On the matter of bricks

My struggles with my dollhouse continues. My visiting teachers came by ( A thing which we do in our church. Two women are assigned a couple of women in the congregation, whom they are supposed to keep an eye on. No, not really, but once a month, they are supposed to visit the women and make sure they are alright. And perhaps give them a spiritual message.) two weeks ago and  got to see the mess, called my dollhouse. And when I told them that it was supposed to be a relaxing hobby, but that it has turned in to nothing but a nightmare, they laughed. “I have taken water above my head”, was what I told them and one of them, who has a wicked sense of humour said, “no, you have taken a house over your head.” The sister missionaries came next, to give us the advent calendar message “To be the Light of the World”, which is being spread across the globe. When they saw my house, they were mighty impressed, but then it was 19:30 and they could not see the awful details in the dark!

Truth is, that I am sad, sad, sad, over how the dollhouse has turned out. Not just because Bromley Craft’s Realistic Brick Compound, turned out to be much more complicated to put on, than what all the videos, instructions and reviews say. (The reviewers must have a screw loose.) Last week, I sat down to study brick houses in London, on the internet. I googled London Georgian Houses, since that is what my house clearly looks like. And I learned that the matter of bricks, is more complicated than what you or I, first thought. But the first thing I discovered, was that I am not the only one having made a mess of the brick compound! The following picture was found on the net, and if I owned THAT house, I would be very dissatisfied with my work.

What you see here is just someone who has done an equally ugly job as I have. And I am sure this person tried their very best, just like I did!

What you see here is just someone who has done an equally ugly job as I have. And I am sure this person tried their very best, just like I did!

My daughter, who is working in Cardiff, Wales, at the moment, sent me messages after seeing the house above. Trying to lift my spirits. They all said things like, Richard Bromley is a pro, he does this for a living, so no wonder he gets it right every time. And you clearly see on this picture that it is impossible to get it to work and look nice. The creator of the house above, has had the same problems as I have, getting the wrong consistency of the mixture and the overlapping being too visible. He or she has made a right mess by the door and windows.

The second thing I learned from my research last week, was a very, very sad fact. And I have noticed, presently, that the creator of the house above, missed that point too. When I bought my compound at the autumn Miniatura 2016, I trusted that Bromley Craft was informing me of EVERYTHING. I told him that I was a beginner, I showed him pictures of my house and I told him what I wanted to create. But he missed telling me the most important thing about London Georgian houses, and Georgian houses in general: They are all made out of yellow brick! And they have a very particular look above the windows! A look that is there on EVERY single Georgian house, whether it is situated in Islington or in Spitalfields! And he should have told me that I needed an extra template to get that correct look:

£3.95 at Bromley Craft

£3.95 at Bromley Craft

Without having this template, and creating this look on your dollhouse, you do NOT have a Georgian house! You have a historically incorrect dollhouse and that is what I am stuck with, since I have varnished my house now! Look at the following downloaded pictures from London, to see what I am talking about!

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They are there, on every single house and why? Because this is how things were done back then and a person selling templates and material to make a brick look, ought to know this and advice his customers! Because a satisfied customer will give good reviews and spread the word, plus they might return to buy more or other items from you!

Here it is black on white!

Here it is black on white!

But as I mentioned above, this was not the only thing I missed when I researched brick earlier on. How I could have missed it, is beyond me, but I did. Most London houses are YELLOW. You might not be able to see it, behind all the soot, but it is a fact. On this one page, I was able to learn that the bricks of London got their colour from the compact clay dug out from “accumulations of the river Thames’ deposits”. It was a dense, infertile clay not useful to anyone but perfect for brick making. The clay was mixed with water and what was called London soil. In reality it was ashes and cinder from the city. The mixture was made in to bricks and burned in local kilns, which have left their marks in street names all over London, like Brick Lane, Kiln Place and Pottery Lane.

The Georgian era saw an explosion of brick making and houses being built all over London, with it. Terraces popped up all over and the rich were not too happy, having their view of nature blocked. But houses were built of brick for everyone, rich and poor. A proper Georgian London house, in other words, should have a yellow colour. Not a red one like I chose! The red brick did not enter London until after the 1840s. Then the railway had been introduced and it was cheaper to ship in red brick from the midlands, than making one’s own. And London started to have red bricked houses all of a sudden. But from what I can tell, the majority are in yellow. So, two big mistakes made.

I was not even looking for the information above, but it came up when I was looking for mold and soot on Georgian houses in London. Last week, I finally finished bricking my front side of the house. Something which has been a very slow process since the bricks had to dry, before I could put the template down, overlapping them, to continue up the house wall. Another thing which was a blatant lie on the video instruction. Put the template down when the compound is wet, and it smears!

I was done with the bricking and much dissatisfied. But I had decided to accept facts. I am not perfect. I can not make a perfect looking dollhouse. The skills are not there even though my perfectionism is, and you can only do what you can do, as well as you can. So I had to accept looks like this. With a LOT of sorrow in my heart, and irritation!

Even though I was so meticulous and careful to align the template with two rows overlapping, it still came up uneven on the last ro as can be seen att the top of the windows.

Even though I was so meticulous and careful aligning the template with two rows overlapping, it still came up uneven on the last row, as can be seen by the top of the windows.

What happened here? Well, I had to do the top part of the house, first, and then slaughter my template to be able to make the areas between the top windows, that have raised up edges. There was no other way. The template could not lay flat if I did not cut off the frame and press it in to place, with lots of force.

