Sunday, 29 March 2009

Let there be light.........

Completely missed Earth Hour yesterday due to being laid low with a vicious tummy bug, about which the least said the better.

Had I not been writhing on a bed of pain and agony I would certainly have joined in, despite the fact that we had already endured a lengthy power cut the previous (Friday) evening. We had just started cooking dinner when the lights went out. A quick foray into the back garden confirmed that the whole area was in darkness, and out front, the streetlights were black, and neighbours bearing candles and torches peered out into the half-light, no doubt also wondering how they were going to fill their Friday evening with no TV/Internet/WiiFit etc.

We have a gas hob, but the oven and grill are electric, so although our dinner should have been gently roasting in the oven, after half an hour of scrambling around trying to find sufficient candles to light the kitchen, all the time hoping that power would be restored, hunger asserted itself and we decided to extemporise an oven-cooked meal on the gas hob.

Small dog, who is fairly punctilious about dinner time was not amused, as we faffed about tripping over her and each other, buoyed up by a jolly nice Sauvignon Blanc, which, as the fridge was no longer working, we judged best to drink as an aperitif to preserve its chilled perfection.

Cooking by candlelight is easier said than done, especially as we don't have any 'sensible' candles. A silver candleabra may be aesthetically pleasing, but it's bloody useless in functional terms, not to mention almost setting fire to the wall cupboards. Aside from that we have zillions of tea lights, which are just the right height to set fire to your sleeve cuffs and singe the hair off your arms.

Despite this not inconsiderable adversity we soldiered on, aided and abetted by the still passably chilled Sauv. Blanc and began to get into the spirit of the blitz, wartime austerity and all that. Although I don't expect there were many bottles of NZ Marlborough (aka nectar of the gods) down the Anderson shelters.....

Fortunately for small dog, as she had also been suffering from a gippy tummy for the past few days and had temporarily misplaced her appetite, we had pre-prepared a tempting menu, consisting of a delicately cooked chicken, potato and steamed vegetables which had been stored in the fridge from the previous evening's dinner.

Unfortunately for small dog, who likes her dinners warmed, we had no way of reheating it, as the hob was fully occupied and the microwave wasn't an option. So she had to rough it with a cold dinner. In order to soften the blow, and in a spirit of joie de vivre engendered by the wine, I added a jaunty garnish of of parsley, and laid her bowl on the murky depths of the kitchen floor.

Needless to say, just as we were about to serve our own dinner, the power came back on and we stood blinking in abject disappointment at being restored to relative civilisation.

So, off with all the lights again to resume an ad hoc candlight supper.

Apropos of nothing at all when we did turn the lights back on, small dog was just finishing her dinner, having delicately removed the parsley garnish and placing it disdainfully on the kitchen floor. So much for her gourmand credentials.

Friday, 27 March 2009

I don't believe it!!!!!!

Despite probable evidence to the contrary, work is still going EXTREMELY well. I say this purely to refute an unsubstantiated comment from an unbelieving detractor.

Indeed I have barely TOUCHED the laptop this afternoon......

Positive work ethic...........


It's working!

My new positive work ethic is reaping dividends and I'm ploughing through work-related tasks with nary a thought of displacement activity.

So yes, I'm doing really well.

Staying focused.

Sticking to the task in hand.

Concentrating 100%

Thanks for asking..........

Hard at work.............

This morning I have firmly banished the displacement goblins and plan to be ensconced in my workroom ALL DAY making significant inroads into the club workshop preparation.

There will be absolutely NO faffing about on Google or You Tube today.

No siree.

Focus, focus, focus.

Oh buggrit.............

Thursday, 26 March 2009


All dog owners will be familiar with CWN, or to give its full name, Cold, Wet Nose.

This is a technique, employed by dogs, to elicit their owner's full and undivided attention. I suspect it is learned in puppyhood, along with a multitude of other doggy skills, vital for the training of owners, such as:
  • the 'cute' look when challenged over an act of wilful destruction or vandalism (see previous post for text book illustration)
  • the 'desperately sorry' look, employed when presented with overwhelming evidence (again, see previous post for example of overwhelming evidence)
  • the 'happy, happy jump up and down dance' at the sound of house keys being retrieved from drawer.
  • the 'I'm never going to see you ever again and I will be discovered when only when I have become a bony skelington' look, used immediately after the happy, happy jump up and down dance when it becomes apparent that the words 'No, you must STAY' are imminent.
However, CWN is a supremely successful training tool in the paws of any dog............

Sample scenario

Me: sitting at my laptop, tip, tippy tapping away, obliviously.

Small dog: trots into study and sits very nicely on the floor, staring intently into my averted eyes.

