Friday, 27 February 2009

Last call...........

Continuing my theme of tidying up loose ends in advance of the end of the month, this is a last call for our February Kit of the Month which will be withdrawn from sale at midnight tomorrow.

Ordering before the end of the month will save you £8.00 (US $12) so if you've been swithering about 'will I/won't I' then now's the time to decide as she will only be available as a custom kit from Sunday.

Loose ends...........

And so we reach the end of the dreariest month in the calendar, and I certainly won't be sorry to see it go.

However today did feel like a definite harbinger of spring, with mild sunshine and spring flowers popping up all over the place so perhaps we have turned a corner.

I've even attempted a bit of spring cleaning in the workroom, and for once you can actually see the surface of my side of the desk! Not only that, I've caught up with orders to go out, have organised a long overdue sale of dressed dolls, updated the Diminutive Dolls website and made some inroads into a bit of forward planning, which is also long overdue. So all in all a productive few days.

All I need to do now is hit the ground running for the start of the new month..........

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

All's Fair.................

So now that the dust has settled, I'm able to put my thoughts about the weekend into perspective and give a 'From Our Own Correspondent' styley fair review.

As a 'doll's house & miniatures fair' veteran of over 20 years, I've exhibited at some of the best, (and a few of the worst!) fairs in the UK. Back in the day, when I did my very first fair, there were only a handful throughout the country, and those were organised by people who were either miniature artisans in their own right, or avid collectors, passionate about the hobby, or both.

With the exception of Miniatura and Kensington, fairs were mostly modest affairs, held in town and village halls or small hotel conference suites, on a shoestring budget. However, despite the fact that the hobby in the UK was in its infancy, those fairs had a real joie de vivre, among the exhibitors and the visitors alike.

Over the years, perhaps inevitably, much of the joy has gone out of the miniatures business. The market has been swamped with mass-produced imports of variable quality. 'Big business' has scented a money-making opportunity and moved into the arena, and fairs have mushroomed over the whole country. As there are only a finite number of bona fide artisans to go round, fair organisers are increasingly turning to people who simply 'buy in' from miniature wholesalers, and as a result it is possible to visit a fair and see the same items duplicated on stand after stand. Quality handcrafted artisan pieces can be as hard to find as hen's teeth.

At one time, any Tom, Dick and Harry (and yes, it was mostly men) could buy a bench saw, jigsaw, router and a few sheets of MDF and set themselves up as doll's house makers. Having been trailed round fairs in the wake of enthusiastic wives, and firmly embracing the 'I could do that' mentality, they would subsequently appear at fairs with shoddy, poky, boxy attempts at doll's house architecture, hopelessly out of scale and more suited to the primary school classroom than a discerning adult collector's fair. The same applies to many other miniature disciplines, with the possible exceptions of glassmaking, or metalwork, or working in porcelain, where investment in specialist equipment and technical knowledge are indispensable.

Over the years I grew increasingly disenchanted with the fair circuit........ the rising costs of exhibiting, being undercut by people selling vastly inferior pieces and having my ideas and designs stolen/copied and passed off as other people's original work.

So I now choose the few fairs I do with great care, preferring those with as near to 100% artisan exhibitors as possible.

In theory, the Thame fair ticked all my boxes. Organised by an artisan, invitation only, the highest percentage of artisans of any fair I know, modest cost to exhibit.........

In practice, it exceeded all my expectations, and transported me back to the halcyon days of fairs 20 years ago. It is extremely rare to see so many top artisans outside of the big two fairs in Birmingham and London, and the quality of the miniatures on display was breathtaking. From Stokesay Ware, to Tony Knott, Jill Bennett to Simply Silver, Petite Properties to Sid Cooke....and many, many others. The cream of the country's miniature craftspeople all came together in a sleepy little market town in Oxfordshire to demonstrate just what the hobby is all about. The pursuit of excellence in small scales.

And as if all that wasn't enough, the fair raised over £3000 for the charity Breast Cancer Campaign.

If you missed it this year, make sure you look out for the details of next year's event. The Thame Fair is a really rare little gem.

