Filed under: Featured, Giveaway with tags: Carmen, Smidge House
I hope you all remember Carmen, because she was responsible for there being a winter holiday giveaway back in December 2010! Carmen, who’s better known as smidge girl online, is the creative mastermind behind Smidge House. She makes fantastic furniture and other fun miniatures and I got to interview her for BlytheLife.com! I was so excited to find out more about Carmen and I hope you all are too!
Hi Carmen! What can you tell us about yourself?
Hiya! Well, my name is Carmen. My dolly handle is smidge girl. I love to read, write, shop, drink coffee, hang out on flickr, and play with dolls! I design and build sixth scale furniture and accessories. The things my dolls don’t steal for themselves usually end up in my etsy shop, Smidge House. I also build furniture and sets (sixth scale) for television and film. I currently live in Chicago with my boyfriend. We have a teeny apartment that is also Smidge House headquarters. It’s seriously overflowing with my supplies and inventory (and okay, dolls, lol) so we’ll have to find a bigger place soon!
What can you share with us about how you discovered Blythe and how you got into crafting for dolls?
Well, I’ve always been obsessed with anything miniature. I was a Barbie freak as a kid, but I was mostly interested in her stuff– I’d always choose a new living room set over a new doll! I eventually “grew up” and stopped playing with dolls, though I didn’t really want to. When I moved here to go to college, there was a gigantic Toys R Us only a few blocks from our dorm. I spent more time there than I did doing homework, lol!
After college, I bounced around doing a gazillion different jobs, but nothing ever made me very happy. I was pretty disappointed, career-wise. Then, a couple of years ago, I stumbled across some photos online of the Barbie Dream Store that I’d had as a kid. I hadn’t thought about dolls in years, but suddenly, it’s all I thought about. (At the time, I had no clue there was a gigantic doll community out there, that felt the same way!) Combining my love of dolls and their stuff, and my total obsession with furniture and design just seemed like a no-brainer! (Now that I’m writing it all down, it seems pretty crazy! Thank goodness I didn’t stop & question myself at the time, lol!) I’ve always been the go-to girl, if you needed to have your furniture put together. I don’t know why people hate doing that! I love it! (But, I really love furniture, so maybe that’s why.) So, I understood how furniture “worked.” Structurally, I mean. So, it was really just a matter of deciding what I wanted to make, and scaling it down! I spent about a year building prototypes, (did I mention I’m a perfectionist?) and then opened Smidge House at the end of 2009.
I stumbled across Blythe soon after, when I discovered my favorite site in the world– Flickr! *happy sigh* I went totally crazy looking at people’s dolls and dollhouses, and some of the first photos I looked at featured Blythe dolls. I’d never seen one before, didn’t know what they were, but I thought they were adorable and amazing! Even though they had enormous heads and crazy colored hair and eyes, somehow they looked so real! Their personalities just brought them to life, like no doll I’d seen before! I was in awe of all the creativity Blythe folks used in customizing, sewing, and setting up their houses. I never thought I’d own one, (I’m kind of a square, and they were too whimsical for me, I thought, lol) but I loved looking at photos. Well, eventually, after some gentle nudging from a dolly friend, (I like to blame other people for my doll habit, whenever I can!) Blythe won me over. I mean, really, how can you resist? Although I prefer to build realistic furniture, I now work in “Blythe Mode” too. Having my girls around reminds me that making more kooky, funky pieces is fun too. Blythe has really lightened and brightened my life! Ack! That sounds so dorky! But it’s true!
I love miniatures and I know it takes a lot of work to make something that’s accurate, but small. What’s one of your biggest challenges with crafting miniatures?
Truly, my biggest challenge is only having two hands, lol! I have so many plans and ideas that I can’t write them down fast enough, let alone make them fast enough! Since I’m only one person, things progress much slower than I’d like! I’m also a (slightly crazy) perfectionist, so I obsess over every detail, which makes things take even longer. I’d love to have an assistant one day, but I’m a total control freak, so I’m not sure how well that would work out. Maybe they could just iron my fabric. Very carefully. Or leave my fabric alone and just do the dishes instead. 😉
And finding just the right fabric, and in the right scale, can be a challenge too. It would make more sense to design things around fabric I already have in my overflowing stash, but that would just be too easy! Sometimes I’ll create a room in my head, and then spend weeks, or months, trying to track down the fabric I imagined. (Which more than likely doesn’t exist!) But, since I dearly love to fabric shop, it’s a fun challenge!
