Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Library Fireplace, day one

The next section of the dolls castle we're going to work on is the first Tower, the one that houses the Throne Room, the Library and the Guest Bedroom.  It's to the left of the Great Hall.

In preparation for that, I'm working on the fireplace that will go in the Library.  It's a basic, prebuilt Jamestown fireplace, chosen because it's reminiscent of a Tudor limestone fireplace (it's almost, but not quite, got the Tudor arch :)

To make it look more authentic, I want to line the firebox with herringbone brick and add a fireback.  My inspiration includes this wonderful, REAL minature limestone fireplace by UK artisan Gavin Poyner:

I recently bought a selection of Malcolm's Miniatures' brick impress molds from Silly Sisters in the Netherlands.  The instructions suggest using air dry clay, which I'd use if I were doing a floor or a wall (I want a brick floor in the castle kitchen, for example).  But I just couldn't see using air dry clay in the rather restricted confines of the firebox.

Polymer clay to the rescue!  I made a paper pattern (see photo above) of the three surfaces I have to cover in the fireplace, rolled out some scrap clay (a particularly virulent yellow) in my pasta machine, cut out the pieces of clay using the pattern and used the mold on them.  (The white you see is baby powder -- first of all on the tile I bake my clay on, to keep the thin sheets of clay from sticking, and secondly to dip my mold into, to keep the mold from sticking to the clay).

Voila!  This works brilliantly -- the pieces of baked clay are stable enough that I could try them in the fireplace for fit and thin enough that I was able to further trim them to size using an ordinary pair of scissors.

I then painted them grey (for grout -- I could have saved this step if I'd made them in grey clay to begin with :). 

Here they are, being worked on for the first layer of colour.  I'm using cadmium red medium, raw sienna, black and burnt umber in various combinations.

This was my first use of the impress molds, and it's far from perfect.  I didn't use even pressure, so some of the grout lines are fainter and less impressed than others. I forgot to stipple or texture the clay after impressing it.   I also messed up the pattern a little :)  Still, for all my faults, I have to say the results are pretty darned good -- well worth the 7 euros for the mold -- and relatively idiot-proof.  Thank you, Malcolm's Miniatures!

This is a close up of the first layer of colour.  I picked out a few bricks in raw sienna, then applied a base coat of red and umber to the other bricks -- the base coat was put on rather "dry", so as to keep it out of the grout lines.  I've drawn in some of the grout with a thinner wash, to make the bricks clearer.  I will clean things up on the next pass, and add some more character and age.

So here it is with the brickwork more or less finished, and the panels in place but not yet glued down.  I've very happy with the brick impress mold and love the contrast between the warm brick and the pale "limestone" finish of the mantel.


  1. I found your site by accident while searching for medieval fireplaces. This is totally awesome. What creativity and patience you have! I'll be back for more.

  2. Thank you so much, Aria (love your name :) I really appreciate your comment!

  3. I'm amazed! This Limestone Fireplace looks really good and authentic! What a great labour of love to have!


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