Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Am looking forward to tomorrow (Thursday) and the arrival of a lovely new 'toy' I bagged on eBay.

I'll need to practice quite a bit before I unleash it on the general blogging populace, but when I get the hang of it, a whole new world of opportunity will sparkle enticingly before me.

And you.

You have been warned *taps nose knowingly*

Anyhoo, just in case you think I have been completely denying myself therapeutic displacement activity (as if!) here's a little something I discovered earlier.......

Weary Wednesday..........

This week's 9-5 drudgery is starting to take its toll and it's only Wednesday.

Up even earlier this morning to make a start on the little dog-eared doll for the charity auction, which is now completed . She will be sent off tomorrow to take her place in the Box of Memories. The whole project is under wraps at the moment but as soon as I can I will post a photo of the finished box with the little doll in situ.

In other news, it's a relentlessly grey, dreary day outside, in start contrast to the glorious sunshine yesterday.

In other, other news I'm going to have to attack the workroom and have a tidy up session as there are fabrics, ribbons and wigging materials EVERYWHERE. I can't even see the top of the desk.

I may be gone for some time.............

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Every dog has its day...........

Regular readers of this blog may remember, some time ago, that Small Dog (who is a 'boney fido' full business partner) came up with the idea of dog-eared dolls.

As the name implies, she suggested that instead of creating perfectly crafted little toys dolls, I should be branching out into dolls which are a bit moth-eaten, tatty, and rough round the edges, volunteering her undisputed 'distressing' skills to help achieve 'the look'

At the time, although we gave her full credit for the idea, we chose to keep it in abeyance, much to Small Dog's undisguised disgust.

However, following an email earlier today, we are dusting off SD's dog-eared dolls suggestion, and subjecting it closer inspection.

The email enquiry originated from Celia Thomas of KT Miniatures. Celia is the organiser and inspiration behind the hugely well-respected artisan-only Thame Fair which supports the Breast Cancer Campaign. Each year, as part of the fund-raising effort, there is a Charity Auction. In 2010 the theme of the auction is A Box Of Memories to which miniature artisans will make contributions. I'm delighted to have been asked to donate a very tiny toy doll which will sit atop an old packing box. She must be in the style of a doll from the 1920's, old and faded, to look as though she has been stored in the loft for many years.

Hence the dog-eared dolls scenario.

Time is of the essence as the box has to be completed by mid-October, so I've set aside a chunk of time tomorrow to make a start. I'm actually quite excited about it.

Needless to say, Small Dog is strolling around with a silly smug grin on her face. No doubt she'll be expecting a raise in her biscuit ration and preferential share options.

I haven't the heart to tell her that she will not be involved in the dog-earing process..........

Monday, 28 September 2009

Make-it-happen Monday...........

Up bright and (relatively) early this morning, brim full of my new positive work ethic. I've decided to give this week a go without any 'to do' lists to see how I get on.

To do lists are the bane of my life I'm going to use this working week as a controlled experiment and assess progress (or lack of it) on Friday, having eschewed lists.

Thus far today things aren't going too badly. All orders which came in over the weekend have been packaged and are ready to go. I'm also fairly well advanced on a batch of 10 new little toy dolls, which, if I had a to do list, would be in the top 5 things to complete this week.

On a related topic, I've had a £10 Amazon voucher burning a hole in my virtual pocket for a week or so. Amazingly, it was my 'reward' for spending 15 minutes completing an online survey on how my small business is coping in the current recession/credit crunch, so literally money for old rope. My free voucher has paid for two second hand books which will hopefully give me all the information I need to revolutionise the way we market our little toys. I just love having a 'project' on the go.

In other news, during a lengthy Geocaching stroll along Bexhill seafront yesterday, soaking up the warm afternoon sunshine and succeeding in locating 6 caches (!!!) within a 1 mile stretch, Small Dog has developed a groin/leg injury. It's one of her back legs and the poor wee mite spent most of the walk heroically hopping along on three legs, while passers-by clucked disapprovingly at our callousness in not carrying her. She's been limping intermittently for the past few days, but as she runs around the garden at full pelt, and up and down a flight of brick steps like a mad thing, we think she's probably just sprained the leg.

