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.......