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A Teeny Tiny Abacus You Can Wear Around Your Neck

Back in November 2022 I took an online workshop at the Smithsonian called Wirework Workshop: The Abacus Pendant. It was taught by Mia Vollkommer.

(As a note, the i should have two dots above it, but I don’t know how to do that in this post; and you say her name, Mya.)

You may remember I took some jewelry classes at a local art center before the pandemic. Remember these projects?

I enjoyed working with the materials but some of the techniques (the torch! terrifying. The saw! I break blades at breakneck speed) were not so good. I did love hammering and twisting and stamping metal.

And I like seed beads. So, when I saw this class advertised I figured, three hours, one afternoon, why not try it?

I assembled my supplies. I needed a couple of inexpensive tools which I ordered online, and ordered from Mia the small amount of wire we would need for this class. I chose seed beads myself, also online.

The day came and we got to work. I want to say right now that Mia is an excellent teacher. She had clearly-written instructions for us and her class presentation was equally easy and clear to follow.

Here are the two pendants I made. One in silver and one in brass.

Basically, you bend a thicker wire into a U-shape. You use a tool to make the rings at the end for the necklace to go through (I am very proud of how these look, and it all happened like magic with the right tool!).

Then you wrap wire all around the U-shape. And then you wrap wire across the shape and incorporate the beads.

I made the brass one first and then the silver one, and I can see already my skills have improved. I was worried that my eyesight might make it too hard for me to do this technique at all, but I learned that a lot of it is done by feel, and a magnifying glass helps with the rest.

I enjoyed doing this project and I like the look of the finished result. Maybe I will get enough skill to give some of these as gifts sometime. I do not think I will be embarking on a jewelry career anytime soon, but I did buy some copper wire and plan to settle down and try some more of these. I believe they will be a good evening-TV time activity.

Thank you to Mia and my classmates for a fun introduction to wire-wrapping!

Trying out a new persona

You may remember some earlier figures I made of papier mache.

Their creation was an outgrowth of the techniques I learned in various Tiny House classes, specifically, using papier mache. Like these small houses.

In both these cases I created the structure, applied papier mache, and then painted with acrylics.

The idea struck me that I could try something different. I could use the paper itself not only as the method of covering the structure but as the decorative element itself. I tried it out on this lady here. She is built the same way as the figures above but “dressed” in dictionary and magazine print. Her face and feet are from a grocery bag. She’s about 8-9″ tall.

I really think I’m on to something here, figurine-wise. I found it much easier to construct a look I liked in this one-step process as opposed to painting later on. I think I will have a wider range of choices about how the figure looks.

Hmmm, I thought. Next step – try it with some of the papers I have created myself.

Here are some more views:

Tiny Bedroom Interior: Five

In October/November 2022 I took a class at the Smithsonian called Build a Tiny Interior, taught by Marcie Wolf-Hubbard. Yes, it’s an offshoot of a class I have taken a couple of times before taught by the same artist – Build a Tiny House!, and you have seen examples of my Tiny House work here on the blog.

As I have mentioned before, I have always loved dollhouses and as a child spent a lot of time building my own mini homes in various materials. Now so many years later, I am rediscovering this path with great pleasure.

In a short series of posts I will tell you about my Tiny Interior project.

Now the finale: here is the whole room and its furnishings.

You can see how I trimmed the box so that the room didn’t feel too high or narrow and yet would show off the furnishings. I think it worked out well.

I am also happy that the room does not feel too crowded even with all the items in it. I am glad that I waited to trim the box until I was sure of the furniture sizes.

I purposefully did not make any more accessories for the room. My granddaughter is still very young and I wanted to think of safety, so I avoided creating small versions of stuffed animals, for example. Everything here is sturdy and too big to swallow. Also, I figured she would add her own toys, dolls, etc. to the room, as she likes. After all, it’s her room!

I would be happy to answer questions about any aspect of how I made this Tiny Interior. And I hope you will consider trying something like this yourself. It really is a lot of fun.

OK, let’s look!

All right, that is it for the Tiny Bedroom Interior. Thanks for following along with me. I loved doing this project. It was a way for me to send good feelings to her from me and my husband, as grandparents.

So I will end with this idea: Sweet Dreams!

