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MAY, 2009

(This little cottage is 1/24th scale, sometimes referred to by miniaturists as halfscale, where one inch equals twenty-four inches. So, everything in real life is smaller than it appears in these photos because I use such extreme closeups sometimes.)

I finished Mother Goose's cottage in May 2009, but it began many years before that.

I made its shell in the early 90s in a Bill Lankford Catch-Up workshop at The Little Shop in Lubbock, TX. At the time, most of the people in Norma's tiny workroom were working on different things (she later moved to a different location; not sure if she even has a shop any more). As he helped us, Bill was also working that day on a prototype for a Southwest church facade. It was an invaluable experience, because not only did he show me what to do to make my cottage, I was also able to watch the others working on various things, and, most importantly, observe his creative process as he designed a prototype, and I loved it.

The wooden shell was already glued to the base; chimney, windows, door, wood stripping, bricks for steps and landscaping materials were provided.

The thatching is made of patching compound, or spackle, that he had mixed with either yellow dye or paint in a big bucket. He showed me how to use a putty knife to glop it in place and distribute it, making sure to have a natural look at the overhang. Then I literally combed it with a cheapie large-toothed comb, like those found at the dollar stores.

I was having problems with the light on the day I took these pictures. Although the pictures were taken years later, this was the stage of construction at the end of that workshop day in Lubbock. Here it is still lacking the color washes to give it an aged, natural look, as well as the door, front steps, etc.

This was the left side of the cottage. It looks uneven because it didn't fit exactly on the turntable I was using to rotate it for picture-taking. In retrospect, I regretted adding the dried materials because over time some had faded and I might have used other flowers instead. However, the materials were provided aong with some valuable suggestions about landscaping, and I figured I could add or remove things later.

The door hadn't been added yet, nor the brick stoop and steps. Some smears of "thatch" on the wall needed to be dealt with, too.

Notice how the little cottage is placed; aesthetically it is more pleasing to place an object at an angle on its base, rather than lined up straight with the edges.

This was the interior. Notice I got some "thatch" on the base which I had to clean up later, as well as needing to touch up the other wood. Because of time limitations, Bill had added a board to cover up the upper level which we wouldn't have time to deal with in that one-day workshop.

We smoothed on plain white spackle to make the stucco walls. We took long strips of stained wood and just held them up against the wall, eyeballed them for fit, and cut them with a heavy-duty scissors. We pressed them into place in the stucco, being sure that they were even at the top and that they were imbedded slightly for a natural look. Bill pointed out that any irregularities at the bottom would be taken care of when we applied the floors and baseboards. I thought this was a terrific approach, a real freeing experience that fits my style.

His approach with the bay window was essentially the same; eyeball it, cut to fit, glue in place. And the way it looked that day was the way it stayed for YEARS until I finally figured out who it belonged to - Mother Goose.

When I got the cottage down from the shelf to work on recently, I decided to remove that flat piece and make a loft upstairs so I could create a wee bedroom. Here I have begun the laborious process of prying and cutting it loose. It took a lot longer than I expected because the combination of wood glue and spackle really held it tightly.

Hmm; funny; I hadn't noticed that I had an audience when I began this project.

After a great deal of work, it finally came loose. I saved it so that I could make a pattern for the plexiglass that might eventually cover the open area of the cottage if I decided not to put it in a display case or large dome.

Here I have trimmed up the raw edges along the cut and swept out the interior. This handy emery board helped smooth the floor.

I wanted to finish the upstairs the same way as the lower floor, with stucco and beams, so here is a use for all those Starbucks stirrer sticks that I save. I have stained them to match as closely as I can the beams that we stained in Lubbock so long ago.

Here is the spackling compound stucco and the first beams. I waited until the stucco had a slight skim on it, then pushed the beams into place. Then I put it aside for a while to dry and worked on the furnishings.

Many years ago I did a round table of a 1/24th open-back pewter cupboard, but when I decided to use it in the cottage, felt it looked too spindly for my sturdy little Mother Goose kitchen.  So, I used a file folder to cut a back.

After gluing that in place, the cupboard was much more stable.

But as I began trimming the excess, I realized I still wasn't happy with those spindly legs so decided to extend the back to the floor, and add solid sides.

Here I have glued the first piece in place.

And to give a more finished look, I added interior coverings, as well. Now all that shows of those legs is the wood fronts; much better. I decided to leave the bottom open so I would have display space, but added a bottom shelf. I painted on, then wiped off a stain, and let the cupboard dry over night. It turned out pretty nifty, if I do say so, and was much more substantial looking.  It looked as if it belonged on the right wall of the cottage. 

