Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Crafty conception.....

I've been spending a lot of my working days in the workroom lately (if you discount the amount of time I spend faffing around on the internet) and I have to admit it's looking a little 'tired'.

And as it also looks as though we're in it for the long haul in terms of moving house, I'm inclined to give it a bit of a makeover.

Or to be more accurate, give the bits and pieces we'll be (eventually) taking with us, a bit of a makeover.

For example, I've had this little wooden storage chest for donkey's years, meaning to paint it but I've never been quite able to decide on a colour.

So, when I stumbled across this today......

on Debbie's blog,  I decided that I could easily do something similar in my workroom, on a shoestring budget. 

At present, the workroom is quite boring and utilitarian.

For storage of moulds and equipment I have several of these

They were from an 'end of range' kitchen unit clearance sale about 15 years ago.... three base units and two wall units.  The doors are oak and are as good as new but they're an uninspiring dark orangey colour which I've never really liked.  As they will eventually be moving to my new craft room (wherever and whenever that may be) it struck me that it would be a good idea to repaint the doors.  I've recently discovered this amazing 'chalk paint'  which apparently can be used straight onto wood without having to sand and/or strip off the finish, and a bit of internet sleuthing has revealed a reasonably local supplier.   It comes in a range of wonderful vintage 'shabby chic' colours which I'm sure would be perfect.

Aside from the kitchen units, I also have one whole wall taken up with an open-fronted display unit, in which I have dozens of plastic storage boxes for all my ribbons, trimmings etc......

Although useful, they don't look particularly edifying, so I've hit on what I hope is a damn fine plan to use a similar idea to the little wooden chest and insert different strips of shabby chic scrapbooking paper inside each one, just at the front.  This will not only make a prettier display, it will also more effectively shield the contents from the fading effects of the sunlight which pours into the room.

At the bottom of this unit there are also A4 size  cardboard storage boxes, which have all seen better days, so again, I can cover the fronts with an array of scrapbooking papers, which I've discovered can be digitally downloaded and printed off 'in house' thereby saving me a small fortune.

Other than that, with some new curtains and a rug I won't recognise the place.  It might even make me more creative! 

Not only that, I will then have a ready-made shabby chic workroom all ready to relocate to our new house in due course.

I do like to have a project (or two) in hand.....



Tuesday, 26 February 2013

By a whisker......

These are just two of the teeny, tiny, wee metal animals I bought at the Thame Fair at the weekend.  I suggested delegating the painting of them to PP, which prompted a lively discussion as the feasibility of making a paintbrush with a single hair, in order to paint stripes on the unfeasibly miniscule zebra.

Jacqui of Ceynix, who supplied the animals, mentioned that some people use a single cat's whisker to paint the tiny details.

I think you can probably guess what's coming next.......

Predictably, when we mooted the subject with Small Dog, she was less than impressed.  Our perfectly reasonable argument that she could spare one solitary whisker for experimental purposes fell on deaf ears and she refused to even discuss the prospect.

Personally, I think that anyone who is up for Employee of the Month (again) should be capable of thinking outside the box and show a willingness to cooperate with the management team on issues across the board.

But no.

She's taken to sleeping with one eye open and all her whiskers tucked resolutely under her blanky.......

Not only that, she's now playing merry hell on her FB page.  I might have to shut it down if things kick off......

Monday, 25 February 2013

Mini Miniature Show Workshop.....

So, no sooner have we recovered from one miniature fair than another hoves into view.  However the Mini Miniature Show is online, so we only have to set up a virtual display stand and I don't have to travel any further than the distance between the workroom and my computer in the office so yayy for that..  

I can even do the whole show in my pyjamas, which is a bonus.

The show will be open from March 13-18.  I haven't counted the number of exhibitors yet but it's set to be bigger than ever, with artisans from around the world exhibiting their miniature wares.

This time round I'm also offering a workshop session to make a Shabby Chic Toy Doll's Doll, the details of which can be found HERE.

