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?