Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Favourite tools....detail scissors

In almost 25 years of miniature dollmaking, and having lately moved down a notch to micro dollmaking, I've often been asked by my students about the best tools.

Every artist, working in whatever media, will have their own favourite tools.  Most will have one or two tools, without which they simply couldn't do what they do.

I am no exception, and over the years I have collected a jealously guarded set of tools which I have found to be perfect for my use, and  I will reveal them gradually over time, neatly saved and catalogued in the sensibly named Useful Stuff archive.

But where to begin..... there are so many?  Some I use almost every day, some only occasionally and a few for just one specific task....

I'll start with the humble scissors.  This is one tool which EVERYONE will have in their craft toolbox, and usually more than one pair for different purposes.... paper, fabric, metallics, leather.  Using fabric scissors to cut paper, or paper scissors to cut metallics will very quickly end in tears.  I have found, over the years, that even very expensive scissors are totally unforgiving when used indiscriminately.  I keep my different use scissors separately from one another to avoid these incidents.

However, the one pair of scissors I can't do without, for tiny, micro work is my detail scissors.

They are small and short, just 4" (10cm) long and have fiendishly sharp blades with pin-point sharp points.  Definitely NOT scissors for running with.  They can be fiddly to use at first, especially if you're used to dressmaking scissors, but it's well worth persevering with them as they are an absolute boon to the micro dressmaker. 

Mine have soft, rubbery inserts inside the handles to help with their handling, and carbon coating on the blades which makes them non-stick.  I know this works because even glue won't stick to them, another point in their favour.

There is nothing more annoying, when trying to snip off a length of fine silk ribbon close up against a tiny doll, than finding that the very tips of the scissors blades are blunt, and rather than a lovely clean, crisp cut there are messy, fraying 'chewed edges' as the blades mash through the silk.

Equally, the tips of normal scissors are usually much too big to get into the tiny space between neck and shoulders, or under minute arms.

I usually have two pairs in use at any one time.... one for silk ribbons only, the other for fine lace, wigging viscose, thin leather etc when I need to cut on the doll.  For 'rough' cuts I use normal (but still smallish) embroidery scissors.  Despite this segregation I still find that I need to replace them usually twice a year, and the difference when I first use a new pair is definitely noticeable, despite the care I lavish on them at all times.

So if your micro dollmaking toolbox doesn't include at least two pairs of these then you're just making life more difficult for than it needs to be.

Don't even get me started on left-handed scissors though......

Creative cul-de-sac......

Every now and then, usually when I have loads of stuff to do, I get stuck in a creative cul-de-sac.  

Apparently this is a phenomenon well-known to all creative/arty types, which can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from paralyising stage fright in actors, to the terror of the blank page in writer's block.

I'm no stranger to this most distressing of states as it's happened a few times before, most notably when I had to take almost a year off when 'feeling a bit down' metamorphosed into a full-blown depression, during which just getting out of bed in the morning was the pinnacle of my creative endeavour.

The memory of that black hole year, with all its related fears and anxieties looms large whenever I feel a marked dip in my spirits, or lose my creative muse for any longer than a few days.  It can, of course, become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and a spiralling vicious circle of frustration, disappointment and angst.

However, I utilise a variety of strategies for tackling it at the 'malaise' stage, ranging from displacement activity to keeping busy with technical tasks rather than struggling to achieve original thought.  Therefore today I will be mostly doing casting... a relatively mindless task, but one which produces a satisfying end result and a feeling of a job well done. 

Now, if the sun could just deign to show its face from behind a curtain of resolutely grey clouds that would also be an immeasurable help.  Failing which, I'm seriously considering switching on my S.A.D lamp, which usually isn't brought into play until mid October rather than the end of August.


In other, but not entirely unrelated news, I want this download.....

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

All play and no work..........

We've just enjoyed a three day Bank Holiday weekend, throughout which the weather was mostly clement with only the odd shower to disrupt activities.

Saturday we spent all along the Hastings/St. Leonards seafront, watching some of the various exhibitions associated with the Coastal Currents season.  Sunday, attended friends' garden party lunch and yesterday spent the day with friends at the RNLI Regatta at Eastbourne, during which PP had a training session in a small sailing dinghy.

Last night, marking the end of the long weekend, we decided to have a BBQ, which necessitated the wearing of several layers of warm clothing, extra thick socks and blankets for Small Dog.  Despite the evening chill, we had a lovely al fresco dinner and soon thawed out when we finally retreated indoors from the cold.

