Friday, July 14, 2017

Halters, Halters, Halters

I haven't been to Breyerfest since 2012, and every year since, I've sat through this weekend either desperately wanting to be in Lexington or quietly relieved I'm not. This year, it's a bit of both.

I'm compensating by making like a Breyerfest attendee and making halters. They're relatively fast and fun to make, and it's given me a chance to play around with modifying Rio Rondo etched silver plates to fit this scale. So much shiny!

I have six total halters that will be up for grabs this weekend, ranging from all decked out in silver to plain ol' flat leather. For those interested, three will go up on MH$P tomorrow night at 5pm PST, and the other three will go up on Sunday night at the same time. 

(Turns out the above plan was overly ambitious for my weekend schedule- let's make it a Breyerfest week of halters instead!)

I think of halters as such a "treat yo' self" item- cheap, fun, and hassle-free! Hopefully there are others out there also beating the Breyerfest blues at home. To those attending, keep posting your pictures! I love living vicariously. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Micro Hunter

It's becoming clear to me that I just really, really like micro jumpers. But I did decide that after two cross country projects, it was time for a little back to basics.

This was another project I started in 2015 and eventually deserted for one reason or another- finding a project already partially completed is always a treat!

This little guy is Maggie Bennett's "Jumping Mule" sculpture, who is no longer a mule but instead a neatly braided bay hunter with some sweet high whites.

Hunter jumps fall easily into the trap of white poles and forgettable standards, so I knew I wanted to try something a bit new and different for this one. Each little shack standard was constructed board-by-board, then weathered down and accented with some moss to really give a lived-in, outdoor life look.

The little trees were sculpted by hand with Apoxie, texturized with rough sandpaper for some believable bark, and decked out with my new favorite thing ever, Woodland Scenics' foliage flocking. When I originally bought this stuff, I was confused and disappointed by its clumping, stick-together quality; I thought I'd purchased a bag of loose flocking! Turns out this was a blessing in disguise, as this stuff makes for the best no-mess tree flocking I've ever used.

The top layer of the base is sculpted specifically to hide the horse's attached base, and I love the balancing illusion of the final product. He's still fully attached to his solid pewter base, it's just hidden in the "sand"! For once, I have no worries about the horse coming unattached from the base or tipping over.

Sculpting on that top layer of the base also provided an opportunity for packing in some extra detail such as sandy texture and itty bitty hoof prints. I think the lack of a glass-smooth surface adds to the arena dirt illusion!

And finally, an obligatory scale picture:

I've been really, really enjoying making these self-contained micro dioramas. While it makes my heart happy to hear people are taking them to shows (facing off against horses five times their size!), I also think they make lovely little shelf pieces. There's something so satisfying about this scale!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dressage, Again

The last SM scale tack set I made was an upper level dressage set for the new(ish) mini Valegro mold. Naturally, the next set I felt compelled to make was... an upper level dressage set for the new(ish) mini Valegro mold?

What can I say, I had some nice shiny black leather and new gold wire to try out, it had to be done.

While it's not glossy, the finish on this set definitely has a bit more shine than I'm used to. Upon re-reading one of Anna Helt's older blog posts, I realized that's because my Tandy Satin Shene finish is extremely old, and while it still functions perfectly well as a sealant, it's definitely lost its totally matte quality. 

I think the finish makes it look like a doted upon fancy expensive saddle someone spent many hours buffing and cleaning- perfect for this very fancy set!

I finally got myself some 34 gauge gold wire (something I've somehow gone without thus far), so the bridle sports all-gold hardware for an extra bit of bling. It also features one of the nice etched bits I purchased in a lot off eBay a thousand years ago- I think it looks way sharper than plain wire!

Double bridles are one of those things I'll spend ages fiddling with, because I know that however much effort I put into making all the little straps fit correctly will directly translate into this nightmare of a bridle being easy and breezy to tack up for future users. Hopefully worth it!

This set also uses the new method of making saddle pads I discovered last year, meaning the pad fits the horse's top line perfectly and retains a realistic shape even when it's not on the horse. It's not a particularly difficult thing to do, but it makes my heart extremely happy. 

All together, a very satisfying set!

And finally, a little sneak peak at my cheater dressage girth: the billets are already buckled on the girth, so the regular sticky waxing method works perfectly fine. Hurray for shortcuts!