During the Holiday Giveaway, Sioux asked if you had any tips to share for people who want to make their own doll furniture, as well as what kind of materials you use?
Thanks for the question, Sioux! If you’re interested in building doll furniture, I suppose taking a look at your own (human-sized) furniture might be a helpful place to start. Flip your sofa over, and see how the legs are attached. Unzip the cushions and see what’s inside. Just by poking around, you can get a good idea of how things are built, how the pieces go together. But furniture and design are so subjective, there’s really no wrong way to go. A chair can look like anything, a sofa can be any color, tables come in all shapes and sizes, you know? I think the best tip I can give is just to give it a try, if it’s something that excites you! That goes for anything, really. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and just put something together. If it’s awful, you can always toss it out and try again, no one has to know! Before I settle on a design I like, I might end up with half a dozen prototypes that are a little too tall, or too wide, or don’t have quite the right type of legs, before I figure it out. Luckily, my dolls don’t mind decorating with the reject pieces!
As far as materials that I use, my upholstered furniture is made with actual upholstery foam. I buy huge rolls of the stuff, in all different thicknesses, that pretty much take up my whole closet. I used to have a shoe collection. Now I have a foam collection, lol! I typically choose the wood I use for tables, desks, etc, during the design process. Depending on what I need, I might use plywood, basswood, or anything in between. Home Depot and Joann’s are a couple of my favorite places to hang out. You never know what you’ll find, or what it might work for. I’m sort of a hoarder, so I like to have all sorts of things around that I can choose from. My fabric stash is out of control. The only way I can keep it semi-manageable is to use what I buy as quickly as I can. Sadly, I can shop way faster than I can work, so I think I’ll forever be buried in fabric! I like to buy vintage fabrics when I can, just so I create things with more unique prints, not just off the rack stuff that you can get anywhere. Of course, that works against me in a way, because once I use it up, that’s it forever. I have a terrible time making that first cut in a fabric I love, because I just don’t want to use it up!
How much time out of a typical week do you dedicate to crafting for Smidge House?
Oh dear. I easily dedicate 80 hours a week to Smidge House. Often times more. It is my full time job, and I have to say, I am a horrible boss! I almost never give myself a day off. There are a million things to keep on top of, whether it’s building or prepping furniture, designing new pieces, shopping for supplies, taking photographs, doing research, marketing, answering emails and phone calls… the list goes on and on. And that’s without a major project going on. When I stop to think about it, it’s a little overwhelming, so I just try to keep moving!
On the one hand, most of what I do doesn’t really seem like work. I get to use a large variety of skills, things I never thought would come in handy– like geometry!– so it’s definitely never boring. But, a lot of it is actual physical labor, using power tools and whatnot, and those days can be exhausting. Sometimes I’m editing photos until my eyes cross! Nevertheless, I love what I do! If I had a different job, I would be doing this in all my spare time, so I’m amazingly lucky to be able to do it in my spare time, and during business hours. At least, that’s how I try to explain it to people who tell me I’m a workaholic! That makes sense, right?
Honestly, it can be a real struggle to turn off the work day when there’s no one there to tell you to go home. I try to make a conscious effort to shut things down at night, at least for a little while, and to not forget about my boyfriend! But, at least a few nights a week, I’m rocking around the clock, working on things. I think when you’re trying to grow a new business, that’s just the way things go at first. I embrace my sleepless nights wholeheartedly– they’ve led to lots of great things! I’d be happy if I never had to sleep!
What would you say is your biggest success so far with making miniatures?
I’ve been incredibly lucky in the last year, and have been able to be a part of some amazing things. I would probably consider my first television job to be my biggest success, so far. Last spring I was approached by a production designer from HBO about building some set pieces for them. It was an aspect of sixth scale work that I had really not even thought about, and they contacted me based of photos of my work I had posted on flickr. So, being asked to work on the show (Brick Novax’s Diary, a recurring short on HBO’s Funny or Die) and successfully completing all the work on a tight budget and an even tighter deadline was beyond any success I could have imagined, especially for my first year. It still sort of feels like it happened to someone else!
