DIY Doll House Floor

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You can easily make this pink and white marble floor for your doll photography or for a dollhouse floor.  I’ve pick a pattern I saw in a magazine, but you can google marble floors and find ultra fabulous patterns that can make you crazy looking at them.  They’re not that hard to figure out and since there are no rules…..you can’t go far wrong.

Start with your materials.  I’ve chosen a large piece of pink poster board which will serve as the base for the tiles and will show through as my “grout”.  Honestly, it’s a pink grout floor, but that didn’t have the zing that “pink marble floor” has, and I was going for subtle pink.  Also shown below (click on any photo to enlarge), are a couple of pieces of white poster board and some darker pink wall paper which will be used as accent tiles for this floor.  Some of the white poster board has already been cut into small rectangles which will be my white slate/marble tiles.

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I started by drawing a very very very light pencil line on a diagonal across the pink board as a guide line to get started.  All you have to do is start placing the white marble tiles on the pink board with a touch of glue.  You don’t have to be perfect.  I only made the one guideline and eyeballed it from there, but do whatever you have to do to keep things in line and fairly square.

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Keep adding more of the white tiles.  Below, you can also see that I’ve cut up the piece of wallpaper into small accent tiles.  You will have to figure out the scale of your floor to suit your needs at the start of the project.  I wanted pink “grout” to also show around the little accent tiles, so they were cut with that in mind.  Paste them in just like the big tiles.

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Here’s a close look at the finished product and then a photo of the whole scene.  You might notice that the accent tiles are made from the same wallpaper as the wall.  These kinds of touches are fun to make and can add so much visual appeal to your doll photography or dollhouse.  The garden door in the last photo is fun to make and you can learn how here.   Hope you like it.  Thanks for looking.  Ask questions if you have any.  Best Wishes, Melanie

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Doll Accessories, My Garden Door View

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Dolls can only look at walls for so long before they go bonkers.  Yes, they like art & books, but a great view is a lovely thing.  Creating a door or window will add a lot of depth and ambiance to your doll photography.  It also just makes it more fun to appreciate them when you see them in a space as lovely as they are.

Making a door or window with a view is easy.  I’ve used wood in this case….because I can.  I’m a tool girl and playing with my bandsaw is just too much fun to pass up, but you can simply substitute poster board or foam board.

First I decided on the scale, which in this case is 1/3 so it will go with my bookcase.  The first photo below (click on any photo to enlarge) shows my pattern, which was cut from heavy paper.  You can see that I’ve planned for the door and the surrounding moulding.

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Next, I mark the pattern onto my wood.  Even if you’re doing a version using poster board or foam board, play it safe and make a pattern first.  It might save you a trip to the store to purchase more materials when you realize you’d really like it a bit bigger or smaller or wider or whatever.

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Here’s my finished cuts ready for spray paint.  Just in case you’re wondering, I cut my trim parts in two pieces because it’s less wasteful of my wood.  If you’re doing the poster board version you can do it in one nice sweeping arch.  Of course you can make a rectangular garden door also, but I just love the elegance of an arch.

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This next photo shows the painted door and trim in off-white satin finish spray paint.  The beauty of using poster board is that you can simply pick the color you want and skip the painting step.  We’re looking at the back side of the door and you can see my staples holding everything in place.  You’re also looking at the back side of the photo of my garden, which was enlarged in photoshop (in sections) and taped together to get it that large.  Remember I mentioned that this is 1/3 scale (SD or 24″ size dolls), so the total height of the door is 27 inches.  The photo is 22″ tall, which is just enough to cover the needed area.  I simply taped the photo to the door from the back side and when you turn it over, voila!, you have a fabulous view.

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The last part is putting the hardware on to give it authenticity.  What you’re seeing below is a piece of green poster board which I used to hold my door hardware before I spray painted it with an old can of gold paint in a hammered metal look.  Love using up old cans of paint.  You can see four little pieces of wood that will make my door hinges.  They are  little wooden skewers bought at the grocery store and cut into one inch pieces.  You know, the kind you put veggies or meat on so they don’t fall through the grill as you BB-Que them.  Place them on a piece of masking tape, with the sticky side up.  This holds them in place while sprayed them.  Otherwise they’d have flow off from the power of the spray can.  The two brown circle looking items are the door knobs, which are large decorative nails I use in my upholstery business.  They worked fantastic, but you could just cut circles and add several small layers of poster board behind them to lift them off the surface and create the illusion of depth.  You could also make nice door knobs out of polymer clay. The little white paper shapes are my door knob plates, which are just poster board cut to a decorative shape and painted.  Pretty cute, huh?

