November 3, 2017


And So It Begins….Chapter One


It may still be summer but I’ve been keeping an eye on the ruins of last year’s Hauntsville.  One of the great oaks has been looking a bit bedraggled and its leaves have begun to darken.  Then, two days ago I found part of a parchment with a note stating, “under the oak, after the full moon.”  So I’ve been on stakeout duty, camera at the ready and last night I caught them.


Under the oak, by the light of the moon Mistress Hecate (leader of the Hauntsville coven) flew in on her broom and met with  the great wizard Astor of the Skies who flew in on his dragon Ninhogg (his name means dreaded striker).  They began the planning session that will lead to the creation of Hauntsville 2017.



The meeting was under the supervision of Archimedes the owl.  I managed one photo and then quickly departed. One should not play with witches, wizards and dragons.

















This year’s village plans were literally blown away by Hurricane Irma. What with storm preparations and the tremendous clean up I have not been able to get started with the village until now. So plans have been scraped and redone. I decided to actually “dust off” some Styrofoam trees from several years ago and use them. So here goes…


The “tree” you see below I carved from solid blocks of Styrofoam I picked up at a factory as surplus and paid only a couple of dollars for each. One block is 44 inches high by 24 inches wide and the other is 36 inches high. The “log” that will be added to the top is 5 feet long. There are also a couple of “branches” made from scraps.


I started by using my hot knife to hollow out the block to create shelves to place the village houses on. It took about a day to carve out each block when I made them 7-8 years ago. This year all I needed to do was some painting and minor alterations as you will see. The photo below shows the tree stump ready for repair work.



The next photo shows one of the tree stumps up close so you can see the “shelf” on the inside where the houses will be placed. I started the repairs by spray painting the entire stump using Design Master Walnut . I use this paint (purchased at Michaels) because it is the only spray paint that does not “eat” foam. Please note the hole on the back wall. That is for passing electrical cords into the display during

construction. Each of the windows in the two stumps has a different shape and configuration as you will see in the following photos. The inside of each window has been sprayed black using Design Master Black spray paint.



The next photo show the two tree stumps I’ll be using for the village. The original is stacked on top the the shorter one is below. Note the different configurations of the various windows with their shelves. You can also the electrical access holes in the back of the stumps.



First, each stump as sprayed with walnut brown to get rid of the white areas that had suffered abuse since the last time the stumps were used. After the walnut dried I will add moss to the tree stumps. I used a golden mustard yellow and two greens called village green (a pale green) and hunter green. I use a piece of natural sponge which I run under the faucet to soak and then wring out the excess water. I start with the light green and apply the paint to a piece of foil. Using rubber gloves I dip the sponge into the paint and then squeeze the sponge until the paint spreads throughout the sponge. The paint is applied by simply dabbing the sponge onto the tree. The dabs are completely random and applied with varying amounts of pressure. Keep rotating the sponge in your fingers so that the dabs of paint do not look alike and take o n a stamped appearance. When I have applied enough green moss to satisfy my taste I switch to the mustard color and repeat the process. I will finish by doing the same thing with the darker green. If the moss becomes to bright (too much paint) I use a light dusting of black spray paint to tone it down.



In the photo below you can see the method of application for the first shade of green paint.



The next photo shows one of the tree stumps with the light green moss added. Note the random pattern of the growing moss.



In the photo below I am adding the yellow moss to the tree. In this photo you can see the patterns of bark I have carved into the tree using the hot knife. The painting of the trees and the bark carving took me most of the morning. The attention to this detail will go a long way toward making the final village have that finished detailed look. I spend a lot of time working on details because this is what makes the village come to life.



After painting the stumps I turned to the log that will lay on the top of the stumps. This log is made from a 5 foot piece of Styrofoam that I carved with the hot knife. I rough carve the log and then use a piece of coarse sandpaper (50 or 60 grit) to smooth and shape the edges of the cuts in the foam. I am carving platforms, caves and shelves into the foam so as to have places to place village accessories. I also drill several holes into the foam to allow for wires for lighting.



In the follow below you see the carved and sanded log ready to be painted.



Finally we have come to the end of tree construction. The last photo shows the tree stump assembly all painted, sanded and carved and ready for village installation. Note on the ground there are two branches waiting to be installed on the tree stumps. It has taken the better part of a full day to get all this preliminary work done. In the next installment I’ll start the layout of the village houses. 


