Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunny Seaside Sunday.........

Another rather gorgeous, sunny, spring-like day today, so we took ourselves down to the beach for a walk with Small Dog.  There was a fishing competition in full swing so we sat on the shingle to watch.

So engrossed were we, we failed to notice that the tide was rising, and it took Small Dog's constant vigilance to alert us to the prospect of wet feet.  She sat bolt upright the whole time, staring intently at the incoming waves, lest one catch her unawares.

Despite the lovely weather, after a while we were all feeling a tad chilly, and none of the fishermen in our vicinity were catching anything bigger than tiddlers, so we left them to it and headed back home.

I'm planning on catching up with a little light website maintenance this afternoon, snuggled up on the sofa with Small Dog who is currently sprawled in her basket, twitching and yelping, presumably dreaming that she's wrestling with a leviathan sea monster from the deep.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Leap Year Discount Code.........

With Spring (hopefully) just around the corner, and seeing as we have a whole extra day in February this year, we'd like to offer all our loyal readers a special Leap Year Discount Voucher.

We've been very busy over the past week, listing lots of new kits, toys and tiny dolls on the Tower House Dolls website.

Your voucher code entitles you to 10% off anything on the website, subject to a minimum order of just £20.

Simply enter the code - LYFEB2012  in the discount voucher box during checkout and the discount will automatically be deducted from your order total.

The voucher is valid until the end of 29 Feb 2012.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

I want one.........

If and when we ever get round to downsizing, we will have the conundrum of where to fit in a workroom.  At the moment I have the relative luxury of a dedicated workroom and separate office, but a house move will probably entail sacrificing a lot of living space so up till now I've flirted with the idea of a small shabby chic garden studio.

Perhaps like this.....

 Or this....

But now I feel irresistibly drawn to one of these........

Made by the aptly named Beach Hut Caravan Company  these lovely little retro-style caravans make excellent mobile studios.  Now if I could just find a permanent pitch overlooking the sea I'd be sorted........

Spring is in the air.....

I'm going to whisper this, so as not to tempt fate.....

I think spring might be just around the corner.


I've said it.

Walking Small Dog to the postbox earlier, the sun was shining from a cloudless sky and it was almost warm. In several front gardens, crocuses are in full bloom and the daffodils are starting to bud.  There's a noticeable increase in bird activity in the garden, and the evenings are definitely getting lighter.

There are just 31 days till the clocks go forward... my very favourite time of the year. The trees and hedgerows will start to green up and I'll feel as though I'm coming out of winter hibernation.  Although this winter hasn't been nearly as bad as last year *touch wood* it has seemed very long and I'm really looking forward to more daylight hours and the advent of warmer weather.

I felt almost chipper in the workroom today, with the sunshine streaming in, flooding my desk with light.  Which is just as well as I have a lot to do in the next week or so, including casting more tiny dolls and toys and working on several new projects.

There's also the matter of the March home workshop pack which will be unveiled on March 1st and which has a definite springtime theme.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Website update........

It's taken me all of the past two days to get unpacked and reorganised.  However, after a marathon website session, I've finally managed to get most of our new miniature toys and kits listed on the website.

There are new items right across the store so rather than post individual links I'll give you one big one instead.

We have two new kits, including a wicker pram with lace parasol and our first Micro Wigging kit, as well as several new toy dolls, a Punch & Judy toy theatre, Alice in Wonderland toys and a new range of tiny micro wigs on wooden stands which fit our standard toy dolls perfectly.
Also listed on the website are our pleated silk ribbon packs.

I'm all websited out now, and looking forward to making a start on some new projects, including completing our March Home Workshop Pack which will be announced shortly.

However in the meantime, here's a snapshot of our stand on Saturday, taken while we were setting up.......

 The relative calm before the storm!


Monday, 20 February 2012

Back in the saddle..........

It's a lovely sunny morning, and although a tad on the chilly side, there is a definite hint of spring in the air.

I have a zillion things to do today, starting with unpacking everything currently stacked up in the workroom and spilling out into the hall.  Once that's all put away, and I've restored some order to the chaos, I need to do some strategic planning for the next month or so.

I've got loads of ideas swirling around in my head so hopefully putting them down on paper will help rationalise them.

