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THE GREAT CHICAGO EXPERIENCE 2010,
Part II

Making Suzanne Larson-Tamburo's
Briar Manor Cottage in Quarter Scale

WORKSHOP DAY ONE, April 14, 2010

We had our first meal from my Breakfast Stash, each choosing from boiled eggs, ham, bagels and cinnamon bread, cream cheese and jelly (I had the bagel with cream cheese and jelly and a slice of ham), then hurried to the Third Floor where most of the workshops were. One of the things I like about the Marriott is that they provide delicious morning coffee and nice comfy chairs in various alcoves for relaxing and visiting; it was so nice being able to get a cup when I wanted it that morning and to chat or just sit and stare at the wall for a bit on my way back from the restroom.

I wanted to be sure to say hi to several people before I started my own workshop and introduce them to my DD Dana. As always, it was wonderful seeing Alice and Lorraine in Alice's workshop; Jacqueline from NJ was there, and I believe Helen from HoneyChurch, as were others I knew who are a blur now, unfortunately. I also talked briefly to The Guys From Texas Larry and Jon, Rik Pierce, and Kari Bloom, but even though I got there a bit early for Suzanne's workshop it was alarming to see that the room was already practically full. Oops; next time I will try not to talk so much and get here earlier, I told myself.

Dana started taking pictures (with Suzanne's permission, of course).

Here I am, happy to begin but full of nervous anticipation, as well. You may notice my shirt has a paint stain - well, that's why I brought it; why mess up a nice one in a workshop? lol

It was my first class with Suzanne and she was everything I had heard - well organized, pleasant, fun, and reassuring. Besides her verbal instructions and visual examples she had a packet of extremely detailed instructions which included pictures of every step. That way, if you don't finish, you can do it without panicking later; hopefully.

Here you see things laid out for my spot at the beginning of the day, and additional supplies and materials were provided by her husband Andy at the appropriate stage as we needed them.

We were seated two to a table side and we two shared a stash of paints, glue, etc. I had emailed Suzanne the week before and gotten her list of suggested tools, so I had my own, including my miter cutter.

I was so excited to see the prototype, and as I am not really a construction person and feel insecure with quarter scale, I was a textbook example of Nervous Nellie.

Dana placed this quarter here for the purpose of demonstrating the scale of the house for herself and then had an Aha! moment. "See," she said, laughing, "It IS quarter scale!"


My table partner hadn't arrived yet, although she showed up shortly.

(Looking at these pictures now, I am sure there were probably miniaturists whom I "know" or at least know of from the quarter scale lists, but I was so intent on not getting further and further behind that I don't recall anybody.

Wait a second - I remember Mary Wrenn, a real sweetie, who was not nearly as nervous as I was. Unfortunately, she was on the far left and doesn't show in any of these pictures.)

Dana told me goodbye and left for her own expedition as we all set into our busy morning.

She got one picture of Suzanne before she set out,

... to meet one of her best friends from high school, Adrianne, whom she hadn't seen in something like 25 years! And boy, did they have a day!

Tulips and skyscrapers on a gorgeous spring day - what a way to spend time with an old friend. Eventually Adrianne's husband and son joined them, as well.

Adrianne's son found a ladybug. Isn't that supposed to mean good luck? And hey, look at those stones! A good example of the real thing to inspire us when we make our mini stones.

They saw some awesome constructions. Here an obliging husband has taken their picture.

Reminds me of a Ferrerro Rocher egg that I saved for a mini scene. lol

Here they are inside.

This sculpture is at Millenium Park on the watefront, Dana says. The official name is Cloud Gate Sculpture but most people just call it The Bean.

Dana has set up albums on FaceBook and eventually will have her write-up along with her photographs on her blog. When that happens, I will give a link, as she has many stunning pictures.

Back to the workshop ...

It was an intense experience and I was quite stressed, but Suzanne was patient and kept reassuring me that I do wonderful work (what a gal lol). At the lunch break I managed to get away long enough for a quick snack in my room (boy was I glad for those veggie sticks and other goodies from home) and a few minutes stretched out on the bed before returning for the afternoon session.

Dana dropped by again to see how we were doing and to take pictures of my progress.

We used a gluing jig and magnets throughout the construction process. I have one at home but didn't bring it because of space limitations. Suzanne uses Roo glue for most gluing because it dries quickly and clear, and Elmer's (I think) wood glue for the wood-to-wood.

I got up periodically to examine the prototypes. (This is the picture Dana took in the morning.)

That's Andy, barely visible on the left, who was a real gem, helpful when anyone needed it. That afternoon he brought us delicious giant chocolate cookies at just the crucial moment when we were all about to collapse into wiped-out puddles on the floor. They were so good that several workshop participants decided to find out where they came from so they could get more.

Suzanne informed us that all the paper clay techniques she had learned from Rik Pierce, but that she had a shortcut for us in doing the stone foundation. Rather than making a bunch of little balls to form each stone, she had a little mold which we could use. I LOVE that thing, and could immediatley visualize using it later for all kinds of purposes, like wee stone walls, planters, wishing wells, etc.

Suzanne said our goal was to get the paper clay part of the house done by 5, but that didn't happen for most of us, except for a couple who were experienced with her classes and moved like lightning (much to the consternation of some of us lol).

