Wednesday, 31 December 2014


It's New Year's Eve.

I don't know where the past two weeks have gone.  Admittedly I did miss several days due to a raging abscess tooth infection, which laid me low for a while and made me wonder if I might have to have my Christmas dinner liquidised to drink through a straw.

In the downtime between Christmas and New Year I was full of plans to work on my own projects and do some serious strategic planning for the coming year.  

Predictably, I've had limited success with both of those. 

OK, so I've emptied my little shop window and dismantled it.  Or to be more accurate, it fell apart. 

Several years of being packed and unpacked to take to fairs have resulted in it becoming a bit ramshackle and I knew I would need to do repairs.  The fact that it has come apart of its own accord isn't a problem, as it will be easier to repaint if I remove the glazing and have the assembly in its separate components.

I've removed all the signage and the internal decor.  I've also painstakingly removed all the gripwax I'd used to fix the tiny toys in place but that's as far as I've got.

Similarly, my strategic planning is coming along s-l-o-w-l-y.  I'm finding it difficult to buckle down and focus on the task in hand.  

My infatuation, (bordering on obsession), with Pinterest isn't helping either.  The more I pin and build my boards, the more emails I get from Pinterest 'suggesting' other boards I might be interested in.  I know I should just ignore those emails, but it's always soooooo tempting just to click on one and before you know it you've spent an hour or more lost in 'Pinterest Time', which doesn't abide by any of the physical laws of the known universe.

There is no such thing as spending a few minutes on Pinterest.  I wish there was a virtual equivalent of tying a rope round what I laughingly call my middle, handing the other end to a responsible adult and instructing that I be pulled out after a specified amount of time.

I have no willpower.


Saturday, 20 December 2014

What the duck.....?

OK.....I'm officially worried.

Usually at this point in the run up to Christmas I'm in a state of controlled panic. 
Presents to buy, the house in complete disarray,  preparations woefully inadequate.

But not this year.

No by no nonny no.

THIS year, all my ducks are not only in a row, they're doing a perfectly synchronised tap dance whilst playing a not entirely untuneful rendition of Colonel Bogey on kazoos.

I'm THAT well organised.

OK, so my Secret Santa gift, ordered in plenty of time several weeks ago still hasn't arrived, but I'm sure it will be here before Christmas......

And we still have two guest bedrooms to set up.....

And all the festive food shopping to do......

But apart from that everything's tickety boo.

Which means I can turn my thoughts to some strategic business planning for 2015.  I normally set aside the 'Twixmas' period for that, but this year I'm SO WELL ORGANISED that I've made a start on it already.

I know.

I can't believe it either!

What could possibly go wrong..... ?

Friday, 12 December 2014

AIM Advent Calendar Tutorial......

This year, once again, the Artisans in Miniature (AIM) group has produced a wonderful online advent calendar, with a different miniature tutorial behind each of 24 doors on the lead up to Christmas Eve.

My own tutorial is behind Door 11 

Complete kits are available for this little doll, or alternatively you can buy a ready to dress ballerina, as described in the tutorial.  Please contact me for further details or to purchase.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Happy Birthday Blog......!

This blog is 8 years old today.


Doesn't time fly.......  it seems like only yesterday I took my first tentative steps into the blogosphere, with this brief post.

And now, here we are, almost 1400 posts later, still going strong.  

Well, strong-ish.  

My posting frequency has dropped significantly since the heady years of 2009-2012, and this will be the first year since 2007 that I've posted fewer than 100 times.

I blame Facebook.

I keep hearing that blogging has had its day, and that we should all be, like, down with the new kids on the block of 'soshal meejah'.

I don't agree.  This blog was my first love and as such I won't abandon it in favour of younger, trendier upstarts, with their inane tweeting and poking.  

FB and Twitter are the fast food dives of social media.. the McDonald's or Burger King.
Blogs are much more like a fine dining establishment, with a la carte menus and silver service, where you can pull up a chair, relax and enjoy the experience.

So, Happy Birthday blog!  Here's to your continued good health, and I'll try be a more consistent blogger in the coming year.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

And the winner is........


A few weeks ago I decided that instead of starting a major new project I would upcycle an existing one.... I blogged about it HERE.

I had 10 entries, all of which were put into the metaphorical hat in front of Small Dog.

