A New Direction for Dollhouse

Rug in Jimmy Landers dollhouse

An exciting thing happened to me in July! Jimmy Landers, a master miniaturist, contacted me and after talking on the phone several times he commissioned me to make a needlepoint rug for his beautiful new Tudor dollhouse. This house is going to be exhibited at the Johnson County Museum of History in Franklin, Indiana starting October 8th through the spring of 2022.

Before I say any more about the rug and his house, I want to share the beautiful serendipity of how this came about. If you know me at all, you know I believe in the power of positivity and asking for what you want and then being open to seeing what comes your way. Well, this left me with no doubt about the path I should be on.

I had been wondering if I should get back to painting, even though I was having so much fun building my “covid” dollhouse. I really LOVE the building part. I love everything about miniatures, and saw all the people on Instagram making miniature things like furniture, flowers, food, shoes, and a host of other things to sell. I know myself well enough to know the fastest way for me to kill my enthusiasm for something is for me to have to make the same thing over and over again. So I KNEW that would not be for me, but I wasn’t sure WHAT I should be doing. And then Jimmy called.

The first day we talked for almost an hour. He lives in Indiana, BUT he grew up thirty minutes from Birmingham in Sylacauga. Now unless you live in Alabama you probably have never heard of Sylacauga, but I know it well because I grew up in Opelika and all my relatives lived in Birmingham and we were on the road between the two many, many times every year, and Sylacauga is on the way. And when I told him that I grew up in Opelika, he told me that is where his sister lives. Clearly my “paying attention” radar was on full alert.

Now let me tell you about Jimmy. He is a master miniaturist. He is one of the best in the world. He has built some of the most beautiful dollhouses and other miniature creations. Take a look at the cabinet of dollhouse rooms he built, it is magnificent. You can see all the pictures on his website here https://cr2s.com/jlsignatures.com/

Jimmy Landers Sahlberg dollhouse cabinet
The Sahlberg

Before I ever knew who Jimmy was I had saved a couple of pictures from a magazine, I have no idea where I saw it or what magazine it was in but I loved it. It was a two story library. I cut out the pictures and put them in my notebook (I actually have four notebooks) that hold all my inspiration both for my real house and more recently for dollhouses. Once I started talking to him I realized it was HIS library. I was talking to my miniature hero and I didn’t even realize it until after we talked the first time.

Jimmy Landers Harville Library miniature library
The Harville Library

You really have to look on his website to see all the beautiful details. Real stained glass windows in the ceiling, four thousand books, that he made (with some help from his wife) and details, all the details. It’s amazing. I told him during our second phone call that I had realized after talking with him, that I had saved pictures of his library. It was during this call that he asked about some rugs I had posted on Instagram. I told him no way, I didn’t sell those, I was just learning how to needlepoint that small. He wanted something to go with the beautiful rose marble floors in the master bedroom of his new dollhouse, they are REAL marble and so gorgeous. I finally agreed that I would make one, but I had to find a design that would be true to the era of his house and I would use colors that would compliment the floor and the bedding in the room. I had NO idea what I had agreed to.

Once I found the pattern and chose the colors, I realized for the size he wanted I was going to have to make this on 32 count silk gauze needlepoint canvas and use silk thread, which is not as forgiving as other things. 22 count was the smallest I had tried so far, and I thought THAT was hard, 32 was a HUGE challenge. 22,545 stitches later-actually a lot more, because I started over four times, I finished his rug. TINY stitches, 1/32 of an inch. I wore magnifiers with lights on my head, and looked through a 10x larger magnifying glass and cussed A LOT!

So back to serendipity. He grew up 30 miles from me, his sister lives where I grew up, he was already one of my inspirations without me knowing it. As we talked, we both have built our own real houses. We love so many of the same things about building. I asked him a million questions and he answered them all. He has helped me find sources, helped me about sizes of things, everything. And while I was stitching that rug I had a lot of time to think.

One of the first things that I remembered is that several years ago I wrote down some things I wanted. I wrote that I wanted to sell a painting to a famous artist. I wanted my art to be in a magazine and I wanted “something” of mine to be in a museum. Now I didn’t write painting, I wrote “something”. Really weird, except maybe I was just assuming at the time it would be a painting. The first two things happened a little over a year later in 2017, I sold a painting to a famous artist and five pages of my art was featured in the Art and Fashion edition of Vie Magazine. I had forgotten about writing all that down until a few months ago when I was cleaning out and found it. And NOW “something” of mine is going to be in a museum. You just have to ASK!

