Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Miniature Porcelain Dollmaking Courses - starting in October!

Learn how to make beautiful heirloom dolls like these

Starting in October, in St. Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, during this fortnightly course, students will make 3 different porcelain toy dolls in the style and colours of your choice (completely from scratch!) plus accessories (approximate value £100)

Learn the skills and techniques involved in miniature porcelain dollmaking.
  • Casting from moulds
  • Soft-firing for cleanup
  • Bisque firing
  • China painting
  • Doll stringing
  • Costuming
  • Wigging
  • Accessories 
Costumes are made from fine silks

Cost per session - £20 plus a one off charge for materials and kiln firings – approximately £25

Provisional dates are as follows - sessions are fortnightly
Wednesday 7 October 7pm – 9pm
Casting and preparing for firing.   Costume preparation
Wednesday 21 October 7pm – 9pm
China painting.  Costume and wigging preparation
Wednesday 4 November 7pm – 9pm
Doll stringing.   Costuming.
Wednesday 18 November 7pm – 9pm
Costuming and wigging
Wednesday 2 December 7pm-9pm
Finishing touches

Jumeau-inspired toy dolls

Please note that these are very small dolls, measuring just under 2” tall.  If you are completely unused to working in a small scale you may find the classes challenging! 

However, most people who are used to working in the standard doll’s house scale of 1/12th, or who are active crafters (embroidery, knitting, needlepoint, sugarcraft/cake decorating etc) will soon adapt to the small size.  You may find a desk magnifier helpful. 

To give you a better idea of the scale and style you will be working in, please take a look at my dolls on the Tower House Dolls website, in the Dressed Dolls category.   
I can take just 4 students on this course so places are limited.  When I have 4 bookings I will confirm the start date and the course will definitely go ahead.
If you need any further information please contact me.

Shabby Chic Toy Dolls


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Spider central.....

The UK media is currently awash with dire warnings of legions of spiders set to infiltrate our homes.

I normally grit my teeth at this time of year for an influx of eight-legged beasties and I'm lucky in that PP is fearless, seasoned spider catcher and comes running as soon as I start screaming like a girl, glass in hand, to relocate the intruder.

Last week I walked into the dining room to find a BIG spider scuttling across the floor towards me.  Cue girlie screaming and pleas for PP to come and deal with it.
Then only last night, PP picked up my bag from the stairs and a HUGE spider scuttled out from underneath.  Thank goodness it was PP.  I'd have had a heart attack!

It's got to the point where I have to scan every room before I enter, alert for spiders.  I don't even know how they get in.... they're ..... So. Big.

Even Small Dog is wary and will run away from the bigger ones.  When she was only  a puppy she sniffed a spider up her nose so she's understandably cautious when she sees one on the floor.

I have to admit I'm a bit worried, especially following this report in our LOCAL paper......

But wait... it gets worse.....

People have been seriously ill, have had amputations and in one tragic case, have actually died.  

I'm used to people not taking my spider bite phobia seriously, but I've been bitten twice and it wasn't a pleasant experience either time.  Back in 2010 I blogged my experience.  It's not for the faint hearted.  So although I'm generally not in favour of arachnid annihilation I'm afraid all bets are most definitely off.


Game on spiders.

Come ANYWHERE near me and it's squish time.

Crying Wolf......!

Now that the Everything Alice workshop is fully prepped (WOOHOO!!!) I can turn my attention to the next workshop and am now immersed in Little Red Riding Hood.

This has always been one of  my favourite fairy tales.... there is just so much simmering subtext and the imagery is so atmospheric.... red, fear, blood, danger, deceit, seduction, Big Teeth.  Themes far too adult for a children's fairy tale surely?

Over the years the tale has undergone many interpretations since the original literary adaptation by Charles Perrault in 1697. Early oral versions depicted a shrewd young girl who uses her own resources to escape the wolf and get back home.  However over time the story has evolved into the one we recognise today and which was a feature of so many of our early childhood memories.

I still have my own dog-eared copy of the Ladybird version from the early 1960s in which Red meets the wolf and tells him she has a cake and a bottle of wine for her poorly grandmother "to help her to get well again".



What an enlightened food parcel.....

Unfortunately both poor grandmother and Little Red are gobbled up in one mouthful by the crafty wolf who meets a gory end when he's killed by Red's father with an axe, then cut open to release the entirely uninjured pair.  The grandmother was "still alive but very weak".

Thankfully, she is soon put back to bed and given some cake and wine, so all's well that ends well.

Except for the wolf.  For such intelligent, wily creatures they never fare well in fairy tales.

So, what's in store for my Red Riding Hood themed workshop?

Well there's this......

Wooden Toy Theatre Cart & Wolf

I am SO pleased with this element of the workshop.  The wonderful theatre cart is the result of several weeks of collaboration with the talented (and extremely patient!) Nick Day of Treacle Lane who took my ideas and suggestions and transformed them into an amazing kit, which is exclusive to Tower House Dolls.

The cart rolls along on four wheels, pulled by a very co-operative wolf, who seems quite amenable but has a glint in his eye.  

Double doors open to reveal the interior

 The back and side are decorated with vintage illustrations

Our 'Hedd of Markitten and Komewnikashun' insisted on having her likeness on the poster advertising the Travelling Toy Theatre.

 The double doors open to reveal the interior which has panelled walls

 The roof of the theatre is removable to allow the placement of backdrops and scenery elements.  The cast of characters are double-sided and can easily be moved around the stage on their magnetic bases.
 Little Red's mother talks to the huntsman

 Meanwhile deep in the forest the wolf runs ahead of Little Red Riding Hood......

