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HOW I MADE


AT THE ALICE CONVENTION
September 2015

This project fits in a glass box that measures 4 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 7 inches tall. It is now on display on a sofa table in our living room atop a candlestand to bring it closer to eye level. Predominantly quarter scale, it is the result of two different Challenges in two different online miniatures groups.

 

In the Little Enough News group, the challenge was to do something with the Alice in Wonderland theme, and this is my dominant project. There are at least 22 direct allusions to the Alice in Wonderland stories in this little setting and its story.

In the MiniAllSorts group the challenge was to do something connected with mushrooms. I didn't realize until I was finishing up the landscaping for the Alice setting how many mushrooms I was actually using. There are 20 visible, including some very tiny ones in a dish. (Some are obscured because an item was later placed in front.) So, although I still have a specific mushroom setting I want to do, it may have to wait a while longer; therefore, I am calling this project part of the challenge in case I don't get the other one finished. lol

It all began with six little Alice figures, left from a project in a teacup created by a friend and Las Cruces Mini Club member, the late Bette Smith. I had thought I would rework some of them into other people, and happened to mention them in a weekly Saturday chat with members of a third quarter scale group called Quarter Connection.

Later my friend Joanne Bailey wrote, "You said [referring to Chat] “On the other hand, I have several little qs Alice in Wonderland dolls that I did once and have considered turning them into other people with different hair, etc. But that I am finding hard to do, so they go back in their little glass case, staring at me like a little Alice convention.” It made me think of all the Elvis Presley imitators and I could see you storing them in a little convention setting, a simple banner with an oversize mushroom would do, where you can take them out if you ever need them in another scene."

And her comment helped crystallize what I wanted to do! An Alice Convention! So, thanks, Joanne!

I knew I wanted to get in the idea of changing sizes through drinking potions and eating mushrooms, and my first vague thoughts were about creating a twelfth scale table in a hotel hallway, and perhaps a tiny door at baseboard level where the convention goers entered. I mulled that around for a week or so but couldn't figure out how to get the activities going for my convention, and I didn't want to have to construct a room inside the wall ...

One day I was sitting at the computer when I moved some stuff and this table with the tile design on top went toppling. I had found it when I was sorting through my stash and it had been sitting there beside me for a week or more as I kept trying to figure out what to do with it. It was too cool not to use, but the design was so intricate and busy that anything I put on top disappeared.

Anyway, I grabbed at the table as it was falling over for the umpteenth time and as I caught it, my eye fell on a 4x4 gift box that was sitting atop a nearby small drawer unit. I don't even recall now what was in it originally, but I had saved it because it was so nicely finished.

idly, I set the table on top of the box, and bingo! I could see my convention setting, with the twelfth scale table in the hallway and the quarter scale setting below after the conventiongoer had swallowed the Drink Me potion.

And then I remembered this glass box, a great Cheap Thrills purchase several years ago with a truly atrocious little dried arrangement stuck in the bottom, which I removed and discarded. It has been waiting all this time for just the right setting. The only problem with it is that two glass sides are unattached except at the top with the metal corners, and they kept falling inward. My final solution was to leave them unglued but to put a bit of glue at each corner where they fit into the base.

Aha! Who could ask for a better fit? (I didn't use the gift box's lid, of course) I could see my idea working here, but I needed a transition between the twelfth scale table in the hallway and the actual quarter scale scene that would be the convention.

I came up with the idea of using the rabbit hole and started Googling for images. I figured this one would work. (I had already done a lot of fiddling with it before I saved this image.)

I also did a lot of brainstorming and list making to come up with activities for my Alice-themed convention. I used my own experiences at various miniatures conventions to guide me, thinking of the sign-in process, workshops, round tables, theme luncheons, etc. I boiled it down to the sign-in area, which would use my twelfth scale table, with all the actual convention activities being in quarter scale, which one would reach by drinking the potion to shrink down.

I didn't want to download a font, having once gotten a virus that way in the past. So, for my graphics I found this old Disney alphabet, cleaned it up and sharpened the images, literally drawing inside the lines to make them darker. And then I laboriously cut and pasted, one letter at a time, to make all my signs. Very labor intensive, and if I had known how long it would take when I started, I probably would have taken the chance to download a font after all.

This checkerboard design became the background for my signs and frames.

Here you see the checkerboard around the Drink Me sign, with a part of the scroll border forming the frame of the list of theme luncheons. Variations of these two elements appear on signs throughout the setting.

