A Nightmare Summer? Vampyre Beware!

A Tutorial, All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The Crooked Hen Gift Shop

“Unseelie Dreams Make Unseelie Fae.”~ Luna Lindsey

I love this quotation from Luna’s book Emerald City Dreamer which tells the tale of the faerie hunters who go in search of the creatures that are born of human nightmares and nourished on dreams.

And although my summer was remembered as being the stuff of nightmares with interrupted plans, a twisted spine and torn nerves; it is fortunate that York enjoyed something of an Indian summer throughout last September and taking advantage of the balmy weather; there was plenty of activity at the end of my garden for with the door to my Den open, I indulged in a dream of mine with the creation of another fantasy structure for the All Hallows Hamlet.

As the All Hallows Hamlet is a marketplace of emporiums, boutiques and other such establishments for discerning folk with a penchant for retail indulgence and a predilection for all that is extraordinary; I was more than a little excited about the creation of this ‘Small World’ for not only will it be an fantastical store brimming with merchandise of the magickal kind but will also be seeped in ancient folklore and superstition!

And although I did manage to keep the design of my new ‘Small World’ a secret until the sun disappeared last All Hallows Eve, I’d thought I’d share with you the images of this new building in the design process as I began to unleash my creativity armed with newspaper, masking tape, some old pieces of wood and lots of imagination on a gloriously sunny day…

Imagine if you will that you were being troubled by the presence of a vampyre but not in the desperately romantic way of one Edward Cullen from the Twilight saga.

You’ve probably read somewhere or seen it on television that the best way to be free of a vampyre would be to arm oneself with a crucifix and a large bottle of Holy water or if you are of a very brave disposition; you could get rid of this fiend by driving a stake through it’s rotten heart before chopping off the head and then having a nice bonfire with what remains.

But did you know that there are many different ways of seeing off a vampyre?

And so I ask you to imagine that somewhere in our world there exists a little emporium which sells every conceivable tool needed for this task and for those who lack the courage or the knowledge on the best way to bid ‘Adieu’ to this night walker; imagine also if you could actually hire the services of a real vampyre slayer?

As I have long enjoyed a fascination for the vampyre of folklore and mythology and having designed a fantastical store in 12th scale for the All Hallows Hamlet which offers those essential accoutrements for any discerning hunter of the undead; I wanted to share with you the tale of my creation of the Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium!

The idea of creating a vampyre slayer’s emporium happened as I had been re-watching my Blood Ties box set featuring the glorious Kyle Schmid as the vampyre Henry Fitzroy and in the episode ‘Heart of Fire’ I fell in love with the idea of a ‘Monsignor’ hunting down the undead armed only in faith and with his black box.

And as the news was dominated by the antics of the footballer Luis Suárez who had found himself in trouble because he couldn’t keep his teeth to himself and had actually bitten another player; the name all but suggested itself!

Using the ‘Garden Pavilion Kit’ from the Dolls House Emporium and having cut a large hole in the back, I used foam core to cover the gap which had been designed for the large door and shortened the length of the MDF pieces for the garden by some 2 inches which I then placed onto a larger piece of plywood.

As I imagined the Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium to be situated on a mound surrounded by a bank of mud and moss and with space for a small stream; I raised the structure with the use of some scrap pieces of cardboard packaging which along with the plywood base helped to keep the weight down!

The large chimney was constructed with the use of some old building blocks which having been smashed and bashed by small hands over the years were now ready to be put to some other use and to which I added two more pieces of balsa wood.

And as a daily reader of a newspaper (I shan’t tell you which one as I get enough grief about it from my spouse) I was able to do a little recycling of my own as I tore up strips in which to fashion the shape of the stream and others I crushed into balls of assorted sizes to create the foot of the mound.

As my excitement with this project grew so did my desire to get on with it as fast as I was able to and as you can see from the images below, I created most of it without capturing any of the images to share with you; however, I will try to explain the design process.

