Sunnyvale, California, United States
February 05
I was born the same year Kennedy was assassinated. My parents got divorced during the Summer of Love ('67) I'm not a journalist, I'm just a dedicated Democratic Library Assistant with a lot of bottled-up rants. But I'll try to be amusing when possible. _________________________ My Late Friend Kim would agree with this: "Nobody should die because they can't afford Health Insurance. Nobody should go broke because they get sick." Teddy, Greg and Roger, I'm SO with you on this one. And also with everyone else displaying this. --------- "I wrestle like Jane Austen and write like Jesse 'The Body' Ventura." Justice must be done for Trayvon Martin.

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 1:44PM

Made: Papyrus Acres, the Paper Community

Rate: 39 Flag


 Papyrus Acres

Flowerbox Avenue--One of Papyrus Acres' nicest neighborhoods


       It may take a village to raise a child, but it only takes one crazed artist to make a village. A paper village, anyway.  Making little hand-painted paper houses has been my hobby for the last seven years. I know how I got started on this hobby. I just didn’t know how lasting my compulsion would become.  I’m pretty sure my fascination with tiny houses and furniture started with the San Francisco Victorian dollhouse my mother bought for her four children in the 1970’s. For years afterward, my brother and sister and I had great fun buying and making dollhouse furniture, dishes, etc etc for it. The furnished and decorated dollhouse often graced the center of the buffet table at the big Christmas parties we gave each year until after the four of us headed for college.


In 2003, my mother gave me a trip to Italy for my fortieth birthday, and in return, I made her a little Italian villa out of paper as you can see in the photo below. (Yes, I know, it was a very equitable exchange of gifts. Also pictured are two smaller houses I've made.)


 Mom Villa


Mom's Italian Villa -- how it all got started.

 I didn’t realize then I had just made my prototypical little paper house.  I’ve given several of my subsequent houses away as gifts. Maybe I have a tiny frustrated architect inside me screaming to get out, but one house was not enough once I discovered how fun they were to make.


For me, the fun of these house projects  is all in the planning and the making. Once I finish them, there’s an “Okay, now what?” moment, since I haven’t found a single truly useful thing about them other than to be on display as conversation pieces. You also have an objet d’art that is very good for taking up shelf space and catching dust. I have at least four currently stored in my closet, and I believe I’ve now made enough of them to create if not a village then at least a little resort for vacationing paper dolls.  Every so often though, even with the storage problem these houses represent, the compulsion comes upon me and I just have to make another one.


Since making the little flat-roofed cube that is my mother’s Italian villa, I’ve taught myself quite a bit about paper house construction methods   And my projects have expanded  in complexity beyond the  basic cube shape, as well. This is a photo of my most recent house project, completed in February, 2010. Roofing that house was quite a project in and of itself. 


Green Victorian 

The Green Victorian


Green Victorian  

Green Victorian with Landscaping Thanks to the

Magic of Photoshop.


 Normally, I’ll already have a good idea of what sort of house my latest project will be before I go shopping for the supplies, whether that’s my little Spanish Colonial….


Spanish Colonial 


Or another Victorian. 


 Yellow Victorian Front

Little Yellow Victorian


  In all cases, I make the kind of houses I'd most enjoy living in, if they were large enough. Victorians are almost  my favorite kind  to make because you can use pretty colors, and they have a lot of cool and ornate decorative details. I’ve built up quite a collection of plastic templates on my many stops to University Art, which is one of my favorite art supply stores.  If I get out their door for  under twenty dollars, it’s a miracle. I think I’ve helped them pay their rent, sometimes. I now have templates for circles, ovals, triangles, rectangles and hexagons, all of which have come in very handy.   


When starting a house  project, my  method is to buy a large sheet of good, stiff water color paper which is stiff and heavy enough to stand and support its own weight. I then staple it to a sheet of  foam core board, then get out my rulers which are transparent, and marked in sixteenths of an inch, my L-square, also transparent and marked in sixteenths of an inch, a drawing pencil and a kneaded rubber eraser which won’t damage the paper surface.   Just as in an actual house, paper house measurements need to be precise and consistent, lines need to be straight and corners need to line up squarely or the finished project won’t fit together well or look good.  Windows should be of a consistent size, and they need to line up at top and bottom, etc etc, and doors need to be larger than windows. It looks weird if they aren’t!   A few imperfections give a house some character and an “I’m handmade” authenticity, but I try to keep those out of the planning stages.   So I spend a couple of hours at least on making my initial drawing, after which, I use the kneaded rubber eraser all over to make the lines fainter, but not invisible, since I still need them as guides during the painting phase.