Me: still oblivious

Small dog: puts front paws on my knee and applies CWN to any patch of exposed skin, preferably the back of a hand.

Me: shocked into attention, notices small dog and moves knees sideways to facilitate jump onto lap. Resumes tip, tappy tapping.

Small dog: quickly applies CWN to back of tip, tappy hand.

Me: "Ewwww!!!" Immediately refrains for tippy tapping to give small dog disapproving hard stare. Resumes tip, tappy tapping.

Small dog: gives small, but heartfelt sigh and applies CWN to back of hand.

Me: "Omigod....... will you PLEASE stop doing that!" Tentatively resumes tip, tappy tapping.

Small dog: raising eyes heavenwards in the manner of "will some people NEVER learn?!" and reapplies CWN to back of hand.

Me:"Oh for goodness sake. All right then. I'll give you a stroke......"

Small dog: settles down comfortably on lap, undisturbed by further tap, tippy tapping, and enjoys relaxing stroke.

Small dog - 56,873
Me - Nil

Invoice blues............

The displacement goblins have me firmly in their thrall this morning.

This is generally the case when I have 'paperwork' to deal with, but this morning I've been preparing invoices so I am more predisposed than normal to their wiles.

Thus far I have spent almost 2 hours in spurious 'research' on Google, plus had a desultory attempt at cleaning out my email inbox, with mixed success.

My inbox currently contains 1179 emails, which might not sound like a lot, until I confess that as well as my generic inbox, I also have another 40 email folders which receive messages filtered directly into them according to type, such as PayPal receipts, website orders, household finances, utilities etc etc. Each of those is also bulging at the seams. Trying to keep them pared down to manageable proportions is like trying to hold back the tide with a spoon.

Although nowhere near as much fun.

Which only goes to show how not much fun I find preparing invoices, if wading through redundant emails is a preferable activity.

I could almost be drawn to tackle the mountain of ironing upstairs, or clean the hob extractor fan filter........both tasks of equal unenjoyability (is that a word?).

However, preparing invoices is as nothing compared to the other task which awaits me in the workroom, and which I have been successfully avoiding all this week.

That is, prep for the club workshop in 9 days time. I am singularly uninspired, which is worrying this close to the event. I am sure that my malaise will disappear if I could just muster the enthusiasm to buckle down and get stuck in. But my muse has buggered off and I feel singularly lacklustre and generally a bit bleeaaaah.

Which is why the displacement goblins have been so successful in their attempts to lure me away from diligent duties and enticing me to trawl through a variety of innocent amusements and distractions.

I rest my case..........

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I WANT ONE....!!!!!

Saw this 'printer' mentioned on a miniatures forum today and was curious enough to check it out......

Despite having watched the infomercial very carefully several times, I still have absolutely no idea how it works or does what it does. I suspect that there are a group of magic pixies living in the machine who carve and paint the models very quickly, and embed them in magic dust, which is then blown away to reveal the completed 3D version.

The full mind-blowing potential of such a machine is revealed near the end of the video, when a stunning, HOLLOW, 3D architectural model is shown.......just think of the possibilities for miniaturists, to be able to design and create a perfect 3D house in 1/144th scale, or furniture, or people, or anything.

Sadly, at £30,000 for the basic machine, this particular piece of office equipment is destined to remain on my wishlist indefinitely. Goodness only knows what the consumables cost, or how much it costs to create even a simple model. But this is the stuff of science fiction ... absolutely amazing!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Research and development.......

Busy and fruitful day today, researching for a new project and getting up to date with outstanding orders.

The wonderful spring-like weather of the past week suddenly disappeared around lunchtime and was followed by icy cold rain and chill winds. A stark reminder that it is still only March and we should take nothing for granted.

In other news, small dog is a bit under the weather and feeling rather sorry for herself. She's sitting trembling with cold and has a runny nose and weepy dogs get colds?
Anyway,as she is poorly, she will go to bed with a heated wheatbag and possibly a small dish of warm milk. Just hope she doesn't have a disturbed night..........

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Mother's Day today.

Made slightly more poignant by the fact that Jade Goody died early this morning and her two young sons will forever more remember that their mummy died on Mother's Day.

My mum died when I was young, so I do feel an affinity with others who lost that most important person early in their lives.

PP and I were expecting her daughter and partner to come and cook lunch for us.....but they brought an extra surprise in the form of other son, who also contributed to a delicious lunch with delishus wine *hic*.

During today, I've had my Ipod on shuffle, so a random selection of 'important' songs, recalling people, times and experiences which are especially relevant........ and a few minutes ago, this came on, which brought both PP and I up short.

