When my daughter, Diana, moved back in after college, we decided to make two adjoining rooms upstairs into a suite for her. One of those was my doll room. The other had been my younger daughter's bedroom, but she had moved in with her best friend from high school, so I took over Diana's bedroom across the hall for my new doll room.
I had this vision of a lovely space, warm and beautifully organized, where I could work on my doll projects. There would be attractive art and posters on the brightly colored walls and I would put pictures of it online to impress everyone with my good taste and decorating skills. :-)
What I didn't account for was just how much stuff I really have.
First Diana and I moved over some bookshelves from the old doll room and then some of the plastic drawers. We put in a desk, and space was already getting tight. We hadn't unpacked half my stuff yet, so we had to go vertical, adding shelves on two walls that went nearly to the ceiling. Now I had lost all my space for art.
Then we brought in all the foam core from the hall closet upstairs and some misc. items I had stored downstairs.
Now the place looked like a warehouse. Granted, things are much more organized and easy to find so I've actually been working on projects again, but the room is not exactly what I would call aesthetically pleasing. Instead of a place to relax and enjoy my dolls, it is merely storage and a work space.
The really frightening part is that most of my dolls aren't even in the room. They are still in the hall closet or downstairs in my bedroom. My doll room just holds their stuff!!
I've figured out the solution, though. I'm working on marrying my daughter off and then I can take over her suite!!
This is the room in progress. You can see I already have too much stuff to put on the shelves!!
Another part of the room in progress. The shoe boxes each hold components for a future diorama- Southwestern Room, Cottage, etc. The drawers hold vases, rugs, table tops and bases and all sorts of other goodies. The various containers on the shelves hold shoes, purses, hats, Re-ment, some of the Christmas stuff, and I don't know what all else!
I purchased two sets of these wonderful drawers at the Steelcase outlet for $10 apiece. I used them with a wood look desk top which I purchased for $3 at the same time. I almost went for a white top, but chose the wood so I could use it for flooring for quick doll pics.
Some of the statuary.
The drawers in the corner hold quilts, more Re-ment, Barbie sized sewing notions and seasonal decorations. The blue drawers hold building supplies for making rooms, The black drawers and the white drawers stacked on top hold clothes. They weren't all filled up at this point, but they are now!
Miscellaneous chairs, etc.
This is just one of the drawers, not very neatly organized yet. This one has planters and vases. When my things were in my old room, my daughter insisted that we label everything with pink labels!
A drawer full of toys. Most of the others are in the nursery in the Big House.
If I get a chance and anyone is interested, I might post pictures of the good pieces, Bespaq, antiques, etc. which live in my bedroom.
I've always loved Erin, but I wasn't sure I'd like the new face sculpt. However, I got my new Erin a few days ago, and she's stunning- especially her eyes. I immediately undressed her and put her in something different, because it's my theory that you usually don't bond with a doll until you redress her and play with her a little.
I happened to have picked up some doll clothes at a thrift shop the same day I got her, so I chose several things that I thought would suit her, but quickly figured out that she wants either jewel tones or autumn colors. Her skin is so pale that when I tried her with a wonderful tropical dress, her legs looked fish-belly white!! (Pretty much like mine, I'm afraid!) I doubt if I can talk her into a spray-on tan, so I've been putting her in bright colors. With her vivid hair and makeup, she can stand up to them with a really dramatic affect. Though she came in a black dress, I really don't think black is her best look. I'm looking forward to seeing what other people put her in.
Altogether, I'm thrilled with her and can already tell that she will be doing a lot of posing for photo shoots. I can hardly wait to do some fall shots with her in autumn colors.
Okay, what can I say? It's been a year and a very busy year at that. I was rather overwhelmed by all the changes going on in my life and didn't even have enough time to watch the doll boards much. For me, that's busy!! Things are getting more settled, but even if they aren't, who cares? I have realized that my dolls are a refuge and encouragement amid all the chaos that can swirl around us when things get hectic.
