In a Nutshell

I thought long and hard what I could make Marina of Enchanted Doll as a gift for her birthday contest, I wanted it to be something that expressed my feelings for what she gave me by creating her dolls. My mind was blank when I tried thinking of something most of the time, the ideas I had either didn’t fit what I wanted to say with it or they just seemed “not good enough” to enter.
If you know me you’ll know that I love tiny stuff and magical stuff, and have always loved such since I was little. I decided that I wanted my entry to be small to fit in your hand, and be magical.
Then one day, I can’t even really remember how, but the whole idea just appeared in my head, that I want to empty a walnut shell, line it with red velvet, make it hinged in some way and make that be a case for a tiny golden key, like something one might find in a magical world. This would be a symbol to thank Marina for the world she created with her dolls.

I then carried this idea around with me for ages, I think at least a month, but never seemed to be able to actually make it. I mentioned several times on the ED forum that I was composting my idea, and that’s what it felt like, it needed time to be made.

I didn’t have so many weeks left until the deadline of the contest and so I went on Etsy to look for tiny golden keys and red velvet. I initially meant to buy a tiny key charm like this which I also did but I wasn’t really satisfied with the look, not intricate enough. I bought a piece of beautiful looking red velvet also. Then being restless I kept looking through pages and pages of golden keys on Etsy, being kind of underwhelmed with what I found, when I came across this very beautiful like out of a fairytale tiny golden key, I nearly jumped in my seat of joy because it was the prettiest golden key I ever saw, and looking at it it screamed Enchanted Doll. I felt it looked so ED-esque, it fit right in with the Enchanted Doll world. I actually thought it was so pretty that I decided to buy it for myself and made a deal with myself that “in case” it fits in a walnut, it would be the one I’d use for my entry.
I don’t normally click on the buy button just after finding something online, I usually sleep over the decision, but this key magically bought itself, like lightning!

Some days later Calle and me went grocery shopping and the store had loose walnuts. They don’t normally have any but they did then and I took it as a sign that I had to make my idea. I bought 5 walnuts as they were quite expensive and we don’t normally buy expensive stuff, are very budget-conscious when we shop. The number 5 is my favourite, I hadn’t exactly counted the nuts but just grabbed a handful and at home I noticed I bought 5. :)

I then waited for the ordered things and they all arrived spread over a week. I grabbed one of the Walnuts to check if the special golden key would fit in it, and sure enough, it was the perfect size. I was a little sad at first because I woudln’t get to keep it, but very happy at the same time because it was perfect for my idea, much better than the much smaller key charms I intended to use at first.

When I did the actual work the whole thing was trial and error and learning from it, the whole time my approach was, I would try and do my best, but it might not work out like in my head.
I took a sharp knife and attempted to open up one walnut after the other, without breaking the two halves of the shell. I got two that broke and three that actually worked. I didn’t actually yet know how I would line those shells with the velvet, I had never lined anything. But first I had to figure out a way to make these shells hinged. In my head I had imagined tiny home made metal hinges but I realized that it was too andvanced for me to be able to make. I sat down with all the shells, the red velvet and golden key nearby and tried stuff on the failed nut shells. Until I had the idea to use red ribbon to hinge the shells with and also as a closure. I did a trial version on one of the three perfect nuts, the one that was the least pretty. everything seemed to work as I meant it to but after telling Calle my boyfriend a very complicated way of glueing ribbons inside the nut, making slots for them and then binding them to close the shell, he had the great idea to drill tiny holes in each shell so I could then glue a piece of ribbon to the inside of each shell and let it travel through the hole so I could use them to bind and thereby close the shell. (this is really hard to describe right now and I wish I had taken in progress shots but I was so involved in the process I completely forgot to take pics at any stage except the finish)

Either way, I picked the shells that were the best fit for the key and we went to the garage where Calles father Lasse has a workbench with tools and all kinds of stuff. (We live in the house next door from Calle’s parents)
All this was in the middle of the night and we were not sure exactly where the extra drills for the power drill are kept, but finally we found them and sure enough there even was a tiny drill with 1mm diameter, perfect size to fit my 3mm ribbon through without making it too tight.
Dear Calle fastened each shell half and drilled a hole in them very carefully while I was urging him to “not destroy it, don’t do to this side too much, these are the perfect shells, the only ones, etc.”.
It worked perfectly as if by magic and the holes had exactly the right angle *phew*.

I went back to my worktable and then remembered again that each nut had a big red stamp on the outside to mark them where they came from. I hoped it would come off with some water, but of course it was waterproof. I then tried on a failed shell to sand it off with sandpaper, but this didn’t work without leaving a mark. It occured to me to leave the stamp there, but I decided that I wanted it gone. I scoured the place for something sharp to scratch the stamp off the nutshell, and finally did the job with something similar to a surgical blade. It worked perfectly, one could only see something was removed there if one knew. Only it was very time consuming to scratch the colour out of all the tiny nooks and crannies of the outer shell, it took me about two hours. But finally that problem was out of the way.
I then glued the ribbon for the hinge, and the ones for the closure into the shells. Then I tried different ways of lining the shells, until I realized the best way would be to make tiny red velvet pillows in just the right thickness to fill out the shell. I finshed everything and put the golden key in the nut, carefully closed it and bound the ribbon in a nice knot, when I realized that this won’t work. The whole time I hadn’t considered that the ribbon-hinge was loose and that when I bound the ribbon-closure on the other side, the loose hinge would make the two shell halves just hang there open.
I couldn’t believe that I did the whole thing and never thought one moment of that. It was very late and I was very tired and I decided I should go to bed and look at it again the next day.

