11 February 2012
Julie Jackson, creator of the Featherstone Hall Hotel, provides helpful advice for creating a successful miniature scene and describes how she created the Toile Room of this doll house masterpiece...
You don't have to be the best miniaturist in the world to create successful scenes. You don't need to have the best quality pieces to make something worth looking at! It just takes a little thought beforehand. Make your scene interesting by thinking through exactly what's going on in the room, and use the pieces in the room to establish your story.
Creating a story
Rooms and houses without a storyline are simply showcases for collections of miniatures, and some miniaturists prefer not to use dolls in their rooms, which is absolutely fine if that's what you want. An unmade bed, a kitchen table with cooking in progress can tell a story as well as having a cook beside it or a man in bed reading the newspaper. The most memorable scenes are those in which something is happening, but most importantly, they have the dressing to back up the story.
One of the reasons that the Featherstone Hall Hotel is so interesting to look at, is that every square inch of every room works to add detail to the scene. This is combined with the 'sight lines' technique, and 'active' door areas to make an intense viewing experience which keeps people looking and coming back to see it time and time again.
Take a look again at the picture of this room. You automatically look at the people first. The story is that Chloe and Frances have enjoyed their night at the ball with champagne in the Toile Room afterwards. Chloe's parents looked after their grandchildren in the room above, but now Grandad's nerves have become a bit frayed with the children waiting out in the hall. He's annoyed to see Frances in bed while Chloe's still fixing her hair, and through the open door, he's urging them to get on and take the children back!
This circle of viewing keeps going around, and each time you notice more. After the people you notice the context of their position in the room. The fireplace – the clock showing how late it is, the dressing table – accessories show Chloe is still getting ready, the champagne on the bedside table – showing they really did have a good night!
Looking a little longer takes in the remaining details. The wardrobe with the Gladstone bag on top and cases on the floor remind us that they're hotel guests. The jug and bowl on the chest of drawers shows the room has no en-suite bathroom, and is therefore a less expensive room in the hotel. Every detail tells us something about the room, the house and the occupants. The more you fill in the blanks, the more successful the scene will be.
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That's the theory – now let's look at the decoration!
- The ceiling was already painted
- An access hatch was cut in the back wall and inserted a false back wall in front of it. This reduced the depth of the room
- A play with the furniture decided the position
- The space left for the fireplace resulted in a corner one
- The walls are covered with cotton fabric
- Brown floor and furniture and peach walls
- Blue bed linen and curtains tie with Chloe's dress
- Cream accents with the rug, sheets and lamps
Wall covering and fireplace
- The fabric was sprayed with glue and applied to the walls
- The lower edge is covered by stained and varnished skirting boards
- The fireplace corner was created with wires going back through the false wall space to the transformer. This false corner was glued into position
- A strip of embossed paper between the picture rail and ceiling were painted to match the ceiling
- Gold painted picture rail and cream coving was added
The curtains were made from rectangles of the wall fabric. The edges were glued and the bottom was trimmed with the same braid used for the bed cover. A second piece of braid was used over Plastruct for a pelmet. A blind was made from the same fabric used on the bed cover, with a single blue silk tassel glued centrally as a blind pull.