Then I spent almost the entire next day just going through my stash and mulling over and deciding and un-deciding what to put in it.  The first things I added were the egg basket, dish towel, four plates, and two square canisters which I contrived from little wood cubes, stickers and findings.  Since I didn't really have anything much in the way of already-made accessories or foods, etc., in this scale, much of my time was spent contriving with bits and pieces. Once again I discovered the value of having a stash of various bits of wood, findings, beads and scrapbooking accessories.

Here is the interior of the upstairs after the floor was stained with all the beams and baseboards in place. I was pleased that it matched the boards of the lower floor so well. Sure was a little area to try to furnish, though, and those sloping walls made it a real challenge.

One thing that I had to make a decision about. When we made the cottage in Lubbock, I didn't have to worry about this window because there was no second floor planned; consequently there is no opening inside all that stucco for an interior window. Since I have turned it into Mother Goose's bedroom, however, I need to decide - do I just ignore the window and leave the clean plastered wall and hope no one will notice, or do I try to figure out what to do about suggesting the window inside? I don't have a problem leaving out things like toilets in bathrooms or refrigerators in kitchens or fireplaces in living rooms, etc., because I can always explain they are on the invisible front wall. This was not one of those situations, however, and that explanation would not work for my literalist family members who always notice such things. So, I decided that I had to do something to suggest the window, much as I hated to.

I had some frames in my scrapbooking stash, so decided to use one as a pretend window. I put a stain on it to tone down its brightness.

At first I thought I would try to tone down the white of the curtain, but forget that!

So this was my solution. Actually it looks better in reality than it does in the pictures. The flower is more pink than the orangey look it has here. Frankly, I would rather not have it, but what the heck. I didn't want to have to answer questions from people who would stand there and look first inside, then out, then inside, and ask, "Why isn't there ....?"

At this point, I decided to put another layer of aging on the thatch. Nowadays thatch is done more realistically with the natural blackening that comes from age, including Bill Lankford's thatched buildings, so basically by the time I was finished that golden undercoat wasn't really visible any more. I also painted the upstairs window frame to match the lower window; however, I didn't get pictures of this process.

As I manipulated the house, the original dried landscaping materials were crumbling and making a mess. Since I wanted to change it all anyway, I plucked and scraped and pulled and brushed away loose bits so they wouldn't keep falling into my glue and paint.  And in doing so, I had a new vision of what I hoped eventually to do.  Since Mother Goose is by her nature a thrifty, homey person, and totally unpretentious, that led to the decision to plant a kitchen garden for her. 

And gee, wouldn't it be nice to have a well, and I just happened to have this little resin well in my stash. Not sure where I got it, but it's the right scale and I figured it would be perfect outside Mother Goose's door. And how handy it would be for watering that garden, too.

Gotta do something about that half-done paint job, though.

A bit of chalk does a lot to help tone down the shine and cover up that red.

I used that big emery board to take the sharp edges off the shingles and the top of the well. What DO you call it, a ledge, a rim?

I used dark iron oxide to paint the well's interior, then added glue for the water and put it aside for the water to dry (heh heh).

I wanted to use this little goose, but didn't like the base.

So, I cut it off, which meant she had no feet. Oh dear! And, as it turned out, I didn't have room for her anyway. Well, one of these days I will figure out where to use her and then I will figure out what to do about adding those feet back..

Many years ago on a vacation driving up the West Coast, I either purchased or took this picture of a real cottage somewhere; Carmel, California, maybe. I have always wanted to make it in miniature, including that fairy-taleish tree, and have kept the picture, along with the sponge-y makings for that tree, in a plastic bag for years.

Finishing the Lankford cottage was finally my opportunity to create the tree.

I realized it would have to be shorter, of course, and smaller, too, because of the addition of the well and the garden, and I didn't want it be so tall that it wouldn't fit within my display dome or box. 

For the trunk and limbs I decided to use some clippings from this clump of twigs that I purchased once at a dollar store.

Here I have determined on five layers. These pieces were cut from a soft, spongy foam, not like the normal hard stuff; not sure where I got it. After all these years it is still soft, too.

I decided to paint the limbs a more realistic greybrown, so first put on a coat of lichen, then dry brushed dark iron oxide. I have taped the branches together at the base with masking tape. Most of this will not show in the finished tree once it is "planted" and the greenery is in place around its base, although I will cut away the excess beyond the tape.

Here I am experimenting to determine where to plant my tree.

I've had that rustic little bench for a long time and decided it would be nice for sitting in the shade of the tree. You will notice I had roughed out a shape for my vegetable garden, which I kept moving around for the proper location.

That wooden base was convenient because I could just hammer a nail into it to support my tree.

I used model railroad landscaping materials; three different grades of grass and turf. (Empty spice bottles are great for this purpose, as are plastic kitchen containers, of course. I keep the larger containers out of the way in the pantry and just refill as needed.)

