Friday 28 December 2012

Ringing out the Old Year

Christmas 2012 is a wrap and it's been brilliant! I usually take the few days between now and New Year's Eve looking back on what I've accomplished in the past 12 months and what is going to be achieved in the next.

I spent Christmas at home in England with my large (and expanding family) eating my mum's fantastic food, drinking mulled wine and posing for photos with everyone I'm related to. I'll be back in Los Angeles in early Feb.

In 2012 my work was featured in 11 trade magazines (published in the UK, US and Spain) and 2 books (including 4 front covers), 2 web features, a tutorial commissioned and published by a US magazine, continued to sell my work in over 40 countries worldwide, expanded my business, taken some big commissions, lived in New Zealand for 6 months and got a little bit of work in on my short film 'Myrtle the Witch'.
2013 is going to be even more productive... ;)

Just had word that an interview I gave in November is now online so I thought I'd share a link to it and share some of the pictures they used below. It's a fun 'Take Ten with Caroline McFarlane-Watts' interview and you can find it at the Craft Institute website here.

Sunday 23 December 2012

An Inkling in Oxford

Wondering in which Tudor corner of Oxford I took shelter yester-evening as I sipped hot mulled cider? I'll give you an inkling... it was the very pub that J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and other members of their writers' group the 'Inklings' congregated at the time The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia were conceived and written.

Despite seeing 'The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey' at an industry screening last week in Soho, London, I ventured into the beautiful city of Oxford from my very own shire to see it again at the much talked about 48 frame rate. Afterwards we walked all of 20 yards to the famed pub - 'The Eagle and Child' to sit at the fireplace where it all began. Dating back to 1640 (which is younger than the house in which I was raised), the charming narrow little pub has the familiar low doorways, paneled rooms, monks-benches and fireplaces I love and miss when in LA.
It was brilliant fun chatting about the script for 'Myrtle the Witch' over drinks - at the same fireplace and perhaps the same chairs that were once filled by the fantasy greats.

Take a look at some pictures we took in Oxford. The snowy Oxford scene was not taken by us but so gorgeous I wanted to include it for those not familiar with the city.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Back to the Beginning... Hogsmeade

Nope, it's not a lot of old hogwash, I was actually quite lucky to have been given the opportunity to work on the miniature model village - Hogsmeade - used in 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' back at Leavesden Studios in 2005.

I was 23 and working as an assistant at Miramax Films (my second job after graduating from university) and a rather brilliant boss gave me the opportunity to nip over to the art department of Harry Potter for a spell. It was my first miniature model work - I would never have guessed then just how big a part of my life miniatures and miniature filmmaking would become.

Never had decent photographs to show people of the miniature model Hogsmeade village I helped to build, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to see it at the new studio tour and take some. Flick through the pictures of the white card model and see it as it looked in the film.

Harry Potter art department, miniature model sets from Harry Potter, miniature model village of Hogsmeade, Caroline McFarlane-Watts, model village, Hogsmeade village model, WB studio tour

Sunday 9 December 2012

Stealing Christmas...!

Here's a project I worked on from September - November this year. It's a whimsical candy gingerbread model village in 1:12 scale which I designed and built myself. I also sculpted this interpretation of the Grinch based on the illustrations of Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr Seuss. 

The set is filled with candy houses - each one handsculpted from clay and decorated with candy which I made in the traditional cane method but 12 times smaller than any candy canes you'll be eating this season. :) The set was lined with layers of faux snow and cheesecloth material. 

Working on this set reminded me of one of my first miniature jobs when I was 23 years old - one year graduated from my Film Degree at Royal Holloway. I had a stint in the art department of Leavesden Studios on 'Harry Potter' and assisted in the building of Hogsmeade village. I've made whimsical fantasy buildings since then of course, but anytime I work on a magical village I think back to that very first time!

In other news - I'm still stationed in Oxfordshire, England and enjoying log fires, trips to Tudor barns all done up with Christmas markets and yesterday a trip to Hever Castle (the birthplace and family home of Henry VIII's second wife - Anne Boleyn).

Candy gingerbread village in the making...

Tuesday 4 December 2012

What? - Front Cover Feature again?!

Yes - I'm a cover girl again!

First, a little Tall Tales update...
I set sail, or took to the air rather, from Wellington, New Zealand on the 20th November and just a hop, skip and 30 hours of flying later I arrived in London Heathrow. I'll be based and working out of the UK for the next few weeks until I fly back to LA in early Jan. Short film 'Myrtle the Witch' will just have to wait until I'm back in the US...
I said goodbye to 'Windy Wellington' - a cheery little city with quaint restaurants serving lamb, lamb, and lamb as well as most things with a side of beetroot and aioli  Always beetroot and aioli. I loved my 5 month stay, loved the people, loved Weta Workshop and look forward to returning.

A bit of a shame to miss The Hobbit premier on the 28th, but still, it's nice to be back in Tolkien's neck of the woods - Oxford (where he penned The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.) Besides, I'm enjoying the numerous industry screenings I'm invited to in London! ;)

The photos below show a commission I undertook whilst in Wellington for a client in the UK. It comprises of several Christmas scenes in exact 1:12 scale (one inch - meaning 12 times smaller than real life) and it took me about a month to complete. Everything was built by me, from the hardwood floors I laid by hand, to every tiny piece of food and piece of holly decor.