Fingers crossed we can avoid yet another trip to the vet. We'll keep an eye on it and see how she does over the next few days. Naturally she is working hard to garner the sympathy vote........she's hamming it up like a small furry Dickensian Tiny Tim, stoically staggering into her basket to rest and recuperate. I expect she'll try to force down a bit of my lunchtime sandwich to keep her strength up too.

Ok, back to the salt mines for me.

And no, this does not count as displacement activity. It's multitasking during my tea break.


Sunday, 27 September 2009


I seem to spend half my life 'counting down' to various important events, either work or life related.

Currently my work focus is on two miniatures fairs which are looming large on the horizon, and for which I feel not remotely prepared.

Therefore this week I shall be buckling down to a whole new work ethic, forsaking all displacement activity *ahem* and concentrating solely on the tasks in hand.

Remember you read it here first..........


HOT stuff...........

Went to the launch party for a new independent website with news, event listings and features all about Hastings and St Leonards , Hastings Online Times (henceforth known as HOT) last night.

Sadly, despite the HOT team's best efforts, the online part of the endeavour isn't actually online yet, but that didn't quash the enthusiasm of all those who turned up to St Mary in the Castle, (another of Hastings' hidden gems, a building with a fascinating history, now operating as an Arts Centre.)

Hopefully the long-awaited online content will shortly be available so that HOT can capitalise on the surge of support and enthusiasm generated by last night's event.

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

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Don't panic.............

The workroom looks like a complete tip. Despite selling off dozens of doll molds (which has yielded two echoingly empty cupboards) the worktops are now awash with assorted porcelain heads, bodies and limbs belonging to an assortment of characters who had previously been discontinued and are no longer in our online shop. All of these various miniature doll parts are destined for a clearance sale in the very near future, but they need to be sorted through and photographed first.

To make matters worse, I have decided to go into major panic mode about the fact that there are only 6 weeks till our next show, so I chose this morning to set about dressing some little toy dolls Therefore, in addition to the mayhem on the worktops around the edge of the room, my side of the work desk is now also festooned with silk ribbons, bits of silk fabric, braids and trimmings etc.

Yes I know it's stupid to start on one thing when I'm only part-way through another but I panicked, okay?

I'm determined to continue with the massive clear-out, but in the meantime, deadlines are approaching and the wolf still has to be kept from the door. So I'm trying to do some serious mulitasking.

With mixed success.

Story of my life.


Friday, 25 September 2009

Thankless task...............


Having waved goodbye to 75% of my molds yesterday, I am now bogged down in a clean up operation, the futility of which is 'doing my head in'.

To explain.

Every porcelain dollmaker will have a sizeable collection of what we optimistically call, 'odds and ends' and consists mainly of odd arms and legs along with an assortment of mis-matched heads and bodies. Odd limbs especially have been the bane of my life. Occasionally, during the casting/soft cleaning/firing process, a finger, thumb or heel of a ladies boot will ping off, rendering the pair unusable. Of course, if had been sensible over the past 20 or so years, I would just have jettisoned not just the broken limb, but its undamaged partner too.

However, I generally kept the unbroken limb, reasoning that the law of averages would work in my favour, and at some point in the indeterminate future, I would end up breaking the other half of any particular pairing, and therefore be in a position to pair up complete sets of limbs .......eventually.

Of course life just isn't like that. Instead I have dozens of one specific ladies arm, or high-heeled shoe/leg, which gradually accumulate in ever larger numbers, taking up space and of no use whatsoever.

Having just sold the majority of my molds, I cannot now make any of the corresponding limbs to make matching pairs. So all of the trays and boxes of odd and ends are, to all intents and purposes, surplus to requirements. However, before ditching the whole lot, I am sorting through, trying, Frankenstein-like, to create sets of limbs to go with various bodies.

It's a thankless task. The nearest thing I can compare it to, is trying to assemble a giant jigsaw, for which you don't have the box lid with the guide picture. Not only that, some of the pieces are missing, and to make matters worse, some pieces of various other jigsaws are mixed in too.

Thus far I've managed to assemble perhaps a dozen all-bisque children and babies using a selection of arms and legs from the odds and ends box. They're all absolutely fine and look great, but it's taking forever and I'm losing the will to live. I'm so close to just tipping all the boxes into the bin and getting on with something more lucrative but I feel a (possibly) misplaced loyalty to all those arms and legs, kept for so many years, on the off-chance that they might, one day, come in useful.

I'm going to give it another hour or so then that's it.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

What have I done.......?

They've gone.

