Friday, August 26, 2011

Blog Spotlight - Creating a French Bistro from a Playmobil Doll House

When I was growing up, I had a really neat painted-tin dollhouse that originally belonged to my Mom.  But that's very different from the adult hobby of building dollhouses and furnishing them in painstaking detail to reflect a specific house or time period.  (The Faith Bradford Dollhouse in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in DC is one famous example.)

Earlier today I discovered a blog post that was so cool, I just knew I had to share it.  EmmaJ is a self-described collector of Playmobil pieces who started customizing them for various projects.  Her blog is located at

I am a complete sucker for French things, and the project of EmmaJ's that completely blew me away was her conversion of a standard Playmobil dollhouse into an amazingly detailed French Bistro.  Here's a photo of the original dollhouse, before she started working on it:

Now here's a photo of the exterior of the French Bistro, after EmmaJ re-painted the building and added little details like fancier doors & windows, a "Bistro de Paris" sign and a menu board next to the front door:

Even more amazing is the amount of detail EmmaJ created for the interior of the bistro.  She designed the three floors to accurately represent a first-floor bar/lounge, a second-floor dining room, and a third-floor kitchen.

I copied these three photos from EmmaJ's blog to give you an idea of what her French Bistro is like, but you can read all about the bistro on her 19 Oct 2010 post at  She includes many more up-close photos showing the incredible detail she packed into each area of the bistro's interior, as well as the lighting she installed to also provide an appropriate nighttime ambience.  And you can see even more photos (to the melodic strains of Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose") in her French Bistro YouTube video at

I love encountering artists whose level of creativity both delights and inspires me.  Is there anyone out there who particularly inspires you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Technique Tuesday - Striped Tag

This technique, which was being demonstrated at the Judikins booth at Stampaway 2011, can be used to make really cool striped papers that can then be attached to cards, scrapbook pages, book covers or other decorated items.

Step 1:  Completely cover a piece of cardstock or a tag with double-stick tape (the wider the tape, the better).

Step 2:  Cut strips of decorative paper that extend slightly beyond the width of your cardstock or tag base, and stick them on the taped base, leaving strips of exposed tape between each strip of paper.  (This is a great opportunity to use some of those little left-over scraps of paper you probably have lying around.)

Step 3:  Using a metal-edged ruler and an Xacto blade, trim the edges of your cardstock or tag base.

Step 4:  Pour glitter, micro beads or sand over the cardstock or tag base, and press firmly into the exposed tape.

Step 5:  Shake the loose particles off your cardstock or tag.  You can then use the finished piece by itself or as part of a larger art project.

Many vendors at rubber stamp conventions like to demo fun techniques that usually spotlight the stamps and/or products they're selling.  This particular project is super-easy, yet provides a unique result that can be used in many different ways!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stampaway 2011

Stampaway, which is held each August in Cincinnati, OH, is one of the largest rubber stamp conventions in the country.  It offers two days of excellent (and generally affordable) classes, followed by a limited-attendance Friday-evening "Preview Party" and a one-day convention on Saturday.  For me, this convention offers the additional opportunity to once again see friends from the eight years I lived in Cincinnati, as well as folks I've gotten to know simply by taking classes with them over the years.

I took six classes this year, so here's the necklace I made in the "Haunted Little Houses" class taught by Shari Replogle of Burlington, KY:

For this pendant, we cut out images, and altered them however we wished.  I decided to use an orange colored pencil to add a collar and belt to the girl's dress, and a black colored pencil to draw in the belt buckle.

After I came up with a whimsical saying, I wrote the words on cardstock with a black Sharpie and cut them out individually, edged each word with a black Sharpie, and used a glue-stick to attach them to the image.

I sandwiched the collage between a piece of clear glass and an aged mirror (for the back), carefully wrapped and burnished foil tape around the piece, and then started the soldering.

At this point, I have to ask:  Have you ever bought a tool that you intended to use in your art, and then threw it in a corner and promptly forgot all about it?  That's the tale of me and my soldering iron.

I took a soldered charm class at Stampaway in 2008, and ended up buying the soldering iron, holder, rheostat, sal ammoniac, solder, flux, glass pieces and foil tape.  And then I put everything in a bag in my studio, and never used it, because I kept getting intimidated by the very idea of soldering.

The soldering on my "Up to No Good" gal went pretty well until it came time to attach the jump rings.  I managed to attach the ring on top, only to find that it was perilously leaning off the front of the piece.  When I tried to melt the solder with my iron and move the jump ring back, the ring flipped and became embedded in the solder on top.  I ended up having to have Shari help me get the ring unstuck and placed correctly.

I DID manage to correctly attach the jump ring on the bottom of the piece.  While it's not perfectly centered, I've decided that this just adds to the off-kilter nature of the whole project.  I may eventually hang the button from some added jump rings, and put the entire piece on a chain, but for now, I've tied it all together with a black silk ribbon.  Trés spooky, no?

The real lesson I took away from this class is that with soldering, you just have to practice, practice, practice.  So I'm determined to get out my soldering iron and equipment and actually work at this.  Maybe I'll someday master those darned jump rings!

Are there any projects you've wanted to do, but you keep putting them off because they seem a bit difficult or scary?  Please feel free to post about them.  Maybe we can help each other overcome our fears so we can make something wonderful!