Until next time—


The Village Landlord


Larry Treadwell














Hauntsville 2017


Gravely Manor Display


With the trees finished I transported all the foam pieces to my display table and arranged them in place (the same set up that was displayed on the driveway in part one).


Earlier, I had made my annual trip to Michaels Arts and Crafts to purchase floral accessories. I go to the bargain section and select random floral picks and sprays. I look for damaged ones and then try to bargain with management to get the price reduced as much as possible. The photo below shows some of this year’s “bargains”. These will all be broken down to their individual components. The majority will become the backgrounds inside the tree windows.



Below is the empty display window that will become Gravely Manor.



The first step is to pull the wires through the hole in the back. Once the foliage is fixed to the walls and the buildings are placed into the window there will no way to bring in the wires so all wiring has to be done first. It takes some experimentation to figure out which pieces will fit into this display. It is neer a first try and everything fits. But this is part of the adventure. Next I break apart the floral pieces so they can be added to the display. I use floral pins to attach the pieces to the walls of the display window. The photo below shows floral accessories attached to the wall and the wires pulled through and ready for connection. You will also see clumps of brown moss (purchased at Michaels) placed at the base of the floral pieces. The moss is there to cover the bare stems of the floral pieces. Since these window displays are quite dark I usually add an extra light to the display. For this I use and extra bulb and wire like the ones used to light the individual houses.



The next photo shows the Manor house in place and the addition of an additional piece of Styrofoam (it is white and on the right) . I needed this additional piece of foam to support an accessory that will be added later.



I needed a stair case to fit in front of the manor house so I constructed one from

pieces of foam glued together and the covered with washed river stones I picked up on a trip to North Carolina. I attached these with hot glue set on low temperature so as to not melt the foam. In the photo you will note I’ve now placed more moss as a ground cover throughout the window. I make certain that every inch of foam is covered with something. No uncovered or undecorated foam ever shows.



I use tacky wax to position most loose items in the display. The wax was used in this view to attached the lamp posts and the mailbox to the stairs.



In the photo below you will see the mostly finished Gravely Manor display. I’ve added a skeleton figure resting in a hammock on the left and a wishing well on the right. Several trees have also been added. The tree behind the wishing well is one that I made from floral wire, miniature fall leaves and white floral tape. The birch markings on the tree were done with a black marker. I chose this tree for its yellow color so it would separate and stand out in the display. On the left is an additional floral pick from Michaels to be a tree behind the skeleton on the bench. This display is now basically complete. I will add additional accessories such as bats, pumpkins and figurines when I get the entire village display completed. I just down want to get all these little pieces out while dealing with the mess of construction. When I get finished and look the display over I will be adding (sometimes switching) trees. I firmly believe you can NEVER have too many trees.



As I type this I’m looking at the above photo on my monitor. I think the left hand corner, next to the hammock really screams for a tree. I’ll add that tree in a moment. You can look for it when I produce the Official Hauntsville 2017 final display. Below is a lit view of the Gravely Manor display as it currently stands. If you look carefully at the display you will see the light that falls on the staircase and on the skeleton resting on the hammock. This light comes from the extra light I added to this display. It is attached to the tree wall below the rim directly in front of the stairs. It also gives a slight glow to the front of the Manor House so that it is not a dark, black hole when the lights in the room are turned out.



In the next installment, I’ll construct the Grimsly Manor display in the tree window above Gravely. This will be a more complicated display to put together.


Until next time -- Happy Villaging!!


Larry Treadwell









Hauntsville 2017


The Creation of Upper Witch Hollow


In this installment I’ll actually be much more creative than in the earlier installments because as I built this

section I ran into some problems that seem to always come up in my villages so I took careful photos to try and show how I solve these issues and get my finished look. So let’s get started…


In the first view below I have the empty shell that will become Upper Witch Hallow. You can see the shelf on the right side and the first of the wires I have to pull to provide the electrical connections. Levels throughout the village are quite important to me. I will often raise a building or accessory by one or more layers of foam to avoid that straight line look that I see in many villages. It is more work, but I think it pays off. I have lots of sheets of 1 inch by 12 inches by 48 inches of foam that I get from Home Depot in the insulation department. They come in packages of 6 and I’ll use several packages for a full size village. (I save the big pieces to reuse in future villages.)



