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Welcome to Santa's Compound by Marylou Johnson
Over the last few years, I've had the pleasure of sharing many photos of Marylou Johnson's wonderful Christmas scenes. This year she exhibited the full range of buildings and items for her display "Santa's Compound" at the 2014 Seattle Miniature Show. In the pages which follow I've set up a range of photo details of all the miniatures and building scenes. Apologies for the reflections in some of the photos and for the graininess at large sizes. Dark hotel conference... rooms are not ideal for photographing miniatures. You can click on the photos to see them in a larger format.
To start, the photo on this page shows the front of the full display, with Santa's workshop (first featured in the Fall 2008 Seattle Dollhouse Show), Santa's Sleigh, Rudy's Red Nose Cafe, a gingerbread cart and the Reindeer Barn and Elf quarters.
This exhibit is a great example of why you should plan the scope and size of a display from the beginning. You never know where your collection may lead you! Take a look at the article on choosing a theme and a storyline and as you look through these photos, try to apply the concepts of theme and storyline to the way you view this amazing set of related miniatures by Marylou Johnson.Continue to 2 of 14 below.
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Front View of Santa's Workshop by Marylou Johnson
This lovely building sets the tone for the enchantments which follow as you explore the miniature of Santa's compound. Highly detailed with lots of whimsical touches, the acorn lights, the silver bell at the front door, and wood trim make this a building with a great deal of natural charm. The exterior stucco and the highly detailed roof set this building apart from the ordinary. For a side view of this building see the photo in the Fall 2008 Seattle Dollhouse Show Photo Gallery.
To go... along with this photo gallery here's a comment from Marylou Johnson about her display.
Hello Lesley, I wanted to thank you for the wonderful pictures and write up on my Santa Compound. It was nice to see that you understood what I was trying to do, to show Santa and his elves as workers that are there all year long, not just during the Christmas season. And where Santa has been seen before with "Christmas Green" and "Christmas Red" colors, I wanted to show that he doesn't live with that the rest of the year. He is not flashy, he isn't looking for fame, he is just a happy little man, who with his elves, work all year to make our children's Christmas special and in doing so, makes ours special, too. Thank you for all your nice words. MarylouContinue to 3 of 14 below.
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The Busy Santa's Workshop
This photo of the interior of Marylou Johnson's Santa's workshop shows the wonderful detail she has built into her miniatures. It is very hard to realize that this is a dollhouse scale display.
The position of Santa's desk under the front window with the giant work list showcases the main items of the list, and the size, without interfering with the interior. Placing the tools against the wall, including the mainstay glue bottle, lets you see them clearly and suggests their serious... use while adding a touch more of the plain wood trim to pull your eye along that wall.
Finally, there is the overflowing workbench with toys, paint, paintbrushes and stools that suggest lots of elves are involved. The cupboard on the wall adjacent to the tools and the bench is so full, the door has cracked open just enough to see a range of toys ready for finishing or shipping.
Notice how the workbench jumble is laid out so you instantly recognize well-known toys, taking advantage of a layout which repeats blocked shapes and color to pull your eye past every item in this busy scene.Continue to 4 of 14 below.
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Center View of Santa's Workshop
Here's the center view of Santa's Workshop. This isn't a huge display space, and it is broken up by a window and door on the end. As you see it here, the walls have been used to full effect to suggest storage of parts, and a lot of activity that requires reference books, bits of wood, toy parts and trims. The lighting placement is natural but highlights particular areas of the display to draw your attention.
Keeping the colors to a natural, muted range, gives a sense of age and... purpose to the room. Underlining the workshop table with a dark rug (love the northern theme!) helps to hold the stools and workbench together as a unit in the long view in. The green of the traditional work lamps is echoed in the train engine on the workbench and repeated again via the leaves of the plant in the window above Santa's desk.Continue to 5 of 14 below.
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Moving Your Eye Into the Workshop
Careful planning and attention to detail mean no area is wasted in these detailed miniature displays. At the edge of the open back of the workshop scene, the position of two stuffed toys breaks up the flat end wall of the cupboard, while leading your eye to the collection of toys overflowing the cupboard which are visible through the crack of the open door. This tiny vignette on the end of the workshop scene also helps to draw your attention to the rug, which acts a bit like a roadway to pull... your eye back to Santa's desk at the back of the scene.Continue to 6 of 14 below.
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Toned Down Sleigh at Santa's Compound
The colors of all the pieces of "Santa's compound" have to fit within a simple, natural range which suggests a classic, well-worn pieces. Instead of making the sleigh "Coca-Cola red", it's been given a warm barn red traditional milk paint color, tied into the door and window trims of the other building, while suggesting it has been around longer than you might expect. The brown and ochre tones in the upholstery and throw add to the sense of a lot of use while balancing... the natural wood trim of the sleigh and runners.
Take a look again at the front entrance to the main workshop to see how Christmas colors can be suggested without Christmas decorations. The tiny dot of red near the door is a thermos, set beside a snow shovel and across from a scene of cutting wood. Christmas colors, work, cozy fires to come, all without the usual overkill of seasonal decorations.Continue to 7 of 14 below.
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Rudy's Red Nose Cafe
I first saw Marylou's German Market Stall at the Fall 2010 Seattle Dollhouse Show. Her careful use of texture and color add a lot to this display, with the light up reindeer noses underlining the name of the piece.