She had one job.

Pick a slip.

We had to wake her up from one of her many naps and explain to her what she had to do, ie pick up one of the folded slips from the floor in front of her. 

She can't claim ignorance of the rules, as she's drawn prize winners loads of times. 
However, she was grumpy.....
Perhaps as a result of being wrested from the arms of Morpheus.
Or perhaps because it's so cold and gloomy.
Or perhaps she got out of the wrong side of her basket this morning.

Anyway..... she sat and looked at the paper slips.  
Then she looked at us.
Then she promptly turned on her furry little heels and went straight back to her bed.

On the second attempt she looked even more disgruntled.  Never have I seen a look more obviously declare "Oh for Dog's sake.... WHY have you dragged me out of my lovely snuggly bed AGAIN, to look at a pile of paper?!"

In an effort to engage her interest, we stirred the slips, inviting her to pick one.

I should have known her mood was not conducive to cooperation but we persisted, until she suddenly dashed forward, grabbed one, and made off with it back to her basket.

She had THAT look on her face.  The 'Don't Mess With Me!' look that never bodes well.  
We could see the winning slip poking out of her mouth but apparently the rules of the game had changed.

SD: "Well?  What?  You wanted me to pick one so I did.   This one.  It's mine now".

Me:  "Well done.... that's brilliant.  Can I just have a look at it for minute please.  You can have it back when I'm finished with it".

SD:  Lying down and proceeding to chew the slip, like a small hairy spy eating a secret code.  "No.  It's mine.  I picked it, now I want it.  It's mine.

Me: *sigh*  Trying to entice her to drop the slip in exchange for one of the others

SD: Raising her eyebrows and clenching her teeth on the slip "Grrrrroffff.... s'mine!"

At this point I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and sat down at my desk, feigning disinterest in the whole issue of ownership of the slip.  At which point SD promptly spat out the slip and lay down to resume her nap with a loud harrumph.

So, finally,  here we have it.

A bit chewed and damp round the edges but thankfully still legible..... the winning name for my Alice shop window. Congratulations Josie!

However, as it is the season of giving and goodwill to all, and as I enjoyed ALL of the suggestions, if all of the other entrants could email me their contact details, I will send them a consolation prize as a thank you for taking the time and trouble to enter the competition.

And as for Small Dog.....let's just say her bid for the December Employee of the Month is a lost cause.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The clock is ticking.....

Every year, at about this time, I solemnly swear that next year, about this time, I will NOT be doing all my work in a deadline-induced panic.


November is like Groundhog Day.

To be fair, the deadline I'm referring to is the last posting dates for Christmas delivery, which, in theory, are immutable.  In practice of course, they are ever so slightly flexible, especially on international routes which are well served.  For example, the last recommended posting date for airmail delivery to the USA is 12 December.  For Australia it's 4 December.

I am currently working on commission orders for both of those destinations and my self-imposed deadline for completion is 30 November so that they can be packaged and ready for delivery on Monday 1 December.

Just 5 days away.

But I also have commission orders to complete for delivery to three European destinations, as well as several for here in the UK.

In total, 15 dressed toy dolls, plus assorted toys and pullalong animals.

5 days.

*contemplative silence*

As always, it will go right down to the wire......

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Angel: 1 - Devil: 0

I posted recently about my dilemma over whether to start a major new project and since then I have given it a great deal of thought.

Weighed up all the pros and cons.....
The advantages and disadvantages....
Thoroughly examined all the supporting and opposing arguments.....
Debated the potential positive and negative consequences.....

And I've come up with a cunning plan.
A plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox.

I am NOT going to succumb to a new shop.  Instead I am going to upcycle an existing one.
Or rather part of one.

To wit....

This is the illuminated display window which I made in order to take to fairs to showcase a selection of my little dolls and toys.  It's travelled hundreds of miles over recent years and been packed and unpacked many times, so it's a bit 'in need of'.

I've decided to give it a complete makeover and use it for my winter project, which is to be an Alice in Wonderland themed shop window.  I've been collecting and making things for it for some time already and have loads of ideas for decorating the window and display.  

As it already sits neatly on a wall shelf above my desk in the workroom, it won't take up any more space, and its size means that it shouldn't take months to complete, unlike the daunting prospect of a whole shop.

