Monday, 28 February 2011

Trying to cram a quart into a pint pot.............

Over the weekend I finally got round to putting everything away following the Thame Fair the previous weekend.  However, listing all the new toys on the website has been beyond me, so I'm planning to tackle it this week.

I'm really looking forward to a week of work, and hopefully being able to concentrate on what I want to do rather than struggling to keep my head above water in an ocean of stress, anxiety and worry.  The past two weeks have been challenging to say the least, but although I start this week back at square one, several hundred pounds down and feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, it's good to know that the weight of worry has been lifted.

For the time being.

I have lots of work to do this week.  The cut-off point for registrations for my online workshop is tomorrow (1st March) and I still have several kit packs to complete in specific colours requested by students.  If you're intending to register and let me know TODAY I can probably still make your kit in the colour of your choice.

I'm also carrying out a reorganisation of the workroom, trying to cram a quart into a pint pot.
I've decided that when we move house, I want to have everything work-related out of the house and into a garden workshop.   I know exactly what I want, how it will look, how it will work, and what will go in it.  Currently, the workroom contains a motley collection of storage units and shelving, as well as several kitchen wall and base units.  I'm planning to utilise two of the base and two of the wall units which will give me 2 metres of each, and EVERYTHING has to fit into them.....molds, tools, equipment, fabrics, trimmings, wood mouldings, toy components.


I've hit on a cunning plan to keep 'everything' neat and tidy *cough* and have found a supplier of truly excellent plastic boxes with deep lids, which come in a variety of sizes, which fit exactly into the units.  


For some unaccountable nerdish reason, this fills me with delight and I can envision each of the four units stacked with row upon row of neatly labelled boxes. 

They represent my shangri-la of organisational endeavour.

So I shall carry on, filling and labelling boxes, until either the units are filled, or I run out of stuff to store, whichever comes first.  I intend to be utterly ruthless, and cull anything which I don't really need so there will be some unrepeatable bargains to be had in the Clearance Sale sections of both websites during March which will be heralded on this blog first.

So, best go and crack on then.......

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Online workshop.............

I'm trying to ignore the vortex of stress and worry in which we seem to be inextricably enmeshed, and get down to some work today.

All our stock boxes from Thame are still piled up on the floor of the workroom so my first task is to unpack everything then update the website which is a calming low stress task.

In the meantime however, I realised that I haven't mentioned our forthcoming online workshop, in conjunction with the online miniatures show being organised by fellow AIM member Shelly Norris on 19/20 March.

Full details of the workshop are HERE, (scroll down to the bottom of the page) and we are offering one of our new kits to make this little toy doll's doll......

The doll is a smidgen under 1  3/4" tall, made from porcelain, china painted and has jointed arms and legs.  The workshop pack will contain everything you need to create the doll as shown, including:

  • Silk underwear
  • Lacy socks
  • Silk shoes with leather soles
  • Lace petticoat
  • Pleated silk dress with full-length puffed sleeves, fancy bodice and ruched sash.
  • Ringlet curls wig
  • Pleated silk and lace bonnet with silk ribbon rosette trims
  • Illustrated Jumeau box

Cut-off date for class registrations is 1 March, but if you contact me before then you can have your choice of costume colour.

Right..... off to tackle the mess in the workroom.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Today I have been mostly.......

..... lachrymose.

Which is just a fancy way of saying 'tearful'

Our wonderful, gorgeous, much-loved campervan was collected today, and is heading towards its new home in Wiltshire.

I could hardly bear to see it go, driving off down the hill and out of our lives forever.


We've had some fantastic holidays in it *sob* and made some lifelong friends because of it *whimper*.  

There has never been a time when we haven't thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were always able to completely relax and forget all our worries in our little van.

*poignant tears*

Of course it helps that a lovely couple have bought it, who will cherish it as much as we have.  But there is now a huge gap on our driveway to serve as a permanent reminder that we've lost what feels like a member of the family.

Small Dog is traumatised.  She is lying in her basket, face turned to the wall, resolutely ignoring us.  The look on her little, furry face when 'her' van disappeared was heartbreaking.

*outright wailing*

I'm sure we'll all get over it in time, but with so much worry and stress over our non-existent towcar at the moment, it feels as if I might never fully recover.

