Tuesday, 21 January 2014

30 days and counting......

Preparations for the Thame Fair are continuing apace, however I do question my ability to manage my time effectively.

For example, I've spent a total of 12 hours yesterday and today doing a marathon soft cleaning session.  I had originally planned to complete it over the course of 5 days this week, one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, doing creative stuff in between.  However it's such a soul-destroying task that once I got going I couldn't face the thought of spreading it out and ploughed on through.

This is A Good Thing in that the whole batch is now done and loaded into the kiln and I still have three full working days in which to do creative stuff.  However, it is also A Bad Thing as my hands have turned into desiccated witchy husks, I'm wracked with muscle and joint pain and I have a splitting headache.

I've blogged about soft-cleaning before.  It's absolutely one of the most boring things on the planet riveting, so if you're interested..... How It's Made - Soft Cleaning 

The Best Thing about soft-cleaning is when it's over. 

I've just finished loading it all into the kiln, another back breaking task as each tiny piece has to be individually placed onto a bed of kiln sand, inside my top-loading kiln.   However this is the gratifying sight on both shelves when it's all done.....

I'll do the bisque firing tomorrow so at least there will be the added bonus of the house being toasty warm for the duration.

It looks as though, for the moment, my work here is done......  *sits back with a sense of hard won satisfaction....


Thursday, 16 January 2014

All's fair.....

In an effort to keep myself on track I've installed a 'helpful' countdown timer on my laptop, showing how many days till the Thame Fair next month.

This is a double-edged sword, in that I can simultaneously think

"Oh good.... I've got a whole 35 days, that's LOADS of time!"


"OH NO..... only 35 days.... that's no time at all!"

Today I'm feeling fairly sanguine about the whole thing, which is why I'm spending precious minutes typing a blog post instead of being in the workroom feverishly doing stuff.

Back in the day, when I used to routinely exhibit at at least one fair a month, I always had to have lots of stock.  It can take up to a month to complete a kilnload of porcelain dolls (that's just the dolls, not the dressing/wigging) so I always had to have a rolling programme of making things.

Nowadays though, I'm making more and more toys and dolls to order, which means I don't have to maintain reasonable stock levels of anything except supplies and materials.  This is all fine and dandy until a fair hoves into view and a quick stock check of finished miniatures reveals nought but half empty boxes.

Cue blind panic.

However, it's also the kick up the bum I need in order to work on new things.  When orders are rolling in it's tempting to concentrate purely on filling them, rather than delving into my bulging ideas notebook and developing any of the tempting new miniature toys I've been thinking about for ages. 

I'm aiming to have 3 new miniature lines ready to launch at Thame.   It's going to be tough whittling down the dozens and dozens of ideas but I'm fairly sure which ones I'm going to go for.

So...... 35 days eh?

Better go and get on with it then.......

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Am I missing something.....?

Well it's been an interesting 24 hours.

When I embarked on organising my FB friends list yesterday I thought there might be the odd dissenter but as I've been contacting everyone individually to explain what I'm trying to do I didn't think there would any intractable problems.

Out of around 850 friends on my Sandra Morris FB page I estimate that about 75% are miniatures enthusiasts.  I know this because when I get a friend request I check mutual friends, and if most of them are also miniatures people, I assume that they are also part of the miniatures community.

However, of that 75%, I only interact with around 10%..... either by regularly reading their blogs or FB feeds, or by email.  The rest, aside from their initial friend request, I never have any meaningful communication with.

That's fine.  I have no problem with that at all.

However, I do have a FB business page, which is dedicated entirely to what I do every day workwise..... designing and creating miniature toys and dolls.  So to me, it makes perfect sense to invite miniatures friends to migrate to that page, freeing up my personal page for actual friends and family.

To that end I've been meticulously contacting people individually, to explain what I'm doing and why, and directing them to where they can find the stuff they actually might be interested in.

To be fair, most people have been fine.  Loads of people have messaged me thanking me for letting them know, and subsequently 'Liking'  the official Tower House Dolls FB page.  Or if they've said they really, REALLY want to stay on my Sandra Morris page I've reinstated them.

Of course there is a sizeable grey area, in that I have lots of miniatures friends who have become actual friends.  I've known some of them for over 20 years despite the fact we've never met in person.  I'm interested in what's going on in their lives and enjoy the contact with them, however ephemeral. So they can stay put.  I also have friends who are more interested in Small Dog than miniatures and that's fine too.  These people should all know who they are.  So if you haven't received a FB private message from me in the next week or so, you can assume that your not on my cull list.  

However, there have been a few kerfuffles with people who either didn't read my message of explanation, or maybe they're just having a bad day, and being unfriended on FB was the final straw.

I've done my best to smoothe ruffled feathers but the milk of human kindness is beginning to curdle.