So, here's a little competition for my blog readers and Facebook followers.

I need a name for the shop window.  I'm thinking something quirky, unusual and Alice in Wonderland-ish.

Post your suggestions either as a comment on this post, or as a comment on the Tower House Dolls Facebook page.

I'll choose the one I like best and if more than one person has suggested it, I'll enlist Small Dog's help to draw the winning name from a hat.

And the prize.....?

As I said, I've been making things for the shop already, including this set of miniature masks, which even have eye holes!  They come in a box with illustrated lid.  As I've made two of these, one of them will be going in my shop window and the other will be presented to the winner.

You have until the end of this month to submit your suggestion(s).

Good luck!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Curtain UP.......!

I've been busy the past few days, working on a new range of illuminated toy theatres.
After weeks of handling porcelain it makes a pleasant change to be working with wood, which also means I get to run amok work carefully with my miniature power tools, creating no end of sawdust in the process.


As the deadline looms for sending out Christmas orders (my last posting date for UK orders is 15 December, for international orders it is 30th November) I've been making Victorian Christmas theatres and Nativity theatres as well as some new fairy tale theatres, including Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel.

To light the theatres, I use tiny 12V grain of rice bulbs, which can be plugged directly into any doll's house lighting circuit creating a lovely warm glow.

An illuminated Little Red Riding Hood toy theatre in my day nursery!

Perfectly scaled for 1/12th doll's house children

These theatres are available to purchase now, from the Tower House Dolls website.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Where the magic happens......


The kiln was set to start firing at 5.30 this morning, and gradually begin to work though the firing schedule which I'd programmed into the computer.

Here it is in its spot in the dining room.  I always clear away all furniture etc and put it up on a heatproof board when firing.  It is extremely well insulated, but even so, it does get hot.

It's currently 11.30 am, and the controller is showing an internal temperature of 1162 degrees Celsius.

Which is very, VERY hot.

When you consider that the maximum temperature of a normal domestic oven is around 300 degrees, which will burn just about anything to a crisp in next to no time, try to imagine it almost 4 times hotter and you will have some idea of what it's like inside my kiln right now.

I had to get very close to the kiln to take this photo and I can attest to the fact that it was definitely HOT.  There is a tiny, hairline gap between the lid and the base.  The white stuff you can see is the edge of the insulating fire-proof lining, and just below you can see a glowing yellow line.  That's the heat inside...... it goes from red hot, to yellow hot, to white hot.  Every tiny piece of greenware inside, carefully placed on the shelves, will also be glowing and incandescent, as the heat works to turn the soft, porous, fragile, powdery porcelain into hard, vitrified, impervious porcelain. Each already tiny piece will shrink by up to 1/3 and attain its final colour.

The controller also tells me that it's in the end phase of the second temperature ramp.  In order to properly mature and vitrify the porcelain there has to be a carefully controlled combination of time and temperature.  Both work closely together.  Too much time and not enough heat won't work.  Neither will too much heat and not enough time.  It's a delicate balancing act.

It still has over 50 degrees to climb before it reaches optimum temperature.  And it must stay at that top temperature for a specific period of time.  This is called the soak.

It takes a lot of power to maintain that very high temperature for a sustained period, which is why I time my bisque firings to end early in the day.  In the late afternoon or early evening, when a large number of households are drawing power from the local grid, there is a small but noticeable drop in everyone's electricity supply.  You probably wouldn't notice it at home, but it does affect my kiln, and even a drop of half a degree will disrupt and extend the soak time, with potentially catastrophic effects.

The firing should end at about 2pm or thereabouts, and I always make sure that I'm around to monitor the final stages.

So although it's all very technical and scientific... a combination of chemistry and physics, I can't help feeling that it's also rather magical.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ready... steady... FIRE!

Yesterday I finally completed the final few boxes of soft-cleaning from a major casting session I started off way back in September.

I always like to have the kiln full for bisque firings, which takes an awful lot of teeny tiny castings.

I don't much mind the casting stage, but I detest the soft-cleaning stage..... sitting for hour after hour with my hands in lukewarm water, meticulously fettling seam lines on pieces of fragile greenware, some of them less than 1/4" long.

However, the exultation I feel when I finish the last piece is indescribable, even allowing for the fact that one more tedious task remains before I can fire.... the loading of the kiln.