  Next, I use masking fluid on any part of the future house that will be white on the finished project—window frames, porch railings, decorative details, etc etc. I have to think ahead at this stage.   After the drawing stage comes the painting stage which is more fun, although I still have to be mindful of the way I want the finished project to look. I use watercolor paints in all cases. The basic rule in watercolor is work from lightest shades to darkest, and from large areas to small, which works well in this context. I'll often use a wide, foam rubber brush to apply the base coat, as that ensures a smooth,unstreaky finish.  I also mix a lot of paint, and I make the mixture a little darker and stronger than I think it should be, as watercolors are always a shade or two lighter when dry. After the house base coat is completely dry I add the details—clapboard siding, or maybe shingles, and panels of different colors when I’m making a Victorian.  Painting the windows is always fun—I always add at least one cat sunning itself in each house, often more than one.


 Kitty Window

Kitty Window Detail


Other favorite things to add are curtains, window shades, plants, vases of flowers etc etc. 


After all these paint layers are completely dry, I use rubber cement pick up to remove the dried masking fluid, and outline the white areas in dark, blue gray paint. I try to be precise, but this is often the time where interesting little imperfections get in, as my hand is not completely steady. When all the paint is dry, I cut out the pieces of the house, give them a coat of waterproof spray, and then flatten them between the pages of a big, heavy book with more books piled on top. I always have little  unpainted flaps along the rooflines of my houses, and at the corners where the pieces will be glued together, and the roof will be stuck down.


 Roofing my  small houses is easy, but on a larger  project is a complicated stage in and of itself. I often have to invent and then make  the cardboard support structure that will hold it up in the desired shapes. And then glue the cardboard skeleton into place before I can add the sections of the roof itself.  I finally did learn that the easiest way to make a shingle roof  is to paint a sheet of paper all over in the color I want first, let it dry, then carefully measure and cut each roof section from that sheet of paper and glue them in place. I add thin strips to hide the seams—and sometimes gaps—between each roof section. Only when the roof is completely glued in place do I paint on the shingles themselves.  Clay tile roofs look great, but are somewhat tedious to make.  There too, I give the paper a base coat of burnt sienna, roof the house, THEN add the details once the roof is fixed in place. 

I’m always a little sorry to see any house project finished, as I then face the dilemma of what to do with the thing.  Fortunately, I did find an alternative way to feed my fascination with my houses without creating too much additional clutter.  I make a drawing of the basic rooms—walls, ceiling and floors, and then scan them into my computer. Then I create an imaginary interior for these houses using Photoshop, which is both my favorite toy and my favorite tool.  Here is the music room  I made for my little yellow Victorian: 


Music Room
Music Room, Yellow Victorian

And here is my blue Florida beach cottage with an appropriately beachy landscape added:

Florida Beach Cottage

Florida Beach Cottage 

I also use the photos of the little houses and create landscaping for them out of photos.  Last year, I made a Christmas card for my fellow Nanowrimo friends, using one of my interiors:

Nano Christmas Card

Nanowrimo Christmas Card

I suppose it’s all a chance to make nicer little houses than I could actually afford to build in real life. But as addictions go, this seems pretty harmless to me.

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My goodness, these are absolutely gorgeous, Shiral ! Your talents amaze me every time you post something you create. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your world.
Those are so very cool! I love the pics with landscapes . . . and your dedication to a fun hobby.
These are fantastic, Shiral, and it was fascinating to read how you made them. A well-deserved EP!
wonderful details! wow
I love these. (and you would love Second Life)
OMG I LOVE THESE! I am a lapsed architect who collects miniature buildings, and I am prone to get over-excited at any form of small structures. But these are really swell. That cat in the window, the music room, the porches... They're all fabulous. That you have the patience to make these out of paper is extremely impressive.
This is beyond delightful! I want to live in the Spanish colonial.

