Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Maharajah Palace-Indian Side Table

I made an Indian side table for the evil Maharajah today. This is not the Maharajah whom I am building the palace for but another. You see, Maharajah Ranjit has squandered his privy purse so fast, (on the ladies of course), that he is now a carpet trader travelling between Persia and India. The table is in fact standing on one of Ranjit's priced Turkoman carpet bought from Turkey more than 10 years ago. So you can say it is an antique piece.

This post however is about his table and not about him or his carpet.

Now, the table stands at about 1 7/8" high and the top is about 2 1/8" wide. It is made from dismantling 2 fretwork Chinese fans I bought last week. I cut the ends for the base parts because they are stronger. I then cut the "floral" bits as embellishments for the table top as I have yet to master marquetry. For the top itself, I used the inside of a cover from the container of Body Shop's Coconut Body Scrub which cuts like butter and smells heavenly, until the paint, that is.

Before assembly, I spray painted the parts and after I fit them together, with Tiger Glue, I spray painted the whole table again. If you see the pic on your right, you will see that I had wanted a gold table top at first but the flaws were too obvious and nothing hides flaws like Homogeneous Wenge so there, until I can accomplish the making of Moorish tables like Kimberly (Day 25), I won't be too adventurous with colours.

Well, the table is no masterpiece but then again, Ranjit isn't exactly paying me top dollars either.

And so Ranjit, rather pleased with the table for the pittance he paid (emphasis added), tried it with the vase of flowers a.k.a Mahendra's Roses of Mis-givings which he had taken from the palace.
Oh, it was quite perfect! Too bad Prince wanted a matching carpet (which explains why the vase is with Ranjit) and not a table.

He then tried putting it at the verandah of his bedroom,

O dear, the table almost disappears into the timber flooring so out of the window it went..the idea, not the table.

Ahh yes! Are there not a new batch of gorgeous perfume bottles from all the way down south made by this really talented perfumer, Mercedes? Can we not use the table as a display stand?

Oooh! He cooed. What a versatile table and the perfumes look really expensive on it too , Ranjit thought with a greedy glint.

And while he is already counting the extra rupees he has yet to earn from the wares he has yet to display, what better use for the table than to hold his pot of hot assam tea as he dreams on.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Maharajah Palace-Temple Of Heaven

A PROJECT that completely absorbed and exhausted me for the weekend, I am still suffering from its aftermath. For I have worked a marathonic [sic] 33 hours non-stop since 3pm Saturday on building this temple, almost as bad as the Queen Anne. This is not counting Friday night and Saturday morning .

At Day 40 & 42, I recorded the genesis of this project. Yes, it started with a dead (but not rotten nor gone) tree branch which I have made into a tree. My 1st tree and loving it ! When Mercedes' Buddha arrived on the same day I bought the temple kit, I knew I have to start on the temple NEXT.

As you can see, Tree has acquired new occupants, brought home on Thursday evening with a load of other wild animals which I may never get to use. Just as well I got Monkey and Dog to keep Tree company as Buddha is moving !

Friday evening and I was ready to start . I opened up the construction kit and stared at it for a while. The instruction sheet looked simple enough. And it was, for a while..

Shortly past midnight and I have already finished assembling the base and the 1st floor. At this point, I even emailed Mercedes to tell her how "really easy" it was to build with this kit.

After this point however, I was cracking my head on how I should convert an obviously Chinese pagoda into an Indian stupa. Not much I could do at that hour, so I packed everything into a neat corner and went to bed.

Saturday morning, bright and early, I started researching on pagodas in India and this is what I found:

Ancient Chinese architecture boasts a rich variety of styles and high levels of construction... All these architectural forms were recorded in early documents of Chinese history. Pagodas, however, appeared relatively late in China. A Chinese term for pagoda did not exist until the first century. The reason is that this new form of architecture was introduced to China only when Buddhism spread to the country.

The origin of pagodas, like that of Buddhism, can be traced to India. (Aha!) The relation between Buddhism and pagodas is explained in Buddhist literature, which says that pagodas were originally built for the purpose of preserving the remains of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. According to Buddhist scripture, when Sakyamuni's body was cremated after his death, his disciples discovered that his remains crystallized into unbreakable shiny beads. They were called sarira, or Buddhist relics, as were his hair, teeth and bones. Later, the remains of other Buddhist monks of high reputation were also called sarira. Since more often than not, no such precious shiny beads could be found in the ashes of cremated Buddhist monks, other things, such as gold, silver and crystal objects or precious stones, were used instead.