So my first blog in a while is about how much fun I'm having getting ready for IFDC. The truth is that this will be the first convention where I will be an official attendee. My friend, Mary, and I just show up at conventions, go to the room sales, meet people, etc. But last year, thanks to Jim Faraone and Doll Divas, I won the convention package for IFDC this year in Las Vegas!! if that isn't enough to restart your interest in dolls, I don't know what is!
First, I had to find a travel doll, then I had to figure out what she would wear. This meant going through a lot of clothes and dolls and getting excited all over again about how wonderful all my little beauties and their outfits are. I started looking at the doll boards again to see what was out there and what people were saying about all the conventions. I dusted off my camera and started taking a few pictures.
Over the years, depending on what was going on in my life I've been more and less active with my dolls, but whenever I fall in love with them all over again, I wonder why I let them get pushed aside. They are such a joy.
Since my friend, Mary, is going with me, we got all excited about doing table gifts and got a little carried away. We have hats, furniture (including some hassocks from Steelcase, an internationally known manufacturer of office equipment that is headquartered in our city), diorama objects, etc., to give away, and if the convention were postponed for another month, we'd probably find more! Another friend of mine, who has gone to lots of conventions, told us we were overdoing it. How can you give too many presents!?! Besides, the fun of making the hats was so creatively stimulating that we've been inspired to try other things as well.
Anyway, I will be posting again about the convention in a week or ten days. For all of you who have been to a convention, wish me luck, and for those of you who haven't- I hope your turn comes next year!!
Some of the foam board Rick brought me in front of my china cabinet.
In my Diorama Dos and Don'ts
section, I mention getting your friends and families involved in the diorama process, if they are willing. This is because I've been amazed at how people have opened up to my hobby when they finally figure out what it is I'm doing.
It was actually my friend, Mary, who got got me started on dioramas. She had seen my collection of Barbie size furniture and goodies, and my 7 foot tall Barbie house, and heard my complaints about being unable to fit more than a small part of my collection in the house. She had also seen dioramas on the internet, so she suggested I look them up and, lo and behold, I was hooked! Mary had no 11 1/2 inch dolls, but she was interested and now has two Poppies, a Lilith and a Momoko- and I see others in her future!When I was setting up the 7 rooms for the Grandville Library Display
and got overwhelmed, it was Mary who came to my rescue. She had never done dioramas before, but as we worked on it, she really got into it and was tremendously helpful with her ideas and suggestions.And then there are my friends, Rick and Linda. Linda has never played with or owned a Barbie, but like a lot of people, she is fascinated by small objects that look like large ones
. When she saw the little rooms on my website, she was delighted. I was just as delighted to have her like them. We started talking about what I was doing and a whole wonderful dialogue has come about.Linda is one of the most creative people I have ever known and she began making suggestions and giving me ideas almost faster than I could absorb them.
When we talked the other night, I told her I was having trouble finding plants and miniature ivy for a diorama I was working on, she suggested using live plants when possible. When I stopped at her house the next day, she had a row of lovely little floral arrangements sitting in her window sill to show me how it could be done. They were all in little containers she had found around her house and were done with the flair and style she brings to all her creations.Meanwhile, her husband Rick, had stopped by a place that makes signs and saw that they were discarding a number of signs printed on foam core (foam board.) The one above was the one that caught his eye. He has probably not done more than glance at my website, but he remembered that I did something with Barbies and thought I might be able to use the sign and also the foam core. (The sign will hang in my doll room, of course.) So he got permission to take it home and brought me the whole pile. As anyone knows who has read my Diorama 101 course, I use foam core a lot. This was wonderful quality stuff. It all has signs on one side and is white on the other. The pieces are about 1 1/2 X 4 feet,
making it perfect for Barbie rooms. I thought this act of kindness was above and beyond the call of duty!My daughters, who stopped playing with Barbies when they were 11 or 12, have started showing interest in the dolls and furniture again. Katie especially has been tremendously helpful in papering the Big Doll House that they used to play with when they were kids, and helping me set up the Grandville Library Display.
