Monday, March 14, 2016

1031 Witch Way Part 1: Building a Haunted House

Hello fans and followers!  Remember me??

I know it's been a really long time since I posted anything, and I'm sorry for that.  Sometimes life happens!  I've had a lot on my plate for the last few months, and work just got pushed to the back burner for a while.  Now I'm back....hopefully here more regularly! 

I'm so excited to share what I've been working on in the studio for the past few weeks.  It is my most ambitious project ever, and I'm thrilled with how it turned out!  I hope you like it too! 

Last year, while sitting at a particularly slow show, my brain started spinning about new pieces to do for this year.  The brain never stops, I tell ya!  I came up with the idea of having a few trick or treater kids, with a wicked witch passing out candy.  Well, that turned to wanting a haunted house backdrop of some sort.  You know, just a flat something or other giving the illusion of a house.  Well, then I decided it might be fun to add a spooky character peeking out an upstairs window, so the two dimensional idea was tossed to the curb in favor of something that would hold a doll.  Well, one thing led to another and suddenly I was wanting to build a full blown haunted house! 

Sometimes it is both a blessing and a curse to have a creative mind!  HAHA!  But honestly, I didn't know how much work I was really setting myself up for.  In the end, of course, it was worth every second, and I had a load of fun in the process of creating this house and its accompanying characters.

So, here it is......1031 Witch Way.  (Be prepared for a long post and photo overload!)

This is the finished piece.  Pretty awesome, huh? 
Well, here is how it started:
I started by building the structure with cardboard and foam core board.  I actually had a salvaged box that had that lower arched 'window' already cut out, and it was my jumping off point to building the house.  I wanted to make this easy to construct and, more importantly, since I was planning to ship it, light weight.  So wood was out of the question.  Armed with lots of heavy duty shipping tape, a very sharp cutting tool, and a straightedge I spent pretty much a whole day getting this assembled.  

Next I wallpapered the interior with scrapbooking paper.  I wanted something fairly dark, because the dolls I planned to put inside were going to be pale.  I also wanted a pattern, but nothing so busy it would detract from the dolls.  The paper in the upper room I used as is.  The lower paper was originally black and white, but once I got it glued in, I realized it was too bold of a contrast for my vision.  Seriously....AFTER it was glued in, I got out a plum colored marker and colored over the white!  Sometimes I have to go the hard route to get where I'm going!  

I wanted 'hardwood' floors, but not natural wood tones.  I wanted to keep with my spooky grey, black, purple color scheme.  So I made these faux wood floors from foam core.  I 'drew' in a wood grain pattern with a stylus tool, sort of embossing the foam, and then I dry brushed over them with a pale grey paint to give them an aged look.  I think they turned out perfectly!  YAY!

Another view of the finished interior space.

I didn't need the door to really function, because my plan was to just have a witch standing on the porch, but I did want a door of course!  I just cut this opening on three sides, and left the fourth for the 'hinge'.  I added a piece of the cutout to the bottom to give the illusion of a paneled door, painted it purple, dry brushed on some black to age it, and added a cool big brad for a doorknob.  I also added plexi-glass in the window.  (You will also notice that the cardboard structure got painted black at some point.  No photo of that.  I base coated it so if there were gaps in my siding, they would show black and not brown.  Thinking ahead!)  

Peeking inside the front door you will see I wallpapered with a text patterned paper, and I found a cool diamond checkerboard for the flooring!  LOVE this little detail, even though in the end product it doesn't show that much. 
Then it was time for siding.  I bought the biggest craft sticks available.  They are about an inch wide and about eight inches long, give or take a bit.  I lapped them, just like you would a real house.  Lots of hot glue sticks for this!  The porch floor boards and your average sized craft sticks.  I found some very flat 1/2" wide basswood to do all the window and door casings.  (I didn't mention that the upper roof is removeable.  Two reasons behind that....1) it makes the house a bit shorter, therefore possibly a smaller shipping box, and 2) the back of the tower side retains that hinged opening you see in the above pictures, so you can put the dolls in.  The overlap on the roof wouldn't allow that to happen.)

Then, of course, there was shingling to do.  I used somewhere close to a million doll house shingles to cover this.  Ok, slight exaggeration, but there are a LOT of shingles there!  This photo also shows the addition of the porch columns.  These are thick dowels set into bases that are meant for clothespin dolls.  (That idea popped into my head one sleepless night at about 3:00am when I was trying to figure out how I was going to attach my columns!  I just so happened to have those peg bases in my stash!  You see, you never know what you are going to need, so hoarding craft supplies is sometimes a really good thing!)

