Just when I thought that this particular blog series had no life left in it, I suddenly get inspired and work to create something very new for myself and for my skill set. And of course to appease my crushing desire to travel back to Japan and experience such an incredible culture. Don’t get me wrong now. I love my life and my children and my culture right here. I live in an amazing country and one of the worlds most liveable cities. And my children are my everything. But, being a single dad working to navigate three very different children through their individual grief and life in general, it gets tiring. No. Tiring is not the right word. It is tough. So having something to look forward to, to work forward to, to achieve and accomplish, makes a huge difference.
I have recently been watching a lot of YouTube videos about people that make stuff! One guy I watch lives in Canada and has built his own log cabin – which is expanding slowly into a homestead – and he does it all by himself. He crafts his home to support his intended future self reliant life where he and his wife can move to the cabin full time. Not a lot of talking in the video’s. And that is fine. Then there are the folk at Tested.com. This is the platform that Adam Savage hosts since he finished Myth Busters many years ago. Adam is a highly skilled maker and builds everything from suits of armour to movie prop replicas to sitting around with a bunch of mates building giant Lego models. Finally, there is a channel on YouTube that is produced by a very talented Japanese model maker. He builds kits that form various little dioramas of Japanese life. I have ordered a couple of these kits and will blog more about the builds as I go.
In the absence of any such kit I guess I just had to wait. But then I walked into a brand new Ramen bar that has opened in my local area. And it was fitted out and decorated just like some of the Ramen bars I have eaten at in Tokyo. Oh the joy of a hot bowl of Tokyo Ramen. But while I was in there something really important dawned on me. I didn’t have to wait for a kit to arrive to make something. I have thousands of reference photos of parts of Japan and Tokyo and bars and street scenes. I have the reference material. Fortunately, I have always been a bit arty and over my years have acquired some skills in model making. When I studied Industrial Design in university, I often made scale replicas of furniture I had designed. So, I just needed some craft materials.
I had a rough plan in mind and walked into my local craft store. I picked up a whole bunch of things from glue and brushes to pre-fabricated materials and fabric papers that replicated fabric, timber, etc. A healthy stack of balsa wood and I was set. Having studied design, I found drawing up a plan to scale quite straight forward. This was important as I was going to make a diorama that required some level of control and designed structure. My foundation for the diorama was a piece of black foam core. It was A4 in size. So 21cm by 29cm. This is a really light weight material that has a decent amount of strength. However I have found that by the time my model was near complete it had started to warp slightly. Nothing major for a first attempt though.
I measured and pre-cut all the materials including the balsa frames which I also stained a darker brown by mixing some umber acrylic paint with water. With everything pre-cut and dry I proceeded to assemble the main form of the diorama. I started in the bottom right hand corner and made my way up and across, gluing and placing each piece before proceeding to the next. Once all of the core elements were mostly set and the glue was almost dry, I made a wash with more umber acrylic paint and water. I made this quite a thin wash. I wanted to use it to weather all of the materials in the scene. As I was making a bar scene I wanted to apply some relevant decorations on the main wall. So I did some google searched for vintage Japanese posters. I saved these to be various sizes for interest and then printed them onto normal paper. I then used a spray adhesive to glue the printed sheet to a thicker sheet of card to give the posters a more sturdy look.
I placed all of my posters on the diorama with craft glue and then again used the thin wash to weather these. I also used a rust-like dry brush rub material to add some colour to the weathering. But I wasn’t quite done. So I went to a bead shop of all places and picked up some 10mm clear beads and some 1mm silver cord. I had also found some rivet pieces that were perfect for the next feature. With these ingredients I made three light bulbs that hang from the ceiling via some very short beams. Whilst predominantly a 2D diorama, I wanted to add some 3D elements without going too far. The process to glue and assemble the little light bulbs was fiddly and I think in future I would need to get and use a hot glue gun.
Finally I made a sign for the bar. Based on my research the image I used is the label of a very old Japanese beer. At least I hope it is. I used the spray adhesive to mount the image on both sides of a piece of foam core board. Once the glue had set, I ran a thin strip of double sided tape around the edge of the sign. I then took a piece of kitchen aluminium foil and folded it over many times to be the same width as the edge of the foam core board. I removed the protective coating of the double sided tape and wrapped the foil edge around the sign. A couple of bamboo skewers allowed me to mount the sign to a piece of balsa wood and this was in turn attached to the diorama. Again, just an interesting 3D element.
Finishing touches include a little more weathering of the whole model. Added to this I had a key-chain from a past visit to Japan with a tiny little waving cat. I removed this from the key chain and weathered it and then glued it to the little bench. I have one more item left to add to this diorama but unfortunately it is going to take some time for it to arrive. I have ordered some tiny little 1/12th doll house scale beer steins with the Asahi logo on them. They are seriously cute and filled with a beer coloured resin with a white frothy top. They will be the final step in this process when they arrive but that may take some weeks.
And whilst I have some Japanese themed craft sets on the way, I know now that if I put my mind to it I can create something of a similar quality that is purely my design and execution. Not sure what I will design next but I am going through my reference material to get some new inspiration. Or, perhaps I should just eat more in Japanese restaurants and wait for the inspiration to come to me. Yes. Yes I think that is the best option. Everything here was shot on my Fujifilm X70. Happy crafting.