What has been the most challenging single project you have made so far?
One thing I was asked to make for the Brick Novax project was a 70’s era sleazy motel room. The set included a King sized bed, with bedding, a sofa, a desk, a dresser, a table with four chairs, and a console television. I had 10 days to research 70’s era design, buy supplies, (including tracking down just the right retro and properly scaled fabrics!) design, build, and scrap a few prototypes, and ship the finished pieces. It was a challenging deadline to say the very least! It involved more than a few of those sleepless nights, and I worked pretty much up until UPS knocked on my door to tear the packages away from me, but I did get it done!
If you describe Smidge House in 140 characters or less, how would you describe it?
Ugh! I’m so blabby, this is hard! (Those characters don’t count, lol!) Smidge House is where my passions for furniture and 1/6 unite. It’s awesome to be able to share some of my work with the world, via my shop!
What do you think has been the most unique item that you have made so far?
Well, since I like to make everything as realistic as possible, I don’t know if I’ve ever made anything particularly crazy. But, I guess the boxes of Christmas ornaments I made were pretty unique. I made the separated boxes, and handmade each individual ornament, using beads, wire, charms, etc. Each different ornament (about 300 in all) was unique! (And incredibly time consuming, which is why I’ve retired that item!)
How does it make you feel when you see things that you’ve made in photos taken by other people, either on Flickr or their blog or websites?
It’s amazing! I screen capture every single thing, lol! I’m beyond dorky when it comes to that, I think it’s the coolest thing in the world! It’s awesome to know that people are using and enjoying their goodies, but to see how every piece fits into each person’s individual world, to see how they decorate with or around it, to see their dolls enjoying it– it’s just fantastic! It’s such a huge job perk!
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me, Carmen! Just one last question, if you could give any advice at all to someone who’s either new to the Blythe hobby or to crafting for Blythe, what advice would you give to them?
Thanks so much for asking me, Michelle, and for keeping such a wonderful site.
I’m still somewhat of a Blythe newbie, but I suppose my advice would be this. I was beyond intimidated when it came to joining in, because there’s just so much to know about Blythe! Really, someone could write a textbook. (And I would totally read it!) I didn’t want to be one of those people who wore a band t-shirt just because they liked the t-shirt, and didn’t know who the band was, you know? I felt like I would be a big poser if I bought a Blythe just because I wanted one, and didn’t know every single thing about them first.
BlytheLife.com really was a big reminder for me that collecting Blythe isn’t a job, it’s fun! I still don’t know the difference between all the different head molds, and I can’t name every doll on sight. But you know what? It doesn’t affect how much I enjoy my dolls. The people in the Blythe community are some of the nicest, sweetest, most helpful people I’ve ever met, and now I can’t imagine that I was ever so nervous to join in!
One incredibly lucky person will be winning this super cute sofa and the two accompanying cushions made by Carmen of Smidge House!
You can get up to seventeen (17) entries for this giveaway draw and you can enter until Saturday February 26th 2011 at 11:59pm PST. The draw will be held on Sunday February 27th 2011 and the winner will be announced on BlytheLife.com. Remember to use a valid email address for all comments. If you win, your email will be forwarded to Carmen for arranging shipment of the prize.
Please only use one email address per person, those using multiple email addresses for more entries will be disqualified.
Mandatory Entry: Comment below about the interview with Carmen! This is worth 1 entry into the giveaway.
Bonus Entry #1: Tweet about the contest! Please retweet the following once per day from your public Twitter account! (If you look below, there is a box for you to include your Twitter username, if you do, I can easily verify your bonus entry!) Each tweet is 1 entry into the giveaway for a maximum of 9 entries into the giveaway.
Check out the @blythelifecom interview with @smidgegirl and the awesome giveaway! http://bit.ly/fnGvpw
Bonus Entry #2: Follow Carmen’s Twitter account, @smidgegirl! This is worth 1 entry.
Bonus Entry #3: Follow the Smidge House RSS feed! This is worth 1 entry.
Bonus Entry #4: Blog about the contest! Be sure to include some details about the contest and include links to BlytheLife.com, this interview/giveaway page and to the Smidge House blog. For 1 blog entry, this is worth 5 entries into the giveaway! You must comment below with the URL to your blog post.