Instead of a bottle of potion, I decided to use a twelfth scale pitcher, with glass stain forming the drink. The glasses were cut from clear tubing, and the tray is a scrapbooking piece with a small pastel floral sticker on top.

The badges here are twelfth scale, each with a different signature and state; however, all five of the Alices wear quarter scale badges, as well. I spent a lot of time designing and cutting them out in both scales - very fiddly.

I found a real life badge design online which I adapted, and although I had planned to use an Alice figure, it practically disappeared by the time it was reduced to 1/48 scale, so I used the brightly colored Disney Cheshire Cat instead. I duplicated it in three sizes so I could choose the size that worked best for both the quarter scale totebags and both sizes of badges.

My original plan was to have both twelfth and quarter scale totebags, but I couldn't figure out where they would fit in the larger scale. Here I am making the quarter scale totebags, and experimenting with different signs. (I wound up laying the Drink Me sign flat on the table, instead of folded as it appears here.)

I added fine thread as the handles on the bags and only glued them on the figures in the final stages after I had the positions figured out for all five of the dolls. I used my needle nose pliers to shape the body wires on each doll so the original standing Alices could be bending over, reaching, falling down, etc.

The fabric on her dress is very fine, even if it looks like burlap here! The thread handles on her totebag are very fine, as well. One of the hardest things I had to do was to make and cut out those tiny tiny flamingoes. Accidentally cut off a lot of beaks!

I found illustrations for The Red Queen, which I had forgotten was a chess piece, and the White Rabbit. Since the Red Queen would be visible from different angles because of the open sides, I had to make her with a front and back; not an easy chore fitting those two together, either! I also printed duplicates where I could layer on various elements for more dimension, as well.

The rabbit was holding a trumpet in the original; I cut and pasted one of his legs to make a hand/paw so he could hold a sign. I also did some layering with him, as well.

This is the graphic for my rabbit hole after I have worked with it (color looks a little off here). I needed it to be long enough to fold at a 90 degree angle to form the back of the scene under the table and then blend into the floor/ground on top of the box. I did a lot of cutting and pasting and fiddling in PaintShopPro to get enough space for the lower part.

The box had a nice greenish print already and initially I figured I wouldn't have to do a thing to it. As I worked further with the rabbit hole background, however, I decided it would be best to cover the box to blend with that graphic.

So, I printed out this graphic and covered the entire outside of the box before I did anything else. Everything in the scene was then layered in and on top of the box.

I knew from past experience the dangers of trying to glue directly into and onto a box so I planned an insert to go inside and a separate piece to work with that I could then glue directly to the top of the box.

I knew I wanted a tree for The Cheshire Cat and figured I would use a printie from the Tenniel illustrations for the background. Here I have begun temporary placing to see how things will go (I later used a different tree). Also, further along in the process I realized the water color flowers were too busy, and I wound up printing out several images of the tree tops and used them in layers to provide a more solid less obtrusive background. Only a few of the flowers remain, mostly obscured by added items.

I made a pattern for the interior/floor so that I could work on it outside the box first, and a second one that I could use as a pattern for the top.

Brown iron oxide is the base coat for the tree, which is made of twisted wire, wads of Kleenex, glue and spackling compound. I had several, so painted all of them at the same time. I already have plans for one of them in another completely unrelated setting.

Here I have dry brushed my trees with lighter shades of grey and tan paint. In addition, I have begun rounding up other items that I think I may use, including a sprig of three smallish mushrooms. They were rather shiny plastic so I gave them an offwhite wash to tone down the shine. Those smallest mushrooms? They are the knobs that I cut off the doors of several of those little wooden Michaels hutches that I used to make small houses and shops.

I began rounding up materials to use for the ground and the greenery, including two sizes of smaller model railroad ballast and dirt, fine green grass foam, and some clumps of greenery that I will use for my trees' leaves and perhaps some bushes.

Here I have cut a piece of taskboard to fit exactly on top of the box and, after folding my printout sharply at a 90 degree angle, glued it atop. For realism I have begun adding some rocks and greenery. I set it aside to dry while I continued using my separate pattern piece for further placement ideas, having already marked the spot where the tree will go.

I wanted to include an allusion to the Jabberwock from the famous poem, and went back to the old John Tenniel illustrations where I found this example. By now I have decided that I will use two trees, one on the right side of the box below, and a second one on the opposite side above. And the best place to use the monster turned out to be one of my trees!

