Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid's Garden
I started by making the little Cupid ornaments which can be seen in the painting on the arch of the doorframe. I've made one little winged Cupid out of Fimo clay, and used that to make a mould to cast the others. I used some filler in the gaps between the ornaments and smoothed it with sandpaper.
I've made the arches from laminated wood. It took me a few days to get the arches at the right angle in the roombox. I found the front arch especially difficult to do. It had to be cut at an angle so it would fit flush against the front of the roombox.
In the painting you can just about see the door to the garden. In the roombox you can see the door only if you look at it from the right. I've made the door the same way I did making the doors for my dolls house 'Singel 224' . Using a very simple method! ('see Workshop Deur maken' in Dutch).
In the roombox two laurels can be seen behind Psyche.. Laurel symbolizes fame, victory, triumph and glory. I made the stems and branches of the laurels using wire covered in painter's masking tape. I covered it with some plaster and painted it all with acrylic paint. The stems and branches have remained somewhat flexible which makes it easier to shape the branches on the trees. Hundreds of paper leaves were needed to finish the branches. Once they were all glued on, I didn't like the colour on them so decided to paint them all. Quite a job!
There are many roses in the roombox. Roses symbolize joy, happiness, affection, love and beauty. The beautifully detailed leaves are laser cuts by Mary Kinloch (via Anja van den Doel, Miniatures from Delft). The rose petals are also from Anja van den Doel. I have used watercolours to hand paint both the rose leaves and the petals. I love the subtle colours you can obtain using watercolour paints.
Just inside the garden is a potted rose. I've made the rose a little taller than it is in the painting so it comes up and under the arch.
In the painting you can't really see what's behind the laurels, so I have put a stone wall there. I've used Paperclay to make the stones and the steps leading into the garden, using old Roman buildings as my inspiration. I've learned to use Paperclay during a Rik Pierce workshop. Unfortunately the clay is not readily available in the Netherlands.
Not all of the plants I have used in the roombox are actually in the painting. I thought it fitting to put 'Dicentra spectabilis' or 'bleeding heart' next to the entrance of the garden. When separated from each other both Cupid's and Psyche's hearts bleed. As soon as Psyche enters Cupid's garden, she will leave the bleeding heart behind her. For making the bleeding hearts I used Mary Kinloch's laser cuts again.. While making this plant (mei 2007) the full size version was flowering in my garden.. I've cut some of the flowers and leaves from my garden to use as an example of how the plant is constructed, and to copy the colours as realistically as possible.
For each flower I used two cupped flower petals glued together with a short length of sewing thread in between. This way the flowers have a little volume, just like the real flowers have.
Another plant I thought was fun to use in the roombox is the maidenhair fern, Adiantum (see below) . This fern grows in the wild in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, where they often can be found in cracks of rocks and walls. In dutch the plant is called 'venushaar' (venushair). In the story Venus gives Psyche three tasks to perform. As a reference to this I have used three 'venushaar' ferns on the walls.
Psyche doesn't just find difficulties and sadness on her path, but also love. The rozes symbolizing love reach her even before she steps into the garden.
On the photo on the right most plants are finished so I can get an impression of how it is going to look. I have given the walls of the arch a similar colour to the walls in the painting. I'll have to look for a good backdrop for the garden, it all looks a bit bare now.
I have gilded all mouldings on the arch. I had never done this before but I enjoyed doing it and it actually was quite easy. I bought a book of real gold leaf (23 carat!) and special glue for the gold leaf at an art supply store. The glue has a red clay mineral in it called bole, which gives the gold an even warmer glow. With the new generation of glues, gilding is no longer difficult. Apply the glue, wait an hour and then you can start applying the wafer-thin sheets of gold with a special brush called a Gilders Tip. Don't sneeze or you'll lose your leaf! Before I started gilding the ornaments and mouldings I did practise on something else to get the hang of it. The most difficult thing is to get the gold leaf into all the small holes and crevasses.