*adopts dramatic, Camille-like reclining pose*

However, dramatics aside, stress is to MS, what a red rag is to a bull and already my immune system is waving a white flag.  In the past few days I've sprouted assorted cold sores, a motley collection of mouth ulcers, the headache from hell and a strange intermittent nerve twitch.  That's in addition to all the usual MS gremlins which beset me in any given day. 

There is one small ray of sunshine piercing through the leaden grey rainclouds enveloping us at the moment, which is that the Thame Fair at the weekend was excellent, and we did really rather well.  As artisans, it is reassuring to know that there are still collectors out there who are willing to spend more than pocket money amounts to acquire quality hand-crafted miniatures.  

Thame is one of the very few smaller artisan-only fairs in existence, where collectors can be assured that everything on display has been hand-made in the UK by dedicated miniature artisans.  There was not one scrap of Taiwan Tat to be seen, and the quality of work was amazing.  I really wish there were more fairs like this in the miniatures calendar.

Over the coming days, I will be listing our toys and kits on the website, and when I feel a bit more 'normal' I will be revealing an exciting new venture which we will be launching in the spring.  


I'm off to dry my eyes, wipe the snot from my face and pour myself a large glass of something chilled.  I'll try to keep the Sturm and Drang out of my blog posts as much as possible but thank you to everyone who has commented, mailed, telephoned or turned up unannounced on our doorstep with a lovely card and bunch of flowers (you know who you are!) offering support, advice, or a shoulder to cry on.


Oh no..... I'm filling up again......

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Self-fulfilling prophecy.........

Further to my last post, the camel's back hasn't merely broken.

It has been shattered into its constituent verterbrae.

We have had the week from HELL.  

It's been so bad I couldn't even write a blog post without bursting into tears.  Mostly to do with our 'new' car not being fit for purpose (our fault) and having to try to negotiate with the car dealership to either get our money back (unlikely) or for them to try to find us an alternative car which will do the job we need it for (also unlikely in our limited timescale).

Namely towing our caravan.

We've been meticulously researching suitable cars for 3 months, and the car we just bought would be absolutely perfect in every way if it were 6 months younger.   However in a freak million to one chance, the particular model, of the particular year, has a ludicrously low noseweight limit, far too low for our caravan.  So it although it would easily be powerful enough to tow the caravan, exceeding the noseweight limit is illegal, and consequently our insurance would be invalid.  Sadly we didn't discover this until after we'd bought it.

Honestly, you couldn't make it up........ 

Yesterday was particularly bad and both PP and I spent much of the afternoon in tears just from sheer frustration, stress and worry.

We WILL lose money on the whole fiasco, and our confidence over the whole towing endeavour has taken a huge knock.  There were points yesterday when we were ready to sell everything, including the caravan and go and live in a cave like hermits.

Yes, you can laugh, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, not to mention the camel's back.

So, with all the messing about this week, I have jettisoned entire volumes of to-do lists for Thame.  If you're coming on Saturday, do feel free to step behind the stand (no. 26) and give us a hug.

It would be much appreciated.


Monday, 14 February 2011

A series of unfortunate events........

You know how it is.....

You're heading towards an important deadline, stress abounds, little niggly naggly things start going wrong and before you know it you're in free fall towards incipient nervous breakdown / heart attack/psychotic episode......

Or if you're really, REALLY unlucky, all three.

And you know that proverb, about straws and camel's backs?

It is SO TRUE.

Except at the moment, there are mere nano-millimetres between the placing of that ultimate straw on the dromedary's back and time has conveniently slowed down to a crawl so that I can attempt a slo-mo dive, shouting NOOOOOOOOOO!

Or I would if I had the energy.  The best I can manage is a 'meh'.  

Which for all I know might be the sound a camel makes just before its back breaks.


In no particular order, ALL of the following are clamouring for a share of my attention......

  • Small Dog's bad leg
  • Thame Fair this coming weekend
  • Free-floating fear that fair will be a complete washout and I'm going to have to tout for a job at Tesco.
  • Imminent collection of much-loved campervan
  • Purchase of 'new' car yesterday
  • Will 'new' car be ready to collect in time for trip to Thame, or not....?
  • Have we made the right decision to exchange motorhoming for caravanning. 
  • Strange, large lump on my face which makes me look like Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • Sale of all of my remaining 1/12th doll molds heralding point of no return on career path
  • Sale of small much-loved small car to make way for towcar
  • Impending countdown to putting house on the market
  • Continuing related downsizing exercise.....
There's probably more but I can't think straight for the sound of my head hitting off the desk.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Canine casualty.........

