Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher (Part 3)

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Editor’s Note: In Parts 1 and 2, Kiki Lowenstein, owner of Time in a Bottle, has been teaching a two-session class called “The Double-Dip.” This week, her customers brought in one of their favorite dessert recipes, a photo of the dessert, and the recipe to use in an 8- by 8-inch cookbook album. There’s a bit of friction in the group because Iona Lippman and Lisa Ferguson both claim to make an outstanding red velvet cake

Kit Bashing — A Dollhouse Furniture Bargain

“Kit bashing” is a term miniaturists use, and one that every crafter should get to know. You “bash a kit” when you take creative liberties with a project, putting your own spin on it.

I love kit bashing.

Curiously, I’ve noticed a big difference between miniaturists and scrapbookers. When I took scrapbook classes, a lot of the participants wanted their finished products to look EXACTLY like the teacher’s sample. But miniaturists want to do their own “thang.” In fact, in the Fred Cobbs’ class I recently took, not one single person copied Fred’s model! We all made minor adjustments.

For me, the best part of kit bashing is that you have most of the raw materials at hand. So often when you start a project, you discover you don’t have enough wood or paper or some item that’s absolutely necessary. When you kit bash, you have the basics–and that’s your point of departure.

You can “bash” as little or as much as you like.

Recently I bought the Greenleaf Dollhouse Furniture kit.

A lot of dollhouse furniture for the price!

It’s advertised as being 47 pieces of furniture, all in one-inch to a foot scale. Although if you read the reviews, the scale is a bit…iffy. I did read the reviews, so I pretty much knew what I was getting into, although the people at Greenleaf could be more helpful by providing clearer photos and measurements for each piece.

Many of the pieces have no back, just a front. None have hinges and as far as I can tell, none of the doors open. Some of the design is pretty weird. A big much-ish. But that was fine by me. I didn’t want to have to build everything from scratch. I could start with their project and make it mine!

The space between the front and back legs on the side is totally empty on their version. Notice there are no hinges for the door.

What did I bash?

1. I sawed the top off of the curio cabinet. I also added side panels to the open spaces along the bottom legs to make it more realistic. Then I added a paper clay gargoyle head. I also left off the front doors (for now at least) and some of the trim.

Here’s my version (although it needs a coat of polyester shine! Right now the paint is too flat.):

2. The sink in the bathroom was far too big for my bathroom. But the hamper was about the right size–except it had no back and the doors didn’t open. So I turned it around 360 degrees. The front is now the back. I added a shelf inside and a door on the front. (Again, I need hinges! My kingdom for hinges!)

And here’s my version:

The door isn’t really crooked, but when I left it open so you could glimpse the shelf inside, it skews the photo. To make the kick-plate I traced the back onto a second piece of wood and cut it out. The door was trial, error, and sanding. This size works perfectly in my bathroom. I’m now waiting on the sink (white air dry clay molded over a measuring spoon) to dry so I can add the wash basin on the top. I wanted it to be one of those trendy sinks that sits on TOP of the cabinet rather than being sunk into the wood.

These might actually be the only two pieces I use, although I am definitely using the mirrors and frames. Given the cost of dollhouse furniture, I think the kit is a bargain. I paid about $44 with shipping for 47 pieces. That’s less than a buck a piece. If I just use the curio, two mirrors, and the sink, that’s only $11 per piece. See? I’m definitely getting my money’s worth!

How about you? Have you ever kit-bashed? Were you pleased with the results? Would you do it again?

Desperately Seeking OOAK

So I’m cruising Pinterest and Etsy looking at dollhouse miniatures, and I keep seeing OOAK by the listings. Wow. I was so impressed by the detailed workmanship. And so many different types of items!

I was thinking to myself, “This OOAK really knows her stuff. She must be crafting from sun up to sun down.”

Then I got to thinking, “I bet OOAK is the name of a company. Yeah, that’s got to be it. I wonder if they offer tutorials.”

