Around Town

Around Town: Icy Fun

High up in the mountains, winter has already arrived with snow blanketing the landscape. We are so lucky in Crabapple Crossings to have a winter wonderland within easy travelling distance. The youngsters especially enjoy the skating rink.

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We captured Winifred Whitetail and Fiona Firefox out on the ice.

“I’m learning how to skate backwards,” Miss Firefox explained. “I keep falling on my tail, but I’m having lots of fun.”

“My favorite part of skating is doing spins,” Miss Whitetail said. “I love ice skating.”

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When asked if she was cold without her coat, Miss Whitetail explained that got too hot with the vigorous exercise of ice skating. “I put it back on as soon as I’m done! I don’t want to get frostbite!”

 

After a bit of a hiatus, I am back with this round of Iron Craft. The theme this time was “I is for…” so we were to come up with a project that used the letter I in terms of materials, subject, or technique. Brainstorming “I” projects was a bit of a challenge. I could barely think of anything fun that started with that letter! Finally, I settled on “I for ice rink.”

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This project was actually quite simple once I settled on my theme. I started by finding a white styrofoam wreath base and a round craft mirror that was larger than the wreath’s inside diameter, but smaller than it’s outside diameter.

Using a knife, I cut the wreath base in half so that it would sit solidly on the mirror. I then painted the wreath base with some “Snow-Tex” textured paint. It was kind of weird stuff. It has almost a mousse-like texture. And because the styrofoam is quite slick, it was a bit difficult to get the textural portion of it to adhere. It took a bit of coaxing to stick; I found that a sort-of “scrape and dab” motion worked best. I let it dry for a good 24 hours, just to be safe, and it is really nice and solid – not crumbly to touch.

A lot of Christmas villages use a simple mirror to simulate a frozen lake, but I think that looks too reflective. So while the snow effect paint was drying, I traced the mirror onto a clear plastic window sheet and cut it out. I then used the finest paper on a sanding block to rough up the window sheet. I sanded all over with circular motions. This gives it a cloudy look and obscures the mirror surface a bit while still allowing some reflection. 

Once the wreath base was dry, I used a low temperature hot glue gun to adhere the window sheet to the bottom. Since the mirror was a bit on the expensive side, I decided to not permanently alter it; so the “ice and snow unit” simply sits on top of it. A folded up white towel borrowed from my bathroom and some cloud-printed bulletin board paper completed my wintery scene.

It was fun getting back into a bit of crafting after my break. And I love the effect of the window sheet over the mirror – it’s just the right combination of cloudy and reflective for my taste.

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Around Town: Harold Hopper’s Aquarium

Today we captured a snap of Mr. Harold Hopper with his beloved aquarium.

“I’ve been keeping fish for years,” he tells us. “After so many months and years spent on the sea before I retired, I like to have a little bit of the ocean to keep me company. So I keep goldfish.”

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This round of Iron Craft was themed “It’s a Zoo Out There”. We were to make a project that featured an animal, could be used by an animal, or used animal-themed materials. Of course, I’m almost always making things “for” anthropomorphic animal characters, but making just any mini for my village seemed like a bit of a cop-out on the theme. So I wanted to make a project that focused on other animals in this imaginary world. Since all the villagers are mammals, this left me with making a project about birds, reptiles, amphibians, or fish.

And then I stalled out/procrastinated for two weeks. Finally, on Monday I realized I had to make something. So I finally settled on making a little fish tank. The past few rounds of Iron Craft I’ve been trying to avoid buying new materials for my projects. So I used things I had on-hand for this project.

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The base of the tank is a 1″x 2″ piece of foam-core board. I smeared white glue on it and sprinkled it with some craft sand. After it dried, I added a second coat. Meanwhile, I cut some silk flower leaves into tiny little plants. I just eyeballed them. I then used Fast-Grab Tacky Glue to attach the plants. This glue has a more viscous consistency, so it kept the leaves fairly vertical. The five or so plants I had cut out looked a bit sparse, so I grabbed some green embroidery floss I had on-hand. I coated it lightly with white glue (just smearing a bit on it with my fingers) and let it dry. Once dry, I separated out the individual strands. This turned out awesome. It really looks like grassy underwater plants! After all the plants were glued in place, I added a bit more glue and a bit more sand where the plants and base met to ease the transition and cover up any shiny glue areas.

