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The Village Hall Veterinary Centre – Our Creative Competition 3rd Prize winner!

September 11th, 2010

Amanda Stalker, from Alfreton in Derbyshire, is the third place winner of our Creative Competition 2010 thanks to her amazing Village Hall Veterinary Centre.  Not only was it one of the most realistic entries we had, but the story Amanda sent with her entry, really bought it life.  We will let Amanda take over from here and tell the story in her own words.  We have divided it up over a few separate blogs to make sure we do it justice!


Historic vernacular buildings:

The two loves of my life (apart from my riding school instructor husband Simon and my two beautiful boys) are animals and old buildings!  On a summer evening you’ll most likely find me rambling around the back lanes and fields of Oakerthorpe, Derbyshire, admiring the ruins of ancient cottages and the remains of tumbledown manor houses.  Surmising who might have lived there in times past, I can almost hear their voices.  For me, the people are as important as the buildings, so my own model for this competition is populated by local characters going about their daily routine.

The exterior of my model shows a mid-nineteenth  century red brick façade with a slate roof.  The round-topped windows and empty bell-tower for a single bell, tall gables and a wide front porch are typical of an old chapel or school house, which has now been found a new use.  In local communities where I live it is not unusual to find Victorian chapels being used as community venues.  So the Village Hall Veterinary Centre concept is just one step beyond that idea.  I decided the original building would be a Methodist chapel dating from 1845, which has been used as a village hall for Peasdon, a village in Derbyshire which I have created, between 1963 and 1979.  It was then redundant for a few years before being revived as a veterinary practice in 1999.  They celebrated the Millennium in architectural style by adding a newly-gilded weather-cock to the empty bell-tower.

Animals and their care

My love of all creatures great and small goes back to childhood.  It finally received official recognition when I qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in August 2009.  I had gone from being a kennel maid to a fully qualified member of the veterinary staff in just over five years.  I’m thrilled to have the professional qualification as I am now able to pass on my experiences to the younger generation.  With this model I hope to help young people achieve their goals and show them one of the routes they can take into working with animals on a professional level.  I am fascinated with all aspects of veterinary life, so it seemed a natural choice to design a vet’s practice for the Dolls House Emporium Creative Competition 2010.

The whole model concept gelled for me when my magic Birman cat, Crystal, took up residence among the Dolls House Emporium boxes of goodies.  That set the seal on the whole idea, and a model vet’s practice was born!

Within the old-style model I have included all aspects of a modern-day veterinary practice, drawing on my daily experience of veterinary life.  At work I love the “patients” and enjoy caring for them as they recuperate – everything from the usual cats, dogs and rabbits to the more unusual reptiles that sometimes get brought in.  However, I am also a scientific researcher and spend quite a lot of time investigating microbes using a microscope and reading up on the latest health hazards and pharmaceutical breakthroughs in industry journals.  So, while the Village Hall Veterinary Centre looks friendly, welcoming and traditional from the outside, on the inside it meets rigorous equipment, health and safety standards as stringent as in any of today’s real-life veterinary practices in Britain.

Construction of Village Hall Veterinary Centre

Construction details

Chapel Place is in the imaginary village of Peasdon in Derbyshire which boasts the thirteenth century church of St. Hilda.  Just to the right of the church sits the old Methodist chapel, which was then used as a Village hall and is now the Village Hall Veterinary Centre.

The proprietors have planted up a garden area with four conifers on the left and five on the right.  There are shrubs and bushes and some budding pinks in the flower bed which are just about to come into flower.  In the rockery-filled borders are the pink flowers of the begonia.

Its springtime, so you can see the pigeons pairing off on the bell-tower roof, whilst inside it another pigeon is already sitting on its nest.  Ivy has been allowed to climb the wall and the drainpipe, to encourage birds to nest there (part of the Practice’s policy to encourage wild life in the garden).  The place is replete with human and animal life – there is even a rabbit in the shrubbery and a mouse hiding in the moss.  A dog has done its business on the front lawn, but that’s life, and it all adds to the social commentary that school children can contribute to as they learn about modern animal care.