After a nights sleep I had an idea, I ripped the velvet pillows out of the shells and ripped the old ribbon-hinge out aswell, with a kitchen knife and a tiny file I created slots that would leave just enough space to glue the ribbon into creating a hinge that would close as tightly as possible. In this way I was able to do it, metal hinges would have been better but I was satisfied enough that I had made it work, and I needed to ship it off to Marina that day so it would comfortably make it in time for the deadline.

When I finished this little thing I was in love with it and felt so accomplished. I felt very happy that I was now able to gift it to Marina and let her know through this symbol what her dolls mean to me.
I never made anything resembling this before but I fell in love with working with tiny wooden shells, and it inspires me to do more cute little wood work, because I do love wooden things.

Here is the accompanying description of my gift:

In a Nutshell

Mixed media, Annina Born 2010
Materials: walnut shell, satin ribbon, velvet lining, cotton padding, golden key.

When I first saw Enchanted Dolls it was as if seeing the little elves and magical beings I have been dreaming about ever since I was little. In a nutshell, by creating them you gave me back the key to their magical world and now I want to hand it to you as a small “thank you”!
The walnut case can be opened and closed and the key can be removed. When putting it back, slide it between the protruding wood and the velvet lining of the left shell.

and here are my rushed photos I took of it right before packing it up and shipping it off:

here are the photos on my flickr, click each one to see them (once looking at a photo click “all sizes” to see the big version).

Even though I didn’t win anything I am happy to have been able to give a small token to Marina and it was a lot of fun to create something that I made up in my head and actually follow through!
A little while ago the gallery with all entries went up, and you can see my entry here aswell.
Also check out the complete gallery, I love the variety and creativity of all the entries and want to congratulate everyone who took part, I’m loving this gallery and find it very inspiring! ♥


13 Responses to “In a Nutshell”

  1. Lindi Says:

    Wow, you’re so creative!! Love the idea, and that you made it so beautiful :)

  2. Jenny Says:

    Wow, Annina, it’s absolutely adorable and magical! The key is very ED-ish. I’m amazed at your work and effort on this gift. It’s very very beautiful! Oh, and I noticed that the nut shell, with the red velvet in it, is shaped like a heart. =]

  3. Annina Says:

    thank you Lindi, I’m glad that you think it’s beautiful! :)

    thank you Jenny, you’re so sweet!
    oh you are right, it makes the velvet look like a heart, I hadn’t even noticed it. ♥

  4. monika viktoria (mayple) Says:

    Annina, what a beautiful post. I couldn’t bear to write about my process in such detail, you’d have to read through three pages of: “And then my hand hurt, but I kept drawing…. and then my hand hurt even more… but I…” etc etc :-)

    A beautiful, magical little story annina, so sweet to read…. :-)

  5. Annina Says:

    hah yeah Monika, that would be a long post about the work of months for sure, so much drawing and painting!

    thank you :)

  6. Ruth Says:

    I love your entry, Annina! It’s such a beautifully sweet symbol of all that Marina’s dolls mean to you–and we know that’s exactly the meaning she wished for because she named them “Enchanted Dolls.” I hope you can find another key as perfect as that one, and make another set, and keep it always close to Iðunn, who will be always close to you!

  7. Annina Says:

    thank you for your heartfelt comment Ruth, you are so sweet! :)

  8. Ama Says:

    I loved to read of this creative process and how your gift was born. Indeed it looks as beautiful and magic as if it had appeared from the hands of a fairy! bravo Annina !

  9. Annina Says:

    thank you Ama, i’m happy to hear you liked reading it! :)

  10. Beth Says:

    Well, I don’t claim to be completely original, the victorians were big fans of velvet lining. But I have to say this is so very similiar to something I made a while beforehand

    • Annina Says:

      wow that’s uncanny. i truly have not seen your creation before just now when you linked to your post. i would never want to steal anyone’s idea, that is really the truth, but i can’t prove it to you because it looks so very similar.
      the only thing i can think of is that i must have just had the same idea independently from yours.

      when i was trying to think of how to make the ribbon be the closure of the nut, i first meant to do it the same way i made the “hinge” but then had this thought to instead drill holes and pull the ribbon through them to then bind it. and seeing yours you did that too, amazing.

      i’m really sorry this seems like a copy of yours, if i had known about your creation i would not have made this. i truly came up with it myself and am perplexed to see how similar our creations are.

  11. Beth Says:

    We are not the first :) It was just the fastenings and the -same- blog title too.. Maybe we are doppelgangers :) You have some nice dolls on your blog anyway, I enjoyed seeing your work. b

    • Annina Says:

      wow, that one has a real hinge, i wanted to do that but could never have pulled it off, it’s lovely actually!
      i’m glad you are not upset, i felt a little bad because i really didn’t see this coming, although thinking about it now, walnuts are out there, velvet and ribbons are out there, anyone could make this i guess.
      it’s indeed funny though how we both chose that same title and how these creations are so completely similar, maybe we have a similar mind?

      well thank you, i looked at your site and really like your creations too!
      i have to say though, the dolls on my blog are not my creations, i collect them, they are from various makers!
      i have actually had a creative “block” for years, and the nut here was one of the very few things i managed to make. (that is why i was so surprised to see that this one thing i made after years of not creating, already existed out there)

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