For my next set, I'm thinking I want to swing back the other way and make something really laid back, casual, maybe suited for a trail ride... we'll see!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Back to Middle Earth

I started this post in September of 2015, but never got around to posting it. I found the beginnings of this project in the studio a few weeks ago and found new inspiration to see it to completion, so here's the old post with all the new updates. Enjoy!

My geeky thirst was not satisfied by the Nazgûl project.

I had an itching to create some kind of Lord of the Rings inspired jump, and after sketching various different ideas, I ended up with an entirely new concept.

Which is a bit of a hybrid between a Hobbit hole...

...and a cross country bank jump:

With a full head of steam and a convenient copy of Maggie Bennett's "Tabitha" sculpture on hand, I got to work hacking away at some good old pink foam.

The next step was to build up the slopes of the hills coming down on either side of the "jump" area, like so:

After which I actually ended up building up more crumpled newspaper and masking tape on the top part to create a downhill slop toward the drop.

My favorite part was busting out the plaster cloth and covering the whole thing, which made a massive difference:

Next I added a little circle cut from an old cereal box for the door, and two bitty half-circles to mark where the windows would be. I also started sketching in the arch of the support over the house, and the little path leading up the hill.

The apoxie came out to add tiny little stairs climbing up the side of the hill, and the little bricks around the door and windows.

I used the same cereal box cardboard to make the little overhang outlining the house, and bitty supports on either side of the door. Then the plaster of paris was busted out to smooth the whole thing over and make it feel more like one organic thing.

And then begun the ugly phase. I knew I wanted to pretty much cover the whole thing in grass and bushes and terrain-y things, so I wasn't too worried about its surface being perfect, but I did need to figure out some base colors to put down under the plant-y stuff.

First came a rough mapping out of which areas would be which color:

Before I figured out a some more natural undertones.

And finally, grass!

The grass is made with the same method I used for the Nazgûl's little base, just on a much larger area. That means that all of this grass is hand-cut jute twine- I actually have bruises on my knuckle and finger from spending so long with my scissors!

About 3/4 done with the grass here.

(That's as far as I got in 2015. From here is the new additions!)

When working on all that grass got tiring, I turned to making all the little props I envisioned the Hobbit hole having. I conveniently had a collection of tiny fake flowers from my performance stash, and put them to work in pots sculpted from Apoxie, fixed onto shelves made from cereal box cardboard (a surprisingly great material!). 

Even after all that procrastination, though, I realized my issue with the original grass I had been adding was less with the process it took to make and more with the color- it was too pale and washed out for the lush green scene I had envisioned.

So I ended up mixing in that jute twine grass with Woodland Scenics flocking of a few different greens and covering the whole thing with that new mixture. Here's the whole thing as it looks today:

I've been having a blast re-visiting it. Micro dioramas might be my favorite thing to make because they involve so many different processes to come together; props and tack and painting galore.

My little Tabitha was prepped and pastelled to my favorite shade of dark bay (unfinished here):

With a few other micro friends that may or may not find their way into other projects...

In a fit of inspiration, I totally forgot to take more progress pictures as the scene came along. Mostly, I just added tons and tons of mixed greenery, finished painting the front of the house (I decided a sunny yellow door seemed more appropriate than the original blue), and affixed all the little props into place.

The little stones under the door are uncooked quinoa- gotta love the DIY on a budget mentality!

I've been trying to be better about taking scale pictures with tiny projects like these to better convey their teensy-tininess...

And of course my jumper needs a full set of eventing tack. Today I tackled the bitty saddle and modeled it on my pinky.

And finally, the most up-to-date status pics. There's still a lot to do, and a lot of adjustments to make (I definitely need to push the flower pot shelves back against the house so they're more believable on a real cross country course; as it is now I think they seem kind of dangerous to land on!), but I'm really happy with how it's looking.

This little structure at the top will be a clothes line with some sort of laundry hanging to dry, which would terrify any horse I've ever met and therefore seems appropriate for this challenging course.

After the horse has all her tack on, I'm devising some kind of wire system to keep her better rooted to the ground, less likely to tip, and hopefully hold her at a higher angle so her back hooves don't touch the top of the jump. We'll see how that goes!