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.

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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.

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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!

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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! 

On Cupcakes and Pogo Sticks

peanut butter and cupcake I was meandering past the new picture book section in our local library when I saw it. A cupcake. On a pogo stick! What genius was this? Intrigued, I opened Peanut Butter & Cupcake (Philomel, 2014).

Peanut Butter is the new kid in town, and he sets out to find a friend to play with. But everyone seems to have something else to do. It’s going to take someone super nice, super special, and super compatible to be the perfect play pal for Peanut Butter. I wonder who it could be?

pbj_playing copyAccompanying the rhyming text are amazing photographs of 3-D objects. A slice of bread with a soccer ball, a hamburger walking a pair of hot dogs, a box of fries reading a book, an egg riding a unicycle. This could only be the work of artist, photographer, humorist, and now children’s book author, Terry Border.

Terry Border is the creator of Bent Objects, which started as a blog but lead to a number of art books, calendars, greeting cards, and jigsaw puzzles. Often featuring everyday objects with wire legs and arms, Border’s images are humorous, satirical, poignant, and in some cases, rather touching.

mummy1coffee-ringschristmasCan you tell us a little about the beginnings of Bent Objects?
Way back in 2006 I began making some tiny sculptures out of wire and household objects. When I realized that the final art should be a photograph and not an actual sculpture I knew I could use real food because things just had to last long enough for a photograph.  Somewhere along the way I decided to make jokes and observations and much to my surprise other people “got” it and started sharing my work.

What type of wire do you use for most of your work?
Usually 20 gauge to 14 gauge wire that is available at a hardware store. Ordinary stuff.

hamlet

What does your studio look like?
If it were empty you would swear that it looks like a small bedroom in a suburban 1980’s era house, because that’s what it is.  It’s always terribly messy. The fun part of my work takes place in my head. Looking at where I actually make it a physical reality isn’t so exciting. I do have a Homer Simpson clock on the wall though.

What came first with Peanut Butter & Cupcake…the images? Or the story?
The story, although it was influenced greatly by how I visualized what could be interesting.  That’s why I had Peanut Butter visiting so many other “kids” so that I could have lots of opportunities making small jokes about the different foods.

As a first time children’s book author, what was it like to write the story? Was it easier, or more difficult than you expected?
Writing the book was a lot more difficult than I expected to tell you the truth. Like a lot of people I thought it would be easy to write a children’s book. Well, it IS easy to write a children’s book, it’s only hard to write a good one.

My editor, Jill Santopolo helped a LOT with rewrites. She really helped put things together, shaped things up, etc. I couldn’t have done it without her help. I learned sooo much from this book. I think my second (which I’m working on now) will be better, and the third (if I get so lucky) will be much better than the previous two. I’m just now learning what I can do.  :)

Did you test the story out on any kids and, if so, were you surprised at the feedback they gave you?
I’m not one for preview audiences! ha!  I was confident in my ability to make some good photographs and hoped that would strengthen any possible shortcomings in the written department. Luckily (and like the old quote “I’d rather be lucky than good”)  I think it worked out.

How many slices of bread went into the making of the book?
I actually baked small loaves half the size of normal ones to make him from, and not all of the slices made the cut (rimshot). I probably put arms and legs on 25 or 30 slices to make both him and jelly.

What was the hardest part about composing a scene for your book?  
The big soccer match towards the end was the most difficult because it was so large with every character in it. Crumbs are constantly falling off the characters, and the more I move them around the more they fall apart. By the time I actually take the final photo the characters are usually barely able to stay together.

thebiggameWho made the cupcakes in the book? Num num num.
I have to make the cupcakes, because the ones from stores and bakeries are too soft and moist to work with!

Can you give us your special cupcake recipe?
Just buy the cheapest cupcake mix you can. The extras will taste “okay”, and the ones that are the stars of the show won’t be so moist that they’ll fall apart as soon as they’re on set! I hollow out a bit of the cupcake and make a little hot glue core for some wires in there. All the food is really food except for something to keep the wires attached to it if needed.

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What’s your next children’s book about?
My next book is to be called Happy Birthday Cupcake. It’s about Cupcake from the first book wondering what kind of birthday party she should have. Lots of funny pictures are being made for this one!

You can see more of Terry Border’s work on his website and his blog, including some amazing portraits of old paperback books. For those who have constantly told their children that a stapler remover is not, in fact, a dangerous creature, take a look at the second image below! Awesome.

GULLIVERHow-Business-was-done-(snak_MG_2273 copysnow white plusAnd the butter lived happily ever after (sorry, couldn’t resist).


All images are used with the permission of Terry Border. Images from Peanut Butter & Cupcake are used with permission of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.

The BiblioFiles Presents: Sharon Creech

sharon creech bibliofilesJust posted! An in-depth interview with award-winning author Sharon Creech.

In a career that has spanned more than twenty years, Sharon Creech has produced distinctive works of literature for children and teens. Her books include Walk Two Moons, which won the Newbery Award in 1995  and inspired the companion novels Chasing Redbird and Bloomability. The Wanderer was a finalist for the Newbery Award in 2000, and Ruby Holler won the Carnegie Medal in 2002. Creech has also written books in verse, including Love That Dog, which was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal in 2001.

Powerful, emotional, humorous, gracious, sorrowful, scary, glorious, joyful, remarkable , playful, and heartfelt are words that describe the works of Sharon Creech. She excels at crafting stories that draw you in, make you think, make you feel, and make you a better person.

Her newest book, The Boy on the Porch, the story of John and Marta, a young couple who find an unusual young boy on their porch. The boy can’t speak but eventually begins to communicate through his musical and artistic talents. John and Marta form a powerful bond with the boy, one that truly defines what love, trust, acceptance, and family mean.

Follow this link the BiblioFiles interview