Almost human..........

After yet another marathon 12 hour sleep last night and I'm pretty much good to go today. Even small dog, who is no slouch in the sleeping stakes herself, is mightily impressed at my capacity for falling headlong into the arms of Morpheus.

So aside from a few wan attempts at catching up with emails etc yesterday, the whole day was something of a wipeout. PP, who is still on light duties, made some inroads into unpacking my stock boxes, but this morning the workroom is an absolute...........well, if I'm honest, it looks much the same as it usually does, ie a complete tip.

It's so untidy I can't even think in there, so there is nothing else for it but to roll my sleeves up, grit my teeth, and have a good old sort out. Usually this makeover process is purely cosmetic, and involves moving 'stuff' from one work surface to another, with any overflow 'stuff' crammed into the already overflowing cupboards. However I really, really need to get to grips with it and have a ruthless cull.

If I'm in the right frame of mind, having a clear out can be very cathartic. However, I won't know until I start whether that will be the case today.

Alright............I'm going in.

Cover me...........

Monday, 23 February 2009


I think I may have dreamt the past three days, as they have passed in a bit of a blur.

Since coming home, I have slept for 15 hours straight, and somehow have inadvertently acquired the legs of a complete stranger, which are hellbent on returning to their rightful owner, despite being nominally attached to me. Where mine have gone is anybody's guess.

The most dreaded part of the whole expedition was the journey, which in retrospect wasn't nearly as bad as I was anticipating. I finally bowed to the greater wisdom of Nav Woman, who was most insistent that I travel via the M25/M40.

Despite my reservations, it was, in fact, not too bad a journey either way, aside from one memorable white knuckle moment when I was effectively boxed in by four enormous articulated lorries, one on either side of me, as well as one in front and one behind. Fortunately, the patron saint of motorways (who is, apparently, John the Baptist) kept his head (groan) and shepherded me safely through that particular nerve-jangling episode.

I safely rendezvoused with Gorgeous Daughter, successfully exhibited at the fair on Saturday, and made it back home yesterday all in one piece, albeit completely exhausted.

I will fill in the gaps when my energy levels are in credit, but for the moment I will gather up small dog, and head off to the sofa for a snuggle, offering up a small prayer to the patron saint of migraines (Severus of Avranches) to see if he can work some magic on the one I brought back with me yesterday, and which seems to be settling in for the duration.

Incidentally, while researching for this blog post (Yes, there are those who think I just make it all up but how wrong they are) I found this list of patron saints .
Disappointingly, there isn't a patron saint of displacement activity, but the list is a whole world of DA in itself. For instance, who would have thought that there would be a mind-boggling 25 patron saints of difficult marriages, but only one of happy ones?

Yes, I'm being ironic.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Last post...............

After a truly frantic day today I am fit to drop.

All the display stand and stock are packed.

I have reams and reams of printed map directions to act as back up to Nav Woman, who is, frankly, rubbish.

Have liaised with Gorgeous Daughter as to her ETA at the railway station and will pick her up at 5.22 precisely (Chiltern Rail punctuality permitting).

Have sort of packed clothing and toiletries, with the help of small dog, who supervised from her viewing point perched on my pillow.

Am off to bed now in the hope of a dreamless sleep, devoid of nightmares of getting hopelessly lost, car breaking down, being pursued by flesh-eating zombies or any other likely scenarios.

Although Thame Travelodge claims to be Wi-Fi enabled, I am going 'sans laptop' but will make copious notes to aid my less than total recall for blogging purposes.

Wish me luck......................

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The N Diet................

Have been laid low the past two days with norovirus, better know as the 'winter vomiting bug', except that description only covers half of it.

I'll spare your delicate constitutions the gory details, but imagine, if you will, your entire digestive tract as a length of pipe, with one end as your mouth, and the other end as.........well........ your end. Along this length of pipe, also imagine a balloon (your stomach) filled with.........whatever. The length of pipe leading away from the balloon is also filled with.........whatever.

Remember that both ends of the pipe are open.