In the photo below I am carving a stone retaining wall on the slope side of the right hand shelf. I’m using a Hotwire carving tool and I am just making random stone shaped cuts into the foam. The cuts are about 1/8 inch deep but they could be a bit more or less as they are just for outlines. When finished I’ll paint these stone using several different shades of stone color (grey and brown). When this is finished if the stone seems too bright I’ll spray a mist of black paint over it to dull the individual colors. I generally build lots of stone walls like this in the village.



In the photo below you can see the painted stone wall. Just above the wall you will see a green lawn platform. I will use this platform to place the buildings on later. I always use separate platforms so that I have a clean layer for building and in this way I also will not permanently ruin the inside of the tree. Notice I did not install grass on the entire platform. The buildings will cover this brown section when they are installed. This is a recycled platform from a previous village just cut to fit this particular spot.



In the photo below grass is being applied to what will become a platform for a Witch House in the lower section of the window. Once again I carved stone into the front edge of the platform and painted it with brown and black spray paint. I am using Design Master paints from Michaels because they do not dissolve the foam. The grass is made from Woodland Scenics grass that comes in various colors. This is the material that is used to make model railroad landscapes so I figured they would work for me as well. The grass is applied by simply spraying the foam with a coating of paint (I use brown or green depending on what I have available) and then sprinkle the grass material on top of the wet paint, then I shake off the excess. I use this method rather than white glue because the glue takes longer to dry and the paint is cheaper than white glue or spray glue (which also dissolves the foam). If I paint 2 or three pieces at one time by the time I’m done the first piece is dry enough to install in the village.



Next begins the installation of the houses. The flying witch and the moon is being placed on a small scrap piece of foam because I need to make her taller than the building that will go in front of her. I just sprayed the foam black so it would not show in the finished village.



Next some foliage was added to the wall behind where the building will be installed. I cut this foliage from one of the sprays I purchased at Michaels and then used the floral picks to attach it to the wall.



Next the Witch’s Pub was placed onto the platform.



With the pub in place (it also hides the foam block upon which the flying witch was placed) I added a fence with pumpkins to give the scene closure.



Now the platform you saw me applying the grass to earlier is placed in position on the left side and the witch house is placed on it along with an accessory. The wires for both of these have already been pulled through.



Finally, the last platform piece is added in front of the witch house to complete this section. For this platform I carved stone blocks to more or less make a curb for the front edge and then sprayed them grey. The white wire you see on the left is for my secret light that I’ll explain later.



With the platform in place I trim the edges with moss. This moss is also purchased from Michaels (Department 56 sells moss also but theirs is much more expensive.) The moss is used to fill cracks and gaps in the scene and to provide a soft edge effect that makes the village look more realistic. I also added another fence section to close off the scene.



With all the trim work done I can now add accessories to fill in the scene. In this case I’ve added a small pond and a witch who is busy turning princes into frogs. I figured the frogs might like a pond to hang out in. The pond is something I made using resins, bits of wood and stone. There is also a fish made from clay that swims in the pond.



Since these villages are often seen in darkened rooms I don’t feel the houses provide enough light so in this scene I placed a “secret light” attached to the window ceiling to shine down on the scene. The wire is hidden by the addition of more foliage sprays pinned to the wall on the left. In this scene I used an orange C6 Christmas light but I often change the color of the lights to suit my mood.



To complete the scene I add a number of trees that I have previously made from floral wire, floral tape and miniature leaves. I spend the winter months (January and February) making additional trees for future villages. Over the years I’ve made more than 300 trees of varying types and designs. You’ll see them throughout the village. This will complete this scene, more or less. When I get everything done I’ll add accessories to fill out the village and give it those unique details. Now let’s get a look at the completed scene. First the “bird’s eye view for details…


(you can even see the fish in the pond!! :)  )



And finally, the visitor’s view…

I noticed a few ghosts just happened to fly into the scene.



I know this was a long installment but I hope you picked up a few ideas and techniques that you can add to your own villages.


Until next time…


“The Village Landlord” is going to take a nap!



Larry Treadwell








Another Awesome Example of: