How to Design A Miniature Village

First, let it be known that I am not an expert. I have never owned a miniature village, I have only ever dreamed of owing one. So even though I do not know the in’s and out’s of actually running a miniature village I believe I have the basic idea on how my miniature village could be designed.

Many years ago when I realised that this was a dream of mine I started visiting every miniature village I could. Now granted that is not many and that is because I haven’t really traveled to too many places.
The villages I have visited are;-
Cockington Green Gardens, just outside Canberra, A.C.T. Australia. I have visited it 5 times.
Cockington Green, Canberra, A.C.T - Australia

Pendon –England (below) visited it twice. The second time it took me 20 years to get back to it. Not because I didn’t want to go but living on the otherside of the world from it made it a bit tricky.

Old Hobart Town, (below) Richmond, Tasmania. One visit.

Bekonscot, (below) England. One visit.

There are three things I noticed about these villages.
First – not one of them was the same in design or style. Each one was telling a different story.

Second – Each village was a representation of human habitation.

Third – All the villages are built within a defined space and so never change once built. That is unless something is destroyed and something new is put in its place or more space is found so the village can expand. Eventually though each village will be confined within its boundary. Even my own village would end up with the same problem one day.

It seems to me that there are two types of villages. One is outside and open to all weathers and the problems that that brings. Wet weather, storms, floods and the such like which of course would mean visitor numbers would be down if the village was able to be open at all.
Even the sunlight would be a problem as the products used to make the houses and the characters populating the village need to be able to stand up to the test of time under a blazing sun. Some products deteriorate over time and paint fades.
Cockington Green Gardens, A miniature village I visited in Wales, Old Hobart Town and Bekonscot would all suffer from this.

The second is inside – This offers the models a degree of protection from the weather but it still has its challenges. Dust being the big one. This is why Pendon is actually covered in clear plastic and has survived to 80 years old in immaculate condition.
 Lights are another problem as they could cause fading of the near by items. Insects (real ones) and rodents wanting to live in the village would be a terrible problem and of course fire. This could be caused through the electrics or for some other reason.
One of the many positives of having a village inside is that it can be built out of products that are a lot more fragile than the village outside has to be to whether the ravages of nature. There is also the positive that when (as we do here on the Gold Coast) sometimes get six weeks worth of rain and there is no where for visitors to go they can come to the warm and dry inside village.

Once you have made up your mind to build a village you need to know what you want to say. What story do you want to tell?
I found Old Hobart Town model very interesting because it was based on how Hobart (Tasmania) used to look like when it was first populated in 1836. Hobart, of course, does not look anything like it now. Even the amount of land it sits on now is vastly different this is because some of the bay was filled in and buildings were built on the new land that used to be water.
Old Hobart Town

Pendon was started by an Australian – Roy England. He was so distressed at the destruction of the beautiful old thatched buildings and the way of life in the 1920’s so he started making cardboard models of the houses. Other people came to help and more and more joined the group and now people from all over the world help to build Pendon. Some buildings will take 10 years to build. The detail in this model is top notch. An inspiration to all who see it. While I visited the model I was pointed towards a push bike that was leaning up against a fence. There it sat proudly in its setting and I was told that a model maker in Australia had made it.
A model waiting to be placed in the Pendon model
Cockington Green started out as an English village and then wisely incorporated (in its own separate setting) buildings representing all the Embassy’s in Canberra. Canberra is filled with Embassy’s from all around the world. I do not know how many but over time I was pleased to see (on my last trip to the village) that there were not many spaces left for the models to be built upon. Most of the Embassy’s had commissioned someone to build a model to represent their county. It’s like a snapshot of the architecture of the world. Very exciting.

So once you’ve decided what you want to say you need to decide if it’s going to be an inside village or an outside village. This will then dictate what your village will be built out of.

Another important thing to consider is the size. In the ……..they have a section of large buildings. Humans can walk around them and even though the humans are still taller than the houses it helps to give them a different perspective of the houses and streets. (PHOTO)

One other thing, I have just thought of is how to stop people being people and touching your model or even worse stealing bits of it. You need to keep people back some how. In Cockington Green they do this by ……..
One thing to note with Cockington Green is that the English village is on ground level. The Embassy section is on many levels.

In Old Hobart they have waist high hedges all around the model as the model itself is just lower than waist height.