I've just spent the past 4 hours, crouched over the kiln, meticulously placing each and every carefully soft-cleaned piece onto 4 shelves.

There were a LOT of pieces.......

 These are the flesh coloured dolls and toys.  Told you there was a lot, didn't I?  But it doesn't end there.

Oh by no nonny no.

 These are the white coloured dolls and toys.  Including the infernal Humpty Dumptys which I blogged about HERE.  Out of 10 castings I managed to soft clean 8 without the legs breaking off.  I'll fire the other two to use in my own projects in the hope that I can do an 'invisible mend.'

But it doesn't end there either.


 Each one of these boxes contains the limbs of all those dolls and toys.... from arms and legs for tiny 1" long crawling babies (and 20 other assorted little toy dolls) to limbs for the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, and March Hare.

There are over 250 dolls and toys, which means that there are in excess of 1000 limb parts in them there boxes.  No wonder it took me over two months!

So, all of the above are now neatly loaded into the kiln......

Not quite full, as there is still some space on the top shelf, but near enough.

I'll set the kiln to switch on early tomorrow morning, so it should reach the optimum temperature of 1215 degrees Celsius over about 7 hours and will be done by the time people in Hastings and St. Leonards get home from work and start to drain power from the grid.   Then it will a full 24 hours before it's cooled down enough to open the lid and check the contents....... hopefully it will be a perfect fire otherwise there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But it doesn't even end there!

Each of the dolls will require 3 separate china paint firings, and the toys will be hand painted using enamel and/or acrylic paints.

Even then, each doll and toy will be strung to give them jointed, moveable limbs. 
Then dolls destined to be costumed will move onto the next stage, dressing and wigging, which require a completely different creative skill set.

As well as time and patience, all of this requires skill and experience, garnered over the past 30 years.  So next time you look at a little dressed porcelain toy doll, please remember all that goes into creating her. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Never say never......

In April 2012, I stoutly declared that I was about to embark on my last ever doll's house build.

I even blogged about it....... HERE.

But now, 2  1/2 years on, I have a niggly naggly feeling that I am teetering on the brink of yet another project.

So I am now on the horns of a miniature dilemma, best illustrated by the following exchange.

Picture the scene.  It is a wet and windy Sunday afternoon, and Sandra is sitting by the fire, watching an old film on TV, idly browsing through her Facebook groups.  Eventually she comes across a photo of a new doll's house shop kit, which leads her to a website, where she discovers another..... and an idea which had been forming in her head for several weeks began to crystallise.


Out of the ether materialises two little creatures.  On Sandra's right shoulder sits a little angel, elegant and graceful with a serene, angelic smile.  On her left, a little impish devil, edgy and dishevelled, with a petulant, mischievous expression.

After a few moments, the angel floats serenely down and sits, perfectly balanced on top of Sandra's laptop screen.  She is closely  followed by the devil, swooping and whooping and doing loop-de-loops before slamming into then scrabbling onto the laptop screen at the opposite side.

Sandra:  "Oh.  Hello you two.  I think I can guess why you're here."

Angel  : "I expect you do.  We're anthropomorphic representations to illustrate your inner turmoil and conflict"

Devil: (pulling a face) "Ooohhh.... listen to Miss La Dee Dah.  No sh*t Sherlock?!   (sniffs) Wotcha Sandra..... how's it hangin'?"

Angel: (raises one perfect eyebrow and shakes her pretty head)

Devil: (taking no notice and swinging her legs over the screen, drumming her heels and swinging her forked tail)  "So..... which one are you going to have?  Go on.... you know you want to".

Sandra: " Well..... I really don't think I should.  I said I wouldn't......"

Angel: " You don't really have the room for one do you?  Or the time to work on it...?"

Sandra: " Well.... no.  Not really."

Devil: (picking her nose and flicking it at Angel)  "Oh push off nifty knickers.  We ALL know she's going to have one.  It's purely a question of which one."

Angel: (showing just a hint of exasperation) "For goodness sake.  We wouldn't be here if she'd already decided what to do.  We're here to help.  Or at least I am."

Devil: (sulkily) " Hmmm.  Alright.  Go on then.  Produce your arguments."