I, too, always envied the delicate Victorian dollhouses, although I never got one. Thank you for bringing back a luscious memory.
Oh my God - such talent and such fun making them. Thanks for sharing Just Jali Smiling.
As a doll house lover from way back, this was enchanting. I love your little houses, and the way you tell us how you make them come to life. I like the yellow Victorian most, and when I saw the music room, well, it was a done deal. Although I am also pretty keen on the beach cottage. I bet people would love to have models made of their real houses, or of houses from their pasts based on photos - childhood homes, homes they're going to have to move out of, grandparents' you need an agent?
And I thought your mosaic table showed talent . . . .

These are just so precious and wonderful, Shiral. Down to the cat in the window! I particularly like the green Victorian: Mrs. P and I always hankered after a house with a turret. But one thing: before you pick up on Ann's suggestion, be sure you read Bell's post on soapmaking!

Is that Chopin I hear coming from the music room? Must be.
Oh Shiral! Squeeeeee! I love these houses!!
Pick me up off the floor. This is phenomenal.~r
What an unusual hobby! You do lovely work. As the former owner of a dollhouse myself, I totally understand the appeal. Thanks for a very interesting and inspiring read.
Wonderful stuff!! Just lovely, Shiral.
I lived in the East Bay and worked in The City for 15 years, and I can testify how authentic those houses are. The Green Victorian looks like cake -- a very intricate cake that would cost a fortune. Beautiful work, Shiral!

What a treat. I love these - thank you, Shiral. Don't you wish you could pick the one you liked the best and voila!!!??
Those are very very cool. I've never known about that kind of craft, but they are delightful. And then you do the photoshop too.
Melissa, this is the greatest!! I especially love the kitty in the window and the music room. Thanks for sharing the creative process too -- so cool.
Shiral, these are beautiful, so detailed and intricate. What about the kitchens...are there teeny bowls of spaghetti and cookies with jimmies in there?
wow!!!! you're obsessive, funny, and even the spambots rate your work.

i'll be back. these are exquisite.
delightful!! What fun you must have with all your projects!!!
Rated for both written work and art
I'm so happy cheapbohemian shared your work.
These are wonderful! I make paper people, so I understand the obsession.
Keep creating : )
Marvelous! Now tell me, which composers are featured on the wall of the music room?
exceptionally pretty, shiral. i love the delicate colors and gingerbread. i would so be cheating on photoshop, though.
Oh my god! So completely cool!
Oh my god! So completely cool!
oh my goodness.....I am so charmed by these and this and you.

I love them.

These are really f'ing cool.
These are absolutely amazing. It's a good thing they don't require cleaning, like real houses do. ;)
Great post. Very entertainning and about your hobbie... Amazing! You have a really great talent there. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your creations with us.
Hugs from Colombia
Wow....I write about politics and get a few polite responses. I write about my obsessive little artistic hobbies or about putting my cat to sleep, and EVERYONE shows up. There's a lesson there somewhwere, I'm sure. Thank you one and all, it's so nice to strike a chord, and bask in adulation.

Lady Miko, you're pretty awesome too! Imagine the fun you and the Mr. could have during a weekend in one of these... if you were both small enough. I'm sure I could conjure up a nice vintage bedroom, though. ;o)

Hi Fusun, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I guess all the times I went to Disneyland and heard "It's a Small World After All" must have rubbed off.

Hi Owl, thanks! =o) It's a lot of fun to put these together, even if I have no clue what to do with them after that.

Hey Cranky, thanks for stopping by. =o) I hadn't anticipated this kind of response when I posted this, but it's sure nice.

Hi Zanelle, thanks. Not for nothing was my High School Art Class nick-name "Details." I think I came out of it better than my friend Sarah Elkind who so named me: I gave her the nick name Squidjigs. (Long story.)

Hi Hyblaen, Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm sure I would love second life. I've avoided it so far, for fear of finding yet another way to diddle away my time. I'm already far too good at that!

Hi Mumbletypeg, well! It's gratifying to get the nod of approval from a lapsed architect, I must say. Paper is just my preferred material. My brother was the potter in the family.

