Creativity Corner Creative Projects

the making of the ‘colourliving’ website

May 1, 2012

When i first played with the idea for the website, i knew i did not want to have photography of interior settings. I wanted something that reflected my curious, slightly eccentric and playful personality.

Having always been a fan of Slinkachu little people street art and miniatures in general, the plan was hatched. Now what to do and, more importantly, how to do it? I looked around for some sort of figures or figurines i could use, inspired by the work of sloane tanen. I quickly realised i was taking on too much so scrapped that idea and decided against figures.

I started researching online and lo and behold i came across the world of dolls houses and miniatures. Go figure, it’s a whole world in itself. My first stop was at a dolls house exhibition in alexandra palace. As luck wanted it and following my very astute nose, i came across a young woman who seemed rather out of place there as the average age was 50+. She had her own little stand amongst her mothers’ chris much larger stand. There was something about her and i hovered around for a while before approaching hannah. ‘Hi, i’m not really here to buy dolls house miniatures or anything of the sorts, i’m thinking of creating some miniature scenes to photograph for my upcoming website, i uttered.’ ‘Err, i haven’t worked anything out yet, but just wanted to get an idea of what is around and your stuff is really beautiful.’ Hannah’s work was different. It was smart and had panache. I’m sure both hannah and chris thought i was bonkers but they entertained my eccentricity.

Hannah and chris told me they were next exhibiting at the kensington dollshouse festival in london and so i went with a little more of an idea what i was looking for. There’s a summer and winter festival and the next one is actually in a couple of weeks. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The place is a haven for anyone interested in high quality miniatures and, oh, be prepared to part with some serious cash. So, there i was, a sort of shopping list in hand, ready to go wild for a couple of hours amongst some serious dolls houses collectors and connoisseurs. I bought some stuff, but most of the props i wanted for the photography i commissioned from hannah, who works in the product design department of the university of bristol. A huge thank you to hannah, whose input in the brainstorming of the ideas was invaluable.

The website was a labour of love for me and although i absolutely missed the point of shooting miniatures (it doesn’t show, hence why i wrote this post) i still feel it reflects the essence of what i tried to achieve. I hope you enjoy the visual diary……….

First off was the concept for the website.

Then came the sketches for the individual miniature scenes.

Now, I needed a lot of props. Some would be items I needed to commission, some would serve as a background. Let’s start with those. I was lucky that i had bought moma’s modern playhouse in magma a few weeks before. Somehow i knew, one day, it would come in use.

Next are some of my own artworks that i used as backgrounds props.

Here are some props i found online.

The details on the iphone and macbook are incredible, right?

The eames lounge chair and footstool and salvador dali’s lip shaped sofa are from the kensington dollshouse festival. Did you spot the cute hat stand?

The next lot is some of the stuff i commissioned hannah to make exclusively for the website. Isn’t she super talented?

Finally, here is a selection of the photographs used for the website.

There you have it. Months and months of work. I still don’t know how to photograph miniatures but no doubt would have done a better job if i came across tilt-shift photography earlier. Alternatively, next time i just ask the lovely james balston for advise. What are friends for?

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  • Reply Holly May 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Yay! So so inspiring! The process is truly fascinating. That you can even think back and organize your ideas like this is wonderful. Sometimes it’s hard to remember how things develop – but it’s so valuable to know, it helps with our future direction.

    This post has inspired me to take a closer look at the things that influence me and my decisions. Sometimes I find it hard to explain how ideas I have come about … but I should pay more attention.

    So glad that Colourliving came to be the way it did. Thank you Tina!!


    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

      First of all I only did my website less than a year ago so memory is still fresh. Also, as I was involved in all aspects I’ve kept all miniatures in a box etc etc.

      I am anal, yes I admit, and keep a lot of stuff and processes for future reference. It’s the way my mind works. That’s why only doing things online has disadvantages, in my opinion!

      OK, best way is to have a largish sketchbook and jot down a mindmap of what you’re working out… it can be anything from ‘moving home’ to a blog post to anything really. I find writing stuff down makes it a) visible, b) committed and c) easier for me to evaluate. There’s very little I don’t work out on a page of a sketchbook…. it also helps formulate thoughts, ideas and allows for the process of working stuff out as you can come back to it whenever/wherever.

      Thank you for your comment. xx

  • Reply Toni May 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Okay, this has to be your best blog entry ever! Your approach to creating the website was practical yet very creative. The account of behind the scene research is brilliant and so you, I could literally hear your voice whilst reading it! I am swooning over your props collection they appear so “real” that I had no idea they were miniatures I imagine the sourcing must have taken absolute ages!
    I have now gone back to look at all the pages on your site to spot the miniatures – so quirky so brilliant x

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Awww, the best, what about the rest????

      It was fun, although you know, when under pressure… it took a while for the whole concept to come together and then there was the photography. It seemed to rain forever (like in April) and so that delayed procedures as I shot in daytime….but the photography and styling each shot was my favourite part!!