Facebook..... you have a lot to answer for.

Monday, 13 January 2014

To unfriend? Or not to unfriend?. THAT is the question.......

I do like a bit of a tidy up in January.  There's something about the start of a new year which makes me want to take control and get organised.

Fortunately this feeling has usually run its course by the third week in January, but at the moment I'm in still full flow.  I have a whole page of lists of 'stuff to do' involving re-organising around the house and this lust for order is also extending to my life online.

Take my Facebook account for example.  Somehow I seem to have accumulated 840 'friends'.  The vast majority are people I've never met, never spoken to, never emailed, never had any meaningful interaction with whatsoever.  However these people are either fellow miniature artisans and/or collectors, which is how they've become 'friends' in the first place.

In many instances, aside from accepting a friend request, I have no other contact at all.  This doesn't matter much except that my news feed is now bloated with irrelevant stuff in which I have no interest.  Some of it isn't even in English.  As a result I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find posts from people I DO want to be in contact with.... it's like trying to find very small needles in an enormous haystack.

So I'd really like to tidy up my Sandra Morris FB account and have most of these miniatures friends migrate to the official Tower House Dolls FB page, which can be found HERE.

This is where I will resolve to be more diligent about posting things related to miniatures, showcasing new toys, sharing relevant information and generally being more professional and focused.  Links to my miniatures related blog posts will also only be posted on the THD page in future.

However, I don't just want to go friends list on my Sandra Morris account and unfriend people willy nilly.  So I'm sending a personal message to each and every one of the miniatures friends, explaining what I'm doing and where to go for stuff about my miniatures. Hopefully, by 'Liking' the THD page, posts will then come up in their news feeds. 

I've done about 50 so far but it's taken absolutely ages.  When the cull is complete, I will then batten down the hatches on my Sandra Morris account and revert it to actual friends and family only. 

Whether this will work is anyone's guess but I feel the need for a more strictly controlled life/work demarcation and this is the only way I can think of to do it, thanks to FB's draconian rules about changing names of pages etc.

So, if you ever read my blog, email me, follow the exploits of Small Dog, comment on my FB page, private message me, or otherwise communicate directly with me in any way and wish to remain on my friends list, please let me know.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Get shorty.......

High on my list of 'Things I Hate To Do' is taking up the hems on trousers.  There are many disadvantages to being vertically challenged and finding trousers the right length is way up there.

Over the years I can count on the fingers of half a hand the number of times I've been able to buy trousers or jeans off the peg and not have the hems trailing along the floor behind me. Even so-called 'Short' fitting trousers are often too long.

Jeans are a particular misery, due to the bulky leg seams, and never, ever look as good if they've had to be cut and re-hemmed.

I dream of someone, one day, inventing a foolproof method for getting both legs EXACTLY the same length.   I can measure, measure again, pin up, try on, measure AGAIN before hemming and I can guarantee that one leg will be longer than the other. 

Of course, I may have one leg longer than the other, but if I try to compensate for that, the discrepancy gets even worse as it's never the same leg.

I also seem to be shrinking.  


Even trousers which were exactly the right length a year or so ago are getting too long.  How does that work?

The one pair of jeans I have, which WERE exactly the right length, and which I use as a measuring template for new jeans, have either grown in length, or I'm losing half an inch a year.

And don't even think of suggesting shopping in the children's section.  I could just about get away with that in my 20s when I was a willowy size 8, but how many children do you know with size 14 hips? 

Actually, probably quite a lot when I come to think of it.....

But anyway, the catalyst for this rant was having to take up yet another pair of jeans today.  I've measured, and pinned, and measured again, before cutting off the original hems and sewing the new hems on the sewing machine.  However I didn't realise that they're stretchy so the hems now have a slightly corrugated appearance as my machine slightly stretched the fabric as it stitched.  I've ironed them to within an inch of their life, to little effect, so I'm hoping it won't show.  If anyone comments I'll pass it off as the latest trend.

Incidentally, the new jeans claim to 'lift, sculpt & slim...... pushing up the bottom, enhancing your curves and flattening your stomach'.  I can't honestly say I notice any difference, but then I'd probably need jeans made by an industrial machinery manufacturer to make any serious inroads into modifying my shape.  

I was tempted to take them back and complain under the Trade Description Act but I have a feeling that customer services would just give me one of those  "*raised eyebrow*...... And?" looks, as if to say I should drastically lower my expectations in the body-shaping department.


We're going to a birthday party tonight so I'll give them a go.  If I keep my back to the wall to conceal the lack of 'lift, sculpt and slim' and crouch slightly when I'm walking to mitigate the effect of the crinkly hems, and lean slightly to the left so that both legs look the same length I might just pull it off. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Fit for purpose.....