Old Hobart Town. Notice the hedges that are 1m wide to keep people from touching the models.

Pendon, well it is behind plastic so well protected.

Also it is necessary to work out how people are going to see your model. How are they going to get around it? Where do they start and where do they finish.

So now you have the basics I will tell you the basics of my village.

First my miniature village (and My World if I ever come up with a spare $350 million to build it) is an indoor village. This is because many many years ago I decided to use gourds as the containers to build my houses. This is why and what happened.

When I was in my twenty’s I read in Woman’s Weekly (LINK) about Mole Hill at Mole Creek, Tasmania - unfortunately I can not find one photo to show you. It was a model of moles built by a man, who has since died and the model has since been either sold or given to a pub in Launceston (Tasmania). I looked in wonder at the pictures on the pages of the magazine. A few weeks later the Woman’s Weekly had an article about Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklam.

I immediately went and brought the beautiful little books and started making the model. Eventually the model became so big it took up most of my lounge room. It was at this point that I received a death and destruction letter from a lawyer representing the people who owned the copyright of Brambly Hedge telling me to get rid of it. You see I had been in contact with Jill Barklem, even sending her a mouse or two. She was fine with everything, the people who owned the copyright were not! Really this was a blessing in disguise. I would never of moved on to what I am now building and that would not have been a good thing for me because I think my village and its occupants have been trying to get out of my head for years.

Now it turned out that at this particular time I was growing gourds. I was selling the gourds for some extra cash and one day it dawned on me that ‘of course’ I needed to split the model up so I put it into the gourds and spent the next five years selling the houses off. Except that is for the cupboard from the Brambly Hedge Store Stump that I put in a model I was making of a kitchen.
 This kitchen ended up being part of Pebble Cottage which took me 10 years to make.

Then, as I have mentioned before in other articles, I built Archibald’s General Store and eventually ended up with building the hanging houses and whola I had the makings of a miniature village.
Two chef mice in the Pebble Cottage kitchen.
When I first started designing my village I did as everyone else did, I started on the ground. Granted mine was in forest and was populated by mice and fairies but still it was on the ground.
Many years later I was talking to a friend of mine and I do not remember what I said but I do remember her answer and the answer was to build a hanging house.

Now that idea stuck and so I did that. I built a one room house with a verandah. I took it back to my friend but she did not remember saying anything to me about building hanging houses. Anyway I did not let that stop me and I built two more rooms all connected by rope ladders. Of course it didn’t work. They kept on banging into each other and breaking. So I abandoned that idea until many many years later. Building Archibald’s’ General Store had forced me, thankfully, to combine many smaller gourds together to get the look I wanted. In fact the very gourds I used for Archibald’s house on top of his store were the actual gourds I had used to make the failed hanging houses.

Once I had completed his store my life had changed in major positive ways and so my outlook on life had changed. Because I truly believe that every single thing we do is an outward refection of how we are thinking, feeling and being inside ourselves, of course my ideas had changed. What I wanted had grown bigger. I had started writing a story about the forest, about Archibald. My ideas were clashing together. My life was changing so fast (for the better mind you even if I didn’t know it at the time) that my gourd houses were changing. They were changing in their style , the size of them, even were there were situated.

I had dreamed of a world. I talked about it, I dreamt about it. I walked around in it in my imagination. I could see myself standing on the floor of the forest looking up at all these round disks floating in the air.

Eventually as I wrote, as I designed my world I found they were a village a hanging village.
In the beginning it was populated with ordinary tiny people. Like little elves or the such like but then one day (it was …….) a character walked through my foggy morning brain and I said “Oh no you don’t. I grabbed him, drew him before he disappeared. Made him out of polymer clay and dashed down to see Jeff Gilberthorpe of the Icon Collection at his studio in Surfers Paradise who without whom my story would never have been written in the1st place because he had told me to write one). Anyway I showed him my dreamt up character and he said, “That’s it! That’s what you want!” So I went home and made another version and another which is the final version I have stuck with and he is by no means human in any shape or way.