In the miniature world, almost all the best artists (and manufacturers) share wonderful tutorials (or “tutes”) on their websites. As one of them explained in an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) post, the tutorials are a way of giving back. Another admitted that once someone sees all that’s involved in crafting an object, well, the viewer gets to thinking, “I could never do that. I’ll cave in and make a purchase.”

My dollhouse is definitely OOAK. Whoever made it did not adhere to 1:12. Actually he/she ignored any coherent sense of scale. And guess what? That’s been a blessing because it’s forced me to make stuff myself. For example, I decided to make these sliding screen doors for the bathroom. This attempt will be scraped for a variety of reasons, but I learned a lot while crafting these doors. I don’t mind that they are OOAK, but I do mind that they make the rest of a pretty room look squatty.

Many of the tutorials are in languages other than English. Thanks to modern technology, you can often hit a button and a tutorial will be instantly translated. Even if the translation isn’t very good, when added to good pictures, the information is still useful.

So I searched through foreign sites and what do you know? My old friend OOAK kept popping up! Over and over.

Then one night as I was indulging in my new favorite pre-sleep ritual of cruising tutorials, I spied a phrase “one-of-a-kind.”

You’ve probably already sussed out that OOAK is an acronym for “one of a kind.”

That got me thinking. We’re all OOAK. Everything handmade is OOAK. OOAK has wonderful, intrinsic value, because it’s so uniquely human. Even when our work is slightly wonky or imperfect or just plain weird, it’s utterly delightful and perfectly imperfect. It’s OOAK, a quality worth searching for.

Have you ever misinterpreted an acronym? Or am I the only idiot out there?

How to Create a Literary Vase

A beautiful fall vase!

I was in St. Louis last week, visiting the Carondolet Branch Library for their Author Breakfast event. On the tables were lovely vases, created by Sarah Zolezzi. As a gift for us authors, we were allowed to take one home. But I walked off and forgot mine! ARGH! At least I took this photo.

Sarah asked library volunteers to bring in their old vases. Here’s what I imagine she did next:

* Wash, clean, and dry the vases thoroughly.
* Rip the pages from old, unloved books.
* Cut the pages into strips of various sizes. (You could also tear them.)
* Dip the pages in a bath of tea or coffee. (Just pour old, leftover tea or coffee into a shallow container and dip the pages in.)
* Allow the pages to dry. (This gives them a uniform “old” coloration.)
* Use Mod Podge to adhere them to the vase.

Isn’t this clever? I love it!

That Creative Urge

I’ve decided that I simply have to have a shell covered mirror for the bedroom of my new home in Florida. So I’ve been shopping. Online. In person. In catalogs. The prices of such mirrors are reasonable until you get to a certain size, the size I need.

I was in a retail store the other day, talking with the owner, who happens to be a friend of my sister Jane. Jane seems to know everyone in southern Florida! I told the owner what I wanted. She had several mirrors with shells, but none of them was large enough.

“Don’t buy one,” she said. “Make one. Go to Walmart. Find a mirror the size you want. Got a glue gun?”

Of course I have a glue gun. It was one of my first purchases after I arrived in Florida.

“Use your glue gun. Buy shells if you have to or collect them.”

Wow. I mean, I’d thought about gluing a shell mirror together, really I had, but I figured there was some trick to the whole enterprise. That the shells would stink. And yes, I know that they can. One year we picked up shells from the beach and I didn’t boil them. I usually do, but this year I didn’t. We were driving back to St. Louis from South Carolina when we needed something from the trunk. David popped it open and the smell about knocked us over. Lesson Learned: Boil shells to make sure you get all the dead critters out!

So…I’m going to make myself a glorious mirror. Stay tuned! I’ll tell you more as I go along!

I’m curious: Do you ever convince yourself that you can’t possibly try making something? I know I sure do. And yet, everything we see was made by somebody, wasn’t it? So why shouldn’t we be the creators?