This time last year, we were reeling from the death of a close friend of PP, who also died tragically young, an untimely and cruel demise from cancer in St Michael's Hospice, St Leonards.

This song was one of her favourites .........and it is one of mine too.

A year ago, just before Christmas, we saw Horse in Brighton, and before she performed, she shared her experience of being with her mother, just before her death, and of singing this song to her at her bedside.......

So there is a tenuous, if very sad, link here.....

Friday, 20 March 2009

Horticulturally challenged.........

Let me get one thing straight right now.

I am NOT a gardener.

I love HAVING a garden, but lack the expertise, time, energy and confidence to do anything remotely creative with it. It saddens me that there is not one thing in the garden which really heralds spring, like daffodils, tulips, primroses or crocuses (or should that be crocii?) We don't even have any bog standard spring flowering shrubs like forsythia, which is bursting forth exuberantly in neighbour's gardens yelling "IT'S SPRING!"

The front garden is a bit of a wasteland, nominally laid to lawn with a circular bed of small shrubs in the centre. However the lawn is 95% weeds, moss and dandelions. We've tried all manner of weed & feed preparations, which seem to nurture the weeds and kill off what remains of the grass. The bed of shrubs is also weed-ridden, and the shrubs themselves are sickly and half dead.

If money were no object we'd have the whole front garden brick-paved and be done with it. Ours is the only house in the road without a garage, so adding off-street parking would be an useful improvement. We could then add splashes of colour with pots and planters, and be freed from the drudgery of having to mow the dandelions and weeds every 10 days throughout the summer.

The back garden does at least look marginally better. A previous owner spent a small fortune on hard-landscaping the sloping site, terracing the lawns with sweeping retaining brick walls and curving steps up to the top terrace where they sited a small wooden summerhouse which we've painted to look like a beach hut and added 'deck chair' striped curtains. There is also a large patio area.

Two years ago, we reduced the lawn areas by transforming one of the terraces into a shingle 'beach', which is adorned with old bits of groyne, driftwood and sections of fishing net we found washed up on the shore.

However the remaining lawn is very sloping so can't be used for sitting out on....well not on chairs whose legs are all the same length anyway. Also crucially, the right hand boundary, which legally belongs to our neighbours, has a wooden fence which is in very poor condition. Apparently, the previous owners of our house cut a deal with the neighbours to replace the fence but for some unknown reason it was put on our side of the chainlink boundary, so now the neighbours no longer regard it as 'their fence'. Last winter two of the fence panels blew down and haven't been replaced so there is now an ugly gap which we have resisted repairing as it shouldn't be our responsibility. The gap is nominally secure as there is an even uglier bit of chain link fencing which originally separated the building plots when the houses were first built.

Small dog doesn't mind the gap and sits by the chain link fence spying on the neighbours, and occasionally commenting on their activities in a series of staccato strident barks. We thought she might have encouraged the rapid replacement of the missing panels but perhaps she isn't barking loudly and often enough.

Anyway, the gap offends me.

I don't really want to be able to see right into someone else's garden, and I don't like the loss of our privacy either. The left hand boundary for which we ARE responsible is the length of the Great Wall of China, but thankfully is of a much better standard than the shoddy right hand fence.

So, being disenchanted with the garden, mainly because of the fence issue, is the primary reason for my lack of interest in doing anything with it. That, and not being able to do any of the heavy work required to make the necessary improvements, like planting a quick-growing shrub hedge to conceal the ugly fence and gap.

It is sooooo tempting to have someone in to do something with it. We need it to be low-maintenance but it would be lovely to feel proud of it and happy with it again.

Let's face it, we might have a fantastic summer in store, with its attendant opportunities for sipping chilled white wine in the sunshine! And if that's the case I'd like to be able to do it in a more convivial and private garden space.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

I'm hooked........

I had an e-newsletter from the MS Society this morning.

I think this might be a case of the cure being worse than the affliction

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Firing tonight...........

In a valiant effort to catch up with a shedload of outstanding work-related tasks, most notably the club workshop in three weeks time for which I have to prepare 25 workshop packs, plus teaching plan etc, I have been hard at it the past few days.

Since the weekend I have accomplished a bisque firing, and the first china paint firing, and today, all being well, I will get the second paint firing completed too.

It's obviously preying on my subconscious mind as I had an awful dream last night in which I had a brand new kiln........absolutely enormous and housed in a newly built studio in the garden.
Despite a complete lack of operating instructions, I loaded all the tiny wee workshop dolls plus dozens of their arms and legs into the kiln and set it to fire, guessing the ramp and soak times/temperatures.

