Sunday, November 25, 2012

Japanese System Kitchen - I've hit a wall...

I have been working on the system kitchen, but I've been having some difficulty. The sink. I want the counter and sink to look like one piece of molded metal. The counter came out to my satisfaction, but the sink has not.

I built the thing out of wood and thought my typical gesso-sand-repeat routine would get it smooth enough for spray painting. That's the same thing I did with the counter, so it should've worked. Well, it didn't. I can't get to the tiny curves to sand smooth. I don't want ridges, so this is absolutely unacceptable. I tried a jelly container initially, but they must be making them with really crappy plastic now because the plastic kind of melted with spray painting. (I have used the jelly containers in the past even spray painting them, and it worked well.)

See those awful interior joints? I want smooooooth.

The only thing I've been able to come up with is looking for someone to actually mold the little sink for me in plastic or metal. It would still need to be painted to match the counter. Maybe I just need to look into resin casting...?

If anyone out there has the inclination to post a suggestion, I would greatly welcome it.

The Dollar Tree

A while back, there was a thread on The Camp about these tiny jars that came with nail decorations at the Dollar Tree. I cruised by one day and to pick some up. Eight dollars later, I walked out the door with more than tiny glass jars. 

My finds:
1. Block of floral foam for mini plants
2. Package of 10 rectangular plastic containers (appx. 1.5" x 2" x 1.25") for storing tiny  
3. 8 tiny glass bottles containing nail glitter
4. 2 rolls of white crepe paper
5. A 1" scale wooden sideboard 
6. Tissues on 3" cube boxes - not 1" scale, but too cute to pass up
7. Spearmint gum
8. Snack-size zipper bags printed with Disney fairies  

So #6 - 8 have little to do with minis, but 1 through 5 got my juices flowing. See below:

The sheep are weird, I know, but the rug is a test print and needed weighing down. They worked with the color scheme...
The sideboard became a sofa table following a little sanding work and a coat of Martha Stewart's Satin Acrylic Craft Paint in Cloud. 

Rose 1

Rose 2

The crepe paper became roses inspired by Christine-Lea Frisoni's Le Grande Livre De La Maison Miniature. I can't read French, so I guessed at the method and painted my crepe paper with a watercolor wash heavy on the white paint. The leaves - I'm excited to say - are cut with the Silhouette Cameo. For anyone out there wondering about this application for the Cameo, I sent a 3" x 4" sheet of green paper through, but only about 50% of the leaves came out. I'm still pleased...

The tissues are gone, the gum is gone, and I'm still working on the zipper bags. I have yet to use the floral foam, but the plastic containers are still holding more petals punched for more roses. It was so much fun getting those bargains. I think only other miniaturists would understand the feeling. As for any more glass jars, I've gone back several times since, but they've been out of stock. I'll probably keep looking... Maybe I'll find something else even better...

Side note:
The tiny framed newspaper in the background is an actual printed paper written and hand-printed by my boyfriend's baby sister. (Alex made the double-sided frame.) She's a print-making student at RISD, and she's amazingly talented. The text is really funny to read, too. If you'd like to see some of her other work and be delighted by her unique style, check out her site: .

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Let's see what this puppy can do...

Hello All,

This week, I had a deadline at work so I pretty much only had time to eat, sleep (a little), work, or think about work. Busy is good for an architecture firm - especially considering the brutal past few years. Things are really getting better in the building industry.

With my first paycheck from my new job, I bought a Silhouette Cameo. (This is an electronic cutting machine similar to the Cricut. However, for the Cricut, you have to buy pre-designed cutting files in really expensive cartridges. (I think something like $40...?) The Silhouette comes with software that allows you to create your own designs. There is also an online store where you can buy individual designs for about a dollar each. I considered buying a Cricut because at one time you could hack the machine and make your own files, but Provo Craft put an end to that pretty much as soon as they figured out people could do it. I bought the Silhouette because this machine allows me to design my own cutting files. I don't scrapbook and I wanted to use this for miniatures. For more information about the machine:

So this is essentially a very expensive experiment to see what this puppy can do for my mini's habit... A lot of inspiration for using this machine for miniatures came from Kris Compas's matboard projects. The maximum thickness the machine can cut is cardstock - so no matboard. BUT the automation of cutting allows me to cut 20, 40, 50 layers of cardstock to be glued together. The additional effort required to glued together the layers seems worth it for the precision of the pieces.

