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A Victorian Birdcage
Text and Illustrations by Sue Heaser

The Cage Base:
Figure 3.

Cover the base of the small bottle with foil, smoothing it down thoroughly. Hold the bottle upside-down on the board and mark the foil all round with your knife about 1¼ in (30 mm) from the base as a guide for trimming the bars later. Working with the bottle upside-down, apply sausages of clay in the same way as for the dome. Trim the ends of the bars along the guideline. Apply a sausage of clay all round the ends and another round the top edge of the bottle. Then apply two more rings of clay sausage onto the base of the bottle for the base of the cage. Butt all the joins together, trimming excess clay.

Bake the dome and cage base for 30 minutes - longer than usual to make the cage as strong as possible. When the cage is completely cool, open up the foil and slide out the bottle and the marble. You should now be able to gently remove the foil from inside the cage and dome.

The Parrot:
Figure 4.

Form two ¼ in (6 mm) balls of clay, one golden yellow, the other blue. Press them together and roll into an oval. Point one end and squeeze a neck as shown. Flatten a small piece of black clay and apply to a ¼ in (6 mm) ball of white. Roll into a sausage about 3/16 in (5 mm) thick and cut two slices. Apply these to the head for cheek patches with the black section at the bottom. Indent the centre of each patch with a wool needle to make eye sockets and fill each socket with a small ball of black for eyes. Roll a 1/8 in (3 mm) ball of black, shape into an oval and point one end for the beak. Push the blunt end onto the parrot's face and curl the point round and down. Poke two nostrils on top of the beak.

Figure 5

Form a 3/8 in (15 mm) thick sausage of blue and flatten on the board until it is about 1/8 in (3 mm) thick. Cut slices for feathers and press onto the back of the parrot for the tail feathers. Cut two thicker slices and shape into wings, pressing onto the sides of the parrot. Mark feathers with the eye of the wool needle.

Roll a 1/16 in (1.5 mm) thick log of ochre for the perch and cut a length about 1 in (25 mm) long. Form two 1/16 in (1.5 mm) balls of black for the feet, shape into tear drops and press flat onto the board. Make two cuts in the wide end of each and splay out the toes. Slice the feet off the board and lay them onto the perch, curling the toes round to clutch the perch. Now press the perch and feet against the underside of the parrot. Bake the parrot lying on its back for about 15 minutes.

Finishing the Cage:
Figure 6.

Brush the cage all over with nail varnish remover to remove any grease. Paint the cage, inside and out, with gold acrylic paint. Cut a length of fine wire and wind one end round one end of the perch, twisting the wire back onto itself to secure. Check for size, trim and repeat for the other side of the perch. The parrot needs to hang centrally in the cage so adjust the length of the wire accordingly. Heat the point of a needle over a candle and press into the inside top of the cage dome to make a small hole. The hot needle will melt the clay easily. Form a tiny hook from wire and glue into the hole with superglue. Hang the perch wire from this.

I have made two tiny white clay pots (push a ball of clay onto the end of a pencil) for food and water pots. One is filled with varnish for water, the other with some glued-in sesame and poppy seeds.

Figure 7.

Place the dome, with the dangling parrot, on top of the cage base. You can glue the two parts of the cage together if you wish. The separate perch with another parrot is made from a ball of flattened ochre clay for the base and a cocktail stick for the pole. Make the parrot in the same way and glue it on its perch onto the top of the pole.

The white "wicker" cage in the photograph is made in exactly the same way as the gilt one except I have made more bars using thinner sausages of clay. This gives a finer result and makes a cage that would have been used for smaller birds.

Sue Heaser

This article originally appeared in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine in the UK in 1996.
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