Back in September 2011, I wrote a blog post about the lengthy and painstaking process of designing and executing a new miniature kit.  If you're interested you can read it HERE.

This week I'm working on a kit to make a new style of deluxe toy doll's doll, like these.....

To give you a better idea of scale, here is one nestling in my hand......

She is made from porcelain, china-painted, and measures just under 1  3/4" tall.  Despite her diminutive size she has jointed arms and legs.  Although intended as a toy doll for 1/12th scale children, she can also be used as a 1/24th (half scale) child in her own right.

As well as silk underwear and a lacy petticoat, she has vintage lace socks and dainty silk shoes with leather soles.

A closely fitted, tailored silk jacket fits neatly over a pleated silk skirt.  The jacket consist of 7 separate components, (PLUS the elaborate trimmings) and requires careful cutting and fitting.

Finishing touches include a glossy ringlet curl wig and a gathered silk bonnet.

Having been working on the prototypes, I can attest that this kit is best described as 'intermediate' although a confident beginner, with some experience of miniature sewing, should manage just fine.

I'm now at the stage where I'm refining and making final adjustments to the pattern, in advance of setting up for the photography, as each step will have to be photographed for the instruction booklet.

Hopefully, I will have the first finished kits completed early next week, ready for launch at the Thame Fair.

*fingers crossed*

I just love it when a new kit comes together.......

Monday, 6 January 2014

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's back to work we go......

First full working week in prospect since what feels like forever.  I did dabble in the workroom last week, mostly tidying and organising, which feels like work but isn't really.

However, time is pressing in advance of the Thame Fair next month and I need to hit the ground running this week to get a head start on preparations.

January is traditionally the time I do some strategic planning for the year ahead.  It's also the month (along with February) in which I like to work on my own projects, so I'm aiming to set aside some time each day to try to make progress with La Mignonette, which is tantalising close to completion.

This week I'm working on a new deluxe toy doll kit, which should be ready for release later this month.  I'm also developing a new miniature toy theatre, which I hope will be ready in time for Thame.

In other news, we currently have a sale on the website HERE.  

So much to do.... so little time!

Friday, 3 January 2014

End of Days......

What on earth is going on with the weather?

Huge storms, gales, torrential rain, biblical flooding...... it's an apocalyptic end of days scenario right across the country.

And yes, I know it's winter and we are supposed to have bad weather but come on...... this is just ridiculous!

According to the Met Office, we're set to have a sequence of dreadful storms right throughout January.  

So that's something to look forward to then.  

It was pitch black at 3.30 pm this afternoon, at which point we had a spectacular thunderstorm, accompanied by winds which would knock you off your feet and horizontal rain.

By contrast, this morning, although very windy, we had a few hours of clear blue skies, so we decided to walk Small Dog along the promenade, round about high tide at noon.  It certainly was dramatic, and we didn't get at all close to the edge of the sea wall, where waves and spray were crashing up onto the path.  However, despite this, I saw one chap, camera in hand, set off down a set of steps onto the beach, presumably in order to get some spectacular shots.  Had he been swept off the steps by a rogue wave, nobody would have heard his screams for help above the rumble of the boiling sea.

We didn't walk far. 

Small Dog doesn't like tail winds so after a short time we took shelter from the wind in one of the shelters along the seafront and stood watching, transfixed by the sheer power of the massive walls of water crashing down.  Apparently it was still quite tame at midday, and has become much worse since.  We won't even be venturing out at all tomorrow if the forecast is to be believed.

 I suppose I have to start taking down the Christmas decorations this weekend, although it will leave the house feeling so dark and gloomy.  I think there should be January and February decorations, specially designed to cheer during the two most miserable months in the calendar.  I'm sorely tempted to leave the twinkling fireplace garland in situ, and I may succumb to sprinkling some led fairy lights around the house in various locations.

It feels like a very, very long time till Spring........


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Happy New Year.....!

I had intended to write a brief review of 2013, from my perspective, but if you've been reading this blog you'll already know most of the salient points.

Stuff happened.

No doubt in 2014 stuff will continue to happen.  Some of it good, some of it not.  Hopefully there will be more of the former but who knows.

I do tend to get a bit introspective at this time of year.  January and February are two of my least favourite months, but at least they presage the prospect of spring.  I feel that we missed most of spring and summer last year, embroiled as we were in house renovations.  

This year will be different.  We want to get away in our little caravan at least one weekend a month.  We've even been toying with the idea of combining work with pleasure and offering to organise workshops for miniature clubs and societies, using the caravan as our touring base.  Small Dog has offered her services as Logistics Manager and has been poring over the road atlas.  She has already suggested Barking, Dogalming and Wolfurhampton as potential destinations.


However, for the moment our sights are firmly fixed on the Thame Fair next month, for which we need to have enough stock to fill our stand.

Where are all the toymaking elves when you need them......?