A project long in the collecting, but short in the making!
Yes, this dollhouse miniature magic supplies store and coffee roastery was envisioned and built out in just eight months. I started it last November when I realized the miniature patisserie and espresso bar wouldn’t hold all my mini coffee shop stuff.
I had been researching dollhouse storefronts anyway, soo….
I ordered this very wide one from a UK seller, one of the last of the many orders I placed with all the wonderful UK miniature shops before Brexit.
It fit perfectly into the shelf below the bakery.
Since it wasn’t a structure, just a front, I decided to build walls, floor and ceiling rather than apply wallpaper and flooring directly to the shelf.
I cut and fit foam-core board to line the interior, then wallpapered it.
Let us not speak of the evils of dollhouse wallpaper. And the only, only decent adhesive is this one. “Yes” paste? NO. Some maker processes seem to have a fishhook learning curve, where the price of confidence is a punishment-for-hubris fuckup that will ruin your day.
Since I have fucking had it with individual dollhouse lights and dollhouse wiring, I used LED strip lighting.
I placed the strip at the front of the ceiling and the storefront covers it perfectly! I ran the strip through the foam wall and put the battery pack with its on/off switch in the little space I built for it.
Using pre-stained dollhouse molding helped to hold everything in place and cover joins. As I’ve said before, miter-cutting the moldings is also the fucking devil.
Since I’ve had it with fucking staining dollhouse moldings and furniture (let us never speak of matching Kitty and Illyana’s dressers to the rest of the furniture in their room in the X-Mansion dollhouse) I bought everything pre-stained and varnished!!!
Well except for the beautiful pointed door from Bromley Crafts, I did have to match-stain and varnish that. But it’s so cool!
I am so thrilled to have a nice place for my Tia Dalma and Vanessa Ives figures!
I’ve been imagining a perfect setting for my McFarlane Toys Tia Dalma figure (she was played by the marvelous Naomie Harris!) since 2006!
I guess I’d been sort of secretly, not telling myself I was doing it, planning a magic shop since even before then, back in the early Oughts when the Moore Action Collectibles Buffy and Angel figures were coming out with all these cool magic shop accessories.
I gave Tia Dalma a lot of cool stuff from other Oughts McFarlane figs, like Rasputin’s belt.
And she has Elizabeth Bathory’s goblet of blood!
Plus the pendant from the Re-Ment Witch House set. I almost never buy whole Re-Ment sets, even though they are really cheap. But the Witch House set coming out at the same time I was working on this diorama was divine madness!
Of course I made some new jars of pickled snakes and lizards, using UV resin which worked so much better than all the things I tried in the Oughts for my first dollhouse laboratory. One of the bottles cracked as it cured, but dozens were fine.
I filled maany little jars with powders, herbs and dried twigs, and many more with roiling UV resin glitter goo!
It was both fun and tedious filling all the jars. I got lovely labels from UK miniature co. My Tiny World, which has incredible Magic, Herbalist, Chemist and Apothecary ranges. The tall shelves of mysterious jars were a tribute to some of the happy childhood memories I have of my father.
He liked to go to Magickal Childe, the witchcraft supply shop and occult bookstore on 18th St., just two blocks from our home in Chelsea.
He didn’t buy much there, maybe some obscure resin for replicating a historic shellac on a reed basket or something, a couple fantasy books, but he liked the place, and so did I.
We would go there and wander around and look at stuff for hours. I loved the mystery of it all.
The bunches of drying herbs have a similar childhood association.
At some point in the 70s – maybe around ’75? – one of my father’s girlfriends was really into natural pigment dying for yarn and cloth. She came to our ramshackle farmhouse in Maine, where we spent August every year, and went wild. She chopped swathes of goldenrod from the fields across the street, and hung it up in bunches to dry in the stall of the barn. She filled our lobster pots with boiling water and flowers, and I learned the word “mordant”. Then the batches of yarn were hung up to dry too, in shades of golden yellow and tan.
