Giant gingerbread house – How it was made

Some people have actually thought that a life-size gingerbread house was built as a holiday installation at Gasworks Park! If only that were true! Others have thought that it was merely a Photoshop composite, but that would have been too easy! The truth is that it was an illusion created by using an old technique known as “forced perspective“. The trick works by placing subjects in the distance and bringing another subject(s) closer to the camera. This makes the close subject look bigger than it actually is or the distant subjects smaller than they actually are, based on where they are relative to each other. While there was a tiny bit of Photoshop used to remove a small portion of the apparatus I built to hold the house, the photo of the people and the house were taken in the same frame.

Let me begin by explaining the building of the house itself, since that involved most of the work. I started by sketching out what I wanted the house to look like. From there I guessed what each piece of the house would look like, and created 2 prototypes out of cardboard. Since I am no architect, this took a bit of trial and error, but it did work. From there I began baking away. When it came time to stick the pieces together, my good friends, Olivia and Mary, came for some much needed help. Then began an epic week of decorating when I had time, and figuring out how in the world I would be able to conceal the platform that the house sat on.

(These photos were added after the original post date… I had forgotten that I took them!)

Photo of prototype for gingerbread house I designedBeginning stages of making gingerbread houseMary and Olivia, my gingerbread house construction helpers

The platform was the result of about 2 hours spent wandering around Lowe’s, collecting hardware that might fit together to form a sort of raised structure. I knew that I could use a bike maintenance stand to clamp whatever structure I came up with, so I had to make something small enough to be hidden by the house “grounds”, yet sturdy enough to be raised up and out from the stand. I’m not sure I will win any handyman awards (if there is such a thing) for building this, but it did the trick. Although, if I had found a way to make the thing levitate, I would have preferred that!

After convincing myself that, yes, I absolutely needed to buy a new power tool, I proceeded to cut an organic shape out of the wood base that the house sat on. To the base, I added a layer of wire mesh and then a layer of white felt. Together they formed a sculptable ground cover which hung over the edges of the wood base. Then, the gingerbread house and base were connected to the stand via the contraption I built.

Last, but not least, with the help of my friends, Shannon and Rachel, I managed to come up with enough “giant candies” to give to everyone for props. I hope it’s obvious that they were all putting the final pieces onto the house. Like the pouring snow! One of my favorite parts!

Moving on to the day of the shoot…

All of my volunteers showed up early enough to enjoy the coffee and donuts provided by my generous boyfriend, Dave. Meanwhile, I trimmed and adjusted the overhanging felt/mesh to fit the contours of the famous hill at Gasworks Park. I piped on some last bits of icing and covered the ground in a layer of sugar. The stand was in position close to the camera, my aperture was open to F20, and I sent everyone off into the distance. When everything was all ready to go and everyone was in their exact positions, I ran out to take my place amongst them. My remote wouldn’t work that far away, so Dave volunteered to push the button. Again, I’m not sure if it still qualifies as a self-portrait, but it’s close enough for me.:)

My friend, Laura, of Casual Family Photography, and Mary and Sara, with their cameras, documented the photo shoot, so you have some visuals to make sense of it all.

Forced perspective gingerbread house photo shoot at Gasworks Park

Forced perspective gingerbread house photo shoot at Gasworks Park

Forced perspective gingerbread house photo shoot at Gasworks Park

Forced perspective gingerbread house photo shoot at Gasworks ParkForced perspective gingerbread house photo shoot at Gasworks ParkForced perspective gingerbread house photo shoot at Gasworks Park

And that was pretty much it! In post processing, all I had to do was take out a little bit of the stand. The rest was almost entirely concealed by the overhanging base. I think it all worked out pretty well. Oh, and the gingerbread house was about 98% edible. I added some plastic for the windows, and a few toothpick pieces to hold the garland together. Not too shabby for my first gingerbread house, eh?:)If you haven’t seen the final image, you can see it here.

So, I guess that wraps up my year of monthly self-portraits! What do you think I should do next year??

  • Teresa Howe

    So cool! Like LOTR!ReplyCancel

  • Neat idea… I wish you would have posted the final image though.ReplyCancel

    • Thanks, Dyanne! The final image is in the blog post before this one. I made a couple of links to it so it’s easier to find. :)ReplyCancel

  • David Julian

    Nicely done Tracie! I Pinned it and shared it on FB.ReplyCancel

  • Lori Schellman George

    Tracie – This is so incredible! I love getting to see how you did it all. WOW!ReplyCancel

  • Hanna Mazur

    So creative. Love it TracyReplyCancel

  • Tracie Howe

    Thanks, Dave! It turned out well. I was planning to do something different this year, but the weather has forced me to postpone it. I hope you’ll check back again in a few weeks, when it will hopefully be done! :)ReplyCancel

  • Tracie Howe

    Thanks, Lori! :)ReplyCancel

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