 Pale Blue




Pale Green SOLD OUT

Pale Pink

Daffodil Yellow

Vintage Sepia

Crushed Strawberry

Kits cost $32 (plus shipping) and contain everything needed to complete these little dolls as shown.  Bookings are coming in already, so I would advise anyone who's thinking about doing it to let me know as soon as possible, especially as I will be making the kits to order from a mouth-watering range of colour choices as shown above, all hand-dyed by me.

International students should contact me via the Mini Miniature Show workshop page to book a place and let me know their location so that I can calculate shipping.  I will then send a PayPal invoice for payment and kits will be shipped during the first week of March.

As ever, if anyone needs additional information, just drop me an email and I'll do my best to help.

Catch-up Monday......

I slept for a full 12 hours last night and still feel tired , which is par for the course after a fair.  Also par for the course is that today the house looks like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have ridden through, and stopped for bit of a knees-up on the way.

Therefore I've spent a large part of today shuffling and emptying stock boxes and subsequently making a start on reorganising the workroom.  In the process though I did manage to find the camera, so here's a few shots of our stand on Saturday.  Apologies for the less than edifying backdrop.... I think they're grappling nets.

And here, on our return, was the effect that single-pawedly guarding the house AND being in boney fido charge of Tower House Dolls has had on Small Dog.


Dog tired doesn't come close.......


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Thame Fair report......

Good grief.... it is really almost a week since my last blog post?  I'd intended posting pics of our newest toys and all sorts but last week seemed to get away from me.

No matter.

We are now home from 'forn parts' after an enjoyable, if completely exhausting few days in the depths of the Oxfordshire countryside.  As ever, the Thame Fair itself was its usual melange of high calibre UK artisans, many of whom are rarely seen outside Miniatura or KDF.  It always takes me back to the 'good old days' when fairs mostly featured hand crafted artisan miniatures, rather than the ubiquitous Taiwanese imports which subsequently swamped the market, lowering standards and expectations in the collecting public.

This year at Thame we were next to Stokesay Ware, whose exquisite porcelain china has been gracing miniature houses of distinction for over 30 years.  I hesitate to even think about how much money I've spent with them over the 30 odd years that I've been collecting, as every single one of my 20+ houses contained their work, from a single piece of Victorian kitchen ware in a humble cottage, through to a complete 8-piece dinner service in my magnificent Scottish baronial mansion.  Even now, having massively downsized my collection of houses, a Stokesay Ware nursery tea set still graces my Edwardian day nursery.

In a similar vein, and talking of artisans of exceptional skill, this years Thame Fair marked the swansong of two of our best known miniaturists.  Both Tony Knott, famed for his hand crafted historic armour, weapons, pewter and bronzework and wooden furniture, and Victor Pain of Simply Silver.  Sadly Tony's website has now closed, and Vic doesn't have a website either but some of Vic's incredible work is featured in this blog post by a fellow admirer.  Both artisans have now retired and Thame was a final chance to see and buy their work.

As usual the fair attracted many enthusiastic miniaturists, eager to add to their collections.  As Thame is now the only fair we attend on a regular basis, it was lovely to see long-standing customers and past workshop students,  many of whom I've known for more years than any of of us care to remember.  Our stand was busy all day, and it wasn't until half an hour before closing that I got a chance to look around for myself.

My purchases were modest, some haberdashery supplies from the lovely Christine Orchard of Little Trimmings and some absolutely incredibly tiny unpainted metal animals from Jacqui of Ceynix for which I have an idea for a new toy.

My only personal purchase, was a tiny copy of a French book of fables from Dateman Books,  which is destined for my French shop.

We're too tired to unpack tonight so tomorrow, when I manage to identify the whereabouts of the camera,  I'll post some photos and share some of our latest ideas, which we just have to run by Small Dog first........


Monday, 18 February 2013

Multi-tasking Monday.....

We now have just three full working days before we pack the car and set off for the Oxfordshire countryside.

If I were to suggest that the house is a haven of peace and tranquillity I'd be lying.

If I happen to mention that my workroom is the epitome of calm I'd be lying through my teeth.

If I suggest that I'm well on track to have everything completed in time I'd be..... well you get the gist.

For example, here is the current state of my desk.....

