Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Top o' the Mornin' Part 1


There are many myths concerning the mischievous Leprechaun of Irish folklore but they all lead us to believe that this industrious, but rather grouchy little fellow, is a cobbler/shoemaker for the elves and fairies.  Interestingly, it is said he only makes one shoe, never a pair….why I am not sure, but I read somewhere that this is because the ever dancing faeries only wear out one shoe at a time.  These sprites are said to enjoy solitude &  a nip or two of a home –brew called poteen..  And of course we all know the legend of their well-earned pots of gold said to be found at the end of a rainbow.  Leprechauns have become the one of the most well-known symbols of St. Patrick’s Day….thus making him the perfect subject of a March miniature DIY vignette

Enjoy, & top o’ the mornin’ to you,


Leprechauns live solitary lives in hollowed-out logs in densely 
wooded areas of Ireland.

Instructions: In keeping with the basis of this series of miniature vignettes, the 
Leprechaun’s Shop is constructed on a 5” x 7” wooden picture frame.  Everything 
was removed from the frame and a piece of thick chipboard (.060-approx. 1/16” 
thick or .080-approx. 3/32” thick) was cut and glued into the frame from the back 
side.  The back side of the frame will be our working surface because it is larger
 than the front side.

For the tree trunk structure I used pieces of actual tree bark.  Where I live gives 
me access to this type of material so if you live in a woody or waterfront local you 
can hunt for slabs of bark that have come off of fallen trees.  You may also check 
with places that sell beauty bark or firewood.  Oft times floral suppliers will have
 slab bark. The highest wall of the structure is 10”.  

If you use “fresh” bark be sure and zap it to rid it of anything live.  A little story 
of before I was aware of this:  I was giving a newspaper interview on a project I had 
created which involved beams made from found wood.  As I was posing for a 
photo, which had me looking down into the structure, I noticed a little pile of 
sawdust just inside the door….hmmmmm, what could this be?  I sure didn't
remember it being there.  Although I had an aha moment I kept it to myself…
why spoil the illusion of my “professionalism”.  Needless to say the minute I was 
alone the whole large structure was tented and sprayed.  Animation has its place
in miniatures but not in the form of ultra-mini “lumberjacks”.

Use pliers to nip off the top ends of the bark for an irregular shape and keep
the overall height to approx. 10”.  Using glue or combinations’ of your choice of 
glues, adhere the pieces of bark to the bottom of the frame, inside its wooden 
edges, forming a slight semi-circle.  Don’t worry about gaps as they will be filled.

If you do not have access  to bark or would prefer not to use it cut and rip pieces 
of heavy cardboard (corrugated works well) and arrange as was done with the bark. 

Note:  You will see that two of the pieces of bark that I used had “windows” in them.  
If you are lucky enough to find something similar use them but otherwise you may 
choose to cut round windows into either your bark or cardboard because they do 
add interest.

Let the glue/s dry completely before continuing.  

When glue has set mix a batch of Instant Paper Mache (Celluclay brand used here). 

Use the wet paper mache clay to fill in between your bark or cardboard pieces on the outside and inside of the structure; use it to make roots here and there from the structure and onto the frame; use it to fill in around the inside bottom edges.  If you are using cardboard use it to cover most of the outside surface in a bark-like design…the clay is thick and almost makes its own texture when applied but various tools can be used to add texture to the wet clay.  If you have cut windows add texture around them as seen in the photo.  Working with the paper mache is fun and fairly easy and the drying time gives you time to use your imagination and experiment

Let paper mache dry thoroughly…this process may be hastened, carefully, 
with a heat gun.

Once the clay is dry paint it with a coat or two of raw sienna acrylic, blending it 
into the surrounding wood.  Also touch up any other places that are not pleasing 
to you. Let dry thoroughly   Make two weathering mixtures, one of 1/3 Delta Gel 
Stain Medium and 2/3 Raw Umber acrylic and another of ½  Delta Stain Medium 
and ½ Burnt Umber .  Use these stains to weather and age the structure inside and 
out until it looks pleasing to you. 

If you are using cardboard you will be painting the whole structure, inside and out.  
When you stain the piece you will need to be a bit more creative with the process 
to get a natural wood look because you will not have the surrounding wood to help 
you.  Play with the process, mistakes are easy to cover.  Stand back from the 
project every once and awhile to get a better perspective…sometimes when we 
have our nose so close in a project it is hard to be objective.

