Thursday, 31 March 2011

Boxing clever...........

We were out for most of today getting a tow pack fitted on our 'new' car, so of course the storage box delivery I'd been waiting in for all week arrived but couldn't be delivered as it needed to be signed for.


The courier left a note saying it will be redelivered tomorrow so I'm looking forward to spending the day in the workroom playing with my new boxes and filling them full of stuff.  I have a vision of my large wall unit stacked out with row upon row of boxes, all neatly labelled so that I can find anything within seconds.  It's only taken me 25 years to hit on this damn fine plan so excuse my almost infantile excitement at the prospect of taking delivery of a selection of A4 and A5 size boxes.  The A4 ones fit exactly into the cubby holes in my wall unit, and the A5 size fits perfectly in my wall cupboards with doors.  

Actually, just between us, I think I'm becoming obsessed with boxes and may have to join BA (Box-lovers Anonymous) and attend meetings to curb my boxy desires.

"My name is Sandra Morris and I love boxes.  I can't resist them.  It's a disease and I am more to be pitied than scorned............"

Cats also love boxes.

Which is a clumsy segway to enable me to post a bit of displacement activity.  Which has been sadly lacking of late......

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

With one mighty bound........

Spent several hours yesterday restoring order to the chaos I had deliberately created.  I need more boxes to complete my reorganisation so until they arrive I will have to endure a modicum of mess.  However, at least I can now see (most of) the floor, and I've even reclaimed working space on my desk.

Ho hum.

So today I have to crack on with orders, which are rapidly piling up.  I'm also vaguely aware of a niggly, naggly insistent whispering in my ear......


Yes it's coming up to my favourite time of the year again when I get to spend the best part of a whole week turning the dining room into a vast paper repository and attempt to make sense of a jumble of receipts, bank statements, PayPal invoices etc then force them into a spreadsheet whereupon they will hopefully transmogrify into a proper set of accounting figures. 


The end of the tax year always creeps up on me, as stealthily as a stealthy thingHowever, I'm rashly hoping that this year I might get the year end accounts done before the extended Easter break.

I'm not holding my breath on that one though...........

Monday, 28 March 2011

My superpower..........

I have discovered my own special superpower.

I can take a moderately neat and tidy room and almost instantly transform it into a complete mess.

Exhibit A

Believe it or not, just minutes earlier this scene of devastation didn't exist.  Perhaps the room had been a tad untidy.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

But gets worse.........

Exhibit B

So today I will be attempting to restore order to the unbridled chaos which currently reigns in my workroom.

I've also come to the conclusion that I have a really rubbish superpower.

Saturday, 26 March 2011



Had my first go driving the 'new' car today.  A sensation akin to flying a Tornado fighter jet after being used to driving a donkey and cart.

The feeling of power beneath the bonnet is both exhilarating and scary in equal measure, although hopefully that same raw power will be hugely reassuring when we have 1  1/4 tons of caravan hitched up to the back.

In other news I decided to continue the reorganisation of the workroom today, which, with hindsight was not such a good idea as all I've achieved is to create one godalmighty guddle, in which it is impossible to move, let alone work.

However I'm trying to be pragmatic and take the view that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and that another half day's sorting out will result in liberating acres of space, but just at the moment I can't see the wood for the trees.   Also I've run out of the lovely, versatile storage boxes I bought recently and will have to order more in order to complete the task. 

More lovely spring weather today which is bringing everyone outside to tackle gardening and household maintenance tasks.  I spent an hour yesterday sanding down the oriel window outside our office.  It takes the brunt of the weather at the front of the house and is desperately in need of a repaint.  I was going great guns until the mechanical mouse sander turned up its toes and died.  If the weather continues fine tomorrow I'll see if it can be resuscitated so I can finish the job ready for painting.  Sometimes there's a lot to be said for UPVC windows, although I do much prefer wooden ones.

Our clocks go forward by an hour tonight, and the downside of losing an hour's sleep is more than offset by a whole hour's extra daylight tomorrow evening.  This is my most favourite time of the year and feels long overdue after what has felt like an interminable winter.  The hedgerows are greening up, spring flowers are in full bloom and the lengthening days hold the promise of balmy summer days ahead and a whole season of caravanning contentment beckons.

