The Cloisters

I was happy about the church. The castle next to it – not so much any more.  So, I took the next few months and decided to do some major brush ups. I recreated the entire treasure room structure – base, stone, windows. Smaller, tighter, nicer. I added a treasure shelf and a lot more treasure and included new wiring, too. I re-did walls on most parts of the castle and the windows, too. Redoing the walls required chiseling off old bricks – they were a little large and most of them which had been covered in varnish had yellowed from the years the thing sat in the window. While in general the yellowing wasn’t bad, whenever a stone needed replacing, it was a glaring difference. I think the windows are better now. It’s debatable. Before, the windows were transparent painted plastic. They weren’t bad, but they didn’t have as much detail as the church windows and the paint had faded. Now, they are the transparency method mentioned before. The only drawback is the bubbles in the glue. I decided the tradeoff was worth it after 15 or so tries not to have it. I re-worked all the wiring, half of which was off. This all took a few months –most of the fall of 2008. (And later, again after my move from Flint to Ann Arbor, I redid much of the wiring again.)
So, something new was next. In the process of redoing the outside of the castle to sweeten it up, I had to decide what to do with the wall facing the church. I decided to start the cloistered garden between the two. I wasn’t aware of what I was starting.  I knew I wanted walkways with vaulted ceilings. I perused lots of pictures online and decided to make wooden ones. I spent a few weeks bending dollhouse wood paneling to various shapes. After numerous efforts, I decided wood was beyond my ability and went back to the mat board that I used in the church. That was hard enough.

I started by making the first wall and fitted the ceiling pieces into it. The wall was foam core with an indented area under the vaults. Underneath, there was a bench for sitting. All the stonework was made of polymer clay. I fitted the ceiling pieces to the vaulting. Then, I kind of built it out from there. Then I used the first walkway as a template for the other three. It is a process that is kind of confusing to work through, even more to explain. Basically, I really didn’t have a master blueprint, so I kind of had to work each piece into each other. I really wasn’t even sure how the final measurements would turn out. Anyhow, while that was going on – this took a few weeks – I realized that I had to assemble the pieces and get ready to put it all together. At first the ceilings were propped up with soup cans. (Oh yeah, and along the way, I realized to make this fit with the church, I had to carve half an inch off the bottom of everything.) In the process, this project got so big there was no room left on the dining room table, the coffee table or the card table. (Cue the theme from Jaws.) So, there I was trying to cut this stuff with a really sharp box cutter. No room. Some stupid reptilian part of my brain decided to put one of the pieces on my lap to cut since there was no room. Oh no. Sliced my leg right open. The doctor who took out the 7 stitches said I missed the femoral artery by ½ inch. If I hadn’t been wearing jeans, it would have been very bad indeed.)

So there are piles all over the living room and dining room. All the columns needed were in a pile.  They were made from polymer clay painted Byzantine style – each one being different. Tops and bottoms made of extruded polymer clay wrapped in circles and painted gold kept separate until everything was put together. Ribs for the vaults made from polymer clay and painted gold, too. All the ceilings splayed out all over. Stone walls ready to be grouted. Short walls made of polymer clay, not yet fired or able to be fired until size of everything else known. Still, I wanted to make them fast after the pieces went together, so they were partially done ahead of time.

I spent a week putting the pieces together. It was tricky, kind of a balancing act. No, seriously, a real balancing act. I had to put it together and brace at the same time. A combination of cans from the cupboards and coasters piled under the outer side of the vaults while the vaults were glued and duct taped to the walls. Since I really didn’t measure this and had no idea how it would go together, there was a little stretching/squeezing to make it fit. The support bases of the corners ended up being peculiar shapes because of that, but unless you know to look for it, you don’t notice it.  I used aluminum hammered spray paint on mat board for roofs. Now, it is together. I am ready to do the floor, which couldn’t be started before because I really wasn’t sure the size of the darned thing until I got it together. So I measured and bought the plywood base. I traced the inner walls and was ready to make the tiled floor.