Thursday, 21 December 2006


to Christmas.

As usual have 3 zillion things still to do before Christmas Eve but feel a strange zen-like state of calm, which may or may not be an illusion.

So have resorted to usual displacement activity of 'researching' Victorian shop fronts on the internet, combined with occasional forays into eBay to see what good stuff there might be for a miniature toy shop.

What I SHOULD be doing is sorting out my new hobby room upstairs, but knowing that would shatter my zen I am resolutely ignoring it. However, if my plan to make a start on my shop kit on Boxing Day is to be even a remote possibility, then I have to clear a useable space and lug a folding table up from the garden shed so I at least have a workspace.

How tempting to just shovel everything into a series of black bin bags and leave all the sorting to relocated offspring.

Actually that's not a bad idea.


Wednesday, 6 December 2006


One of the joys of being in the 'pre-build' stage of any project is going to bed with loads of catalogues and a notebook.

At this point, beside my bed, I have a teetering, 2 foot high pile of books and catalogues relating to fixtures and fittings which I might like in my shop. Along with a notebook of likely upcoming items on ebay/online etc.

I cannot decide on the exterior finish.......should I have brick slips, or stucco? Herringbone resin brick face or Tudor-style pargetting? Trouble need to have the kit part assembled to see what would really look best. And I can't even get into the box until Christmas Day, at which point there will be rather more pressing calls on my time, so I expect it will be the day after Boxing Day before I can secrete myself away in the 'hobby room' to peruse the contents of the
box and decide on a plan of attack.

When I originally started planning the shop, my idea was to have a one storey shop. Then looking at my toy collection, I decided that perhaps a mezzanine floor might be a good idea.
However now it has evolved even further.

My current plan is to have the whole of the ground and first floors as shop display areas. The top floor will house a toymaker's workshop, and a dollmaker's workroom.

The layout of the shop at present has a staircase leading from the ground floor to the first floor and another leading to the attic rooms. I may dispense with the latter, to give more floor space, and put a dummy door somewhere on the first floor to suggest an alternative route to the top floor. This would free up useful floor space on both the first and second floors. I'm also contemplating adding an extra dimension to the inside of the fronts of the building, if I can work out how to do it.

*memo to self: take book of graph paper to bed to draft plans for extra dimension*

All of this while we still have a one day workshop on 16th Dec and I'm still not even half way through my Christmas shopping and only just bought my Christmas cards yesterday *deep sigh*

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Should explain....

offspring has re-homed herself. Several months ago to be exact. But her room still bears an uncanny resemblence to Dresden.

We've tried
  • bribes
  • threats
  • extortion
  • pleading
  • cajoling.........
But three weeks from the start of 'The Project' I have decided that decisive action is called for. I will put all the remaining contents into assorted

  • Black bags
  • Boxes
  • Carrier bags
  • Suitcases
and arrange for her boyfriend to pick them up in his van. Thereby freeing the bedroom for the transformation into

Hobby Room

Well that's the theory anyway. I have tried to put it into practice at least three times already but have been defeated by the sheer scale of the clearance. Any helpful suggestions would be gratefully received.

My mission..........

........should I chose to accept it, is to transform THIS (notional representation of recently re-homed offspring's room)

to THIS (equally notional representation of calm, tidy workspace in which to be endlessly creative in conducive surroundings)

Monday, 4 December 2006

The Project

So here it new winter project! A shop kit! Not too big, not to0 small, but with loads of potential.
I know that when it is finished it will bear only a passing resemblance to this rather ordinary looking shop, but this is my starting point.
Or will be, three weeks from today.
Christmas Day.
When I'm allowed to actually open the large box which was delivered last Friday. For although I chose it, it is a Christmas present, and I am forbidden to even touch it. Or push it to gauge the weight. Or poke my fingers though the box. Or anything.
But first things first. I am using the time between now and then to set up one of the spare bedrooms as a workroom.
An actual hobby room *resists the urge to jump around in excitement*
As distinct from my workroom, in which every inch of storage space is crammed with dollmaking stuff - moulds, boxes and boxes of silks, brocades, fabrics in all hues, cascades of rainbow ribbons, yards and yards of trimmings, files full of patterns, bookcases of books on fashion history, costume through the ages, magazines, packaging supplies, dozens of dolls, and in which I spend most of my day, most days, making and dressing dolls.
So a hobby room is not a luxury. It is a necessity!