Got it?

Now, imagine an elephant suddenly stamps........REALLY HARD, on the balloon.

Are you imagining that?


Well that's a pale imitation of how having norovirus feels.

Throw in abdominal pain, headache, feeling cold and shivery, aching all over and you have a marginally better idea.

I succumbed early on Monday morning. By midday I was ready to have someone put me out of my considerable misery.

PP followed suit late on Monday evening, and spent the entire night in transit between bed and bathroom, mostly at a lively trot.

Yesterday I did feel a bit better, and even managed to crawl downstairs for a cup of tea. Being 12 hours behind me symptoms-wise, PP was bed-bound in misery all day, while I occasionally did a pretty good imitation of Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques, staggering upstairs with a tray.

On the plus side I've lost 3.5lbs without even trying.

On the negative side I've lost two days, feel like my legs are made from boiled spaghetti, and am now so far behind on my Thame prep that I feel like bursting into floods of histrionic tears.

Is it just me or could we really, REALLY be jinxed this year.................?

Just hope small dog doesn't come down with it too..........

Sunday, 15 February 2009

SatNav Sunday

PP has spent the last four hours trying to programme our SatNav (henceforth known as Nav Woman) for my solo journey to Thame on Friday.

As she is still decidedly under the weather, PP will be staying at home with small dog, while I have enlisted the help of Gorgeous Daughter for the weekend. GD lives in near Colchester in Essex, so we will reconnoitre in Oxfordshire by the ingenious deployment of a modern day Schlieffen Plan, forming a pincer movement around London, with neither of us having to go anywhere near the dreaded M25.

So PP has been negotiating a route which will avoid motorways and major conurbations. Predictably, Nav Woman is not happy.

She's quite an old model and rather set in her ways. If you opt for 'less urban' she takes you via footpaths and bridleways. However try for 'less rural' and she will always, without fail, take you wherever want to go, via the M25.

I think she must have had some sort of M25 trauma in the past, perhaps when she was being trained, and is forever trying to come to terms with it by confronting her demons. I am convinced that even if we wanted to head due west to Cornwall she would route us via the M25, taking us round twice for luck.

However, as soon as we're actually on the M25 she loses the will to live and invariably becomes strangely mute, with little or no advance warning of lane changes or exits. I can never decide whether she's sulking or merely lost in thought.

This is challenging at the best of times, if both PP and I are in the car, when one of us can navigate with road atlas backup. However, driving on my own, the stress would be unbearable, and the first time she lisped 'perform a U-turn ath thoon ath pothible' I would be forced to throw her out the window.

We're currently on our second 'simulated journey' She completely messed up the first time and even small dog was sniggering at her wildly inappropriate choice of route. So PP has given her a good talking to and is trying to tame her wilder excesses by setting up 'intermediate destinations'. Whether this will result in me actually having to stop on various roundabouts en route is anybody's guess.

More to the point, whether Nav Woman and I will still be on speaking terms by the time I get back home on Sunday is also open to debate..........

Panic Room...........

The realisation has dawned that I have just 6 days preparation time remaining before the Thame Fair next Saturday. Back at the beginning of the year, the weeks stretched in front of me, fecund with promise. However, having been thoroughly derailed by PP's trauma over the past month, all of my good intentions regarding work have fallen by the wayside.

Having had a wonderfully indulgent, lazy day yesterday, I am now wracked with guilt and panic and am determined to get my ducks lined up today.


I am writing a list.

Ho yus.

Well several lists actually.

There is the list of URGENT THINGS TO DO, which includes finishing off the few almost completed items on my workdesk.

There is the list of ORDERS WHICH HAVE TO BE COMPLETED, and packaged ready to go, hopefully tomorrow.

There is the PACKING LIST, which is sub-divided into two sections - one for the display stand and related paraphernalia, the other for my own packing needs, as I will be away for two nights.

There is the LIST OF SAT-NAV coordinates, which will hopefully get me from A-B and to and from hotel, fair venue, railway station etc.

There is the list of STUFF TO PRINT, which is the list I'm working through this morning.