Here I have cut out the figure, being sure to hide the white edges. I painted the back with the same brown iron oxide so it would blend into the tree in case it might be visible from the open sides of the second level.

Most of my illustrations were later watercolors of the original black and white Tenniel illustrations, but I liked the Disney Cheshire Cat better. I made two copies and cut out the head and tail on the second one to glue on for additional dimension. I also did the same kind of layering with the Jabberwock's head and feet.

Here I have glued the cat in one tree, and the Jabberwock in the other. Those clumps you see on the right are from the baggie that I used for the greenery. Eventually I had to bend the tree limbs differently with my needle nose pliers and cut off some bits with my wire cutter in order to make them fit properly and not hang down too far below or poke up too high above, as well.

At this point, I had decided what activity and posture I wanted for each of my Alices, and found that I only had room for five.

I decided on two tables, with one Alice signing up for one of the Tours, and another signing up for a Theme Luncheon. For my tables I used a small piece of balsa and a tiny piece of yellow fabric that had been coated to prevent raveling.

 

The original illustration that I used for my sign-up guys showed the March Hare, the Dormouse and the Mad Hatter at the tea table. I printed out that picture but used only the March Hare for the Tours table.

The mushrooms in the To Exit, Eat Me dish are tiny dried bloom/seeds from my stash. The red rose lollipops are tiny rose cane slices; an Etsy or ebay purchase, I think. I used the tiny bristles from a fingernail brush for the stems. I also used them, painted black, as the pens on the sign-up sheets. I went to a lot of trouble to have actual headings at the top of my sign-ins, and although you can't really read them anywhere in my pictures, they can be read in real life with a small magnifying glass. This is one of the reasons everything takes me so long - I seem to get carried away with graphics!

The little red clay mushrooms were a purchase, but unfortunately I don't recall who made them.

Here are the Dormouse and the Mad Hatter from that same Tenniel illustration. The Hatter is also layered for dimension, and his hands and arms are cut free so the hands can be folded so they rest on the table.

Unfortunately, I cannot get an angle where the Dormouse shows up well, so I just figure he WANTED to hide behind that purple teapot! There are plates, teacups and silverware on the table, along with the sign in sheet and a pen, but they don't show up well in pictures either. I had a cake on there, as well, but it got jarred loose at some point as I was shaking out loose landscaping bits and I lost it somewhere.

Fortunately, I glued everything else well, planning for people picking up the box to see things more closely. I also have a small but intense bike light that my husband gave me so that the darker interiors can be viewed more easily.

For the Alice looking for Jubjub birds, I needed a telescope. And here once again was the advantage of having a stash.

Unfortunately, I seem to have erased the pictures showing the various bits of findings that I selected to make my telescope. Here, however, you can see the pieces layered to form a base - upside down - drying in a piece of styrofoam that I broke off another project base and stuck into this little container as a gluing area and a place to poke pins, my knife blade and picks to clean off the glue.

Don't pay any attention to that t-pin behind it; it's just sticking into the other side of the styrofoam. I used the same process here that i learned when making lamps and perfume bottles in my early days. Trial fit everything on a pin, then glue it together upside down in a piece of foam. When dry, remove and cut away the excess pin at the top. I painted it all bronze to blend the various elements, and added another small bit on top that had an opening into which I could slide the little pointy thing (no idea what it was) that became the telescope.

Here you see it from the back; a bit wonky, but this is Wonderland, after all. lol

I decided against bushes, instead using mushrooms as in the illustrations, both for color and also as means to help support my paper figures so they would stand upright. Although I gathered lots of my quarter scale flowers and plants when I started working on this, I eventually limited myself to only sunflowers on both levels and one tiny wisp of blooms next to the High Tea mushroom on the lower level. Those great little qs flowers and plants deserve to be center stage somewhere else.

For the lower level, i now had the table and the tree with the Cheshire Cat. Notice that I have created a path through the center with my ballast/dirt mixture, and will add fine landscaping foam for the grass later.

I didn't like the abruptness of the edges of the glued in paper treetops and greenery against the white wall, and ultimately ran a thin line of glue along the edges and then sprinkled on fine green grass foam to soften it. I can't count the number of times I picked up this little box and shook it to allow excess bits to fall out as I worked on the landscaping! No wonder I lost that little cake!

I had decided that the five little Alices were all there for Look Aike Day, and who better to be in charge of the Look Alike contest than Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle Dee in the left corner? I used the same layering technique with them, cutting around their arms so that they could hold the sign.

