’m not an upholsterer–and I never will be!! Experiment & prepare to do it over a couple of times until you get it to look right.
  • While you’re taking a break from upholstery you can cut a couple of thin strips of the black aluminum tape and wrap it around the metal you’re planning on using to support the back-rest. If you’re using twine (make sure it’s a small diameter otherwise it’ll look dorky) layer a light coating of contact cement/glue and then wrap the twine tightly. Once that’s dried then apply the acrylics but do not water them down any more than you absolutely have to.
  • Once you’ve upholstered the chair (the seat & the back-rest) insert the metal piece you’re going to use as the support. If you don’t plan on taking the chair apart in the future you can glue them into place.  I like to be able to flat pack my stuff as much as possible so mine aren’t glued in place.
  • To finish off the underside of the chair cut some tyvek and staple it into place (cut out the circle where the plastic base attaches). Paint it black (or whatever color you want, most of my office chairs usually had manky black semi-fabric-fiber there and tyvek seems very similar in texture to me)

And pretty much that’s it. Sit some dolls in them:

ANYHOW….. if anyone gets any use out of this tutorial….let me know, eh? I could use the encouragement.

Cass’s apartment…part 1 * a piecemeal how-to *

Here I am again…I mentioned in the last post that if there was any interest in how I go about putting together a room set or a diorama that I would share my process here on the blog. You’ve said yes, so I’m going to hold to my part of the bargain as much as possible although as it happens somethings probably won’t end up shown *shrug* but that’s how it goes. I will say right now that this isn’t going to be a fast process since it depends a lot on free time, equipment, materials & general mood in being available. It’ll probably be a month or so in the doing.

Also a word of warning: 1) this is what I do. I’m not saying it’s right, nor that it is the only way of doing it. I also take no responsibility for people trying my way of doing things. This process involves sharp scalpel blades, band saws, routers and any number of potentially harmful things.  If you’re a child, you should have your parents help you with it. If you’re an adult then be careful. Always wear eye protection.

(ok PSA finished)

So, what is my first step when it comes to making a room set?

  • For me the first step to it is actually deciding what kind of room set I’m making.

I take into account if it’s for someone in particular or for a specific use: i.e. an office or classroom, or a bedroom.  How often I think I am likely to use it also factors in a lot.  (here space of any sort is at a premium and storage space is next to nil.  So event though I can generally flat-pack room sets they still take up space  and I need them out of the way if they aren’t being used.) I don’t want to duplicate what I have already made unless there’s a really good reason for doing so.

  • When I know that then I can figure out what the dimensions of it are going to be. I’m not the most realistic when it comes to those—since my 1:6 is about fantasy –I tend to give my characters larger than they could probably afford rooms. So sue me! I live vicariously through them at times!  😉

Looking at the project of creating Cass’s Apartment is probably the best way I can go into it without boring the lot of you senseless.

I knew I wanted to make a complete apartment for Cass to use in the Quinlan-Chronicles. I had given a lot of thought as to where the majority of photostory scenes were likely to be shot and they came down to the campus/student lounge, the classroom, Cass’s place, the cafe, and miscellaneous alleyways.

Why make a complete apartment? When I could probably get away with just one or two rooms?

Weeeeeellll…. this comes down to one of my biggest pet peeves: 3 dimensional roomsets that you only ever see from the actual room itself. Yesss….I’m very guilty of it, but hopefully, with the creation of Cass’s apt, I’ll become less guilty of it as I go along! 🙂 I want to be able to shoot scenes in the stories from a wider variety of angles–in the hallway looking into the kitchen or living room or from the patio into the living room… that sort of thing.

*are you bored yet?*

There were a few things I had to decide before drawing up the plans for the room set group:

  1. was it a studio apartment? (no)
  2. Does Cass live alone? (no. She has a roommate whose rent pays for the mortgage)
  3. How many bedrooms does it have? (2–originally I thought 3 but nah, too many!)
  4. Is it a house or an apartment? (It’s an apartment–but a nice one)
  5. Does it have a backdoor or fire exit/escape? (no. it’s the first floor and plenty of windows to crawl out of–or people to break into)
  6. Does it have a backyard? (No, but it has a patio. I wanted a place for some outside scenes)

After I answered those questions I drew up a quick sketch of what I thought the floorplan might be. I’ve got to admit to being somewhat spastic about that, as I actually cut out full size pieces of paper to help me judge if the rooms will be too big/small/just right. Even so, I mess up sometimes 😕

I have to decide the number of rooms (someday, one of them will have a home office), and where and what kind of windows and doors I’ll want in them.

This is a revised  floorplan for the room sets that are in process:

While in the process of coming up with the floor plan, I have to give some thought to design issues, and fixtures that I may want in the room. I haven’t yet had a room with a fireplace in it and I’ve decided that one of those would 1) look good in Cass’s place and 2) add some visual interest to what would otherwise be a pretty bland and boring room.