The fist project I tried was Kris Compas's gumball machine basket. I created the cutting file in a drafting program based on the template Kris provided in her tutorial and did some file hocus pocus to make it a .svg file for the Silhouette. Then, I just send it to the Silhouette and cut as many as I need.
I had to do some tweaking in converting Kris's hand-drawn/drafted template to a digital line drawing due to pencil line thickness.  The cut "star-bursts" in the picture are not the version I used for the basket in the picture, but they represent an approximation of the pieces I used for the partial basket on the form. These star-bursts were then stained per Kris's tutorial, and I can now finish the project exactly following her instructions. The 1/8" strips in the background were also cut with the machine. I'm not finished - obviously - but I started with some very crisp and precise pieces. I have the file made, so I can cut as many as I like at any scale that fits on a 12"x12" piece of paper.
The next project I tried was Kris's occasional table. My version is a little less round - more elliptical - than hers. I imported the template file she so generously provides in her tutorial into my drafting program, traced over it, tweaked it to my preferences, and did the previously-mentioned file hocus pocus. (I may do a post on this process once I get it streamlined.) Then, I cut something like 10 - 20 of each piece. These got glued together with wood glue and dried under a couple of heavy books. I did a few at a time over several days. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there... Next, I did my gesso-sand-gesso-sand-repeat routine. That's where I am in the process now.

I'm not satisfied yet with the smoothness, so I think I have a couple more rounds of sanding to go. The next image shows a dry-fit of the pieces.

Unstable like a wee colt with knobby knees...
There is no glue holding it together, so it's pretty unstable without the little shelf in it. The next thing I need to do is cut some notches in the shelf for the legs. The biggest benefit with this project is that the curves on all the pieces were consistent and precise. A big challenge I'm facing is the edges of the pieces. I was really, really careful gluing the layers together, but the ridges of 10 pieces of cardstock are still evident after a lot of sanding. That part is labor-intensive, but I got a really smooth finish with the same process on my system kitchen, so I'm confident that this can be overcome.
Another that I'm working on is Kris's ewerware pitcher.
Here's the bowl of the pitcher gessoed and sanded. I might do another round...

Here are a few other images of tests:
Here's a little box I made from a purchased cut file and scaled down. You can scale all the cut files in the Silhouette. You will need to take into account paper thickness when making scaled boxes with lids. Learned that the hard way...
These are actually the negative of a lace cut file that came with the Silhouette software. They are a little big, but I think they would work for some plants.  Which ones? I don't know, but I'm saving them... The Silhouette can actually cut smaller than this, but I haven't photographed them yet.

So this was a long post, but I hope that it is informative for miniaturists. While I'm still working on these projects, it has been super-fun testing them. I know I'm barely scratching the surface of what the Silhouette can do. I hope my followers can post some ideas, and time permitting, I'll do some posts on them. I take requests!

Final note:
I have to thank Kris Compas for allowing me to post about her projects. Her blog is one of the things that gets my creative juices flowing. If you haven't seen it, GO! If four links to her blog is not enough, here's another:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's been a while...

I wish that I had not let so many months go by without a post, but I have a good excuse. I now have a real, full-time job in my field. I've been busy, but I'm getting an income and things are considerably less scarier than they were.

I have been making things, but I haven't finished much to show. Here are a couple of little projects I've completed.
Alex colored the paper an cut the petals on this one. I made the leaves and assembled the rest. I'm lucky that my partner is so encouraging of my obsession/hobby that even he gets into it occasionally.

These are the tulips I started a while ago. The bucket was made with my new Cameo Silhouette machine. I scaled a bucket cupcake holder and assembled it. I used silver spray paint. It turned out a little mottled, but that's good if it's a galvanized bucket.
 I have adapted a project by Kris Compas from 1 Inch Minis for my Silhouette machine. Details to come soon... I'm still in the sanding and gessoing process, but it has been an interesting experiment. I'm anxious to share what the Silhouette can do with the miniatures community. 

So off to bed at 9:30 pm... I have 9 hour days Monday through Thursday and a half day on Fridays (most of the time). I hope to have some minis time this weekend. I hope all my followers are well. Thanks for reading this if you're still with me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Alex has gotten creative lately. I had to share.

This image is from:

It's amazing what you can do with a black t-shirt, a blue leash, and a puggle. Don't you think?

Some other things I've made lately...

