Granny Watchful's Day Care is my first completed salt box house.
My goal was to use what I already had, and by the time it was finished, it contained 28 tiny animals, 5 birds, 1 tree serpent, 1 tree spirit (or sprite), 3 skeletons, 1 scarecrow figure and 1 witch. Some of the wee animals I made over 20 years ago when I was first working with Fimo; some were purchases, and some were swaps from a Quarter Connection Online Convention where the theme was Kids and Kritters. Few of the animals are larger than the tip of my little finger.
I had started a salt box house a few years ago when there was a challenge on Pam Junk's SmallandSmaller online Yahoo group. However, at the time I found cutting the thick circles for the floors and ceilings of the salt box was just too much for my hands, which were quite painful at the time, and I never finished it.
After she read about my problems, Peggy Fowler of South Carolina sent me some perfect laser cut circles, and I later ordered more. When another salt box challenge came along in 2014 from Pam, this one with an Autumn theme, I was able to use those circles; one for the top, one for the second floor, and two for the base, which brought the floor up to the exact level of the salt box rim. Peggy's wood circles are excellent for these salt box houses and she says she could cut more if asked.
This is how it began, on my kitchen table. I don't remember where that purple wire tree came from, probably from a local gift shop called Collectibles where I have found some neat things over the years, including the companion for Mother Goose, who has also become my logo. The tree base is a very heavy metal rim, as are the roots. It was in my Halloween stash for a long time, but it's so tall and outlandish that I couldn't figure out what to do with it, but I loved it.
When Pam offered the Autumn Challenge, however, I finally knew where it belonged, even if I didn't yet have a story for it.
I had saved the previous cut out piece from my first efforts, so it was handy in marking where to cut. I started with a new blade in my craft knife and made one pull along the pencil line for the first indented cut, and then made successive pulls along that indentation, and it was no problem at all to remove it.
In retrospect, I could have gotten away with a curved opening at the top which might have been more aesthetically pleasing. At the time, though, I didn't know that and wanted to be sure there was enough light that people could actually see what would be in there.
I used emery boards to smooth the cut edges.
I did not want a busy wall paper to compete with the items inside and make it too dark, so I chose a parchment sheet from my scrapbooking stash. In retrospect I wish I had used a colored paper rather than this parchment. In real life it looks fine, but in the pictures it just looks mottled. It overlaps like this so that the edges will be covered, and I trimmed away some of the excess before gluing it in place.
I made another mistake here, as well, because I did not literally glue the entire piece to the salt box interior. I should have, because it buckled on me later when I was manipulating the floors in place.
I also did not add ceiling borders, thinking I would not need them and not wanting too much distraction. As it turned out, I did realize later that I did - after I had everything glued in place and it looked too plain. Adding those borders was not easy. I had to lay the entire finished thing on its side across my computer room waste basket and it was not a pleasant experience trying to get them in there and glued in place. Oh well; surely I will remember all this and do it right next time.
I have had this long weird twisted rope wire thingie for ages; thought maybe I would use it here, but didn't. These are Peggy's circles.
I decided to cover the ceilings with the same parchment as the walls, but I painted them first with Sandstone acrylic and let them dry so the color would be even.
I traced the circles on the same paper to form my two ceilings.
I used a thin wood scrapbooking paper for my floors. I first spread a thin coat of glue on the circle with a credit card, then added the paper cut slightly larger. I weighted the two wood circles with heavy books and when dry, cut away and sanded the excess to smooth the edges. I used chalks to tone done the raw wood look.
If this had been a true witch's house, I would have grunged up the interior and done more to darken these floors.
I used graph paper to determine the height of my lower wall, using a pencil to mark where to glue the upper floor.
Oh, good grief. When I glued the floor in place I distorted the paper on the sides so had to peel it away and reglue.
At this point, I was thinking maybe I didn't really want to do this because it looked so ugly, but I persevered, figuring oh well, it is only a salt box, and I have another one in my stash if I absolutely have to start over.
I knew I wanted to make a witch hat roof, so set the box under my tree to see how close I could get it to the trunk. I marked the two wire roots that would have to be removed but the metal was way too heavy for me to cut. My handy husband obligingly cut those away so that I could snuggle the house closer to the trunk. This also necesitated his using heavy pliers to move some of the tree limbs out of the way in order for placement of the roof later.