Tiny Bedroom Interior: Three

In October/November 2022 I took a class at the Smithsonian called Build a Tiny Interior, taught by Marcie Wolf-Hubbard. Yes, it’s an offshoot of a class I have taken a couple of times before taught by the same artist – Build a Tiny House!, and you have seen examples of my Tiny House work here on the blog.

As I have mentioned before, I have always loved dollhouses and as a child spent a lot of time building my own mini homes in various materials. Now so many years later, I am rediscovering this path with great pleasure.

In a short series of posts I will tell you about my Tiny Interior project.

When last we saw our Tiny Interior it was in a transition state. Nothing about it was completed but several processes were going on. At this point I decided to focus on doing the furniture because I thought that once I saw how it looked in the space, I would be able to do a better job on the room decor.

I used several small boxes to form the structure of a dresser and a crib. Since I planned to papier mache these items I didn’t have to make my frameworks pretty; they just needed to be sturdy.

You can see that for the dresser drawers I attached cardboard to simulate the look. I also cut out the bottom of the box to make legs and then fit another piece of cardboard underneath so the box would not be open at the bottom.

For the crib, I used a box and cut the two long sides away; I glued it on top of another box and cut out the legs. For the slatted sides I used cereal box cardboard. I cut a series of openings and left a line along the bottom that I then glued to the “legs” box. I glued the top rail in place. Then I taped everything up good and secure.

You might say, why didn’t you just leave the box as it was and cut the slats in the long sides? The reason was that I wanted to use an exacto knife to cut the slats nice and even. I could not accomplish this cutting into the interior of a box with scissors, I felt.

When I went to the papier mache step, well, applying it between those slats was tedious and difficult. Looking back, I should have papier mached the slats, then attached the top rails and papier mache them. Oh well, it did get done and it looks fine. Which is what counts.

The dresser by comparison was a breeze, since it is basically a sort of cube with little detail to fuss over. I did need to work carefully in applying the papier mache to make sure the drawers retained their definition.

As I worked on the crib I found I needed to add more structure to the back top rail to make it look right. No problem, just add some more pieces of cardboard with tape, as looks correct, and then apply the papier mache! In the end, I ended up with a cute little crib. Here it is painted and with details drawn in with India ink.

And here is the dresser.

Now that the furniture was complete I felt the need for a couple of accessories. The bed looked kind of hard and uncomfortable. So I sewed a little mattress out of fabric scraps and knitted a simple little blanket.

For the rug, I considered various options, such as terry cloth, etc. It always came back to scale. I didn’t want the pile on the rug to be knee-deep to the Tiny Occupant or with loops so big she would trip and fall. There is also the issue of how crowded the room might have become.

So I took a collage I’d made for another purpose and turned it into a visually appealing but flat rug.

Here is all the furniture and accessories, completed.

Now it’s time to work on the room decor. Next!

Tiny Bedroom Interior: Two

In October/November 2022 I took a class at the Smithsonian called Build a Tiny Interior, taught by Marcie Wolf-Hubbard. Yes, it’s an offshoot of a class I have taken a couple of times before taught by the same artist – Build a Tiny House!, and you have seen examples of my Tiny House work here on the blog.

As I have mentioned before, I have always loved dollhouses and as a child spent a lot of time building my own mini homes in various materials. Now so many years later, I am rediscovering this path with great pleasure.

In a short series of posts I will tell you about my Tiny Interior project.

Now it was time to make the room itself. I used a cardboard box. I stood the flaps up and taped them into place with the paper hinging tape to get some height to the room. I also did some preliminary trimming (see the right hand side, it’s a little hard to see at this angle but later photos will make it clear) because I knew I didn’t want the room to be too narrow. It needed more of an open feeling, so that it would be easy to see inside.

Next, I gessoed the whole thing black and cut the window out (using an exacto knife).

I started to think about how I would shape the box. It’s still too enclosed. I drew some more trim lines but did not cut them until later on, when I had started to make furniture and could see how much room the pieces were going to take up. You can see one of the lines at the front. I’ve also put in window framing.

I interrupted the room construction process at this point to make the furniture. So that is what I will show you next time! Here you get a bit of a preview.

Tiny Bedroom Interior: One

In October/November 2022 I took a class at the Smithsonian called Build a Tiny Interior, taught by Marcie Wolf-Hubbard. Yes, it’s an offshoot of a class I have taken a couple of times before taught by the same artist – Build a Tiny House!, and you have seen examples of my Tiny House work here on the blog.