Excellent stuff............

Friday, 25 March 2011

My mantra.........

For the next few days my mantra simply has to be:

Must get back to work
Must get back to work
Must get back to work.............

I'm still preparing orders from the Online Show last weekend which from my point of view was absolutely wonderful and far surpassed my expectations.  Aside from the sales, it was great not to have to travel anywhere, set up our stand, spend the whole day policing it, pack it all up again and travel back home.  So aside from the cost of the 'virtual stand' which was extremely reasonable, there were no overheads whatsoever.


So as a result, all this week I've been chasing my tail, trying to catch up with all the orders, as well as several commissions, with which I really must get on.

In other news, the lovely warm, springlike weather is still ongoing.  I even saw people in vest tops, shorts and flip-flops yesterday, which smacked of tempting fate to me.......
I'm reminded of my wise old grannie's saying:

"Ne'er cast a clout till May be out"

As a child, this puzzled me greatly, as the only 'clout' I was aware of referred to a slap, or hit.  However the 'clout' in the saying refers to one's simmet.

Simmet:  Noun: A vest of the old fashioned kind (underwear).  
Example: " Is it no aboot time you chinged that simmet, it's bowfin so it is". 

Bowfin :Adjective: Smelly, dirty, like mingin' with the emphasis on the smelly.
Example: "Ah wisht ah'd washed ma jumper efter ah wis sick oan it last week. It's pure bowfin noo, so it is.."

Ah, the simple pleasures of the Scottish vernacular.  Pure music to my ears so it is........

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Towing the line...........

To say I've been a tad preoccupied for the past two weeks is a massive understatement.

Small Dog, Perfectionist Partner and I have been trawling round every car dealer in the south east desperately trying to find our perfect towcar.

We've been to Whitstable, Ashford, Pevensey, Seaford and all points in between, and came within a whisker of deciding on a specific car last weekend, until a 'helpful' mechanic gave us the benefit of his experience and swayed us away from it.

Much to the annoyance of the salesman, who had thought he had the deal in the bag, and when we walked away to reconsider probably got the helpful mechanic in a headlock and gave him a good pummeling.

So it was back to square one, till we found a likely vehicle just half a mile up the road, which was more than we wanted to pay.  We would probably have done a deal on it though if the salesman hadn't decided to play silly buggers between us seeing it and taking it for a test drive.  He told us that someone else had only just looked at it and were probably going to buy it so he wouldn't be prepared to negotiate on the price.

Silly man.

So we walked away again and lo and behold he was on the phone to us by mid-afternoon suddenly prepared to negotiate.  We suspect that there was no other interested party and he had deployed a none too subtle form of blackmail in order to push us into the purchase.

Silly man squared.

So after  yet more intensive website searching, we headed west to look at yet another possible.  Took it for a test drive, then sat in the office and hammered out a very good deal, and after much umming and ahhing decided that we would have just one more look at it.......

Walked back up to the display area, to find another car parked up which had literally just come in from the valeters.  

Immediately smitten!  Same make and similar model but younger and less than half the mileage of the other.

Took it out for a test drive, hammered out another very good deal and finally, FINALLY decided to go for it.

Woo and indeed hoo!

It's having a tow pack fitted next week then we can move onto the next and even more terrifying phase of learning to tow our caravan. 

My relief knows no bounds.  I can now STOP thinking about cars every waking minute of every day.  We have a lovely car which is perfect in every way and which has a definite WOW factor. 

In other news, spring has finally sprung in sunny St. Leonards and it was actually really warm outdoors today.  Perfect caravanning weather then......

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Online show..........

Can't believe it's been a whole week since my last post!  Doesn't time fly........?

The inaugural online show is currently in progress and your can visit our virtual stand HERE 

Lots of other miniature artisans are also exhibiting so take your time and have a good browse.


In other less edifying news, Small Dog has swallowed a small part of a wooden ice lolly stick so we are awaiting 'developments'.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Online Fair 19-20 March..........

Despite my weakened, lurgified state I've been gainfully employed preparing my virtual stand for the inaugural online miniatures show next weekend.