I measured the diameter of the circle I wanted for the brim, and went looking for a suitable shape to form the brim. This smallish glass bowl was the perfect size. I cut the brim out of heavy black cardstock and used a heavy black scrapbook paper for my outside cover and the pointed top of the hat.
By the time I got the black paper on, with its hat brim temporarily placed on the roof, I was feeling better.
I went ahead and began making a pattern for my hat (cut away quite a bit of this). I used the same scrapbook paper as the outside for the cone top, glued it onto the brim, and used a piece of decorative braid and a button for the trim. I trial fitted it and then put the finished hat aside so it wouldn't get messed up while I worked on the rest of my setting.
This is the base for a 12 inch dome but it is not quite wide enough for my house and the tree, and the tree is also a bit too tall for the glass dome, too. So, I decide to extend the scene to the outside edge of the wood piece, figuring when it is all finished I can find some kind of large bell jar that will slide over the whole thing.
Here I have cut my base from pink insulating foam, which is excellent because it can be carved and cut easily. I know I will want some variation in the levels of my setting and can gouge out or cut away what I don't want. Again, I used a heavy emery board to smooth the edges.
I lined my work tray with wax paper, poured Tacky glue in my condiment cup and stirred in some brown paint, got out my glue brush and the bottle of dirt mixture which I normally use. It is a combination of sand, coffee grounds and a very small amount of model railroad foam.
I spread a heavy coat of glue on top and sides and then moved to the kitchen sink.
My landscaping plate is one of those heavy plastic coated paper plates that holds up well and I have used it for several projects. I set the plate in the bottom of the kitchen sink and hold my base over it whle I sprinkle the dirt mixture to coat all sides. I shake off the excess onto the paper plate and then fold its edges into a v and pour the remainder back in the bottle for the next time.
With my base done and the basic house complete, I look for doors and windows.
These are all quarter and possibly some half scale cast resin pieces that I purchased from Shaun Crawford years ago when I participated in his castle making workshop at the late Beth Lane's in Tularosa, NM. They have been in my stash all these years waiting for the right moment.
I liked that peaked door with the wavy hinges, but couldn't decide on windows at that time.
Remembering the techniques Shaun had taught us about painting our castles, I decided to experiment and see if I could do something similar with my black house.
To get the effect of stone i used several shades of paint, including nutmeg brown, red iron oxide, lichen, stone grey and parchment. I cut a small piece of sponge, dampened it, then daubed it into first one color then the other, wiped most of it away on a paper towel and then used a scrap of the black that I had cut away when I made the roof brim to practice on. It looked like it was going to work, especially after I laid the door on top of it.
I decided to go for it, took a deep breath and began pouncing the paint onto the house and it looked AWFUL, but I just kept going. I occasionally dry brushed over it all to soften and blend it. Under these lights the streaks look more pronounced and the colors of both the house and the tree look much brighter than they are in real life. I do not like the newer light bulbs for photography, no matter how energy saving they are, but I was working at the kitchen table, not at my work table.
Here I have decided on a stoop for the front door. I will need to do some filling in because it is not rounded at the back. Every time I look at the base of that tree, I think of a cage, so in a flash of inspiration I decide that is what it will become - a place for some kind of little animals that need to be set apart for some reason. I asked my husband once more for his assistance to cut away some of the wires to form an opening.
Here I have glued the door and front stoop in place, and am trial fitting a doorway into the cage area. You will notice that I have begun to "bury" the tree roots and the stoop so they will not just lie atop the soil. I added glue (mixed with brown paint) and poured more of the soil mixture to build up around the base to the door in the tree because it was quite a drop off there.
I used heavy wire cutters to nip away rows of bricks or stones at the back of another resin piece to fit it closer as a second step down, or landing, and made sure to save them for piecing later.
These are some of the items I had pulled out originally, thinking I might use them in some way, including those ladders to enable somebody to climb up in that tree, maybe ....
At this point in development, I painted O scale Grandline windows with Antique bronze and glued them atop some stained glass stickers, and they look really nice. However, they just weren't right for this house, so I put them aside for another time. Instead, I used just one of Shaun's shuttered rustic windows to go above the doorway.