In Sanskrit pagoda (or stupa) meant tomb. Before the pagoda was introduced to China, it had already had a considerable period of development in India. Beside serving as tombs, pagodas were built in grottoes or temples for offering sacrifices to people's ancestors. When the Indian word for pagoda was first translated into Chinese, there were some twenty different versions...

In case you are wondering, the pictures of the pagodas above are those of China, Thailand, India, Japan and Burma respectively. Even more interesting is the transformation of ancient stupas to present day Chinese pagodas:

Even at this time, I still thought I could make some modifi- cations to transform temple left (the real Temple of Heaven in China which the kit is modelled after) to temple right which is the temple I really want. The Mahabodhi Temple (Literally: "Great Awakening Temple") in India is where Siddhartha Gautama, attained enlightenment and became Buddha. It has a huge giant Buddha and next to the temple, to its western side, is the holy Bodhi Tree. Can you see our connection?

SuZ popped by late morning and we both decided to use Fatepur Sikri as a reference point and create a pink sandstone temple. We even mixed the paint together to make sure we got the colour. We then went out to buy groceries and I also went to Spotlight, Carrefour and Daiso to see if I can find textured paint. No luck. Reached home at 3pm and started working on the temple again. By the time I finished, it was 12 midnight on Sunday! I don't think I left that table except to spray paint or visit the loo or look for something.

Anyway, this is how the progress went:

I first painted the base and the 1st floor "Sandstone Pink". In order to add the texture to the surface of the exterior walls, I used paper egg cartons so while I waited for the paint on the temple to dry, I painted the egg cartons and the brass embellishments I intended to use on the walls, the same shade of pink.

I then tore the egg carton into small bits and using craft glue, pasted them onto each and every piece of the square tile forming the base. When the glue dried, I painted over the finished parts to give it an even look. I then glued the embellishments on so that they looked like they were carved out from the "sandstone". I painted everything again after that.

This part of the temple took almost 13 hours to complete and was the most tedious of the whole process but it gave the walls a more realistic feel, I think. See close-up.

I then painted the rest of the temple which became greyer/ blacker at the top. I decided not to texture the upper levels because by the time the kit was assembled, you cannot really see the effect. More importantly, I was quite exhausted by then and the prospect of texturing more walls was no longer tolerated.

Before I worked on the top, I assembled what I was going to put inside the temple and worked on the steps:
The "giant" Buddha which will eventually span 2 1/2 levels:

As you can tell from the picture on top, it was bright and sunny by then (Sunday). It was when I was working on the steps that I thought I would make the beams "wooden" so that this temple has an "old" feel as Buddhist temples are no longer built this way. So I spray painted the beams "October Brown". Below is a close up of the beams:

I don't know how time flew from then on but everything seemed to take longer after that. I guessed I was working on sheer determination by then as my brains, hands and eyes were all failing. By the time I finished spray painting the last batch of beams, it was almost 10pm Sunday night!!

The other tricky part about this kit was fitting the parts together especially the windows to the slots on both the top and bottom pieces. There were altogether about 38 windows and I remembered at one point, I was appealing to Buddha to please help make it easier. Despite the exhaustion, the sight of the mess in the dining room and the fact that I could not tolerate it for another day spurred me to suffer the ordeal some more and so here it is, my "Palace Pagoda"-(Maha Stupa, perhaps?) If you are not bored by now, here's more shots of the temple:

Palace Pagoda with Tree:

Pagoda's carved top which was bought separately, like many many of the things on this temple:

As you can see, the top can be removed

which means that until my palace is built and Pagoda is moved to the palace grounds, it can serve as an incense holder. Pictures below were taken when I lighted the candles and the incense.
And for a full 2 minutes until the candle burnt out, my glowing Pagoda:

I wish though that it is more Maha Bodhi rather than Fogong Pagoda Temple (China)

If you have any suggestions to make it more Maha Bodhi or how I can improve on the process, please do let me know. I can always buy another kit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Musings-Thoughtful Gestures

Since the start of this hobby, I have been gifted with so many kind gestures, I am still reeling.

