Magical Miniatures

kitchen_exteriorRecognize this famous abode? No? Perhaps the blue car parked on the roof will jog your memory. I also hear there are some pesky gnomes in the garden. Yes, this is an elaborate and fully decorated dollhouse of the Weasley’s Burrow!

exterior_open_secondAnd near the attic? The room of a certain Quidditch crazy Hogwarts student.

ron1This magical miniature was created by Sally Wallace, a retired medical professional. Initially, she did miniatures as a hobby, but 35 years ago, Sally got serious. Very serious.

greenhouse1Behold this enormous, beautiful, intricate, and astounding Hogwarts. It’s full of classrooms, offices, a common room, a dining hall, a library, a rotating Room of Requirement, and more! The rooms are filled with amazing details. Fawkes the phoenix perches in Dumbledore’s office, Winky works in the kitchen, Moaning Myrtle haunts the bathroom, the Whomping Willow stuns a few owls, and mandrakes await re-potting in the greenhouse.

greenhouse3In addition to the Burrow and Hogwarts, Sally has created the Ministry of Magic, Ollivanders, Honeydukes, Hagrid’s hut, and a separate miniature of Hogwarts’ stairs (it consists of 20 staircases, including several that move).

stairsOnce I picked my jaw off the floor, I got in touch with Sally (who lives in Des Moines, Iowa) to learn more about how she works her miniature magic.

These structures are incredibly beautiful and intricate. When did you first encounter the world of Harry Potter, and what inspired you to embark on replicating it in miniature?

My brother was the Chaplain at the boys school at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. He kept telling me to read Harry Potter…I kept thinking “Right…he works with kids, now why would I want to do that?”

Then my own priest, an academic with a strong liturgical theological background told me to ready the series…so I did…50 pages into book 1, I was hooked! No doubt the series is for children, but it’s monumentally a series for adults. It’s about doing the right thing, the magic in life, the strength of fellowship…never mind that I love Dumbledore!

But it took a few years for the castle to emerge. I was hunting for a project and a friend suggested the castle. I thought it couldn’t be done, but then…you see the results.

greenman

Exterior detail of Hogwarts’ greenhouse

Do you collaborate with anyone while building these structures and designing the interiors?

Rik Pierce did a lot of structural work on all the Harry Potter pieces except the small roomboxes and the stairs. I did the interiors. First in my head, then on paper, then of course in “real.” I buy, create, or do a mix of many of the interior pieces. There are fine artisans in the miniature world who create furniture, dolls, etc. I plan it and then utilize their help or I find things at miniature shows.

Are the houses, boxes, and roomboxes modified kits? Original structures? A mixture of the two?

All of the Harry Potter creations are one of a kind, no kits. The castle shell was created by Rik Pierce who had all the skill and right equipment to do it. The exterior of many of the structures is a product called PaperClay. I took classes (and have since taught classes) in PaperClay.

Do you create your Harry Potter houses from descriptions in the books? Or do you also take visual cues from the movies?

Both. The Burrow really came from a movie shot of it (on the outside). The inside was all mine. The castle from the books, the shops from my head, the moving stairs from my head. Hagrid’s hut from both. Ministry of Magic from my head.

phonebooth

The visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic.

What sort of materials do you work with to create exteriors? I mean Hogwarts. Wow. The stones!  The tiled roof! The Gothic doorways!

Ah…the magic of PaperClay. Exteriors are all PaperClay, a product you roll with a rolling pin, glue on and then sculpt. You paint and faux paint after it is dry. Just takes lots of practice. But it ends up light, repairable and creates a fabulous effect! Even the roof is PaperClay over various foam boards. Now, just so you know, many of my structures are wood and gilded, but the ones we are talking about are not! Everything is lighted and works, by the way. That is true of all the structures. The Ministry of Magic has a planetary room that is rotating, an infinity room, and in the time room a movie of the egg hatching.

fountain

Illuminated Fountain of Magical Brethren at the Ministry of Magic

I can imagine it takes a long time to build a house or box. How long, for example, did it take to create the Weasley’s Burrow?