Oh and there is also a LIST OF LISTS, just in case I misplace an important list.

So, this morning I have redesigned our information brochure, updated it with new photos, ran it past PP who pointed out all the mistakes, rectified the mistakes, and am now printing out a few dozen on the new printer, which is making remarkably light work of it.

This afternoon I will be working on the orders which have to go out tomorrow, and starting to organise the packing of all the little toys etc. Having only a very small car, everything needs to be 'packed down' to the nth degree, and the display stand itself, even in its dismantled state, takes up more than it's fair share of space.

PP is on very light duties, and I'm hoping that she will take on the design and printing of labels and price cards for the stand. She has a much better working relationship with the old printer than I ever had, although that may have more to do with being connected directly to it, rather than having to negotiate the vagaries of our wireless network in order to communicate with it.

Anyhoo, so far so good. My positive work ethic is reaping dividends and I might even end up ahead of the posse by this evening.


Saturday, 14 February 2009

V Day........................

Have had a wonderfully relaxing and indulgent day today.........langourous lie-in after late night, breakfast in bed, walk along the seafront and a gorgeous meal to look forward to later this evening complete with pink bubbly.

Great night had by all last night, as the glitterati of London and Brighton descended on sleepy Bexhill-on-Sea for an evening of Valentine excess.

My personal favourite performer was Lucifire, who sizzled through a fiery act followed by an equally scorching and sultry Marlene Deitrich number later in the evening.

The whole event could best be described as a mixture of cabaret, performance art and burlesque - kitsch, camp, decadent, off the wall............and just plain entertaining good fun.

We didn't make it right till the end of the evening, but we did manage to see all the acts and trundled home at 1 a.m. tired but happy to be back in the surreal world.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Valentine's Day Mascara...............

Tonight, for the first time in 6 weeks, PP and I are going out! Having led a hermit-like existence since the start of the year it will be good to kick back and enjoy a night out with friends.

The event in question is being held at the iconic De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. Having booked our tickets back in December we've been looking forward to it for ages, although the events of recent weeks have meant that we've been unsure right up to today, whether PP would be well enough to attend.

Billed as a night of performance and dancing "exploring the two sides of love, tonight is a black hearts ball, exploring the dark side of love, from bitter loners, bachelors and spinsters and anyone who has been unlucky in love................."


The performers will include the inspirational Bohemia Ukulele Band

Not forgetting a ballroom dancing demo from Miss High Leg Kick

Plus a performance by the 88 year old magician, Mark Raffles

All this plus a group of nippy senior citizens presenting a piece of comedic performance art, amongst many other mind-blowing acts.

And they say Bexhill-on-Sea is boring!

Small dog is watching our 'getting ready' preparations with dismay. However she will be entering into the spirit of the thing by proxy

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Matryoskha Syndrome..........

Most miniaturists will be well acquainted with Matryoshka Syndrome. Named after the brightly painted wooden Russian dolls which nest one inside the other, going from large right down to itsy bitsy small.

Matryoshka Syndrome is the name given to the process of having one idea which then spawns another and another, each more refined than the last but all on a similar theme.

No it isn't..........I just made that up. But there should be something called Matryoshka Syndrome which works in exactly that way.

My latest bout of Matryoshka Syndrome was contracted by working on my little Victorian wickerwork prams. As with any idea for a new miniature, I began with research, and checked out all the primary sources I could find, both on the internet and from within my sizeable reference library of books on costume, vintage toys, Victorian childhood etc. One book which I refer to regularly is the Victorian Nursery Book which is chock full of illustrations and primary source material, "offering an intriguing glimpse into the genteel and privileged world of that distinctively Victorian institution, the nursery".

After checking out designs for a pram, I idly perused the chapter on the nursery playroom, and that's when the first symptoms of Matryoshka Syndrome manifested themselves. Reading the description of a particularly charming nursery described in a book of 1881 (Decoration and Furniture of Town Houses by R W Edis) I began to formulate a plan to try to recreate something similar in miniature.