I also decided that I wanted sliding glass doors to lead to the patio.  This will create some future issues when I want to shoot scenes and say its dark outside. I’ll either need to get better at photoshopping, or I’ll have to devise a shade curtain for the patio area. Possibly also have hanging drapes to cover the windows when not in use or when it’s night-time. (Little details like this I try to figure out as I go along rather than letting them stymie me and keep me from going forward)

Once I know the general dimensions of the rooms, I then have to ask Mark, the keeper of all power tools (in his locked workroom) to either let me use them or use them for me. (This is a step I look forward to cutting out in the future when I have my own power tools and space in which to use them without potentially damaging his workspace) 😉

  • Cut wood into frames for each room set. (this is very similar to cutting stretchers for making a canvas). Once you’ve got all the pieces (and sizes  you need) then you glue them together with wood glue.
  • Before the glue dries add corner braces to the inside corners. This will make them more stable in the long run & we all like that, right???
  • After the woodglue has dried router out a groove in each piece so that you will be able to slot the walls in. (the walls I am using these days are 6mm MDF).
  • Cut the MDF to size for the walls. Generally I do this whenever I have the money handy to actually buy some MDF from the hardware store/B&Q/Home Depot.

(I’m sorry I haven’t got pictures of this part but next time we make bases I’ll shoot pictures)

Keep your eyes peeled for my next Cass’s Apt post. 🙂

Projects a-plenty!Outdoor-sy Goodness *photos!*

Only a quick update: I have started work on the 1:6 patio dio. (forgive the hurried & slightly blurry pics. My free time is somewhat lacking this week)

Seeing this is the first time I’ve really mentioned this project I’ll give you a brief run down on it! 😀

One of the comments I rec’d on my past photostories that has always bothered me, was that my figures never actually seemed to be outside in their sets & photostories. True, I could have done a lot in Adobe PS (and have) but sometimes digitally editing photos is just more hassle than it’s worth. With that fact in mind I didn’t give it much thought–until I started looking at other folks’ “outside” shots and envied. And that of course made me covetous…and then–well, I broke down and decided why not? What have I got to lose? 😉

Some great examples of the outdoors portrayed in 1/6 scale dioramas are here:

Deering Productions:Devil of the Woods (woods scene)

Deering Productions: suburban scene

And for non-cultivated outdoors, nifty temples, and spooky crypts: Mick Baltes website

Backyard/ Garden example — Amithi: Der Hotel-Garten

So after some thought (and a lucky buy on fee-bay) I’m ready to give it a go. I’m not aiming for anything fancy. Yet . Just a simple “backyard patio” for the occasional cook-out or drinks scene.

How it boils down at the moment:

  • Scored 6  1-ft sq slate tiles & some smaller pieces of marble tiling. These are going to be attached to the board (once I get the cement, that is). Nope. I like the small 40mmx40 mm mosaic pieces so I am going to search for some more of those. They’d be more accurate for 1:6 scale flooring.
  • Over the weekend I picked up some “weatherproof” plywood which I am planning on using for the base. On Sunday (after all the stores shut at 4pm) I realized we didn’t have any tile cement…So that’s on the list of things to pick up at B&Q.
  • Picked up a battery operated “desk”fountain at Woolworth’s for £5.00. This will need an overhaul & reconstruction. When I’m done with it I want it to resemble a more realistic fountain/contained waterfall.

desk top fountain

It looked like that (the box above) before I took it apart.

Now it looks a bit more like this:

You can see the very small pump

Here’s a close up of the pump–note the tiny intake port! (I’ll have to put very fine mesh over this if I do decide I want some sand in the fountain)

Things to take into consideration:

  • The back garden is very small due to the fact Mark’s workshop (aka the shed) takes up the majority of what is already a small space. This means working room/photographing room is limited. I’d originally thought of setting it up permanently but realized that wasn’t feasible.
  • The weight of the slate tiles is considerable. They’ll only get heavier when i add on the marble side/accent tiles.
  • In order to facilitate easy usage & access I will mount the tiles onto a base (weatherproof plywood) which means when it isn’t in use it can be propped against the fence & covered with a tarp.
  • I will need to disassemble the small table and bring it downstairs for when I want to take shots of the diorama scene. I’ll need to keep my eye out for a better replacement. Also note that the table/diorama can’t be left set up full time since Max & Pudge could use it to springboard over the wall & onto the canal bank or into Elaine’s garden.
  • What to use for foliage? I have some small benjamin fig saplings that may work for some of it. But the rest I’ll have to keep an eye out for–plastic or real plants.
  • Figure out what kind of resin/glue/sculpting medium to make the “waterfall” rocks out of. Whatever I choose needs to be waterproof/paint-able.

Here’s the 1:6 table & chair patio set off fee-bay a while back. (excuse the hurried photo) The chairs are slightly oversize, but otherwise pretty cool. That will need a new table top cut for it (either glass or plexi) and I need to hammer out the top supports a little since the table is now more oval-and lopsided–than round.

I’ll update as the project progresses!

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