Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The grapes of wrath......

We seem to have a creature living in one of the spare bedrooms upstairs.  

First you smell it. As soon as you open the door you notice that there is a definite twang in the air.  It's not unpleasant but it's quite strong.

Then you see it.

Crouched on the floor like a little homonculus, wearing a jacket and sporting a jaunty flannel cravat.

Then you hear it.... bubbling and gurgling.  Occasionally spitting and spluttering.

We keep going in to observe it, marvelling at the activity of this new arrival and checking that it isn't getting up to anything shady.  

It's PP's baby really, and she's tending to it lovingly.  Checking its temperature and adjusting its clothing. Mopping up any leakage and whispering encouragement.  





Apparently, in a week's time, it will give birth to 30 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc.  
I have to admit I'm a tad sceptical, but so long as it's quaffable I'll reserve judgement. 

Best case scenario is we'll get our sight back after two days.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Everything Alice.......

I've been completely submerged in a miniature world of Alice in Wonderland for most of the past month.  What with preparing the Alice toy doll workshop kits for the online show and working on a new Alice-themed toy theatre, I've been feeling slightly batty....  a bit like the Mad Hatter.

It all started when I made a miniature Alice in Wonderland theatre back in July.......



At the time I was really pleased with it, although the more I thought about it, the less pleased I became.  I started wondering about how I could make it more 'animated' by being able to move the characters around, as opposed to their being fixed in place.

And so began several weeks of research and development (also known as wailing and gnashing of teeth) while I worked my way through several prototypes, gradually refining and adding extra features till I ended up with this......







Rather like Alice's adventures in Wonderland, this toy theatre cabinet has several surprises!

Such as the concealed drawer in the base to store the cast of characters.....


  


There are 20 different characters included with the theatre, and each one is double-sided so that they can stand with their back to the audience if required.

But the best, the VERY BEST thing, is that each tiny character is mounted on a magnetic base, which allows them to be easily swapped and moved around, and they stand perfectly upright and never, EVER fall over.

How GOOD is that?  I mean..... it's practically MAGIC!

I'll gloss over my many attempts which ended in the bin, most of which were crushed in frustration first.  It's taken weeks to get everything just so...... and I can still think of ways to make it even better.

Over the past week I've been further refining the design and there are now two of these theatres listed on the website HERE!

Don't you just love it when a plan eventually comes together.......?


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UPDATE - Since listing the theatres earlier today, both have now sold.  I will be making just a few more and in the meantime I will operate a waiting list.  If you wish to order one, please contact me and I'll add you to my list.  

Friday, 18 July 2014

Alice in Wonderland Workshop....Curiouser and Curiouser!

The August online Mini Miniature Show will take place on 14-17 August and our workshop offering this time will be a half scale Alice toy doll, complete with tiny 'Drink Me' labelled bottle......




Alice is just under 1  3/4" tall!



The doll is porcelain and has china-painted features. She measures just under 1 3/4” tall and has jointed, moveable arms and legs.

Her costume comprises:

  • Silk underwear and petticoat 
  • Silk dress and apron. 
  • Pretty blonde ringlet curls wig, finished with a silk ribbon bow. 
  • Tiny labelled ‘Drink Me’ bottle


Kits also come complete with fully illustrated, step-by-step instruction booklet.
Students will also be invited to attend a tutorial session in my online classroom which is fully interactive, with audio/video links. During the session I will demonstrate elements of the costume and take any questions you might have.

To reserve a workshop pack, please contact me at sandra@towerhousedolls.co.uk 
Payment by PayPal only.
Class limited to 10 students

Cost $34 US Dollars ( €25 Euros, £20 GBP) plus shipping

Please let me know your country of residence so that I can calculate shipping, which will be charged at cost.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Where Bloggers Create - July 2014

I can hardly believe it's a whole year since I gave my workroom a much needed complete makeover.  Those hard-working three weeks last last summer are seared into my memory, but if you'd like to take a trip down memory lane HERE is what it looked like before and during the process.

It was finally finished and ready to be unveiled on 17 July last year, and I posted the results just a few days late for the Where Bloggers Create party..... you can see the completed makeover HERE!

I can still remember the mixed feelings of exhaustion and elation and since then, there hasn't been a single working day when my spirits haven't lifted when I walked into our lovely new workroom.

Over the past year there haven't been any major changes, but I've gradually added to and re-organised the storage, and have been able to display more of my little treasures.

So here's a quick guided tour.....




Wall and base unit, IKEA boxes and two bookcases combine to make one wall of  storage



Inside the wall unit, plastic boxes all neatly labelled.



Plain box files decorated with shabby chic papers


An open-fronted unit contains labelled boxes to store all of my ribbons, trimmings, fabrics, toy components etc.






A place for everything and everything in its place...... mostly!


More base units and worktop space, plus a collection of IKEA storage boxes decorated with pretty papers.



Power tool area - mini drill, circular saw and jigsaw




My miniature day nursery room setting, filled with my tiny doll's dolls and toys!


A display of tiny working toys


In the centre of the room a huge worktable and yet more storage cabinets....


Between the two windows, above the worktable, 
a display shelf for newly completed miniature toys


My current project, a work in progress.
La Mignonette - a French-style shop of dolls


Upstairs houses Madememoiselle Emilie's dollmaking workroom, 
along with her 'helpers' Small Dog and Archimedes


On the ground floor is the shop, filled with all manner of doll-related delights.
You can read about the making of La Mignonette HERE.