All ready for paint.  You will notice here that the arched windows are gone.  Well, as much as I loved the idea, in the end I scrapped it because they were going to be far too tricky to trim.  I also had planned to put 'glass' in the windows too.  David pointed out that it would produce glare in the photos.  Not only that, when I tried it anyway, they wouldn't stay in, AND when I tested a doll inside, the glass took away from the view of the doll.  So, he was right about that for sure.  No glass.
A basecoat of black paint, except on the porch a light grey.  You can also see in this picture the chimney is poking up, covered in white stones.  I made those from Creative Paperclay.  I know some artists love this material (LeeAnn, I love you girl).  I DO NOT!  I think it's messy, it shrinks when it dries, and for whatever reason, these little 1/4" thick pieces took forever (it seemed) to dry!  But I wanted a lightweight material, and thought it might be better than polymer.  Turns out, they are not really that much lighter, so next time, I will stick to my beloved polymer clay!  The chimney, by the way, goes all the way to the bottom, so it is covered on the two skinny sides and the front with the stones.  The entire back of the house is 'unfinished'--just covered in black paper.
So here the house is, finished to this stage.  

A close-up view of the crackle finish paint job.  I wanted the look of old, peeling paint.  I used a medium grey over the black base coat.

Darker grey for the trim.

A view of the finished porch.  

Bats fly from the chimney.  I painted the stones to look like, well, stones!

I gave the black roof a dry-brushed wash of light grey paint to give it a weathered look.  I stepped back and looked at it, and felt it was missing something.  So I dug around my stash and found a metal bat on a stick (I had to cut it lots shorter), a metal 'watch hand', and a jack o'lantern jingle bell.  (Which I had to drill a hole in....tricky business there!).  I used a wooden bead, some wire and another one of those peg doll bases, and there you have it....a spooky weathervane!
Now, one would think I would stop there, right.....well, no!  Because I still had a wee bit of time before my deadline (Oh, I didn't mention I was working on a deadline, did I?), I thought I would add on a yard.  Ok....truth be told, I finished all the dolls first, and came back to the yard, time permitting.
The overall finished house, yard and all.  I used a 1/2" thick piece of foam core board for the base.  I covered it with wood excelsior, which is a nice dead-grass color.  I made tiles for the sidewalk---using POLYMER clay this time---and painted them to look like stones.  Oh, and an address plate was added to the house.

Here is a detail of the porch, the witch, and the graveyard.  All the pumpkins, cats, skulls and tombstones are made from polymer clay.  The full skeleton is a plastic party favor I distressed with black paint.  A raven on a tombstone and an iron fence in the back finish it all off nicely.  

Another detail shot.  This shows the sidewalk nicely and the pet cemetery under the window. 
OK...if you made it here to the end of this massive post, well done you!  Thanks for sticking with me!  I hope you enjoyed the journey through the construction of the house.  Next time, the dolls. 
This project is now on its way to California.  I have submitted it to Art Doll Quarterly magazine in hopes of having it published in their upcoming fall issue.  I sure hope they choose it!  Wish me luck!
One last look at the whole project before you go:
I'd really, really love to hear your thoughts. 
Hope you are enjoying a lovely spring day!


  1. Wow Lisa, that sure was a lot of work and it turned out fantastic!! I love all the special details you added! Good luck, fingers crossed it's chosen for the magazine!! :)

    1. Thank you Trina! It's good to hear from you!

  2. HA! HA! Lisa, I am giggling over your comment about paper clay. You go, Polymer Clay Queen!! Obviously, it is your choice of medium and you excel at it. Don't change a good thing. Love how you went over the details of the house. Really gives us folks an inside on how many painstaking hours you put in. The house, the yard, and dolls are all sooo incredible!! Cheers to your submission! Can't wait!! xoxo LeeAnn, Charmed Confections

    1. I have an even deeper appreciation for you art, LeeAnn, after having worked a tiny bit with paperclay. I can only imagine the tedious hours involved in your amazing art! You certainly have perfected it!

      Thanks for all your kind comments! I hope we BOTH are chosen for the magazine!

  3. What an amazingly wonderful project! Every detail is perfection! You should be beyond proud of yourself. You're the best of the best!! I'm so proud of you!!