The walls of the graveyard, the emporium and chimney were decorated using aquarium gravel, lots of glue and with plenty of time in which to let it all dry!

AND however tempting it may be to pick it up one of these walls to admire it, I speak from bitter experience when I tell you that your efforts will all be in vain if all you hear is the sound of tiny stones crashing to the table.

Please, if you do nothing else, trust me on the stones!

With the aquarium gravel now firmly in place; I finished off with a generous covering of stonework with the use of  my unique recipe which I have shared on my other blog Creating Life in 12th Scale… 

The roof ’tiles’ were made from a sheet of mount board in a colour that had caught my eye and which I laid strip by tedious strip (I hate roofing!) over strips of paper which helped to give the impression of a ‘bumpy’ roof.

Having constructed a simple door and the primitive looking porch from balsa wood, I stained these along with the windows and frames in a ‘dark oak’ colour and added three steps of scrap MDF to the newspaper base and which I finished off with my special mix of stonework.

I also added several burnt stones to the base of the ‘stream’ which I had snaffled from an obsolete BBQ.

For those of you who are familiar with my ‘Small Worlds’ you’ll know that I love to use ‘real’ foliage when I can and as an enthusiastic ‘harvester’ who loves to take advantage of the free pickings from my garden, I selected an assortment of branch cuttings which were then attached to the plywood base with wire and masking tape before the base and fashioned tree ‘roots’ were sculpted into shape with the use of some ModRoc.

I should add that ModRoc is the brand name for a plaster bandage and one I came to know very well as a child when I had broken my arm!

And with everything safely in place, this is where the fun really began as I coated the newspaper mound and the surrounding area with lashings of papier-mâché.

Papier-mâché has been used for thousands of years in a HUGE variety of ways and there is more than one recipe for making it, however, I prefer to use a bag of pulp to which you simply add water and mix well.

Having tried a number of papier-mâché ready mixes, my favourite is the Creation Station Instant Papier Mâché available on Amazon as is not as dusty as some of the others on the market.

I always try to do my papier-mâché sculpting outside as it can be really messy and I usually end up with the stuff on the floor, my clothes and even in my hair!

However, with patience, time and preferably a sunny day, it is really is a fabulous medium to work with!

To be continued…

However, Before You Leave…

As this fantastical world was the inspiration for the trilogy: ‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies. Oh My!’ for Crooked Hen Productions – you can fly over and relish the tale… if you dare!

And if you’ve a vampyre to slay…

On offer and measuring just 2.5 cm or smaller is a collection of miniature vials now available exclusively on the Crooked Hen Gift Shop

Available for sale individually and from the shelves of the ‘Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer Emporium’ in the All Hallows Hamlet, these are exclusive remedies created by the Monsignor himself AND guaranteed to see off the most determined of Vampyres!

Into the Forest? Let’s Go!

A Tutorial, All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” ~ John Muir

I love the above quote and one rainy evening when my imagination was captured by the idea of an Irish elf with his rickety barrow selling his magickal notions and potions in a forest clearing – I just had to create this scene in 12th scale for the All Hallows Hamlet!

As I’ve always the odd piece of wood stashed away for those ‘just in case’ projects – I found a nice piece of plywood which had already been transformed into an unusual shape.

And with a collection of Twisted Willow I had harvested during one of my many visits to York Cemetery as the Graveyard Squirrel and with masking tape, assorted wire, a borrowed wood saw and pliers – I was ready to begin.

Any sensible artist with patience and planning would have worked out where to plant the pieces of willow and mark them up accordingly until they were happy with the layout – however, as I am neither sensible or patient, I dived straight in with the first piece of willow which I had to attach with a strong glue before securing it with electrical wire.

Having arranged the wire to give the appearance of tree ‘roots’, I used a strong-lasting masking tape to secure both willow and roots to the ply base.

But when I shudder at the memory of that HUGE dry-build house crashing about my ears having secured it with cheap, short-life masking tape – I vowed never to be thrifty again!