Over the course of the two days, collectors will be able to browse through the stands of over 50 miniature artisans from all over the world, as well as taking part in online workshops, round tables and have the opportunity to win a variety of 'door prizes'.  

Visitors will have to pre-register on the website HERESimply enter your name and email address and when the show opens you will be emailed a password to allow you entry to the website where you can view the virtual stands of all the exhibitors.

While I've been preparing my stand I've been able to take a peek behind the scenes and have discovered many wonderful miniature artisans I've never heard of, so I have even started compiling my own shopping list!

If you fancy spending next weekend at a miniatures fair with a difference, all from the comfort of your computer chair, with no travelling, queueing or entrance fees, you'd best go and register right now.

See you there hopefully......and you'll be pleased to know that you won't even have to brave my lurgy!


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Duvet day........

This post should come with a health warning.

My upper respiratory tract lurgy has mutated into a full-blown cold complete with all the attendant joys of sniffing, sneezing, coughing, shivering, sweating, aches and pains and generally feeling rubbish.

PP has also been laid low with a (hopefully) unrelated sick bug so it's down to Small Dog to perform nursing duties.

God help us.

So I'm currently swaddled in a fleecy blanket on the sofa, in front of the fire, with an impressive array of medicaments by my side.... max strength cold and flu capsules, cough mixture, throat pastilles, Olbas oil and a copious amount of tissues.

Yesterday and today I've been watching the unfolding news from Japan, transfixed by the destructive power of two natural disasters, plus the potentially man-made one at the nuclear plants.  It's impossible to imagine the scale of human suffering currently being endured.  People are still fighting for their lives, trapped in ruined buildings, thousands of others have lost everything they own.  The immediate emergency response is now in full swing although on the ground it must be hard to see, in the face of such wholesale destruction, where the need is greatest.

The whole scenario is a stark reminder of how vulnerable we all are when faced with the raw power of nature.........

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Old-fashioned toy shop.............

When I was a child, we used to take our family holidays at North Berwick, a small, sleepy seaside town on the east coast of Scotland, not far from Edinburgh.  We always stayed in a caravan on a small site near the beach.  It wasn't a permanently sited static van, but a tiny touring caravan, with no toilet facilities and water which had to be pumped into the sink by a foot pump.  I can still remember the evocative smell of the gas mantles which provided the lighting.

I always looked forward to these holidays..... a combination of living in such a tiny doll's house on wheels, the freedom of the campsite and beach, and the prospect of at least one trip into town to visit the most perfect toyshop a child could ever imagine.

Back in the early 60's, this toyshop, just before the main street, (actually, the ONLY street) was a time capsule.  Step off the street, through the door and you could imagine that you'd travelled back 100 years.  The old gentleman who owned the shop, was also seemingly unchangeable, and for all the years we went there he always looked, to my young eyes, exactly the same.  Perhaps his father before him had owned the shop because it was crammed absolutely full of the MOST WONDERFUL toys.  There was never a scrap of mass-produced, imported plastic tat to be seen.  Almost everything was made from natural materials..... wood, cloth, metal, porcelain.

All year I would save up my pocket money (2/6 a week, the equivalent of 12.5 pence),  birthday money etc, specifically with the summer holiday at North Berwick in mind.  I had a particular fondness for 10 shilling notes, which to me represented untold riches, and I would always try to ensure that I had a crisp, new 10/- note for my visit to the toy shop.

These visits could never be rushed.  I could spend a whole morning or afternoon, carefully perusing the vast selection, with the old gentleman patiently moving his ladder on wheels along behind the wooden counter, to reach the boxes of wooden jigsaws, or Fuzzy Felts from the top shelves.  If I happened to have my favourite doll with me, I could spend hours sorting through the drawers of gorgeous clothes and accessories to select new outfits for her.

I would always emerge with a paper bag full of things to do and make..... magic painting book, proper original Plasticene, scrapbook and scraps, kaleidoscopic shapes to glue into pristine notebooks, Fuzzy Felts, craft kits........ plenty to keep me occupied if it rained.

Which it did.

Every year.