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The walls of the tank are very thin acetate sheets. Mine is from Stampin’ Up. The sheets are scored at each corner. I then used narrow adhesive strips to attach the acetate to the foam core base. A narrow strip of black cardstock adhered over the top gives it a tidy look.

The next challenge was the fish. I struggled with this part of the project. I tried using styrofoam, but I am not talented enough to carve a realistic looking fish. I then tried origami (I have experience making tiny origami projects) but I couldn’t get them small enough to look right. I considered polymer clay, but I my sculpting skills are not nearly up to par. Finally, I decided to simply make them out of paper. I found an image of a goldfish and mirrored it in Photoshop so that it was attached at the mouth and could be folded in half so both sides looked good. I printed and cut them out. I carefully used a marker to make the paper edges orange (I find white edges on paper crafts like this ruin the look.) I had some ultra-thin clear thread on-hand (I can’t remember the gauge of it, but it is finer than strands of my hair) and I sandwiched it in between the two sides of the printed image and glued it all together with a tiny dab of white glue.

The top of the tank is an identical piece of foam board to the base. I cut out a piece of black paper to fit the foam board and poked holes in it to thread the clear thread through. Making sure that the fish were freely hanging into the tank, I affixed the thread to this piece of paper and glued the paper to the foam board. More narrow adhesive strips attached the “lid” to the acetate walls. This also helps keep the tank properly squared. More black paper was adhered to the top of the foam core and around the edges for a finished look.

I am really happy with how this project turned out. I love the freely hanging fish – they look really great in-person. It was nearly impossible to get an in-focus picture of this project, so I apologize for the blurriness and weird digital artifacts in my photos this week. I am so enjoying the Iron Craft challenge because it is forcing me to be creative in new ways – I never would have thought to make a tiny fish tank for my village without this round’s prompt – and I just love what I came up!

Around Town: Lemonade Stand

We spied a couple of enterprising children ushering in the warmer weather with a favorite summertime treat: fresh-squeezed lemonade. Patrick Porker and Beatrice Beaver had set up a small stand selling refreshing homemade lemonade right downtown.

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“We’ve made almost fifty cents already!” said Patrick.

“It’s a hot day, so I guess people want something cold to drink,” said Beatrice. “I know that I’ve had two glasses already!”

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When asked how often their stand would be appearing this summer, Peter stated “I don’t know. Probably when we are bored with doing other things or want some spending money.” So make sure you stop by and get a glass of tasty lemonade when you see it.

This round of Iron Craft was themed Summertime. We were asked to make a summer-themed item or something to use in the summer. I wanted to make something that was quintessentially summer – and a children’s lemonade stand definitely said “summer” to me. 

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The stand is made from some unusual super-thin foam core board I found at a local junk shop. I think it may be used for framing? I got a few small sheets of it, but I’d love to find more! It’s a great material for minis. It’s so nice to have similar materials with various thicknesses and I think traditional foam core would have been too thick for the bulk of this project. 

The base is the thin foam core covered with white cardstock. I then added stripes with additional pieces of cardstock. The “counter” is a regular-thickness piece of foamcore covered in more cardstock. The uprights are thin pieces of bass wood. They help keep the structure squared. The sign is just cardstock and marker.

The details are a bit harder to see in my pictures (I couldn’t get my camera to focus well on them. The light isn’t great today.) On the left is a purchased miniature wooden bowl. I filled it with polymer clay lemons. In the center is a knife and cutting board from a Calico Critters set. The lemons are a polymer clay cane I made (it’s easier to see in the middle picture above.) The glasses are eraser covers from “Push Pencils.” This site has a good image of the pencils. They are the perfect size for making minis. I found mine in the Target dollar spot, 8 for $1. Figuring out how to make them look like they had lemonade in them was a huge challenge for me. Many people who do miniatures use resin to create faux-liquids, but that was a bit more than I wanted to attempt. (Lots of room for error and it’s not an inexpensive material.) I finally settled on using a yellow Sharpie marker to color the cups to at least give them a yellow tinge. I ended up coloring both the inside and outside of the cups to make them look nice and bright. It may not look as authentic as resin, but it’s effective enough for me!