Then I have to update the website, take off everything which has been sold and list some of our new items.

So quite a long 'to do' list. Better go and get on then.....

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Post fair debrief.........

We arrived back home this afternoon, tired, weary and footsore but basking in the warm glow of a very, very successful day yesterday. 

Really good quality smaller fairs are the exception rather than the rule these days.  With the advent of the internet and affordable websites for small businesses, it's no longer essential to exhibit at fairs in order to sell to collectors.  The internet gives us all a shop window to the world.

However, as an artisan maker and long time collector myself, I know that nothing competes with actually seeing a hand made miniature, not to mention meeting the talented person who created it.  Fairs are an excellent way of getting out there and communicating with the collectors, finding out what they like, and what they'd like to see next.

I attended my first specialist fair as an exhibitor in 1988, and can still remember the exquisite buzz when I sold my very first miniature creation to an enthusiastic collector.  Over the intervening years, I've exhibited at many, many fairs, some good, some bad and some downright awful. Gone are the days when it was possible to attend almost any fair and find at least a handful of artisan makers to balance the steadily increasing number of stands selling imported, mass produced miniatures.

So to exhibit at a smaller fair with wall-to-wall artisans, many of whom only grace the hallowed halls of Miniatura or Kensington is a rare treat.

Not only does the February Thame Fair attract the cream of British miniaturists, it also raises substantial funds for the Breast Cancer Campaign, through miniature donations from participating artisans, which are raffled, a sealed bid auction and a variety of fund raising events on the day of the fair itself. 

We really enjoyed the day yesterday, during which we were so busy we hardly had time to draw breath, let alone sit down. By the time we got back to our hotel at 5pm we were fit to drop.  However after we'd put our feet up for a while, and cracked a celebratory bottle of wine, we felt thoroughly rejuvenated and ready for an evening out with good friends Celia and Robin, both of whom are talented miniaturists who just happen to live in Thame.

Being an exceptionally well-heeled neck of the woods in the bucolic Oxfordshire countryside, Thame is amply supplied with excellent eateries, one of which we'd booked for our post-fair celebratory meal.  My pan-seared chicken with Marsala sauce was exemplary, and the white and dark chocolate mousse was.......quite literally........TO DIE FOR.  

So, back home today, after braving the vagaries of the M40/M25/A21.  I can't even get into the workroom at the moment as all of the display stand and stock boxes are piled up just inside the door.  I'll sort it all out tomorrow, update the website etc, but for the balance of today I shall be mostly snuggled up in front of the TV, awaiting a delishus meal cooked for us by Small Dog's weekend pet sitters, with mayhaps a glass or three of wine.  I might even permit myself the luxury of a proper lie-in tomorrow.......



Friday, 17 February 2012

Toodle pip........

I have NO IDEA where the past two days have gone, except very, very fast in a blur of activity.

I didn't have time to blog my new microwigs which are teeny, weeny tiny.  

Or the wonderful wig stands, custom made for me and turned in a variety of exotic woods by the talented Dave Williams.

Or the new microwigging kits.

Or the new toy dolls.

Or the new Alice in Wonderland toys.

So if you're coming to the Thame Fair tomorrow, we're on Stand No. 41 (clicking on the link will take you to an interactive floor plan) and you can see them all for yourself.

If you're not (and I'm guessing that's most of you!) we will be listing all our new items on the website next week, as well as announcing the next in our series of Home Workshop Packs.


Now I need to try to make sense of the array of stock boxes, bits of display stands and various other fair paraphernalia currently littering the hallway and work out the best way to pack the car. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Thame Fair Preview - 2

PP has been hard at work on a new wicker toy pram kit, which was completed today and will be available at the Thame Fair on Saturday, and online from next week.

This kit has taken several weeks to research design and we're very pleased with the result.

 It features a fine plain basketweave pattern, new-style metal wheels and a lace parasol.  

Here it is with one of our tiny 1" toy baby dolls, dressed and nestling inside.....

The boxed kits, which are priced at £18, contain everything needed to complete the pram, along with an 8-page fully illustrated, step-by-step instruction booklet.

Tiny toy baby dolls are available separately, either ready to dress, or as a kit to make the dressed doll shown in the pram.

Yet more anon......