Small Dog had to go to the vet today.

She's been limping a bit for a while but we put it down to her careering up and down the garden steps like a Tasmanian Devil in pursuit of squirrels.  However it's been getting worse just lately and she's taken to barreling around on just three legs, and even when stationary, holding one of her back legs off the ground which obviously isn't right.

Her terror of the vet has already been well documented but today she excelled herself.  She had to be carried through the door, whereupon she sat, trembling all over her body, with a hunted expression on her face until we were called.  

Her reputation proceeds her, and the lovely young vet, having presumably read Small Dog's resume, asked us whether it might not be a good idea to muzzle her before she even laid hands on her.

Muzzled, Small Dog looked like nothing so much as small, hairy Hannibal Lecter, and stood miserably on the examination table, trembling so much I imagined I could hear her teeth chattering.

Very, very gently, the vet started to manipulate Small Dog's bad leg to try to identify the source of the problem.  


If you're not au fait with small dogs generally, it can come as a surprise, the speed at which they can move.  Even in her muzzled state, Small Dog demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, that she was NOT HAPPY at her sore leg being bent at right angles to her body.

We did eventually manage to get her down from the top of the cabinet,and the crash team who were summoned by what sounded like10 rabid hounds running amok were eventually persuaded that all was well, and the heart rate of the vet, PP and myself eventually returned to normal.  

OK, so I exaggerate a bit for comic effect but only a tiny bit.  There WAS madness and mayhem in abundance, and the young vet was a bit wide-eyed and breathless by the time the examination was concluded.  

Small Dog was also wide eyed and breathless, so we drew lots to determine who was going to un-muzzle her. 

To be fair, the vet did say that the examination probably hurt QUITE A LOT, which went some way to explaining why Small Dog felt moved to try to eviscerate the three of us.


She has been prescribed the following:

Anti-inflammatory medication
COMPLETE bed rest.


I know I anthropomorphise Small Dog to the nth degree, but I'll swear I saw the flicker of a smile when she heard the treatment.  

Since she got home late this afternoon, she barely moved from her basket, until dinner time, when she limped slowly into the kitchen to wolf down her carefully prepared, hand-cooked dinner, with added medication.  Since then she's been carefully placed on her cushion in the sitting room and covered with her blanky in case she catches a chill.  She's been carried upstairs in her basket so she doesn't have to put any strain on her leg.  

She's currently lying, Camille-like, commanding attention and strokings.

We have to ring the vet on Monday to report on Small Dog's progress.  Next step, if the problem persists is a more probing examination (UNDER SEDATION) and an x-ray.

It's almost definitely luxating patella, which may require surgery at some point down the line, so we know that she's not swinging the lead, and considering how painful it must be for her, she's really been very good, just trying to cope with it as best she can.

I'm just worried about breaking the news that her tap-dancing days may well be behind her now......

All fired up............

This was the scene inside my kiln when I opened it yesterday.

I find it completely mesmerising but then I am a bit of a kiln geek.

Those arms and legs in the middle are the final, last ever 1/12th scale limbs I will ever make.  They will be united with my remaining head-torso characters to create the last few dolls kits to be made and sold by Tower House Dolls.

End of an era and all that.

Most of the tiny stuff around the edges are 1/24th scale dolls and toys, destined for some of my new kits to be launched at Thame. 

However, this latest bisque firing has revealed to me that I absolutely MUST bite the bullet and replace the kiln elements.  Over time, with repeated high temperature firings, the elements (which are the curly wires around the sides) deteriorate, and it takes them longer and longer to reach the temperature required to vitrify porcelain (a bisque firing goes up to  1200 degrees Celsius).  

When the elements are new, I can achieve a perfect bisque firing in around 5 hours.  This last firing took 10 hours, which is not good, either for our electricity bill, or the porcelain.

Ceramics is a complicated science.  It's not just a matter of bunging stuff in the kiln, switching it on and hoping for the best.  Achieving a perfectly fired piece requires a knowledge of heatwork, which is the combined effect of temperature and time.  For example, if my kiln is struggling to reach the top temperature, and taking many more hours to get there, the porcelain risks being overfired.  

