Dollhouses-art - 3/6/01
"The Middle Ages: Through a Magnifying Glass" by Margery La Affayte.
Creating miniature houses with a medieval or Tudor appearance. Includes references to websites, books and magazines for further study and resources.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
The Middle Ages: Through a Magnifying Glass
by Margery La Affayte
So you want to make a tiny period house? A Tudor or Elizabethan house? A tiny castle? A 16th century Venetian townhouse? A 13th century farm? Where do you start? Who do you ask?
This seems like a weird thing to do, given that when we think of dollhouses, we think of frilly little Victorian country houses, staid Georgian mansions, modern homes, or at the earliest, the cabinet houses of the seventeenth century that we've seen in museums. If you go into a miniatures shop, this is all you see, and the staff of such shops will often expect us to ask only for what is currently fashionable in dollhouses. All of these are rather out of our period. Fortunately for those of us who love the Middle Ages and Renaissance, there are actually quite large numbers of miniaturists who are interested in doing Tudor-period, and sometimes earlier, houses, many in England (not suprisingly). This list of resources will focus primarily on the Tudor period, since that's the most widely available 'early' style for hobbyists. You can, however, with a little research and willingness, create an earlier setting.
Ready Made Items
Buying pre-made (anything, houses, furniture, etc.) is very expensive. However, there are some INCREDIBLE miniature reproductions of just about anything you could imagine. It can be a wonderful way to assemble a tiny, museum-quality interior, providing you have the available disposable income. There are examples of everything from accurately handpainted miniature copies of period portraiture, to miniscule hand-thrown and molded pottery, to silverware, to incredibly tiny box-beds, to tiny people in the right clothes. If you can afford to do it this way, by all means, do so. And then send me photos! I wanna see!
Doing It Yourself (DIY)
Making it yourself is really satisfying, as well as being much more pocketbook-friendly. I really do recommend that you try to make as much yourself as possible. With enough imagination, time and the right materials (which can be ANYTHING), you can make nearly anything you might need. What follows is just a bare outline to get you thinking.
Tudor houses require mostly simple-cut small lumber, not fancy custom-milled mouldings and scrollwork, and can therefore be vastly more economical to reproduce. Small lumber (boards, square cut stock and dowel stock) can be got at most general hobby shops, model train shops, and even at some regular hardware and building supply stores. Miniature plywood, balsawood and basswood can be found at many general hobby shops as well, but are more often found in more specialized miniatures and model-making shops.
Tudor/Medieval is a really good era for learning how to build tiny furniture, as it tends to be much less fiddly than later styles. You need fewer tools - a saw, a mitre box (mine are by Xacto), a hobby knife (mine is Olfa, but a more common brand is Xacto), sandpaper, masking tape for clamping, glue. This period has simpler overall shapes, and you can put more time into finishing each piece correctly, rather than worrying about the silhouette. You can use the same small lumber for the furniture that you use for the house. Details can be chip-carved, with practice.
Jewelry findings and small copper, aluminum, and brass tubing are incredibly useful for all kinds of things. Polyclay and air-drying clay are both very useful, as are ordinary wood putty and spackling compound (stucco!). Another item that you will find helpful, 'tooling foil', is widely available in brass, copper and aluminum and can be cut with ordinary scissors to make metal straps and shapes for whatever you need. With care, you could make your own 'pewterware'.
Fabric items are very easy to make. Linens and pillows can be made easily by hand, no machine required, and it's more authentic. Patterned ribbons and small prints or dress jacquards are good for decorative fabrics and bed hangings. Purl embroidery thread makes ideal cords. Small 'tapestries' and decorative fabrics can be inkjet printed onto iron-on transfer paper or directly onto cotton fabric sheets. Prepared fabric printing sheets in silk and cotton can be bought ready to use, or you can make your own. Non-washable sheets can be made by ironing cotton fabric onto freezer paper, and washable sheets can be made using a fixative solution called "Bubble Jet Set 2000", available at hobby stores. The printed images can be trimmed to shape and finished for hanging.
I could go on, but the DIY books I list below will give you more information, better organized, than I could ever put down on paper. Also, speaking of books, don't forget to look in your library for non-miniaturists books that will give you more information to work from. Museum catalogs, art books, history books, archaeology books, travel books, whatever you can find will help you.
Good luck, and may you have only success!
What follows is Entirely Too Much Information on making Tudor-style dollhouses. :)
Links on dolls' house history:
http://www.modelbouwmuseum.nl/ (in Dutch)
Online retail tudor houses, kits, plans and furniture (not cheap!):
(US shop carrying Tudor-style furniture)
(Canadian manufacturer that carries a basic kit and components to customize to a tudor-style house)
http://www.mastersminiatures.co.uk/ (makes some good tudor furniture)
(really beautiful, relatively well-documented furniture, sorted by period! Includes medieval.)