And with one willow planted and many more to go – I continued using the same method:

Measure the willow to the desired height, saw to create a straight line and sand if necessary.

Attach with glue/wire and secure with masking tape.

When happy with the willow design, I began to raise the ground level using strips of newspaper.

And as a daily reader of a newspaper I was able to do a little recycling as I tore up the strips to pack the tree roots and no, I won’t tell you which newspaper as I get enough grief about it from my spouse!

Using the newspaper in this way not only creates interesting ‘mounds’ and ‘burrows’ but will make it easier to apply the papier-mâché.

And with everything safely in place, this is where the fun really began as I coated the newspaper tree roots and the surrounding area with lashings of papier-mâché.

Papier-mâché has been used for thousands of years in a HUGE variety of ways and there is more than one recipe for making it, however, I prefer to use a bag of pulp to which you simply add water and mix well.

Having tried a number of papier-mâché ready mixes over the years, my favourite is the ‘Creation Station Instant Papier Mâché’ available on Amazon as is not as dusty as some of the others on the market.

I always try to do my papier-mâché sculpting outside as it can be really messy and I usually end up with the stuff on the floor, my clothes and even in my hair!

However, with patience, time and preferably a sunny day, it really is a fabulous medium to work with!

And in a later post, I’ll show you how I created the landscaping but I think that it’s time for a nice mug of tea!

A Walk on the Wild Side!

All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!

“All the things of the wild have their proper uses. Only misuse makes them evil.” ~ Brother Cadfael

(One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters)

Recently I have found myself lost in the medieval world of Brother Cadfael and his tales of bravery, and kindness while in the pursuit of justice around the enclave of Shrewsbury Abbey.

And I have been particularly enticed by the images of his delightful ‘Herbarium’ in the BBC adaptation which stars the wonderfully mesmeric Sir Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael.

For having fallen in love with the vision of Cadfael’s Herbarium with its charming thatched roof, an interior of stone flagged floors with pots of healing potions all bubbling away on the huge and welcoming fire and masses of dried herbs hanging from the rafters…

… I am now making plans to create my own unique Herbarium!

More details to follow soon…. I promise!

Top O’ the Morning to You!

All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk, The Crooked Hen Gift Shop

“The earliest truth that we’re taught is that there is a world alongside this world, with spirits, not mortals, an enchanted universe of fairies, wizards, leprechauns and trolls. They are all around us. One has only to open his eyes.”

~ William Holman Hunt

After a weekend of an awful weather here in York, I pottered off into the garden on Monday morning to see the chickens and enjoy a little of the sunshine AND look at WHO I happened to stumble across!

With a feather in his cap and a distinctive pipe to hand, it was none other than Seamus Quinn; a cheeky, little Irish elf along with his rickety barrow of unique notions and potions inspired by his Gaelic heritage on display.

Besides the snow and ice, Saturday had also been the day for the celebration of ALL things Irish but as I watched Seamus bask in the morning sunshine as he waited for the first customer of the day, I did wonder if he might have had a little more ‘luck’ with his sales had he made an appearance on St Patrick’s Day?

Whatever his reasons for hiding away at the weekend, their loss is OUR gain as some of his exclusive array of notions and potions are now available for sale in the Crooked Hen Gift Shop

On offer and measuring just 2.5 cm or smaller, this collection of miniature vials have been personally created by that wise little elf and ALL are guaranteed to lace life with a little of that Leprechaun magick!

And even though the day of wearing green and sporting a Shamrock corsage may be over for some;  it’s never too late to enjoy a little of that Irish charm with a drop of this unique ‘Leprechaun Nectar’ or perhaps a spoonful of ‘Living in Clover’ might be more to your taste?

However, when I think of how my son and his friends were celebrating St Patrick’s Day with glass after glass of Guinness, maybe a sip or several of Seamus Quinn’s ‘Hangover Cure’ may have been more appreciated the morning after!