An overfire is disastrous.  The porcelain gets tiny bubbles on the surface, acquires an unhealthy sheen, the colour is bleached out, and in extreme cases can actually collapse into a solid glassy puddle.

Luckily, I didn't have an overfire, but I estimate that another 30 minutes would have done it.  So I will have to buy replacement elements, at an eye-watering cost of over £100! I always replace them myself saving the cost of an electrician...... it's not difficult and over the past 20 odd years I've done it loads of times.

So the next time I do a bisque firing, it will complete in half a day, quick smart.
In the meantime, the three china paint firings, which only require a top temperature of 675 degrees Celsius, will be done over the weekend. Then there's the grit scrubbing, matching up of tiny jointed arms and legs, the stringing......

I might, just might, manage to get it all done in time.

*fingers crossed*

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Red Mist........I has it........

The gloriously sunny skies of yesterday have returned to leaden grey. And there was me thinking that spring might just possibly be around the corner.  D'oh...

Up early this morning to get a head start on all the work I still have to do for Thame.  (Incidentally we had our stand number through yesterday.....we're 26 in the Main Hall.)

However, my morning so far, has been derailed by having to try to sort out problems with two of our utilities.  I won't bore you (or myself) with the gory details, suffice to say that EDF are possibly the most incompetent and disorganised energy supplier in the whole of the UK, along with all the rest.

And don't even get me started on BT with whom I've had a running feud over our broadband for the past two months.

I'm so rattled and stressed by dealing with the EDF jokers that I need to calm down and try to restore some of my shattered equilibrium before returning to the BT fray and attempting to talk to someone who isn't in Mumbai and who knows why on earth they can't sort out our broadband package.  It isn't as if we haven't been with them forever!


Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Woke this morning to an unbelievable sight.

A big yellow burny thing in a clear blue sky.


In other news, fast running out of time to get the last two kits ready.  

So can't stop. 

Stuff to do.....


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Rainy days and Sundays always get me down.....

Today's posts are showing a regrettable penchant for song titles, for which I apologise.

However, the title says it all, and rainy Sundays are the absolute pits.  It feels as if we haven't had any daylight today, just a murky half-light, which has made me feel as though I've been entombed in Tupperware.


I tidied the workroom.  Then I did some work and messed it all up again.


In other, equally unexciting news, we seem to have a pole-dancing squirrel on the patioNot to mention a member of the genus Rattus Rattus, who was seen scampering around under the trees at the top of the garden.

We mentioned this sighting to our nominal ratting terrier, who raced up the garden enthusiastically enough, and conducted a spirited search but singularly failed to find the interloper.  Not that you'd know it by the triumphal way in which she re-entered the house as if she had vanquished a mighty foe.

Fair do's though......Small Dog hates getting wet and the relentless drizzle today has been..... well, relentless. 

It's dark again now, although light levels are only marginally less than earlier so it's difficult to tell.


I'm a bit fed up.

I'll tell you what I want.....

.....what I really, REALLY want..... is a self-cleaning workroom.

In an ideal world, as soon as I close the door at the end of each day, a miraculous metamorphosis would take place and my habitual creative chaos would be restored to a neat and orderly blank canvas, ready for the whole process to begin again the next day.

I try, I really do, to maintain at least a modicum of clear space on my desk.  However perhaps I should declare that in my case, a 'modicum' might refer to an area no larger than 2 inches square.

When I walked into the workroom this morning, it was clear, even to me, that my modicum of clear space was non-existent and it was going to be impossible to do anything in such a guddle.  

So I've spent the past few hours having a tidy-up.

There are times when restoring order to my work space is positively cathartic, as it doesn't require much by way of creative or original thought.  It's purely a matter of putting things back in their rightful place and gradually revealing my square metre of desktop, a process not unlike excavating an archaeological dig.  Gradually the layers of detritus are removed, catalogued and archived, until I finally discover a treasure more desirable than the most valuable ancient artifact.

A perfectly pristine, clear desk.

I'm not quite there yet, but it's only a matter of time.  Time, which I have to keep reminding myself, is fast running out.  However, I seem to have inadvertently discovered a new form of displacement activity..... tidying and cleaning.


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Pragmatism. I has it........

pragmatism  prag·ma·tism    noun.
A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

I've decided to apply a pragmatic approach to the remainder of my Thame Fair preparation.  This will involve jettisoning ALL the airy-fairy ideas I had about dazzling everyone with a miraculous new range of miniature toys and games.