Recently, one of my daughters' friends, a college student who had seen some of my dioramas, showed up with some wallpaper border. He'd seen it at a garage sale and thought it might work for my dioramas.All this is really just to
show that when people, who started out thinking you are a little crazy, begin to understand what you are doing they will get excited about it, too. They may never feel quite the passion for your dolls that you do, but you may find that you have acquired a whole new set of helpers and confidants to share your joy with.By the way, when I was visiting Linda I gave her a fashion doll because she'd never had one. She called yesterday to tell me she'd set up her first diorama!!
I think it was last November or early December when my friend Mary and I were out driving around looking to see what mischief we could get into. We stopped at one of our favorite fabric stores and were wandering around looking at things when I overheard a conversation between one of the customers and a store employee. I shamelessly eavesdropped while they discussed Jason Wu's fashions, and at some point, dolls were mentioned. Not being the shy, retiring type, I stepped out and boldly announced that I too loved Jason Wu, his designs, and his dolls.
Next thing I knew, Mary and I were seated at the pattern table with Marcia, a woman who knows Robert Tonner, Jason Wu, and a host of others from all the conventions she has attended. She is no longer collecting modern fashion dolls, but is concentrating on antique French fashion dolls for which she sews incredible dresses.
The three of us talked for some time, exchanged phone numbers and e-mails and swore to get together after Christmas to talk about starting a doll club.
Christmas came and went and Mary kept asking me whether I'd called Marcia yet. Like all procrastinators, I promised repeatedly to get around to it, but just didn't. I also realized I no longer knew where the scrap of paper with Marcia's number was.
This week, the snap on my wallet broke and I was forced to get a new one. As I cleaned out my wallet, I found the little piece of paper wedged in behind some other papers in the card section. I was on the phone within 30 seconds leaving a message for Marcia. She called back and we set a time to meet next week. Then I mentioned that Mary and I were planning a little Wedding Party of our own. Marcia wanted to know if she could come. She said she'd bring food, so I told her she'd be completely welcome.
So, Friday we watched the Royal Wedding while feasting on salmon rolls, beef and cucumber sandwiches, fresh strawberries and raspberries with cream, chocolate meringue cookies, cheese with rice crackers (the double gloucester was my favorite) Mary's home made scones with Devonshire cream and two kinds of tea.
The conversation flowed from dolls to weird hats at the wedding to a million other things, and I could see that the core for our doll club was formed.
After the wedding, when we were all replete, we went through some boxes that Mary gets from time to time from someone she knows in the fashion business. They are filled with all sorts of fabric samples that range from upholstery fabric to the fabrics used in men's suits. We divided up floral chintzes, satiny striped pieces, cotton retro patterns, and all sorts of other odds and ends. Marcia took home a pile. I had two bags full and Mary was left with two boxes to go through. A good time was had by all!
We are meeting next week at Panara Bread to plan our club. I have only ever concentrated on one sixth scale, but Mary has all kinds of dolls, and I now own a Riley Kish (a gift from Mary.) I have a feeling that we are all about to embark on a new learning experience where dolls are concerned as we all share what we love.
What if I hadn't butted in to the conversation that day at Field's fabrics? What if Marcia hadn't asked if she could join our Royal Wedding party? Not that Mary and I don't keep ourselves thoroughly entertained, but the party was so much more fun with Marcia (and all her delicious food!) added into the mix. She even brought two dolls to join Mary's Poppy Parker and Momoko, and my Vero, who all sat on one of my doll couches, enjoying the wedding and watching their figures while we all over-ate.
It pays to be bold. So many chances slip by and I'm very glad I took this one!
