Posted in Amy, BJD, doll adventure, doll photography, Dollsbe, graphic novel, Iplehouse, miniature adventure, miniature photography, Olive, overhead, photo novel, Photography, Strawberry, Supia, toy adventure, toy photography

Overhead: First night in the treehouse

After building a rough platform in their last episode, Fern and Olive are finishing off the floor of the treehouse.

Well, maybe Fern is doing most of the work.

When it’s all done, they relax and admire their work.

Then Willow puts on a record . . .

. . . and everybody dances.

All three sisters decide to spend the night in the treehouse.

The sisters sit up in the treehouse
The sisters sleep for their first night in the treehouse

******

I loved every part of working on this episode, from the sweet vibe between the siblings, to being able to totally forget about developing a plot and really focus on the moments.

I tried to get real moonlight for the two nighttime shots, but it’s been extra especially hazy up here in Portland and the quality of the light just wasn’t all that great. So I relied on the toy lantern and a long exposure for the first shot (with the sisters awake), and I rigged up a small flashlight on a microphone stand for the second one (with only the dog still awake).

We’ve got one more week in the trees, where I’ll try to complete the treehouse structure. Then I have to catch back up with the Mia Fiorello story. Surely they’ve made it to the island by now . . .

Posted in BJD, doll photography, Dollsbe, Iplehouse, miniature photography, Olive, overhead, Photography, Photoshop, Supia, toy photography

Dancing dolls

I take back everything I said about Olive’s (my Iplehouse Amy doll’s) posing ability in my previous post. Apparently, although she’s not always able to resist the forces of gravity, she can totally dance.

I think her dancing ability comes from the way her chest joint pivots. Unlike most of my ball-joint dolls, she can move on all axes at once in that joint, giving her very lifelike bends.

So, this week, in celebration of finishing the floor of the tree house, the sisters dance in the meadow. I tried to give them dance movements that were respectful of their natures.

The littlest one, Fern, is all straightforward enthusiasm:

while Willow, true to her nature, is graceful and reserved.

But it’s the middle sister, Olive, who really shines and just gets carried away in the movements.

Like all of my exuberant doll movements, I photographed these with the dolls lying flat on a surface, and my camera on a tripod pointing straight down on them, like this:

It lets me pose them without having to worry about which one of their joints is going to crumble first 🙂

That’s the floor of the treehouse below Olive – I think it turned out pretty well, for a first effort. In the future, I need to find a tool that will cut straight through Vinyl, but for now, the slightly jagged edges are fine.

Also, you might have noticed that I’ve re-wigged all of the dolls. The cute short wig that Fern is wearing just came in, so I switched her with Olive, and I stole a wig from another doll for Willow. I think these wigs work better on them. To me, it makes them look more related.

Posted in BJD, doll adventure, doll photography, Dollsbe, graphic novel, Iplehouse, miniature adventure, miniature photography, Olive, overhead, photo novel, Photography, Supia, toy adventure, toy photography

Building the treehouse

Early morning, and Olive and Fern are busily discussing the treehouse.

Olive scouts out a likely tree.

And then the sisters get to work.

Willow arrives with some refreshments

and all three sisters admire their handiwork.

*******

Next week is going to be a little discontinuous. I’d planned a little dance session for the three sisters – I’ve managed to snag both a record player and a radio in 1/4 scale – but after I took the dancing pictures, I ended up re-wigging all three of them. Now I’m not sure how to merge the dancing scene into the next scene where all three will look entire different.

In any case, the floor of the treehouse is all done, now I just have to figure out how I’m going to attach the sides. I *think* I’ve ended up with a good template that I can use for all of my dollhouses, but we’ll find out on Tuesday (I’m at the coast on Monday, so pushing back a day) how that all worked.

Posted in diorama, Iplehouse, Olive, overhead, roombox

Creating 1/4 scale flooring for $4

After going round in circles for while figuring out how to make a realistic-looking treehouse floor, I finally stumbled on something that seems to be working.

For something to work for me, it needs to be:

  • Easy
  • Cheap
  • Realistic-looking

I’d dismissed the stick-on parquet tiles, because I doubted the girls would install parquet floors in the treehouse, but once I found a grey, weathered parquet floor, I realized I could change it into weathered boards with a few snips.

Here’s part of a vinyl parquet floor tile I picked up at Home Depot for $0.89.

It doesn’t look right in scale as it is, but you can easily cut along the lines using pruning shears (my cutting tool of choice).

And then clean up along the edges using a utility blade.

And then lay out the individual pieces on a solid piece of wood.

And it looks like some old planks of weathered wood that the girls might have found.

Here’s Olive working on laying out the floor.

And here she is relaxing (in a way cool $10 chair from WalMart on top of a $1 placemat from Goodwill)

Covering the whole 21 x 21″ piece took four pieces of parquet flooring, so about $4 altogether.