.......isn't what it used to be!
So in pursuit of perfection I've been trawling the internet for months, looking for images of old fashioned toy shops. Oh the hours I've spent.
For instance, trying to find information on the once famous Lowther Arcade, which was situated in the Strand in London and housed a whole street of high quality toy and curiosity shops.
'Nearly opposite the railway station, and running diagonally towards Adelaide Street, is the Lowther Arcade. It is nearly 250 feet in length, and has shops on either side for the sale of fancy goods. As the admission is free, and the place is considered one of the "sights" of London, it is continually thronged with children and their attendants, buying toys at the French, German, and Swiss shops. The Lowther Bazaar, which flourished for a time at the period of the great Exhibition in 1851, was on the other side of the Strand. Besides stalls for the sale of fancy articles, it had many other objects of interest for the amusement of visitors.
From: 'Charing Cross, the railway stations, and Old Hungerford Market', Old and New London: Volume 3 (1878)'
Such trawling, however, also occasionally dredges up a little gem, such as this quote from J M Barrie in "Little White Bird".
"We went to the Lowther Arcade for the rocking-horse. Dear Lowther Arcade! Ofttimes have we wandered agape among thy enchanted palaces, Porthos and I, David and I, David and Porthos and I. I have heard that thou art vulgar, but I cannot see how, unless it be that tattered children haunt thy portals, those awful yet smiling entrances to so much joy. To the Arcade there are two entrances, and with much to be sung in laudation of that which opens from the Strand I yet on the whole prefer the other as the more truly romantic, because it is there the tattered ones congregate, waiting to see the Davids emerge with the magic lamp. We have always a penny for them, and I have known them, before entering the Arcade with it, retire (but whither?) to wash; surely the prettiest of all the compliments that are paid to the home of toys.
And now, O Arcade, so much fairer than thy West End brother, we are told that thou art doomed, anon to be turned into an eatinghouse or a hive for usurers, something rankly useful. All thy delights are under notice to quit. The Noah's arks are packed one within another, with clockwork horses harnessed to them; the soldiers, knapsack on back, are kissing their hands to the dear foolish girls, who, however, will not be left behind them; all the four-footed things gather around the elephant, who is overful of drawing-room furniture; the birds flutter their wings; the man with the scythe mows his way through the crowd; the balloons tug at their strings; the ships rock under a swell of sail, everything is getting ready for the mighty exodus into the Strand. Tears will be shed. "
I have only found one photograph of the Lowther Arcade, which unfortunately does not shine much light on the interiors of the shops.
Similarly, I have worn 'Google' to the bone, looking for images of Victorian/Edwardian toy shops, again with mixed success. However, Amazon regularly came up trumps with lovely, old, out of print books, some fiction, some fact, on old toy shops and the toys which filled them.
The planning stages are very exciting, and many pages of notebooks are scribbled with ideas, website addresses, book references, downloaded photos etc. Too many ideas for just one shop but such fun.

Can you guess what it is yet?


Now that I've settled in and made the place cosy, perhaps now is the time to reveal the purpose of this new blog.

This time last year I was in the process of selling my Scottish gothic baronial mansion and its contents, collected over decades and now scattered to the four corners of the planet.
Most of my doll's house friends were aghast at my decision to part with it, but I just felt it was time for us to part. It was really much too big for my current abode (being over 12 feet wide) and it was never, ever going to be finished. It also epitomised a period of my life which I didn't want to be reminded of. I had lost heart with it, and although the initial sales of my collection were agonising, as it slowly empied, the house lost its heart too, and ended up as an empty shell.

Happily a friend had fallen in love with it, and its possibilities, so in Spring this year, the house too found a new home, where I know it is loved and appreciated and is being gradually filled with new treasures.

So, for the first time in over 20 years I had no doll's house.
Not one.
Not even a room box.
To put this in context, I will confess that at the height of my mania for miniatures, I had in excess of 17 houses, shops, room boxes, shadow boxes etc, spanning the architecture of over 700 years from mediaeval castle, through Tudor and Elizabethan, Carolean, Jacobean to Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian, up to the 1950's.
So you might appreciate that to suddenly have none at all was a bit of a shock.

However, for the past 6 months a phoenix has been rising from the ashes and I have been considering and planning a new project.
On a much more modest scale.
But I want it to be the best I've ever done..........A Victorian Toy Shop.

You see, I didn't sell quite all of my collection of miniatures. I kept my very favourite pieces, which were all from the playroom and nursery at the top of the house. Dozens and dozens of tiny toys, books and games, many by the very best makers from the past 20 years. They are all carefully packed away in several boxes, awaiting their new home.

So watch this space........

Tah dah!

Am ridiculously pleased that after only 10 minutes messing about I have managed to upload a suitable picture!
So, nice roaring fire, Christmas decorations all done (a tad early I agree but in the blogosphere anything is possible)
and I'm feeling quite at home already.

It begins........

So this is where I'll be rambling on about my new project, which has been on the drawing board for...oh....ages really.

First though I need to move some things in to make myself comfortable here and spruce the place up a bit

Comfy chair, roaring fire...maybe a few festive decorations to brighten up the blog.

Be right back!