Tea Time at the Castle.

This is where we left things last week, when I was half-way to bringing this castle (above) into the real world:

This is where things get weird. Namely, what to do about the back-end of the structure:

You can tell that the person who drew this original illustration of a castle was only thinking in 2-D, that is, thinking only about jamming in a collection of towers without considering whether or not the castle was actually feasible.

The way I figured it, the only way to get all these towers together in a structure was to build them around a very peculiarly-shaped platform:

Trial and error, cutting and gluing and trimming, was the only way to come up with a template for this peculiarly-shaped platform. (Thank you, Dear Reader Sharon, for telling me about templates!) And this is how I turned that flat pattern into a 3-D platform:

I know. I’m a genius. I have all kinds of skills that are not worth a dime in the real world.

While this area is still exposed — that is, before I close it up by inserting the final two towers — I have to make sure it is safe for all the imaginary people who inhabit this castle. It needs a fence of some sort to go around it:

If you remember the design of this castle. . .  (here’s a reminder):
. . . the tall round tower in the back needs a topper, a cone-shaped topper. These are rather easy to make, if you get the size right. The trick is to draw a big enough circle. Here’s the pattern:

Cut along the blue lines.

For this topper, I used a jar as my tracing guide:

Wrap the circle into a cone, like this:

Voila: Topper, installed:

Oh crap. I just remembered that I didn’t take a photo of how I installed that second round tower next to the first round tower. All I did was glue it on top of the platform, which was about the easiest thing about this entire castle.

Wait. I changed my mind about this topper. I decided that this tower needed a snazzier topper, so I found an illustration that had a big blue sky and I made a new topper.  I also cut out a doorway from another illustration and glued it onto the topper so two little ladies could exit to enjoy the view:

I made a half-tower for the side bit (because it’s there in my original tower illustration inspiration) and that’s where I put the King and his valet:

The finished castle looks like this:

The fun part was finding the doo-dads to make windows and embellishments.

Which, except for its being well-made, is not a success. The original castle is tall and skinny and smooshed together. It had a quirkiness that appealed to me.  My castle is not smooshed together. The proportions are off. My goal for the next castle is to make it look more like the inspiration.

In the future, I am going to have to — heart be still — take measurements.

I decided that, since the castle was not a success, I had to make the display a lot more interesting. So now it looks like this:

Any old random book that has a loose binding will open nice and flat. . . or as flat as a book can get. You still have to make adjustments. This is the castle’s front door BEFORE:

And this is the castle’s front door AFTER:

I had wanted to make the castle look as if it were erupting from the innards of this book but that takes  — dare I say it?? — advance planning. I will devise that for my next project, the one were I also measure out the proportions ahead of time.

I did manage to drop the trees and the flower pot into the text by using a scalpel (available in packs of 20 from amazon.com and which I happen to have already because who doesn’t have scalpels laying around the house?) to cut into several layers of pages:

I have one more tid-bit of info about castle-making, if you can stand it, but first, let’s go get a cup of tea so we can take a break from Castles and Such.

And by  “Castles and Such”, you know I mean “The sense of failure that lurks behind every creative project which is why I will probably have to have another go at making this castle the right way “, and by “tea”, you know I mean “wine”.

I was in the library two days ago and I found this object at the water cooler:
Oops. I am holding it upside-down. THIS is how it should be seen:

Castle tower topper, anyone?

So of course I had to find out what made this perfect castle tower topper tick, so I un-wrapped it:

Now I have a template for all future castle tower toppers. Yay me.

I like the heat of Summer as much as the next person, but this weekend is going to be rainy and finally cool here on the north shore of Long Island. . . again, Yay me! You know where I’ll be: knee deep in paper and glue re-making the tall, skinny, smooshy castle. Or drinking wine. One or the other. I’ll let you know when we meet back here next Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


20 Comments, RSS

  1. Casey

    I want to be one of those ladies that lives in that castle. I love love love the way it perches atop the book. So fairy tale! By the way how big are those figures? They look to be the size of a grain of rice. Now I know why you use tweezers to do what you do.

    I know I’ll never make one of these myself but it is fun to watch you do it, the same way I would never remodel a house but I love watching the guys on HGTV do it. Hey! Did I just invent a new TV channel? Starring Vivian Swift and her paper castles?

    I can’t wait to see the one that”erupts” from the pages of a book.

    • Vivian

      I measured those figures for you and they are 3/4 of an inch tall. And then, because it seems I have nothing better to do, I measured some rice from my cupboard and, in terms of California organic jasmine, that’s about 2 1/2 grains.

      Thank you for asking.

  2. Well, this is about as cool as it comes. I need to read part one, having been in the land of limited internet last week. But it looks fabulous and I do love the revised platform and the trees emerging. There is something about measuring and being “straight” on it all that makes me crazy, so I think this would have been a tremendous challenge. But it’s perfection. Magical and yes, wonderful details. I can see why those are the most fun. And isn’t it a relief, after a hard round of painting with a goal and plenty of pages to do, to have something so creative still, but very different? I love it! Now, go drink wine!