Now, it's not as if I'm short of things to do.

I have the Thame Fair to attend in less than 10 days, and of course I am behind with work (as ever). I haven't even started on my toy shop basement. The last thing I should be thinking about is a new project. But it has got under my skin. So much so that I have managed to track down another primary source for the princely sum of $2.

It's called The Victorian Child by F. Gordon Roe, who was himself a Victorian child and whose childhood anecdotal memories form the basis of his book. He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society so was well-placed to write a social history of Victorian childhood. The book just arrived this morning, so I have only had time to flick through it and breathe in its 'old bookshop' mustiness. Although published in London over 50 years ago, my copy was originally sold by the Holliday Bookshop, 119 East 54th St, New York, according to the discreet little label stuck inside the back cover. I do love these little snippets of history which sometimes accompany lucky finds.........I wonder if the bookshop still exists? Might have a secret tryst with the Google displacement goblins later...........

Anyhoo, so there's my bedtime reading for the next week or so. Oh and I've created a folder on my desktop to file any interesting photos or snippets of information I come across.

Just in case.

It's called Victorian Nursery Ideas.

Just in case.

Just in case I suddenly find myself with lots of spare time on my hands and feel at a bit of a loose end.


Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Hospital blues........Part 2

And so we've just spent another morning 'up the hospital', PP for more tests and me for my quarterly MS check-up. In Hastings we're very lucky to have a dedicated MS nurse as many areas of the country don't. However, the discussion today went roughly as follows:

MS Nurse - Hi, come in, sit down. (shuffling through notes) Hmmmm, so you've still got MS then?

Me: Errrr, well, yes.

MS Nurse - Bummer. Still, never say die eh? Anyway, how are know, with life, work, everything........?


MS Nurse: Oh dear. That's not good is it? But you know you REALLY MUST avoid stress and worry....they are very bad for your MS.

Me: D'oh! Really?! Silly me.

MS Nurse: Oh yes. Now I'll see you again in 3 months and in the meantime don't overdo things, and no stress. OK?

Me: Certainly. I feel better already.

Well I was paraphrasing but you get the idea. So, best get back to work then and avoid stress and worry. I was wondering where I was going wrong but it's all so clear to me now.

No problemo. I'm sure everything will be absolutely tickety-boo.

S'enuff to make a cat laugh...........

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Hospital blues........

So, one trip to hospital today, and yet another tomorrow to look forward to. Several tests today threw no light on the cause of PP's current problems, so they want to do more tests tomorrow.

Most likely culprit is a new med, which is now to be withdrawn to see if things improve. This is not exactly proactive intervention, but if there is no improvement over the next week we can request a further assessment.

It is interesting to know that the hospital currently have NO beds available.

Not one.

In these circumstances, emergencies are normally re-routed to Eastbourne A&E but apparently Eastbourne DGH is in an even worse state bedwise. Although it's difficult to imagine what is worse than having no beds.....except perhaps patients having to lie out in the car park.

Ay carumba............!

Simple pleasures..........

Yesterday culminated in a dark and stormy night. By 9pm I was flagging, so retreated to bed early, with a cup of tea and a Kit Kat, as is my wont.

Small dog is always remarkably attentive at bedtime, especially if she spots a mug of tea being transported upstairs. Her attention is trebled if she catches the merest hint of a rustle, which signifies a wrapped posh biscuit. If the wrapper is red she is enraptured at the prospect of a snippet of nekked Kit Kat (ie the crispy,wafery bit after the chocolate has been nibbled off)
During the bedtime routine of heated blanket adjustment, ablutions, PJ donning etc, small dog selflessly guards the biscuit zone, not even blinking, lest some unscrupulous biscuit thief makes off with the object of her desire.

So, finally snuggled in bed, pillows plumped, book propped, tea to hand, I reached for my Kit Kat, unwrapped it under the unwavering gaze of small dog, and proceeded to nibble the end, prior to reaching the crunchy wafer. I was halfway along the first bit when the realisation dawned that I had inadvertently acquired a faulty biscuit.