Most of us had at least the slope part of the future stone base ready, but I had done only a short section of the stones. It was my first experience working with paper clay to any degree and it was neat learning how to use the mold, which made the stone-making a relatively simple, although time-consuming, experience for me as a newbie.

I took my house with me at the end of the day, thinking I would work on it, and although I did glue it to the base and a few other things, I was simply too wiped out to do any stonework. But, I felt pretty good about the whole thing, knowing that I had at least one full day of experience under my belt.

Dana returned fairly late from her jaunt and uploaded her pictures, including some great detail photos. She also sent Lee a picture of the Chicago Style hot dogs they had for lunch.

After working with that paper clay I loved the idea of using faces like this in future projects.

Heck, I may even do something like this when I do the finishing work on my cottage.

What an intriguing long narrow building!

I can see getting results like this by making molds from jewelry findings and using various pieces of wood molding.

You could make this panel with various jewelry findings, even a toy goat's head, and paint it to look like concrete.

I know I have a lion head like this in my stash somewhere ....

As I lay on the bed reading Suzanne's instruction pages and the Bishop Show booklet I was shocked to realize that I had been mistaken in thinking we had two full class days; the workshop was listed to run only through 1:00 on Thursday! So, Dana and I decided we would take that opportunity to visit the 3 Blind Mice Show the next evening, thus allowing a less crowded and stressful day on Friday - unless I was too exhausted - not an unlikely possibility considering my experience to that point. lol

After having had two meals from our stash (I had packed enough for each of us to have at least two breakfasts and two lunches, plus snacks), we decided we wanted to go to the restaurant for dinner. The food was excellent and plentiful; both of us had enough left to carry out for the next day. Dana was exhilarated from her adventures with Adrianne and I was from my workshop, but I don't recall that we did anything other than go to bed after our evening meal. I did call home and she did, too, sending pictures as well.

I made sure that I had everything ready to head out early the next morning, knowing that I would be stopping to chat along the way. Everywhere I went I kept running into people who "knew" me through my website and stories, which is very gratifying, but I was anxious not to be the last one in the room for Workshop Day Two.

WORKSHOP DAY TWO, April 15, 2010

After we had learned that our supposedly complimentary refrigerator was going to cost us $30 a day, Dana made a trip to the nearby supermarket and picked up some things, including a small styrofoam cooler, so we only had to use the refrigerator one night. I can understand that the hotel wants people to eat in their restaurant, but nobody has time for all three meals with so much going on, and heaven forbid that we would want to spend that kind of money on food when it could be spent on more worthwhile things like minis from around the world! So that morning we ate our leftovers from the night before, and that cold hamburger half was about as good as the original the night before; very tasty! Even leftover sweet potato fries tasted good.

Dana loaded up her backpack and after saying hi to people she headed off again and I hurried to make stones on my wee cottage. By this time I had relaxed, figuring what the heck, the world wouldn't stop turning if I didn't do everything as quickly as others. I also poured some of the Roo glue and the wood glue into containers to dip my brush and pick into. That little detail really speeded things up, not having to share the bottles. Shows you the state of nervous dithering I was in the day before, because that's the way I work at home anyway.

Gluing that little ledge around three sides was a real challenge. Eventually there will be red frames around those windows, and the windows themselves will have an antique look by filling each pane with glue.

We are to use three different colors randomly dotted on the stones, then a dirty water wash, etc. Here I have begun the process of washing the stones with the first color, although my paint wasn't diluted enough. But I was too tired to care at that point, figuring I could redo it at home.

This is a view of the front entryway, with a piece of Suzanne's prototype's art. (At the end of the workshop she surprised us with a packet of all the art she had used in her prototype!)

The doorway is darkened so you can't see it here, but there are stairs going up to the next level. To the right is the sunken great room with two steps down; to the left is a doorway into the main part of the house. Eventually the rough edges will be covered in the floor and a red front door will be installed inside the porch.

This is the sunken great room. There will be red framing around the windows and doors eventually, and if I want to add a fireplace it will be between the two windows on the left.

Although it's not visible, to the right is the same type of wood floor on a raised subfloor. Once the interior finishing is done, I will lightly sand and then put either another coat of stain or a just a coat of wax finish on the floors because they have gotten quite scuffed in the construction process.

The workshop was to end at 1:00 but Suzanne said the room was available for the afternoon, although she would not be there, and some stayed to work.

I had gotten all the hard part done, although there will be touch ups in various areas of the stones, and I still need to layer the stone pieces on the steps' walls. Then I need to do the color washes on the stones and more on the house, adding exterior and interior doors and trims, and put one more wash on the as-yet-unattached shingled roof. Some participant who had already finished kindly added the first two washes to my roof - thanks!

I decided not to work any further that afternoon, so said my thank-you and goodbyes, knowing that I could do the finishing easily by following Suzanne's excellent instructions.

And, as I had hoped, this little cottage fit neatly into my QC carry-on bag.

My little Stone Briar Manor will take pride of place in my living room before too long, and I am confident that a story will come for it - surely. I would take another workshop from Suzanne and Andy in a heartbeat. It was a great learning experience and I feel much more confident about working on some unfinished houses that I have already started.

Stay tuned for Part III, The 3 Blind Mice Show ...


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