When I first put this heater in my family room, I thought I would have lovely knick knacks and decorations on it and, possibly, some seasonal displays. No such luck! It was commandeered almost immediately by the dolls for the display of new, incoming goodies. Whatever I brought home seemed to end up on the mantle where all of us could enjoy it.I know that a lot of people leave their new purchases in the boxes and store them, but I am a mad deboxer and have to get out almost every new doll and play with it. I also constantly bring home used items which I sometimes refurbish and sometimes use as is. Most of this goes on the mantle for at least a few days or a week.The display I have right now is a lot more coordinated, and much simpler, than some I've had. Sometimes it is a hodge podge of unrelated items. The display shown here happened because I bought (another!) couch from Van's Doll Treasures. Then
I got some pillows from Amber of Bashette Iron Works
. I took the back cushions off the couch and put in those Amber had made, for a different look. (Love Vanessa's couches because they are so versatile!) I had also just found the two new tables- the brass one on the right and the curved one on the left- at a thrift shop. The vase was a garage sale find from last week. The outfit on the doll is new (used) clothing as well. The china cabinet on the left is a Bespaq piece from a while back that I ordered and then stuck in my bedroom where I promptly buried the box in a pile of books. When I was cleaning a few days ago, I found it and brought it out so we could admire it. The doll, the clock and the rug, I already had.
This mantle is one of the most fun things in my house. The displays, which consist of whatever I just dragged home, morph constantly without a plan of any sort. Anyone in the family, or even friends who wander in, can move things around or add things. My friends, and my daughters' friends, always check to see what's new when they come over. I have several diorama displays around my house, subtly placed in bookcases or on the tops of furniture, but they were planned and only change occasionally.
Those on the mantle are all spontaneous. The girls and I just put together groupings or mini dios out of whatever is new, sometimes adding in an older piece, as I did the clock above, to finish the look. Sometimes the things I drag home are pretty wild and those make really fun dioramas, though occasionally they have to be taken down when company comes over. The one with the statue of a semi-naked Greek guy wrestling someone, disturbed everyone for some reason; though I thought it was a great, really classic piece of sculpture (and I have every intention of using it in a diorama, somehow!)
Anyway, I gave up on the plans I had for the mantle and am really enjoying the constantly changing displays that keep happening. You may be seeing more pictures of these, since I have decided that many of the groupings we've made should have been recorded, whether for beauty or weirdness, and shared with other doll lovers. The one I photographed here was rather classy and very simple, but who knows what it will look like by the end of the week. It is, after all, garage sale season!
Today's blog is a book review of my all time favorite decorating book, Diana Phipp's "Affordable Splendor", because I think the book will be so helpful to people who want to make dioramas, as well as to those who are just interested in decorating on a budget.
Ms. Sternberg Phipps (who is, by the way, a countess, but prefers not to use the title) was a designer who was featured in a number of famous decorating magazines, including "Arhitectural Digest," the creme de la creme of the industry. She wrote this book, whose subtitle is: " An Ingenious Guide to Decorating Elegantly, Inexpensively and Doing Most of it Yourself," because she loved beautiful old rooms, richly furnished, but was unable to afford them after the communists seized her families estates in Czechoslovakia. When she developed a reputation for her wonderful rooms and gift as a decorator, she wanted to make it possible for the average person to create the sort of rooms she created, at a price that anyone could afford.
I picked up the book very cheaply, quite a few years ago, from a display table of bargain books at Schuler's. I don't know what I expected, but as I started to read it, I really fell in love with this book. At first I was appalled at the things this woman did to create her rooms. I had always pictured those rooms in Architectural Digest as having been created by a designer with an entire crew of professional painters, builders, upholsterers, cabinet makers, etc., at his disposal. Not to mention all the furniture purchased at antique shops or "To the Trade Only" shops and galleries. But here is Ms. Phipps creating her fabulous rooms with glue, plywood, staple guns and cast off couches she has re-covered herself!
