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.....

Monday, 13 April 2015

Crisis talks.....

Over the weekend, Tower House Dolls was rocked to its very foundations by the news that Small Dog's FB page now rivals the THD business page in popularity.

Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) we both had 768 page Likes.

I had been waiting for that momentous event for several days and as Small Dog's Likes edged upwards I kept checking feverishly, eager to catch the moment of equilibrium and save it for posterity.

This is what Small Dog looked like when I told her.....

That expression can only be described as smug.  Smug Dog.

After that things rapidly began to unravel......

This morning, when I should have been making a start on the annual accounts, I was overwhelmed by an avalanche of events.  Predictably Small Dog's page has now overtaken THD so I had no option but to call an extraordinary meeting of the management team.

In the interests of fairness and complete transparency, the minutes of this morning's meeting are transcribed below.......

Minutes of Extraordinary Meeting of Tower House Dolls Management Team
Monday 13 April 2015 at 11.00 a.m.

Sandra Morris – Partner & Creative Director
Pam Shallcrass – Partner & Director of General and Website Administration
Smug Small Dog – Sleeping Partner and Business Mascot

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the direction of THD and the efficacy (or otherwise) of our marketing plan.

SD wishes to have recorded the fact that her Facebook page is now forging AHEAD with 11 MORE likes than THD.

Duly noted

SM gave a brief overview of our marketing strategy to date – blog posts, targeted newsletters, regular updates on the THD FB page etc.

SD interjected that her FB page hasn’t been going long and she mostly posts selfies and videos of animals doing funny things.  Suggested that she takes over the THD FB page and takes on the role of Head of Marketing and Communications.

PS mooted that selfies of SD and funny animal videos were not in keeping with the ethos of THD

General uproar and SD took a huff.

Short break for tea and biscuits.  Unseemly fracas over the one remaining Chocolate Hobnob but SD eventually marginally mollified by a Rich Tea.

Meeting called to order and resumed at 11.15

SD suggested that what have we got to lose.  As the boney fido rising FB star, she is ideally placed to boost our flagging profile.  In addition, as well as having her paw on the pulse of social media, she is perfectly capable of taking on additional responsibility for research and development.

SM said she knew where this was going and the answer was no.

SD maintained that ‘Dog Eared Dolls’ were an excellent concept, ground-breaking and innovative.

PS interjected that we’d gone over this ground many times in the past, and she was in complete agreement with SM.  The answer was still no.  And anyway, how could SD take on additional responsibility when she didn't get out of bed till 10am and had to have a nap every 20 minutes.  Not to mention regular interruptions to her 'working' day in order to bark at squirrels.

SD wished it to be recorded that she couldn’t be blamed for poor marketing performance if nobody took her, or her ideas seriously.  And what about Lickety Spit dolls then.

Pandemonium ensued.

SM finally regained tenuous control of the meeting and requested that SD show due deference to the reputation of THD and refrain from making fatuous remarks.

PS pointed out that it’s THD that keeps the wolf from the door and SD should be grateful.

SD replied that she pays no heed to wolfs at the door as she regularly hunts them up the garden and bites the heads off them.

General uproar.

SM politely requested that SD keep her fantasies to herself and stay on topic.

PS suggested that perhaps we do need a full time Marketing and Communications Director and proposed that we all give due consideration to the matter and report back on Friday 17 April at 11 am.

SD asked if there could be better biscuits next time.

Any other business - Small Dog's request for a selfie stick denied.

Meeting adjourned at 11.30 am.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Is it that time already.....?

I find it difficult to believe that we're already a quarter of the way through the year!  At the time, January and February felt interminable, but now we're in April it feels as though they passed in a blur.

Spring has finally sprung, and the hedgerows and trees are starting to green up.  Magnolias are in their full showy glory and the lighter evenings are a positive boon.  

Easter has come and gone and another of the year's millstones milestones has arrived by post.....

Yes, it's time to roll up my sleeves, clear a space on my desk and immerse myself in the perdition that is 'doing the annual accounts' in preparation for submitting the business tax return.

I'm going to try a new approach to the despised task this year.  Instead of putting it off and engaging in endless displacement activity, I'm going to sneak up from behind and take it by suprise, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and shaking it into submission.

Straight after I've had a cup of tea and a look out the window.  
No.... wait.  I forgot I've got a dentist appointment later.  I want to have a good run at it so I'd better wait till tomorrow.

Ah. Buggrit.  Tomorrow's Saturday.  Whoever heard of ANYONE doing their annual accounts on a weekend?  Sheesh.

Monday.  Yep, Monday's the day.  
Up early and right at 'em.  
No messing.  
No siree.......

(To be continued.......)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Dog tales........

Small Dog had her quarterly grooming session today.  A Yorkie's hair grows continuously and doesn't shed, so she goes from looking like a newly shorn lamb to a Hungarian Puli in about 4 months.

We used to groom her ourselves, back in the day when we were full of derring do and cared not a whit about the potential loss of a finger or two.  The whole pantomime would take the best part of half a day and generally left all three of us prostrate and trembling.

She may look like butter wouldn't melt, and most of the time she's good as gold, but approach her with any sort of cutting implement and after a brief goodwill period (which usually only allows for emergency fringe or eye hair trimming) she undergoes a Jekyll/Hyde transformation and it's everyone for themselves.

Over the years I've blogged our various attempts at canine coiffeur.....

Terrier Trauma


Barbers of St. Leonards

....some of which were more successful than others.

In the fullness of time, we discovered, via our vet, the whereabouts of a dog groomer with an excellent reputation for dealing with 'difficult' dogs so with a certain amount of trepidation we took her along.

Her first grooming session, several years ago, seemed to go well.  We collected a live dog and the groomer still had her full complement of fingers and thumbs.  I did cautiously enquire about how Small Dog had behaved and was informed that she'd been an angel.

