Monday, 18 May 2015

Breaking news......

It's been all go at the international headquarters of Tower House Dolls.

What with a brand new Head of Marketing and Communication now in post *ahem* and lots of plans afoot, it's an exciting time.

So here's a head up for a new enterprise starting in the autumn...... a programme of one day workshops which will be nothing short of A-Mazing.

The full detailed programme will be released in July, but we wanted to choose and save the dates, which are.....

Saturday 26 September
Saturday 24 October
Saturday 14 November
Saturday 5 December

I'm not at liberty to divulge details of the four different projects yet but rest assured you will LOVE them. 

I've been collaborating with the incredibly talented and helpful Nick Day of  Treacle Lane who has taken my outlandish, half-baked suggestions and 'back of an envelope' ideas and come up with some wonderful, exclusive kits which will form the basis of two of the classes.

So if you fancy having a go at something interesting and unusual, keep a look out for the grand reveal later in the summer.  If you're really keen and want to be sure you don't miss the programme when it's released, please contact me and ask to go on my mailing list.

It only remains to introduce the newest member of the revamped THD management team, whose idea this was.  As you see she has hit the ground (with all four paws) running.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Casting..... Day 3

Why is it, that no matter what time of year I'm casting, I always seem to be doing it on the coldest days of the month?

There's also something about handling slightly damp plaster moulds, in conjunction with porcelain slip which chills me to the marrow.

I'm completely convinced that slip has something in it, which is, on a molecular level, almost exactly the same composition as the active ingredient in Cold Wet Nose, as practised by Small  Dog.  Even on the hottest summer day, Small Dog's nose is unnaturally cold.  When she uses it to tap the back of my hand (which is her preferred method for requesting strokings) the cold, wetness of it lingers much longer than the actual nose/hand contact.

It's the same with porcelain slip.  Only as well as being both cold and wet, it is also slippy which is not a good combination.

I've completed a number of casting sessions over the past three days and I'm way beyond the first flush of enthusiasm, down the main road of meh and well along the tree-lined avenue of "shoot me now".

It's not that I dislike casting.  Well, not too much.  It's necessary and I've been doing it for so many years that I can put my brain in neutral and coast through it thinking of other things.
However, after all those years you'd think that I would have more a more realistic notion of how much I can achieve in a single session and plan accordingly.

But no.  I always hopelessly overestimate how much is doable in a given period of time before I lose the will to live.

No matter..... I'm reaching the halfway point now so it's all downhill from here on in.
*said more in hope than expectation*

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Casting caution to the winds.....

It's no good.

I can't put it off any longer.

I have to start a casting batch this week.


My last casting session was started last August, and took me absolute ages to complete but I need to be completely focused this time as I have some important commissions to do, as well as assorted dolls and toys for my forthcoming classes, not to mention other stuff which is a bit hush-hush and I shouldn't even be mentioning here as I'm under strict instructions from our newly appointed 'Hed of Markitten and Komewnicashun' to keep schtum.

So, all this week I shall be hard at it, up to my elbows in porcelain slip.  I'm planning two sessions per day, with a goodly stretch of time in the middle when I'll be working on La Belle Poupée workshop packs.

Speaking of which, if anyone wants to order one, please let me know by Thursday 30 April at the latest as I won't be taking orders after that time.

Anyway, earlier today (despite it still being nominally my birthday week AND a Sunday) I set up a casting area on PP's side of the desk, leaving my side free for workshop preparations.  

It might look like carnage but trust me, I'm a dollmaker, and this is all perfectly normal.
Those little moulds at the back, still wrapped in protective cardboard are some brand new moulds which I haven't even unbanded yet, let alone cast, so that's always exciting.

I'll also be channelling my inner Dr. Frankenstein this time, swapping heads with bodies and generally taking extreme dissection to a whole new maniacal level.

*cue diabolical laughter* Mwahahahaha!

It could all end in tears....

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Amazing and Wondrous Ebay WIN!

I am so chuffed.

My state of chuffedness relates to a recent Ebay win which was delivered this morning....

Can you guess what it is yet?

Tah Dah!

How exciting is THAT!  It's a Crafter's Extreme Cutting Kit and it is, quite simply A. Mazing.

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a bit of a cutting mat geek.  Followers of my FB page will be aware that in advance of my new miniature classes which are due to start in June, I've been doing battle with my collection of cutting mats, degunking them and generally scouring them clean of all the stuff which miniaturists get on them.  