Having most of the base done, it was time to clean up some of the mess. I wadded up messy wax paper and threw away dirty condiment cups and paper plates and gobby toothpicks and bits of this and that and cleaned my brushes, etc.
At this point I got out my handy-dandy Cheap Thrills standing dustpan and clip on broom, purchased online from Miles Kimball, I think. It is especially important in quarter scale to look through the swept-up debris because I often find tiny - and sometimes expensive - items that have fallen to the floor.
By the way, speaking of cleanup - the last time I had used these paints had been months ago, and I had put them away hurriedly without cleaning the caps. Before I could use them to create my stone work I had to prise them open with that handy opener for snap-on pill bottles above that is also shown in my Cheap Thrills pages. When I then tried to squirt out the paint it was reluctant and came out both watery and stringy. I had to get pliers to unscrew the caps, and then there was a plastic-y dried gunk at the neck. Good grief!
I did not want to have to purchase new paint, so I did my best to make these usable.
I would up having to use my craft knife and tweezers to pull and peel away the dried paint and pull out the stringy gunk. Then I got an old toothbrush to clean the screw lines on the bottle neck. This mess on the paper towel is the result of all this.
Fortunately, after I got all the dried stuff out there was still usable paint left in the bottles. I added a bit of water, shook them well, and was able to use them for my stone work and the other miscellaneous painting in this setting.
By golly, I made sure when I finished this time that I carefully cleaned both the inside and the outside rim of the bottle neck and rinsed the cap before I put them away. I have no idea what shape the rest of my paints may be in, but at least these six bottles will be okay the next time I want to use them.
I just hope I remember this unpleasant experience the next time I use more paint.
My dear husband said, as he peered at the strange holes on either side of the tree trunk, "Too bad you don't have some kind of long dragon; you could have its head coming out one hoie and its tail out the other ...."
And in an Aha! moment that's when I remembered the 3 piece sea serpent that I had once found in a bargain bin. I think the idea was that one part would protrude from a button hole or something ... not sure how it was intended, but I had always thought it would make a great addition to a castle moat, rising up in undulating fashion from the water.
There were some heavy button things on the bottom of each piece of the sea serpent, which he helpfully cut away with wire cutters.
So, sea serpent became tree serpent - Sssamm, Granny's sssecurity sssystem. Now you know why I love that man!
I almost had him coming up out of the tree, but that was really a stretch, so to speak. lol
I went to a lot of trouble to cut a pattern to figure out how to fit things inside the area I wanted to be a cage. I cut a circle out of cardboard that I could use as a guide to plan the placement on the table top, outside of the actual confines of the cage.
The inner markings indicate the inside of the cage. The outside marks show the protruding tree roots.
I began looking through my stash of animals and figures for ideas. These were my initial choices. Next I looked for pet beds or dog houses or cushions or whatever.
And came up with a wading pool for the baby dragon, who looked totally happy to be in it, as well as two dog houses and a pet climbing toy, which had been swap items.
I had a sample flooring card from a home improvement store, and that served to make my little stone bases. I cut along the outer stones and used a stain pen to hide the light edges.
These first creatures in my setting will go inside that cage. No room, however, for the green fuzzie atop the climbing toy, so I decide to use him elsewhere.
This little critter was made by the late Jan Stockwell, a lovely person whose tiny mariachis are among my favorite possessions, waiting for a quarter scale Southwest setting. It originally was in a wee cardboard box with shredded newspaper. For my purposes here I wanted it inside a wee house; this one is from Karen Cary.
With the messiest stuff over with, from this point on I decided to use my nice wood turntable so that I could rotate the scene as I work with it, covering it first with wax paper, of course. This was originally a cheese board with a piece of glass in the center. I use the glass separately when I am working on dolls, laying my figure chart underneath for reference.
Here I have the doorway done and have begun placing various flower containers here and there, and added the little citrus bushes on either side of the cage doorway. I was still thinking it would be some kind of fall harvest setting maybe. (These are actually very tiny and look much better in real life.)
You notice that standing sign thingie on the right? Actually, it was a basketball goal, which I later removed!
By the way, that green on the left is the top of a mushroom, which I later removed. I didn't like the mold line that showed and didn't want to get out my paints again.