One year, I bought a magnificent wooden sailing yacht.  It was just like a real yacht - the sails could be lowered and furled, the tiller moved the rudder, and best of all, a section of the deck could be removed to reveal a tiny galley and bunk area.  I played with that yacht for years and years, in the sea, in rivers and streams, on ponds and boating lakes.  They don't make toys like that any more.

Any time I visit a new place, I'm always on the lookout for the rare survivors from the halcyon years of old-fashioned toy shops.  I can't bear going into the new breeds of toy shop..... Toys R Us, Gamleys, Hamleys and like.  Even Harrods toy department these days is a disappointment due to the inexorable march of the branded toy.

So, it's not surprising that I've re-created my perfect toy shop in miniature.  I have my lovely 3-storey shop, which was the inspiration for this blog.  If you look way back to my first posts back in December 2006 you can follow its construction.  I've even managed to get the proprietor to look like the old gentleman who owned the North Berwick shop.

I also have two toy shop window displays, which I made specifically to take to fairs and exhibitions.  One is a showcase for our range of toys, games and playthings.  The other is a Doll Emporium to showcase our range of doll's dolls.

Some time ago I obtained several of these shop window kits with a view to creating a DIY toy shop project with lots of bespoke extras.  This project has finally made it off the drawing board and I now have just 4 kits remaining available HERE.

If you click on this photograph, then click again, you can read the information on our flyer.  

The cost of the kit is £75 (plus P&P £8.00 to include insured next day delivery) Orders placed on the website include a proportion of the insured delivery charge in the price so when shipping is added at the checkout the overall cost will be the same.
Sadly, due to the size and weight of the package, it is only available within the UK as it would be prohibitively expensive to send by AirMail.

Oh, and if you know of any wonderful old-fashioned toy shops, anywhere in the world, do please let me know.  They're an endangered species......

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Woke up this morning to find that my croaky throat from yesterday has turned into a full-blown upper respiratory affliction.  I sound like a slowed-down audio version of Marlene Dietrich, but without the sultry allure.  Even Small Dog is giving me a wide berth as if she's disturbed that I've also developed a low growl.

PP is giving me a wide berth as she doesn't want to catch my lurgy and I'm contemplating carrying a small bell with which to herald my approach and warn the healthy to get out of my way.  Much as I would love to curl up and have a 'duvet day', instead I've been at my desk, dealing with the steady stream of orders which have been flowing in, in response to our last chance clearance sale.

Seriously, if you're in the market for some quirky 1/12th scale characters to dress for your miniature settings, I'd take a look in the shop while there are still some left.  It's your LAST EVER chance to own a Tower House Dolls porcelain doll kit as I stopped making them late last year and the remaining last few dozen kits are now up for grabs.  You never know, they mighteven turn out to be future heirlooms!

Following my last post, I've had emails from blog readers and some customers asking if we're retiring from business, and what's with the 'final' clearance sale etc.

Well, the answer is yes and no.

No we're not retiring or selling the business.  Thanks to the government's changes to women's pension ages I still have another 12 years before I can even THINK about retirement, although of course a lot can happen in 12 years, even when you don't have MS in the mix.
Besides which, I can't imagine ever not working at what I do.  

But yes, the finality of the final clearance sale does what it says on the tin.  I am no longer making 1/12th porcelain dolls, kits or accoutrements.

Ever again.

Hence the 'everything must go' final clearance sale.

And yes, we will be making BIG changes to Tower House Dolls, which will not continue in its present form.  

I am no longer a dollmaker.  I am a toymaker.  You might think there is little distinction but I can assure you there most definitely is.

Of course I am keeping a small toe in the world of dollmaking by moving down a scale, from 1/12th to 1/24th in order to create tiny toy dolls.  However there is a whole world of difference between the two.

My 1/12th character dolls were not dolls at all.  They were meant to represent real people, in real situations, in realistic miniature settings.  I used to get quite miffed when people referred to them as dolls.

Or worse, dollies *shudder*.

However now, I AM making tiny dolls.  Proper tiny porcelain dolls for doll's house children to play with.

As well as toy puppets, marottes, and marionettes..........
And lots of other toys from the past 150 years or so, from vintage Victorian-style exotic menagerie pullalong toys, to 1950s Magic Sets.  
From illuminated toy theatres to wicker perambulators for tiny 1" tall toy babies.