After just a few minutes I noticed smoke coming from the back then flames, which quickly spread throughout the studio and caused a huge amount of damage. All of treasured reference books, tools, materials, gorgeous silks antique ribbons and lace, were burnt to ashes.

Then there was someone with a clipboard (presumably an insurance assessor) trying to blame me for the blaze, while I was adamant there was an electrical fault with the kiln.
When he opened the kiln door, all the tiny toy dolls were undamaged and still in their unfired greenware state. So everything outside the kiln was 'fired' but nothing inside the kiln.

Not sure what all that says about my perilous mental state except 'WOWSER!'

Friday, 13 March 2009

Exploring the blogosphere..........

I've been indulging in some displacement activity this morning and following a trail of interesting artisan-related blogs which aren't necessarily by miniaturists.

A few weeks back I added Sir Richard's Tool Kit, which does exactly what it says on the tin, ie it's a blog about hand tools. Beautifully crafted hand tools are one of my favourite things, and every artisan has a few tools which they absolutely could not do without.

Via Richard's blog I have now found the wonderful Moon Bindery, beautiful books being another of my passions. I completely covet the lipstick red journal.......simply gorgeous!

I'm going to try to feature one artisan blog a week which I find inspirational, either in words or pictures or preferably both.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Time flies............

I have no idea where the time has gone this week.

One minute it's Monday and the week stretches ahead filled with endless possibilities, the next it's Thursday and my weekly 'to do' list is mysteriously bigger than when it started on Monday.

Which is not to say I haven't been busy, beavering away, packaging orders, doing some R&D on new stuff, tinkering with the website etc etc.

However there have been no 'eureka' moments, or grand ideas come to full fruition, and as a consequence I'm feeling a bit flat and uninspired.

However, I've been nominated to do a meme by Bev at tattyhousehastings so in keeping with the spirit of the thing, here are my Five Things that are Great/Good/Going Well about my life:

In no particular order.......

  • I am rapidly approaching my very favourite time of year, when the clocks go forward, lighter evenings arrive, the trees and hedgerows start to 'green up' and there is a real sense of spring and summer lurking just around the corner.
  • PP is finally on the mend after a very traumatic, stressful and worrying few months and I can start to think ahead to our future with hope and optimism rather than fear and dread.
  • The catharsis of realising that all the things in life which I thought were important have been shown not to be important at all, in the great scheme of things. This occasional realignment of positive priorities is good for my soul.
  • EVERY day, no matter how bad things are, or how grumpy/fed up/stressed/worried I feel, small dog can ALWAYS make me laugh and bring a smile to my face
  • In the past few weeks I have rediscovered the pure enjoyment of what I do and restored my flagging creative flow.
There, I'm feeling better already.

So now I have to tag someone else with this meme and have chosen a fellow miniaturist whose positive work ethic puts mine to shame..... Debbie at Tiny Treasures. Over to you Deb!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Have a break.........

I'm taking a short break from working really quite hard today. Not only have I completed some long overdue website maintenance and updates, but I'm now completely up to date on orders and have completed yet another batch of casting, including the prototypes for my IGMA glass eyed tiny, little wee dolls, fully jointed and everything.

I'm fairly confident they won't work, but since the entire casting/soft firing/soft cleaning/bisque firing, paint firing (x2) cycle takes a minimum of 4 weeks, I won't know for sure till April. Even my limited mathematical prowess can work out that I will only have another 4 goes at getting it right, to allow sufficient time for costuming, wigging, accessorising etc then get them in the post by October.

Perhaps I really have thought this through..........

No matter. I'll give it my best shot.

In other news, I have spent a large chunk of the past 48 hours trying to track down a source of 18mm silk ribbon. PP was drafted in to help and has it on very good authority from a most personable young Japanese lady named Makoto, who works for a silk ribbon manufacturer based in Kyoto, that this width is no longer in production.

My US supplier blames this on the weak dollar.


Blimey O'Reilly... compared to the £ sterling, the $US is positively thriving, and Samson-like in its ascendancy. That's the second time this week that an American has complained about the 'weak dollar'. The other person was a potential customer who was bemoaning the fact that things from the UK were so expensive at the moment due to the weak dollar.

Now, I'm no international financier, but I am painfully aware that the pound is trading well down against the dollar compared to this time last year. Supplies which I have to buy from the US are costing me nigh on twice as much as they did last summer. So it therefore follows that US citizens buying goods from the UK are getting a fantastic deal, due to the weakness of the pound, which is as weak as a very weak kitten.

With a cold, and three legs.

And no tail.

And only two whiskers.

Very, very weak, and possibly not long for this world.