I then designed a hanging village for it to live in.(For obvious reasons I do not put its image on the internet. Not yet anyway)

The more of my story I wrote the more of my village I could see. Now I have started on my second story (which is based in the forest where as the 1st is not) I can see what is around the corner. I can see houses I knew were there but I didn’t know what they looked like, now I do. I can’t wait to make them.
Jeff Gilberthorp of the Icon Collection and me.
Eventually, for the time being, I decided to forgo building anymore buildings for the ground. By this time I had spent approx. 15 years building Pebble Cottage, (a family of Australia Grey Ash Mice live in it), Archibald’s General Store, (he is an echidna). Two beach houses. A glade filled with blue mushrooms and a white fairy (this has been destroyed because I could not find the hundreds of mini lotus’s I needed to make the blue mushrooms). A fisherman’s house, (I’ve destroyed it as well,) A wasp colony house (its been destroyed and used to make a branch of the Drinking Tree) and I started build a house full of telescopes which I still have.
Finally after all of this time of building, building and building I stopped and drew a plan.

I found I was building my houses the same way I had built my life, all around the wrong way. I had no plan for life and it showed just as I had no plan for my village. By this time I had (thankfully) realised that I needed to build a village that I could build in my own life time. This is because there was no guarantee that the huge amount of money I needed to build My World was ever going to appear. So I decided to make the hanging village. It seemed to be the most logically part to start with. In my head, at the time it was only small, 20 houses or so. When will I ever learn I never do anything small? Now I have settled on 70 houses. I think that that is a good size for a village, especially a hanging one.

So I went back to the design of the 1st hanging house I had made (the failed ones I had used for Archibald’s General Store) and I grabbed a stack of gourds and piled them up into a cone shape. Because gourds are round everything wants to fall off all the time. So to stop this it was a case of having three gourds as the base and then placing smaller ones on top filling in the gaps. I also decided to put a piece of plastic tubing down the middle and glue the whole lot together. So now I had the basic style of house I wanted now the trick was to make everyone of them different from each other an yet have them all look the same.

I decided that I needed a better plan. A better layout.

As it is my future hope that people will be able to walk along a suspension bridge in amongst all the hanging houses I needed to know which houses would be ‘open’ (in that you could see inside it) and which one was ‘closed’ (in that you couldn’t see inside it). Also I needed to know where in the village the houses were going to be situated.
By the time I arrived at this thought I had already built two hanging houses and of course I had fallen into my old ways and I had built two houses that were so different from each other that there was no way they could sit next to each other.
So where to put them?

One was covered in lots of moss and some extra plants and one did not have a lot of moss and not a large number of plants on it. Plus the houses were completely different sizes. This I have decided is not a bad thing but still, where to put them as they were both open houses and so needed to be placed where people could see them.
As I pondered this I decided to build a ‘closed’ house. I also had the problem that the open houses were taking years to make. I had to cut the time down. I would never live long enough a this rate. I also had the problem of lighting. I could not join them all up to mains power via a transformer so in the end (because a friend said ‘why do you not run them off of batteries’ – now why did I not think of that?) that that is what I have done.

So now back to how to make houses in a short space of time. My solution, the closed houses where to be covered in lots of moss and plants. This was great it only took two months. At that rate, if I could do nothing but make houses, I could have six done in a year, this if course was never going to happen because I have to earn money to pay for these houses and to pay to live.

The open ones, I decided, needed to have only one room. Archibald’s General store has five! So my grand plan did not last long because I am now finishing off a house I had started years ago and it has two rooms open. I decided to make it my main character’s (from the 1st story) home. But again where should they go in my plan. My layout.
This is when I needed to see what does it actually look like up there in the canopy. So off to Lamington National Park I took myself. Off to their suspended walkway (PHOTO)
And what did I find? First it was not as thickly covered (the canopy) as I have in my head but what I did find was what I was looking for. Shadow and light. Of course how stupid of me. Of course there would be light and dark way up there in the canopy and so I added that to my plan.

So now my house covered in plants had a place to be - to live - a position in the village. Just out of the sunlight. This meant that, if these houses were real then one side was further away from the light than the other. So it meant that some plants would grow with more light on one side of the house and others would grow in the shady side of the house.
So another problem how to keep track of all the plants that grew in different positions like shade, semi-shade and sunlight meant making a book on the subject.

Another thing I thought of, to help link the whole village together, was to have a selection of plants that ‘flowed’ throughout the whole village. So I have chosen five. They needed to be made from materials that were in large supply. One of them is made from pistachio shells.

So here I am, I have my plan. I have five houses built, only 65 to go but I do not have a name for the forest. Now all I have to do is build it all and work out how to tell the world about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment