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Monday, February 24, 2014

Intermediate Work: The Kotatsu Table

Inspiration for the Kotatsu Table
 January 29th - February 24th 2014

I had seen on the internet a table / heating set up which, if research is accurate, is pretty common and still used in Japan.  It is a kotatsu table.  This table has some kind of heating element attached to the underside.  A comforter is placed on the floor, then the table, then another heavier comforter is placed over the table creating a kind of tent for the lower extremities.  Then, another table is placed on top of that comforter.  In theory, the heating of the lower extremities would radiate upwards through the clothing keeping the table occupants fairly warm.  Today where most people no longer wear robes or kimonos at the table, I am not so sure about the efficiency of the heating system but surely it is a wonderful way to sit around a table with friends and enjoy the comfort of communal heating.  From what I understand, originally it was heated from a small clay pot in the floor of the room which was then covered by another and managed to effectively heat the room or at least under the table.  I did come across a version of this which I am going to try altho I wonder what kind of gasses will fill up a room with this method.  In any case, I really liked the look of the table and decided to make one for the red Buddha room. 
The electric heater for under the table
My original idea for the heater was to make one out of some extra parts but I really had nothing that could suffice for the grill work on the electric heater.  So, I opted for making a printie.  I mean in the end, it’s not like the underside of the table is going to be visible.  So I found a nice closeup of a heater.  I then cropped it a bit and reworked it and made a tiny printie to fit under the table.  The sides are black and the grill work repeats on one side so I had to find a small piece of cardboard to act as a backing and to be able to fold the sides over onto it.  It’s pretty small but it’s still pretty effective.  I just used double sided tape and a drop of glue to attach it to the table.
Using the above pic, I created a printie for under the table.

Folded, then glued to a small piece of cardboard.

Ready to attach to the table.

The underside of the table now with its heater. I didn't bother with an electric chord.
The next part was working on the comforters.  Obviously I was going to have to sew this one.  The other ones are pretty much hidden or laying over the bed but this one has to have somewhat weighted sides.  When I found pictures, most all of them had some kind of quilted look filling around the outer edge.  So, after choosing my fabric, I needed to make the bottom comforter first.  This one really didn’t need any stitching as it was just going to lay on the floor.  I had some nice leftover material that would be heavy enough to sit flat on the floor without using too much glue or tape or whatever.  The fabric was pretty tightly woven so it did pose a few challenges in that I ended up having to hand sew an edge after turning it right side out.  No biggie.
The big problem was the actual comforter and the material.  This is very light weight cotton fabric and had a tendency to snag during sewing.  I also had to come up with a way to simulate the stuffing and give the look of draping to the comforter.  In my other comforter, it just lays across the futon and I used fine grains of sand to weigh the edges.  Here it just wasn’t really an option so, after some net research, I did find a few tutorials that suggested using tin foil inside the comforter.  I couldn’t figure out the best method in attaching the foil and the little bit of batting until, many days later, I stumbled across someone who suggested using a glue stick and sticking the foil on the wrong side of the fabric.  Genius.  It was just the thing i needed to release me from my sewer’s block.  (I had been thinking hard about this for well over two weeks plus I got ill in between so I kept putting this off for well over 10 days.)  Anyway, once I figured a way to hold the foil inside while turning it right side out, the trick was done.  I was so relieved! Honestly I used to sew a lot (for myself and others - even making bridal dresses) and like all my hobbies, I overdosed on it and can’t stand sewing anymore.  So, I was glad this was DONE!

Working with the fine cotton fabric. Applying glue stick on the wrong side.
Sewing the foil onto the wrong side of the fabric.

Final sewing phase. Adding some internal stitching to make the comforter show more quilting.














The foil inside the cover allows you to form any shape.  Then you can just smooth it out again.
Once the comforter was done I could turn my attention back to the table.  Underneath had the printie heater so I just needed to cut the top table.  I used a piece of balsa wood that I had on hand, then printed out some wood grain laminate looking stuff.  I wanted it to be similar to an old formica fake wood table top.  I glued that onto the balsa wood after trimming the sides with some dark brown paint.  Once the glue was set, I could actually attach the tables together.  I used double sided tape on the bottom table, fixed it onto the comforter (centering it as much as possible), then using more double sided tape I attached the table top.  I then placed the chairs and could form the comforter with the tinfoil on the inside fairly easily.  Last step was to put a few things on the table for the “foto shoot”.
Finished top table with printed wood grain on glossy paper.

Double sided tape on this table and the underside of the top table to fix in place.

Finished kotatsu!
I think it came out pretty successful!  Food looks yummy too.  I’m hungry.
Some yummy ramen and dumplings for dinner!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

MiniaturItalia 10th Edition Milano 8-9th February 2014


Miniatur Puppenwelt Wengen
This is the second year I have attended the MiniaturItalia fair in Milano.  Last year I did go and my husband and I made a weekend of it so we decided to do the same this year as well. 
I really didn’t make a ton of purchases last year but since this year I am pretty well along on the Japanese project I had some very clear ideas about what I needed and didn’t.  I also have been surfing the net and seeing the prices that are out there and felt that some of the artisans at the show really did deserve the prices they were asking.  I mean if I cannot make something as well or as beautiful as an artisan, why shouldn’t I make an exception and purchase their work? I cannot really afford a lot of objects but each one is pretty much the make or break detail that is needed in my own piece of art.  So, this time I was a little more open with the wallet even if I am still laid off at work.  What the hell.  You never know when the next opportunity may present itself.

