Button-Plate Wall

The set I’m building has three main designs.  It’s a theatre, containing 3 miniature sets on its stage:  one where it’s more or less empty, one where there’s the 1970s kitchen, and one with a dining room.  Here’s the dining room, in progress, but almost finished.

Again, I’m using a minimal palette for this room.  The colours are pale yellow, pale green, a warm brown, a deep brown, and a deep teal.  Earth and Water colours.  The palette is also partly inspired by memories of my grandparents’ living room, accentuated with fragments of Galician and Ukrainian cultures.

First I made a wall out of 3/8″ plywood, and covered it with some textured fabric, acrylic paint, and a strip of miniature molding.  The fabric started out as a pale teal blue, which I dyed with acrylic paints to get it to this colour.  The fabric (and colour) is reminiscent of the couch cover my grandparents had.  The couch is where we used to sit on our visits when I was a kid, so I had a lot of time to examine that fabric, and elements of the room, when I was bored.

They also had a lot of dark wood, and a plate rail in the dining room.  I devised a similar plate rail here, but rather than making mail-order Norman Rockwell plates like they had, I painted the plates with patterns inspired by the Sargadelos ceramics from Galicia.  I had to give up the trademark colours of the Galician ceramics, though — the beautiful blues and whites — to fit in with my colour palette.  There is no white in the set really, and the royal blue wouldn’t work, so I improvised.  I also didn’t want the images to be too high-contrast, as they would stand out too much against the pale wall.  I really just wanted some subtle detail there.  There is not a lot going on in this dining room, so I didn’t want the subtleties of the drawings to overwhelm this part of the set.  (The plates are made from buttons taken from my other grandmother’s old button collection…  I never met her, but she used to sew a lot, so these buttons are pretty special.  She saved them in an old Black Magic chocolates box.  Note the old girl guide button above — be prepared!)

I had just seen Ishu Patel giving a talk and presentation of his work last weekend at the NFB, in which he spoke about his Paul Klee influences, and showed some Paul Klee slides… I think those images sank in as I was reminded how great he was.  I’ve always liked Paul Klee’s drawings.  So you can see that influence here as well.

Erín sent me this awesome pamphlet straight from Sargadelos, which outlines the meanings behind their mysterious amulets…  some of which are quite bizarre and fascinating…  (Plus some info about horns and witches!)

The chairs were inspired by my favourite architect and furniture designer, Roy McMakin.  They were built by Miriam, who has proven herself to be the chair-making queen.

More quick notes:  the tabletop is made from a small bamboo cutting board; the plates on the table are also buttons; the bowls are those rubber things you put on the bottom of metal chair legs to protect your floors; the clear “glass” cups are rubber thimbles; the copper pot and platter (which will soon hold an empanada!) are made from copper pipes and pipe fittings; the lid of the copper pot is a metal button shank coated with copper foil; the candles are fimo but are wired to tiny bulbs which will be on dimmers to create a flickery candlight; and there will eventually be a landscape painting in that folding room divider / screen-thingy.   I plucked a few interesting-looking grasses from the garden to make the dried flower arrangement… and the little bundle of grasses on the floor is a nod to Ukrainian traditions, a tiny didukh.

10 thoughts on “Button-Plate Wall

  1. Shelley Noble

    Holy Cow, Stephanie! This is just gorgeous work. Love the colours very much, definitely see the Klee in the art on the clever button plates, the chairs are marvelously made, as is all the rest. I’m especially in awe of your gift for repurposing existing objects like the pipe fittings and your ability to create scale into your world like the flower arrangement, brilliant.

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  4. Rich Johnson

    I am so glad I found your blog! Your work is amazing and beautiful. I can’t wait to see more! I really appreciate the fact that you described some of the objects you used to make your props and set. Was wondering what scale you are working at? I love how you used buttons for plates.

  5. stephanie dudley

    Aw, thanks for the comments, guys.

    Rich, thanks, and welcome!
    As for using things that already exist, I think that’s my favourite part about prop-making… it’s a little exercise in creative thinking to try and think of things that have the right shape, so I don’t have to make them from scratch. The button idea I kind of stole from a book on making dollhouse furniture though. (As well as the copper pipe pot idea…)

    My scale is a little convoluted. I came up with a formula that made life easier for me, however it often confuses others… I used inches to measure the real life object, then multiply by 0.39, and I arrived at a number representative of the model object, IN CENTIMETRES. this is because I find it easier to measure big things in inches and small things in CM. Or maybe because I like to make things complicated. I should probably figure out what the actual scale is though so I can answer your question.

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