I gave the tree sections a hefty coat of Tacky glue mixed with brown paint and shook them inside a bag with the foam mixtures. They were left to dry thorougly before I slid them onto the trunks. However, me being me, I didn't wait long enough, so a lot of the mixture came off. I figured, however, this was a very old tree, so wouldn't necessarily be pristine in its pruning and there'd be some dead stuff in there, anyway.

I didn't particularly want to use these straight lines, but what was left of the green and that darn gravel were glued like iron to the base. I decided to leave it and just sort of build my grounds on top, keeping some of it visible, perhaps, anyway.

I built up the sides with some paint and soil-coated bits of leftover foam, using my standard mix of brown iron oxide and coffee grounds for soil, mixed in with some grass foam.

I decided Mother Goose would still need some kind of walkway to keep out of the mud, so I decided to try using eggshells again to duplicate stones, a technique I learned from the Steeles of Utah. You can see the first use of this technique in the Mouse House in a Holey Rock.

After breaking the eggs and saving the contents for the next day's breakfast, I washed the shells carefully. Then I coated a piece of cardstock with a thick coat of Tacky glue. The trick is to use the palm of your hand to push the eggshell down into the glue. Don't forget to remove the thin membrane that lines the shell; I forgot to do that with one egg and had to go back and break another.

After breaking them, I placed a piece of wax paper atop so that I could smooth them firmly into the glue. Obviously, the more you press, the smaller your pieces will be.

Here a dirty water wash has been applied.

I painted a glue and paint mixture where I wanted my pathway.

 

I planned my garden to fit between the well and the tree, and figured I would have enough room for five rows of vegetables and two fruit bushes. Black cardstock was used for the garden base, then I added a thin coat of brown paint mixed with coffee grounds for the soil. After the plants were contrived from this and that, I added another coat of soil and used my pick to "plow" the rows and then glued the plants in place. That way the whole garden could be glued into the appropriate place after all the finicky planting was done.

In the background you can get a glimpse of the stone path. After I had the garden in place I realized I would need to extend the path beside the well, too. I didn't like it, however, for this very small setting, so pulled it all up and decided I would use some railroad ballast to make a more gravel-like pathway.

Here the well and garden are in place. Notice I have moved the nail over; in its previous location the tree would have obscured the window too much. My husband made this observation; he is so very good at catching things like that! Actually, I moved the tree's location twice. It was too hard to get the first two nails out, so I just used my heavy cutters and snipped them level with the base where they were later covered anyway. At this point I won't add any more soil or grass until all the other elements are complete.

Here is the garden with the ballast walkway visible in the background.

I used bunched cloth-covered florist wire to make the base of my climbing rose. The rose foliage was some I had purchased from Bill Lankford all those years before. It has held up very nicely. It was in a sort of compressed block form. I picked and pulled it apart into the various canes or vines.

I coated the wire stems with glue and wound the foliage sparsely around them, and glued the base of the bush in place behind the barrel. Then I just added bits of the rose branches until I got the effect I wanted, always keeping them logical in their growth from the base of the bush.

The rose has grown over the years and has crept past the lower part of the window and up over the top.

This vine was made from artificial foliage stems from my stash. I cut off various pieces from the main stem and added them to my main trunk; also painted the stems a grayish brownish steaky color. They were a little resistant to gluing, so I had to insert a few pins here and there to make the stems conform as if they were clinging to the side of the house and the thatch on the roof. I am not sure what this plant is; I forgot to ask Mother Goose. lol

At this time I decided I needed to add another layer of aging to the thatch, so went over it with another wash. More difficult because I already had creeping roses!

NOTE FROM 2013: In retrospect, I wish I hadn't added that last wash. Although real thatched roofs are quite dark from aging, I think the final thatch would be more to my liking if it had a bit lighter finish. With the tree, the whole house, inside and out, is a bit darker than I would wish. Oh well; live and learn. I suppose it's naturally dark because Mother Goose's cottage is nestled among a lot of trees - if Candelaria hasn't burned the woods down. lol

Then I glued the sunflowers in place and added two or three blue blossoms for contrast. (These look a lot better in real life. Close ups aren't always great, are they?)

I have added the flower bed along the walk and scattered the ballast for the path, with more grass turf to meld the edges here and there.

Here is the tree, snugly fitted over its nail. More grass has been added around its base.

I used thinned grey paint over the plastic brick to suggest the mortar, then wiped it off. (It looks shinier in the photo than it does in real life.) Here it is glued into place in front of the door and the sharp edges are blurred with the grass foam. I still need to paint under the recess of the door and add a step halfway between the stoop and the threshold.