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Jeanie! The best part is that you can’t have a bad day or bad thoughts when you are making a castle. And every thing has to be made from scratch, so it’s the best kind of 3-D puzzle, too.

  3. Bunny

    Truly amazing, this is really advanced use of a pair of scissors! Why should you have to choose, between making a castle, or drinking wine. Whenever I have a task at hand, from trimming branches in the yard, or edging the sidewalk, or even making a compost bin with power tools, I ALWAYS have my go cup of wine close at hand!
    Halfway through summer, time to get out there and enjoy!

    • Vivian

      I will ave to include that o my resume: Advanced Scissor Skills. In a perfect world, it would be possible to drink wine And make a castle at the same time.

  4. Wow, that’s amazing. And inspiring. And if I wasn’t in the middle of selling my house and trying to move, with 90% of my belongings in boxes, I’d be snipping away and wielding my X-acto knife too! Dang.

    Not that you need anything more challenging, but how about a castle that erupts from a moat? Maybe cut a moat-sized hole several pages deep in the support book and paste suitably watery pages down in it before plonking the castle in the middle? And a drawbridge! It wants a drawbridge! With people on horseback crossing over! And pennants on top of the towers! And Rapunzel! And just everything you can possibly imagine associated with castles.

    For even more inspiration, go to google images and type “castles Alan Lee”. And see if you can find the corresponding book. Trying to recreate those in paper will make you crazy of course but if anyone can do it, you can! Can’t wait to see your next one. What fun!

    • Vivian

      MOAT!!!! What a genius idea!!! I must make a moat soon!

      And I just bought my copy of Alan Lee’s castles. I guess I’m going to learn all about castles now. Many thanks for both great ideas.

      You’re moving? Do Truman and Pippen know about this???

      • Alex

        Glad you like the moat idea — can’t wait to see what you come up with!

        Moving out of Seattle, where the density is 8,000 people per square mile, to the town I grew up in, Richland WA, density 1400 per square mile. Seattle rainfall=37″ a year; Richland=7″ a year. A 3-bedroom, 1-1/2 bath home in decent shape in Seattle: $700,000. A 3-bedroom, 1-1/2 bath home in decent shape in Richland: $225,000. I did the math. I’m outta here!

        Truman and Pippin have been duly informed and have rendered their opinion that the mighty Columbia River, which runs through Richland, provides perfectly fine wading spots on hot summer days. Fingers crossed, we will soon find a new home for them, one where they can each have their own bedroom!

  5. Susan

    The castles are works of art. So clever. Love the added people and plantings. Sounds like a great weekend of wine and castles. Happy days.

  6. Leslie

    Bravo! I love the light touch of refreshing color. Most castles have scandals buried or lurking, but by creating one with no baggage, yours exudes innocence rather than intrigue. Lovely.

    • Vivian

      Ooooh, what a lovely thought. Vivian’s Unhauted Castles

      P.S. If you ever have the urge to type “unhaunted”, you will ave to fight auto correct. It want you to type either “unheated’ or “undaunted”. Come to think of it, both are also true of castles.

      • Leslie

        That’s what I call technological serendipity! However, I share your resentment that a chip can edit meaning as well as spelling.
        On happier note, I am rereading The Phantom Tollbooth (illustrated by Jules Feiffer), and discovered an illustration of the castle-walled and turreted town of Dictionopolis. I gasped as I turned the page.

  7. Tucson Tana

    First, I need to thank you. I love your books and I adore your blog and I want you to know how very much I admire and appreciate you.
    Second, as a member of PaperWorks here in Tucson (a group of artists who do amazing things with paper), I suggest you google “Art Made From Books” and check out the images. Once you begin to research the astonishingly complex creations other people like yourself are designing, you might want to start a group of your own. And who knows — it might even help you to sell some of those boring old books in your store.
    Anyway, sincere thanks for all you (and your hilarious herd of cats) do to entertain me every Friday.

    • Vivian

      What a marvelous idea, to be the founder of a group of Paper Artists. I really had no idea that such groups existed.

      And thank you for the tip re: Art Made From Books. there are people Out There doing very far-out things with books. Who-da thunk it? Not me, so that’s why I depend upon the smartness of my Dear Readers.

  8. Kirra

    You are a genius! And I love this castle even if it’s a bit squishy and not tall and elegant I’ll still live there. Love the flowers near the front door.

    Unlike you I don’t have a 20 pack of scalpels from amazon at home, but thanks for the life tip as it may come in handy for future.

    Happy weekend wine drinking in the cooler weather (it’s rainy and cold here but we also get sunshine which is nice).

    • Vivian

      Sometimes I drink wine and then I go do something with a scalpel. Minor surgery, that is. Those things are really, really sharp.

  9. I am so impressed by your paper castle that I would like to order fourteen of them to give to children in need. How much do you charge per castle and can you please add a couple of women in burqas?

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