The Kitchen

Now, when I began this whole silly venture, I vowed to have only one room. After I realized that I was only deluding myself, I decided it was time to rough out a kind of plan for the whole castle. This plan included a castle kitchen. I decided to put the kitchen directly underneath the sitting room, primarily for convenience’s sake. Then I got to planning the kitchen itself.

I got some ideas from the nice little book called See Inside a Castle, part of a series that gives you weird little facts about different people’s lives at different times. Kids’ books are great. They answer all the weird questions more serious books ignore. This room was created in many of the same ways that the first room was created. I used plaster to make the stone walls. The door was made with a similar, but less ornate, hinge out of clay. The floor was made of slate pieces, not tile, and this time I didn’t even run out. (Actually, working with them taught me how to make the outside of the castle, but that’s another story.) The fireplace is similar enough to be ignored for now, except that it’s somewhat plainer than the sitting room. It does sport a spit, which was made of wire and painted to look like wrought iron.

The only real difference in the walls is that of water and fire. I made an oven and fire pit beneath it for baking purposes. I also wanted nothing but the best so I was determined to have a semblance of running water. For this purpose, I looked until I found construction to fit. I ended up with a hole in the wall that let water come in from the roof into a barrel type container.

The lighting was a little trickier. I wanted to have as many different examples as I could throughout the castle, so I wanted to avoid candles here since they appeared directly above. I decided to have “oil lamps.” So, I started with a wagon wheel. At six different points, I decided there would be a lamp. Wiring was a little more difficult because of the thinness of the wheel spokes. I ended up taking 6 weird little brass washer cup thingies (the technical term) and putting a candle bulb through each. The oil flames themselves were achieved through the aid of a candle, pieces of plastic, scissors, burned fingers and swear words. Eventually, I melted six pieces of plastic into the shape of flickering fires and placed them on the thingies, each of which contained a little bulb about half the size of a grain of rice. Then, I took the thingies and glued them to the wagon wheel. I still had to hide the wires. So, I took brown embroidery floss, wove it into tiny ropes around the wires and made the ropes-cum-wires come together at the ceiling, then drape down to a holder made of painted wire around waist high on the wall. This was theoretically for the raising and lowering of the lamps to give them the attention that lamps such as this would need. (It would be much later that I would realize these bulbs were unchangeable and the whole thing would need to be re-done)

One of the things that make a room like this look good is to have a lot of clutter that you really don’t notice when you’re looking at it, but looks unnatural without it. I took a lot of muslin scraps from my sewing cloths and used them to sew sacks together. Some are closed. Those open either have polymer clay items on the top of stuffed paper or they have a top layer of weird looking seeds over the paper. I got a little creative last spring. When looking at the seeds, it’s best to use a little imagination.

I inset a shelf into the wall near the ceiling and created two tables and a stool, all very simple designs of wood. On top of them, I placed mostly items of polymer clay construction such as bowls, jugs and pitchers. Most contained something or other. Eggs, seeds and other items were prominent. Meat was a big plus. I made a rather large roasted bird set on a platter that was basically an upside down western belt buckle that would never see leather. When in Ireland, I saw many a tortoise shell in kitchens used for serving and for decoration when not in use. Where they got them, I guess would be from trade. Anyhow, I made one after many efforts by wrapping different colors of polymer clay around each other into a tube and then slicing the tube into sections that I used to make those scales.

I made quite a few sharp objects and spoons in my metal working class. I also fashioned a number of goblets and candlestick holders out of beads, bells and such. I also adorned the walls with a number of dried herbs (weeds dried from my driveway hung on clay hooks).

The people weren’t as demanding as the Lord and his Lady were. Still, there were some challenges. I made the cook to be wearing a plain blouse and skirt with a vest fashioned after the pattern I got from SCA. Sewing it wasn’t so hard, but the trim was impossible, so I used paint instead. The young serving boy was difficult because I wanted him in rough homespun, but it’s hard to find something like that on that scale. In other words, if it’s rough, it’s too thick to seem natural. This is a problem for most dollhouse fabrics. Still, I settled for stiffness to have it look more valid.

I wanted him to be peeling potatoes. They aren’t period because potatoes came from America and hadn’t been introduced yet, but I wanted them anyhow. So, the kid is fated into eternity to be peeling potatoes. I made them by taking off-white clay, covering it with tan clay and then rubbing them in dirt after firing. Some I took an Exact-o knife to and actually peeled so there would be peels, which my niece keeps conscientiously cleaning up and putting away whenever she spends time with the castle.