The Gnome's Cottage

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A can of Danish Christmas cookies illustrated with works by the Dutch artist Rien Portvliet was the inspiration for this project. My family comes from Lithuania, and log homes were a tradition there, as in other northern European lands. My mother was actually born in a log cottage.
Vilija (pronounced vil-ee-ya), the happy gnome sits on her front steps. As you can probably tell, she’s an avid gardener.

Here we have a view of her garden.

I decided to make a separate platform for the garden. This made the project easier to work on and transport. Getting dollhouses through doorways can be a delicate job. Here you see a picture of Vilija’s friend Gulbe (Gul-beh) with her baby boy Gintaras (Gin-tarus), and how the garden is split.

Below is an “aerial view”. When the two bases come together the groundcover overlaps and you can’t see the seam.

Here’s Gunther (Gun-ter) at the fence. I think he and his brother Gustaf are both rather sweet on Vilija. Gunther always makes sure she has plenty of firewood.

Below you see the garden gate and a flagstone path to the back door and the shed. These paving stones were cut from thin sheets of basswood, and the plants were made from assorted artificial flowers and reindeer moss.

I wanted the gate to swing open and shut, and I remembered that I had some lead tape handy. The tape is metallic, and I “engraved” a design onto it with a pencil. Lead tape is also handy to give a bit of weight to miniature fabric projects to get them to lay down better. I found mine in the tennis department of a sporting goods store.

I found a deep little shadow or display box at a craftstore and immediately thought it would save me a bit of work in the making of a well. I covered it with cardboard egg carton “stones”. It was the first time I had used the method and it worked out quite well. The handle on the crank turns to bring the bucket up and down. I was rather perplexed as to what to use for the crank. I haven’t done any metal working and I don’t have a lathe. I suddenly remembered some plastic suction cups that had little hooks on them. Sure enough, as I played with the hook on the cup I realized this would work. I did think a bit about the incongruity of a plastic piece on the well, but I figured that was what the gnomes would do if they saw it, so I did too.

Here’s the inside of the cottage, a cozy place, just big enough. Some may ask, “where’s the ladder to get to the loft?” It’s on the other wall, the one that you can’t see, that’s where. It would just get in the way otherwise. Up in the loft you’ll see sacks of food stores. I experimented with dryer lint, marbles, pebbles and little plastic filler balls to see how they worked in the sacks. The plastic filler balls are often used to make soap bubbles in mini bathtub scenes. I believe they’re often used to fill those “draft stoppers” they sell to put at the bottoms of doors. Each sack filler gave a slightly different result, so if you’re ever in the need of them, try a little experimentation. The wooden “crocks” and bottle seen in the loft were made from a small broken artist’s mannikin.I never throw out anything that looks like it might be used for a miniature “something”.

I found some very nice moldings at a craft store, in this case it was Michael’s. The acorn carving on the corner cabinet was cut from a piece of molding, The back of the bench was from another of those moldings I bought.The doors to the cabinets don’t open, I have no urge to work on opening drawers and doors I don’t think I need them.

Now here’s a piece that I felt did need to open and close. The bed/settle. I saw a couple of pictures of similar beds in a 1930’s national Geographic article about Sweden, and I had a desire to make one. The back of the settle is made from the molding I bought at Michael’s. You can see the acorns in the center. I had no knobs handy for the drawer pulls, so I used dimensional fabric paint to make some.


Here’s the open bed. The quilt is a piece of printed fabric with tiny dots that simulate stiching. I confess, the coverlet and pillow won’t fit in the drawer when it’s shut, but the little mattress does. The gnomes have such short legs, and I didn’t want to make the seat too high for them. The pillow and coverlet are stored in the painted trunk.

I had some straw type coasters I found at a Dollar Tree discount store. I cut one to form a mat, applying glue to the underside so it wouldn’t unravel. I used some of the straws to make a broom.

The space on the gable looked so bare, so I thought a flowered wreath would be a nice touch.

While browsing a local gift shop one day I spotted a cute tole painted bowl. Of course, it wound up being bigger than I thought when I got it home and put it with other mini finds. I did like the look of it, however, so I copied the design onto a small wooden plate. It’s up on the shelf shown here. The shelf is made from the top half of a Michael’s hutch.

Later, I felt the table needed a plate too, so I painted another plate.
This is one of my favorite pictures.

And here’s another nice one of the hearth.

Here’s a picture of the friends gathered around the table. Agnetha (Agneta) came with a housewarming gift of a new lantern, Marta brought a basket of fruits and veggies, Gustave brought flowers and Gunther brought…more wood.
Where’s Vilija? Shh..it’s a surprise party.