The next step was making Psyche out of Fimo clay. Working with clay is not my favourite job. About two years ago I took a class with Angie Scarr making miniature lettuce, cabbage and shrimp from Fimo clay. This helped me become a lot more confident using Fimo clay.
I wanted to sculpt Psyche's head, arms and torso as one piece because her arms and shoulders would be visible in the dress she was going to wear. I made a frame from green plastic coated garden wire and sculpted Psyche around that. I must say I found it quite difficult. I first sculpted her head, then her torso. When I started sculpting her arms I found it nearly impossible to hold her without deforming her head and torso. I now know Fimo can be baked step by step, so I could have baked the head and torso before starting work on the arms.
Still, Psyche turned out nicely, even if I say so myself. She is a little bit on the big side and a little bit dirty (Fimo attracts dust and dirt like mad!) , I'll pay more attention to that when I do my next sculpt!
Psyche's dress is based on the Roman stola. I like to live by the old adage 'waste not, want not, so I made the dress from a remnant of so called 'washed silk' of which I had made a beautiful blouse for myself about 15 years ago. 'Washed silk' drapes beautifully, and works especially well in 12th scale. It would be wonderful for curtains also. Unfortunately it is very hard to come by these days, it must have something to do with changing fashions.
I painted Psyche's face with acrylics. During sculpting Psyche had become a bit dirty, so I applied a thin wash of fleshcoloured acrylics all over first. It would be easier to make sure the clay stays clean during sculpting. Next time I'll make sure that apart from keeing my hands clean all the time (which I did!), I'll also wear a light coloured blouse and work in dust-free surroundings.
Fortunately in the painting Psyche has a fairly simple hairdo. On the internet I found several different wigging tutorials. I've read them all, and then started on wigging Psyche. I combined many of the tips and instructions of the tutorials to find what worked best for me and do the wigging my own way.
For this project I used my lathe for the very first time. Using an old broomhandle I turned the flowerpot containing the roses just inside of the gate. Although it turned out I didn't have the lathe set up entirely correctly, my flowerpot turned out O.K. so I used it in the scene. I did have to paint it the right terracotta colour.
It was difficult to find a photograph to act as a background to the scene. I wanted one with a Roman temple in the background, but I could not find a suitable picture. My second choice was a rosegarden, because the rose is symbolic for love. The photo I ended up using is the rosegarden in the botanical gardens of Brooklyn, New York. A beautiful photo. I put a few 'real' roses in front of the photo which makes it more difficult to distinguish between the foreground and the picture in the background. It is a bit of a shame that because of the jumble of colours and shapes it is very diffucult so see the 'real' roses. And they are really quite beautiful! Maybe I will still change that one day.
In June 2007 I was a scholarship student at the IGMA Guild School in Castine, Maine. I took my 'Psyche' roombox with me for the exhibition at the Guild School. As we have 230 Volts her in Europe, I needed a 115 V to 12 V transformer. Luckily my father was able to remove one from an old computer which could run both on 230 V and 115 V so I was able to have working lights at the exhibition.
The 2007 Guild School theme was 'A Fine Madness ...crazy about miniatures'. I thought 'Psyche' would fit in well because: 'Madness' and being crazy about something are inextricably linked to ones psyche, Psyche and Cupid are crazy about each other, and I must have been crazy to take the roombox in my handluggage on the plane to the U.S.A..
In the next few photo's you can see me setting up the roombox at the exhibition. Fortunately, except for a broken arm for Psyche, it all survived the trip on the planes reasonably well.
I enjoyed making 'Psyche' . I tried out some fun new techniques which I will definitely be using more often. At the Guild School I received some nice compliments and comments about my work.
I will make a new case for the roombox, I would like it to look more like an ornate frame of a painting. The case it is in now I made especially for the trip, so it would fit into my backpack. So, still not quite finished!