Friday, June 30, 2017

Miniature Wickwork Chair part 1

It was probably Ann Field who put me on 1inchminisbykris (thanks Ann!) but it could equally have been Kristian Beverley or Bobbie Allen; or some other interesting blogger!  In any case the discovery was made over the winter; the fire was lit, the seed planted.  Granted it took quite a while, months, to fully germinate.  I had been sunk in a parade set at the time (Sept '16 thru May '17).  I needed something to intrigue and attract my muse, preferrably completely different, and the truth is I've always loved miniature wickerwork.  When I saw Kris Compas' chair and the accompanying tutorial, I gave it time, but I was hooked and I knew it.  For those of you asking the unaskable, Does this mean I won't be making any more tack, the answer is Of course not.  I am designing hackamores and have found a Bond pictorial saddle to portray and offer.  I'll always be braiding headgear (note that material: artificial sinew, miniature rawhide!).  I just needed something I really wanted to do right now, and this is it, on many levels.

Here's a link:  1inchminis by Kris    This is a blog about making one-inch scale (Classic scale) dollhouse furniture.  Most of it features pieces like stuffed armchairs, tables, beds, wine racks, stoves and refridgerators, but in with these largely paper-based projects were several woven baskets, a wicker table and Mein Gott a fantastic wickerwork armchair.   It had so much detail!   Where did this come from!!  The author says, "This is a serious project with some investment in materials."  I haven't heard such a quaint denial since the Denver Saddlery Catalog's Horses are big and their strength is great.  This chair has been a Master's degree in twelfth-scale wickerwork.  Facts such as I built two test-pieces and have been at it for a month and only gotten halfway, speak for themselves.

Very wisely, the author of the Wicker Chair tutorial has her audience make a test piece.  I got to acquaint myself with new materials:  foam core board (gotten at WalMart), cloth-covered stem wire, and woven cording.  The stem wire was a major struggle to obtain.  It's easy enough to get at Hobby Lobby or Michael's, but the damning detail is that these stores only carry it down to 22 gauge, and you need 26!!  I have now bought enough to supply all my larger projects for quite some time to come...  In the end I had to do as the author suggested, and order online.  Don't, for pete's sake, enter 'Panacea products', Panacea being the makers of my 26-ga cloth-covered stem wire, into Google!!  You'll get marijuana stuff, completely not what I had in mind...

The cording, to my amused astonishment, was another struggle to get right.  I had thought all along I was going to use Artificial Sinew, my old friend.  Nope.  It squished.  While I was in Boulder I managed to get to a Hobby Lobby (they don't occur in the East) and bought 5 kinds of cord, thread, hemp, etc.  In the end, after weeks of testing, none of them would do.  The mark of the master miniaturist is the willingness to go after the right material for the right look, and it seems to be part of the art that this takes a long time.  Many little steps are needed, and many tests happened before I was completely satisfied.

Here is my second test:  Woven cord, Hobby Lobby called it.  
Rag rug nubbins, I called it.  Laundry basket largeness.  It was too big and puffy.  However, I learned about the front and back sides of the various patterns:  they were not symmetrical.  See the top row?
My next attempt compressed three materials on the same test piece: 
Waxed cording (on the bottom); finest hemp (in the middle); and white waxed linen thread (top).  I had great hopes for the hemp, and I thought the white waxed linen held promise.  (Brown waxed linen also held promise.)  Unfortunately the hemp was very hard to get hold of -- only a small amount was to be had at Hobby Lobby and it was expensive.  It came with 3 other too-large hemp ropes and so was wasteful as well.
The day after I got back from Colorado I tried out my old friend, #30 Artificial Fine Sinew from Tandy's, using my previous test piece because making a third one was too much effort.  And lo, it worked.
My N.A. notebook crows:  "Its fineness attracts my miniaturist's soul.  This is finer than Ms Kris' recommended material!  Why does 1 sinew look so good and another (the greenish old Tandy's) look so bad??  Partly color, partly texture.  Now to find whether the cloth wires dye...  IT DOES  IT DOES   LIKE A DREAM    SQUEAL !!!!!"

Needless to say, we were off to the races.

While in Colorado I had thought my Mom, an artist from way back, would have mat board; but she didn't.  Instead, for the seat, I found an ancient cardboard, taken from the back cover of a pad of artist charcoal paper that must have been at least 50 years old.  Whether this was a good idea remains to be seen.  It is heavy and strong, but it drilled badly and is thicker than called for.  With my sinew being thinner than called for, it may be hard to cover when I get to the seat edge-binding part.
This photo was taken in Maine:
Now we can see the true scale of the chair.  (That's the Classic Stock Horse Gelding, a model  I'm indulging  in conga-lining...  still got one to go, the black)....
The cardboard, in two layers, makes up the seat.  I'm using glue with this chair, something I've resisted working with very much, but there comes a time....
What was I doing in Maine?  For complex scheduling reasons we couldn't go canoeing over Spring Break and so the Maine trip was a make-up.  In the event, it rained so much we could only paddle for 3 days.  But they were fantastic paddle days and Stormie, the chestnut, went along on all of them.
Some work was done in Maine on this chair.

Six days have gone by between the above picture and this one.
Now we're at the stage where all the prior work starts to pay off.
Mistakes still can be made; and they were made.  The 'diamond' in the center back is too low!!  What to do!!  I had 4 choices:  I could leave it; I could pull all out and redo it higher; I could pull part out and redo it larger;  or I could add in a smaller diamond above.  I chose this last.
The diamonds are still too low, but this time I just said, "It's fine!" and rolled on.
Considering I started this chair May 19, the day after the parade set was done, and here it is June 30th and the thing is only halfway done, methinks I have a life.
Latest picture.  The arm flange is done.  In fact I have clipped those wires and done the back edging, unable to wait and do the legs next as the tutorial suggests. 
The tutorial calls for mere double-wrapping for the bulges at the ends of the legs.  For this old rawhide braider that is not good enough; what I think is called for are Turk's Heads, braided buttons!!  And you thought I was straying!!  Not to worry, my good friends... 
 Part II will cover the lower legs.

In this last picture, note the badly-dye-stained notebook lying at left.  Aye yai, a souvenir of haste at trying to finish the great #456.  I hadn't spilled dye that badly since the 1970s.  I'm afraid one of my conclusions of NaMoTackMo was that tackmaking has a notably higher percentage of can't-finish-to-a-deadline, and accidents, than had NaMoPaiMo.  Food for thought.

The chair should be done by BreyerFest, and will be taken there.  I have not decided its fate.  If someone makes me an offer I can't refuse, it'll find a new home.  Meanwhile I'm enchanted with all I've learned, and fully intend to put it to work on a sleigh of some sort.  Surreys?  Carts?  Snowshoes!!  More furniture:  sofas, rockers, tables!  Oh the relief...  not so much at the wickerwork, as at having found a field that was worthy of me....

See you in Room 610--!!


  1. Beautifully done - I marvel at your patience and your attention to detail, and I learn something every time you post!

  2. This is really cool! I have seen a flurry of wicker basket saddles recently show up in the hobby...