 I said that I had been productive! Here's some more evidence:

Tulips. I love tulips, so I made all of these. Now, I have no idea of what kind of arrangement to put them in. These flower projects have been my first attempts at mini flower-making.
The pink tulip is a joint effort with my boyfriend. The petals have some color variation made possible with tissue paper and Prismacolor markers. The carnations are made of the same, but the marker was just touched to the ends of the petals.

This image shows one of the free printables from Join the newsletter and you're emailed a link for a free printable each month.
A little off topic... This is a real coconut cake I made with Key West coconut when I was visiting my boyfriend's parents in May. I love to bake for Alex's mom because she really appreciates the effort. It's one of the reasons I try to improve my baking.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Hello to my 8 followers out there! Although I just started this blogging thing, it was very exciting when I was notified that I had a new follower - each of you, even my family. :) SO... Hello to Daphne, Beany, Catherine, Mieke, Minnie Kitchen, Jenn, Ben, and Alex!

I've been looking for jobs and working on minis to keep my spirits up. Unfortunately, my productivity has escaped documentation. This is a bit of a long one...

Firstly, I have been working on the Japanese system kitchen. While the original is a sort of off-white color, I wanted the unit to be blue to match some paper I'll be using in the kitchen. After tons of sanding, I was able to paint it with Krylon gloss spray paint in "Blue Ocean Breeze." I taped off the drawers and sink cabinet so their insides would be gloss white. The white was painted in another step. The taping didn't work perfectly. There were some leaks and wobbly paint edges, but I'm satisfied for the most part. I bought a piece of scrapbook paper a while ago with multiple shapes of different yet coordinating patterns. Among these was the check paper I will be using as drawer liners. I had about a 2.5"x4" piece of the original, which covered the bottom of one drawer and the cabinet. I scanned it to make a piece for the other drawer. I think I'll be printing some on fabric later for tea towels, curtains, or something...

The whole kit and caboodle. The door is not hinged yet, but is attached via the magnets I installed in the cabinet and doors.

The handles are 3 staples still stuck to each other. They were painted with chrome spray paint in the fastest painting project in the history of the Earth. I'm quite chuffed about the color combination.

This image shows the handle better.
 The next few images show my sink progress. I had a plastic jelly container from a restaurant previously. I don't know if it's me or what, but the containers seem to be much thinner than years ago. When I spray painted it, the thing got all misshapen and warped. It never really dried either. SO... Plan B... One of my favorite, favorite bloggers - Brae at - made a sink for her Newport with balsa and painted it with some glossy paint. It looked pretty good, so I'm using a variation of that idea. Mine is made of basswood because I have a programmed prejudice of balsa from architecture training. Brae talks about some practical and very valid uses for balsa on her blog that are surprising to me. This is mainly, I think, because I've never heard anyone say anything positive about balsa. I digress... The sink surround is basswood with a center cutout and shaped edges. I plan to eventually spray it attached to the counter so it looks like it is one piece of metal. We'll see how that goes... Until that stage, I've painted it a thousand times with gesso. This is in the process of painting and sanding to get some rounded corners and edges.
I forgot to take pictures before I started painting, but the structure is just a bass wood box with a rectangle piece of wood for the surround.

I pre-poked the drain hole.

Lots of gesso... I'm still doing the gesso-sand-gesso-repeat thing.
 On the side, I've been working on some smaller projects. I bought a couple of kits from Carol Kubrican of True2Scale ( at a show here in Orlando. One was the "French Blue Pillows" and the other was the "Marigold Flower in a Milk Carton." They were both excellent kits - very precise and high quality final products. Easy too... My only criticism is the fabric for the pillows is really thick. This does not impact it aesthetically at all. However, these need to be stitched with really small stitches, and I didn't want to use a big needle. I used the tiniest I had without a thimble. I can't sew in a thimble... As a result, my finger was really irritated following. This is really my problem. Also, I couldn't use pins to hold the pillow panels together because it left holes in the fabric. As you can see, the kit goes together fine even with these difficulties. These are not any reasons to prevent one from buying the pillow kit. All in all... Pillow Kit: A-.
French Blue Pillows kit from True2Scale
As for the marigold kit, I'm super happy with the result. I used Prismacolor markers instead of paint. These are alcohol-based, I think. They bleed a lot, so I just used one swipe, and the ink soaked through the papers. My genius boyfriend suggested adding color variation with colored pencil. It turned out quite well, if I might say so myself. Once again, I'm quite chuffed. Marigold kit: A+
True2Scale Marigold in a Milk Carton kit = chuffed

One day, I'd love to get my hands on a laser cutter. I think I could do some serious damage with one of those... Until then, I plan to get some more True2Scale kits in the future. When I spoke to Carol at the show, she referred me to to see a red version of the flower. At that point, I had bookmarked, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it at all. I looked it up when I got home, and I was so hooked. Brae's work has inspired me in a way I can't really express. I have Carol Kubrican to thank for this discovery. Thank you infinity! 