My initial thoughts would be that the critters inside that cage would need to be kept securely behind a closed door. But look, you cannot really see the little fellows inside there. And I don't think they're all that fierce anyway.
I mean, the baby dragon likes to play in the wading pool and is happy to have his tummy stroked
and my goodness, the little fellow in the house naps most of the day.
And that little blue dinosaur is no raptor; he just likes to whistle, so I decided the door had to go. And after all that work, too. Oh well; back to the drawing board.
At least you can see inside now when you walk by.
And see that fence? It's Grandtline plastic that I rusted with chalks and I worked really HARD ro get that in there And then didn't need it after all because those little guys can come outside the open door now anyway. Even if it wasn't necessary any longer, it stayed.
At this point, I had to use several of those cut-off bricks to fill in at the stoop where the door had been and make some steps down inside.
My handy wide tip black marker made quick work of coloring the white areas from the cutting. Several of these leftover bits came in handy both inside and outside the cage doorway, and by the front stoop, as well.
I pulled these tiny purple stems off a large ball cluster to make bushes to go between the house and the tree trunk, but first I gave the branches a coat of brown iron oxide paint. Even though it doesn't show all that much, I don't like a tree limb to be green! I also had some wee bits of greenery that I used here and there, and I painted them with a dirty water wash to tone down the brightness of the plastic.
I made the sunflowers from a kit, and created the striped leaf pot plant myself. I carry quarter scale plants with me to work on when I go to club meetings in Las Cruces, NM, along with qs furniture kits that need to be stained. While we chat I can just swish the stain pen over them while they are still attached to the sprues and then they are ready when I want to put them together at some later time.
That brown mushroomy looking plant is the last of some sprigs that I used for toadstools when I made my twelfth scale Mossy Glen setting about ten years ago.
After the exterior landscaping was done, I started thinking about the house interior. The first thing I noticed in my stash was these two tiny brass cradles that I could redo, and a wonderful little cleaning set that I purchased in Las Vegas from Silvia Leiner, who I think was from Germany. Actually, I didn't use any of these, but while looking at the cradles, something clicked and I thought, Aha! It's not a harvest or witch scene, as such, it could be a day care center for little animals and the person who runs it is a witch!
So I went back and removed the cart of strawberry flats and the scarecrow that suggested harvest, and began the process of locating animals and toys to go inside. By the way, that is not his face you see; it is a hat. lol
Here you can see the heavy wire that secured this heavy tree to the base. There is another one on the other side. I painted them and they are not really noticeable in real life.
I wanted to use this very tiny skunk, but he was very hard to see. I thought maybe it would be cool to have him next to a pool so he would show up better. I thought this little bathtub in a pistachio shell from my stash would work for a wee pond, but I had to remove the bead feet. It still stood up too high so I gouged out an area with my tweezers where it could be sunken. Once the base has been prepared, that glue and paint and soil mixture becomes like iron, so I had to get my knife to poke through so I could then use the tweezers to pull out enough foam for the hole.
Now the skunk can take a drink (or a dip) and he does show up better, too. I added some moss around the edges to blend him into the landscape.
Two other items that were in my stash are the sand box and this cat. I originally planned to use them, but decided to put them back for another time. The cat looks a bit surreal when photographed; maybe he is really a statue ...
Once I got the idea for a day care for baby animals, I began making the grounds into a playground,
The next animals I added were the three rabbits; one eating in a plant box. The other two fit nicely on a wonderful little teeter totter that was an online QC convention swap.
And then I thought about the bear on the left, a purchase in Chicago. But he fades right into the background because he is so tiny and the same basic color as the ground. I need to sprinkle a bit of either the green landscaping foam or something like Flower Soft around his feet to provide a bit of contrast so he will show up better. Those rabbits need to pay attention to their surroundings!
And that's when I asked myself how Granny could manage to keep a watchful eye on all these little critters by herself, and that's when I decided that she would have a skeleton crew of helpers!
These tiny skeletons, slightly under two inches tall, were in my Halloween stash. To tone down the bright white, I gave several of them a dirty water wash. I wound up using three. This one's name is Pelvis, and he is running to be sure Boris the bear doesn't get too rough with those oblivious little rabbits, however innocently since he is just a baby, too!