For 1/6 scale dolls, I recommend the vinyl oak parquet flooring tiles. Here’s one in red oak next to the tile I used:

The wood pieces are much smaller, and the less weathered look is more appropriate for indoor flooring.

I’m really happy with my solution, and I think I’ll start using the 1/6 scale flooring to create some of my second draft rooms for the Mia Fiorello girls.

Posted in BJD, doll photography, Dollsbe, Iplehouse, Supia

From each according to their abilities

My fashion dolls all have pretty similar posing abilities. The two dolls on the Barbie Made-to-Move bodies (Lily and Daisy) are easier to pose than the two dolls on Obitsu bodies (Camellia and Rosie), but they all pose in pretty similar ways. That means that, when I sketch out a plot, I’m not figuring out who will star in a role based on posing ability.

Not so my ball-joint dolls. Working on the treehouse with the three sisters, I’m finding that I have to re-write the episode based on who can do what, instead of based on the characters themselves.

Specifically, there’s some sawing to do in order to start building the treehouse. Willow (the eldest sister) isn’t involved in the building work – she’s a bit more of a homebody, and she also has the responsibility of looking after the other two so spends less time playing and more time working. Which is a darn shame, because Willow (a Supia Aasta doll) is a terrific poser. She’ll get into just about any position and hold it like a champ.

That leaves the two younger sisters, Olive and Fern, to saw through branches. Normally, I’d expect that the older sister would saw and the younger sister would help, but Olive (an Iplehouse Amy doll) is not good at all at sitting or kneeling on the ground. First, she’s loose in the hips – a problem I haven’t worked up the nerve to address yet – so I’m constantly popping her hips back into her joints. Second, she has a very hard time holding any kind of kneeling position. Mostly, her knees just buckle. If they stay solid, then I have to spend a ton of time getting her to balance on them.

She also strikes an awkward post with her knees bent and sitting on her bottom. It works, but it doesn’t fully resemble how a real person would sit.

Compare this with the ever-graceful Willow who looks completely like-like in this position.

Olive can sit cross-legged, but that means that she’d be sawing over her lap, which seems kind of dangerous.

The little sister, Fern (a Dollsbe Strawberry doll) is terrific at kneeling – she’s probably the best poser of any of my ball joint dolls.

But is Olive really going to have a sister that young wielding a saw?

All of which has led me in a round-about way to decide to spend more time in each of the doll story worlds before rushing on. By the time I really learn how to work with one set of dolls and their settings, I’m on to the next scene. And, by the time I get back around to the first one, I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned.

Also, at the end of an episode, I’m totally in that world and I can really feel where they ought to go next. Once I’m away for a few weeks (or months, in the case of my ball joint doll stories), I’ve totally lost the flow.

So, I’m going to continue with an episode a week (except for this week), but I’m going to stay in each story for several weeks. So, we’ll have a little time over the next few weeks to get to know the treehouse girls. Then it’s back to Mia Fiorello for the final episode, and, by then, by 1/3 dolls may be here.

Posted in BJD, doll photography, Dollhouse, graphic novel, Iplehouse, Olive, overhead, Photography, toy photography

Back to the treehouse

While the Mia Fiarello team is making their way to Camellia, let’s check in with the treehouse sisters.

When I started working again on this story, I realized how incredibly slapdash and haphazard I’d become about setting up for episodes – just grab a few items, set up the camera, and shoot.

I *could* do that for the treehouse, but I’m expecting them to spend much of the next year there, so I think I have to slow down and really create a space that works.

That task has become somewhat harder because of my inability to find a tree that really works as a 1/4 scale treehouse. The trees in my yard that have the right kind of branch arrangement are far too big to work at 1/4 scale, and the ones that work at 1/4 scale don’t have the kinds of branches you could build a treehouse in.

For example, here’s Olive standing next to one of my (fruiting) cherry trees:

which looks great, in scale. But the branching on the cherry looks like this:

with really no place to build a level platform.

That means that I’ll just need to show them working on a treehouse in one of my outdoor trees, but that any building of the actual treehouse will take place in my workshop.

So, let’s look at what I have.

Because I want a permanent space, I need something solid to use as a base. For my 1/4 scale dolls, I find that Ikea Lack side tables are just the right size, and dirt cheap at $8 a pop. The top of the table (which I’ll use as the floor on the Overhead treehouse and as a side wall for the In the Picture rainforest house) is a 21 1/2″ square. The legs (if you use them) are 17 3/4″. That’s plenty big for the In the Picture space, since the legs define the depth of the of the space, but it’s not quite big enough for the Overhead treehouse, since the legs form the upright corners and the dolls themselves are almost 18″ tall.

Fortunately, it’s a treehouse, so I can slot in some sticks for the four supporting beams. That would look something like this:

The table comes with four double-sided screws and pre-drilled holes

so all I need to do is find three more corner supports for the walls.