Miniatur Puppenwelt Wengen was the first table I hit as it was in fact the first table when I walked in the first room.  They had a nice selection of some resin vases as well as a beagle dog.  I cannot resist beagle dogs.  Anyway, I am gathering materials for my second project (once the ryokan is finished) which is a normal 1/12 scale so I decided to get a few unique little things.  I liked the block vases with the Florentine giglio on them.  I also liked the little terracotta pot with the mold growing on it.  And of course the dog who will be part of the diorama.  I also splurged on the stove.  It is really quite lovely and will fit into the tea room area.  I’m going to have to finish it differently but it’s just too cute to pass up.  I ended up spending around €40.00 here.
Miniatur Puppenwelt Wengen
Angie Scarr
My next stop was at Angie Scarr’s table which is usually impossible to approach.  I hit it just right tho.  I was looking for some fish and she did have a few that I will be able to use in the irori firepit - final details - to finish that room.  I also got a nice slab of salmon for the kitchen block.  She didn’t have any of her books left but did inform me that she will be offering ebooks on her site (yay!) for download.  Her stuff is still pricey but you cannot deny that these fish are super realistic.  The pic of the salmon doesn’t do it justice. I spent around €14.00 there.





I wandered round a bit in this room but the objects were not what I needed so I went into the main hall.  We did our voting then I made a direct line to Elisabeth Causeret’s table.  I bought some ceramics from her last year but this year she had outdone herself. There were so many exciting little things! The teapots and tea warmers! I couldn’t resist making some serious little purchases here.  I think my favorite is the decorated jug with the little wooden spigot.  I also managed to find more bowls and tumblers for the ryokan.  The 1/20 scale makes it difficult to find pottery for the table settings.  Elisabeth’s tumblers and bowls are prefect! I even like the grey rustic looking tumblers - they look Japanese in manufacture! I spent around €48.00 here too. 


Elisabeth Causeret
I had seen some bonsai trees last year and thought it was an excessive purchase.  I did end up getting a 1/12 tree from another site but it’s just ridiculously too big (yet I will be able to use it in the other project) so I broke down and got a bonsai from Manuela Ferraresi.  I was looking for the kind of bonsai that drops down over the edge of a table but also had to be deep green - like a pine of some sort.  Well, she had one.  I took that plus a small table decoration with tiny plants. She packaged up the tree in her own little bonsai carrier - the cutiest damn thing!! - with such love and attention.  Definitely one of my favorite purchases.  They had tables for the bonsai as well as small scrolls but those are things I am sure I can make.  The bonsai and the little decoration cost me €27.00 total. 
Emaniraresulfare - Manuela Ferraresi
Emaniraresulfare
 As I was leaving the bonsai table, there was a table with baskets.  I had never seen such perfect little baskets! Usually the string or twine or thread most use still looks like normal thread or twine.  These did not.  Genziana Bellé Miniature makes baskets of all types and all scales that look to scale! They truly look like the reed used in actual baskets.  What’s more, in chatting with her, she is someone who likes a challenge.  She made a baguette basket in a 1/144 scale that was perfect! I am looking for a baguette basket that looks like a cornucopia and she had never heard of it so immediately was asking me to send her a pic so she could give it a try.  That’s what’s great about this hobby.  If it becomes just a business - making the same things over and over - there’s no more challenge or fun in it.  I just may have her make me my baguette basket!

My last two stops for purchases was to be an English miniaturist but she wasn’t there this year.  Instead I bought a small pub toy from Jane Harrop.  You would think the UK tables would bring lots more pub stuff (although I did find an Italian table with limited pub like objects) but perhaps they had sold out by the time I got around to them.  I then moved around to a table with lots of small metal stamped grills.  No one had a round grill.  I have been trying to figure out a way to make a small table kettle heater for the ryokan but I need to find a grill cover.  I just may have to make it.  But I did find a few little objects at Le mini di Pierluigi .  I picked up a grill for another hibachi which I will make for the back garden and a trivet which I can use as a grill perhaps if I make my tabletop heater from fimo or something.  Always ideas.
Le mini di Pierluigi
So the show was nice.  There seemed to be a few less tables and less people but I got there right after lunch on Saturday and usually there are lots more people in the afternoon.  The voting for the roomboxes and the dollhouse was very limited this year. But perhaps the theme wasn’t popular for the box and I can appreciate the fear of having to bring your precious dollhouse into a large setting like that.  I can’t imagine entering my ryokan and leaving it there for two days! I’d be terrified people would steal stuff from it or break something! So bringing a full house is understandably a risk hence there were only two houses to vote on.  Anyway, all of them were very nice!

My husband and I then enjoyed our weekend in Milan.  We had pouring rain all evening but we still managed to get to the zone of Navigli which has all kinds of canals.  There were tons of shops and little clubs.  We hit a few for cocktails, then spritz, then a burger.  It’s easy to get around with the metro.  Had it not rained so much it would have been funner.  The next day we met up for lunch (by chance!) with my work colleague who was going to the show again (she had gone in the morning and was going back) and we exchanged info about our purchases.  Anyway, it was a good weekend.  Too bad that two days after I got home I came down with a fever and am now being treated for bronchial pneumonia.  Never had that in my life.  WTF.  I don’t think it was the rain tho.  Just metro, train and bumping into sick people.  Shit happens as they say.