I very much doubt that there is any monetary currency in the world, currently weaker than the £. With the possible exception of the Zimbabwe dollar.

Right, that's me done ranting. And as I have now finished my tea break, complete with Kit Kat and accompanied by small dog surveillance, I'm off back to work.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Lottery winner!!!!!!!!!!!

My heart skipped several beats earlier this afternoon when an email from the National Lottery informed me:

"Dear Sandra,

We have some exciting news about the ticket that you bought for the Friday 06 March draw."

Now, for the record, I hardly ever buy a lottery ticket. Gambling is the devil's temptation and I see it as throwing good money after bad.

However, Friday was Gorgeous Daughter's birthday, and as the EuroMillions rollover stood at £85 million I bought her a lucky dip ticket and one for small dog, who is a bit of a gambler on the quiet.

Before my trembling fingers clicked on the link supplied, I scurried through to the kitchen to inform PP about the impending 'exciting news' and during our joint 10 second trip to the study we had a brief exchange about how it would most definitely change our lives. Small dog fully entered into the spirit of the thing too and accompanied us to check her winnings.

With all three of us holding our collective breaths, I clicked on the link and scanned the page for details of this life-changing win........

Congratulations, you're a winner!

Game: EuroMillions
Prize: £6.70
Date: 06/03/09



Spring Fever...........

Spring fever is most definitely in the air.

Not only is small dog acting like a complete maniac, but this weekend I have taken a turavee* (as my granny would have said) and started spring cleaning the house.

PP and I subscribe to two very different styles of cleaning.

I go at top speed, multitasking furiously, sweeping, washing, dusting, hoovering, tidying.....all in a whirlwind frenzy until I run out steam. In this manner I can clean and tidy pretty much the whole house in a few hours.

PP takes things at a slower pace, and cleans a very small area but cleans it FORENSICALLY clean. I mean Kim and Aggie are clarty* mares compared to PP when it comes to cleaning.

So ideally, I should form the advance guard, sweeping through the house like the white tornado (remember that?) scattering dust and debris in my wake. PP should then follow at the rear, tackling areas which need to be microscopically sparkling and germ free.

However there is one area of the house which valiantly resists any efforts to sort it out. One of the spare rooms has become a repository for 'stuff' which has to be hurriedly cleared out of the way when we have people to stay. It's not a big room, but it is currently stacked, floor to ceiling with extraneous 'stuff'.

I keep threatening to get in there and sort it out, but by the time I've plucked up the courage after a cleaning spree, my energy levels are at rock bottom and the mere act of opening door and gazing forlornly inside is enough to sap my will to live.

There are boxes and boxes of books, piles of clothes which are too small/too big/too bright/too good to dispose of, the whole of our 2008/2009 accounts stuffed into various envelopes and carrier bags and which I will have to wade through next month in order to do our tax returns, a translucent woman's torso which I got off Freecycle with the idea of doing something clever with fairy lights and a leather corset to make a piece of 'installation art' to go at the top of the stairs but never got round to, piles of picture frames with assorted prints to frame, several cases of wine which we brought back from France and bottled ourselves ages ago, one deceased laptop awaiting formatting, a huge pile of soft toys which Gorgeous Daughter won't let me throw out despite the fact she turned 27 last Friday and is nominally an adult, one step ladder so we can relatively easily get up into the loft to monitor the leak in the roof, overflow camping stuff from the van including a really kitsch fringed beach umbrella which seemed like a good idea at the time.........there's loads more but you get the drift.

If we had a garage, no doubt most of it would be piled ceiling high in there, instead of taking up a whole room in the house. It's one of the immutable laws of the universe that stuff stored in a garage ceases to exist in this dimension, but sadly we don't have that luxury. So it will have to be sorted through and 'dealt with'. Since most of it has been in there for over two years, untouched, it's a fair bet we don't actually NEED any of it, and what can't be sold could be distributed via charity shops and/or Freecycle.

All I need is the time and energy to get stuck in and clear out the guddle*

Anyways, a quick google has revealed the following advertising gem.......we used to think this was the height of cleaning sophistication in our household when I was young....

*Apologies for slipping into Scottish vernacular. However HERE is a very useful glossary which provided me with the displacement activity equivalent of a trip down memory lane.

Happy days

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Vernal equinox...... effects of on small dog

Glorious spring-like day here today, despite dire weather warnings of winds and rain lashing the south coast.

Spring has also infected small dog who has been behaving like a thing possessed, hurtling round the garden at a zillion miles an hour, barking her silly little head off and throwing herself against the fence in a (hopefully) futile attempt to get at next door's guinea pigs who are in their outdoor run enjoying the warm spring sun on their fur.