The Burrow was a joint effort between Rik Pierce and me. The exterior took about 2 years. The interior about another year. The castle of course took several years. The box with the movable stairs took about a year. I had a carpenter create the exterior. The “room” is actually a box which slides into the wooden frame. The Ministry of Magic is framed in wood (by my carpenter), but each room is actually a small, light, roombox. Each roombox was relatively easy to create. The details took a long time!

How did you get the rubber gloves to stand up by themselves in the Weasley’s kitchen sink? Is that hot glue?

No. Acrylic again! The acrylic is turned so it looks like water. The illusion hides the fact that the gloves are held up with dried acrylic. That took a little longer and several attempts. Glad you noticed it!

kitchen-view-6

Detail of magical dishwasher in Burrow kitchen

How much of the furniture and accessories did you have to fabricate yourself?

Hum…different for every piece. For example, I bought all the furniture in Snape’s dungeon, but I created all of the detail pieces – filled caldrons, test tubes, etc. For the moving staircase, I bought the dolls and desks but created all of the clutter, mess, fountains, etc. I created everything in the library and bought a few filler books.

library

The library at Hogwarts

Tell us a little about fabricating a filled caldron, a potions tube, or wizard clutter!

Excellent question – I am asked those things all the time. That is what I do. I see it in my head and it becomes life. I see it as how I live (although I have no mess at home). I find “stuff” or make “stuff” – using clay or other things and then use apoxy to fill it.

Best I give you an example. I bought a lot of potions, sundries and  “herbs” at a show. I put 4 caldrons in front of me and figured out what I would like. I created an epoxy, poured it into the caldron, and then waited til it hardened slightly and added stuff so it would float. For the brain tank in the Ministry, I had an acrylic tank made to my liking, created brains and had a friend create brains. Then I poked a hole in the brain, inserted a fishing line and used a drop of super glue to hold them, attached them to a board  and placed them hanging down in the tank. I poured acrylic in to the tank. When it was all said and done, no “wires.” Just brains floating at different heights.

Much of what I stack on tables I buy from people who make them better than I can make them. By now I have a whole list of resources who are all as crazy as me! Then they come together in life somehow!

potions

Dumbledore at work

Do you also design the dolls?

No. There are some fabulous doll makers who are really artists. Philip Beglan, who has been a friend for years, moved on to animation and created Wallace and Grommet – but he still makes a few dolls (for me). I have made dolls but my skills are poor and there is an entire doll maker’s room at the International Show!

ghost

A school ghost haunts the stairs

What’s the most difficult thing about working with miniatures?

Making the plan.

If you had to live in one of the rooms of your Harry Potter miniatures, which room would you pick?

Dumbledore’s office! I love the stuff and the pensive and the orreries and the magic!

Are you planning to create any more Harry Potter miniatures? Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop could be mighty fun…or ooo! Gringotts!

Dana, I have the interior of Gringotts in a roombox. Here’s a picture. Right now I am creating a Russian fantasy, so when that is done, I may look at smaller Diagon Alley shops…

gringottsYou won’t be surprised to learn that Sally’s work has been featured in miniaturist publications, including several in Europe. You can see pictures of her work (including some equally amazing non-Harry Potter items) at her website, Magical Miniatures.

Just for the record, if I had to pick a room to live in, I’m totally going for Hagrid’s hut. Stoat sandwiches and all!

hut-exterior-1024x663hut-interior3


All images used with permission of the artist.

If you’re interested in all things Potter, definitely check out this post on Cotsen’s curatorial blog. At the very least, jump over to see the early versions of the book from our special collections vault! 

Perfect Parakeets

perfect parakeetsThese wrist parakeets are super simple to make, require very few art supplies, and…are amazingly adorable, yes? They’re also tough. Thanks to their sturdy pipe cleaner tethers, these parakeets really stay attached, even on the most active ornithologist!