 ..... to Grandmother's cottage!

And so the story unfolds

But that's not all.   

There are several other elements to this workshop, including a little toy Red Riding Hood doll,  a vintage style fully illustrated miniature book and a facsimile of an original game from 1890.

Oh, and these, which I just finished today......

A little box with an illustrated lid....

.....opens to reveal a set of wooden puzzle blocks!

The blocks make up 6 different fairy tale scenes and come 
complete with a set of illustrations.

I had hoped to have bookings open for this session, which is scheduled for 24 October, but perhaps predictably, I've been having problems with the wolves, which have proved elusive. The wolf I have used is just perfect, in size and stance but sadly has been discontinued and is in short supply.

Small Dog, who, as regular readers will know, takes no nonsense from wolves and claims to bite the heads off them up the garden, has offered to track some down for me but in the absence of any success on her part I have resorted to the interweb.

Initially, a global search discovered a few in Italy, but my hopeful enquiries drew a blank as they'd been sold.  I've now found some in the US but only a very few and it will be touch and go whether they will all arrive in time from their various locations.  So, to cut a long story short, I can't take workshop bookings until I actually have the wolves here, just in case there's a problem, or they escape and go missing in the post.  

Feel free to register an interest in taking the workshop, but I won't be able to definitely confirm the October date for a week or so.

In the meantime however, preparations continue apace so watch this space!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

When the going gets tough......

The workroom has looked like a bomb site all day.

I blame myself.

Clearing out the area 'Under The Big Desk' seemed like a good idea at the time.

Admittedly, Under The Desk is now more or less empty.  Should she take the notion, Small Dog could now walk right under it and do laps right round the cupboard, as in days of yore.

The problem is that all the stuff from Under The Desk is now piled on top of it. 
And across the floor, and on every other horizontal surface.
I have liberated approximately 1 cubic metre of space and spread everything which had filled that space over an area of approximately 5 square metres.

However, in doing so I have rediscovered lots of 'Good Stuff' including a pack which contained some lovely vintage 50's style fabrics.

So with the workroom in complete chaos, and with nary a nanomillimetre of free space anywhere, here's a question for you.

What did Sandra do next?

A. Carry on with the task of finding homes for all the dispossessed stuff from Under The Desk.

B.  Sit on the floor and burst into tears.

C.  Quietly close the door and sneak into the kitchen for a cup of tea and a Kit Kat.

D. Sweep everything onto the floor and make some bunting.

Correct answer - D

It was a no-brainer really. 

For some reason I am completely in love with making bunting.  It's properly lined and sewn and everything.  There's something really cathartic and soothing about measuring, cutting, pinning, sewing, turning, sewing and ending up with something which evokes memories of a simpler time.

Here it is in situ in the downstairs cloakroom.

Of course having done that, the temptation then, on returning to the workroom, was to do either B or C and it was a damn close run thing I can tell you.

However,  A won out and I spent the rest of the morning, and all of this afternoon sorting out the mess I'd made while simultaneously making a mess in previously mess-free areas.

What can I say.... it's a rare and special talent.

Another discovery Under The Desk was a stash of stripwood, which should have been in the stripwood box.  However, when I dragged the stripwood box out of the cupboard the stripwood was all over the show and muddled up.  

So I had to sort it all out.
And measure it.
And label it.
And lo I did feel good......

So, the clearout continues.  Who knows what else I may discover, hidden in the recesses of the most inaccessible cupboards.  

The lost treasure of the Sierra Madre perhaps.  Or Higgs Boson's younger brother Stanley who up till now has proved even more elusive than his famous sibling.

Unless I find more tempting fabric.

When the going gets tough, the tough make bunting......

Monday, 7 September 2015

In the zone..... but not in a good way

I have finally completed all of the workshop packs for the Everything Alice one day workshop on 26th September.

Which is a cause for celebration.

So woohoo!

There are still a few bits and pieces to do for the session itself but to all intents and purposes I'm finished.

Which is why the workroom looks like a right guddle.  Admittedly, this is not an unusual state of affairs and I generally find that a bit of creative chaos is good for the soul.

However, no matter how much I try to put a positive spin on it, it's gone beyond the point where even I can defend the mess. 

Which means it's time for another sort out, clear out, reorganise and tidy up session.


I've decided to start with the area known as 'Under The Big Desk', for no other reason than I haven't been under there for a while and have absolutely no idea what I might find.  The big desk measures 1m x 1.22m so there's a lot of space underneath for 'stuff'. 
My sewing machine lives under there, as does the big box of fair stuff (lights, packaging materials, paper bags, cash box etc etc etc)  And packed in and around is all manner of other stuff too big or outlandish to fit in any of the cupboards.

It's so congested under there that I can no longer sit straight on to my side of the desk as there's no room for my feet.  I have to sit sort of sideways and put my feet up on top of the sewing machine cover.


I know *shamefaced look*

That is clearly a ridiculous state of affairs and needs to be rectified toot sweet.

Here's what it looks like right now, before I start hoiking stuff out.

That's just the front bit.  It continues in a similar vein at the sides and back.  I'm going to have to get right under there and I'm a bit worried that there might be a secret portal to an alternative dimension as stuff regularly disappears under there, never to be seen again.

Perhaps I should tie a bit of rope around what I fondly call my waist and get Small Dog to hold the other end, in case I need to be pulled out.

However, as I was discussing this with her she pointed out that she was due her post-lunch mid-afternoon pre-dinner nap so I was on my own.


It has occurred to me that this is just the kind of scenario that used to crop up on The Twilight Zone.......