Back to the treehouse

While the Mia Fiarello team is making their way to Camellia, let’s check in with the treehouse sisters.

When I started working again on this story, I realized how incredibly slapdash and haphazard I’d become about setting up for episodes – just grab a few items, set up the camera, and shoot.

I *could* do that for the treehouse, but I’m expecting them to spend much of the next year there, so I think I have to slow down and really create a space that works.

That task has become somewhat harder because of my inability to find a tree that really works as a 1/4 scale treehouse. The trees in my yard that have the right kind of branch arrangement are far too big to work at 1/4 scale, and the ones that work at 1/4 scale don’t have the kinds of branches you could build a treehouse in.

For example, here’s Olive standing next to one of my (fruiting) cherry trees:

which looks great, in scale. But the branching on the cherry looks like this:

with really no place to build a level platform.

That means that I’ll just need to show them working on a treehouse in one of my outdoor trees, but that any building of the actual treehouse will take place in my workshop.

So, let’s look at what I have.

Because I want a permanent space, I need something solid to use as a base. For my 1/4 scale dolls, I find that Ikea Lack side tables are just the right size, and dirt cheap at $8 a pop. The top of the table (which I’ll use as the floor on the Overhead treehouse and as a side wall for the In the Picture rainforest house) is a 21 1/2″ square. The legs (if you use them) are 17 3/4″. That’s plenty big for the In the Picture space, since the legs define the depth of the of the space, but it’s not quite big enough for the Overhead treehouse, since the legs form the upright corners and the dolls themselves are almost 18″ tall.

Fortunately, it’s a treehouse, so I can slot in some sticks for the four supporting beams. That would look something like this:

The table comes with four double-sided screws and pre-drilled holes

so all I need to do is find three more corner supports for the walls.

The flooring is a little more difficult. I can’t leave it as is, but I haven’t found any rough wood surface that really works for this scale. What I’d really like is some kind of wood that has a distinct grain, but where the knots are not overly large for this scale. I’d thought of just using small branches, but nature isn’t in the habit of producing a straight line, so I can’t really lie them flat or have them join nicely with each other. Really, no one wants to live in a treehouse where the floors look like this:

I have some contact paper with a wood pattern, but it looks both unnaturalistic in close-ups and far too precise for a tree house. Same thing with the parquet floor squares that I use for my 1/6 dollhouse floors. I’ve yet to see a real treehouse with parquet floors.

What I’d really like is scrap wood, but from a 1/4 scale house. Cast off cupboard doors and table tops would be just perfect, but I’d need a 1/4 scale house to start from and, once I found a 1/4 scale house, I’d never scrap it.

I’m going to take one more look around Goodwill to see if anything looks right. If not, I may have to mock up the wood grain.

In any case, the girls aren’t going to have a completely built treehouse this week, although they are going to start working on it.

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Up Above: Planning the treehouse

My Up Above doll adventure starts out slowly – two sisters sit in the glade behind their house and plan out how they might build a treehouse.

Amy and Strawberry talk about where to place the tree house
Amy starts sketching out plans for the tree house
Strawberry checks out the view . . .
. . . while Amy carries logs

*****

I got one day of clear weather, so I was able to take the last two shots outside (although I still photoshopped a background behind the picture of Strawberry in the tree.)

My PhotoShop lesson this week was about tweaking your photos, and I did a lot of that this week. I’ve started to get a feel for how to smooth the join between two layers. IMO, the picture of Strawberry in the tree is the most successful, suggesting that a pretty busy upper layer is a good way to merge in a background. The mixture of the two layers in the “Sketching the treehouse” is harder to make realistic, since they both exist on the same plane.

*****

I realize I wrote but never posted about the newest addition to the dolls house. Here’s a little background I wrote a few weeks ago.

I’ve been gathering together two groups of dolls. A smaller set of dolls (19 to 25 cm tall) for my Underfoot story, and a larger set (43 – 45cm) for my treehouse story.

Then, I went and fell in love with a doll who’s not in either size group. She’s Strawberry, from Dollsbe (also called Be With You dolls).

At 28 cms, she should be a good fit for the Underfoot crew, but there are three significant problems:

  • She’s bigger than Jinjur, and that seems to rob Jinjur of her primary role as protector of the group.
  • Although she’s just a few centimeters taller, her head is disproportionally large in comparison to the very small-headed Jinjur, and that just makes her seem completely out of scale. Buu is also big-headed, but she’s so much smaller that it seems in scale with Jinjur.
  • In her features, she’s far more similar to the toddler-like Buu then to the more mature features of Jinjur, and that makes her seem like an overgrown toddler.

Altogether, she’s just not a good fit for that story, although she bears such a strong resemblance to Buu that I keep wanting to make it work.

That leaves her to hang out with the tree house crowd. That cast is far less filled out (just Amy, so far) so it’s harder to visualize how she’ll fit in altogether.

Again, her enormous head poses a problem. Even though she’s a full 15 cms smaller than Amy, her head is larger. Even so, she’s a good fit for Amy – the two look like they might hang out together, even if they don’t necessarily look related.

As a doll, she’s absolutely fantastic. She’s far and away the easiest doll to pose – she moves into all poses easily – and she has a fantastic center of balance – she can stand pretty much no matter how you set her down. On her site, her creator (the very helpful YG) is able to get his dolls to stand on just one leg. I just have to fiddle with the poses to figure out where he’s finding that center of gravity, but I’ve gotten her almost there with just a little bit of time experimenting.

Since writing this, I’ve come to really like how the two dolls look together. Strawberry has a sweet wide-eyed look that balances Amy’s more cautious approach. And the mix of ages brings up all kinds of interesting subplots.

Here’s one I’m thinking about now. I plan for almost all of their scenes to take place outside of a conventional home. I’m planning a tree house, I have a rowboat, and I’m planning on getting some combination of RV and tent. So, really, there’s no space for them to also have a regular bedroom. That makes me think that maybe there’s not much home to go back to. That means either that they’ve been set adrift through the loss of their parents, or that something is very wrong in their house. I’m not really loving either option – i see the story as being sweet and dreamy, and I don’t want them bogged down by a grim backstory.

One idea I’m kicking around is that they have a loving but distracted father – he looks up from whatever he’s deeply immersed in and realizes he hasn’t gotten food on the table and doesn’t know where the girls are. That would give them a safe base, but also give them fairly boundless freedom. Anyway, I’ll see how that sits with the girls once I’m a few more episodes in.

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