All 5 boxes.

I feel both bereft and liberated in equal measure.

A really lovely lady and her equally lovely husband now have a bootload of boxes and will be travelling back home to Cumbria tomorrow.

So, in order to take my mind off the irrevocable step I've just taken, I'm now going to indulge in some serious displacement activity .............

Small Dog and I are going to practice all afternoon until we have this routine cracked. SD has already mastered the jaw-dropping finale and I'm going to run up some harem pants on the sewing machine straight after I've posted this.


The doll molds I'm selling are all packed into 5 enormous boxes, currently piled up in the hall, awaiting collection later today.

It might be my imagination but they seem to be exuding a watchful, somewhat reproachful air.

I feel as though I'm selling my children..................

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


I love fabrics.

Silks especially.

But I draw the line at this!


Monday, 21 September 2009

End of an era.................


A 7-hour session of china-painting yesterday, followed by a kiln firing.

Then a 4-hour session of china painting today, and the kiln is firing as I write.

The second paint session is always quicker, but more exacting, as it includes the placement of tiny spots of black gloss china paint, which must be deposited right in the centre of each previously fired coloured iris. For tiny toy dolls, the jet black pupils are roughly the size of the full stop at the end of this sentence.

However, included in this final batch of dolls, are a host of characters which are like old friends, and which I will never, ever make again. These include characters from the huge selection of doll molds I sold recently, and which will be collected, lock, stock and barrel later this week.

Making the decision to stop producing doll kits was the easy bit. I've actually felt really nostalgic over the past two days while painting the facial features which gradually bring each character to life. However, I wasn't at all prepared for the emotional tug I felt as each finished piece was laid carefully in the kiln earlier today.

When I first started Tower House Dolls, 20 years ago this year, I began with a dozen molds. All of them were reproductions from sculpts of original Victorian dollshouse dolls, and rather crude by today's standards. My first kits were made up as the original dolls would have been, with pipe cleaners to allow flexible limbs, covered by hand sewn calico bodies. Looking back now, I cringe at the standard and style of my face painting, and even more at the plain, homespun costumes which I laboured over. At that point, I was trying to recreate the look of dolls which would have inhabited original Victorian dolls houses. However gradually, as my confidence and skill increased, I began to strive to create little characters, who represented real people, rather than stiff, unnatural looking 'dolls'.

It has taken all of the past 20 years to hone my skills and techniques to the stage where I feel as though they do now really look much more like real people, with real jobs and real lives in their miniature worlds.

20 years is a nice round number, and in this 20th year since I bought my first kiln, and first few molds, it seems fitting to 'retire' from producing porcelain doll kits.

No longer will I have to sort through hundreds of very similar looking molds to find the ones I need to cast.

No longer will my casting batches takes weeks to complete, from pouring the first cupful of porcelain slip, to removing the finished dolls from the kiln after their fourth and final firing.

No longer will the workroom worktops be covered with boxes and boxes of porcelain body parts, heads, torsos, arms, legs.

No longer will I have to spend $1000's of dollars each year, replacing worn out molds or purchasing new sculpts.

The end of an era............

And the dawning of a new era.

Freed from the tyranny of maintaining doll kit stock levels, keeping up with orders, meticulous packaging, endless trips to the post office etc, I will now have the time and space to concentrate on the miniature endeavours which really interest me......

Such as creating new little toy dolls, developing intricate and delicate wicker prams and animal carts, even more fantastical and elaborate pullalong toys, producing a 3-D miniature toy theatre, complete with lighting! These are just a few of the dozens of ideas which I will now have time to work on, as well as continuing our very popular home workshop packs featuring unusual and interesting characters and projects.

So goodbye porcelain doll kits. Hello brave new world of miniature ideas for discerning collectors.

Our current stock of doll kits is still available on the Tower House Dolls website, but they're disappearing fast, so if you want a Tower House Doll Kit, don't delay. There won't be any more after they're gone.......

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Lobster bisque..........

And so back home after a brief camping trip to celebrate PP's birthday on Thursday. Small dog is exceptionally enthusiastic about both camping, and birthdays, and thus was in seventh heaven for the duration. Especially as our pitch was opposite the entrance to the dog walk and she was able to closely monitor the movements of assorted pooches, like a small furry guardian.

She completely entered into the birthday spirit and helped with the unwrapping process before shredding any wrapping paper she could get her paws on.