Today, I am afflicted with the traditional post-Bank Holiday malaise and am finding it difficult  galvanising myself to do anything useful.  However, I've committed to starting a casting batch this week so I had best go and get on.

At least it's a short working week.....

Friday, 26 August 2011



That's it.

My Bank Holiday weekend starts RIGHT NOW!  It's even stopped raining and we've had 20 minutes of sunshine so that might bode well for the next three days.

So.... what to do?  There's loads of good stuff on in town tomorrow for the Coastal Currents visual arts festival so we may toddle down to the Stade at some point to see what's occurring.  Maybe we'll even have lunch out. 

Who knows.

Off now for a wind-down glass of something chilled.


Bank Holiday weekend.......

Today marks the start of the August Bank Holiday weekend and the weather is just what you would expect at the height of a British summer.

Yes it's raining.

Not just raining, but absolutely tipping it down, as it has been doing for the past 14 hours, with no sign of abating.

Normally we would be off in our little caravan for the long weekend but a combination of events have meant that we won't be camping this time.  Which, judging by the deluge outside, is probably for the best.

Useful stuff index....

This post is by way of initiating the Useful Stuff Index.

It will sit in the Useful Stuff section, on the right and will contain links to any 'library' post which is deemed Useful.

Pretty nifty idea eh?


  • Online Workshops
  • Details of our fully-featured interactive virtual classroom 
  • Club Workshops  - Tailored workshop sessions for your miniature club or society, anywhere in the world!

The following sections will be added to in the coming weeks and months.

How to ....... (hints and tips on how to achieve specific finishes etc)
On my work board ..... (projects in development)
Competitions....... (an occasional chance to win one of our miniature creations)

So do keep checking back for new additions to the library.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Rainbow Ballerinas.....

Today I have been finishing off some tiny rainbow ballerinas which have now been listed  on the website.

The dolls themselves are particularly dainty,  measuring just under 1 3/4" tall and have jointed arms and legs so that they can hold their balletic poses.  They are either en pointe, with both feet on tip toes, or standing with one toe pointed.

Despite their diminutive size, there is great attention to detail in their costumes which include colour matched leotards with frilling around the legs, pure silk net tights and silk ballet slippers with leather soles.  The ballet tutus comprise three layers of pure silk and organdie ribbon, in subtly different shades. 

They have wigs in a variety of colours and styles, each one finished off with a gem-encrusted headress to match the costume, and a filmy feather.

I've added several new colours to the range so there are now 12 different shades to choose from.

They are all now nestled in their boxes and I have a lovely warm feeling of satisfaction.

Some days I just love my job......

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Anarchy versus Order......

I've decided that I definitely have a split personality.

For instance, I love order heart sings after I've restored the workroom to a state of pristine tidiness, with every single scrap of lace, ribbon and fabric neatly stored in their labelled boxes and my work table is gleaming white, uncluttered and inviting.

But I also thrive in an atmosphere of creative chaos and love days when I'm surrounded by drifts of coloured ribbons, sumptuous silks and all the paraphernalia of the creative process.

I like to have clearly designated areas of responsibility and properly delineated work schedules (even if I can't always keep to them!)

However I also love to go off on a tangent, seeing where an idea will take me, even if it's right off the beaten track.

This conflict of order versus anarchy is especially pertinent to my blog, hence my recent attempts to knock it into some sort of reasonable shape.  I've started well enough but I'm acutely aware that it's early days and only constant diligence and good organisation will reap rewards.

So to this end, in the Useful Stuff section, over there on the right, I am going to create an index, so that any Useful Stuff will be even easier to find.  Of course I have to remember to update it every time I post some Useful Stuff, and put in the correct links etc, but I'm quietly confident I'll remember to do that.


However, anarchy will still reign unfettered throughout the rest of my blog and Useless Stuff will be unlabelled, unindexed and unorganised. 

Naturally this means that displays of flagrant displacement activity, endless anecdotes about Small Dog and a multitude of myriad minutiae will continue to clutter up grace this blog.

Sorry about that.........



Monday, 22 August 2011

Focus on ready to dress toy dolls....

For those miniaturists who prefer to 'do it themselves' rather than buy ready made, we offer a growing range of ready to dress jointed porcelain dolls in sizes from tiny to small.

All of our dolls are handmade and undergo up to 4 china paint firings.  They have jointed, moveable arms and legs.

Our very tiniest of toy dolls, at a truly diminutive 1" tall, is the toy baby, which is available either awake or asleep.

The babies are very easy to dress in silk ribbon and lace and are scaled to fit in our vintage Victorian-style perambulators and cribs.

