December 2009

Create Your Own Holiday Wonders: An Excerpt from Richard Coyne's Upcoming Book

Author: Richard Coyne's

This book is about creating the opportunities that will allow you and your families to have truly creative experiences, spend real quality time with one another, and start a Christmas tradition, the memories of which will last a lifetime and be passed down through generations of your family. It will provide you with all the information and insight needed to create a very simple vignette, as well as the knowledge to create on a larger or on a grand scale.

Creating a vignette

Inspiration: Don’t be concerned with where your ideas will come from. There is a plethora of things you will draw your inspiration from.

Time: Time is a consideration for everyone approaching the Christmas holidays, especially in families. I want you to understand that you can create small vignettes in as little as an hour.

Holiday buildings, figures and accessories.

Styrofoam: Dense Styrofoam is sold in craft stores in 12 inch by 36 inch sheets and comes in thicknesses of 1/4, 1, and 2 inches.

Artificial Detailing Snow: There are several different types of plastic flake and granular snow, as well as aerosol spray snow available in most craft stores around the holidays.

Low Temperature Hot Glue Gun: There are two tools that are essential for creating these holiday pieces. The first is a low temperature hot glue gun. They can be purchased with glue sticks at any arts and crafts store. A note of caution: When using a hot glue gun avoid touching the hot metal nozzle at the tip of the gun as well as the hot glue that comes from the gun. Do not use high temperature glue guns as the glue that comes from them will melt directly through Styrofoam which will prevent you from being able to glue pieces together. It will also burn you when in contact with your skin.

When using the gun around your children be sure to advise them not to touch either the tip or the glue that comes from the gun.

Sheet Rock Saw: The second essential tool is a hand held sheet rock saw which can be purchased at any Home Depot or Lowes store.

Power Strips: If you place two or more buildings in your display you will need a power strip. Each building comes with an interior light attached to an electric cord. A single unoccupied wall socket can accommodate electric cords for two buildings. If only one plug is available you will need to use a power strip. This makes it easy to create pieces with multiple buildings and any of the large selection of electrified accessories.

Creating Your Base

Step 1. First you must decide upon a location for your piece. Once that is done you will need to decide the overall size and shape of the base. One thing to consider when determining the size is the number of buildings, figures or accessories if any, you wish to use in the piece.

Step 2. Cover the surface of the location with brown paper, the white side of wrapping paper, or newspaper. If necessary, tape pieces of the paper together so that it covers the entire area. This will prevent any scratching of the display surface area while moving your buildings around deciding where you wish to place them. Once satisfied with their position, loosely trace a line around the bottom of the houses without marking the building itself.

Step 3. Now decide on the overall shape of the base by drawing a line indicating its edges. Remove the houses, and with a pair of scissors cut along the base outline. By doing this you will have removed the excess trim paper and created a paper template of your base.

Step 4. Place a sheet of Styrofoam on a flat working surface. Generally I most often use the 1 inch thick foam sheet for this. Place the paper template on top of the foam sheet being sure that the foam extends beyond all the edges of the template. With a pencil scribe a line around the edge of the template using enough pressure to create an indented line in the foam. A slight pressure is sufficient as the foam will give way fairly easily. When finished remove the template from the foam.

Step 5. With your sheet rock saw cut along the scribed line until the base is free of the overall sheet. You will find that in many instances a single sheet of foam will be sufficient. However, if two sheets of Styrofoam are need so that you have a large enough piece for your base, you will need to glue them together. To do so, lay one sheet on a flat surface, then take a second sheet and place a bead of got glue in a wavy line along the length of the edge to be joined. Place the second sheet on the flat surface adjacent to the edge of the first sheet, so that the glued edge abuts the edge of the first sheet and press together. Hold in position for approximately a minute, being sure that both sheets lay flat on the surface while the glue is setting up. This will bond the two sheets so that when you move the base to its location, it will sit level on the display surface.

Step 6. Cut a square piece of foam from your excess trim that is big enough to cover the palm of your hand while still being able to hold it securely in your hand. This piece will become a functional sanding block for sanding the edges of the base. Using this technique you can create any angle of decent from the top plane of the base to the flat surface it will sit upon. If you desire more than a 20 degree angle of slope, use your saw to cut the angle against the edge of the base and the finish by sanding.

Step 7. Having finished your level base, you can now add landscape elevations to the base if you would like to add additional height to it. To do this, determine the shape or shapes you want and cut a piece of foam to that shape. Then sand the edges to the angle of slope you desire. Apply a small amount of hot glue on the base where you want to attach the elevation. Place the cut piece in position and press down securely for approximately 30 seconds. Using this method, you can create any type of terrain to any height. As you view different example pieces in this section of the book, the process and what can be done with it are readily apparent.

This process and these techniques you will master quickly. At one point you will be able to judge the size and shape of your bases and will no longer feel the need to create paper templates.

Completing your vignette

Here I chose to delineate the steps that are necessary to complete the piece once the base platform has been created.

Step 1. Once the base and elevations have been created and glued together, position your houses into their intended locations.

Step 2. Place the trees that you think you would like to use, experiment with their placement until you achieve the feeling you are looking for.

Step 3. Choose and place those figures you think you would like in the piece. Remember to choose those figures and accessories that most strongly reinforce the theme of the holiday houses you have chosen to use. Place them in a way that creates as much interaction between them as possible. This is one of the key elements to creating the kinetic feeling that brings the piece to life. In this case I chose to recess the figurine base strands into the Styrofoam. I did this for two reasons, as this is a rather small base and the figures are in close proximity to the houses, doing so helps the scale relationship of figures to buildings. Second, as some of the stands were gray, I wanted to make sure that no color showed once the snow detailing is completed.

Step 4. Lightly spray snow on the trees and then detail them and the base with granular snow. Be sure to apply enough snow so that you cover all figured base stands and bring the snow to the sides of the houses and bases of the trees. Your eyes will tell you when the placement and depth of the snow appears to look natural.

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