For my Looking Glass through which the contestants would step, I had this little standing mirror among some items that I gathered many years ago when my granddaughters were small. As I recall, it was in a small toy dress shop setting that turned out to be quarter scale. However, when I trial fitted the figures and mirror in the box they were hardly visible at all. I cut off a section of some green foam to help raise them, pressing the mirror into the foam a bit to hold them realistically.

Here I have covered the foam with a glue and brown paint mix, sprinkled on my dirt mixture and some landscaping foam to blend it into the base. Then I wedged it into the back corner and glued and sprinkled more fine grass foam around it.

In hindsight, I wish I had made a higher mound so Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and their Looking Glass would be more visible.

Here is another view of the Cheshire Cat and the sunflowers.

At this point, I set everything into place - and didn't like it. That rabbit just didn't belong there; he needed to be in the scene above.

 

At this stage I called upon another mushroom, a largish one of four red resin pieces that I had picked up at some point. I remembered as a child reading about High Tea and having this mental picture of people sitting in tall chairs with their teacups, and then I knew what I needed to go in the left front of the scene - High Tea.

I used a piece of cardstock to elevate my mushroom stem, rounding it in my palm with the handle of my knife before gluing it in place, then giving it a wash to blend it. The little quarter scale silver tea set was in my stash. I added a bit of pink lace underneath it, and made the ladder from painted plastic embroidery canvas. I was satisfied then that my "High Tea" concept fit in quite well with the peculiar nature of the Alice story!

The tiny little pink bloom is the only flower, other than the sunflowers, that I actually used in this setting.

To avoid a straight edge,you might notice here how I made sure the landscaping extended slightly over the edge of the box as it were growing there. Before I considered all the quarter scale elements finished, I went back with my little needle-tipped glue bottle and wisps of grass/dirt to fill in as necessary. For such a small scene I sure did a lot of gluing, waiting for it to dry, then shaking to get the loose bits out, then repeating the process, throughout its construction!

With the two lower quarter scale levels complete, it was time to tackle the twelfth scale sign-in table above. At this point, I had moved my table back and forth and bumped it so many times that two legs had come unglued.

As I contemplated gluing the legs back, I figured a tiled table in a hotel hallway would not be as realistic as a table with a cloth, and too much work had gone into that tabletop to cover it up with a tablecloth anyway. So, I put the table and its two unglued legs aside to deal with another day, and began the process of making a table specifically for my scene.

I knew there was a reason that for years I had bought a package of table legs every time I saw them on sale. In my stash I found four that were exactly the same length as the legs on my other table.

Real woodworkers will probably be horrified at my approach, but this was my way of coming up with a table to replace the other one. I wasn't worried about using cardboard since it wouldn't be moved once it was finished and it would not have items of any weight to speak of atop it.

I used a stain pen in Early American to paint my table legs to match the base, which was considerably beat up.

I then used the stain pen to perk up the base, as well.

Here is the table in process of gluing. I used a paint close to the Early American stain color.

I didn't want to glue the tablecloth directly to the table in case I messed up, so for the top I cut a piece of white paper to which I glued my paper tablecloth. After I trimmed and shaped it to fit, I just set the whole thing atop my homemade table.

I played around with graphics and my Alice alphabet to create the sign.

That little frizzy haired doll sat atop my old computer for years. I purchased her from Marilyn Houston, with whom I had my first sculpting workshop. (You see her in this picture with Swapke, who visited from Europe several years ago). In January when my old computer bit the dust, the dolly was accidentally knocked to the floor and her shoe and sock broke right off. I figured I would glue it back, but somehow it got pushed aside.

Talk about serendipity! My eye fell om that little foot when I was working on this scene and it was a PERFECT match for Alice's shoe and sock. So, my little frizzy haired dolly is now seated in such a fashion that nobody notices she only has one foot, and she sacrified the other one for a worthy cause.

 

I printed out a piece of my rabbit hole background to fit the entire length of the scene, with the white sign for the convention above, and a matching piece to the other sides of the box forming the back.

Then I glued everything in place, and called it DONE!

It feels good to take something from initial idea to final finished product, after having a long dry spell after completing Granny Watchful's Day Care well over a year ago.

I really enjoyed working through the many challenges within the challenge of this project. Thanks to Preble McDaniel of the LittleEnoughNews group for the Alice theme idea, and to Pauline Coombes and Philappa Mueller of the Allsorts group for the Mushrooms challenge.

And thank YOU for visiting!

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