Thame Fair Preview - 1

With just three days left before we leave for the Thame Fair, I thought it was about time to give you a some sneak previews over the next few posts, of some of our new items which will make their debut at the fair on Saturday.

 First up, these started out as a bit of stress therapy.....

I make no apologies for the fact that handling, pleating, sorting and organising my vast collection of pure silk ribbons gives me great pleasure.

OK, so pleating takes quite a long time, requiring precision and concentration, but it has to be one of my all-time favourite silk ribbon related activities (I don't get out much).    Which is why I thought I'd make up some packs of pleated ribbons for sale.

Each pack contains 3 lengths of the hard-to-find 13mm wide silk ribbon in three different shades of  a colour, carefully formed into 40 pleats, sufficient to make skirts and bonnets for at least three toy dolls.  The packs all come with instructions for using the ribbons, as well as a FREE 'Hints and Tips for Dressing Microdolls' A4 sheet.

At present I have 9 different colours in the range and the packs will be available on the website next week at the introductory price of just £3.00 each.

More anon.......

Monday, 13 February 2012

Plodding on.........

A full-on working weekend has duly been ticked off my 'to do' list but predictably there still seem to be an awful lot of tasks left.

Lots of finishing off to do today and I'm planning on setting up our display stand in the dining room to plan the layout.  Might even get to start on packing up our stock boxes, although that's pencilled in for Wednesday so I'm unlikely to get that far ahead of the posse.

Now all I have to do is ignore the clarion call of the displacement activity goblins, get off the laptop/internet and go and do some work.

Straight after I've checked my emails......

Saturday, 11 February 2012

What the Dickens.......

It cannot have escaped anyone of a literary bent that this week marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.

I am ashamed (although I suspect I am not alone in this) to admit that I have never actually read any of his greatest works, apart from A Christmas Carol, and a few Ghost Stories.  

As Radio 4 has been awash with wonderful adaptations, and the media generally has been in raptures of ecstasy one of our greatest writers, I feel suitably chastened, and in a mood of contrition decided to redress the balance and take advantage of the plethora of free Dickens offerings for the Kindle.  

For the trifling sum of 99p it is possible to purchase his entire works, but I felt that would be a tad too daunting, so I settled for a few of his less well-known books, including The Cricket on the Hearth, for no other reason than it features a toymaker, albeit an evil one.

"Tackleton the Toy merchant, pretty generally known as Gruff and Tackleton—for that was the firm, though Gruff had been bought out long ago; only leaving his name, and, as some said, his nature, according to its Dictionary meaning, in the business—Tackleton the Toy merchant was a man whose vocation had been quite misunderstood by his Parents and Guardians. If they had made him a Money Lender, or a sharp Attorney, or a Sheriff's Officer, or a Broker, he might have sown his discontented oats in his youth, and, after having had the full run of himself in ill-natured transactions, might have turned out amiable, at last, for the sake of a little freshness and novelty. But, cramped and chafing in the peaceable pursuit of toymaking, he was a domestic Ogre, who had been living on children all his life, and was their implacable enemy. He despised all toys; wouldn't have bought one for the world; delighted, in his malice, to insinuate grim expressions into the faces of brown-paper farmers who drove pigs to market, bellmen who advertised lost lawyers' consciences, movable old ladies who darned stockings or carved pies; and other like samples of his stock-in-trade. In appalling masks; hideous, hairy, red-eyed Jacks in Boxes; Vampire Kites; demoniacal Tumblers who wouldn't lie down, and were perpetually flying forward, to stare infants out of countenance; his soul perfectly revelled. They were his only relief, and safety-valve. He was great in such inventions. Anything suggestive of a Pony nightmare was delicious to him. He had even lost money (and he took to that toy very kindly) by getting up Goblin slides for magic lanterns, whereon the Powers of Darkness were depicted as a sort of supernatural shell-fish, with human faces. In intensifying the portraiture of Giants, he had sunk quite a little capital; and, though no painter himself, he could indicate, for the instruction of his artists, with a piece of chalk, a certain furtive leer for the countenances of those monsters, which was safe to destroy the peace of mind of any young gentleman between the ages of six and eleven, for the whole Christmas or Midsummer Vacation."
I suspect that he may come to a sticky end.  Either that or be redeemed.