Faulty, in the sense that it was ALL CHOCOLATE, with NO WAFER.

This presents a real quandary to the seasoned Kit Kat connoisseur. Non-faulty Kit Kats are ten a penny. An all chocolate biscuit comes along once in a blue moon.
Yes there is the initial disappointment of the lack of crunchy wafer, but it is immediately followed by the satisfaction of having a solid chunk of chocolate, which is well worth its weight in gold....or even chocolate.

Small dog however was devastated. A smidgen of denuded wafer is her special treat and having guarded the biscuit so diligently, she felt particularly hard done by that the faulty version robbed her of this.

So, there you have it.........simple pleasures include discovering a faulty biscuit with a built-in bonus.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays..........

I feel completely uninspired today.

This is not, in itself, unusual, particularly in the run up to a major fair. But it is compounded by a sense of helplessness in the face of stronger forces.

PP is most definitely not her usual self. Even the short trip downstairs completely exhausts her, and we have to time her sojourns very carefully in order to ensure that she retains just enough energy to make it back upstairs again before reaching the point of no return.

It is now two weeks to the day since she was discharged from hospital, and we had imagined that she would be fully recovered by now. However, although the excruciating pain has mostly subsided, the remaining overwhelming weakness and breathlessness combined have not.

Having exhausted the limited resources of our GP, I rang the Cardiology Call Centre at our local hospital this morning, in the hope of arranging an appointment for her, this side of the next millennium.
Initially I got nowhere with the helpful but ultimately helpless receptionist who suggested yet another visit to the GP for a referral letter, upon receipt of which they would arrange an appointment within the next 4-6 weeks.
Patiently I explained that having been an inpatient just a few weeks ago, and having had no end of problems since, perhaps a referral letter was now somewhat redundant.

Cue much rustling of papers and sotto voce discussion with someone 'offline' and lo and behold, there is now a cancellation for tomorrow.

Sometimes persistence pays off...............let's hope we get some answers, and more to the point, some action to put right what has so patently gone wrong.

In the meantime I have to attempt to drum up the enthusiasm to try to make some inroads into the 'urgent' tasks awaiting me in the workroom.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Reality bites...........

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog, that yesterday's 'to do' list was wildly over optimistic and that inevitably my efforts fell far short of the mark.

'Twas ever thus..........

In reality I managed a disappointing two out of seven of the allotted tasks, so I'm playing catch-up today.

At least the sun is currently streaming in through the workroom windows, I've caught up with the Archers omnibus and I'm feeling relatively chipper and ready to get on with the remainder of my list.

Watch this space..........

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Working weekend..........

Woke early this morning to a light dusting of snow. The white stuff has really lost its lustre.

No matter however, as I have a packed working weekend stretching in front of me, interspersed with what have become standard nursing duties as PP is still indisposed.

My exciting schedule today includes:

  • Unloading final paint fired characters from the kiln
  • A few hours of stringing tiny arms and legs onto the smallest dolls
  • More work on the several vintage pullalong toys on my workdesk.
  • Remake elephant howdah
  • Revise and print brochures for Thame Fair
  • Photograph new items for website
  • Housekeeping on website, upload new items and have a general tidy up
Better go and get on with it then.............

Thursday, 5 February 2009

A kick in the slats for the fiscally prudent.........

Today's drop in interest rates to a paltry 1% blatantly cocks a snook at those of us who follow the prescribed principles of fiscal prudence.

To put it bluntly, anyone with savings would be as well to take it all out in cash and stash it under the mattress, or use it to insulate a thermal vest, which would be a damn sight more useful than leaving it in the bank earning zilch.

I'm from a generation who believed saving was good and credit was bad. I grew up in a solidly working class mining community, where being in debt was considered as dirty as the coal that coated my grandfather, father, uncles and male cousins when they came home from their shift at the pit every day.

As a very young child I had a Post Office savings account into which I dutifully paid every penny. Each year I would make a special pilgrimage to the village post office to have the interest calculated and carefully entered in my little cardboard passbook. It was then that I began a lifelong love affair with the mysteries of compound interest.