Jimmy Landers Tudor dollhouse
A Little Peek at Jimmy Lander’s Tudor Dollhouse

I talked to Jimmy again the other day and told him I want to do what he does. I want to build dollhouses from scratch (there aren’t a lot of people that do that), and I want to sell them. These kinds of dollhouses are very, very expensive. I knew that the dollhouse I have been working on (and learning on) was NOT going to be the kind of dollhouse I could sell, at least not for the kind of money you would want after spending over a year working on something. I asked him if he thought it would be something I could do and he said yes, but it is going to probably take you a year or two. I am okay with that.

I want to create a masterpiece dollhouse and now that I have a mentor, the BEST I could ask for, I know what I want to do, so I am starting on my new dollhouse and using REAL materials and I am going to try to do things the way Jimmy and the masters do it. I don’t know if I will be able to pull it off, but I am going to try, no matter how long it takes.

Please check out his website and see all his beautiful creations. https://cr2s.com/jlsignatures.com and follow him on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jimmy_landers_jhlsignatures/

And if you are near Franklin, Indiana in the next few months, go check out his dollhouse.

silk needlepoint rug custom made for Jimmy Landers tudor dollhouse
Custom Rug for Jimmy Landers Tudor Dollhouse

The Covid House- Part 2

One of the first things I did in the house was the game room. I knew I wanted a pool table and a Galaga machine. My son bought a used, full size Galaga arcade machine when he was in high school. I have to admit it was fun to play, and I wasn’t terrible. I wanted to make one for my game room, so I found the graphics for it online, I found the dimensions and shrunk them down to 1:12 size and went to work. I wanted it to have a “screen” that was lit, so I finally figured out I could print on transparent paper and with a light inside, became my screen. Also, the little red light that shows it is “on” above the “coin slot” actually glows. (not that anyone will ever know, it is almost impossible to see, but I know!)

Dollhouse Galaga Arcade Game

The lights for over the pool table were something I had seen when looking for game room inspiration. It became quickly apparent I would have to make that light if I wanted it. Still being very new to lighting, I bought the green pool table lights, at the time I really had no idea I could make my own, and designed how I would make them work with the tiny pool balls. I painted the little balls, made the frame and it worked! Now I still have to make the pool table!

Dollhouse Game Room

In my pool bath, (for the lap pool outside the game room), I wanted a drum light. There are not a lot of modern lights available for dollhouses, and certainly not what I had in mind. I also, hadn’t found all the sellers of miniatures on Instagram either, which there are tons of, and they make everything!

I was looking through a box of old stuff I had saved to use when creating shapes on paintings and found the inside of a scotch tape roll, and the light bulb (pun intended) when off! It could be my drum light. I had some copper tape that I ran around the top, bottom and middle and it was just what I wanted. I had no idea how to hang it or from what, until in the same box, I saw the wire part of an old champagne bottle. It was perfect! I wove a little single light down through the wire and had the drum light for my pool bath.

Dollhouse Drum Light

Then I realized I needed lights for either side of the mirror. And of course I wanted them to match or at least coordinate with my ceiling fixture. I used white plastic rectangular tubing and the copper tape again to make these. I may try to make a tutorial about how I made these, they are pretty easy and the fronts remove so I can change bulbs if I need to.

Pool Bath Sconces

When I decided I wanted to do a wine cellar, I knew I wanted some medieval looking lights for the walls. I found a bunch of old jewelry parts (from the time I thought I wanted to make jewelry- I failed miserably at that!) For the “flame” tips, I pulled off the top of battery operated tea lights and put them over the bulb. I made a back plate with a little cup hook to hold it on the wall.

Wine Cellar Lights

I also made a very simple ceiling fixture out of wood. I also put recessed lights inside each of the arches so the wine bottles show up better.

Wine Cellar

I also wanted a place to taste wine in the wine cellar so I built a cabinet, that has tilted shelves at the bottom and place to stand (or sit, if I ever make stools) and taste wine. Another recessed light is above a reproduction of one of my paintings. I still need to make a table and chairs for the back corner and get more wine!

Wine Cellar Cabinet

There is still much to do in all of these rooms, but I really want to finish building the house, before I spend more time adding things. Also, if I end up selling the house, part of the fun for the person buying is to collect and decorate.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

The Covid House- Part 1

I know, I know, that is a horrible name, and it is really not the name for the house (it actually doesn’t have a name), but if it weren’t for the virus and the lockdown, this house may have never gotten off the ground.

dollhouse kitchen
Kitchen

I had started this house in 2018 after I finished building the house for my granddaughter. I wanted to build my own, from scratch. Yeah, I rarely do anything the easy way. I didn’t have a plan, I just knew that I wanted a bunch of BIG rooms because I couldn’t really do much decorating in the smaller rooms that were in my granddaughter’s house.