 It is what can only be described as a 'complete guddle'It's at that delicate tipping point where in order to actually do any work I have to tidy up.  But I can't tidy up because in amongst all that mess are lots of tiny toys in various stages of completion.

I'm in a creative catch-22.

And that's not the worst of it.  The hall is piled waist high with packing boxes, the dining room is currently home to the various components of our exhibition stand and the office is knee-deep in part-printed, half-collated brochures and flyers.  

My printer (the one I'm on moderately good terms with) has waved the white flag twice already today, once with a phantom paper jam (there was none, I think it just wanted a rest) and more recently because it needed not one, but two ink cartridges replaced which sent it into a depressive decline, morosely shuffling its rollers and defiantly spitting out sheet after sheet of blank paper.

I've given it a stern talking to and suggested it get its act together lickity split otherwise it will find itself out on its rear paper tray but I'm not hopeful.

It's always like this in the few days before a fair.  Even way back, when I used to do at least two fairs a month, I would invariably spend the final 48 hours burning the midnight oil trying to finish just one last project.  However, at least then I was match-fit, and knew where everything was, and how the stand went together, and the best way to display everything.  Now that we only exhibit at a few fairs each year I completely forget where everything goes, and how we usually organise things.

I'm desperately hoping it'll all come flooding back to me on Saturday morning when we unpack the car and lug everything to our table, ready to set up.

In other news, I checked my blog stats this morning and was amazed to discover that I've had  over 100,000 hits since December 2006 when I published my very first post.  Of course I have no frame of reference to know whether this is good, bad or merely indifferent, but it seems like a hell of a lot of hits to me, especially when you consider most of my posts are about Small Dog, or what recent misfortune has befallen us, or sometimes, just sheer drivel miscellaneous musings.

Perhaps some people just have too much time on their hands........

Friday, 15 February 2013

Fifty Shades of Black and Blue......

My minor op on Tuesday went well

The anticipation of these things is always worse than than the reality, although being able to hear scissors cutting through tissue and muscle was a tad disconcerting.

I have a couple of stitches, which will be removed next week, and the discomfort has eased considerably...... however there is still quite a bit of swelling and, if anything, the bruising is spreading up and around the eye....

Not a pretty sight.....

I really hope it improves before next weekend and the Thame Fair, otherwise I'll have to resort to wearing dark glasses.  PP has suggested going the whole hog and bandaging my head too so that I look like the Invisible Woman.  It's amazing how other people's misfortune always provides an endless fund of hilarity.....

To further add to my woes, I still have raging toothache.  My trip to the dentist on Wednesday yielded no help beyond a supply of heavy duty antibiotics, which are making no difference whatsoever.  I have to wait till 25th for my next appointment when I will be 'reviewed', probably with a view to root canal treatment.

As you can imagine I'm REALLY looking forward to that.....

*deep, heartfelt sigh*


Monday, 11 February 2013


I'm approaching this week with a certain amount of trepidation.

Tomorrow I will have an Eccrine Hidrocystoma excised from my face, to which I'm not at all looking forward.

Plus, to add insult to injury, I seem to have developed a strange toothache and one side of my face feels hot, painful and swollen, so I also have a dental appointment on Wednesday.  I'm not looking forward to that either.


At this rate I'm going to have to to turn up at the Thame Fair with a bag over my head.......

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Kit Kat conundrum.....

I do like a biscuit with my tea.

If I'm feeling virtuous I'll make do with a Rich Tea or Hobnob, but if money (and calories) are no object it has to be a Kit Kat every time.

If I'm really pushing the boat out, my biscuit of choice is the fabulous Chunky Kit Kat.... the  indisputable king of the crossover confectionery/biscuit world.  

I once had one that was ALL CHOCOLATE... no biscuit at all.  That was a day which will live in my memory forever.

However, I'm currently missing out on a major Kit Kat event... the release of 4 new trial flavours.  It would appear that Hastings/St Leonards are Kit Kat free zones.  I've scoured the shelves at Tesco, and various other local convenience stores to no avail.  I can't find any of the new flavours anywhere.