Only slightly bigger, we have dainty toy dolls, measuring just 1  1/2 tall.  These are available in either standing (far left) or ballet poses.  The doll in the centre is en pointe, and on the right with one standing, one pointed foot.  These look lovely dressed in silk and organdy ribbon ballet tutus.

Next we have several new additions to our range, including some character toy dolls which are suitable as ladies and older characters.

These dolls all have different facial expressions and beautifully detailed bodies.  They range in size from 1  1/2" to 1  3/4" tall.

Our most popular ready to dress toy dolls are the ones we use in our toy doll kits...

Measuring a tad under 1  3/4" tall, these dolls have particularly pretty faces with well defined features.  On the left is the standard Caucasian flesh tone, alongside a brown flesh ethnic toy doll.  Far right is a recent experiment, cast in white porcelain in order to experiment with the parian/china doll style doll so popular in Victorian times.  I have only made a few of these so far, but I've listed some for sale HERE , if you're quick! 

Also currently in creation are some marionettes, Kewpies and Googlies which will be available later in the year.

All orders for ready to dress toy dolls will now qualify for a free information sheet with hints and tips for dressing and wigging these little dolls.

Useful Stuff....

In conjunction with my 'clean sweep' of the blog, I thought it was an opportune time to introduce some order to the continuing chaos, which has up till now, dogged this blog.  Over the past 4 1/2 years, there HAS been some useful stuff, but due to my complete lack of understanding of 'labels', specific posts have disappeared into the archive with no way of retrieving them.

I did 'do' labels, but they were generally useless as a method of identifying posts which was, of course, A Bad Thing.

For example, on 31 August 2008, I posted with the label 'games to play with your dog'.  Quite why I expected ANYONE to search for such a phrase in the annals of my blog I have no idea.

What can I say?  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

On 26 March 2009, I used the label CWN.  Again, I have no idea why I thought that would help people search for useful stuff.

On 13 March 2008, the label was 'fight to the death'.  I could go on, but I'm sure you get the general idea.

In amongst all the dross highly amusing anecdotes, there were a few nuggets of genuine information of interest to those who might be following my blog, under the deluded impression that there might, at some point, be something about miniature toys, but finding them was, of course, impossible.

Even for me.

And if you're wondering how I've been able to dredge up the examples above, I can reassure you that it wasn't down to my instant recall, or any magnificent feats of memory.


It's because over the past THREE DAYS I have painstakingly gone through all 940 posts, removing each and every useless label.

One by one.

Now is not the time to tell me that there is a button in blogger which will automatically remove all labels from blog posts.  If you do, I will likely have to come and kill you.

So, with all useless labels removed, I can now initiate a new regime, where visitors will be able to find what they're looking for, so long as what they're looking for relates to miniature toy dolls, games, playthings etc.

This long overdue innovation will come into effect later today, and will be added to over the coming weeks and months to build a useful resource.


Useful stuff categories will include:

  • Focus on......  an in depth look at individual Diminutive Dolls miniatures
  • Kit compendium ...... information on our range of DIY kits
  • How to .......   hints and tips on how to achieve specific finishes etc
  • On my work board ..... projects in development
  • How it's made......  a glimpse behind the scenes to see how our miniatures are created 
  • Competition....... an occasional chance to win one of our miniature creations
The first 'Useful Stuff' post will be along later today and you'll find it neatly labelled and accessible in the column on the right.   Thereafter, if you miss a post, you'll be able to check under the various categories to find it.


Incidentally, there will still be Useless Stuff, mostly about Small Dog, camping, displacement activity, life, the universe and everything, but it will be unlabelled and you'll just have to take it as it comes.

Blogger black hole.........

If you've been looking for a post titled 'Spotlight on ready to dress toy dolls', don't bother.

It has disappeared into the blogging ether, along with much of the functionality of my blog's back end.

I can only assume I've broken something.  There were points over the weekend when I was so hacked off I almost deleted the whole thing.  For some reason, Blogger is playing silly buggers and all sorts of weird stuff is happening to the way the blog looks and what I can (and more to the point) can't do with it.


Hopefully I'll be able to sort something out soon(ish) otherwise I'll be sorely tempted to take a lump hammer to it.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Clean sheet..........

I've decided to go right back to basics before installing a new blog background, which I still haven't decided upon yet.

This is the real life equivalent of stripping off the wallpaper, sanding down the paintwork and all the other boring but entirely necessary DIY tasks involved in redecorating a room.

