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Creative Competition 2014 – 3rd Place in Full

January 23rd, 2015

Having brought you the winner and runner up in full with lots of lovely images, we’re pleased to now share the 3rd place winner for the 2014 Creative Competition. Read on to see how Viki McDonnell created her gallery.


Viki takes us through the plan and build in her own words.

This project was created from the Retreat Kit which required little structural alteration as my intention was to create a streamlined art gallery downstairs and, by contrast, a somewhat chaotic studio upstairs.  Inspiration came from “Shanty Man” from Shetland who has kindly given me permission to photograph (and bonsai) some of his works to hang in the ‘Exhibition’.  A Preview of the Exhibition is the subject of my entry.

The Gallery, which has lighting throughout, features ‘close-circuit television’ in the left-hand corner and a security alarm on the right side.  Table is set up with drinks for guests attending Preview, together with Visitors’ Book.  The bench is home-made;  overhead light strip was made from single spots glued on to a strip of wood.

Meanwhile in the studio the lady artist is completing a still life.  The still life picture was found first and then was recreated.  The most difficult part of the reconstruction was to get the wedge of cheese shaped as shown in the original picture!  [I used real cheese to begin with but it shrivelled over time so I settled on using white chocolate.  However, having spent 45 minutes getting it to the right shape I inadvertently ate it (duh!) and had to start all over again.]  The painting storage unit is a bookcase turned on its side and the painting table is just a block of wood.  Some of the clobber in the studio has been purchased commercially and some of it (paint pots, brushes, easel, palette) are homemade.

The Gallery has been placed in a forest setting and features a plant sale, a two-sided ‘Welcome’ board, direction signs, and litter bin (lid of curry jar came in handy and was the exact diameter of the wooden container I glued it to.)

All in all it was a good-fun project to attempt and, as usual, the most difficult part was deciding how to photograph it, taking the actual photographs and then selecting the best ones.  At one point I left the Gallery outside and when I returned to it the sun had melted the glue and the roof was hanging off.  Didn’t occur to me it could get that hot.  Another fine mess but fortunately repairable!


Here are Viki’s pictures – enjoy!


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Creative Competition 2nd Place in Full!

January 21st, 2015

Here we have our second instalment of the winners from the more recent Creative Competition. This is our 2nd place winner, Betty Melbourne and is her take on a writing hut, for Tolkien. In her own words here’s the story of her house

When I thought about entering this year’s Creative Competition I wanted to recreate a writing hut. However J.R.R. Tolkien (of Lord of the Rings and ‘The Hobbit’ fame), who was the writer I wanted to use, never had a writing hut. Despite this I decided to get really creative and make the writing hut he should have had!

I chose the Summer House kit, as I felt this one fitted the idea in my head the best. I began the transformation by painting the outside walls with an interpretation of one of Tolkien’s own illustrations from ‘The Hobbit’ – The Elven king’s Gate – with the distant entrance on the back wall of the building and the surrounding forest, along the side walls. For the front wall with the doors, I used a printed version of the Gate to Moria from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ with the instruction “Speak friend and enter” written in elvish on the front of the porch. (I think Tolkien would have been quite welcoming!)

The hut itself is mounted on a baseboard representing a quiet corner of his garden surrounded with grasses (made from pine needles), moss and stones. At the side of the porch is a planter, which I made from lolly sticks, containing Tolkien’s own supply of Longbottom Leaf tobacco (beloved of all Hobbits!). The plants were made from silk flowers, and hanging from the porch is the last crop of tobacco drying nicely! (tissue paper dipped in coffee!) On the porch, as well as his muddy wellingtons, is a little baize topped table and a camp stool where he can sit and enjoy a pipe of tobacco while contemplating the next part of his stories. Hanging from various hooks around the porch are Boromir’s horn, Gimli’s axe and Legolas’ bow (kindly made by a friend) with arrows in a leather quiver made from an old leather glove!

The interior of the hut resembles what Tolkien’s study looked like based on a variety of photographs. It is furnished with a roll top desk, where he would create his stories, complete with a handmade inkstand, blotter and the essential pipe and ashtray as well as his original designs for the front covers of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. He is obviously in the middle of composing the next chapter but all does not seem to be going well if the contents of the waste paper basket and the surrounding floor is anything to go by! Next to the desk is his briefcase (more leather from my old glove!) ready for when he leaves for his lecturing duties at the University. The table against the back wall is where he would create the illustrations and maps that are a feature of his books, and the walls are covered with examples of his work. Next to the table, on one side, is his trusty radio, to keep up with current affairs, and on the other is a cup of tea (probably provided by Mrs Tolkien through the handy hatch!) and Gandalf’s distinctive pipe.

Opposite the desk is a bookcase full to overflowing with the many and varied books (all carefully constructed from free “printies”) that he would need to support his writing, with one or two of his own tucked in there! On top can be seen rolled up maps waiting to be sent to the publishers to be included in the next book and leaning against the lower shelves is his portfolio of artwork. The shelf around the room holds his clock (so he knows when it’s tea time!), more books, (including his own first editions), the box that Galadriel gave to Sam in Rivendell, another pipe and his jar of Longbottom Leaf tobacco. By the door is a barrel (similar to those which Bilbo used to help the dwarves escape from the elves in The Hobbit!) which holds the essential umbrella, a walking stick and of course Gandalf’s staff!  On the back of the doors Tolkien has fastened an elvish alphabet for easy reference and translations of the poem about the rings from The Lord of the Rings. I have tried to combine reality and fantasy to create the sort of environment in which I feel Tolkien would have been comfortable, surrounded by evidence of his fantasy world yet still firmly in the real world with his university and publishing commitments. This project has been a real labour of love, much of the contents being handmade, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of its construction.

And here are the full set of images of Betty’s work, we’re sure you’ll find it as inspiring and clever as we did!

10_tolkien_at_his_desk 13_tolkiens_briefcase 14_the_elvish_alphabet_and_one_ring_poem 1_back_showing_the_central_part_of_the__elvenkings_gate 19_radio_and_waste_paper_bin 16_portfolio_of_art_work 7_drying_tobacco 4_front_doors_showing_the_gate_to_moria

9_view_of_inside_from_above 7_drying_tobacco   3_the_painted_right_hand_side 2_the_painted_left_hand_side 25_me_and_my_entry 24_work_table_with_cup_of_tea 23_pipe_rack_sams_box_anf_gandalfs_pipe 22_first_day_covers_of_the_lord_of_the_rings 21_a_copy_of_the_hobbit 20_the_clock18_the_chair_seat_embroidered_with_the_eye_of_mordor 17_the_work_table13_tolkiens_briefcase 12_sketches_for_the_covers_for_the_lord_of_the_rings 11_tolkiens_desk



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