Once I got past the shock, I was delighted! Here was a woman after my own heart. Who says you have to do things the right way? Why not just upholster over the upholstery that's already there? If you don't like the color of the piping, why not just paint it a different color? If you want more seating in your dining room, why not just build in some banquettes yourself with plywood and upholster them with some bargain fabric and a staple gun?
This book was the first one I read that really allowed me to think outside the box on decorating. Suddenly I felt really free to try doing some weird stuff myself. I used her idea for upholstering over the existing fabric on a chair. In a room I was redoing, I recovered the back cushion and seat cushion of a wing back chair I had, but left the wings, arms, and back alone. The fabric I used pulled together a number of colors and elements fabulously!
In her book, Ms Phipps shows how to paint faux wood and marble, create "paneling" and use mirrors for fabulous effects. She explains how to hang a grouping of odd objects on a wall and make it look balanced. She also gives all sorts of instructions from how to make tassels, to how to upholster a room ( yes, a room!) and all in a very easy friendly text.There are a myriad of other decorating tips that I have found invaluable. I have used many of her ideas and techniques in my home as well as in dioramas.
I highly recommend this book for dioramists because it gives so many ideas that are even more usable in small scale rooms than in the human size rooms for which she intended them. See if your local library owns copy or can order one. It's well worth checking out!
Test shot of partially finished fountain.
My dad was the kind of guy who could build almost anything. Although he was a pastor and had very little training in things like building, he had a natural gift for it. His mind just worked that way. I told my mom once that I thought Dad should have gone to engineering school, but she said no, that it would have ruined his gift. That forcing his mind into a mold of how it should be done instead of allowing him to follow his instincts would have constricted his ability to just look at something and say "How could I do this?" instead of "How is this usually done?" He did some really brilliant and innovative things. (Dad's only real problem was the tendency to over do things. If you owned a cottage on a lake and asked my dad to build you a little pier so you could tie up your rowboat, when he was done you'd be able to dock the Queen Mary at it!!)
I realize that I have inherited some of this gift from my father. I have a friend that buys tons of books on everything to see how she should do things. I tend to plunge fearlessly (and sometimes stupidly) in to my projects with no idea what I'm doing, just making things up and learning as I go. Sometimes I find out later that that there really would have been an easier way to do something, other times I invent some brilliant and bizarre way to do things that maybe no one has done before. I'm always open to suggestions, but since I'm working in mostly uncharted territory, no one else knows much more about it than I do.
A good case in point of how I did things the "wrong" way is the fountain I recently created for a diorama. I used styrofoam and tile pieces to form the base, but then I ran up against the problem of grouting. I thought it would be difficult and messy to grout between the tiles, plus the fountain base would weigh a ton. I also wasn't too sure how well the grouting would stick to the styrofoam. So, looking for a better solution, I opted for Play Dough. I bought a couple of small cans of white Play Dough and filled in the cracks with that. I loved how it looked, I didn't have to work with anything wet and messy or wait for it to dry to use it, and it is very light weight. I got some eye-rolling from friends when I told them I was using Play Dough. They said it would dry and crack, and I said that would make it look even more realistic since it was supposed to be several hundred years old. Besides, I had fun doing it- I haven't played with Play dough in years!
One of the reasons I adore reading how-to blogs and posts from other one sixth scale afficianados is because I get to see the innovative ways to do things that they come up with. Sometimes I use their ideas or adapt them, sometimes I do it my own way instead. But it's all fascinating. After all, diorama making of this kind is still a relatively new phenomenon. We are breaking new ground, going boldly where no man has gone before! In ten years there will probably be a whole slew of craft book telling everyone the right way to build a diorama. I'll still be in my basement, gluing my fingers together with the hot glue gun and trying to build something no one else has built before in one sixth scale!