Sandra:  (hesitantly) "Well... you know.  I don't NEED a doll's house kit.  I said I wouldn't do another.  And I don't really have the space.  Or the time, when I should be working..... and....." (falters to a halt)

Angel: (dusting off her wings and preparing to leave) "Good.  That's decided then.  Well done Sandra.  Temptation denied".

Devil: " Hold on Sparky.  It's not over till the wassname sings.  So, you don't NEED a doll's house kit.  Nobody NEEDS a doll's house kit do they?  So you said you wouldn't do another.... well promises are made to be broken, and anyway, who did you promise?  Only yourself so that doesn't count".
 (warming to her theme and striding up and down along the top of the screen, thumbs tucked in her cape collar)
 "So you don't have the space.  You could MAKE the space.  It's not that big.  Move those storage boxes around and hey presto.  So you  should be working.  Work shmurk.  All work and no play makes no sense. makes work for idle hands.
I rest my case m'lud......"

Sandra:  "Well..... I suppose I could.  I mean it's not a big kit and I could probably squeeze it in somewhere.  And it would be fun.  I've got so many ideas for it.  And life's too short for what ifs and could've, should've, would've.....  we should all seize the day, take the bull by the horns, take pleasure in small things....."

But nobody is listening.  The little devil has taken run at the angel and they're wrestling and tussling around, the air ringing with the most un-angelic language till they both disappear in puffs of red and white smoke.

Wonders in Miniature Online Show!

The second Wonders in Miniature online show is now live over this weekend and you can view our dealer page HERE.

For the past few days I've been busy making miniature Victorian Christmas illuminated toy theatres. 

The theatre is made from wood with high quality printed proscenium arch and 5 separate layers of scenery and characters inside to give a 3-dimensional effect.

A Victorian family is making preparations on Christmas Eve, decorating the tree while their children play and even their pet dog and cat join in the celebrations.

Internally the theatre is lit with a 'grain of rice' 12V bulb, which can be connected via a plug into a doll's house lighting system. When lit the theatre emits a lovely festive glow and looks lovely in any Christmas-themed setting.

Priced at £25 I can take commission orders for a few more in advance of my Christmas order cut-off date of 15th November. Please contact me  if you wish to order one.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Cutting loose.....

A few weeks ago, after over a month of researching, humming and hawing, and doing a lot of justifying, I bought A Thing.

It came in a big box.

The Thing in the box was this.....

It's a cutting Thing.  

A devilishly clever cutting Thing which can cut all sorts of other things.  When I have learnt to use it properly it will transform my working life, but in the meantime it's mostly performing the function of a desk ornament.

I find it increasingly difficult to apply enough pressure to cleanly cut the thick card by hand which I use for the scenery and components for my little toy theatres.  I can only do it for a very short time and my hands take ages to recover afterwards.  In theory, with my new Thing, I should be able to upload my designs and it will cut them out perfectly, time after time, to the nano-millimetre.

This will open a whole new world of creative endeavour, as I have ideas for dozens of miniature toys which have been languishing as I didn't think I'd be able to manage if I had to cut them entirely by hand.

Also.  Boxes.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that boxes would be a snap to make?  They look so easy.  A base and a lid. What could be simpler?

However, if you've ever tried to make a box, by hand, from scratch, you will know that they are anything but simple.


Here is the result of a week of experimenting and learning how to work The Thing.

I am ridiculously and inordinately proud of this box.  I have lavished love and care on its design and its subsequent creation.  It is perfectly square.  The lid fits perfectly.  The sides and corners are perfectly crisp and even.  It measures 3" wide, by 3" deep by 2  1/2" high.

And it contains......

Little Violet, (who measures less than 2" tall!) is dressed in a hand-sewn silk costume, with pleated dress and bustled silk jacket, and reclines on a luxurious silk pad.  Her accessories include two tiny dresses, a bonnet, silk parasol and an almost microscopically tiny pair of gloves.

As this little presentation case harks back to the heyday of French dollmaking in the 1890s, there is even a tiny Eiffel Tower silver charm to celebrate its Parisian origins.

For a first go at using The Thing to make a box, I think c'est magnifique..... even if I do say so myself 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Mitigating circumstances......

I've been soft cleaning for what feels like forever.  This is what I get for spending weeks doing a massive batch of casting.

I've finished the head/torsos of all the little toy dolls and now only have the Alice in Wonderland toys to do.  The Mad Hatter, March Hare and White Rabbit are relatively easy although their tiny limbs will be a challenge.