(scroll down the list, there are plans for several different dollhouses mixed in with the books on constructing houses.
for reference leaflets on various periods)
(has done custom Tudor house)
(offers resin replicas of period furniture)
General miniaturists' resources:
Books and magazines:
Two publishers of useful books (UK-based) that have instructions for creating miniature re-creations of period interiors are GMC Publications (The publishing arm of the UK's Guild of Master Craftsmen) and David and Charles. For online purchasing of any of the UK books, I'd recommend ordering from amazon.co.uk rather than using amazon.com, as some titles are out of print in the US but still in stock in the UK.
The website for GMC Publications seems to only cover their magazine offerings, but most of their books are available through the larger booksellers, both online and off. Contact for currently available titles.
The bookshop arm of Dolls House World magazine. Good selection, carries most or all of the titles I list below as well as house plans.
This is the website for David and Charles, and all their currently available titles on miniatures can be found by going to the search page for the primary line
( http://www.davidandcharles.co.uk/dandc/search.asp?TAG=&CID=dandc ) and searching on the keywords "dolls house".
Titles that I own and recommend for anyone who wants to build a
miniature period house:
A Beginners' Guide to the Dolls' House Hobby by Jean Nisbett ISBN:
An absolutely essential basic manual for anyone who wants to get into this hobby. Has some interior- and exterior-decorating tips for Tudor houses, such as including half-timbering on the *inside* of the house, and ideas for thatch. This book has the best instructions for making your own fireplaces for various periods.
Creative Dollhouses From Kits by Robert Schleicher ISBN 0801985293
Another essential basic book. A must if you are starting with a basic kit and reworking it into a Tudor house. Covers everything that the kit makers leave out of the manuals, and then some.
Making Dolls' Houses in 1/12 Scale by Brian Nickolls ISBN: 0715302000
Contains plans and instructions for making a three-story Tudor townhouse, based on "The House That Moved", an extant building in Exeter that dates to the reign of Henry VII, which was moved in 1962 to save it. Also has plans for a 'thatched' cottage (thatch is actually sculpted wood) which could be altered slightly to build a medieval cottage. Very thorough instructions. This book cost me $20, and I consider it worth every penny.
Making Dolls' House Interiors by Carol Lodder, Nigel Lodder, Martin
Dodge (Illustrator), Venus Dodge ISBN: 0715306154
Contains instructions for making period furniture and construction details that would be suitable for a Late Medieval or Tudor room, including 'salvaged' medieval floor tiles, planked door, table, box chair, coffer, etc. Wonderful and ALSO worth every penny of the $20 I paid.
Titles that I do not yet own, but suggest anyone else might want to look at:
Making Period Dolls' House Accessories by Andrea Barham ISBN: 186108014X
I have her book _Easy to Make Dolls House Acessories_, and her instructions are wonderful. I can only assume that her book on making period accessories is as good.
Making Character Dolls' Houses in 1/12 Scale by Brian Nickolls ISBN:
More plans, Though I don't know if there is a Tudor or other 'early' style house in this book. From the Amazon.co.uk page for the book: "Complete plans and instructions are given for: a traditional cider barn; a forge complete with hearth, anvil, bellows and workbench; ... and an electronically-powered watermill where the undershot wheel actually operates the millstones, sack hoist and flour dresser." So this could be useful to someone wanting to re-create a period industrial building.
The New Dolls' House Do-it-yourself Book by Venus Dodge, Martin Dodge
I don't own this book yet because I'm waiting for the new edition to be available (ISBN given is for the forthcoming edition), in April of 2001. Looks useful, probably another excellent basic book. From the Amazon.co.uk synopsis: "...containing comprehensive advice and step-by-step instructions for dolls' houses as varied as a Tudor cottage,... with fixtures and fittings, furniture and accessories. There are chapters on making dolls, making cupboard houses, renovating old dolls' houses and miniature gardening, as well as tips on making the most of dolls' house kits and a review of the commercial materials, supplies and miniatures available."
Architecture for Dolls' Houses by Joyce Percival ISBN: 094681998X
Looks useful! Amazon.co.uk synopsis: This reference book for dolls' house enthusiasts combines a historical coverage of British architecture with the practical interests of modelling. The book covers all the major architectural periods from Tudor times to the present day.
British magazine, subcriptions are therefore expensive. You have to give them you name and email address to gain access to the whole site, but it is a rich and useful one, comparable to the Threads Magazine online archive. Searchable, but at this writing, search results were, sadly, broken.
American magazine. Limited articles and features on site. Text index of past issues, which does not extend to previous format and title of periodical. I have read this magazine on and off for 10 years (it used to be half-size and called Nutshell News) and I find something useful in every issue.
British magazine from GMC Publications. Site limited to subscription information, current issue index and Editor's note. Looks useful, has articles by leading artisans in the field.
Copyright 2001 by Branwyn Maura Bass, 12006 Peachtree Lane, Frisco TX, 75035. <chimericalgirl at home.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.