Apart from the more conventional birthday gifts, PP was also the lucky recipient of a large lobster pot, which is now gracing our little bit of shingle beach area in the garden. It attracted more than a few curious glances and several people braved Small Dog's perimeter patrols to enquire why we had brought a lobster pot on a camping holiday.

We BBQ'd both nights, and each evening sat outside the campervan in our little tent awning, wine glasses in hand, citronella candles flickering on the grass, while Small Dog assumed her alter-ego of Little Grey Wolf and sat just outside the circle of candlelight, ears pricked, every fibre of her body alert for any rabbit incursions into her exclusion area.

In fact, on the whole campsite, which has well over 100 pitches, only us and two other groups of campers were still outside at 9.30pm. Everyone else was in their motorhome or caravan, watching their flat screen televisions or tucked up in bed. Personally I don't see the point of going away to do exactly the same things as you would do at home. But maybe that's just me.

Anyways, the advantage of going not very far from home, was that we were back and unpacked by lunchtime, and this afternoon, in an attempt to make up for 'working' time lost over the past two days, I have unloaded the bisque firing from the kiln, sorted out all the arms and legs and prepared the bodies/faces for their first china painting session tomorrow. So I now have a warm glow of achievement.

In other news, there is a definite autumnal feel in the air, and on the way home in the van, drifts of leaves were already falling from the trees. This weekend in Hastings is what I think of as the last big event of the summer season.......the Hastings Seafood and Wine Festival, which is on today and tomorrow. We're planning on going tomorrow to enjoy the wonderful fresh fish on offer. Plus perhaps a soupcon of wine.

As a final celebration of the summer here on the south coast, here's a montage of images from local photographers via the Channel Hastings Blog. All were taken over course of this summer in Hastings and St. Leonards and it brought a lump to my throat to be reminded that we are so lucky to live in such a little gem of a seaside town.


Splash from Terry Russell on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Sounds like a plan..........part 2

Diligent blog readers who have been paying attention will recall that a few weeks ago I was systematically going through my myriad molds in prepartion for a Grand Sale.

I duly completed the list, emailed it out to all interested parties, and waited with bated breath and not a little trepidation for the replies to start filtering through.

Which they did.

And among them were a couple of offers for the entire collection.

One of which I accepted.

Which is great! The deal has been done, money has changed hands, and I have been carefully boxing up 5 large boxfuls of molds, which will be collected at the end of next week.

Which apart from leaving me with a fraction of the molds I started with, also presents me with a reality I've been struggling to achieve for some time.

The irrevocable step of selling off the vast majority of my molds in one fell swoop means that we will no longer be selling porcelain doll kits after our current stocks are gone.

Which as well as being slightly scrary, is also strangely liberating. Always having to work to maintain reasonable stocks of doll kits took up a lot of 'head space', which had the knock-on effect of leaving less room for new ideas and projects.

Hopefully I've timed it just right, and our existing stock of porcelain doll kits will be completely depleted by the end of this year, meaning that 2010 will be a fresh, new start!

Well that's my cunning plan....or the second incremental part of it.

Wonder if there's anything glaringly obvious I've missed?

Sounds like a plan..........part 1

Feeling marginally less sub-human today, but only marginally.

At least I don't have any soft-cleaning to contend with, which is a blessing. Instead I have a lengthy session crouched over the kiln, carefully placing every single tiny piece of greenware carefully onto a bed of firing sand, which will act like millions of minute ball bearings and slide around during the firing process to prevent the porcelain 'grabbing' onto the kiln shelves as they shrink.

Clever stuff.

I'm hoping to get the bisque firing done today so I can check it tomorrow morning before we set off for a few days celebratory camping in honour of PP's birthday.

The clock is ticking.............

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Why do I never learn...........?

After a weekend of relative rest and recuperation it was back to work yesterday and an all-out effort to clear the backlog of preparation required to enable me to do a bisque firing tomorrow.

This means that I've spent a total of 11 1/2 hours over the past two days doing soft-cleaning, my least favourite task in the whole dollmaking process.

As a result there is hardly a nerve or sinew in my body which isn't administering pain of various degrees. My spine, legs, arms, neck are all out in painful solidarity and the final straw is a steel-headband of a headache, no doubt caused by the intense concentration and careful dexterity needed to gently examine and 'clean' hundreds and hundreds of very, very tiny pieces of incredibly fragile greenware.