Especially all the ones which have been languishing on my 'work in progress' boards for the past aeon.


I will be completely and utterly pragmatic and accept, with good grace, the fact that with less than two weeks to go, I will only drive myself (even more) insane by attempting to do EVERYTHING I feel I should.

This means, that I can cross off pages 47-138 of volume XII of my to do lists.  

In one fell swoop I will regain a modicum of sensibility, and remove the requirement to constantly berate myself for not buckling down earlier and getting on with it all.

I could quite get used to being pragmatic.......... 

Friday, 4 February 2011

Moving on.........

Had to take 3/4 of the day off today to oversee the fitting of a motorised mover on our 'new' caravan.  

For the non-caravanning contingent of my blog readers (which I'm guessing is probably all of you), a motorised mover is a nifty gadget which allows you to just stand there looking cool, with a remote controller gizmo in you hand, while your caravan performs all manner of movements, including a particularly impressive 360 degree pirouette.

This removes the requirement to manually push/pull/swear/have a huge 'domestic' in the middle of the campsite/put your back out/threaten to storm off home in a huff or otherwise make a complete spectacle of yourself while attempting to position aforementioned caravan


We had a tentative little play with it before the fitting bloke went home, after he'd given us a thorough demonstration, even the rudiments of which I've already completely forgotten. 

Coming soon to a campsite quite possibly near you........

This video really isn't that fascinating though, unless you've just had a mover fitted on your caravan, and even then it's not that fascinating.

Edit - I've just reviewed this post and I take it all back about looking cool.  Perhaps I should try to find a rather fetching Dutch cap like the chap in the video.


Thursday, 3 February 2011

Epic day...........

As the inexorable countdown to the Thame Fair continues I've moved up a few gears to try to complete as much of my hopelessly over-ambitious 'to do' list as I can in the remaining time.

Hence the epic day today, working on yet another new toy kit to be launched at Thame.  I've already designed three (yes THREE!) new kits and if all goes well, there will be another two.   

Too tuckered out to do much more than post this photo of the new bride toy doll kit.  Bear in mind she measures a smidgen under 1 3/4" tall and is jointed porcelain. The kit contains everything needed to complete her bridal costume which includes silk underwear, leather-soled silk shoes, pure silk trained dress, jewelled necklace, earrings, crystal headdress and flowing silk veil, upswept ringlet wig and bouquet of tiny silk roses.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Is it just me.......?

I have a guilty secret.

A secret so shameful that I fear being hunted down, pursued through the streets by a slavering, dead-eyed mob and beaten with sticks.

A secret so shocking and scandalous that I hesitate to even whisper it.

*I don't like Facebook*


I've said it.

Having dropped that bombshell, and while awaiting the opprobrium which will surely descend, I may as well enlarge upon my declaration.

I not only don't like it, I don't get it.

What exactly is the point?

Oh I know it's all about social networking yada yada yada but really.....

What IS the point?

I could go on all day about the things I dislike about Facebook.  It's inexorable advance across the globe, the fact that almost everyone I know is seemingly joined at the hip with it.  
The fragmented and messy 'design' presumably intended to appeal to the generations who have  the attention span of a goldfish with ADHD.  And don't even get me started on the plethora of games, time wasting widgets and virtual worlds  (Farmville, MyZoo, YoVille) which are more addictive than crack cocaine.

It's not just Facebook I don't like.  Other bastions of social networking leave me similarly cold..... Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn.

I am proud to declare that I have never poked anyone, written on anyone's wall, or, gods forbid, thrown a sheep at anyone.

My only virtual vice is a fondness for Blogger.  Which feels positively arcane compared to FB et al.  Perhaps it appeals to my solitary soul, but when I write a blog post I can imagine myself in the computer equivalent of Virginia Woolf's 'Room of My Own'.  It doesn't really matter to me whether or not anyone reads what I write.  It is gratifying that some people do, but it isn't the primary motivating factor.    

I just enjoy writing and do it for my own enjoyment.  However, the pressure to be on Facebook is becoming overwhelming. Increasingly, social events consist of people rehashing all of their FB interaction over the previous day in a language I don't understand.

As a FB denier I feel like a social pariah, which strangely, is rather comforting and not at all unpleasant.  In fact I might even start up an anti-facebook social networking group in protest.

Care to join.........?