      Thank you. xx

  • Reply Igor May 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    What a super creative process, Tina! And one day I might come back to you for photography advice!! Still need to work on it a lot though!

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Thank you Igor. Aww, I bet you can call on a lot of people with better photography skills than me. I met Will last week at Sania’s book launch in Liberty and he tells me how well you guys get on and that you have many similarities. I adored him and no doubt will feel the same about you. Next time you visit him, ahem, I’d like to come out for coffee…

      Wünsche Dir eine gute Woche……

  • Reply James Balston May 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks for the mention! Stunning collection of sketches again. And love those miniatures.

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 10:57 am

      Thanks James. Really pleased you like my sketches. I wish I would do more these days. Photography has taken over a little, but that can be rectified right?

      I wish I would have known you last year when I shot this. I called ‘Callumet’ for advise on a macro lens but then decided to shoot without one. I just didn’t know how to shoot miniatures. Have a look at the Sloane Tanen books. Those shots are incredible. The miniatures are great? I’m thinking of going to the Kensington Dollshouse Festival in a coupe of weeks. Not sure you’re back from D. but let me know if you want to join… it is really fun and you’ll see some incredible stuff. I’m not kidding when I say you can spent thousands of pounds….

  • Reply annie May 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Wow how amazing. I’d never have known that dali sofa asn’t real (Michaela will be disappointed!). I’ve looked at it so many times and never known. Actaully I don’t think I’d have known any of them weren’t real. They’re all so cute! and such detail, really amazing.

    Have you ever seen the TED talk by Willard Wigan? I was astounded. Painting with fly hairs whilst holding his breath!

    Remember the alessi minatures they released a couple of years ago? And all the negative reviews on amazon from people trying to use them.

    Great post Tina.

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Who knows. Michaela might see the funny side of things:) The reason you guys didn’t know is because I photographed it that way. To photograph miniature is a totally different ball game.
      The sofa cost £25, not bad for a Dali, right??

      The iPhone/Macbook freaked me out. her details are incredible. I urge you guys to get one just for the sake of it…. her stuff is incredible. She ships it from Hong Kong…

      Oh no, am checking TED talk out today…. looks fascinating. Thanks for that!!!

      The Alessi models. How cute are those? People are so dim… but that was really funny…


  • Reply Theresa May 2, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Tina, I loved that you shared the entire inspiration and process of colourliving with us. I am rather embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize the items you used on your site were miniatures. I guess that is a testament to their high quality and amazing detail!
    You know, once a piece of art is finally completed and shared with the world, the amount of thought, time, attention to detail, and work that actually went into the piece can easily be overlooked. This post was very eyeopening.
    PS~Speaking of miniatures, you might appreciate my little funny minis I share in my post tomorrow. 😉

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Pleasure love.. No one knew they were miniatures, hence this post. I couldn’t just NOT let people know, and all my hard work to make it quirky:) I also thought people might find the process interesting… at least I do!!

      You’re right. That’s what I like about blogging and documenting my own work/sketches. It doesn’t seem ‘overlooked’. Thanks for that.

      Look forward to your post:)

  • Reply Nicola May 2, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Goodness me Tina, just read this, it’s made my morning!

    I realised your website was unique and original but now I truly understand why and your sketches are brilliant!

    I’m now invigorated to re-look at the website I’m working on but, first things first, must pop back and have a look at the details on your site.

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Aww. Makes me really happy when people get inspired!!!

      Hmm, tell more. Website you’re working on… when you go on any of my pages (except blog) click on the photograph and it will enlarge…
      Loved the Bauhaus teapots… not the price tag, mind you… x

  • Reply Sam Lennie (Interiorsam) May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Brilliant Tina, thanks for sharing.

    My favourites are the little ladders and wood cutting bench and saw. How wicked would it be to be a little Borrower and live in your miniature world ? You’d need to provide them with little sunglasses too thou 😉

    It’s great to be able to share your though process, brill x

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Sam… hmm. sunglasses, yay! I would love to create a miniature world… maybe all of us girl in miniature. How cool is that?

      Saw TED talk Annie recommended. Brill! Have a look if you’ve got some time. Can’t interfere with the 30DC though..:)

      • Reply Sam Lennie (Interiorsam) May 3, 2012 at 10:01 am

        All of us in miniature would be very cool and very funny, ha! I shall go look at the TED thing right now x

  • Reply ursula (room to bloom) May 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Hey Tina – you told me about this (the miniatures) but I didn’t realise the extent of it! The dollhouse on my homepage is also a photograph of the real thing with props inside – though some where Photoshopped in. Like you, I spent ages researching the design – nearly a year looking back on it, gathering information, inspiration etc. It’s so much fun looking back over all that material and then looking at the resulting website that seems oh so simple. I really can see your website taking shape in your sketches and boards, how fun to take a peek inside another designer’s ‘kitchen’.

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks…. maybe you can do a post on yours.