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Here’s one of the many photos I’ve taken of this door.  The finished product is so easy.  You can make it in any size you want.  You could take a picture of yourself (or one of your dolls) looking in the window just for fun…..or your cat peering in….or aliens.  Whatever you like.  This is my garden just outside my dining room doors and the path I laid out of local antique brick and all the plants I planted…..cause I’m a DIY girl and don’t know when to stop.  ;o}    I think the wall looks better with more contrast between the door trim and the wall, but…..

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As an added bonus, here’s my latest view for my new modern furniture.  I wanted city girls to have appropriate views of their world.  It’s using the same techniques.  You can instantly create a fun space for your dolls or your stuff.  If you have smaller dolls you could set this up on the shelf of a bookcase, adding depth and interest.  See how I did the brick wall for these photos here.

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Please feel free to ask questions and thank you for looking.  Hope you liked it.

Art Nouveau Inspired Doll Screen

The fabrics were actually the first inspiration.  I love these colors together, but only had a very small amount of each.  Art Nouveau art and architecture inspired the shape of this screen for 18 inch dolls.  It’s sized so that a ball jointed doll can stand behind it with head and shoulders, and calves and feet showing.  Of course, it’s also great as a room decoration or vanity table adornment.

First, that Art Nouveau shape had to be imagined and then drawn on heavy paper to use as a pattern.  In the next photo you can see the paper patterns and the finished shapes cut from plywood.  You can also see the smaller crescent shaped pattern pieces for the fabric adornments (the orangy fabric with the dots) which is attached at the top and bottom of the screen.   All of the crescent shapes for the adornments were cut from poster board.

Next, I applied a very thin layer of dacron batting to the “back” side and stretched the silk over it, attaching it to the edge with hot glue.  In this photo, you’re looking at the “front” side, but you can see the cuts in the silk which were necessary for the fabric to pull smoothly over the curves at the bottom of the screen.

Applying silk fabric to one side

Then, the main fabric was applied to the front of each of the three pieces. I didn’t bother to take it over the edge at the top and bottom because the adornment fabric will cover that.   You can see that I attached this fabric around the edge on the straight side of the two very outside edges (on the small side panels), but only about half way across the 1/2 inch width of the wood.   Trim will cover the raw edges of the fabric.  The exception to this is along the sides where the hinges are applied.  I carefully turned the fabric under and glued it into place.  You don’t want too much fabric or trim under the hinges because the screws won’t reach through a thick layer.

Now is the time to add the adornments to the top and bottom.  Remember those extra crescent shaped pieces in the second photo?  In this shot, you’re looking at the back side (the side which will touch the wood) of the one that goes across the top.  I make more of the little slits which allow the fabric to move through the curve and then hot glued them to the cardboard pattern across the bottom edge.

Unfortunately ;o(  I don’t have a picture of the next step, but you can figure it out.  Simply flip it over and line up the top edge of the cardboard pattern with the wood.  Lay the fabric back and staple the cardboard to the wood.  Be sure to staple down close the the bottom of the curve where the hot glue is holding the fabric on.  OR if you don’t have a stapler, you can put hot glue along the bottom edge and carefully place it to aline with the top of the wood and press until the glue dries.  This gives you a nice finished edge on the adornments where they meet the main fabric.

Do this same process on the bottom curved adornment, attaching enough fabric to also cover the legs.   Then, add a little bit of padding to the cardboard surface (and legs) and stretch the fabric over it and around the  edge of the screen.  Make sure to trim it closely and carefully so the raw edges can be covered  with decorative trim at the end.  You can see that I’ve hot glued a pretty decorative trim around to cover the raw edges, stopping at the edge of the adornment fabric.  This is where the hinges are applied, and if you remember, we turned the fabric under here so it’s already finished.   

I added a tiny ornate metal picture frame to the back and put a photo of my three dolls in it.