English publishers Warners Group Publishing took an interest in my work and featured me in their 'Dolls House & Miniature Scene' magazine as well as giving me the front cover for this month's issue.

Here are some photos I took of my work on this project and the feature itself.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Walkies... and going Walkabout

I've been taking Myrtle's pet snail Noggy for walkies over the past few days. Walkies through temporary sets, green-screens and Maya. For the time being he's tied to the kitchen chair so he doesn't wander off.

As for my walkabout (assuming this term applies to New Zealand as well as Australia) - I'll be packing up my workshop and heading out of Wellington into the Kiwi countryside for a little trip to see some real New Zealand beauty. Just less than a week to go and I will be flying outta here and braving the 30 hour flight back to Good old Blighty. Five weeks after that I'm flitting off back to Los Angeles (yay!)

So commissions are rapidly being finished off, orders rushed out to the post office and editorial deadlines quickly wrapped up. Incidentally, I am a cover girl again this month - I'll fill you in with my latest magazine feature and post photos here of my miniatures and miniature sets which were used for the front cover and featured inside. ;)

Here are some snaps of Noggy the snail from my short film 'Myrtle the Witch'. If you're interested in knowing more about this project and following it as I get going on it full-time, then don't forget to follow this blog and bookmark my Tall Tales Productions website!

Tuesday 6 November 2012


...Because you can't have a roundhouse witch's abode in the thick of a copse without potted toadstools on the kitchen windowsill.
It would be like a hipster apartment minus ironically bad art, a 'Keep Calm and Carry On' sign and vintage movie posters.

As well as pots of toadstools to complete a section of the kitchen, I've also finished off those bats (previously blogged about here). I needed about 30 to line Myrtle's bat tower but stupidly parted with a few too many to private miniature collectors, and now need to make more.
Don't forget that all that you see is in one inch scale which means it is 12 times smaller than real life.

Stay tuned for more 'Myrtle the Witch' updates. ;)

miniature bats, Tall Tales Productions animated short film, stop-motion animation, Los Angeles based miniatures, scale miniature sets, claymation 

Halloween Weta Style!

All Hallow's Eve..... the warmth from the ending summer still hangs in the air... there's an Autumn chill blowing in... red and orange leaves crunch underfoot.... people's fences are lined with carved Jack o' Lanterns and their flickering candles light up the spooky evening.... children run amok dressed as fairies, witches and superheros collecting candy door to door. Halloween....

.... unless you live in New Zealand. 

My first Halloween spent in Wellington, NZ was a culture shock similar to the one I experience now as Christmas trees are erected decorated with summer fruits, and cooking magazines provide Christmas BBQ recipes on the beach and cakes decorated with summer raspberries.

There were no Jack o' Lanterns, no children trick-or-treating, no crisp orange leaves on the ground, no bare skeletal trees. But just as Danny Elfman's lyrics sprang to mind:-

"the monsters are all missing,
and the nightmares can't be found"

- I arrived at the Weta Halloween party and 500 zombies honed into view. Okay, phew - Kiwis do Halloween afterall. It's just.... different!

Here are some pictures from the night. I'm the pirate wench. ;)

I leave New Zealand and am bound for Great Blighty later this month (Nov 20th)... can't wait to catch up with friends in London and then I'm orf again - back to LA in Jan / Feb where I'll be able to set up Myrtle in a proper studio space and work so much faster!

Note: You can contact me on my NZ mobile until Nov 20th and then best just to email me until I'm back in the states.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

A Handful of Horror

Indeed - a "handful of horror" for more reasons than one. A very small horror in the palm of my hand pictured here. Read on for more... ;)

I remember when I considered October a busy month simply because I had to find time outside of work to make a Halloween costume, plan a Halloween party (which I was known for throwing every spooky season back in London) and pick out a birthday gift for my mum - whose birthday is the day before.

Not the case anymore! Since I established my small business - Pixie Dust Miniatures - October has become my crazy-busiest month because sales, commissions and demand is greater than any other time of year. It's brilliant being so busy.
So.... probably not really the very best time to fall ill with flu and bronchitis and spend 2.5 weeks either in bed or in the doctor's office a few days into October...

But my name's not Caroline Tenacious McFarlane-Watts for nothing, and so I am now happily back on track! Thought I'd share some Halloween miniatures I made for collectors this season, plus some to be used as Myrtle background props (short film - 'Myrtle the Witch'). I've fallen behind with Myrtle due to being unwell, but I'll soon catch up and share updates.

Finally, I leave you with a commission I completed this week - one inch scale opossums. They measure just less than 2 inches from nose to tail and have soft downy fur. They fly to Texas this afternoon. Bon voyage possums.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Camera Test Take 2

The first test I did the other day (blogged about here) had some problems. I tried again last night and have popped the results up on Vimeo so you can continue to see my progress.

Annoying thing is the quality of my video went to hell when I had to compress it to upload it to Vimeo... vexing. On my computer it looks so sharp and beautiful and really got me excited about how gorgeous 'Myrtle the Witch' is going to look, but on Vimeo it looks so bad! Nevermind - gives you an idea of the camera motion which is what these tests are all about. :)

Again, the set is not dressed. This is not what Myrtle's world will look like... it will be far far better. What's filmed here is again what was left out from a recent photo shoot for Pixie Dust Miniatures.
I put some stills of these new miniatures below for your interest. 

Watch the most recent camera test here or by clicking the image.

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