Personally I think mint would be my favourite, but coconut might just shade it.  And who knows.... either choc fudge or hazelnut might beat both of those into a cocked hat.

I may never know unless I can track down these elusive delights.

Also, in an inspired piece of marketing, you can vote for your favourite on Facebook, because apparently, only one of the four flavours will survive to join the fabled Kit Kat pantheon.

So, as a dedicated Chunky Kit Kat fan, I owe it to myself, and other aficionados to sample all four and submit my considered opinion......the search continues.....

EDIT - since this post earlier today, I have successfully tracked down a source of the new Chunky Kit Kats in St. Leonards on Sea.  I now have a Mint and Choc Fudge to sample at my leisure..... probably in bed later with a cup of tea.
My findings will be announced anon.......

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Work, work, work.....

It should come as no surprise to learn that I've been working morning to night.  There's nothing like a looming fair to jolt me into the realisation that I need to pull my finger out and make serious inroads into my various 'to do' lists.

Not only are we exhibiting at the Thame Fair on 23 Feb, we're also participating in the online Mini Miniature Show which runs from 13-18 March, and at which I'll also be offering a workshop session.

So time is most definitely of the essence.

Therefore my next two weekends will be working ones.  As will all the weekdays in between.  There is, as they say, no rest for the wicked.

Today I will be continuing work on some new Alice in Wonderland toy carts complete with tiny porcelain toys, so if you're one of the several people currently on my waiting list for one, take heart as I'm hoping they'll be ready by the beginning of next week.

The same goes for my Dodo Pullalong Toys, which I'll be starting this weekend with the intention of fulfilling outstanding orders plus a few for Thame.

However, even a cursory glance at my Thame to do list confirms that unless I discover the secret of time travel, and can manage to shoe-horn an extra couple of hours into each working day, I'm unlikely to be able to place a tick beside each item.

Speaking of which, I have been known to add unlisted completed tasks to my to do lists, purely for the satisfaction of ticking them off.

Sad or what.....?

Monday, 4 February 2013

Tah Dah.....!

This morning I've been updating the website with several new toy dolls, including a completely new vintage-style glazed china doll.......

 These are quite a departure from the Jumeau-style dolls but great fun to do..... hopefully I will have a few more ready to take to Thame later this month.

My dyeing batch last week has yielded some mouth-watering colours of silk ribbon, from Crushed Strawberry to Apricot & Cream, which I've used for these Shabby Chic Toy Dolls

Bear in mind that these porcelain dolls are less than 2 inches tall, have jointed arms and legs and full costumes, including silk underwear, silk shoes with leather soles, handmade wigs, silk dresses and bonnets.  They are completely hand-crafted from start to finish.

I'm also really pleased with the muted, vintage colours from my dyeing experiment, used for the Jumeau-style Toy Dolls above.  

I've restocked our Jumeau-style doll kits with many of the new colours, which are listed HERE.

This week I shall be concentrating on some fanciful new Victorian menagerie pullalong toys which will be unveiled in due course.....


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Etsy versus Ebay.......

I am conducting a completely unscientific experiment to assess the feasibility of selling on either Etsy or Ebay.

I have fallen out of love with Ebay in recent years, partly due to the monumental (with the emphasis on 'mental') changes to their fees and selling policies and partly due to the fact that there is just such a lot of Taiwan Tat masquerading as quality miniatures.  Even in the hitherto reliable 'handmade' or 'artisan' categories there are blatantly mass produced miniatures masquerading as the real thing.  I find it depressing to trawl through pages and pages of rubbish, searching for the occasional pearl in the mire.

Etsy on the other hand, with which I've held a dormant account for years, majors on handmade items which are generally of good quality.  I have, on occasion bought from a known artisan on Etsy and the transactions have been quick and easy.  Although I have never sold on Etsy, I'm aware that their fees are generally lower and their selling policies are fairer and more transparent.


This weekend I have listed three items for sale on Etsy, and one item in an Ebay auction..... just to see what happens.

The Ebay auction is HERE 

The Etsy offerings are HERE

I shall await developments and report back in due course........