The list is long.... glues (assorted) paint (acrylic - easy to remove, enamel - not so easy) pen marks (ditto) and various other unidentifiable debris.

An initial long soak removes most of the stuff, and a subsequent scrub with cream cleaner deals with more stubborn stains.  What's left is then treated with white spirit, acetone and as a final all-out attack they go in the dishwasher. 

Whatever stains remain after all of that are obviously hard core truly permanent marks, which are possibly impervious even to a small thermonuclear device so I have to reluctantly accept that they're there to stay.  Nevertheless, those mats are CLEAN.

You could eat your dinner off them, except I wouldn't let you.  Nothing should besmirch the pristine surface of a newly cleaned cutting mat.

So. Anyway, I have a number of ordinary cutting mats, now cleaned to within an inch of their lives.  I also have my 'best' cutting mat, which I bought when I did my workroom makeover and strive never to actually cut on in case I mark it.  It is on my desk, and very lovely it looks, but when I'm working I always put one of my standard mats on top of it to protect it.

Did I mention I was a bit of a geek?  You can probably add a dose of OCD to that description too.

Which is why I will not be using my new all singing, all dancing cutting kit quite yet.  I only took it all out of the protective packaging to get a photo of it.

All the bits are new and shiny and the mat itself is COMPLETELY UNMARKED.  There is not even a waffer-thin cut on it yet and I shall have to steel myself to put the craft knife anywhere near it.

But I digress.  I have yet to describe the wondrousness of it all.

It's a big mat (17" x 14") and it holds a cunning secret.  

It is MAGNETIC!  How awesome is THAT?  It has an embedded metal sheet so any magnet will stick to it.

The kit also includes an 18" magnetic ruler which holds really firmly onto the mat, stopping it from sliding when cutting.

But the wondrousness doesn't stop there......
There is also a magnetic twist trimmer with straight blade cartridge.  To be honest, I haven't read the instructions yet so I'm not quite sure what it's for but it's something to do with a hidden blade so you can't cut yourself.

Then there's the magnetic scoring blade cartridge which will make super-crisp folding lines.

Not to mention the ergonomic comfort grip, precision art knife, with loads of spare blades.  

Now the wondrousness goes stratospheric as there is also a magnetic ultimate circle cutter, which I'm presuming cuts perfect circles in any size. And it comes with spare blades too.

And last but not least there is a set of magnetic posts to hold projects in place on the board while glue is drying etc.

Honestly, I cannot believe the amazingness of this kit, and if, like me, you spend lots of time doing precision cutting etc you will appreciate just how amazing and wondrous it is.

Sadly, if you want one too (and why wouldn't you?) you're a bit buggered, as apparently they have been discontinued.  They were made by a US company so there may still be some available over there but you might just be lucky and find one on Ebay UK.  Presumably the seller of mine was so overcome by the wondrousness that she never had the heart to even unpack it, as everything was still factory sealed.

I have a project in the offing which will require me to use my new kit but in the meantime I will clear a space on my desk so that I can admire it.

I should probably get out more.......

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Calling all Kent/Sussex Miniaturists......

If you live within an hour or so of St. Leonards on Sea, and have a yen to make a miniature toy related project in the company of a few like-minded individuals, you're in luck!

I've been 'toying' (can you see what I did there?) with the idea of starting an informal fortnightly class for a while.  If I'm scrupulously honest, one of the best ways to get on with the myriad ideas for my own projects is if I'm preparing for other people's!

Classes will take place in my home with access to a full range of equipment and tools.
Here are just a few ideas for projects you might like to undertake.....

  • Learn how to make, dress and wig a little porcelain doll, from casting right through to completion.
  • Alice in Wonderland vignette
  • Dollmaker's work table
  • Mignonette doll presentation box.
  • Window displays.... perfect to display the tiny toys you've made
  • Make a 1/12th porcelain child doll, along with her matching toy doll
  • Create a doll's tea party
  • Make a scene in a book
  • Menagerie animal rocking and pull along toys
 Miniature toy doll and accessories

 Alice in Wonderland characters

 Alice-themed toy cart and theatre

 Make a little Jumea-inspired toy doll from scratch!

 Traditional Punch & Judy Toy Theatre

 Dollmaker's work table.....