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Construction paper
  • dot sticker for eyes
  • 3 small feathers
  • 3 goose quills
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch

If you want to get a little fancier, you’ll need:

We’ll make the parakeet’s body first, and then proceed to perching it on your wrist. Here’s what a completed bird body looks like:

parakeet bodyWrap construction paper around the entire toilet paper tube. Then wrap a smaller strip of construction paper around the top – this will become your bird’s head. Yet another piece of construction paper becomes your bird’s colorful chest (it looks best if you round the top of the chest).

Draw eyes and eyebrows on the dot stickers, then stick them on the bird’s head. Tape (or glue) a small triangle of construction paper to the head for a beak. You can also use a triangle of self-adhesive foam for the beak (it gives the beak some really nice texture). Tape (or hot glue) 2 small feathers on the side for wing, and 1 small feather on top for the crest. The body is done!

To make the tail, gather 3 duck quills together, fan them out slightly, and wrap scotch tape around the points of the quills (if you don’t want to purchase duck quills for the tail, just use more small feathers). Tape the tail to the back of the bird.

easy tail stepsIf you want to get a little fancier, you can wrap scotch tape around the points of the quills, then cover the scotch tape with colored masking tape and hot glue it to the bird’s body.

fancier tail stepsThe final step is to tether the bird to your wrist! Punch holes in both sides of the toilet paper tube. Don’t punch the holes in the center of the tube. Punch them slightly more toward the front of the bird. The reason is this – with the tail in place, the bird actually sits slightly askew on your wrist. It needs to be tethered slightly towards the front in order to sit correctly on your wrist. When in doubt, just plunk the tube on your wrist and you’ll see where the holes need to go.

punched holeThread a pipe cleaner through the holes, sit the bird on your wrist, and twist the pipe cleaner under your wrist to secure the bird in place! Finito!

finished parakeetHeaded to Hogwarts? This project also works well as an owl!

owl

The Perfect Boggart

the perfect boggartNeed a boggart in a suitcase to transport to your next Defense Against the Dark Arts class? We can make that happen! Imagine a suitcase innocently resting on a tabletop (or handsome leather chair). But then, just when you least expect it, it jumps and bumps as the boggart inside tries to escape!

I created this suitcase boggart for a Harry Potter event my library hosted, and it was very much enjoyed. Best of all, it was super simple to make. The secret behind the boggart is this:

weazel ballMeet the “Weazel Ball.” It’s a pet toy with a rotating motor inside it that causes the ball to scoot around randomly, pulling and twitching the furry weasel on top. It’s meant to drive cats and small dogs crazy, but I knew it would be the perfect boggart. I purchased this one on Amazon for $6.

In addition to the Weazel Ball, you’ll need a suitcase or trunk. The 12″ X 18″ suitcase pictured in this post is made of decorative cardboard. I found it at Michael’s Crafts on the 40% discount shelf, so it cost $15. Woot woot!

My suitcase was smooth on the inside, but if you use something with a textured wood interior, you might consider removing the furry weasel from the ball so it doesn’t snag on the wood and slow the ball down.

interiorThe most important thing when selecting your suitcase (or trunk) is the ability to latch or padlock it shut. This will prevent young skeptics from pulling up the lid and shouting “Daaaaad! I told you there’s no boggart in here!”

latchesThe other thing you’ll need are spare batteries. If you haven’t heard from your boggart in a while, the battery may have run out (the Weazel Ball uses a single AA). Depending on how long the event is, you’ll want several on hand.

You could get ambitious and put more than one Weazel Ball in the suitcase (I’ve only tried one). But if the suitcase is threatening to bounce off the table, put some no-skid rug runners or self-adhesive foam pieces on the bottom to help it stay in place.

Need some more Harry Potter projects? Try these PVC wands and this fantastic wrist owl (scroll to the very bottom of the post for an image of the owl). If you’re in need of glow-in-the-dark glue or paint, you might consider this powdered pigment.