It started with my siblings' gifts (planning and rendering my palace) and of course, meeting so many wonderful fellow hobbyist and great craftsmen albeit only through the blogosphere. In my country where few share what many regard as frivolous and impractical, this is my "club" and a place of belonging.

And this week has been another one of those amazing one of receiving these humbling but treasured gestures.

I was at a drinks stall at Bras Basah Complex on Sunday when I saw these mini Tiger beer bottles hanging at the cash machine. I must have got really excited because the people at the stall just told me to "Take it if you like" when all I wanted was to ask where I could get it . I was even prepared to buy the beer if I have to even though I rather dislike beer unless it is with 7up. So cheers, Strangers, have a Tiger on me!

I made a swap with Mercedes from Liberty Biberty and while I wrapped my parcel with an envelope, she did hers with so much care, I was put to instant shame.The beautiful cover of the outer box is a gift wrap which she had cut and pasted on the box.

The treasures inside, most of which she made will be saved for posts in My Maharajah's Palace. I will however reveal that in the box which says "Palace Perfumerie" are gorgeous mini bottles of perfumes that Mercedes made and she had printed my sister's rendering of my palace, added the words and put it on a box. So, Mercedes, merci de toutes vos bont├ęs

Yen, who stays in Shanghai, often remarked at how he simply could not understand my fascination with dollhouses. But when he chanced upon a mini shop in Shanghai, he took some pictures with his mobile phone because he thought I would like them and he was right. When he was here early last week, he showed me these pictures but I could not download them because he did not have his connectors with him.

He left and in Shanghai, emailed me to say he had to buy the cables to send me the pictures. "If not buy you the real thing, back in mid April".

On Monday night, I received these pictures in my email.

Whatever he did in order to email me these pictures, Yen had done it amidst his extremely busy schedule. Yen, Xie Xie Ni.

Finally, let me share this poetry with you

A simple hand towards the way,
A kind bow before you pray
That which leans towards the moral way
Such acts of simple kindness make one's day.

Holding open the door
For a bystander to walk through
Holding a child's hand
As they see the world while they come to
With their young and tender eyes wide open
They look upon you
With gentle care and love so near
A child to his birth givers care

To hold something for another
While they need an open grip
To care about the loss of one's mother
And to feel the heat of one's coffee before the sip

Many things beyond these here,
The common sense and polite way
Though seemly lacking, they're somewhat clear
In the light of our modern day.
---------- Tetsanosuke

Tasha's School Room-Materials & Purchases

I was sooooo excited when I found this house on Sunday. Yay! Tasha (my niece) will have a school instead of just a school room. You see, I was going to build her a Victorian school room for her birthday in November (yes, I will need this much time).

I got the idea when I found these 6 Victorian Dollies measuring 3"h (below) about 2 weeks ago . They were used as key chains and selling for a song at a wholesale place. Although they cannot be used for My Maharajah's Palace, I had to get them because they are so cute and cheap (at S$1.50 each).
Since then, I had bought another little girl who is lame also 3" high, (found her leg broken when I reached home) and was going to look for a roombox which will fit everything. Until I saw the house. The size for this house assembled will measure h 19 1/2" w 17 1/4" d 14 1/4". I bought 2 houses (for the other niece or she will hate me) and 9 little packs of other things including furniture and playground sets on Sunday. On Monday, I went back and bought even more kits. I think I have 2 windmills and more furniture sets, 6 car kits for my 4 year old nephew and 2 more dollhouse kits. Here are some of the other sets I bought on Sunday:

They were bought from Popular Bookstore at Bras Basah Complex and as it happened, there was also a huge booksale at its foyer. I found these wonderful books at a huge discount, all in some ways related or relevant to dollhouses. I highly recommend all of them.

Books on Dollhouses or related topic:

If you have the good luck to chance upon this book, you should realy grab it quick especially when it costs S$6.00. The book has so many colour pictures although this was a 1999 reprint. There are even tutorials on making baskets and upholstering a winged back chair!

I really love this book and wish I can crochet or knit or even sew but since I cannot, I bought Timesaving Sewing by Singer and hope I can learn something cos yes, I don't know how to use a sewing machine either. I think I can upholster better. And the next book Upholstery Styles is another amazing reference book with a history on 16th century fabric and furniture. I think the book is already out-of-print.

Other reference books:

Other reference books I bought yesterday at another book sale: