Sunday, 7 February 2021

Unintended consequences.....

There are supposed to be five stages of grief....denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I think I've discovered another.... extreme cleaning.

It's just over three weeks since Lucy died, and in the midst of our feelings of abject loss, we hit on a plan to do something to distract us from our overwhelming sadness.  We decided to change the sitting room around.

Not exactly earth shattering I'll admit, but we're a bit fragile and it had to be something achievable and positive, which would improve one area of our lives.   It's been several years since we had our woodburner installed and re-decorated the room, but we still really like it.  One whole wall is taken up with patio doors which look out over the patio (obviously) to the garden.  For some reason, which now escapes us, we positioned one of the sofas against the patio doors, facing into the room.  Probably it was so that whoever sat there could see the fire.  The television was at the other end of the room, flanked by two bookshelves.

Anyway... this is all by the by.  We've re-arranged the room to provide unrestricted views to the garden, relocated the TV and generally changed things up.


Pulling heavy furniture away from the wall and moving the bookshelves revealed what can only be described as 'muck'.  Ancient cobwebs, years of dust, desiccated spider husks, mummified moths, withered woodlice..... I was horrified.  

Don't get me wrong.... I'm not an obsessive, compulsive cleaner.  I regularly run the hoover round, and flourish a duster at accessible surfaces, but I don't haul stuff away from the wall on a regular basis.   However, when a combination of dust and cobwebs form a structurally sound mat which you can pick up and might be stronger than kevlar you have to question your cleaning schedule.

So.   Nothing for it but to roll up my sleeves, mix a bucket of Flash and Zoflora, and spend FIVE HOURS  meticulously cleaning ALL THE THINGS.

To be fair, and in my defence.... there was method in my madness.  Early on in the whole cleaning fiasco,  I discovered this....

Let's call it Exhibit A.  

At Christmas, I gifted PP three bars of Montezuma's milk chocolate, in assorted flavours.  The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that this is a 70% dark chocolate bar, which was one of the three I self-gifted.

Can you see where this is going?

I'd been carefully portioning it.... a few morsels of an evening, and I'd left it on the small cube table near where I normally sit.  I carefully re-wrap it and close the box.  

Every. Time.

When I was moving things around I found it like this....

A very strong mouse, or more likely a gang of moderately weak mice, had pulled it out of the box, and feasted on my high quality, completely delicious, dark chocolate, flavoured with chunks of crystallised ginger.  Possibly extremely rare gourmand mice, who could have had their pick of any of the bars located at arm's reach but instead chose my best favourite.


In the past, I may have impugned Small Dog's credentials as a boney fido ratting/mousing terrior.  And to be fair, we have had issues with small, furry, cute rodents in the past, which necessitated drastic measures.  However, now that her presence is lacking, all the local mice in the woods behind our house (of which there are many) seem to have decided to take advantage of her absence to invade and EAT. MY. CHOCOLATE.

Hence my cleaning frenzy. Strangely, apart from the gnawed chocolate bar, there was no other evidence of rodent 'activity'.  I don't know if they abseiled in and were subsequently extracted by a highly trained team of rodent SAS equivalents, or have access to a teleport facility, or have found a rift in the space/time continuum.   We have no idea how they did it, but PP is on it and has set up video surveillance, as well as revolving door humane traps. 

Also, I have re-discovered THIS which completely captures Small Dog's chutzpah in the face of rodent incursions.......

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Mignonette Doll Club Project - Part 1

I mentioned in my last post about the new Mignonette Doll Club project for 2021, based on a wonderful doll presentation box featured in a video found by one of the members.

So, here's the basic box we're all starting with, which measures 25cm x 20cm x 10cm, and is available in the UK for the princely sum of £4.  Similar sized boxes should be available from craft and hobby outlets in other countries. 

I've made lots of doll presentation boxes over the years, but this is the biggest and most ambitious yet.   Several days were spent mulling the options and planning what to do. The box is deep enough for several layers, like the one in the original video, so I spent a fair amount of time cutting out bits of graph paper to try to decide what would go where.

I'd initially planned to use a little 1.75" toy doll with all her costumes and accoutrements, but she looked lost in all that space, so I'm going to make a 1/12th scale child, complete with her little toy doll, and toy doll's doll, with lots of costumes, toys and accessories.

One of the club members also mentioned a book she has, which features a doll box, which she was going to use for inspiration for her box, making all the items featured...

... so most of us bought a copy too! 

While I was deciding on the exterior and interior decoration, I removed the lid and the front clasp then sanded the box, paying particular attention to the raw edges of the plywood.

As I don't have any primer at the moment, I made a solution of PVA and water and brushed it over every surface to seal the wood and provide a slightly tacky surface to aid adhesion of the coverings.

Next.... what to use, in and out?

Grief therapy.....

With still being in full lockdown and shielding for the foreseeable future, we have no opportunities for socialising.... seeing family and friends, which would be a useful distraction from our feelings of loss and missing our little Lucy so very much.

I'm back in the workroom now though, and preparing for the virtual Miniaturitalia show, which has been moved from the end of this month to the end of next, so the work-related pressure has been eased somewhat.

However, my primary grief therapy at the moment comes by way of my new Mignonette Doll Club, to which all purchasers of my book are invited.  We are a small, but enthusiastic group.... I have known at least one of the members for over 30 years, another was a long-time student of my one day workshops back in the day, and several others have become friends after being customers over many years, as well as new faces from around the world.

One of the members posted a video of a wonderful Mignonette Doll Presentation Box a week or so ago..... you can view it HERE.

Inevitably, one thing led to another and before we knew it, some of us had committed to making something similar as our 2021 club project.

There has been a flurry of activity and we've already sourced a suitable sized box which those of us in the UK have ordered.  This is a truly international project as we have members participating from South Africa, Australia and the US.   As I anticipate more members joining in over the coming weeks I'll be documenting my project here, to act as a reference and to point out things NOT to do!  In my enthusiasm and haste to get going I've already made some rookie errors, which thankfully have either been relatively easy to rectify, or won't show when it's finished.  Hopefully. 

I do enjoy a good project......

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Days without tears.... 0

It's been a really difficult few weeks and we've both been struggling with our grief.  During the days there are various claims on our attention.... household chores, work etc, but early evenings, when we all three used to come together in the kitchen to prepare and eat dinner, then spend the rest of the evening companionably around the fire are dark and empty, no matter how much light and sound we try to fill them with.

Bedtimes are a minefield too...all the little nightly rituals developed over almost 15 years.

A few days ago we collected Lucy's ashes from our vet.  Such a small box  which didn't in any way match the huge hole she has left in our lives.  Also included were two tiny paw prints and several locks of her lovely, soft fur.  Any slight progress we'd made over the preceding week was swept away in a tide of tears... a tsunami of grief.   We will wait until spring, and a warm, sunny day, to return her to her garden, which she so loved.

We think of her, and talk about her, every day... the house is still so full of her presence with memories around every corner.  At the moment I can't imagine this pain ever lessening, of being able to think of her without feeling overwhelmed with emotion.  As we are in full lockdown, we are unable to see family and friends who could help us cope and bring a sense of reality and life moving on.  Through all of the previous year's trials and tribulations we were our own tight, little family unit of three, and being together helped get us through.  Now a vital part of our lives is missing and we're experiencing the loneliness of lockdown in a way we have never done before.  

We'd like to thank everyone who has been so kind.... sent us emails and messages of support, called to let us talk, checked in on us regularly to see how we're doing.  We really appreciate all of you and have found some comfort in knowing that our lovely little Lucy was so loved by so many people who never even met her.

For now we're just taking things one day at a time and hope that the coming of spring will find us in a better place.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Sad news.....

I have some very sad news.

We had to say goodbye to our beloved little Lucy last Thursday evening.  We are beyond heartbroken and I'm writing this through a blur of tears.

I wrote at the beginning of the month that she had had a recurrence of the abscess, and initially she seemed to be responding to the antibiotic treatment.  However, after a few days she was eating less and less and was very lethargic, sleeping almost all the time.  We hoped that she would slip away gently in her sleep but her fierce little spirit was still there and she wouldn't give up.

Last Thursday, she wasn't able to drink, and seemed to be a bit lost.  She kept looking at us as if to say 'What's wrong with me? Please help me' and we knew that the time had come.

We were with her as she went to sleep.....Pam was holding her in her arms and I was stroking her little head.  We were able to spend some time with her afterwards, before we left to come home without her.

We feel unmoored and cast adrift. The three of us were always together, almost every single day since she first came home with us.  She came everywhere with us and our lives largely revolved around her.

The house is simultaneously echoingly empty and yet so full of her.  Her beds, her blankets, her harness and lead, her little waterproof coat, her fleecy jumper, her food and water bowls.  

All the little rituals which framed our days together are missing.  

Waking up with her in the mornings and her waiting till the last one of us came downstairs.      Her trotting into the kitchen for her breakfast, before heading out to check the perimeter in the garden.                                                                                                                                                         Her little vocalisations.... the sigh as she laid down in her bed, the 'harrumph' if she sought attention and it wasn't granted (that didn't often happen), the little excited squeaks as her dinner bowl descended.

We keep thinking we hear her paws on the floor, or scratching at the kitchen door to be let inside.  

We miss her little nose, appearing round the office door as she came to greet us when we came home from even the briefest time away.

I miss her appearing in the workroom almost every day at 5pm, and sitting staring at me, or poking me gently with her paw to let me know it was time to stop.

When we make up the fire in the afternoon, I miss her coming to sit beside me on the hearthrug to supervise and claim some strokings.

Racing upstairs ahead of us at bedtime then waiting while her bed was made up for her.  Leaving the bedroom door ajar for her, just so.  The sounds of her digging up her smoothly made bed and turning round and round to find the most comfortable spot.  Her little snufflings and snorings through the night.

I've been sleeping snuggled beside her blanket, which still holds her familiar scent. 

At some point we will be able to think of her and smile, but for now it's mostly tears and the pain of missing her. We want her back.  Our little family will never be the same without her.

She was the best dog ever and we will miss her every day.  

Sleep well little Lucy.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

That's Amore......

That old Dean Martin classic from the 1950s has been playing on an endless loop in my head ever since I was invited to participate in Miniaturitalia.... the premier Italian online miniature show.  There has been a proliferation of online shows in the past year, due to the cancellation of most of them.  I've been a long-time exhibitor at the US-based Mini Miniature Show, which has been running for many years.  Last year, KDF went online for their showcase and I exhibited virtually at both the summer and Christmas shows.

However, doing a show in a foreign language which I can't actually speak or understand  is a whole new departure... what could possibly go wrong?!?

The show will run from 25th-28th March, and I will also be offering a workshop (?!?) on 21st March.  I'm not at liberty to reveal the workshop just yet, but I'm working on it at the moment and full details will be available next month.

There is an initial list of exhibitors on the official website HERE (helpfully there is full English translation!) and I'm relieved to know that I won't be the only UK participant.  This show will be an excellent opportunity to discover a whole range of artisans who are unknown outside their respective countries, so I'm really looking forward to visiting their virtual tables and having a leisurely browse.

However in the meantime I'm working hard to restock as many Mignonette Toy Dolls as I can, as well as prepping for the workshop.  I should also try to learn a few useful Italian phrases.  My facility with Italian begins and ends with 'ciao bella', which I suspect may be of limited use.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

The eyes have it......

Since I mentioned them in my book, several people have enquired about my glass-eyed dolls.  I have only ever made a few, mainly to order, using eyes made specially for me by a German artisan.  Sadly he died a few years ago and since then I have used the remainder of my small stock and have been unable to source a suitable alternative.  The smallest commercially available glass eyes are 2mm, which although very small, are way too big for my standard toy dolls.  

I've toyed with the idea of trying to make my own using a variety of different methods, none of which have been successful, mainly due to the difficulty of achieving a perfectly matched pair.  Making one eye is doable.... getting a pair which are identical is a whole different kettle of fish. 

I still have just one glass-eyed doll left, which I've kept for myself, who resides in La Mignonette.  She was my very first prototype and I made all my mistakes on her, so I can't possibly sell her, but she's quite happy in the shop and has forged strong friendships with the other dolls, apart from haughty Belladonna, who, mystifyingly, for reasons no-one can discern, calls her Cyclops.

However, recently I've been experimenting with a hybrid method which makes china painted eyes look more like glass paperweight eyes, via a my foolproof, patented system of trial and error.  It's a complete faff and takes ages so it would be impossible to use it for more than a few dolls at a time, but it is showing cautiously encouraging results.  When I get it right it produces a slightly iridescent iris and a domed glass corneal layer which magnifies the effect, echoing the look of a blown glass eye.  Getting it right consistently is the issue, but I'm gradually developing, honing and refining the technique and am planning to use it for my dressed mignonette dolls for sale over the coming months.

*fingers crossed*