To say I am fed-up is a gross understatement. However, it's my own fault for pushing to get it all completed in two days, when the same amount would usually have taken four or five.

The only upside is that at least every single piece has been processed, with minimal breakages, and the kiln can be loaded up tomorrow and fired.

Job done.

I'm off to pop some painkillers and hopefully fall into a deep, dreamless, undisturbed sleep for the next 10 hours.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

This mortal coil..........

WARNING - this blog post is not for the have been warned!


Nominally back in the land of the living, although still feeling a bit 'foggy'

I will spare you the most gory details of my 7 hour sojourn in our local hospital yesterday. Suffice to say I am relieved that it is over and when the after effects of both the anaesthetic (brain fog, bruised trachea, insomnia) and the procedure (pain and bleeding) have subsided I will hopefully feel like a new woman.

For the surgically curious, I've had a camera inserted into an organ previously only ever seen in such minute detail by my children, had a bit of it biopsied and a special hormonal coil inserted to try to deal with my abnormal uterine bleeding. The upside of this coil is that is could completely eradicate or drastically cut down the problem. The downside is that in the first few months it will make things worse before they get better.

No matter, at least I am home more or less intact and have been cossetted and pampered by PP and Small Dog, whose notion of nursing care is checking my vital signs by means of sitting squarely on my chest and staring closely into my face. This is closely followed by an enthusiastic licking, before sprawling across me with her head right under my chin, the better to keep an ear on my pulse.

Naturally, after a while this gets uncomfortable for her, so she moves to a little snuggly spot by my tummy, performing the function of a little furry hot water bottle against my ravaged insides.

And there she stayed while I dozed on the sofa, drifting off and waking up to various disjointed bits of daytime TV.

And so, despite an uncomfortable, disturbed night, I am up and about today, gently pottering around and generally engaging in displacement activity, which, I must admit loses it's lustre when you're ALLOWED to do it.

Many thanks to all my blog readers for your e-cards, emails and 'get well soon' messages. They have been much appreciated.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

This time tomorrow............

I am so looking forward to this time tomorrow, when I should be safely home and tucked up on a little bed on the sofa with Small Dog giving me the healing paw.

This is because at the crack of dawn tomorrow I have to present myself at hospital for a rather unpleasant gynaecological procedure which thankfully is being performed under general anaesthetic.

Hopefully it will all go swimmingly and after a brief spell in recovery, followed by a cup of tea and biscuit, I'll be collected by PP and driven home to spend the afternoon recuperating.

Small Dog is brushing off her nursing uniform and practicing her bedside manner. Actually it's not so much bedside as bed-on but I'm reassured to know that she is taking her duties seriously.

So, early night for me tonight, and nil by mouth thereafter.

Normal service will be resumed whenever............

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The blog formerly known as.........

I think I should rename this blog "The Displacement Activity Chronicles".

Certainly the current title of Tales from a Toymaker' renders me vulnerable to prosecution under the Trades Descriptions Act, containing as it does, precious few Toymaking Tales.

Continuing the recent theme of 'stuff nothing to do with miniature toys', PP just emailed me the link to this article, printed today in that Scottish stalwart, The Daily Record.

I am printing it in its full glory, just in case some litigious biscuit manufacturer insists on its removal from the website...............

Revealed: The most dangerous biscuit in Britain is.. the Custard Cream
CUSTARD creams are Britain's most dangerous biscuits, it was revealed yesterday A study claimed an estimated 25million people in Britain had been injured by biscuits.
Hidden dangers included flying fragments and daredevil dunking in scalding tea. And custard creams were the worst offenders, posing the biggest risk to innocent dunkers.
Around 500 people a year need hospital treatment because of biscuit injuries.
The study by Mindlab found 29 per cent of adults had been splashed or scalded by hot drinks while dunking or trying to fish the remnants from hot tea.
They also found 28 per cent had choked on crumbs and 10 per cent had broken a tooth or filling biting a biccy.
More unusually, three per cent had poked themselves in the eye with a biscuit and seven per cent were bitten by a pet or "other wild animal" trying to get their biscuit.
One man ended up stuck in wet concrete after wading in to pick up a stray biscuit.
Mindlab have now devised a Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation, or B.I.T.E. Custard creams get a risk rating of 5.63.
The study was commissioned by Rocky - which was rated the country's third riskiest type of biscuit.
Mindlab International director Dr David Lewis said: "We tested the physical properties of 15 popular types of biscuits, along with aspects of their consumption such as dunkability and crumb dispersal.
"Then a mathematician correlated these findings with a nationwide survey of over 1000 adults."
Mike Driver, of Rocky, said: "Working with biscuits every day, we'd long suspected they're not as innocent as they look - and we were right."
Brilliant! They just couldn't make it up.........could they?