I just have to say that my favorite miniaturists are: Joanne Swanson (, Kris Compas (, and Brae Oktober. I check their blogs obsessively. Few things make me happier than a new post by any of the three. I've probably posted their blog addresses before, but these are must-visit sites.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Japanese System Kitchen - progress report

I don't really have much inspiration for writing an eloquent post, so I'm taking a new approach and doing a mock progress report form for when I have blogger's block. Bear with me...

Project Progress Report

Project: Japanese system kitchen
Location: 2-room Japanese house

Re-ment system kitchen
Tokyo, A Certain Style by Kyoichi Tsuzuki (Chronicle Books) for lots of images of real system kitchens in Japan and the original inspiration for the 2-room Japanese house by Kris Compas for mat board and painting methods by Brae Oktober for inspiring me with her craft and rigor in which she executes her miniatures projects
Joann Swanson of, because anyone who likes to make their own miniatures has been influenced - directly or indirectly (Maybe I should change the name of this blog to something along the lines of "Ode to Joann"... What can I say? I'm a fan.)

Summary of recent work:
 I've been sanding, gesso-ing, and again to get to this stage in the construction of my system kitchen. In order to get the smooth metal finish characteristic of the kitchen unit with mat board, I've had to do this process about 5 times.

Here, you can see the final gesso coat sanded. I'm adding a drain pipe under the sink that will be seen when the cabinet doors are open. This image shows a grommet that was super-glued from the top in the position of the pipe. The cavity beneath the sink but above the cabinets will not be seen or accessible in the finished piece. The broiler is yet to be built, but the interior will probably not be visible and be painted black.

This image shows the counter top just resting on the cabinet base. About a GA-zillion coats of gesso with lots of sanding in between lie beneath the aluminum spray paint.

These are the drawers with the hardware holes marked and cut. By the way, all these images show the final gesso coat. The painted finish is yet to be... well, finished.

This is another image of the drawers. The hardware will be made of staples - 3 before they are broken apart for each handle.

The closing mechanism of the cabinet doors has been quite a challenge. Because I wanted the doors and drawers to open, I've had to do some weird stuff. I cut holes in the back of the face panel of the cabinets to insert some tiny, super-strong magnets. (I should've photographed them, but I barreled ahead without documenting...) On the back side of the cabinet doors themselves, I cut/gouged out some little cavities for snippets of staples to hold the doors closed. These have since been gesso-ed over and sanded multiple times.

Lessons Learned:
Making mat board look like metal is hard. It takes lots of labor to get a smooth finish for spray painting. Until I do the final spray painting, I won't know if it was worth it. However, other than the repetitive steps, it will be worth it for the ease of cutting the material, accessibility of material, and low cost.

Here's a picture of a credenza that was finished in a workshop by Judy Kincade (at the IMA show in New Orleans). I got the glass jars from Ron's Miniatures in Orlando, Florida for my recent birthday. The soaps are beads from a bead shop in Sarasota and the tiny shells are those collected for me by my boyfriend on our many trips to the beaches here in Florida. the clock, mirror, and porcelain jar are from a Reutter Porcelain set that I received as a gift for renewing either American Miniaturist or Dollhouse Miniatures.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Best Miniature Shop in the WORLD

The pictures in this post are from August of 2010, but as the title of this post implies, the content merits a belated post....

In July of 2010, I was able to fulfill a life-long dream and got to go to Japan. Typical of any miniaturist, I had to find a shop to visit while I was there. With the help of my boyfriend's mother - who is from Tokyo - we found TYA Kitchen. My boyfriend and I call TYA Kitchen the best miniature shop in the world. Let me tell you why...