If I wanted something for myself I had to save for it, earning pennies by doing odd jobs, running errands......whatever I could. And I didn't get my heart's desire until I had enough cold, hard cash in my hot little hand.

Fast forward forty years. We now live in an age of over 100% mortgages, umpteem maxed out credit cards as the norm, loans for holidays, cars, kitchens and conservatories. The whole concept of saving for anything is regarded as archaic and the headlong scramble for cheap money has become a way of life for millions.

Not only that, banks have been happy to lend indiscriminately:

Borrower: "Oy you, gimme some dosh."

Toadying Banker: "Certainly sir. Just let me, poor credit record, defaults on existing loan problem sir. How much would you like?"

So the fiscally prudent who religiously pay off their credit card bills in full every month, owe not a penny to a living soul, and who have consistently saved for a rainy day can all go hang as their savings are now worth f**k all.

Let's reward all the poor sods who have borrowed too much, spent wildly and indiscriminately on credit, saved bugger all and are now reeling from the effects of the recession. Awww... bless.

I am sooooooo disenchanted I could spit.

Down day.........

Not feeling very upbeat today......... 5 February is my most hated day in the calender and it hasn't helped that PP is still feeling very poorly, the weather has been dull and grey and cold, I'm behind with loads of stuff and even displacement activity has temporarily lost its lustre.

So, in brief, a litany of woes and desolation.

In an act of virtual self-flagellation, I set myself the long overdue task of a first china paint and firing on a batch of dolls which were bisque fired two weeks ago, just before PP went into hospital. Since then, apart from unloading the kiln to check that the firing had been successful, the dolls have lain in a box in the workroom, unpainted and neglected.

I normally enjoy the act of painting as the doll's characters emerge with each successive paint firing, and the faces slowly come alive.........sallow or rosy cheeks, lips either plump and kissable or thin and disapproving. Eyes, bright and sparkling or red-rimmed and brimming with tears.
Eyebrows raised in questioning disbelief, or drawn together in deep thought. My characters never have exactly the same painted expressions.

Today though I just couldn't get enthused at all. Partly due to my malaise, and partly due to the fact that my MS chose to play up and firstly ever so slightly blurred my vision then added to the fun by introducing the barest minimum of hand tremor. If I hadn't been concentrating so hard on painting I probably wouldn't have noticed it, but working under a powerful magnifying lamp, delineating the features of a tiny baby whose head measured less than 3mm in diameter, it had the same effect as a minor earthquake. As a result, some faces had to be wiped clean several times before I finally got things under control and stuck at it until I was satisfied with the paint quality.

In all, the task should have taken no more than two hours tops, but it was four hours before I finally finished and was able to load the kiln with a huge sigh of relief.

I couldn't even muster the energy to produce my usual neat, concentric circles of heads and bodies, so pleasing to the eye and a balm to the soul, so instead there is a rather unsatisfying jumble.

Incidentally the dark coloured porcelain dolls are not the result of a catastrophic overfire, which can happen from time to time. No they are meant to be that colour, a rich velvet brown, and are destined to be exotic young child Indian princes to accompany my pullalong ceremonial toy elephant with howdah. If I can regain my creative inspiration there will also be matching tiny 1 1/2" dolls to sit in state in the howdah.

However, in the meantime they still have another two paint firings to go..........

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Small dog is traumatised.

It was brought on by the delivery yesterday morning of an extremely large box addressed to PP, and delivered by the postman who trudged up the still snow-covered driveway and puffed.......

"'Ere you go to get this 'normous box out the back of the van before I can even see what else there is in there........."

So when I say large, I do mean large. Over a metre square!

Small dog, who is always extremely interested in postal deliveries, escorted both me and the box upstairs to PP, where it was laid on the bed, blocking out the sun.

As soon as the flaps were opened, three huge helium-filled balloons floated up out of the box, stopping only when they reached the end of their ribbon tethers, where they bobbed and swayed gently.