Displacement Activity? Hell yeah!!!

PP is not a great fan of displacement activity.

Or so I thought........

Early evening yesterday, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner, when I was alerted by gales of laughter to something going on in the study/office. Upon investigation, I discovered PP and Small Dog, completely engrossed in front of the computer screen, Small Dog's head swivelling like one of those car back shelf nodding dogs.

The source of the amusement turned out to be FarmVille, an application now available on Facebook.

Apparently, according to PP, Facebook does not qualify as displacement activity because she is performing the function of family archivist, gradually uploading a collection of old family photographs.

Fair enough.

I'll accept that.

Except several of PP's family members have recently acquired 'farms' courtesy of FarmVille, and she has been sucked into a whole new world of displacement activity.

She started her farm yesterday and has a modest plot on which she's growing soya beans, strawberries, potatoes, eggplants and wheat. Crops grow in real time and have to harvested when they're 100% ready, at which time they can be sold at market. Gradually, over aeons of real time, the virtual farmer can acquire cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, horses etc, and extend the ol' farmstead to include drinks gazebos, porch seats, ponds and so on.

You get the idea.

Sadly, as with most things in life, timing is everything, and this morning PP discovered that her strawberry crop had rotted in the night. Undaunted, she has since re-ploughed the field and planted soya beans, which do not require so much cossetting.

Apparently a valuable lesson has been learned vis-a-vis the optimum time to plant stuff, ie not just before going to bed.

Small Dog is enchanted. All the animals make different noises and she is particularly taken with the sheep and a duck. Sadly PP is as yet too inexperienced to be allowed to buy any animals, which is perhaps just as well given the strawberry debacle, but she is assiduously tending her small plot and hopes to have animals by the end of the week. At present Small Dog is getting her animal noises 'fix' by PP visiting other people's farms, where you can get virtually paid for helping out, weeding, picking up leaves and the like. While PP is thus engaged, Small Dog runs around, poking the animals to make them 'talk'.

Far be it from me to cast aspersions on anyone else's displacement activity but..............

Anyhoo, for the curious would-be farmer, here is a promo of FarmVille in all its virtual glory.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Displacement Activity? Certainly Not!

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am quite partial to a spot of displacement activity from time to time.

Sometimes my DA has a purpose, for example getting slightly side-tracked while engaged in work-related research.

But there are also times when, quite frankly, it is out-and-out time wasting.

I don't usually regard completing online surveys as pure DA. After all, this year alone I have 'earned' £35 in Argos vouchers, £5 in M&S vouchers and cash amounting to somewhere in the region of £25.

Not a great fortune, but for just a few minutes at a time, doing an online questionnaire, or giving my opinion on everything from the recession to all-in-one shampoo and conditioners, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

In fact it's money for old rope.

Mostly they're rather formulaic and follow the same tried and tested ways of canvassing opinion.


However, yesterday I had one for cough medicine.

It started off OK. Have you had a cough in the last year? What sort of cough was it (multiple choice - chesty, tickly, thick mucousy etc?

So far so fairly uninteresting.

Until I got to this question, which had me practically falling off my chair laughing......

"If you were to try to put a figure on how much a thick, mucus cough weighs you down, how much extra weight would you say a particularly mucus cough feels like?"

  • 1 pound equivalent to a bag of sugar
  • 3 pounds equivalent to an average pillow
  • More than 5 pounds equivalent to a small dog
  • Don't know
Who would have thought that the average pillow weighs 3 pounds? And is it really an appropriate example of how heavy a particularly mucus cough feels like. Surely the weight of a leather football or similar item would be easier to imagine.

Anyway, I digress.

I do know EXACTLY what it feels like to have a small dog lying on my chest as she does it most nights when I'm trying to read in bed. And I can say with some certainty that if you have a cough which makes you feel like that you should head for A&E without delay.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Tempis fugit..........