I repeat..... "An angel"

To say we were sceptical is putting it mildly.  Every time we've dropped her off I've left with a feeling of impending doom.  Her session takes an hour so we usually drive to a nearby shop for a bit of a mooch before returning at the allotted time.

Today, I arrived to collect her on time, but there was a bit of a queue and the door to the workshop was open so I was able to look in from outside.  I could see Small Dog up on the bench, still being done, so I hid where she wouldn't be able to see me in order to watch proceedings.

What I saw was quite simply unbelievable.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would never, IN A MILLION YEARS have believed it actually happened.

There she sat, calm as you like, while the groomer wielded electric clippers, scissors, nail clippers, spray stuff......  she stood up when she was asked and sat quietly the rest of the time with no hint of the whirling dervish I had expected.  

On another bench a Westie was whining and trying to struggle out of its harness while its bath was being prepared and Small Dog glanced over at it with an expression which clearly said "Oh for goodness sake.... what a fuss!"

She didn't make a sound when the clippers were whirring, or scissors snipping..... and while she didn't actually OFFER her paw to have her nails clipped, she apparently willingly allowed the groomer to lift and clip them.  She even submitted to having the hair between her paw pads trimmed and nice smelling stuff sprayed on her tummy.


All these years I've been wandering round that shop imagining traumatic scenes in which Small Dog was being wrestled into submission and suspended from various torture chamber apparatus designed to completely immobilise her and prevent her wreaking havoc in a flurry of teeth and claws.

All these years, when picking her up I have closely scrutinised the groomer for signs of exhaustion, post traumatic stress, and/or flesh wounds.

All these years, when I've asked how she's been, the groomer has assured me she's been fine, no problem at all, the best behaved Yorkie they have on their books.

And all these years I haven't believed a single word.

I wish I'd had my phone with me to record video evidence of her compliance and apparent insouciance but I'd left it in the car.  I'm not entirely convinced that PP believes me either, although I have solemnly sworn it's the truth.

Admittedly, Small Dog has been rather subdued since we got home.  I suspect it's because she knows her cover has been blown.  


Does this mean we will be resuming her grooming ourselves? 

No it bloody doesn't.  I'd pay DOUBLE  not to have to do it, and now that I know that she (or anyone else) isn't being traumatised I feel doubly certain that it's money well spent.

Anyway..... here's her Before and After photos.....

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Spring cleaning......

The last few days of (mostly) wall to wall sunshine, and gradually increasing temperatures have tempted me to throw off my winter languor in anticipation of an early spring.
This unaccustomed  spurt of energy and enthusiasm has even spurred me into tackling the first tentative stages of preparation for our spring project - the redecoration of our bedroom.

Attentive blog readers with l-o-n-g memories may remember that almost EXACTLY a year ago I was of a similar mind.... girding my loins to make a start on the bedroom redecoration of which I speak.  I even blogged my plans and intentions HERE.

A whole year ago.

My, my.  Doesn't time fly...?

The go-getters amongst you will be wondering why on earth we didn't just get on and do it.  Admittedly, the gigantic triple wardrobe is a major stumbling block, but there's also the small matter of the smallest bedroom, which is full to bursting with all manner of miscellaneous 'stuff'. 

It's like one of those rooms from 'The Hoarder Next Door', although I hasten to add that we only have ONE room in the house so full of stuff you can hardly get in.  All the other rooms are perfectly habitable and clutter-free.  *cough*

Anyway..... if we are to transform the smallest bedroom into a dressing room, freeing up space in the main bedroom, there are a number of inter-dependent steps which have to take place in an pre-ordained order.

It's a bit like those little sliding tile picture puzzles where you have to move ALL of the tiles around in order to complete the picture. 

So, in order to decorate our bedroom we first have to empty the smallest bedroom WITHOUT cluttering up all the other rooms in the house with stuff we don't know what to do with.  We have taken a solemn oath that ANYTHING we don't want or need will be -
  • Offered to friends and relatives
  • Taken to charity shops
  • Freecycled
  • Taken to the recycling unit
I'm sure you will agree that's a damn fine plan.  And it is.  

However, that small bedroom seems to be at the centre of some sort of alien energy vortex. I went upstairs earlier completely determined to get right in there and sort it out.

No shilly-shallying.
No prevarication.
No sloping off for displacement activity.

Just straight in and tackle it, methodically and ruthlessly.

However, as soon as I set foot in there, and stood, gazing around at the piles of books, files, boxes, more boxes, more books...... I just felt all the energy and determination drain out of me and disappear into the ether.

This has happened every time.  The best I've ever managed in the past year has been to stir it a bit with a stick while I was trying to reach something I needed which was right at the back.
Hence the stick.


Not today however.  

I'm pleased to report that we have MADE A START.  There's still a long way to go but we now have several piles of stuff in the dining room, designated as recycling, or freecycling, or charity shop.

Now that we've started to make a mess it will be easier (I hope) to carry on, and do a bit each day.  As I said, it is a very small room but it does seem capable of holding an inordinate amount of stuff.  Which bears out my alien vortex theory.

Needless to say, I haven't just been making a mess upstairs and in the dining room.  I've also been having a clearout in the workroom, preparatory to relocating some of the work-related stuff from the bedroom, so there's a mess in there too.

 However, the good thing about having a clearout is you find stuff you didn't even know you had.

Such as......

I don't know what possessed me to buy this.  It was only £1 in a charity shop and it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.  It's still sealed so I haven't had a chance to peruse the instruction booklet, CD of tap dance music, or see if the heel and toe taps will glue onto my slippers.  However, the box assures me that in no time I'll be skipping the light fantastic just like Ginger Rogers.

Yeah..... right!