Following package directions, mix a batch of Plaster of Paris.  Pour it into the 
inside of the structure making the floor level with the top edges of the frame and 
making all as smooth as possible.  Let dry thoroughly, not just to touch. 
Color with the weathering stains you mixed.  

To add a loft to the structure cut a piece of chipboard or heavy cardboard 
3 ¼ “x 2” (or to suit your needs).  Paint and weather it to match the inside of your 

Use brown floral tape to trim the front and right side of the loft.  To do this stretch 
and twist a length (approx. 6”) of the tape, continuing to add more lengths until 
the desired thickness is formed.  Lay the strip on a flat surface and slightly flatten 
it…it should be thick enough to cover the edges of the two sides.  Use glue to 
attach it.  If desired small pins may be pushed into the edging to look like 
nail heads.

Figure out where you which our loft to be and mark lines.  As seen it sits 5” up 
from the floor.   Of course because of the unevenness of the interior the loft piece 
will not fit flush on the walls, but by using Crafter’s Pick Incredibly Tacky glue it will 
hold to the walls; just hold it in place for a minute until the glue grabs and then brace
 it from below with a bamboo skewer or such until the glue is set.

You may fill in any gaps between loft sides and walls with paper mache which 
when dry will be painted to match the walls or a moss/glue mixture.

In the next step you will need artificial moss, preferably in sheet form.  I used a product that I now only see available thru Amazon UK (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheet-of-Artificial-Moss-20x25cm/dp/B0014CG0TS) but the price seems quite good.  It is a very real looking flock moss on a brillo-pad  type backing.  It can be pulled and stretched as desired and the brown stretchy backing adds realism.  Of course there are other sheet moss and loose moss that can be used...check floral departments of craft stores, floral shops, and of course your favorite miniature dealers to find what please you.  Glue the moss here and there around the perimeter of
the outside of the tree and up the sides for a natural deep-in the-forest look.

For the shamrocks a heart punch was used to cut 3 hearts for each of green 
cardstock.  Lay the hearts on the palm of your hand and "draw" down their
centers from point up with a pointed stylus giving them a vein and causing
them to cup up just a bit.  Cut short lengths of #24 gauge green, cloth 
covered wire.  Holding the end of one length of wire in fingertips of one
hand use the other hand to pick up a heart by the rounded end with tweezers.
Dip the pointed end of the heart into Crafter's Pick Incredibly Tacky glue,
picking up just a dab and put it just about centered on the end of the wire.
Repeat for the other two hearts, placing them evenly around the center of the 
wire.  Poke the shamrock into the moss with a bit of glue...group an uneven
number of shamrocks together. 

I grouped tiny mushrooms in and among the shamrocks.  I wish I could tell you
exactly what they are because they are darling but alas I don't know.  I found them
in the bottom of a basket of potpourri and I think they are the center of a dried
flower whose petal have fallen away. They are very fragile so I saturated them 
with a glue water solution before adding them.  If you can identify them do let
me know.  I thought of another easy way to make little mushrooms...Slice tiny
mushroom colored or hand tinted Styrofoam balls in half. Roll a slightly 
smaller ball in your fingertips to form a stem and glue the two together.  For
branches of Styrofoam balls check faux floral departments of craft stores.


So that is it for now...my blog and my computer are arguing so it is time for a
break.  I will be back with you soon to tell you about the furnishings, the 
Leprechaun (in the mean time you might want to look around for a little 
guy of your own as this is the time of year they are fairly easy to find), the
accessories and of course the fairy shoes...which are really fun to make!


  1. What a fabulous piece and thank you so much for sharing your techniques and ideas.
    I love 'having a go" so posts such as this are invaluable to me.
    I am now going to spend a lovely half an hour looking through your older posts.

  2. I love it! It's a wonderful piece and I think you have got that expression on the leprechaun down to a T! And thank you, Joanne for sharing . Posts like this are priceless!

  3. Once again you've gotten my mind going about 90 mph with ideas - and I'm not doing ANY of the things I "should" be doing! Thanks Joanne, you're way better than Calgon for taking me away!

  4. Joann, This is another awesome place. I love it. I'll have to keep a look out for bark, nothing like that in the backyard here. It looks more realistic with the bark I think.

    Where did you get the gold pot with the gold? I really like it.

    Thank you for sharing!


  5. I love it. I wish I had the access to this kind of talent. Thanks for the idea.

  6. I loved your tutorial. Great pictures as the project progressed. You gave up what you used as supplies and had pictures of them as well. Thank you so much for getting excited to start my project. I can't wait to get started

  7. Love, love it!
    What do you use to fumigate for critters in the log?