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Ways to Make Miniatures and Model Scenes Without Breaking the Bank


Although I've illustrated these ideas mainly with dollhouse related photos, the same methods will help you save money on every type of miniature project. Plan, Refine, Search, Build and Share are the main ways to save money on all kinds of miniatures.

1. Create a Focal Point

A French frame scene in 1:12 scale of a bombe chest flanked by a pair of pointers.
Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Show off your best items in miniature scenes by drawing attention to them, using less valuable pieces as support. Not everything needs to be of stellar quality, unless you are planning a museum piece. Make your strongest piece your focal point. You want to draw attention to your treasures, without making everything look of equal value. If you have a great piece of furniture can you draw attention to it by finishing it in a particular way, by setting it off with a backdrop of inexpensive paintings, by adding an eye catching flower arrangement, a hat from a kit, what. The sample on the right is from the Seattle Gallery Spring 2009 , look how Kirsten Hill makes the chest the focus and how she frames and draws your interest to it.

2. Tell a Story With a Theme

black and white French daybed with elaborate canopy in a black frame by Kristin Hill
Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Work on making the focal point in your scene sing and tell its story. Have you worked out a story line and a theme for your display? Do you need to change finishes on your other pieces to match or contrast to draw attention towards your main focal point, can you adapt plainer or kit pieces by adding gesso decoration to make them tie in to the focal point piece, Can you use wallpaper, wall colors, small inexpensive items to magnify the presence or the point of the focal point through color or background design. In this photo, another of Kristen Hills French Frames from Seattle 2009 she has used a chaise lounge, then added a toile fabric to make it look more prominent and make it much more obviously French.

3. Use Items From Your Stash - Refinish or Re purpose Them

Black kitchen dresser scene featuring rooster plates and collectibles in a black picture frame.
Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

With your ideas laid out in note form, How can you add to the scene or display. Do you have anything that would fit the bill with minor modifications already in your stash? Can you refinish a piece of furniture you already have, modifying it to fit in with a theme and make the focus stronger or giving unrelated pieces the same finish? Here a dresser is painted a non traditional color, black, which makes the furniture a showcase for the pieces on the shelves. To keep the base from being a waste of space, a dishtowel helps relate the piece to the concept of a wider scene and story. The flower pot and the terrier pull similar colors to the bottom of the scene, and the tomatoes the dog is playing with give the scene an active moment of fun.

4. Use Your Skill Set Or Barter Your Services - Find a Miniature Club

A dark wood finish chair with plain upholstery compared to the same chair in an antique finish.
Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

What are your talents? What skills do you have that you could use to add to the scene or trade to others for pieces you can use. Can you find a miniature club to look for bargains, make trades or learn new skills? Can you make miniature pillows from coordinating fabrics. Change the look of pieces by reupholstering them to make a coordinating design. Make printables that will give you inexpensive backgrounds or filler pieces for shelves while you build your collection? Can you use polymer clay or paper clay or gesso to add period details to standard wooden furniture so yours will look more detailed than the regular kits?

5. Find Bargains

Display table full of 1:12 and 1:24 miniature plant kits
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

When you have your plan itemized, and a list of the things you will need to buy rather than trade or make, where can you find them for the lowest cost? What can you find at a yard sale? What simple methods will save money on the pieces you need. Are kits available? Can you find help or plans to make what you want in the books in the Book Review Section of this site? (At a library saves even more!)

What basic materials and tools do you need. Instead of buying special paints or finishes, can you make your own from basic artist quality supplies? Don't sacrifice your project to poor materials you think are inexpensive. That flooring you make from old egg cartons, could destroy your entire project in five years with it's high acidity.

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