As I have mentioned before, I have always loved dollhouses and as a child spent a lot of time building my own mini homes in various materials. Now so many years later, I am rediscovering this path with great pleasure.

In a short series of posts I will tell you about my Tiny Interior project.

All right. Let’s get down to business. In three class sessions, we focused on making a vignette of a room or interior space. Each student in our class had an idea of what that space would be: small child’s bedroom (that’s my project – I wanted to depict my granddaughter’s room); ice fishing shed; beach house; grandmother’s kitchen; and artist’s studio.

I had gotten my son to send me some photos of my granddaughter’s cozy little bedroom. Here is the view I chose.

I had some decisions to make about construction of the vignette. Marcie’s work is very sculptural; her interiors are all one piece, with everything integrated. I love the look of her work. But my mind works differently. My interest, however, was in making something with moveable parts, probably because of my long history with dollhouses. I also thought that maybe someday my granddaughter might want to play with the Tiny Interior or to add to it her own items.

So I decided to create the room and separately build the furniture and accessories.

First, I drew the room in one of my sketchbooks. I find that by drawing something, I retain it in my mind. I don’t have the ability to visualize anything in my head; I must either look at it or, I’ve found, somehow interact with it.

I assembled supplies for the project. I planned to use a cardboard box as the basis for the room. I also needed tape, glue, exacto knife, scissors…plus my stash of various cardboard boxes that I use as the basis for making items of furniture. I set aside some small boxes that I thought might work for my purposes.

All right! Now the preparations are done. Next I will make the room itself.

Knitted Dishcloths 2

Here are the rest of the dishcloths I knitted this last summer.

Here you have Isabella, Joanna, Krista, Lucy, Mabel, Nicolette, and Ofelia.

And,look, here is one more old friend. I was going through some things and came upon this little doll. Her name is Gretchen; she has always lived in the dollhouse that I played with at my grandparents’ house when I was young. I now have that dollhouse here with me. I made the dress she is wearing way long time ago and I’m pleased to see how well it is holding up. Anyway, here she is with the pile of dishcloths.

Somehow this photo makes me think of the fairy tale story “The Princess and the Pea”. I am sure that if you are Gretchen’s size it would be nice to take a nap on a big pile of cushiony cloths like these.

Tiny Furniture

Well, you know all about my Tiny Houses. I’ve made a lot of them and I hope to keep on going. I think my interest in creating these structures comes from several sources. I’ve loved houses, house plans, and architecture since I was young. It was a favorite pastime of my family in childhood to tour houses under construction in our neighborhood, which was being built up during the time I was growing up.

In adulthood my husband and I continued this pastime of viewing sample homes, open houses, and the occasional house-in-process.

Along these lines, I also had several dollhouses in my young days, as well as building small villages outside with my sister and friends with scrap wood, under a shade tree to beat the hot summer days. And there were the boats my dad made for us with scrap wood that we sailed in the creek at the end of our yard…and how about all the little cars and the roads we made for them…and the paper dolls and their homes…

I guess I could go on and on. You may be saying, what does any of this have to do with TODAY?

Well, in the Build a Tiny House session I took back in July, I built houses. And then I thought I’d try some furniture. Here are my first attempts from that time in July.

Armchair!

Bed!

Small Chair!

How did I do these? It’s surprisingly easy. I constructed a basic form using thin (think cereal box) cardboard. It was important to take the time to make sure the form was sturdy and could hold up. For the two chairs, I built the forms from individual scraps; for the bed, I cut down a box to make the basic shape and then added the head and footboards.

Then, using the papier mache skills I learned in the Tiny House class (look here for a description) I covered the framework and built up the forms.

Once they had dried (about 2-3 days) I painted them with acrylics, acrylic markers, and India ink.

Wow! What a lot of fun! I will be making more furniture.

*********

Here is the armchair in the attic of Tiny House 9.

Here are the bed and chair relaxing together.

We Are More Than Our Labels

I made this postcard from faces I’d done some time earlier – I pasted them on the card and then it sat for quite some time. One day I was doing some Snippets poetry and I used some words as descriptions for these faces.

Well, it works fine for this moment in time when they are exhibiting these characteristics, right? But if they change their moods or expressions or their outlooks on life, their labels will change, too.

Something to think about, maybe.