People of varying ages are portrayed outside:  Mrs Darling with her school-age daughter, Amber, and Jacob, the baby in the pram, together with their Airedale x dog, Russel.  Mr Godfrey, with Bessie the Border collie, has noticed the rabbit in the bushes but has not noticed the dog poo on the lawn yet – a lesson in social behaviour for somebody soon, no doubt!

Village Hall Veterinary Centre offers a wealth of characters and their pets in the imaginary world of Chapel Place, Peasdon.  As the characters were constructed and developed, ideas sprang forth about the detail of their fictional lives which will be the basis of the proposed teaching programme for schools.

Meanwhile, this is how the whole project began in March 2010!  The whole process took until early August 2010 to complete and is my first attempt at dolls’ house building.

The building of Village Hall Veterinary Centre

The Building

The first consideration was the purchase of a second Dolls House Emporium Village Hall kit, since the first one would not be big enough to incorporate the all important operating theatre for the Veterinary Practice.  Part of the second kit was cut down to make a further 30 per cent of space within the building providing a further room on the left of the construction.  The building was further divided to provide a reception-cum-shop at one end and a consulting room in the centre of the building, but more about that later on.

The base board on which the building was constructed is a piece of MDF, textured with sand and painted with brick compound, a plaster of Paris base with glue and colouring.  It is painted in shades of charcoal grey, varnished both matt and gloss to represent a recent shower of rain in Peasdon Village (as with the slate roof).  Some areas are smoothed out to look more worn than others, such as the main pathway to the surgery door.  The greased areas were made of “grass” material bought by the sheet from the Dolls House Emporium.  The some of the trees were from The Dolls House Emporium and some were from e-bay.  These were spray-painted to look more realistic and “lived-in”, with a variety of greens and browns.  The ivy came in two lots – one from The Dolls House Emporium and the other from a dolls’ house fair in South Normanton, Derbyshire.

The rockery borders consist of stones from my own garden.  Sand, aquarium stones and bird grit, which provided the smaller white stones, complete the ground texture.

To create the impression of a nineteenth-century converted Chapel, the brickwork and the roof needed to be rendered in a distressed manner.  Brick compound and stencils were used to make the texture of the bricks old and roughly worn.

Once constructed, the exterior walls were painted a dark shade of grey which would become the colour of the ancient mortar between the bricks.  Then the stencils were applied and stuck down when the base coat was dry.  A further paint mix of reds and browns, darkened here and there for wear-and-tear, and the odd damp patch was applied.  The stencil was then removed, leaving the mortar perfectly pointed a la 1830’s.

On my very steep miniature learning curve I soon discarded a too-thin paint mixture that made the bricks look too modern.  A much thicker compound for the paint gave the desired vintage effect.  The corners of the building too had to be made raised and rough with the bricks jointed like an old building, rather than the smooth modern look of a 20th Century building.

The roof is slate made with individual tiles of cardboard, meticulously stuck down in sequence and then painted various shades of slate-grey.  The varnish is partly matt and partly gloss to look like it has just rained in Chapel Place!  The edges of the tiles are made to look uneven and worn to match their age.  The porch, which was situated on the front rather than the side option, is also covered in the individual slates.

The authentic guttering was one of the last items attempted and needed some out-of-the-box thinking.  Eventually it was made out of sand-covered cardboard bird-perches which would normally sit in a bird cage.  The sand gives an old-fashioned lichen covered look to the guttering.  The bird perches were split lengthwise to provide the half-moon section necessary for the guttering.  It was then sprayed black.  After some experimentation, the down pipes were made of expanding metal curtain rail, cut down and sprayed black to match the guttering.  Amazingly, the guttering and down pipes were all of about the right diameter for 1:12th scale in the end!