Immediately, small dog leapt off the bed and ran round the room, out the door, along the landing, back again, downstairs, upstairs, and back into the room where she stood barking like a maniac.
I have positioned the balloons by the window where PP can enjoy them. From her vantage point by PP's side, small dog keeps a watchful,wary eye on them, occasionally venturing down to the foot of the bed to give them a hard stare.

A definite case of Globophobia if ever I saw it.

Which, come to think of it, forms a neat counterpoint to one of my own.......Coulrophobia

Faith in human nature restored.........

I've been making more little wickerwork prams. Although they are undoubtedly frustratingly fiddly at times, there is something about the weaving process which has the ability to tame the savage beast.

It's one of those rare miniature endeavours which is calmingly (though not boringly) repetitive and creative at the same time. When I start each one, I really have no idea of how the finished item will look, except that it will be a baby carriage with four wheels and a handle.

Already my ideas notebook is filling with scribbled sketches and ideas for variations on the theme and I have one on the go at all times.

They are incredibly time consuming to make though, especially in the initial preparation stages. Rather than use board or card for the base, in order to make them as authentic and true to the originals as possible, I have opted to use fine stripwood, which is painstakingly measured (twice!) then cut to size for both length and width. I have a nifty cutting tool for doing this, but it is very difficult to get 100% accuracy, especially when cutting along the grain, when the cut tends to follow line of the grain, necessitating a bit of sanding off.

I then use a template, (designed to perfection by PP from her sickbed) to mark and then drill all the tiny holes around the outside edges of the base for the wickerwork frame of 'spokes'.

Yesterday I was down to my last piece of stripwood so have had to order more, from Borcraft Miniatures, from whom I've been buying stripwood and and wooden mouldings for all of my 25 years as a miniaturist.

I need a specific width and thickness, which is not a standard size, so I emailed to check if it was possible to order it. Within half an hour I had a reply, saying there would be no problem with the non-standard size, and would I like the pram bases cut to length as well!

What wonderful, exemplary service. It has quite restored my flagging faith in human nature.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


Welcome to yet another 'follower', Doreen from Ontario, Canada, whose blog features some very original miniature projects including a great ice cream parlour!

In other news, a sudden and dramatic thaw has taken place today, which is just as well as I really needed to get out for some essential supplies for poorly PP.

Tesco was a complete madhouse, with dozens of kids (still on a 'snow day' from school despite the conspicuous lack of snow) running around screaming and people shopping as if they were planning to be laid siege.

Not only that, Tesco appear to have a whole mile long aisle awash with Valentine's Day tat....fluffy heart shaped cushions, Barbie-pink "I Wuv Yoo" photo frames, mammoth 3 foot high cards and a whole plethora of other equally disturbing wares. At the best of times, this combination of blood-red and Barbie pink would have me heading for the vomitorium but this is most definitely NOT the best of times.

Monday, 2 February 2009

New - Victorian Toy Perambulators!

I am pleased to unveil the latest additions to the Diminutive Dolls range..... authentic miniature handcrafted Victorian-style wicker toy prams.

They have been many weeks in 'research and development' but I've finally cracked it and in the last few days the design has really come together and I have completed a few which meet my rigourous high standards.

They are scaled to represent toy prams for the 1/12th scale miniature doll's house child, and are perfect for my tiny porcelain baby dolls which measure just 1" tall.

The 'first editions' are now available on the website

There will never be two exactly the same, and I already have several ideas on the drawing board for alternative designs and styles.

However, here are my first wickerwork toy baby carriages.......

Don't you just love it when all the hard work pays off...........?!

Snowed in..........

So the South East of England has been hit by the worst snowfalls in 18 years and naturally everything has ground to a halt.....there has been no post delivery today, trains and buses are badly disrupted, schools are closed and more snow is forecast for this afternoon through tonight.

We live at the top of a very steep hill, so small dog I have gained much innocent amusement this morning watching foolhardy cars either glide down the hill sideways, or crawl up the hill sideways.

Needless to say I have abandoned any intention venturing out in the car today and instead will enjoy the vista from the cosy warmth of the house.