  • Reply Kelly May 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Wow, what an original and inspirational way to design a website. It’s great to see the whole processes and to see how you do everything by hand. I’m the total opposite and do everything on the computer, but I think it definitely stifles my creativity, next time I will get the sketch book out.

    I had no idea the items in your photos were miniature, they’re so detailed! Love the mini magazines and the iPhone/Macbook – Amazing!

    Thanks for sharing x

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Ahh, the new generation of computer generated design layouts!

      One good thing about studying in the late 80’s was that ‘old school’ method of drawing and using layout pads. Even today, everything I design will first start in a sketchbook where I collate my thoughts and then combine them with a visual language. The computer is the final destination for me.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. x

  • Reply Chedva May 2, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Love seeing the sketches and reading about the idea! You sure don’t do things half way, Tina!

    • Reply tina May 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      Ha. I like that…”You sure don’t do things half way, Tina!” Sometimes I wish I would cut corners…. but then hey, I do in some respects:)

      Thank you for finding out re: yellow side table.

  • Reply Jennifer May 3, 2012 at 5:52 am

    Tina! What a labor of love that was. I had no idea the world of miniatures was so vast – an Eames chair and iphone – WOW! I think that tiny little ladder is one of my would look so sweet on a bookshelf or mantle:) I’m also so happy you included more of your artwork – I love seeing it and think you are so talented! The final photos are great too!

    • Reply tina May 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      Jennifer, it is HUGE….

      The ladder has always been my favourite and the lovely Hannah knows this… I saw it on her stand and knew I have to buy and incorporate it somehow!

      I’m really pleased you like me showing some artwork. I do enjoy it more now and happy people like it:) Thanks you!!

  • Reply Chi @ Carousel May 4, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Oooh, I do love a behind-the-scenes post! 😀

    I really enjoyed seeing your sketches/mindmaps and fab miniatures (no idea, by the way!). I’m a huge fan of detailed and clever design so I am totally blown away by your process.

    I’d always thought your blog design was great but knowing what I know now, I shall always have a greater appreciation for it.

    Have a superb Bank Holiday weekend! x

    • Reply tina May 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      Aww. Ta. It’s fun writing about the process because it’s so easy to forget how much work it takes to design a website….

      I might do a post about designing the colourliving logo… shall I ?

      Hope you have a lovely and long weekend x Not long now until Berlin….

  • Reply caroline trend-daily May 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Oh my word-you clever, clever sausage you> Absolutely fantastic-hardly know where to start-the fabulous sketches, the amazing miniature magazines, the Kensington dollshouse festivel-please tell me more-I feel a visit coming on-it sounds wonderful> Is that where the incredible Eames armchair came from? Happy weekend clever lady! Lol Cx

    • Reply tina May 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      Ha ha… clever sausage eh?? Thanks love… Kensington Dollshouse Festival runs from the 11th-13th May.. I’m thinking of going either Sat or Sun so let me know if you want to come. It is totally amazing and you’ll see things that your eyes won’t believe.

      Might be good to get props for your styling. Yes, bought Dali sofa and Eames chair from there. There is a stand with really funky and contemporary furniture. There is a movement of modern dolls houses…
      look at this:

      Have a relaxing weekend x Berlin in less than 2 weeks. Yay!!

  • Reply Sophie May 7, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Goodness Tina this is incredible! I had no idea just how involved the process was, but how wonderful that you documented everything in such a way and are able to share it with us now!
    Oh wow this is just so unique and inspiring! x

    • Reply tina May 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm

      So pleased this has inspired people… and yes, I’m chuffed I documented it coz it’s nice to look back on right??

      Phew, glad it’s over but am sure will work on another one soon??

      Hope you had a good BH weekend. I worked non-stop (incl. blogging) so could do with another few days rest… x

  • Reply Hannah May 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Hey Tina,

    Thankyou so much for your lovely words. (I’m blushing!)
    I don’t read many blogs, the ones I come accross are normally a bit dull and badly written, but yours is really good. Its insightful and you explain everything in an interesting and fun way… makes me feel more inspired to do stuff! I like the references to people that have inspired you, gives a really good depth into the design process.

    Im leaving my job in Bristol in a couple of months and moving back to London to try my hand at freelance model making…(I only hope my clients are as interesting and easy to work with as you were!)

    Hope everything is going well and I look forward to seeing you at Kensington this weekend.

    • Reply tina May 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm


      How nice to hear from you…. I feel quite sentimental… you were a big part of this!

      Gosh, you’re leaving Bristol and your job. Wow! I’m all for people doing their own thing.
      We must chat about your plans so I can recommend you.

      I will try my best to pop into Kensington. I’m snowed under at the moment but really want to come and see you guys. x

  • Reply Micki May 24, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Remarkable developing process – even if i was updated from time to time, it is astonishing to “relive” the process.

    • Reply tina May 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Glad you liked it… you know how long it took, but how much fun I had.

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