This Karen Markland goose was one of my first purchases at a miniature show; I think it was the NAME regional at Colorado Springs in the 80s. That little goose stood happily in my McKinley wallhanger for many years and then in my curio cabinet until she was needed here. I probably need a better sign, and in the photo here I notice some remnants of the dried flowers that were once there by the bow.

This goose is quite small. Sometmes taking good closeups causes the illusion that items are much bigger than they actually are.

I will add more grass to cover the base here, too.

 

At this point, I began working on the window seat.

Here I have begun gluing a cushion, having gotten out various odd bits and pieces for possible use as pillows.

I asked my husband what he thought and he commented, "Well, it's not a very good idea to have people leaning up against a glass window." Oops! Well, I wasn't satisfied with it anyway, so I decided to make a back of some sort.

This filigree paper was from a small gift box. I used a stain marker to paint it, cut it to fit the width of my window and used one of those Starbucks stir sticks to frame it. It makes great "wood" fretwork.

 

And I really like how my fretwork bench came out. Got rid of that big pillow that I worked so hard on, which allowed room for adding this goose, which was a gift crafted by my old friend Sandi many years ago. The crocheted pillows were gifts many years ago from an El Paso friend.

I made the heart vine wreath.

At first Mother Goose's cape and hat were hanging here, until I remembered I wouldn't have any place for the jelly cupboard that I bought from the Gills this year in Chicago. So I draped the cape on the window seat with the hat on top, as if they'd just been tossed there.

The hat is made with paper flower petals and a tiny silk rose. I think I should've snipped off that ribbon more evenly.

 

The blue chair was made by April Gill's daughter; the red table was purchased from Barb Lewis. The pitcher was also a show purchase in Chicago last year. I don't remember where I got the rug, or if I made it myself. It has a backing of iron-on interfacing and has been in my Rugs and Afghans drawer for several years. The copper pan and the other one hangng on the wall over the chest are from Mexico, as is the copper kettle under the hutch. The barely visible blue and white pan to the left is a muffin tin; I think there is another baking pan atop it.

I don't recall where I got the crock filled wtih tomatoes; I think it was originally intended for my Pigness Protection Program setting.

I made the table in a workshop once. The "Dogwood" was a purchase from LadyBug Sue Thwaite. The little grinning plant was a swap gift.

Somewhere I have the name of its creator; I need to find it. Just love that personable little plant.

That's real dried finescale fern in the basket; I used some lighter green paint for accent. The tiny bird is from Mexico. The watering can was a show purchase.

 

I applied a coat of gesso to the grey plastic Grandt Line door to provide "tooth" for the paint. Then my mind just left me and I applied a stain instead of paint. Well, it was old and stayed sticky and looked terrible. I had to scrub it all off and start over. Fortunately, the gesso stayed, so I just painted over it with brown paint, then used a stain pen on it.

This bedside table is a full-size table in 1:48 scale. The rug is paper, a show purchase. The goose is a button.

The bed began life as a child's rocking chair, although I purchased it specificaly for this cottage, knowing I would use it in some way. I removed the dowel rod handle at the front and removed the seat and made a new base for my mattress.

I had a completely different covering on the bed at first, and although it was pretty I was vaguely dissatisfied. When I found this marvelous tiny yo-yo quilt at the Three Blind Mice Show in Chicago this year I understood why I was dissatisfied - Mother Goose's bed needed a quilt, not a spread. I went to a lot of trouble to dress that bed, but the pillow barely shows at the head and the dust ruffle barely shows at the foot.

At first I had the Markland goose upstairs, then replaced her with the grey goose purchased from MiniGems at the IMA Show in Chicago. The little trunk barely visible in the background is a full-size steamer trunk in 1:48 scale that I made from a kit. I just laid it on its side. The sloping walls of this little cottage made it very difficult to furnish and I needed something else in the bedroom. Trunks were often used for storage in old cottages.

I made the sausage and cheese with Fimo. One trick I learned is that regardless of what scale the workshop is supposed to be, always keep any extras and make all sizes of canes.

The eggs are made from tiny flower pips (and look much better in real life). The towel has a stamped design.

This chest has been recycled a second time. It was originally used in a little SW setting, The Pigness Protection Program. You can see it in its original form in a tutorial here.

I cut the trims from a Mary Engelbreit notepad. The pitcher was an accessory that came with a McFarlane action figure. That shallow bowl on the stand is actually supposed to be a plate. It and a plain white bowl in the hutch were the only pieces in what were supposed to be halfscale dishes that I was able to actually use; otherwise, it all looked way too clunky. I used a round jewelry finding as a stand for it.

 

I really like Mother Goose's cottage and enjoyed creating it. It was worth keeping it around as a Someday-I-Wanna all those years.


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