It was fucking beautiful and magical, the witchy DIY hippie activities that went on at that house, my father’s huge batches of homemade blueberry and blackberry jams (I learned about “pectin”), his making candles in a hundred year old Shaker mold, our skeletal Victorian toaster with a cloth cord and one setting, “Burnt”.
These things were the good part of the Seventies, to me.
Also, in the corner etagere, you can see two marbles, which at this scale are mystic orbs!
One is an antique marble that my Beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Barbara and her husband Justin dug up in the backyard of their Oakland Victorian! It is a reminder of how they gave me sanctuary and a home after my terrible second divorce.
And the other is from a barrel at a thrift shop along the Jersey Shore, from a day drive I went on with my mother-in-law a couple years after Sandy. It was a good day.
You can also see the Mandrake plant from the Re-Ment Witch House series.
I had a book at our cabin in the Adirondacks as a child that contained the John Donne line “Get with child a mandrake root”, and I learned what they were and have been intrigued by them ever since. I am working on sculpting some mini ones for the garden of the patisserie! The jar of eyeballs on straps is from a McFarlane Pirates of the Caribbean figure, I think!
I sculpted the unicorn skull completely from scratch out of polymer clay in 2013.
It was a reference to the life-size one Five & Diamond had in their Valencia St. window. It’s amazing, right? I am kind of amazing.
All these little witch, fairy, and wizard figures in the cabinet and top of the shelves are Feves. Feves are tiny porcelain or metal figures baked or inserted into cakes, in France.
Here in Europe they are very cheap and easy to collect from ebay.fr. My favorite seller sends them to me in a cigarette pack! In the US an excellent seller on Etsy has them.
Unfortunately, shopping for feves reveals that France is fucking racist. You can learn a lot about a country by what they miniaturize.
Gandalf and Frodo rolling up to the counter with their purchases is one more childhood story.
My father read me The Hobbit, and then the Lord of The Rings books, at night throughout my childhood. Thousands of hours of reading; it took years. And he sang the songs! Like he sang the songs of the dwarves under the mountain! He loved folk music and sang them in that style, in a deep voice.
Shit, it brings tears to my eyes, We loved those books together so profoundly.
And going to see the Bakshi movie at Loews 42d St. in 1978!
I pulled some kind of kiddie hustler move and got us to the front of the line! I was pretty sharp for eleven. I had to be. But now that he is dead, I can grieve for the things my father did that weren’t harm.
I hadn’t spoken to my father for years already in early 2002, when I wrote him a final amends letter. The first Jackson Lord of the Rings movie had been released, and I was sure he had seen it.
In the letter I apologized for all the harm I’d done in my using days (lots of lying about money, stealing drugs etc.) and also thanked him for the things he’d done and given me that became central to my survival and to my happiness.
I mentioned the beautiful natural food we ate in the summers in Maine and how knowing about good food enabled me to work in fancy food service and pay rent when none of my other skills could support me. I talked about the way fantasy books had provided a place of joy for me all my life. The letter ended with “I hope you liked the movie.”
He never replied, and I didn’t expect him to. He never became accountable for the harm he did to me. If I was famous, if I had become a big success as an artist, he would have contacted me. But I am just a working community artist making art that celebrates regular, not-famous people.
My husband said, when I mentioned this theory, “What do you mean? You are a huge success! People love your art!” And I agree; I am a huge success, on my terms, and my life is a life of service, the life I want and the life I chose.
All the moments hidden in this diorama are part of the person I am, the beauty and mysteries that fed me like a mandrake root.
Part 2, the coffee shop side, coming soon. Other deeply personal dollhouse and miniature projects, also often with some very serious stories:
Danger Room work in progress!
My first action figure dollhouse.
My action figure subway station.
A New York City subway car, underneath a dollhouse in Berlin.
Projects for the X-Men Dollhouse – a blackboard for the library
The X-Men Dollhouse – nearly finished, and the goddam lighting
The X-Men Dollhouse – stairs and lighting
The X-Men Dollhouse – wallpaper and assembly
The X-Men Dollhouse – getting started!
Lila Cheney and Lilandra customs.
My Rahne and Dani lovebird action figure customs
Douglock custom figures hanging in Kitty and Illyana’s room.