I've always been interested in miniature settings, especially ones that include handmade objects. I found a dollhouse kit, the Buttercup that looked fairly simple and had an open main floor and attic. My daughter and I decided to do the dollhouse project together. It has been a long ongoing project, as we work on it when my daughter has the time available (mainly in the summer).
The pieces of the dollhouse kit are scored into thin wood sheets shaped in the forms of the various walls, roofs, floors, windows, etc. They have to be carefully detached or the wood splinters. We used Aleene's® Quick Dry Tacky Glue to attach the pieces and then used long pieces of masking tape as makeshift clamps to hold the pieces together while they dried. The masking tape worked really well.
The doll house has a bit of a split personality going on as I wanted to try using some natural materials, gravel, shells, twigs and moss and my daughter wants to make a "mad scientist" lab. We're not as concerned about having a strictly cohesive design, but more interested in using the dollhouse as a laboratory for our various ideas.
My daughter is designing the first floor. It will have a kitchen/science lab and a living room. We found a source for miniature glass lab beakers and chemistry items at Ray Storey's website, here. She made floor tiles from card stock that she painted with a marbled design and then glued to the dollhouse floor. She colored the rug (a piece of velvet) with fabric markers in a bright modern design. I'm going to make some twig and shell furniture for the attic which will have a bedroom and bath. This DvD, "Creating Beautiful Fairy Furniture" by Debbie and Mike Shramer, is wonderful for inspiration and technique for twig furniture.
We used tacky glue to add pebbles to the bottom 3 inches of the exterior walls. Then we covered the outside of the house with a grey gravel we found at the hardware store. We put the house on it's side, covered the up-facing wall with glue, and then gently poured gravel over it. We pressed down on the gravel and let it dry. We did this messy work on a table outside on the deck. We had to fill in areas where the gravel didn't stick the first time we applied them. My daughter had planned to use little wooden shingles to cover the roof. But after we did the gravel walls, we decided to use moss because we liked the way the moss looked with the gravel. The moss came in sheets and large pieces so went on pretty quickly.
For the exterior windows, we are gluing on bits of moss and then covering them with small shells from a craft store. We didn't like the decorative plastic pieces for the glass of the windows that came with the kit, so we used them as patterns and cut ours out of clear mylar. The front door will also be moss and shell-covered, and there will be more shell detailing on the roof. We have to do some touch up on the attic walls as we painted them before putting them together. The painting is much easier this way, but the wall joins don't get covered very well. We still have most of the windows to cover with moss bits and shells. We are thinking we will cover the front door with moss and then put shell decoration on it.
We hope to finish our dollhouse next summer (during my daughter's summer break) . Then comes the extra fun part of furnishing it.
A fun read all about dollhouses and miniatures is "The Dollhouse Blog by S. Mehreen" Her July 2008 archives have posts about a Hogwarts castle and two enchanting fairy houses using natural materials. (Update: Sumaiya Mehreen's blog has been changed to "My Dream Dollhouse". You can check it out here.)
Please enjoy this video of exquisite miniature breads, cheese, and deli meats by British artist, Vicky Guile. She makes these miniatures of polymer clay, and the detail is amazing!