So as soon as I've finished reading the current tome on my Kindle, I shall thoroughly immerse myself in the eloquent verbosity of the undisputed champion of social justice and the king of Victorian literature.


Friday, 10 February 2012

Groundhog day........

I know that the official Groundhog Day was on Feb 2, but I'm experiencing the Groundhog Day phenomenon of re-living the same day over and over, with little prospect of transcending it.

Every morning I wake up and scuttle into the workroom, to begin anew the round of tasks awaiting completion.

In fact, to continue with the rodent analogy, I feel a lot like a hamster in a wheel.

Hopefully though, there is an end in sight, as this time next week we will be packing the car and heading off towards Oxfordshire, leaving Small Dog in the capable hands of her two designated house/dog sitters for the weekend.  She did put in a bid to come with us but was overruled, two to one.

So I will be working through the weekend, putting finishing touches to the various toys and tiny dolls on my desk and I'm cautiously optimistic that by next Wednesday I'll be ready to start packing up our stock boxes and organising our display. 

In other news, it's bitterly cold, and we still have a generous covering of snow in the garden, which shows little sign of thawing anytime soon.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we don't have more snow and that temperatures will rise enough to keep the ice at bay.

Right..... back to it then.



Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Out for the Count......

Apparently St. Leonards on Sea is about to have a Transylvanian-themed restaurant on the seafront.

I know nothing about Romanian cuisine, so I'm not sure if I'll be gorging myself on 'Dracula's Head' or blood-red wine.

Think I'll play safe and just have a stake.......


Is that the time already....?

No, I haven't slipped into a hypothermic coma following my sub-polar expedition on Sunday.  I've just been working like a demon trying to get back on track for the Thame Fair, about which, I'm sure, you're sick to death of hearing.

Aside from feeling tired, the only lingering ill effect is a crop of burgeoning cold sores which are making my life a misery.  Anyone who suffers from cold sores will know that a combination of stress and extreme cold, will bring the little buggers scuttling from whichever nerve ending they're using as their lair, to create painful pustules, which form into crusty scabs, inevitably cracking and bleeding several times until they finally disappear.


Yes I know.

Eeeewwwww doesn't even come close.

The entire process from warning tingle to all-clear can take up to two weeks.  I thought I might have caught them in time, as I always treat with anti-viral cream and/or patches at the first hint of a tingle, but as my face was one big tingle all day Sunday, I obviously missed the optimum time to treat.


I do hope they've gone before Thame, otherwise I shall have to carry a little bell and wear a sign round my neck like a plague victim.

Also there's the chance that some kind-hearted soul will reel back in horror and exclaim:

"Ugh.... what's that thing on your lip?'

Bit of a conversation stopper that.

However, I didn't come here today to reveal more of my myriad defects.


Instead I came to try to gain some perspective on what I should be doing.  This is because, when faced with a rapidly approaching deadline, instead of staying calm and methodically working through the tasks at hand, I start to panic and spend 10 minutes on one thing before I suddenly decide that it's a waste of time and start something else.

This cycle is repeated several times until I am trapped in a downward spiral of defeatism, culminating in my lying slumped across the desk, face-down in a dish of glue, cocktail sticks and feathers stuck in my hair, twitching sporadically and showing every indication of being a mad woman.

No change there then.

So today I am going to really, REALLY try to stay focused and work in a calm and methodical way.

Now that I've committed that pledge to print, and sent it out into the ether, I will have to stick to it.


Monday, 6 February 2012

The incredible journey.........

I certainly picked a good weekend to visit my daughter in London.  Rail links between Hastings and London are fairly diabolical at the the best of times and trying to get home yesterday was definitely NOT the best of times.  After spending a lovely few days in my daughter's cosy flat, I anticipated that the substantial snowfall on Saturday evening might present a few problems with my getting home, but we left for the station, we checked online to find that trains were indeed running and that only minor delays were anticipated.


I won't bore you with the gory details.  I've calmed down significantly since I arrived back home early yesterday evening after a 6 hour ordeal which entailed spending almost 2 hours on a freezing cold station platform at London Bridge, followed by being turfed off the so-late-it-went-from-delayed-to-cancelled train at Tonbridge with no explanation or expectation of getting any further, getting even colder waiting for a replacement train, then having to complete the last leg of the journey from Robertsbridge by bus, which had no heating.