The windows, which came with the kit, were all individually hand painted before fitting.  The doors also came as part of the kit, but these have been cut out in all cases so that “windows”, which would be typically seen in a veterinary practice, could be inserted in each door.  The biggest area of “glass” (a sheet of Perspex) can be seen in the outer curve topped doors to the porch, and the inner entrance door, which have been half glazed so that “customers” can see inside the welcoming building.  The internal doors have all been glazed with viewing windows as part of the necessary Health & Safety for Vets’ Practices.  Frosted glass has been added to the windows of the operating theatre for more privacy.  The other windows have been glazed individually with clear Perspex and the interior scenes, with all vets practice characters, can be seen within.  As you can see from the outside, there is a lot going on at the practice today!

The bell-tower is situated over the porch on top of the roof.  The bell has been removed and three pigeons are in its place.  One is sitting on its nest in the corner of the bell-tower.  These were modelled free-hand from polymer clay then painted with the appropriate markings.  The nests on the outside of the building as well as the one with the sitting pigeon were made out of the matting used to line hanging-baskets, sprayed up to look like twigs and moss.  The authentic white-ish pigeon guano has been painted on just where it would have splattered down the brickwork.  A golden weather-cock and vane have been added to the bell-tower and these have been incorporated into the Village Hall Veterinary Centre “story” as a gift to the people of Peasdon for the Millennium.  The weather vane was bought in a Dolls House Emporium sale for this year’s competition.  The paint used throughout for the building and figures was acrylic artists paint, with my grown-up son’s old aero-modelling paint used in some places.

The sign for Chapel Place situated high up on the side of the building, was bought from The Dolls House Emporium and originally said “Bond Street”.  The letters were chiselled off and “Chapel Place” superimposed.  The sign looked old-fashioned in form so was purchased to complete the model. In fact it was the very last item to be added to the competition entry.

The security cameras round the building – very necessary for a security conscious, modern veterinary practice – were bought online from Delph Miniatures.  All around (and inside) the buildings are signs relating to Health & Safety and security matters, just as in real life.  “Warning CCTV in operation” was cut from a Business Security Health & Safety magazine and sellotaped to the wall to represent lamination, similar to the “dog” and “parking” signs.  The wheelie bin was bought from The Dolls House Emporium and actually contains a piece of rubbish – a 1:12th scale coca-cola bottle donated by a real-life vet from the practice I work at.  The whole practice is enthused about the entry for this years Dolls House Emporium creative competition!

Fencing was bought online.  The post box – a Victorian model – was the penultimate purchase for the competition entry, bought from The Dolls House Emporium.  It looked as though it fitted the age of the original chapel building at Chapel Place.  The bird house outside the front door in the shrubbery also came from The Dolls House Emporium.

In and outside the porch there are a number of safety signs and objects relevant to a modern veterinary practice.  The red “Break glass in case of emergency” box and the fire extinguisher both came from Delph Miniatures.  These were labelled with signs from a health and safety magazine to create authentic safety items.  The veterinary advisory leaflets were real leaflets from a veterinary practice, shrunk down on the computer and printed at a size smaller than postage stamps.  The large “Surgery Opening Times” notice on the porch door was written out on the computer and sized-down accordingly.

Completing the authentic detail, there is a tiny dogs bowl in the porch containing scenic water, which a vets practice would typically provide for its canine clients who need a drink.

In the garden the pink flowers represent Begonia and have large round leaves made to match this plant.  The yellow flowers are other spring flowers.  These were all provided by my grandmother Doris Edwards, a keen miniaturist for many years and a big part of my inspiration for this project.  There are “pinks” in a bud in the flowerbed and all these flowers indicate that spring has just arrived:  with the shower of rain, the nesting birds and the Easter Bunny my project is meant to be set on a Spring, April morning in Peasdon.

The shrubbery is completed with aquarium fern sprayed in greens and browns to make more foliage in the hedging – it was originally bright orange!

More to follow in our next blog!


One Comment to “The Village Hall Veterinary Centre – Our Creative Competition 3rd Prize winner!”

  1. [...] Stalker’s amazing Village Hall Veterinary Centre is a true labour of love which took her months to create and it shows in the fantastic attention to [...]

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