And can you spot the mistake here? Clue: Two bricks are attached to two other bricks without any mortar in between.

And can you spot the mistake here? Clue: Two bricks are attached to two other bricks without any mortar in between.

Any smart person, would have done things in another way, than what I have. They would have researched more, before buying anything. They would have learned about yellow bricks and the look around the windows, before ordering or purchasing materials at a show. And then they would have started on the sides of the house, with no windows. Lots of practice before the nightmare side of the house was supposed to be dealt with. BUT, to my defence, I had to make sure I had enough brick compound to at least get the front side finished. And I was right about worrying. It took almost the entire bag of the 750 grams. So, I will in all probability not have enough compound to cover the sides, since they are bigger areas. And of course, I have a second problem, and that is that my template now is useless. I can not make straight rows on the sides, when my template looks like this:

I have to wait for a new template to arrive, before I can continue the work.

I have to wait for a new template to arrive, before I can continue the work.

But of course, there was other work to be done, still, on the front. A Georgian house did not look new in 1940. Especially not after the Blitz had started and the street fires were an every night occurence. For decades or for over a century, people had used coal for their open fires, which also effected the look of the 1940s house. As did bad ventilation and dampness, causing mold. So, now it was time to dirty down my house. And no, that can not wait till last. First of all, to put bricks on a ready-made house, you really need to lift your house over to a workplace and lay it down. Otherwise the angle becomes too awkward and impossible to work with. You have to create as much of a flat surface as you can and if you had done this “the right way” (meaning putting this compound on before assembling the house), you would have had wood pieces laying flat on the floor or a table, smearing on the compound.

Even if the bricks have dried, they are very, very fragile. You can peel them off with your nail! Nothing really holds them in place. Which is why you can add water to your finished work and remove it all, if you hate it. But then you have wasted all that powder! Thinking that you can wait with staining and varnishing till the very end, is not a solution. You have to finish one side of the house, entirely, from start to finish, before you turn the house and continue on the next side of the house. Otherwise, chances are that you will break off and ruin all your work, on the first side. No pressure can be put on that side, until varnished! And before the varnish goes on, you need to try to stain the house to look authentic. And old.

I chose to do the opposite from what Richard Bromley says on his site. I did not invest a lot of money in acrylic paints and brushes. Lets face it, this fragile brick can not even take the pressure of a brush! The paint will make it wet and dissolve the compound/making it liquid again. And to sit and paint with acrylic paints? Exactly HOW would one make it look like soot and mold? Paint is paint and I did not need to ruin my bricks more, with big blobs of black and green. Instead I invested in Tim Holtz stamp pads and daubers.

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With the help of these, I tried to create a worn look.

Soot usually gathered around doors, under windows and by edges and pipes.

Soot usually gathered around doors, under windows and by edges and pipes.

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But the true look is rarely posted on the internet. There they post the pretty houses, the ones which have been cleaned up. All this said, I tried to make my own version and I am afraid I was somewhat of a coward, since it felt safer with too little, than too much! Perhaps the wrong way of thinking, but you can’t remove the ink from the bricks!

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When I was done with the staining, which did not take very long, since you just use the daubers and put on as much ink as you feel necessary, it was time to varnish the house. Bromley Craft says to use a solvent based varnish but you can’t get such a thing in Sweden, since it is bad for both humans, animals and the environment. Jessica at Flügger Paint shop googled for me, and tried to find it somewhere, anywhere in Sweden, but the conclusion was that it can not be had here. So, I had to settle for an acrylic spray varnish, which she said was better anyway. We realized both of us, that an ordinary varnish would not work, since the brush would dissolve not only the bricks, but also the stamp pad ink, which is water based.

Acrylic spray varnish stinks! We carried the house outside for me to spray on the first layer, but this was not a good idea at all. There was a little bit of wind and it felt like all the varnish blew away, instead of landing on the house. To be honest clear spray varnish is no fun to work with at all. You get a head ache and your lungs feel like they have been subject to a gas attack. And you do not see where the varnish has landed. You need to move the can the entire time, since you can’t let that brick compound get too wet. Then it will dissolve. So, when I had sprayed over the house once, I had no idea what had really been “painted” and not. The can said to spray several layers, so every two hours I had to spray it again. After the first fiasco, we carried the house in to the laundry room, so we could close the door on the smell. My boys were sitting on the sofa in a row, with protection masks on, looking very funny. But how to protect the laundry room interior? I put out food disposal bags all over, it was the only thing we had available and we do not recycle food, I’m afraid. We can’t stand living with banana flies anymore and the maggots in the garbage bins!

I had to protect the sides of the house, from getting varnish on them. Otherwise, I can't get the brick compound to stick...

I had to protect the sides of the house, from getting varnish on them. Otherwise, I can’t get the brick compound to stick there.

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This is how the house now looks after five layers of spray varnish. I have no idea if the entire area has five layers? And I have no idea if the house is darker shaded now than before, which is one of the effects one is after, according to Bromley, by varnishing it. And of course the other effect is to seal the bricks, so they can not vanish/break off/you name it.

To show some of the soot staining.

To show some of the soot staining.

Now the big question of course is: Can I get the masking tape off and cut off the brick parts which accidentally overlapped on to the door frame and windows? Sharp knife? Or am I in for another disaster?

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