In issue 330 of Dolls House World we took a tour of the magnificent Grand Chateau made by the talented Gabriel Eden James. We had so many questions from readers about the techniques he uses, and we’re delighted that Gabriel was only too pleased to answer them.
What are the main tools you use to sculpt the cherub faces on your Grand Château Miniature?
When it comes to sculpting, my tools change constantly. It all depends on what I am trying to create. Mainly I use dentistry tools and my dressmaker’s pin.
What sculpting clay would you recommend for architectural accents. Or do you make your own mix of products?
For me it has to be Milliput. I dedicated a lot of time to understanding the putty so I could use it to a high standard. Sometimes you have to wait a while for it to start to dry to create certain effects. Of course Milliput isn’t for everybody so it can take a bit of experimenting with different clays to find what works best for you.
What is the best advice you can give for working with gold leaf other than patience?
It’s always good to watch tutorials before trying anything to do with gold leaf, it can save a lot of mistakes and a lot of money. Once you wrap your head around the process it is quite simple. Like with the clay, it’s about understanding the way the size and the gold sheets work. When it comes to gold leafing a room the cost does mount up quickly, but it will give a finish that cannot be replicated by any imitation paint.
What material did you use for the stone faces of the house?
For this I used a mixture of gesso, wall filler, and glue.
How do you achieve your brickwork?
Once I have built up the texture of the exterior walls and etched out the brick, I go across the entire piece and individually paint and weather to give an authentic finish. My entire life has involved art of some kind so I had a lot of practice before I started miniatures.
Why do you prefer lime wood for your structures?
Lime wood is a relatively soft wood which makes modelling a lot easier. It is also light in colour which gives me the freedom to decide how dark I want the finish.
How do you create your window framing?
My windows are made using wood. This can take quite a lengthy amount of time, especially when you have 22 windows that need a front and back! Once completed I paint them white.
Do you use moulds to make the roof balustrades or are they purchased and hand-painted?
The balustrades are wooden. I cover every individual baluster with a wall filler mix and then sand down to give the appearance of stone. Once this is completed I paint a base coat and age appropriately.
Before the last Kensington Dollshouse Festival I had two nightmares about the chateau in one night!
How did you create the roof?
During my first year of experimentation I tested many way to create roof tiles. I first went for the obvious which was real slate but I quickly realised that the grain in the slate was too big for the precise scale finish I wanted to achieve. The end, and best, result for me was card. Like with all modelling it’s about finding the best materials for each job and manipulating them to achieve your goal. I’ve always said, if you can paint well you can make anything look like something else.
What was the process for this build?
The interior always comes last. The exterior always starts as the bare frame. I build up the wood to create the main architectural detailing and then the long and painstaking task of building up the layers for the stone and brick work begins. The sculpting of the fine architectural detail is done separately in between all of the other processes. The roof is also created in between as cutting and placing thousands of roof tiles can take a very long time.
How many buildings do you have in your home?
At the moment I have two structures in my home. I’d like a lot more but they have to leave eventually to make room for new work.
Do you ever have dreams about architectural wonders while sleeping?
I have had many inspirational dreams about architecture but at the same time I have had nightmares about my miniatures falling over and table legs collapsing. In fact before the last Kensington Dollshouse Festival I had two nightmares about the chateau in one night!
What music do you prefer to listen to while building?
I love classical and opera so I mainly listen to that while I am working. My partner is a concert pianist and when I’m not listening to his albums he always gives me new suggestions for my playlist. Sometimes I like to work in complete silence.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start elevating their miniature builds to a higher level?
The ultimate advice I can give is to just practice lots! Practice consistently and frequently without giving up. And when you think you have got it perfect try and make it even better! Always strive for excellence!
See more of Gabriel’s work at www.luxuryminiatureproperty.com.