However, Humpty Dumpty is just a right royal pain in the arse!

He has spindly little legs and teeny, weeny ineffectual T Rex arms and no matter how carefully I try to fettle the seam lines,  holding my breath and barely even touching the fragile soft-fired greenware, inevitably one of his legs will ping off, usually just as I'm on the last nano-millimetre.

If there were a market for one legged Humpties I'd be a shoe-in.


I find myself muttering...... "Please, PLEASE don't break.  Don't break.  ohpleasedon'tbreak. Just. One. More. Tiny...... *ping*  OH BUGGRIT!!!"

It doesn't help that he has a a smug, supercilious smile on his fat, egghead face.  He seems to mock me.

"Well, well, well (he has a high, cracked, nasal voice)..... so you couldn't even manage to clean me up for firing without knocking one of my legs off?!  That's just great.  Fine and dandy. Call yourself a 'dollmaker'?  Pshaw and tush."

He has a fine line in sarcasm and can continue in this vein for some time......

The urge to pummel him into his constituent porcelain atoms is almost irresistible, and I can't say that I haven't occasionally succumbed to an uncharacteristically violent (although extremely satisfying) act of retribution.

What can I say?  I plead mitigating circumstances. I was driven to it.

I have another 5 of the whiny little buggers to do today and I'm not looking forward to it. They're all lying together in the tray now. Plotting and sniggering.  Sniggering and plotting.

I can't say I'm surprised at his nursery rhyme fate.  I don't think he fell off that wall.... I'm convinced he was pushed.  There was probably a queue of potential pushers.  With all the King's horses and all the King's men jostling for position.

And as for putting him back together again.  Forget it!

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Big Book of a Miniature House - Book Review

As we move from summer into autumn, the thoughts of many miniaturists (myself included) will be turning to projects old and new.  My own languishing project, which I'm itching to get back to, is an evocation of a French-style doll shop from the 1890s, the zenith of French dollmaking, so I was delighted to be invited to review a new book published this month by The Guild of Master Craftsmen, The Big Book of a Miniature House.

Written by Christine-Lea Frisoni, it was originally published in France, but is now available for the first time in English translation.  It's a satisfyingly weighty, sumptuous hardback which aims to take the reader step-by-step through the creation of a 1/12th scale French country house. As you would expect from a GMC Publication, this is a beautifully produced book and the photography throughout is wonderful.

As a veteran of no end of doll's house builds I was particularly interested to see the construction of the house.... always the most daunting part of making from scratch. Thankfully, the level of detail is excellent, although I think that a reasonable level of woodworking experience would be required.

The author takes nothing for granted though, and starts off with a comprehensive list of tools and supplies, as well as information on basic techniques which would prove invaluable to anyone tackling the build.  Clear and detailed plans and diagrams, as well as a wealth of photographs, illustrate the assembly of the house, and there are lots of ideas and suggestions for a variety of different styles of house, based on the original.

Exterior and interior finishes, decoration, window dressings and soft furnishings and period lighting effects are also explained, with the emphasis on achieving the elegantly evocative, faded grandeur of an old country house. Every room is shown in detail, from kitchen to nursery, floor to ceiling with no nook or cranny left unexplored.

The final chapter, Furniture and Fittings, also has instructions for a range of gorgeous pieces, from a Provençal armchair to a Louis XVI Bergere chair, from beds and tables to dressers and mirrors.... everything needed to recreate the genteel shabby chic look of a French country house.

There is something for everyone within the pages of this book.  Even if you don't want to actually make the house itself, there are over 230 colour photographs to help spark a multitude of ideas and inspiration for many other miniature projects.  

It's currently my favourite bedside reading and I've already noted several ideas which would be ideal to enhance La Mignonette and add impeccable French style.

With Christmas just around the corner it would make the perfect addition to any miniaturist's 'wish list'. 

The Big Book of a Miniature House is published by GMC Publications Ltd.
ISBN 978 1 86108 954 0
Available to purchase HERE

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Time management..... I doesn't has it :(

I'm trialling a new time management strategy.

It's called the "Get Off The Damn Internet and Do Stuff" plan, and I'm hoping it will yield amazing results.