The 'helpful' countdown timers on my desktop inform me that there are just 60 days till the Charmandean Fair, and 75 days till the Kensington Christmas Festival.

Of course that doesn't equate to 60/75 'working' days, which leaves even less time to stock up for two fairs only a fortnight apart.

So much to do, so little time.........

Friday, 4 September 2009

Flat-out Friday........

It's been a really busy week.

Having embarked on the mammoth task of sorting through all my molds there was no going back, and I am, at last, on the final few boxes.

However the house now looks like a bomb site, assuming that the site in question was a mold-making factory. There is barely a millimetre of spare space anywhere in the dining room or workroom, and even Small Dog has developed a hunted expression on the rare occasions when she pops her head round the dining room door to see what I'm up to.

I'm determined to finish today, so I can work on the actual sale list over the weekend and then hopefully see them all go.


Later the same afternoon..............

Finally finished sorting through the molds and have rehomed the ones I'm keeping in a pristinely clean cupboard where they are all huddled together for reassurance. I'm actually quite shocked by how few there are but I'm putting a brave face on it and keep telling myself it's all for the best.

However the downsizing process has produced one large completely empty double cupboard, which I have bequeathed to PP. While she was out at Tesco this afternoon I thoroughly scoured the cupboard of accumulated plaster dust and revealed it to her on her return as she's always complaining about not having enough storage for her work stuff.

Then I really got the bit between my teeth and started on some of the other cupboards and shelves too, amassing a large collection of useful miniature bits and pieces which will form part of another clearance sale later this month.

At this rate there'll be nothing left in the workroom to work on.

Perhaps there is method in my madness after all.........

Thursday, 3 September 2009

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

Well, another 8 hour day bites the dust and I have just about got to the back of each and every mould cupboard.

Of course, as a result, I can no longer get into the dining room, as hundreds of moulds are now stacked up in there, in boxes on the floor, on trays, all over the table.........which is where they will stay pending the Grand Sale which starts next week. I can't face carting them all back into the workroom and stacking them back in the cupboards. In any case,hopefully they will all sell and quickly be collected and taken off to their new lives.

In other news, the sky is glowering was a very dark and stormy night last night and it looks like it's shaping up for another tonight. Just as well we dismantled and dismembered the gazebo yesterday, otherwise it would probably be several hundred miles away by now.

In other, other news, tonight is a no-wine night.

*deep, mournful sigh*

AIM Magazine.........

The September issue of the Artisans in Miniature magazine is now online, and yes those are our little creations on the cover!

This month's theme is toys, childhood, nursery etc, so I have contributed two articles, one on how my tiny toy dolls are made and another on the Lowther Arcade, a world-famous 'street' of toy and curiosity shops in Victorian London.

It's free to access/download so do have a browse......

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

It's official........

Summer is officially over.

I can state that with some certainty as we have just dismantled the summer gazebo which has graced our patio for the past several months, providing an oasis of shade in times of sweltering sunshine, and a dry haven in times of rain and showers.

The patio now looks very bare and exposed and rather uninviting.

As the gazebo was literally on its last legs, we have completely recycled it for alternative uses.

The legs will be used to prop up vegetable plants next spring, the guy strings have been rolled up into little balls and put in the 'useful' drawer. Ditto the metal D-rings and plastic doobrys.
The actual covering has been put to good use in our metal shed, which leaks in the winter and weeps condensation in the summer, so the plastic woven fabric is performing a useful function as an umbrella.

The weather forecast for the next day or so is wet and's only 6.30pm but it's so grey and gloomy outside it feels more like 8.30. As we say in Scotland, the nights are fair drawing in.

Finally, after putting in a full 8-hour day, without even a lunch break, I am about to retire to the kitchen where I will pour myself a glass of chilled white wine as a special treat.
In a spirit of health and frugality we're trying to refrain from wine Monday to Thursday (inclusive) but I feel like it's well deserved today.


Ay Carumba..........

This is currently the scene in our dining room.

Out of sight on the floor are another two boxes full of moulds.

In the workroom, one whole wall to wall worktop is covered with moulds.

And I haven't even started on the final cupboard yet.

Let's just say that I have many, many more moulds than I thought I had. Most of them I don't even recognise or remember having. Some of them were bought over 15 years ago and have only ever been cast once. Several dozen have never been cast at all.