The first thing I did was to make SURE that the design would allow the house to go through a 32″ door. In order to move my granddaughter’s house from the room I built it in to where it sits now, my dining room- which is the only other room we could get it into, we had to take the front door off the hinges and then it BARELY made it (by 1/4 of an inch). So, even though I wanted this house to be big and roomy, I didn’t want moving it to be an issue. This house is 31″ wide, it is five feet long and I am not exactly sure how tall it will be when finished, but somewhere in the four foot area.

one end of the dollhouse under construction
Under Construction

This is a picture of the right side from the back side. The bottom floor has a potting shed at the far right, beside the fountain, a wine cellar, a home gym, a pool bathroom, and game room. On the outside on the left end is an outdoor fireplace and lap pool.

left end of bottom floor of dollhouse
Outdoor fireplace and lap pool

The second story consists of a den, a two story entry hall, complete with a Chihuly inspired chandelier, the dining room and kitchen. On the third floor there will be the master bedroom, bath and closet, a girl’s room and bath and a nursery. Under the roof on the fourth floor there will be an attic, and a couple of other rooms that I haven’t really decided what I want to do yet.

When I started this house, I really intended just to build the structure. I did want to make the floors, since I love faux finishing and knew there would be marble in the entry. Of course I was going to put the windows and doors in, I never thought I would actually build them myself, but I did. I wanted the doors and windows to have arched windows over them on the second floor and I couldn’t find any that were the dimensions or the look I wanted. That is when I went down the rabbit hole.

I started looking at miniature accounts on Instagram, following miniature groups on Facebook and the the YouTube videos! That is when I realized I could probably make just about anything I wanted for the house. I still had no intention of making the light fixtures, building the kitchen appliances, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop.

dollhouse refrigerator
Dollhouse Refrigerator

A very important part of all of this to me, was that I wanted everything to look as realistic as possible. When someone comments on one of my pictures that they thought my post was a real house, I am thrilled! The stove, dishwasher and refrigerator were a real challenge. Pretty much anything 1:12 scale can be a challenge but these three gave me fits. I made the stove first, and redid the wire shelves inside four times. The stove has lights in both sides and even has a vent hood with a light over it. The dishwasher wasn’t quite as bad, and has a little spinner that actually spins if you twirl it, and a drain, which no one will ever be able to see! the refrigerator was the biggest challenge. If I had not had my Glowforge laser cutter I could have never made it look as realistic. The laser cutter cut all the wood, the clear and white acrylic, so that all the pieces fit perfectly. An immense amount of cussing and throwing things (mostly in the trash) were part of building the fridge, but in the end I really do love it.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 about making light fixtures and furniture, two things I NEVER thought I would do.

How It All Started

A few years ago my daddy asked me if I wanted to finish a dollhouse he had started (barely) for my sister back in the 80s. My granddaughter was five at the time and so I thought it would be a great present for her, so I said “YES!” I had no idea what I was getting myself into or that it would turn into something that I would pursue past finishing this house.

In the late 70s/early 80s my daddy built a dollhouse that was a replica of an old Victorian house in my hometown for my cousins. He used the blueprints from the real house to replicate it mini-size. My aunt still has it, even though it might need a little attention since it has been greatly loved. It was a few years after that he decided to build one for my sister, but for some reason it never really got off the ground.

Kitchen

When I got the old unfinished dollhouse, he had put a few plugs in, the flooring on the first floor, the staircase and the downstairs windows, but that was about it. I learned a lot while working on this house, which was from a kit. Victorian is not really my style, so I painted it pink, and did my own thing on the inside. None of which is Victorian.

Dining Room

I learned how to wire the lights, I learned about all the places you can buy stuff, there are so many! I learned how HARD it is to work in tiny cramped spaces. Step by step and bit by bit, I worked on it. I learned about which glues work best with different things, which paints to use, etc… there really is a lot to learn. Some things that work well in “real size” houses don’t do so well in miniature. I’ve learned so many things while finishing this house.

Den

This dollhouse has been decorated by my grandchildren. I let them choose the furniture and arrange it. I used my own designs for all the wallpaper except in the dining room. And I needlepointed the rugs for the den, dining room, the upstairs hall and the one that ended up in the nursery, but wasn’t really intended for that spot, but it’s not my house.

Nursery

My granddaughter LOVES it so that is all that matters, and her brothers like to play with it too!

Girl’s Room