There you have it.  Not a project for a beginner, but you should be able to pull ideas and techniques from this to apply to simpler projects with simpler shapes. I hope you enjoyed getting an look at how I do this kind of stuff.  Please comment if you have questions and I’m happy to help.  This item will be posted for sale in my Etsy shop.  Cheers!

My Books

As much as I really like electronic media, I also love books.  The books on my library shelves are just props.  You can certainly find amazing tiny books on the internet to use with your dolls, but since I frequently have scraps of leather, fabric and wood from my upholstery business, the best way I’ve found to recycle or upcycle is to turn them into stuff to fill my bookcases.  My intention was to create the illusion of books.  Plywood is my favorite, since it has layers that looks more like pages than regular wood, but I use both.  Here’s a edge view of one.  All photos can be clicked to enlarge

Sometimes I paint the edges white or gold, which is common in the book binding industry.  Also adding images, lettering or decoration to the spines is a lot of fun.  You can see my collection of BJD Encyclopedias made out of teal leather in many, if not most, of my photos.   Linen-like fabric makes nice books and you can write on the spine with permanent markers.

Working with wood is easy for me, but because most doll owners don’t have the tools I have, I thought I’d show another option.  Using foam board scraps from my black and white floor, doll sized books are very easy.  Scale your books to fit your dolls.  I have two sizes, depending on the size of the furniture I’m photographing.

For the purposes of this post, I cut out four 1/8th inch pieces of foam board and glued them into two pairs.  Cutting the foam board is done with an exacto knife and a metal straight edge ruler.

Next, a piece of leather, cut to fit, is glued with hot glue to one side. I let the cover be ever so slightly larger than the “pages”, just like real books.

Here you see me holding the leather on the spine while the glue cools. You want the glue to bond well to the entire length of the spine.

Now I finish the other side and then trim it.  It’s easy to trim after glueing, but I frequently cut everything out before starting a batch of books.

You could also leave all four sections loose and have a book that opens in three places, but the glue does tend to separate at the spine as you open the book.  A fun way to cover the unattractive separation at the spine (if that’s important to you) is to add paper pages…..or you could make a whole book of paper pages….but that’s a lot of work for a prop.

I told Tracie I’d written her biography, which she just loved…..she’s had a most interesting life…and you can see how pleased she is with it.  She keeps it with her when she’s not modeling.

If you look closely you can see personal items on my bookshelf.  Here’s a couple of close ups which include a little distressed frame with a butterfly print and a photo of myself as an infant in my great Aunts arms, with my brother on the left.  To the right of that photo (second one below) you’ll see books covered in rattan I took from a small rattan sample book one of my designers gave me.

The books with printed titles are the name of that particular color of leather which was stamped on these particular samples.   The names can be pretty funny so I cut them out and glued them to the spine.  From a distance they just look like titles. Enlarge either photo above, especially the top one, and you’ll see what I mean.

Since most people don’t have access to sample books, try Tandy Leather if there’s one in your area.  They frequently have small bits of leftovers for sale, or instead of getting rid of that old leather purse that’s so worn out you’re embarrassed to use it, upcycle it into vintage doll books.  Making some books to stack around as props in your photos can be a lot of fun, and who knows, perhaps your dolls will take up reading like mine.  Oh no!  Then you’d have to make them a lamp so they don’t strain their beautiful eyes.  ;o)

My Photography…..so far, Pt.1

A friend and patron from Etsy, Mustangridergirl, asked a great question:

First of all, I’m only a professional upholsterer.  I am definitely not a professional photographer and do not have professional photographic equipment, nor studied theater in school or learn about set design.  This all got started because I had to photograph my furniture for the Etsy shop.  Check out “sales” at my shop and you can see my progression, not only in my furniture, but in my photography.  (click on any photo to enlarge)

So, this post is a behind the scenes look at my current photographic technique.  Should I study lighting?  Of course.  Do I currently have the time or inclination….not really.  Am I interested in spending tons of money on professional lighting and then having to find a place to store it when not in use?…..yeah, right.  Sound familiar?  Does this describe you?  I think I’m very much like any doll owner/enthusiast, making the most of what I have or can create.  I’m a DIY kind of girl and can’t even remember the name brand of the camera I’m using.