The flooring is a little more difficult. I can’t leave it as is, but I haven’t found any rough wood surface that really works for this scale. What I’d really like is some kind of wood that has a distinct grain, but where the knots are not overly large for this scale. I’d thought of just using small branches, but nature isn’t in the habit of producing a straight line, so I can’t really lie them flat or have them join nicely with each other. Really, no one wants to live in a treehouse where the floors look like this:

I have some contact paper with a wood pattern, but it looks both unnaturalistic in close-ups and far too precise for a tree house. Same thing with the parquet floor squares that I use for my 1/6 dollhouse floors. I’ve yet to see a real treehouse with parquet floors.

What I’d really like is scrap wood, but from a 1/4 scale house. Cast off cupboard doors and table tops would be just perfect, but I’d need a 1/4 scale house to start from and, once I found a 1/4 scale house, I’d never scrap it.

I’m going to take one more look around Goodwill to see if anything looks right. If not, I may have to mock up the wood grain.

In any case, the girls aren’t going to have a completely built treehouse this week, although they are going to start working on it.

Posted in Amy, BJD, doll adventure, doll photography, Dollsbe, graphic novel, Iplehouse, miniature adventure, miniature photography, photo novel, Photography, Photoshop, Strawberry, toy adventure, toy photography, Up Above

Up Above: Planning the treehouse

My Up Above doll adventure starts out slowly – two sisters sit in the glade behind their house and plan out how they might build a treehouse.

Amy and Strawberry talk about where to place the tree house
Amy starts sketching out plans for the tree house
Strawberry checks out the view . . .
. . . while Amy carries logs

*****

I got one day of clear weather, so I was able to take the last two shots outside (although I still photoshopped a background behind the picture of Strawberry in the tree.)

My PhotoShop lesson this week was about tweaking your photos, and I did a lot of that this week. I’ve started to get a feel for how to smooth the join between two layers. IMO, the picture of Strawberry in the tree is the most successful, suggesting that a pretty busy upper layer is a good way to merge in a background. The mixture of the two layers in the “Sketching the treehouse” is harder to make realistic, since they both exist on the same plane.

*****

I realize I wrote but never posted about the newest addition to the dolls house. Here’s a little background I wrote a few weeks ago.

I’ve been gathering together two groups of dolls. A smaller set of dolls (19 to 25 cm tall) for my Underfoot story, and a larger set (43 – 45cm) for my treehouse story.

Then, I went and fell in love with a doll who’s not in either size group. She’s Strawberry, from Dollsbe (also called Be With You dolls).

At 28 cms, she should be a good fit for the Underfoot crew, but there are three significant problems:

  • She’s bigger than Jinjur, and that seems to rob Jinjur of her primary role as protector of the group.
  • Although she’s just a few centimeters taller, her head is disproportionally large in comparison to the very small-headed Jinjur, and that just makes her seem completely out of scale. Buu is also big-headed, but she’s so much smaller that it seems in scale with Jinjur.
  • In her features, she’s far more similar to the toddler-like Buu then to the more mature features of Jinjur, and that makes her seem like an overgrown toddler.

Altogether, she’s just not a good fit for that story, although she bears such a strong resemblance to Buu that I keep wanting to make it work.

That leaves her to hang out with the tree house crowd. That cast is far less filled out (just Amy, so far) so it’s harder to visualize how she’ll fit in altogether.

Again, her enormous head poses a problem. Even though she’s a full 15 cms smaller than Amy, her head is larger. Even so, she’s a good fit for Amy – the two look like they might hang out together, even if they don’t necessarily look related.

As a doll, she’s absolutely fantastic. She’s far and away the easiest doll to pose – she moves into all poses easily – and she has a fantastic center of balance – she can stand pretty much no matter how you set her down. On her site, her creator (the very helpful YG) is able to get his dolls to stand on just one leg. I just have to fiddle with the poses to figure out where he’s finding that center of gravity, but I’ve gotten her almost there with just a little bit of time experimenting.

Since writing this, I’ve come to really like how the two dolls look together. Strawberry has a sweet wide-eyed look that balances Amy’s more cautious approach. And the mix of ages brings up all kinds of interesting subplots.

Here’s one I’m thinking about now. I plan for almost all of their scenes to take place outside of a conventional home. I’m planning a tree house, I have a rowboat, and I’m planning on getting some combination of RV and tent. So, really, there’s no space for them to also have a regular bedroom. That makes me think that maybe there’s not much home to go back to. That means either that they’ve been set adrift through the loss of their parents, or that something is very wrong in their house. I’m not really loving either option – i see the story as being sweet and dreamy, and I don’t want them bogged down by a grim backstory.

One idea I’m kicking around is that they have a loving but distracted father – he looks up from whatever he’s deeply immersed in and realizes he hasn’t gotten food on the table and doesn’t know where the girls are. That would give them a safe base, but also give them fairly boundless freedom. Anyway, I’ll see how that sits with the girls once I’m a few more episodes in.