Notice how the two baskets, one for poinsettias and one for cups, soften the edges of the display and take your eye of the display, giving it a sense of being wider by breaking up the strong vertical lines.
Displaying a collection of gingerbread along with natural toned baskets and... stoneware, keeps the display color tones to the range seen in the rest of Santa's compound, and helps to underline the concept of working with a palette of colors as you build you collection.
As you view this piece, notice what attracts your eye to various areas. How does that help you understand what you are seeing? In your imagination play around with rearranging some of the pieces of this scene. How would it look without the Christmas garland? Move the various cookies with white icing around the display, how does that affect the balance of the scene?Continue to 8 of 14 below.
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Gingerbread Seller's Cart
Another section of "Santa's Compound", the gingerbread seller's cart, is again, toned beautifully into the background display. This time, cellophane wrap, touches of glitter and gold help to set the various goodies apart from their background. This type of small street cart is a great way to show off a varied yet related collection of treasures. Here the use of color and the draping of larger items on the base of the cart. Setting the bright yellow marzipan items next to the... red of the wheel pulls your eye to them without breaking up the harmony of the rest of the browns, aged reds, and whites on the cart.Continue to 9 of 14 below.
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Planning To Cover All Spaces, The Reindeer Barn
The reindeer barn is an example of dedicated attention to detail and planning. As part of Santa's compound, the need for a reindeer enclosure is evident, but why a barn, and what are those extra windows in the loft for? The double arched doors are a great showcase for one of the reindeer, whose pose works perfectly with the arch of the door. Keeping the exterior from being too plain there is a whimsical touch with the jar. Is it full of reindeer treats? Further exploration of the building... is required!
The style of the building is an interesting reference to old world building styles of Scandinavia and Germany and I love the look of the thick roof tiles, which remind me of pine cone scales. They add wonderful texture and pattern to the buildings.Continue to 10 of 14 below.
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Closeup of the Reindeer Barn Entrance
The reindeer barn showcases the expected tack and items for the care and feeding of reindeer. The sets of bells hung on the stall divider catch the light from the ceiling, while the lanterns set a cozy 'hand tended' tone. By placing the other items on the sides of the door, the viewer sees contents and needs to look carefully, around, while the view of the reindeer remains uncluttered by background objects.
The texture of the stucco finish on the building exterior is a great foil to the... weathered beams. The aged 'barn red' trims work well with the window box trees and the silver bell to remind you that this is a scene associated with Christmas.Continue to 11 of 14 below.
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Controlling the Views Into the Barn
Here's the back view of Marylou Johnson's reindeer barn. I love how instead of leaving it wide open, she has given us almost a 'skylight' view through past the beams into the loft and set the reindeer mangers outside inviting viewers to "meet" any reindeer who might poke their heads through to feed. The texture and feel of the piece frame the activities and the immensely detailed model in the attic.
Keeping the building as a frame, rather than leaving it completely... open, causes viewers to bend down and peer into every corner. This piece is very definitely a miniature set up to be explored slowly and completely by the viewer. Although you can easily see into the entire loft, looking through the rafters reminds you of the setting in a way a fully open roof would not.
Although the reflections make it a bit difficult to see. Look carefully to see why the front of the building has two sets of roof windows. Great planning and wonderful display space use!Continue to 12 of 14 below.
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Detail of the Mantle on the Left of the Elves Barn Quarters
This is the view across the right end of the loft of Marylou Johnson's reindeer barn in the "Santa's Compound" display she exhibited at the spring 2014 Seattle Dollhouse show. The center table jumps out as a work space for elves wrapping gifts. I love the Scandinavian style bunks built in beneath the loft windows, each with carved mountains to separate it from the next bunk.
Things to look for in this photo include the fact that the toys on the viewing edge are turned towards... the elf workbench. This makes it seem like you are looking into a setting elves actually inhabit and is a change from the way most of us would naturally think to show off our miniatures.
The table by the fire with the bowl of treats and coffee/cocoa gives us an idea of the lifestyle of the elves and adds to the warm, cozy feel you get when peering into their world. I also like how these elves are leaving their stockings up for Santa to fill. The position of some of the toys on the floor also suggests a lot of testing! (The train in the type of position a child playing with it would leave it in).Continue to 13 of 14 below.
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View Into The Lives of Santa's Elves
Here's a higher view into the living spaces of the elves. Every bunk has a different collection which showcases a bit of each elf's personality. There's even an open chip bag on one bunk!
The consistent bedding, although arranged a bit differently on each bunk, works well as a backdrop, continuing the tan and aged red colors that work so well on the other sections of "Santa's compound". Even the bedding adds to the story. While the majority of bunks are neatly kept, there... is one elf who appears to be a bit more 'random' than the others. The stars, moon, and mountains on the bunk dividers are a great decorative touch, simple and in keeping with the overall theme while adding to the impact and finish of the display. This is an area for creative people.Continue to 14 of 14 below.
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Door Wall of Elves Loft
Here's the door end of the elves' loft in Marylou Johnsons' "Santa's Compound". It seems they have a keg of beer? with mugs kept carefully above. All manner of wonderful toys and books line this space, with the wrapping station working as a clever divider between the elves' living space and the collection of toys ready for wrapping. This truly is an enchanting set of miniatures assembled by a masterful observer and craftsman. Look carefully for the focal points.