Friday, July 3, 2009

Dollhouse Miniature Tutorial: How to find spooky bits to make Halloween miniatures

In the creation of spooky dollhouse miniatures, over time I have amassed quite the collection of bones and spooky bits… no they are not kept in my closet. I have entirely too many shoes to fit them in. Rather, my bones are sorted in a plastic bin system. They are variously made of rubber, Styrofoam, plastic, tin, pressed brass, and carved bone. An aspiring Halloween or Spooky minded miniaturist might ask, where do I find all of these? I have a variety of sources:
- Skull beads and charms
- Lemax Spooky Town pieces
- Halloween costume jewelry and decorations
- Action figures and accessories
- Miniature war gaming supplies and figures
- Fish tank accessories

Skull beads and charms are readily available on the net. A quick search will pull up countless sources selling this basic bead form below, found in any color. This is the cheapest and most common skull form and I’ve used it in miniature candles, rattles, and gothic architecture. Several other artisans use it as well and so I’ve begun looking for other bead molds to keep my work unique. Below you see the beads and a miniature Steampunk Skull Candelabra I constructed with them
I’ve found this alternative but smaller plastic bead mold on a few sites.

Tibetan carved beads also offer a wide variety of shapes and sizes of skulls, claws, and full skeletons. Some are so beautiful, I don’t even repaint them. I go on eBay and search for ‘Tibetan Charms’ or ‘Tibetan bone beads’. Also check 'Day of the Dead' beads and skull

These searches can also lead to many different metal charm sources too. This is some of my personal stash below.
Every year in October, I also make a mad dash around town to Walmart, Micheal’s, and Hobby Lobby for a treasure load of cheap and unusual Halloween decorations. Some you will see year after year, others only once (like they broke the mold in China) so grab it if you love it! Miniature skeletons on plastic chain garlands, bone pile candles, cheap skull rings, and so much more… I’m in All Hallow’s Eve Heaven!!! Below is all what I have left of my Halloween stash until next October... I'm running out of bones!
I've taken styrafoam Halloween decorations and made ruined temples with them, like the example below.

Also around October, all the Lemax Spooky Town miniatures are on the shelves of Micheals’s and Hobby Lobby. Knock offs can be found at Walmart too. The buildings, accessories, and figures are all in different scales (odd) but I find many of the accessories fit 1:12 dollhouse scale. Pumpkin piles, battery operated skull lanterns, buzzards on skull perches, lovely spider web gates, and bone fences… oh yeah! Many Lemax items are re-issued each year locally and are available all year through various online stores as well. Other pieces are a one shot deal, such as the pirate or Egyptian themed specials. These pieces are resin and very hard. I don’t even try to cut them apart. I will just use epoxy clay to alter them. Below is a Spooky Town collection and then the type of accessories that I find useful.

Next, think about Action Figures! They are usually cheap, come with a lot of useable accessories, and readily available online and at local toy, comic, and gaming stores. Personally, I love the vintage Skeleton Warriors! They are goofy skeleton fantasy toys from the 80’s and they come with loads of cool extras. I find these on eBay very cheaply (like $2 sometimes). I also favor Spawn Action figures, which are the highest in toy quality and detail hands down. They can be pricey ($12 - $30) but they come with lots of accessories, cool dioramas, and are just beautiful. Check out the Dragons, the Viking Warriors, and the Angels… even if they aren’t skeletal, they can be altered into unusual pieces. Action figures are usually made of plastic or rubber that is very easy to break or saw apart. These can be re-assembled into fantastical furniture, temple structures, and so much more! With a little epoxy clay, you have a seamless new creation.

Above are just some of my Spawn and Skeleton Warrior action figure bits. Below is a fantasy set I built from such parts.
I also spend a lot of time lurking in game and comic shops. There are many gaming systems and so a wide variety of miniatures and terrain accessories too. Basically, you have a table full of aggressive nerds (many are actually military on leave so be respectful) pretending to be Barbarians, Orks, Space Marines… In the midst of this mysterious subculture, you can find kits for ruined temples, beautifully sculpted metal figures of skeletal warriors, rat hordes, zombie armies, cauldrons, and so much more! If you prefer fairy type fantasy, there are tons of items fitting that interest as well. Items can be bought singly for as little as $3 or all the way up to $100. These are smaller scales but many of the accessories, animal figures, and skeletal bits can be used in 1:12 scale projects. These are known as ‘bits’ and every hardcore gamer has a ‘bit box’. Because these items are small, they can easily be stuffed into miniature cupboards and bookcases. This cauldron below is made from gaming bits and jewelry findings glued within a wooden bowl.
Finally, an unlikely source is the pet store or pet isle in your local Walmart. Fish enthusiasts often like ancient ruined temples, skull piles, and pirate chests to decorate their tanks. These pieces are usually a very hard resin and so can’t be cut. They can be broken however! I’ve taken Chinese warriors and busted their heads off to create ruined temple guardians for instance. A nice thing about fish tank accessories, they are usually pretty cheap ($3 to $45) and you can purchase whole Greek or Egyptian Temple structures to alter.

So you have lots of source options to consider for skull and spooky bits. I’m always on the lookout while shopping even for groceries. I also regularly surf the net and check online sites like eBay and Etsy. Good luck in your Bone Collecting…

1 comment:

Pamela Zimmerman said...

wonderful! I love that you mentioned action figures. As the mother of two boys who like fantasy and sci-fi, i am forever salvaging things they broke or the dog chewed and putting them in my source box. I particularly love disconnected hands!

I would also recommend your local dollar store, as well as making friends with people who work in discount stores like that. Sometimes they have things that break, and they throw them away...but if you catch them at the right time, they will give them to you.

also love researching "day of the dead" tutorials, so many great skeleton things!


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