There isn't much free wall space, but where there is I've used it to display more of my treasured miniature toys and favourite prints.....




The front cover of The Doll's House Magazine, which featured my day nursery


My work space, complete with comfy chair and essential magnifying lamp!

I hope you've enjoyed this whistle stop tour of my creative workspace.  I just LOVE it!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Be careful what you wish for.......

We have just returned from a combined visit/holiday with my daughter in East Anglia.  I was so looking forward to spending time with her and enjoying a relaxing break.

Well, it WAS relaxing, but not quite in the way I'd envisaged.

On day two, in the morning, I had a 'funny turn' and collapsed in the bathroom.  One minute I was fine, the next I was coming to on the floor, in a pool of blood.  I have no idea what happened, but somehow I lost consciousness and fell, hitting my head on the way down resulting in a 3" gash on my head.

So, after I'd recovered somewhat, we set off to the A&E department at Ipswich Hospital, anticipating I'd probably need to have the head wound stitched.  Initially, all went well.  I was rapidly processed through triage but I was feeling increasingly woozy and nauseous.  At that point the doctor abandoned cleaning the head wound and I was moved from Minors to Resus so they could better monitor what was happening as my blood pressure was very low. I was vaguely aware of canullas being inserted, blood being taken, drugs administered etc but to be honest, I couldn't have cared less.

When I re-surfaced I was having IV fluids and was wired up to an ECG and BP machine.  As my BP was remaining resolutely low I was told that I would be admitted for observation.

To be honest, I was feeling so strange that the news didn't really register.   I vaguely remember having the head wound cleaned and glued shut, and being moved to the Emergency Assessment Unit, where I stayed for the rest of the day, gradually improving as the day wore on.

Both PP and my daughter were completely brilliant, as was Small Dog who had come to the hospital with us in the car as we'd thought I'd be patched up and home within a few hours at the most.  In the end it was early evening by the time I was discharged and set off for home complete with large comedy dressing on my head.

Over the following days after we set off for our stay on Mersea Island, I had no option but to relax and take things easy.  The combined effects of the head injury, a mild concussion and whiplash from the fall,  slowed me down considerably, but the weather was perfect and we all thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

I'm feeling much better now, and apart from a lingering headache and still feeling a bit spacey, I'm pretty much back to what passes for normal.

Here are some of the highlights.....


Regular visitor in my daughter's garden.....



 Receiving the healing paw from Small Dog after my accident


Releasing our catch of crabs, much to Small Dog's delight!


Relaxing on the beach at West Mersea


Outside our holiday home at Mersea Island

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The eyes have it......

I'm in inventin' mode.  Trying to work out the best, most foolproof way to make realistic 'paperweight'-style eyes for my little porcelain toy dolls.
                                       
I've tried no end of different tiny glass eyes over the years, but they all end up looking a bit 'starey' in situ as the irises are generally way too small.  The best of the bunch are real hand blown glass eyes from Germany but they're very expensive and there's still the 'starey' problem.

I've also tried polymer clay eyes, and although they can look amazing, getting them small enough is almost impossible.  The heads of my largest size of toy dolls are about the size of a pea, and when I say pea, I'm not talking about big garden peas, but dainty petit pois.

This means that if the eyes are true to scale, they must be about the size of mustard seeds. The smallest size of commercially available glass eyes is 2mm, which sound tiny but look and feel enormous when trying to manipulate them inside a pea-sized head.

Aside from getting small enough eyes, there's another problem in that it's also extremely difficult to bevel the eye inside a pea-sized head, and inevitably, when the inside edges of the eye hole are almost thin enough, the fragile greenware at the very edge will chip or flake off, rendering the head useless.

It's a supremely frustrating task.

So.

I'm trying to think of a solution to each of these problems which will guarantee a perfectly fitting, perfectly proportioned eye, which looks like a tiny version of the gorgeous paperweight eyes of vintage Jumeau dolls.

It's going to be a tall order.

There are a number of options.... from using tiny glass beads and customising them, to using my kiln to experiment with fused glass eyes.  Alternatively I could go the route of polymer clay eyes, making my own moulds and experimenting with making 'iris canes' which sound simple in theory but in practice would probably drive me demented.

Whatever route I decide to take, it's not going to be straightforward, it's not going to be quick and it's most definitely NOT going to be easy.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Called to account......

For TWO WHOLE DAYS I have been doing the annual accounts.  As a result I'm all numbered out and my digital keypad finger is throbbing.

It's the same every year.  I put it of and put it off then have a sudden and dramatic change of heart and take a mad run at it.

In my defence, I do try to keep it as simple as straightforward as possible, use a spreadsheet and a calculator and work really hard to get all my ducks in a row before I start.  However, it's usually not long before one of them wanders off and gets eaten by a fox, and another runs away to join the circus.  Then the others get despondent and aimlessly mill around, before eventually succumbing to some exotic duck disease.

There are loads of them.  Exotic duck diseases that is.  Including avian cholera and duck plague.  And something even more horrible called Riemerella Anatipestifer which causes high mortality, weight loss and 'condemnation (whatever that is).   Ducks unlucky enough to contract it have listlessness, eye discharge and dire rear.  They also show bad coordination, shaking of the head and twisted neck.  Sufferers are commonly found on their backs, paddling their legs.

Great..... another dreadful animal malady I wish I didn't know existed.

However, these are the kind of interesting things you get to find out when you're avoiding doing your accounts.


 *sigh*