Only in my blog's case I've sloshed on a quick coat of white to give me a blank canvas upon which to try out some new decor.

This is most definitely NOT displacement activity (ok yes it is) and is absolutely essential (it's not really) as I can't see beyond what I've had in place for the past 5 1/2 years (this is true) so I need to go back to basics (probably for the best but doesn't guarantee success).  

Small Dog has suggested a Yorkshire terrier theme but she's been overruled and is now sulking in her basket.

Any suggestions....?

Normal service will be resumed......

If you've visited this blog this morning you may have experienced some rather strange visual phenomena.  This was due to my messing around experimenting with some new blog backgrounds, none of which was quite what I'm looking for.  

It was a tad nervewracking changing the HTML code round the back end, then quickly whipping round the front to see the effect, then back again to restore the status quo.  At one point I inadvertently put two lots of template code together and the resulting horror was terrible to behold.

Thankfully I seem to have managed not to break the internet, and, more to the point, I didn't accidentally delete the entire blogHowever I'm no nearer to finding just the right template so I'm going to stop faffing about and go and do something useful, while I have a proper think about what I want

In the meantime.........

Monday, 15 August 2011

Playing catch up........

Despite the fact that the sun is shining fit to bust this morning I have a distinct 'end of summer' feeling.  This is augmented by having the first Christmas charity catalogue drop though our letter box, not to mention the shops being full of 'back to school' stuff and spotting the first falling leaf yesterday.

Ho hum.
In addition, despite having had some of our summer holiday (more of which anon) I feel tired out physically, mentally and emotionally.  Not what I would expect after time away in our lovely little caravan.

However, we decided to cut short our holiday and come back 4 days early, because of an unfolding family crisis at home.  So rather than staying away, feeling worried, stressed out and useless, we packed up and headed back on Thursday.  Since then we've been on the go non-stop and I'm definitely feeling the effects, culminating in a marathon 12 hour sleep last night which has gone only some way to restoring my equilibrium after several days of being in energy deficit.

Therefore, today I will be easing gently back into the saddle, tackling a mountain of dirty laundry, a medium-sized hillock of post/emails, a small mound of orders and assorted other stuff all clamouring for my attention.

So, while I play catch-up, here's something to keep you occupied, should you feel inclined.

For a bit of relaxing displacement activity during a lull yesterday, I was looking through my ClustrMaps stats and decided to check from which American states I'd had blog readers.  If you click on the map it will take you to the stats, and on the right of your screen you'll find the countries listed, along with the number of visitors from each state/region/county for each country.

I have had had visits from people in 51 out of the 52 states.

Which state is missing?

No prizes for getting it right, just kudos aplenty.  I spent a good 15 minutes trying to work out the renegade state without success.  

Yes I know I could simply have Googled the answer but that would have been cheating, and completely outwith my ethos of displacement activity yesterday.
EDIT - I stand corrected!  That will teach me not to not Google.  I  had idly counted all the names in the ClustrMaps state list (leaving out the US forces overseas) and got 51 and from somewhere in the dim recesses of my memory dredged up the other 'missing' state as I was fairly sure there was an even number.  However there are still 51 names in the list so I'll change the challenge from find the missing one to which one is masquerading.

I'm off to stand in the corner for the rest of the evening wearing a humongous dunce's hat....

Friday, 12 August 2011

Online Show 13-15 August......

We're taking part in the second online show this weekend.  The show will be 'unlocked' tonight (Friday) and run for two days.

Look for us under Diminutive Dolls & Toys - (second page -Dealers II)

Also, for blog readers only, if you place an order from the show, or from the Diminutive Dolls website this weekend only, and mention Small Dog, you will receive a Gift Certificate valid for £5 OFF any of our new range of toys and kits which will be launched in October.  If you wish to order from the online show AND the website I will combine postage so please email me before placing your order.

And don't forget to mention Small Dog......

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

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

I've just been surveying some of the stuff we've got to attempt to pack into the car and caravan before we go off on our hols.

Ay carumba.....

It fills one entire end of the dining room.


Most of that pile consists of the awning, which as I've mentioned previously, is a big bugger.  It came with the caravan and was originally packed in one humongous bag which PP and I couldn't even lift between the two of us.  So when we unpacked it in order to see whether all the bits were there, we repacked it in several smaller bags.  We can now at least lift them, but they seem to have expanded exponentially and take up proportionately far more space than they did before.

Anyway, that's the least of it.

Not to mention........

Which started off in kit form and took almost 2 hours to assemble.