Doll shop display and accessories....

The possibilities are endless.....

Classes will run for three hours every two weeks, either morning, afternoon or early evening and the cost per session is £15.  Kits, materials etc are extra, depending on your project.
Classes will run in blocks of 5 over 10 weeks and I anticipate starting the first session in June.

If you are interested, please contact me and I will add you to my list and send you full information as soon as it becomes available.

I am also planning a return to running occasional one day workshops in the autumn so watch out for an exciting announcement coming soon....

Sunday, 19 April 2015

La Belle Poupée - a spring workshop project....

It's been a while since we designed a complete workshop project,  so with spring springing all around, here is our new offering - La Belle Poupée.

La Belle Poupée is a display window which perfectly showcases four miniature porcelain toy dolls, all dressed in different doll fashions of the late 1890s.
The wooden window display has a tiled roof and is decorated inside and out with printed vintage-style graphics and bunting designed specifically to complement the style of the display.

The porcelain dolls measure a diminutive 1 3/4" tall and feature jointed arms and legs. Each costume features full silk and lace underwear as well as dainty silk shoes with leather soles.The four costume styles range from a simple shabby chic style dress, through to an elaborate Jumeau inspired dress and silk jacket. Wig and hat styles are also varied so you will learn different skills and techniques for each doll. Micro doll stands are also included to show off the dolls to their best advantage. The workshop pack will contain everything you need to complete the costumes as shown, in the pastel colour(s) of your choice.

A selection of full colour antique images are included to use as decoupage in the background and in the side windows.

The interior of the display features an elaborate silk curtain backdrop, along with cut-out antique images to add further interest and atmosphere.

Fully illustrated step-by-step instructions for the complete window display and the four dolls will be provided, as well as email support and a one-to-one video tutorial session as required.

When completed, the display measures 9  3/4" high, 5" wide and 1  3/4" deep.

The cost of the complete workshop pack is £125 plus P&P.

This is a limited edition workshop.  To check availability and to order, please email me with your details and your pastel colour choice(s).  
A deposit of £25 is required, with the balance payable when your kit is ready.  
As I will be making the display kit and doll kits to your colour specifications please allow up to 4 weeks before despatch.

If you need any further information please contact me and I will do my best to help.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Shed wars.......

It's a lovely,  sunny day today, perfect for starting to clear out the shed.

Some people will have been lazing on their lawns, snoozing, reading, or listening to music.

Not us.

No by no nonny no.

I've been up to my armpits in spiders..... both alive and dead.... and I'm absolutely covered in webs.

The shed of which I speak is  a modest 6'x8' wooden shed up the top of the garden, painted to look a bit like a beach hut, with seasidey curtains at the windows.  It's been there since we moved in and over the past two winters it has deteriorated beyond the point of no return.

The roof leaks like a sieve (despite constant running repairs) the wood is rotten and bowing out, and there are cracks you could fit a badger through.

It's home to legions of spiders, the odd mouse nest and very possibly a docile, ageing rat which we've seen trundling around up there.

It's also where I have been storing loads of spare packaging stuff.... bags of bubble wrap, recycled postal boxes and jiffy bags etc.  It's always good to recycle, but I think I may have been overdoing it.

Yes.  I am suitably shamed.

No wonder we couldn't get in there.  I could never get through this much packaging material in several lifetimes, especially given how small the items I have to package actually are.

 I've put the lot on Freecycle in the hope that some budding small business owner, or
avid Ebay seller will come and take it all away.  Preferably before Monday, when we will be loading it all into the back of the car to drop off at the recycling centre.

So it's been a productive afternoon.  Not only have I cleared out my packaging stash, we've also gone through the paint cupboard and identified no end of tins of dried out emulsion and gloss paint, rock hard wood filler, ancient varnish and assorted bottles of 'touch up' paint from historical decorating jobs.

We've also broken up two old cupboards and disposed of any amount of other rubbish in the process.

Our estwhile 'helper', Small Dog, did put in a brief appearance to occupy a patch of sunlight on the patio while we schlepped up and down the garden, carrying bags and boxes.

"Do you need help with anything?"

Predictably, when I requested immediate backup for spider incursions she made herself scarce.

I'm done for the day now though, and we're contemplating the possibility of having a BBQ later if the weather holds up.

In the meantime I'm off to pick webs out of my hair.....