I think I must have had some sort of obsessive compulsive mould madness, which compelled me to buy every new mould released by every mouldmaker, back in the day when money was no object.

Thankfully I am now in remission and enjoying the catharsis of having a bloody good clearout. I started off writing a list of the moulds for sale on scraps of paper as I went along, but I'm getting in a muddle so I'm in the process of doing a proper list, on the laptop, in a properly laid out formatted table in Word.

Which is not displacement activity at all.

Not in the slightest.


Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Mould cull............

New week, new month, new season, new-found sense of direction.........

For some reason, lost in the mists of time, I never feel the urge to spring clean. For me, autumn seems the optimum time for a bit of a clear out in preparation for some serious nesting when winter sets in.

Mind you, I do dabble with clearouts during the rest of the year, as previous posts alluding to the 'guddle' in my workroom will attest. However I've really got the bit between my teeth this time, and have decided to attack my mould cupboards.

For the uninitiated, mould cupboards are not havens for microbacterial critters. They house my extensive collection of porcelain doll moulds going back two decades, and every now and then I try to 'rationalise' them.

This is a difficult and sometimes traumatic process, made easier by the passage of time. There was a time, maybe 5 years or so back, when even the mention of the possibility of me getting rid of a few moulds would give me a fit of the vapours, so viscerally attached was I to them.

However increasingly, I am finding it easier and less painful to slough off whole work-related areas, and happily, this includes seriously downsizing my moulds. Over the course of today I have carefully and methodically assessed around 50 molds. Some were simply past it.......the casting process gradually erodes detail, the plaster becomes less absorbent and eventually they have to be binned. My emotional attachment to them means that I cannot simply band them together and place them carefully in their final resting place in the bin.


I have to take a hammer to then and smash them to smithereens.

It's the kindest way.

Thus it was today, and I merrily smashed around 20 or so worn out arm and leg moulds.

Those which I no longer want, but still have life left in them are being reprieved, and will be offered for sale as soon as I've gone through every single mould in each of my three cupboards. In fact, although all the moulds are used, there will be moulds which have only been cast a few times, so are in mint condition.

This process will take most of this week as there are several hundred moulds in total. However if anyone is interested in a bargain basement lot of miniature doll moulds (they will range from a few pence to a few pounds) and, (and this bit is VERY IMPORTANT!) can collect, I will be compiling a list as soon as I've gone through them all. Ideally I'd like them all to go together rather than piecemeal, and under no circumstances am I prepared to send any by post.

This is because they are quite bulky and heavy, and the cost of postage would far outweigh their value. Also they're a sod to package, as being made of plaster they are vulnerable to damage, and thus require acres of bubble wrap, bagfuls of poly chips and very big boxes so they don't hit against each other. As they'll be available for sale at ridiculously low prices I just haven't got the time, the energy or the inclination to spend hours and hours meticulously packaging.

If anyone is interested, leave a comment or email me direct and I'll be in contact when the list is completed. If you live in the Outer Hebrides, or mainland Europe, or across the pond, I'm assuming you're not going to be passing through St Leonards on Sea anytime in the next month or so, in which case, please only express an interest if you can actually collect within a reasonable timescale.


Off to tackle another batch...........very cathartic this downsizing lark.

Summer's Last Hurrah................

Returned home yesterday following Bank Holiday camping trip. Weather over the weekend was mixed - biblical rain on Friday, high winds, brief periods of scorching sunshine - but yesterday the sun shone from a mostly cloudless sky and temperatures climbed, producing a shimmering heat.

However, today, 1st September, as if by magic, there is definite autumnal taste to the air. The leaves on the trees in the woods at the top of our garden are starting to turn and there is a fresh edge to the breeze which is a harbinger of things to come. The nights are now noticeable drawing in, and our BBQ on the patio last night had an indisputable 'end of summer feel' about it.

I am also painfully aware that with the demise of the summer, there are so many things that I haven't done, and the lack of items ticked off my 'to do' lists is getting me down. The 'helpful' countdown timers on my desktop inform me that just 66 days remain until our next fair, so there's nothing else for it but to roll up my sleeves and buckle down to some serious work over the next month or so.

Today, I shall be mostly doing casting.........tiny toy dolls and little toy animals. I'll take the radio into the erstwhile casting room (aka dining room) and immerse myself in technical endeavour.

And I can confidently declare that there will be absolutely NO displacement activity for me today.