Those who know me will also know that I have a real soft spot for guinea pigs. They are my favourite rodent. So having a dog of mine trying to terrorise two of them does not go down well.

However, to be fair, small dog's current vendetta is not targeted exclusively towards the guinea pigs. Just about everything in the animal kingdom seems to be fair game at the moment. I think her recent traumatic haircut may have tipped the balance of her mind and she's become feral.

Every bird and mammal which has the temerity to set foot or claw within the boundary of the garden is playing Russian Roulette. Squirrels especially, which are high on her 'Most Wanted' list.

Usually the squirrels play it safe, and if they do come into the garden, stay close to the fences for a quick getaway. However this morning there was one actually sitting on the side of the bird bath, having a wash and brush up. Naturally, small dog was incensed and set off in hot pursuit, moving rapidly up through several gears until she was a small, furry blur. The squirrel was caught off guard in the middle of his morning ablutions and, half way between the two boundary fences, dithered for a nanosecond about which one to head for. Wailing like a banshee, small dog could doubtless scent victory as she bore down upon the indecisive squirrel, who finally took to his heels and made a dash for the fence. Presumably, hearing the snapping of sharp little teeth just inches from his tail gave him an immediate adrenalin boost and he leapt the last metre up on to the fence.....and lost his footing.

From our viewing point in the kitchen, PP and I drew a collective gasp and put our hands over our eyes to block out the ensuing carnage.

So we missed the denouement.

A split second later we looked to see what had happened, to catch sight of the squirrel flying along the top of the fence with small dog still in hot pursuit on the ground. Presumably it managed to regain a last minute claw-hold and hoist itself up from the jaws of death. They certainly didn't have enough time to negotiate a settlement and in any case, in the grip of the red mist, small dog would have been in no mood to discuss terms.

Just exactly what would happen if she ever succeeded in her lifelong ambition to catch a squirrel is anybody's guess. The 'rat catcher' terrier in her would almost definitely take over and she would grab it by the neck and give it a death shake. It's something I wouldn't want to see. And it's a very good reason to make sure she doesn't get any ideas about tunnelling under, or abseiling over the fence to get to the guinea pigs next door.

And speaking of guinea pigs. The major movie event of the millennium is due to be released this summer.

I CAN'T WAIT................................!!!!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The lunatics have taken over the asylum.........

So the UK bank interest rate has been further 'slashed' to 0.5%

And the Bank of England are printing £75 billion (so called quantitative easing........whatever the blazes THAT means)to boost our flagging economy.

I'm the first to admit that economics is not my strong point. But even I understand that in the current climate my careful savings would have more chance of growing if I planted them in the garden.

Savers are being thrown to the wolves, pensioners are seeing their pensions shrinking, yet the banks and bankers, who are mainly responsible for the godalmighty mess are getting massive cash injections and even bigger pensions.........I mean £700,000 A YEAR!!!!!!!! It would still be obscene even if Fred Goodwin had done a half decent job. But he steered RBS to the brink of collapse and now billions of pounds of taxpayers money has been requisitioned to plug the hole. Still, ol' Fred will be fine and dandy sitting on his £700K a year, bless him.

I'm a lifelong socialist, and in the past have been a card-carrying member. I am passionate about social justice and people getting a fair crack of the whip. But if a general election was called tomorrow, I don't think I could bring myself to vote Labour, even though my politically motivated family would be turning in their respective graves.
However to be honest, I couldn't bring myself to vote for any of the other jokers either.

And since when was printing money a recipe for success...........

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Casting caution to the winds.........

Yet another marathon casting session today, following on from yesterday's.

I'm making a virtue of necessity by having to cast all the little dolls for my club workshop next month, and topping up our stock of porcelain doll kits, plus starting a few orders which have arrived this week.

I was in exactly the right frame of mind for casting today and had put aside several hours during which I could legitimately ignore the telephone or the doorbell. At times when there wasn't anything interesting on the radio, I did some 'thought' planning for my IGMA trial submission, which will have to be finished by October.

I've been toying (no pun intended) with idea of five really different pieces, but am acutely aware that they all need to be executed perfectly to succeed. If even one of them falls below the mark the whole attempt is doomed.