TYA Kitchen is located in Tokyo's Arakawa ward. While the shop carries work from other Japanese artists, metal work by Kawai Yukio-san and tiny food by Kawai Asako-san are the showcase. (I'm so sorry but I don't remember his wife's name, but when I find it, I will edit this post.) Not only is the quality outstanding, but these people exhibited the legendary politeness and generosity of the Japanese people. They allowed myself and the 6 other people I was with invade their tiny shop. They showed me their workshop and how to use the tiny food molds that I bought. That summer, Tokyo experienced a serious heat wave, so I look awful in the pictures because of the resulting sweaty-ness. We were given cold mugi-cha - which is a roasted barley tea that cures hotness like nothing else I've experienced - and cookies while we shopped. 
This is the storefront. I hope this helps you find it.

I am ecstatic...sweaty, but ecstatic.

Tiny Restaurant

Tiny Food by Asako Kawai-san
This booth shows more of the metal work done by Kawai Yukio-san.

Kawai Yukio-san, metal works artist, doing a demonstration for a bunch of gaijin.

This is a structure they had on display.

Kawai Yukio, center, and Kawai Asako, left. I will find out her name...

This is a pot he was working on when we were there.

I bought this cake because it had musk melon - a melon we can't get in the U.S. - on it. It's the little yellowish-green sliver with a green/white rind on the left side. The pan from the previous picture, a strainer, and white metal plate also made by Yukio Kawai is in the background.

This is a better picture.

Here are some of the things I bought from TYA (left to right, back to front): blue canisters, green scale, watering can, metal spatula, tin can, pot with lid, white metal plate (other white metal pieces, not pictured), plastic take-out containers, and blue kettle. The cheese on the plate is not from TYA; I have no idea why I took a picture with it...

We left waving and bowing and were totally overwhelmed with the kindness of TYA Kitchen.

I ended up spending a lot more money than I should have, but all of the pieces were of the best quality and I was more than happy to support such nice, talented people. I'll never forget my visit there; I hope to go again the next time I go to Tokyo. If anyone out there wants to go - and you should - here is the address and website info:

TYA Kitchen
5-13-2 Nishiogu Arakawaku Tokyo
116-0011 Japan

The thing with finding places in Tokyo...well, it's tricky. I had the benefit of a native Japanese-speaker who grew up in Tokyo guiding me, so I just followed. However, police stationed at koban - police boxes - can help you. Most Japanese have working knowledge of English. Learn as much Japanese as you can before you go and don't be afraid to use it. The effort is appreciated there. Attempting to speak Japanese seemed to break the ice, and you end up communicating with both Japanese and English.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Random Thought

In the previous post, I mentioned grab bags from miniature shows. I'm a sucker for them, and I tend to be disappointed with them more often than not. Has anyone ever noticed the interesting smells of miniatures grab bags? It's a mix of the "old" smell, potpourri, and dust. I suppose that is what all of our craft stashes smell like. It's funny how I focus on the visual and tactile characteristics of minis, and I forget about the aromatic dimension. It's a very powerful sense that is neglected a lot, I think. I must be wrong. Is there anyone out there that includes scent in their miniatures? Is Jane Freeman one of those miniaturists? I've only seen pictures. Has anyone experienced the "grab bag smell"? Blogs have now created an outlet for those weird thoughts that probably should have stayed quiet in my head.

Plant Rack and Some Other Things

Although I've never had much interest in plants, I have acquired a lot of plant/garden paraphernalia from grab bags and the like. I got a mystery kit for a potting bench in one of those bags and altered it a little. I'm a big fan of using terracotta pots for shelf risers in real life, so that made its way into my minis. I've been collecting a lot of plants from Clara's Cuties, but didn't have a place for them. Today, I finished a plant rack from Joann Swanson's potting bench project (June 2011 post). In an effort to refrain from gushing about how great Joann Swanson is, I will show you my pictures right away.

Here are some other minis I've made. This is a box kit from Tom Walden. I haven't finished the wood, but I sanded it per the directions. The wood is so smooth and the kit went together easily. If you ever run across his kits, I highly recommend them.

The next image shows potatoes with eyes...literally. This is from a Kiva Atkinson project in American Miniaturist a while ago. I've arranged them in a bowl by Jason Feltrope that I bought at the Independent Miniature Artisans 2011 Show and Sale. I had never encountered his work before, but having experience making ceramics, I am awed a his eggshell-thin pieces. Even better, they were affordable for me. 
The pictures aren't great, but maybe my photography skill will improve along with this blog.  I've really enjoyed making these things and sharing them. It takes my mind off of a sometimes depressing job search, and considering this is a non-chemical method, that says a lot. :) Viva la minis!