When I finally got to Warrior Square Station there was nary a taxi to be seen so I had to wait a further 20 minutes for one, which was then unable to to get up our road so I was deposited at the bottom and had to trudge slowly up, step by painful step, almost in tears with sheer exhaustion and excruciating pain.

 PP spotted me coming and met me a little way down the road, relieving me of my luggage and offering me a steadying arm.  I have never been so glad to get home.

In the sitting room there was a roaring fire, on the sofa a cosy duvet to help me thaw out, and on a little table, an empty glass beside a miniature of single malt, all of which helped to bring me out of my hypothermic trance.  

Not to mention the ministrations of Small Dog, who methodically licked every inch of exposed, blue-frozen skin and then settled down with me under the duvet to add her body heat to mine.

It took the best part of 1 1/2 hours to get any feeling back in my hands and feet, by which time they felt as though they were on fire.  I've no idea how long it takes to get frostbite but on my final frozen trek up the hill to get home I was beginning to hallucinate about removing my boots and leaving all my black, frostbitten toes inside.  If that had been the case, I resolved to package up my gangrenous appendages and post them to the Chief Executive of Southeastern Trains as  irrefutable proof of the suffering that a mere 6 inches of snow can wreak upon their long-suffering customers.

I have regained a modicum of equilibrium today, although I've been just too tired to even think about getting into the workroom to do some work.  However, I really should go and try to do something useful while awaiting the thaw which will render our road passable again.


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Small Dog's mini-me.......

It is absolutely freezing here today.  So cold that I have an awful splitting headache which refuses to submit to painkillers so I've been tinkering around today, doing stuff which doesn't require me to have clear vision and rock-steady hands.

That aside, Small Dog and I received a heart-warming package in the post this morning, which contained this......

The miniature likeness of Small Dog was created by the very talented Catherine Black from France, whose blog/website I showcased not long ago.  It's beautifully made, with a sweet little red leather collar and even has a swivel head.  Just like the real thing in fact.

Small Dog is particularly pleased because her mini-me has what she calls a 'paw-span waist'.


Even smaller Small Dog is now installed in my day nursery, gazing longingly at a plate of minuscule French Fancies on the doll's dolls tea party table.

Surely a case of art imitating life.....

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Balancing act..........

As a child, I always loved to watch those entertainers from a bygone age on tv, usually jugglers, whose grand finale was always setting plates spinning on a row of thin poles. 

I'd be on the edge of my seat with excitement as they'd notice, from one end of the long row, a plate at the other end, slowing down and threatening to fall off, so they'd have to dash back, wiggle the pole to get the plate going again, then back to the other end to finish placing the pile of plates.

The anticipation of impending doom, mixed with unbridled anxiety and the hope that not a single plate would fall and smash before the final plate was spun wreaked havoc with my young emotions, and to this day, similar endeavours sweep me in and I'm back to being a child, gripping the arms of the sofa and yelling encouragement.

So these days, when I'm performing the role of plate-spinner myself, I can appreciate just how alert and focused those jugglers really were, in the guise of light entertainment.

Today, and for the next two weeks, I shall be in a constant state of nervous agitation, trying to keep umpteen plates all spinning safely, while continually adding more.
I like to think I'm quite good at multi-tasking and while things are going more or less to plan I'm usually happy to add more to the mix.

However I need to be constantly on my guard, for I only need to take my eye off the plates for a nano-second, for them to begin to wobble precariously before crashing to the ground and invariably shattering into a gazillion pieces.

This morning was a useful taste of things to come.  I had to simultaneously juggle two rather complex financial transactions, compose two letters related to same, catch up on emails and snail mail correspondence, deal with several urgent admin-related matters and design and execute an online survey related to our January Home Workshop Pack project before dovetailing some micro-wigging with preparations for a new batch of exotic animal pullalong toys.

I'm now in a bit of spin myself, so I'm taking a few minutes out for a tea break.

When I return to the fray shortly I shall be revising my 'to do' list and working out what is realistically achievable in the next 10 full working days before we pack up for the Thame Fair.

I can confidently predict the onset of a run of 12-hour days...... hope I don't run out of plates.