To get the look of movement here, I used my craft knife to cut almost through the joints so I could reposition them. I turned his head slightly, too. I used both tacky and super glue to fix them into position.
You can see several twelfth scales skeletons throughout my website who are posed with this same technique, including Bonerella and Ghouliana, and an unnamed fellow rising out of a grave somewhere.
In addition, my grandchildren used posed skeletons, too, including Jenna for her Skeleton Beach. I also sent a long-distance project to my grandson Joseph where he posed a skeleton golfer.
I altered both legs of second helper Shelton so they would splay outward more realistically, and changed his elbow joints and hands to hold the bag of kibble.
The third helper is Patella, who is preparing to tell a story inside the day care center. Originally I wanted to have her reading a story, but I just could not get her hands and the book to look right, and after messing up several skeletons, I realized she was an oral storyteller - like me, heh heh. It was not easy posing her with these clay critters, either, but I got 'er done.
This wonderful chair was made by Joanne Whisenhunt, who sells on Etsy. I purchased it during Shelly's Online Miniature Show in 2013, and used another of Joanne's chairs in my Michaels hutch House Behind the Green Door. I have other upholstered pieces that Joanne made that are waiting for just the right setting. She does very meticulous work.
So, these three comprise Granny's skeleton crew! I first thought of them as nannies, and spent considerable time making nanny caps, but just left their heads plain because they told me they would be embarrassed to wear them. lol
Granny herself was a purchase and came from England, but unfortunately I cannot recall who made her.
I used PaintShopPro to make the cardstock sign, and added a small wreath over the door.
This tiny scarecrow figure, no bigger than the tip of my little finger, was one of several pieces I purchased at the NAME Portland SmallScales Convention. A man makes the clay figures and his wife does wonderful whimsical landscaped pieces, but they do not have a website or an email address and did not respond when I wrote them via snail mail, and now I cannot recall their names. He also made the pig, the dog and the penguin.
I am not absolutely sure, but I think Preble McDaniel made those two larger pumpkins for a swap.
The lamp post was in my Halloween stash. It originally had a base that reminded me of a milk can, but I cut it off.
The watchful eye on the lamp post was originally an earring.
The next animals I dealt with were three tiny squirrels; two of which are playing here on a piece of playground equipment, another swap,
... and another tiny squirrel is perched high in the air.
The conical orange topiaries are wee wooden carrots that have been in my Easter stash for years. I needed a pop of color against all the purple and brown, and was pleased how they provided it.
So, even though I wasn't through with who all might be outside, I decided to concentrate on the inside for a bit.
I knew some specific little pieces that I wanted to use, including several little clay animals that I made in my early clay days. I couldn't decide if they were cats or bears. lol
Notice that my little animals also had clay blankies and pillows. I have had this wonderful piece of trim for years and used it in so many ways and when I spotted this scrap I thought, hmm ...
So this is how two pieces of that bit of trim became blankies for two little guys taking their naps. I first used a credit card to smooth a very thin coat of glue on the back, so when I cut it there were no raw edges. Remember, these little figures are really tiny! Unfortunately, I did not get a good picture of the tiny teddy who is taking a nap on the floor.
That quilt over the tot in the chair is a paper printie. The books and the toy chest were swap items that have been in my stash for a long time.
I also chose a paper rug for each floor from my stash. Originally I had thought I would do something with that die cut masonite piece, but didn't use it, and I don't remember now what I was thinking about.
These strange earrings from a craft show have been in my stash for years. I always thought they would make some kind of wicker look basket or swing seat or something, but once again, I put them back because they didn't work out.
Somehow over the years this little bear had lost an ear, so I gave him a blanket to play with so it wouldn't be so noticeable. Actually, the blanket edge originally stood up more on the right side but I guess I pressed it down with my finger beforre it was well dried.
I LOVE that eensy little mouse in the diaper; he was also a purchase from the same person in England who made the raven that is on the picnic table. I was so afraid I would lose them before I used them because they are so miniscule. I always try to have my little divided plastic storage box open before I open any new package of tiny things like this mouse, so hopefully if it drops, it will be retrievable.
And when I decided to use him, I remembered a cat in my stash, who seemed perfect as a companion.
I used the same kind of pet bed for him.