Basically, it involves breaking down the working day into manageable chunks and switching tasks after a set amount of time with a short break between each one.  This is supposed to ensure that you don't get bogged down in one thing, and approach each new task with a fresh mindset.

The time period can be anything you want, but I'm aiming for 1 hour chunks.  Although that's not very sensible as I have to build in a 10 minute break at the end of each time slot. However, 50 minute sessions just don't sound right, even though I could neatly fit one work session PLUS my 10 minute break into neat one hour parcels which would dovetail perfectly with Radio 4 scheduling.

Hm.  Decisions, decisions.

I think I'll try both versions and see which works best.

And the reason for this new working practice.......?

After several weeks of porcelain doll and toy casting I am faced with the prospect of masses of soft cleaning.  Every tiny, delicate piece in all those tray and boxes must be soaked in water and carefully fettled with a scalpel blade to remove seam lines.  Then each piece must be gently rubbed with a tiny abrasive pad to smooth the surface and remove any blemishes.

Some of the tiny limbs, such as the Musical Mousie arms measure just 5mm long.  And that includes his trumpet.

To say it's a daunting prospect is a massive understatement.  I normally take a run at it and spend entire days methodically working my way through a gradually diminishing pile. However it's a tedious task which must be done extremely carefully so as not to break the fragile pieces. I can't relax while doing it, so I find myself holding my breath for minutes at a time.  My shoulders creep up around my ears and stay there, and after a few hours my hands resemble desiccated claws.

It's not a good look.


With my new and improved work regime, I will limit myself to just 2 time slots per day for soft cleaning.  Although it will take much longer to complete the whole batch, I'll be able to do more interesting creative stuff in the interim periods, which is good for morale and for what remains of my sanity.

As the esteemed Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step"


Sunday, 21 September 2014

The wanderers return......

This past week has seen several momentous events.

PP celebrated a milestone birthday while on holiday on the North Devon coast.....


On Thursday we decided to go on a boat trip, along the Exmoor coastline.  From our holiday flat we had glorious views out over the harbour to the sea beyond and from this elevated vantage point the sea appeared relatively calm, with only the odd few white horses cresting the waves, so off we set.

Once on board Small Dog donned her life jacket, much to the amusement of our fellow passengers.  I overheard one chap say to his wife "Blimey.... d'you think that little dog knows something WE don't?" and we all smiled knowingly at each other.

The initial stages from the inner harbour, to the outer harbour and beyond were relatively calm, but once we rounded the headland, out of the shelter of the bay, the force of an easterly wind hit us, and the boat started to pitch and roll, struggling up increasingly high waves, then slamming down into the troughs.

The skipper, who was giving us a running commentary on the coastline, described the sea conditions as 'lively'.


My knuckles were white with gripping onto the rail  as we struggled along the coast, each wave higher than the last.  Several people surreptitiously retrieved plastic bags from pockets and rucksacks and even Small Dog was looking green around the gills.

As we were buffeted by wind and wave, the little boat strained to crest each rolling sea peak and I was reminded of that film.  You know.  The one with George Clooney.  The Perfect Storm.  Where at the end they try to run up a truly mountainous wave and fail.

That was nearly us that was.

By 20 minutes into the trip, children were screaming and even a few adults on the lower deck were wailing as the boat crashed down heavily after yet another huge wave so the skipper turned into a small bay, before informing us that in view of the 'lively' seas he'd head westwards away from the wind which would make things more 'comfortable' on board. Thankfully he was right, and we raced along at quite a clip with the wind at our backs. However, after an hour, we had to turn back into the teeth of the gale again to get back to Ilfracombe.

I don't think I've ever been so pleased to see a harbour in my whole life and my legs were shaking as we climbed the steps up from the boat onto the quay.  Everyone who'd been on board  sported amusing experimental hairstyles and more than a few looked decidedly peely-wally, myself included.

Small Dog was first to recover her composure and so the three of us staggered off to the nearest pub to fortify ourselves with a glass of the local Wizard Ale and muse on our sea-faring credentials.

Or rather the lack of them.

It was a lovely holiday though,  and the resulting effect on our waistlines will help serve as reminder of the good times we had.

Back at home now and there's the usual post-holiday chores to tackle....a mountain of clothes washing, piles of post and an overflowing email inbox.

Oh..... and the other momentous event this week?