Small Dog has retired to her basket, seeking an oasis of calm in the midst of the maelstrom and after a burst of activity earlier I've run out of energy completely and have resorted to doing 'easy stuff' like charging my Kindle and organising the packing lists.

At the moment, I can't actually imagine how it's all going to fit in.  Compared to some of our camping friends (you know who you are) we're positively minimalist but the prospect of being able to double our living space by taking the full awning has gone completely to our heads.

For example we're planning to take not just one, but two BBQs.  One is very small and uses charcoal, the other is the one we spent 2 hours assembling and uses gas.

Also, despite the fact we have a perfectly good fridge in the caravan, we're also taking a 12v coolbox which will live in the awning and perform the function of cocktail/drinks cabinet.  A vital piece of kit as I'm sure you'll agree.

Naturally, Small Dog has her own complement of camping necessities.  Her folding camping chair, her small basket, her new (as yet untested) pup tent, as well as her food/water bowls, leads, harnesses, coat, jumper, pyjamas, fleecy blanket for chilly nights......the list goes on and on.

Then of course, in the spirit of glamping, we have to decorate the awning, so we're taking rainbow rope lights, solar fairy lights, holiday bunting etc.

That's all before we even think about clothing, food, drink........if we can slide even a waffer-thin mint into either the car or caravan after we've finished packing I'll eat my hat. 

Probably one of the three I'm taking. (count them.... straw panama hat , Australian bush hat, eyeshade cap)

In fact we're going to have SO MUCH STUFF I have a premonition that fellow campers will be wondering whether the Clampetts have arrived........ 

Monday, 1 August 2011

3 more sleeps...........

....till we go on our summer hols.

After a fairly frenetic few weeks, to say I'm looking forward to it is a gross understatement.  We're in the final throes of getting the caravan packed up and have been working through our comprehensive packing lists, which now include a beach shelter affair for Small Dog to give her shade in the sun and protection from wind and rain on less clement days, of which there are forecast to be several.

She had her pre-holiday wash and trim yesterday.  If you happened to be out and about in St. Leonards, anywhere within a 2 mile radius of here between 2-4 pm, you will almost certainly have heard her protesting, and if so, thanks for not calling in the RSPCA.  She now looks less shaggy dog, more shorn lamb, although we keep seeing bits we've missed during the fracas.

We'll be taking our full caravan awning for the first time, as we're going away with friends and might possibly need a good sized party space. 


I have never put up a full awning before, although I've watched it being done on campsites, usually accompanied by varying degrees of domestic disagreement amongst the participants, so I'm not  holding out much hope for it being plain sailing.  We unpacked it on the patio over the weekend and there really is an awful lot of it.

Undaunted, I found an online video which shows 'just how easy it is' to erect.....

I have watched this video several times now and if you don't have to put up an awning any time soon I don't recommend it as it's quite boring.

However, even as an awning virgin I can see several points on which we might differ when we do it for real ourselves.

Firstly, the two lads have a beautifully sunny day with not a breath of wind.  Their caravan is perfectly level and they have acres of space by the side in which to lay out all their poles.

Secondly, they've definitely done it before.  At no point during the process do they trip over each other, get in each other's way and start grumbling, install the poles the wrong way round or make any of the myriad mistakes which the beginner is bound to do.

Thirdly, the pegs slide in with just a few smart taps with the hammer.

Finally the whole process seems to take barely half an hour and they don't even break a sweat before they're both sat down relaxing and enjoying their perfectly erected awning.


I know for a fact that it's likely to take the two of us about 2 hours.


We will start off well enough, but after about 20 minutes we'll be snarling at each other.  At some point one of us will get trapped against the side of the caravan under the awning by a sudden gust of wind, unable to move or breathe.  

As neither of us are strapping 6 footers, we'll have to take a stepladder to be able to reach the awning rail at the top of the caravan and much time will be spent trying to find a level piece of ground on which to place it.  Obviously, the only level ground will be at least 2 feet away from where we need the stepladder to be.

If  by some miracle we do manage to get the structure up without major incident, the final pegging out process will be sabotaged by stony ground, which bends our pegs, breaks our mallet, snaps the ties and generally saps our will to live. 

Very probably, by the end of it all, we won't be talking to each other and Small Dog won't be talking to either of us.  We'll all sit with our backs to each other until we've simmered down enough to attempt to be civil to one another.

Meanwhile, we will have afforded fellow campers much in the way of amusement and schadenfreude, although it will take several hours until the sight of even one smirking face doesn't send me into paroxysms of suppressed rage and even longer before I can even begin to see the funny side of it.

If ever.