The three little fabric pieces from my stash underneath each of the pet beds unifies them, just as the stone pieces underneath unify the pet houses and wading pool in the cage area.
Here are some toy ideas for the interior, most of which were swaps from an early QC online convention, although I think I purchased the monkey in Chicago ...
The piece that I used as a wall toy storage unit, as well as the arched piece on the right, is a die-cut masonite altered art piece that I ordered from Alphastamps, one of several which are ideal for use in quarter scale.
The toy car, stacking toy, elephant pull toy and jack-in-the-box were swap items. The butterfly puzzle box was originally in the bed of a little wagon, and was made by Ruth Frank. The letter E is the painted direction East from a Department 56 weathervane. All of these fit within that piece which is about an inch square.
I added two right angle pieces at the bottom to serve as a base, and set a toy box in the opening.
A few more toys are on the rug, including an orange ball, a goose pull toy and another book.
And speaking of unifying, I wanted to use this oval table because it worked well against the rounded wall. It needed something, however, and this very thin Volker Arnold man-in-the-moon piece worked beautifully once I painted it black, as well. I used a thin strip of paper glued to the back to hold it to the table edge.
It provides a place for the tv where cartoons occasionally play. The little lamp was a swap item, and that's a tiny Fimo rose in the vase.
There's another one of my cat/bears. lol The raven on the table was made by the same person who made the teeny mouse, and the little doggie was made by the same man who made the scarecrow!
I added a little pig, who is extremely difficult to photograph because of his location, and
a chicken, who is also a challenge to capture on film because of where he is.
At this point, I began thinking of the final look of the tree.
In the beginning I pictured my tree with something iike these drooping fronds, but did not want to have something like that hanging down getting in the way while I worked on my project. By the time I got it finished, I decided that the twisty purple tree limbs themselves demanded all the attention.
But maybe I could add a bit of moss?
I believe this pot topper was from a Dollar Tree, but it could have been from Michaels instead.
It is reversible, and the back can also be a soil surface for a flower or plant pot. It looks a lot like the soil that I use for many of my landscaping projects, except it shows only brown. In my mixture of sand and coffee grounds I also include some model railroad fine green grass foam.
I originally thought I would pinch off some of the moss and add it here and there on my tree, but decided it was too large in scale for the effect I wanted.
I decided instead to use the finest green grass model railroad foam in the bottle for just a suggestion of moss on my tree branches. I made a watery glue mixture in a condiment cup and brushed it lightly over the branches and then sprinkled the greenery over my tree, which I held over my kitchen sink. I used this paper plate to capture the spillover and then poured it back into the bottle.
Of course, if I had known in the beginning what I was going to do to this tree, I would have done it then before I had everything else glued in place. My ideas changed so many times, however, that when I decided the main way to finish the tree was merely to add moss, I had to use plastic wrap to keep moss from going everywhere I didn't want it to go when I was sprinkling it on the tree limbs. I put a damp piece of paper towel over the little figures inside the cage.
It was at this time, too, that I added the moss to my witch hat roof.
This teeny vulture was a show purchase; I think at either the IMA or the 3 Blind Mice Show in Chicago. The two birds in the nest I think I made many years ago; not sure, as they have been in my stash for a long time.
I added the tree sprite - or is it a tree spirit? - on the back of the hat brim roof. It is a miniature version of a larger one that resides in a glass dome in our place in the New Mexico mountains, one of the few whimsical purchases my husband ever made because it "just called out to me."
Also, I placed this tiny dragon on a tree limb. It was purchased years ago from SueAnn Thwaite, otherwise known as LadyBug.
And I think that was the last thing I did before calling Granny Watchful's Day Care a finished project.
It is never as much fun putting things away after a project, is it? Ugh! What a chore!
The spillover sorting extends to my husband's kitchen chair.
The tools go back into their carry case (I was using the ones I normally have in the tote bag I take to club meetings). The tiny animals and accessories go back into their respective divided storage boxes...
and the last thing is to dispose of the last sweeping-up. Always a good idea to check carefully, because I have often discovered a tiny something that flew off into the ether and I had thought was lost forever.
Actually, this broom unit is one of my favorite Cheap Thrills.
Thanks for checking out Granny Watchful's! And hopefully, I'll go on to another project soon.