Hi Sparking, so sorry, but I already have dibs on the Spanish Colonial. =o) I just have to find more reliable shrinking pills. Although almost anyone can afford the mortgages on these beauties, I'm afraid their walls are just paper thin.

Jali, thanks for coming by, reading and commenting. =o)

Hi Ann, I had a hunch you'd like the music room. It's got a cello, and everything. So far, I've given these away as gifts, but I know from my brother's years of trying to make a living as a potter, the craft fair scene can be very discouraging. So I haven't made any concerted effort to sell these, for fear it would take over my life.

(But if anybody here would like a little paper house made to their specs, PM me, and we should be able to work something out.)

Hi Pilgrim--Thanks for stopping by. Oh yeah, I read Bell's post about the soapmaking taking over her life. It set off all the alarm gongs!
I had a lot of fun with the green Victorian even though it sometimes made me swear. I especiallly enjoyed making the turret.
And of COURSE it's Chopin wafting out of the Music Room. =o)

Juli, thanks! =o)

Shiral paints a nice, comfy overstuffed chair, picks Joan off the floor and seats her in it.
There, Joan, now don't you feel better? =o)

Hi Alysa, I know, the fascination with miniature worlds is very absorbing. I hope I never lose that pleasure.

Hi Lea, thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. (And if you were to come to dinner, I can promise you, the diningroom is very well lit. It's just that the dishes and cutlery are rather small.)

Lezlie, thanks! I hadn't ever thought of making a house cake... Hmmmmm!!!!

Hi Bonnie, thanks for reading and commenting. Make yourself "at home." =o)

Hi Amanda--Oh yeah. =o) I have expensive taste in housing. I think this is my way of indulging it, since I live in a pretty utilitarian apartment with just enough room for me and the cats.

Hi Bell, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I've never met anyone else who makes little paper houses, although I see from all these comments that their appeal is wider than I thought. Over Christmas 2007, I got two of the best presents ever--a digital camera, and a copy of Photoshop. It's taken me longer to learn to use Photoshop than the camera, but I'm finally becoming a bit skilled at using it. It's my tool and my favorite toy, at once.

L&P, thanks for coming by and commenting. =o) Oh yeah, I grew up in Palo Alto. My sister and I like to take walks around town and look at all the nice neighborhoods there.

Hi Deborah, thanks for reading and commenting!

Hi Greenheron... er, no tiny bowls of spaghetti, yet. But you're right that I need to provide a nice kitchen for one of these houses.

Hi Cheapbohemian, thanks for reading and commenting. It's always nice to have a new reader. =o)

Hi Poorwoman, thanks for reading and commenting. Oh yes, these are great fun to make. If it weren't for the storage issue, I'd have made a small city, by now. "Small" as in, no building would reach higher than an adult's knees. =o)

Hi Rosemary, wow, another new reader! Cool! I just have to have some sort of creative work going on, or I'm just not happy.

Hi Cindy, Thanks for coming by. It took my several tries to learn how to make Origami Cranes, so don't feel bad!

Hi Steve, thanks for coming by. Beethoven's bust is on the book shelf. Liszt and Chopin are the two larger portraits, and Mozart and Schubert are in the itty bitty frames. And that's a Chopin score on the piano's music rack. =o)

Hi Dianaani, thanks for coming by and commenting! It's taken me a long time to use Photoshop to good effect. Now that I've learned the ropes, it's more fun than ever.

Hi Sweetfeet, thanks for coming by and commenting

Hi Persephone, it's nice to have you around OS again! Thanks, and glad you like the houses.

Thanks, Lawless Lawyer. I think they're pretty f'ing cool, too. =o)

Hi Cartouche, oh yeah. They're very low maintenance. No cleaning, no yardwork required. No mortgages and no property tax required. All you really have to do is dust them off once in a while. =o)

Hola Mauricio, Gracias! Nice to have another new reader, and thanks for your comments.
Thank you for sharing these wonderful projects and how you create them! Wow! I am going to send a link to this post to several friends of mine who are artists, immediately. I must! R
I love, love, love your hobby. How great.
You are so talented. These are very cool projects.
Wonderful creativity. And congrats on the EP! Well deserved!