End-of-Season Sales

With winter finally coming to an end, the warmer temperatures and longer light mean that winter necessities, like stoves are available for best “deal of the year” prices.

“Now is the best time to purchase a new stove for next winter’s long nights,” says Herman Hopper, whose years of experience in trade have given him lots of economic know-how. “Many manufacturers are looking to sell off this year’s remaining stock so that they’ll have space in their warehouses for next year’s newest models. So if you aren’t too set on getting the newest and fanciest, you can get a great deal.”

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He, himself has decided to partake in the wonderful discount. “This little beauty cost me 40% of its retail price, and it’ll keep my cottage warm and bright for years to come.”

Citizens interested in discounted stoves or other winter gear can look to our pages for all the latest ads and sales.

 

This round of Iron Craft was an especially fun assignment: Hometown History. This year I moved back to my hometown, so I was especially excited to celebrate its history with a mini project.

I live in a small town in Michigan called Chelsea, which nowadays is known primarily as the home of Jiffy Mix. We also have an amazing library (best small library in the U.S. in 2008) wonderful local theater (The Purple Rose) and a downtown that is pure Americana. Chelsea’s community calendar was just recently featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It’s really a great town, and I can’t help but be a cheerleader for it. 

But looking to the town’s history, I had to go with it’s manufacturing past for my inspiration. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Chelsea was pretty much a company town for the Glazier Stove Company. So I decided to make a miniature version of one of Glazier’s “Brightest and Best” stoves. The best images of these stoves are from one of our local photographers. 

I took a little bit of inspiration from several of the stoves featured. My mini stove is made almost entirely out of cardstock paper. I punched circles of various sizes, then stacked them and glued them together. Then each layered unit received a very thin strip to cover the edge. Some silver foil paper details made my stacks of circles more stove-like. Painted beads for the feet and a tiny Styrofoam ball cut in half, painted, and glued to the top completed the project.  

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Is this project the most realistic miniature stove? Certainly not. But I think it looks really cute in the corner of the cottage and helps give it an old-time cozy look. And it was so fun to make a miniature homage to the history of my little hometown. 

Around Town: Cookbook Collection

Local resident Helen Hopper has a useful and unique collection: cookbooks. “Many of my favorite recipes come from the pages of these books,” she says. “It’s been a lifetime collecting these tomes.”

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Mrs. Hopper’s collection numbers fifty unique cookbooks. “It’s getting to be a bit much!” she admits. “I’ve read them all several times over the years and have copied down all my favorite recipes.”

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Mrs. Hopper’s collection will soon be available to check out from the Crabapple Crossings public library. “I’ve gotten such wonderful use out of these books and I think it would be nice to share their wisdom with the other townsfolk.”

For this round of Iron Craft, the theme was “In the Kitchen.” We were to make something to be used in a kitchen, make something with items found in a kitchen, or use a kitchen appliance as a tool to make something.

I was actually at a bit of a loss for this project. I know that I should keep practicing with polymer clay, but after last round’s vegetable stand, I wasn’t really feeling up to making tiny food. But I had been mulling over the idea of tiny books for a while. So little cookbooks it was!

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Since I’m working in miniature, I seem unable to focus on making just one single project – nope it has to be multiples of whatever I’m working on. In all, I ended up making 50 miniature cookbooks.

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The largest book is just 7/8″ tall. Each cookbook was created using scans of antique cookbooks from archive.org, most from the Cornell University Library collection, so all should be free of copyright restrictions. I will post a tutorial including the printable file later this week.

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Around Town: Making Valentines

For our new “Around Town” feature, we’ll be publishing pictures of daily life around Crabapple Crossings. These are simply slice-of-life photos to document our village!

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We captured Miss Millie Mouse making valentines for her family and friends.

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She would like to wish everyone in Crabapple Crossings and beyond a very happy Valentine’s Day.