As well as porcelain and fabric I nowhave the opportunity to work with many other materials..... wood, metals, paper. Which makes a nice change after over a quarter of a century working in the same medium.

So I now spend my creative working life in a world of perpetual childhood, recreating some of the most inspirational toys, games and playthings in miniature.

Can't be bad............


Monday, 7 March 2011

Mad March Sale.....!

It's that time of the year with spring just around the corner when having a final, last ever clearout seems like a Good Idea. I've set the end of this month as the target for clearing  ALL of our remaining doll kits and ALL of the associated miscellaneous miniatures/projects which never got off the ground.

Over the past few weeks I've been emptying ALL of the cupboards in the workroom and rationalising/reorganising the contents with a view to not putting back what was no longer needed.

A valiant hope.

So I have hit on a brilliant plan.  

Brilliant and cunning.

A plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox.

Take one box

Then gather together as many pieces of miniature furniture and accessories as will possibly fit into it.......

Work out the total cost at RRP (in this case at least £70) then list it on the website at the giveaway price of only £22.

Yes, £22.

For EVERYTHING in the picture.  In a box.

Bargain or what?

I have just 12 of these boxes, filled to bursting with all manner of miscellaneous miniatures.  There are a few common elements to all the boxes but there are also many other different pieces.  Boxes are limited to one per customer.

There are also substantial discounts on our few remaining porcelain doll kits and dressed dolls as well as project kits, fabrics and trimmings and more.

At the end of this month the website will be taken offline to be given a completely new look then relaunched with a flourish in April so all of the current special offers are strictly time limited.

The perfect opportunity to snap up a bargain........

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Kits! Kits! Kits!............


I've just completed a marathon session updating the website with all of our new toy kits.  They can all be found HERE and include......

Colour options are detailed within each product listing but if you want a colour which isn't listed you can try asking me nicely and I just might be able to oblige.

Also making a reappearance after a long absence are some vintage Jack-in-the-Box toys......

There are yet more new toys to be added over the next few days when I have the time and energy but it's been a l-o-n-g day so I'm really looking forward to a relaxing evening doing nothing very much.

Small Dog as sleep therapist......

It has been well documented on this blog that Small Dog is an excellent napper.

In fact I would go so far as to say that her sleeping skills are legendary.  However she is no respecter of other people's need for an unbroken night's sleep.  Which is why, after her regular nocturnal wanderings around the house, checking the perimeter for incursions, real or imagined, she also has to check to see if anyone is awake.

This entails her taking a run from the landing in order to reach maximum velocity for liftoff, and landing on the bed with a thump. She then marches boldly up the bed, trampling nonchalantly over recumbent body parts before standing full square on my chest, staring thoughtfully at me until I either wake up or turn over.  If I am foolish enough to acknowledge her presence by opening one eye or mumbling 'gerroff' she will take it as an invitation to go into a frenzy of tail-wagging and face-licking, cunningly designed to complete the waking process.  

Only when I am fully awake, will she snuggle down and instantly fall into a deep, contented sleep.


Which is why I'm contemplating an afternoon nap to catch up on lost sleep......

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Busy, busy, busy........

My workroom has been a veritable hive of activity today and as a consequence looks like a mini cyclone has whirled through leaving mayhem in its wake.

I really do despair of ever being able to keep my workspace tidy, despite recent attempts to box up and organise everything.

However, if you've registered and paid for my online workshop later this month, rest assured that most of the kits have now been despatched and are winging their way to various far-flung destinations such as Kansas, Minnesota, California and Wisconsin, as well as closer to home in continental Europe. It's still not too late to register, although please contact me first.

The next task on my schedule is to update the Diminutive Dolls website and list all the new toys and kits.  However I need to photograph each one and the natural light today has been dreadful.  Not so much light as murk.  So I've been doing a bit of a tidy up instead, deleting old categories and trying to streamline things.  I've also been trying to work out how to upload a new slideshow on the home page.  Last time I did that I broke the internet so I'm understandably wary.

However, as it is now 5.42pm I'm stopping work for the day and going off in search of something cheering.