Greenlupa has loved miniatures ever since she was sculpting with Play-Doh. But a chance discovery of a magazine called Creative Crafts & Miniatures with a cover story on miniature food was the beginning of a dollhouse scale obsession in her young life.
"I started making stacks of pancakes with melty butter pats in the middles with air dry clay after I saw that. Once I sort of mastered the pancakes I found Sculpey clay and did a few really tiny carousels designed to go inside a dollhouse as a child's toy. If you grasped the top and base separately you could make the horses go up and down by turning it," she said.
It's been a few decades since the pancakes and carousels, and she has since moved on to pottery and hand carved and painted wooden furniture, featured in her Etsy shop Blue Crawdad Works.
"I love to whittle. I've had a knife collection ever since I was little - courtesy of my grandfather's influence - and spent a summer at our Cedar Lakes Ripley Craft Show as an apprentice to a wood carver. That was a great learning experience."
Her carved Halloween-themed wooden pieces either begin life as chunky wooden dollhouse furniture or are built from scratch using the ever-growing spare lumber collection in her basement.
"I've built two dollhouses, one a monster three-story Victorian and the other a Halloween special, so there are lots of different sizes of wood scraps left over. I love Halloween, it's a season of pure imagination so anything goes - I can include bits of stained glass, fabric, printed papers or anything that strikes my fancy. I also make full-size stained glass pieces so I always have plenty of those scraps too. It adds such sparkle and life to a piece. And I'm a bit of a magpie at heart, I love the sparklies and bright colors," she explained.
Her love of pottery began a couple decades ago in college but it wasn't until the past year that she downsized the full scale pots into dollhouse size.
"I primarily threw porcelain and carved it. Porcelain is not an easy medium but dollhouse pieces are harder! You have to find creative ways to throw the piece - fingers are just too big to create mini mugs, sugar bowls or creamers - and take the clay shrinkage rate into account for the right finished size. Then you have to have a way to stabilize it to trim and then you have to follow different methods of glazing to get a nice finished piece. All in all, much harder than full-size."
She still carves some of the mini pieces, using a low fire white clay body that is almost as smooth as the porcelain.
"I carve my faces, flowers, shapes, whatever, into the piece while it's leather hard when there's less chance of breakage and it's still relatively easy to carve. I use a sgraffito tool, it has a curved blade on one end and an arrow-shaped blade on the other that is great for carving out almost any shape."
"Plates, platters and bowls are not so bad, teapots are only traumatic when my dog eats one I've spent a long time making. I have a Belgian Shepherd with a nose for finished pots. He won't touch the raw clay in a ball waiting to be thrown - and thank goodness the clay I use isn't toxic. No, he waits until I've agonized over a pot, attaching a handle, completing a teapot, then waits until my back is turned and SLURP out comes the tongue and the pot vanishes. Now I keep them sealed in an old, lidded aluminum cake pan," she said.
A recent find has been black clay, a boon to some new Halloween pieces in the planning stages.
"I loved the Halloween of the 20s-40s, it was a haunted, spooky, fun party atmosphere, and that's the style I want for my pottery and furniture. I've made basic pieces and other holiday themes but my favorite will always be Halloween. My heart lives in Halloweentown."
Her work has been influenced by antique Halloween images, decorative full-size pots and architectural details. A pair of famous mini architects are also her role models.
"My greatest inspiration has been Pat & Noel Thomas. Their techniques for building miniature houses will be hard for anyone to surpass. I've learned a lot just from reading their old articles in Nutshell News. There are also the mini artists on Etsy & CDHM, I love seeing other peoples' work. It's so inspiring and gives me a level of creativity and workmanship to shoot for to see another potter's work or any other miniature piece. I still love looking at mini food. I don't know if I'll ever get the time to attain any level of realism of my own in that genre but I still love to admire someone else's efforts."
In addition to admiring everyone else's artistic efforts she is currently working on a series of new Halloween pieces and garden accessories.
"And taking better pictures. The laughable part about that is I love to take photos and often have a camera in my hands catching the dogs, bugs, trees, odd angles, etc. But great photos for my shop items just seem to elude me! I'm also having a lot of fun with the Halloween house I'm kit bashing from a Blueberry Cottage kit. I even changed the floor plan so it's pretty unrecognizable as how it started life. I'm incorporating stained glass, metal, wood carving and unusual things. This is my imagination house where anything can go. The Victorian was my dream house. I'd wanted a dollhouse for so long when I was little that Dad finally caved and told me if I could build it in cardboard then he would fund the wooden version. I'm not sure it will ever be totally finished - there are a lot of changes I've made because my world at age 16 didn't include a lot of technical detail for building anything."
Luckily that deficit has changed, in part due to an overwhelming curiosity about just about everything (as long as it isn't math).
"I'm numerically dyslexic, so there are a LOT of challenges out there when I'm doing anything with numbers - especially figuring out scales," she admitted ruefully.
Favorite tools definitely include her potter's wheel and kiln, the sgraffito tool and a Flexishaft Dremel.
"I will carve anything, I also like to carve semi-precious gemstones using diamond bits in the Dremel, but those take a long time to do. And I'm pretty partial to a utility knife, the handle is thick enough to fit my palm well and the blade is stubby enough to dig into spots that a pocket knife can't easily get.
She is a member of CDHM (Custom Dolls, Houses & Miniatures), IGMA (International Guild of Miniature Artists) and founded the Etsy Street Team MiniMakers.