Welcome to the Custom scenics area of our website. Each one of these dioramas and scenic elements are hand made here in our Michigan studio. Each one of these are unique as a result and although we have duplicated the general look of earlier dioramas, they can never be identical. Although the majority of our models are built to our design and then offered for sale, we can build more specific sizes with elements to suit your needs and space. Please feel free to call us to discuss possible commission work, but be aware that we are a small studio and need a fair period of lead-time to complete custom orders.
We have developed these dioramas to fit on standard bookshelves that can be found in most homes and offices. These usually measure approximately 11” Deep and between 24” to 29” Long. Some of these also included hand painted backdrops to give the illusion of depth. We always design large areas that will accommodate figures or vehicles that will be flat or covered with resilient materials to allow frequent re-arranging of the miniatures.
To give you an idea of a typical Shelf Diorama, we thought you would enjoy seeing seeing one of our Fall scenics, 'A Well Worn Trail.'
The backdrop for this new shelf diorama was painted on a sheet of Masonite that was primed flat white. I used water based paints to create the impression that the old growth forest continues on. The transition area with the bushes and forest litter works pretty well when it is in place in the slot at the back of the shelf diorama. The scenic features our 'wild grass', hand built old growth trees and a well worn path through the woods. I couldn't resist putting some of the figures from my collection in place to give a sense of scale. The old growth forests were common all over the Eastern United States and many of the figure lines I collect look best in this environment. The first set up has a couple of the W. Britain AWI figures I sculpted dashing forward toward an unseen enemy. If any of you should visit Western Pennsylvania make sure you visit the Bushy Run battlefield. They have a good section of old growth preserved there to give you an impression of the area when the battle was fought during Pontiac's Rebellion. I think the foreground trees on the backdrop blend in pretty well with the 3D ones on the diorama. The forest litter that is glued on the base helps to blend it into the deeper woods too. As tempting as it is to fill it full of figures, I often opt for just a few to tell a story. This also allows you to change out your figures more often and in doing that you tend to look at each one a bit closer than you might if it was just loaded up. With many of the newer offerings created as diorama ranges, it is easier than ever to create small vignettes.
This one features two Wigwams in the clearing at the edge of an old growth stand of trees. Wigwams varied in size ranging from seven feet to about twenty feet in diameter. The frames were made from bent saplings and covered with reed mats and bark. In Northern areas where birch were plentiful , bark was stripped from the trees and sewn together with spruce root into rolls as long as fifteen feet. These were called apakwas by the Chippewa. Notice the spare roll near the doorway which is covered with a trade blanket. The small second one uses a hide to cover the doorway. The Wigwams usually had a small fire in the center and the floors were covered with woven mats and furs. A larger working fire is outside between the two shelters with a trade kettle suspended by hooks and chain. You can just see inside the closest Wigwam. I made the frames from wire over a form and then covered them with reed mats and 'birch bark' that I hand painted on bond paper. I had to drive down the road to look at a stand of real birch trees to get the coloring right. You can see how much larger the scene appears when it is butt up to the other shelf scenic. It works pretty well even though it was not built to use with 'At the edgeoftheforest'. The trade blanket door was formed from copper foil and painted... the hide door is made from very thin leather.
Well I just finished another diorama that has lingered around the studio for a few months. The funny thing is that the backdrop was finished before the shelf diorama. This one was inspired by my dad's cottage here in Michigan. As a kid many a summer day was spent in the marshland around the chain of lakes looking for frogs and turtles. I would use a bamboo fishing pole with some unfortunate worm on a hook and try to catch the little fish that hid below the Lilly pads. The snapping turtles seemed to like to hide under the rotting logs at the edge of the water. I imagine that long before I explored these marshlands around the lake the local natives of times past had hunted and gathered food from this rich area. In addition to the fish and turtles, the birds and waterfowl were plentiful. Both small and large game also came to the lakes and marsh... I am sure they were hunted too. My mom used to take us out to collect wild berries that she would bake into pies or put on our cereal. I am sure that these tasty berries were just as much a treat in earlier times. While I was taking pictures of this new scenic I set a few different figures on the 'Marshlands' shelf diorama to see what it looked like. I have posted a couple ACW pictures under 'Stragglers' on the W. Britain section too. The first one has a Fallschirmjager pausing on his Kettenkrad near the waters edge. This vehicle and figure are from the first years release of W. Britain under 1st Gear. This second image features a Russian soldier that I sculpted a few years ago that was never produced. I still have the resin paint sample and I thought it looked interesting in this environment. During the late 'War of Northern Aggression' or as I prefer 'The Late Unpleasantness' there were many stragglers from the huge armies of both sides. (Note to UK Reb... the North did win). What country boy could resist the chance to cool his feet in a pond or lake, or pick some wild berries to eat with his hardtack and bacon. Good mess buddies would make sure your weren't missing too long or picked up by the Provost Marshall and would warn you to rejoin the column. I often think about what it might have been like in North America in the Eighteenth century... before the land was cleared and the swamps drained. I am sure that it was also a very different world to the Europeans that came here from Europe and the UK. From areas that had long been settled, cultivated and cleared of old growth timber... a process that in some cases started with the Romans. Can you imagine what went through a young soldiers mind as he left the East coast on foot to garrison outposts on the frontier? To feel like you were being swallowed up in an untamed world. The fear of the unknown and the 'red man'. With that said, I am sure that these redcoats symbolized the power of the Crown to both the settlers and natives as they made their way through the forests and swamps on the crude military roads.