I don’t think it’s about the camera.  Most people now acknowledge that camera phones are on par with many available cameras.  I don’t use my phone for the dolls and furniture, but you get the idea…. just trying to make the most of what you have. Thankfully, my camera has a rechargeable battery.   I never never ever ever use a flash.   Holding my finger on the flash as I start the camera keeps it from popping up, and I ignore all prompts and flashing messages telling me I need more light.  The lights in my shop are fluorescent….yes!….fluorescent lights!  It’s been a workshop long before it became a posh environment for dolls. ;o)

The cutting table is directly behind the chair sitting on the upholstery horses…..waiting for me to quit playing with dolls and re-upholsterer it.

Floors and walls stacked neatly out of the way under the currently cluttered cutting table.

My shop is a 10 ft x 18 ft space.  The cutting table sits next to one of two west facing windows, although the huge Burr Oak tree just outside, shades most of the direct light.  My fully lit photos, like this fun take on the board game Clue (below), are photographed using only those two overhead lights, and I almost never adjust it later in Photoshop.   The only extra work done on this shot was to crop it.  In hindsight, I would have liked a little more atmosphere in this shot, but hey!, “me and the girls was just havin’ a little fun, ya know”, and crime should be exposed.  I amuse myself.

Miss Scarlett….in the library…..with…..the copper pipe?

Lately, I’ve started using a large white piece of foam board to deflect the light up to the ceiling and get a more subtle atmosphere, and have been known to drape fabric over the fluorescent closest to the table in order to affect the quality of the light.   Shifting  the whole scene to angle it towards the window, gives me a little less angled more direct natural light.    And if it’s atmosphere you’re looking for, I can’t say enough about making your own lamps.  It’s fun, easy and does double duty as a light source and a decorative prop.

This photo (above) was taken with the overhead lights turned off, only the two windows letting in a little bit of indirect natural light, and my doll lamp creating added  effect.  Strong late afternoon light gave it the feeling of dusk.  I left the scene lined up with the table (instead of angling toward the window) which gives the illusion that my dolls house indeed has a large grand window on the wall not shown in the photo.

The next one has only the light from the window.  I love that moment when the day is getting to dusk and you know if you don’t turn on a light now….if you wait any longer…. it will be very harsh when you finally do.  I always use “Auto Focus” on my camera, letting it do what it does best.  It’s a Canon Power Shot 5×210 IS.

Realize that the bulb color of artificial light, will affect the color of your sets, dolls and clothing.  That’s probably why my fluorescent lights work OK, because they’re white light…..not yellow or bluish.  I am using a yellow light in the lamp, which has a warming effect in the “night” shots.

The angle of the shot is also important.  I like to get low enough with my camera to be on the dolls eye level.  There are plenty of artistic exceptions to this, but for my purposes, shooting from the dolls point of view will look most natural.

Speaking of cropping, I’m still learning not to judge too quickly the merits of a photo before I crop it.  Cropping is a very creative process.  I occasionally find myself dragging photo’s out of the trash and finding interesting compositions within a shot I previously thought was trash worthy.  This paragraph is more important than some might think at first. Trying to take a completely finished shot with the camera is not as much fun or effective as cropping.   Play with cropping!  Most photo processing software (whether on your computer or the free ones on line) will let you “duplicate” your photo, which allows you to play to your hearts content.  It’s one of the most creative and fun parts of photography.

I work hard at the photos.  Sometimes I’ll take a dozen shots only to realize I’ve failed to notice a blunder.  Here’s an example:  The table skirt just didn’t look real enough until I stopped and forced it into a shape that seemed right.  I must have taken a dozen shots of it crumpled, but once I saw the photos on the computer, I ran back to the shop, adjusted the table skirt and it only took one more shot to get it.

Uncropped version with funky table skirt.

That’s much better!

My next goal is to develop mid-tone lighting.  Perhaps bring in a table lamp from the house, setting it up across the room, turn out the fluorescence, and shooting late in the day when the sun is lower and coming strongly in the widow….but not creating shadows.  Atmosphere is good!  Have fun!!

I’ll try to post Part 2 tomorrow.  It’s about scene construction and should be fun.  Thanks for reading, and Thank YOU again Mustangridergirl!  You’re a doll!