So, while pouring and emptying moulds, then fettling the resulting greenware today, I was running through the possibilities for what to submit. Which were, in no particular order,
  • Wicker toy pram complete with tiny jointed toy baby doll dressed in christening gown
  • Deluxe animal pullalong toy
  • Mahogany games chest with games pieces etc
  • Jumeau style toy doll in period costume
  • Victorian bride doll with accessories.
Then I raised the bar even further by contemplating making the bride doll fully jointed (ie jointed head, arms and legs) plus real glass eyes. What you have to remember is that the finished doll is just under 1 1/2" tall, the head is the roughly the size of a small pea, and the tiny glass eyes are the size of mustard seeds. It takes forensic skill to cut the tiny eyeholes exactly.... even 0.5 of a millimetre difference shows up like a sore thumb in this tiny scale. Even if the eyeholes are perfect, the inside of the eyes then have to be bevelled, so that the eyes fit snugly into the eye sockets. For that to happen, the porcelain at the edges has to be extremely thin, which is nigh on impossible to do without tiny pieces breaking off.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, for the head to move freely, there has to be enough room inside the tiny pea-sized head cavity, for the stringing elements. Not to mention the glass eyes, which are spherical, so take up a disproportionate amount of space within the head.

I have done this only once before and I remember at the time saying 'never again' but the ordinary is not good enough to gain IGMA artisan status. It is only really worth submitting the extraordinary. Although whether in doing so I will retain what remains of my sanity, is anyone's guess.

However, aside from the technical challenges of the jointed glass-eyed doll, the only piece from the list which I'm not at all sure about is the games chest. Working in wood is not my natural forte, and if anything's going to let me down it will be that. I've made some sketches and have been 'researching' for some time, so the basic idea is there. It's the execution which might leave something to be desired.

So, perhaps sticking to what I do best is the only sensible course of action. If only the selection rules had stayed at the 2008 requirement for three items......I'd be spoilt for choice then. However 5 items, which must all be sufficiently different and all to an extremely high standard is a tall order.

In the end, I have come to the conclusion that I should make 10 different items, and choose the best 5 to submit. That way, if any of them don't turn out quite right, I will still have several others to fall back on.

Well that's the plan.

All I have to do now is get on and do it. Whilst in the meantime, fulfilling my primary tasks of actually making a living, and having a life.

A tall order...............or simply mission impossible?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Going clubbing.........

Back in the summer last year, I was approached to do a workshop for the club I founded 20 years ago, Kent Miniaturists. I used to do loads of club workshops back in the day, but in recent years, partly due to my geographical position on the very edge of the south coast of England, which usually means a lengthy trek to get anywhere, and partly because I've been concentrating on other things, I've only done a handful, and and those have been for clubs with which I have a personal link.

So to be invited to do a workshop for my 'old' club was a real buzz. A date was chosen and I duly provided two different workshop options for the members to choose from.

Time passed.

Back at the beginning of the year I did give a fleeting thought to the workshop, and wondered briefly why I hadn't heard from the club with further details, but then PP was hospitalised and everything work-related was put firmly on the back burner.

More time passed.

Last weekend, glancing through my work diary for the next few months, I happened upon the date for the workshop, 4 April, and was hit by the sudden realisation that this was now NEXT MONTH!

Cue a flurry of phone calls to try to find out what I am supposed to be doing. Apparently several different people on the committee all thought that somebody else had been in contact with me, but due to a breakdown in communication, in fact, nobody had.

No matter.

I'm sure that from a standing start I'll easily be able to prepare 24 kits to make a tiny vintage Victorian bride doll.

IF....... I start casting the dolls today and order the materials I need from the US today, and they have the vintage lace I need in stock, and can get it to me quickly, and I can design and create the prototype then refine it to make it simpler for 24 people of varying skill, and prepare my teaching plan, and work up a set of completely foolproof step-by-step instructions complete with photos........

Yes, I'm sure it will all be fine.

I have complete confidence.


In other news, welcome to two new followers, Tallulah-Belle, a rather talented miniature sculptor from sunny southern California, and Karin who lives on the shores of Orr Lake in Ontario, Canada.

It's gratifying to see that my map of blog readers, which was wiped clean on 22 February has sprouted a new rash of little red dots. Apparently this new start happens annually. to "avoid maps becoming a red smear......."

So, enough displacement activity.......I must go and prepare to do casting. I may be gone for some time.............

Monday, 2 March 2009

IGMA rules.......ok?

Dedicated readers of this blog may remember that around the time of my birthday last year, I rashly said that I intended to put forward a submission to IGMA with a view to attempting to achieve Artisan status.

I dutifully read all the rules which applied at the time and emailed the relevant person to pre-register my interest. I was assured that my details had been entered into 'the computer' and that I would be contacted nearer the time of submission (May 2009) with the updated guidelines, rules and regulations.

Time passed............. And if I'm completely honest, all thoughts of my submission were put firmly on the back burner. Information was supposed to be emailed to applicants in January of this year, but as you will remember, I was otherwise occupied during most of January, so I didn't give it any thought. It wasn't until I was chatting to a fellow miniaturist at the Thame Fair last month, and she mentioned that her artisan submission was all done and dusted and ready to post that I belatedly thought..........Oh bugger.