Bombay Company picture frame and pewter shot glass vase
There is a standing joke in my family about my way at looking at things. It started when my daughter and I were in Nordstrom's one day and she walked over to see me examining an object. She said, "Is that supposed to hold glasses?" I looked at her and said, "It's a Barbie couch. Don't be stupid."
We both cracked up laughing and now whenever the girls see me looking at something at a store or yard sale with a certain look in my eye, one of them says, "It's a Barbie couch. Don't be stupid!"
I've been collecting one sixth scale furniture for longer than I care to admit, and I was always looking for things that looked like they might be used as Barbie objects, but once I was introduced to the world of dioramas several years ago, I started seeing Barbie items everywhere. Boxes become footstools, napkin holders become benches, all sorts of things turn into side tables. I actually see the world a little differently now because I'm seeing the possibilities everywhere.
I never thought of myself as a person who could do crafts. I crocheted a little in High School and had to learn to knit for a play I was in. (By the end of the rehearsals and performance, I had the world's longest scarf with all sorts of dropped and added stitches since I couldn't really perform and knit well at the same time.) I also did a little cross stitch when my daughters were young. But I was never anyone who made potholders or cute handmade Christmas ornaments.
So it has surprised me that dioramas have brought out in me a creative side I didn't know existed. When I look at things that might be Barbie objects, I now think in terms spray paint, hot glue, or cutting things with my Dremel tool, or how to paint an object to make it look it is made of marble. For a very uncrafty person, I have also accumulated a huge amounts of trim, wooden craft pieces, paint, and box cutters.
The truth is that my brain loves all this. There is actually a small high off picking up some piece of junk for 49 cents at the Salvation Army and turning it into something I can use in a diorama. I don't just mean having a wonderful object when I'm done. I mean the creative burst that takes place in your brain when you see something that could be created and how to go about creating it. I suppose any artist has known this for years, but for me, not being very artistic, it's a real rush.
It's kind of wonderful that I will never see the world quite the same again and that I can look forward to enjoying those exciting moments in the future. Who ever would have thought playing with Barbies would get me here?
I had someone tell me once that I was living vicariously through my dolls.
Well, duh, obviously.
But if you think about it, I'm also living vicariously every time I pick up a novel, go to a movie, or watch a television series.
Through those mediums, I have:
Watched the burning of Troy and Atlantis, flown with Superman, been stranded on desert islands numerous times in numerous ages and survived
, traveled to other planets, performed magic, performed surgery, and hidden inside other people's heads listening to their thoughts and dreams. I have loved living all those vicarious lives!
The fashion dolls introduced in the last half of the 20th century allowed a new way of living vicariously. Not only were they beautiful and had great clothes, but through them you could imagine yourself in numerous careers, drive hot sports cars, and be independent. It was a great thing for a girl's imagination.As an adult I'm still enjoying them and, yes, still living vicariously.
Through them, I can experience the joy of a real silk gown, the luxury of an enormous bed covered in throw pillow and satin sheets. I can own rooms full of furniture and still have room to store it. For me one of the joys is vicariously being the designer I've always wanted to be. And owning clothes I could neither afford nor fit in. I can enjoy careers, visit other countries, have the perfect Norman Rockwell celebration, all of it limited only by my own imagination.
The mink pictured above was one my friend purchased when we were room shopping at the GAW convention. It is soft and luxurious and the only mink either of us will probably ever own. Lilith has allowed us to enjoy not only this diminutive piece of finery, but a chance to enjoy posing her for her Blackglama photo shoot
. Frankly, I've always loved those ads with their black and white photography and all those famous people draped in black mink. I've always wished it was me being photographed!
I've also always wanted to own an antler chandelier. Don't ask me why. One of my latest projects was to make one for an upcoming diorama. Now I can own it without having to figure out how to store it or whether it goes with my decor.
I am all about living vicariously. "Had I but world enough and time", I'd love to experience everything I've read about or watched in a movie. As it is, I'm grateful for all those vicarious experiences that have allowed me to enjoy much broader horizons.