Undaunted, I have now been in contact with the selection person, who has duly emailed me the new guidelines, along with a virtual smack on the wrist for not having been more proactive back in January and chasing them up. I did not deign to reply that during January I was rather preoccupied with matters of life and death, and that having pre-registered as requested, I had expected to be contacted automatically.

Apparently the guidelines have changed significantly anyway, and I will now be expected to submit FIVE pieces, rather than the three I was anticipating. This is of little consequence, as the deadline for accepting submissions has also been brought forward and is now 9 April, which with the best will in the world, and even with a following wind, is, quite simply, impossible to achieve.

There is one piece of good news though.......... instead of having just one selection meeting per year, IGMA is introducing a second panel in November which is perhaps do-able.

The guidelines pertaining to the various categories for which work can be submitted, run to several pages and are forensic in the depth of detail of the required standard. All, that is, except the category in which I will be entering........Toys.

For every other category there are abundant bullet-pointed guidelines, concerning the materials that may be used, cautions regarding scale, use of glue, suggestions concerning colour and textures, and many, many edicts on what is, and is not, acceptable.

However under Toys category are just three sentences......

"This is a broad category. Toys can be made of almost any material. Please use the guidelines that most closely related to the material you are using. "

Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth.....because some of the pieces I'm planning on creating, involve the use of several different materials, so I will have to conform to the extensive guidelines for up to three categories in just one piece.

The potential for disaster and coming seriously unstuck is legion.

In addition, apparently a large proportion of first time applicants do not gain the necessary number of points required to become an Artisan. And a second, or even third application, although covered by the initial fee of $50, must contain different pieces.

I am not at all sure that I would be successful at my first attempt, given the maze of assorted guidelines to which I must conform. And the thought of having to go through it all again a second time does not appeal either.

However, I can't resist a challenge, and I know I will acquit myself well, if not quite well enough.

So, I'll be using this blog as a sounding board for ideas, feedback and general moaning and whingeing during the creative process.

You have been warned.


To two new followers.....Jean and Brenda.

I'm not convinced about the new 'followers' gadget which Blogger has deemed necessary. There was nowt wrong with the old one as far as I can see and I am a firm exponent of the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' school of thought.

No matter.

Normally I'm not a great fan of Monday mornings either, but this one dawned bright and sunny, with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind. What's that old saying about March coming in like a lamb and going out like a lion? Doesn't augur well does it............

In other news, Small Dog has relinquished her epic sulk in favour of revenge.

Thus far this morning she has been sick on the stairs, then went outside, found a patch of mud, and managed to get it liberally spread all up her back legs. I've just finished dunking her in the kitchen sink to wash the mud off her legs which has not improved her mood. She's now lying full stretch in the porch, luxuriating in a patch of sunlight no doubt working on her next fiendish plan.

So...........the start of a new month!

Exciting in so many ways.........not least because over the weekend I have blitzed the workroom (yes, AGAIN!) and it is wonderfully clean, neat and tidy. Just how long this will remain the case is anybody's guess, but for the moment it is an oasis of peace and calm, waiting to recharge my creative batteries and provide a soothing space in which to create all manner of new miniatures.

Well, that's the plan anyway.

And last, but not least, the March issue of the AIM (Artisans in Miniature) online magazine went live yesterday. Speaking as a member of the editorial team, and regular contributor, it truly is a labour of love.

OK. Enough displacement activity. Must go and package orders then make a start on my week's 'to do' list.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Small dog is most disgruntled.

Today was designated as the first of her bi-annual haircuts, so we tried to lull her into a false sense of security by wearing her out with a walk along the seafront on the beach.

This achieved naught except to wear US out, and small dog returned home as chipper as before. However at the sight of an old sheet being spread out on the table, plus the retrieval from her 'accoutrements basket' of her comb and scissors, she beat a hasty retreat.

Some time later, we finally unearthed her from under the fleecy throw on the sofa and attempted to convince her of the necessity for a trim.........what with her bearing an uncanny resemblance to Fu Manchu and all.

Note the extremely distrusting position of her ears as we prepare to give her a doggy makeover.

Some time later, she emerged from her haircut, followed by a wash and brush up, in a thoroughly bad mood, which wasn't improved as we fell about laughing at her 'pared down' coiffure.

She has hardly spoken to us all evening.

Her dinner has gone cold and uneaten and she has disdained our contrite offers of a warm and cosy lap to snuggle down on.

Going by past experience, she can keep this up for some considerable time......