Saturday, 31 December 2016

'Twixmas... Part 2



As  the reigning Queen of Procrastination (par excellence!) I find that there is nothing quite like a deadline to galvanise me into action.

My previously discussed self-imposed April 2018 deadline (which my helpful desktop countdown calendar informs me is now 477 days away) has certainly motivated me to get on with things and in the spirit of doing just that I am spending several hours today going through my gargantuan IDEAS store in order to weed out and rationalise all of the various lists I have, scattered throughout a slew of notebooks, files on my laptop, and last, but by no means least, my Pinterest boards.

I spend A LOT of time on Pinterest.  Browsing antique dolls and vintage toy boards, carefully squirrelling away any ideas with take my fancy.  I'm very good at it, as my many thousands of careful pins can attest.

What I'm NOT so good at, is revisiting them EVER AGAIN.  So for the next few days I will be attempting to correct that omission.  

It's a bit like clearing up in the workroom though.  

I start off full of enthusiasm with the intention of methodically tackling each cupboard, sorting through the contents, binning any rubbish, then carefully categorising and packing the remaining items in a sensible, orderly fashion, so that I will henceforth know exactly what I have and, more importantly, where it is.

This enthusiasm lasts for about 10 minutes, before I get distracted by finding something I never knew I had, or something so wondrous I simply have to play with it for a while.

Several hours later I can usually be found sitting on the floor, surrounded by the contents of the aforementioned cupboard, which I then have to stuff back on the shelves, higgledy piggledy, creating a worse mess than I started with.

This is a serious flaw in my character and one I'm working hard to eliminate.  With mixed success.

Half an hour ago I got out all my 'Ideas' notebooks and sat down at my laptop to begin the transcription/organisation process.  I got as far as setting up an Excel spreadsheet, naming it IDEAS!!!!  (and yes, those four exclamation marks are absolutely necessary!) and starting to organise the first few individual worksheets.

Of course, then I decided that I just had to write a blog post to accompany the activity, so here I am.  Sitting in front of half a dozen notebooks, assorted printed sheets etc.  And instead of actually DOING the thing, I'm WRITING about it!

*sheesh*


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

'Twixmas.......

'Twixmas....... the dream-like days between Christmas and New Year spent in a fug of festive leftovers and daytime TV.  For me, it is traditionally the time to do a little forward planning and think about potential projects for the coming year.

2016 has been a rat bastard year and I don't expect anyone, except perhaps the omni-odious duo, Farage and Trump, will be sorry to see the back of it.

I'm not particularly hopeful of 2017 being much better, but aside from battening down the hatches and sitting in the understairs cupboard awaiting Armageddon, there's nowt else to do but get on with it.

As ever, this 'Twixmas I'm bemoaning my lack of progress on most of last year's projects, while still heedlessly (and hopelessly optimistically!) adding even more.

Will I ever learn?

Apparently not.

2017 will see the start of a perfect storm of life changes, as in April I will turn 59 and enter my 60th year.  I wish I could say retirement was on the cards but as I'm likely to have to work till I'm dead that's a phase of my life which appears tantalisingly close... but is in fact, frustratingly far.

People who are employed have a quite straightforward path to retirement.  They know exactly when it's going to happen, how much they are likely to receive, and when the time comes they submit the required notice period and off they pop.

Retirement planning for the self employed is a whole different kettle of fish.  It isn't just a case of switching off the lights on your way out.  Dismantling and disposing of a business takes an unconscionably long time and requires forward planning akin to the logistics of the Normandy landings.

So, here's the thing.

In the spirit of 'belt and braces' forward planning, I've put a handy-dandy countdown timer on my laptop screen, where it will bleep away the seconds, minutes, hours, weeks and months till 23 April 2018.



It's currently sitting at 480 days, which simultaneously feels a long way away... and just around the corner.

Tower House Dolls, as a business entity, has been around for 28 years.  But the clock is ticking and I'm starting to think about winding it up.

The business that is, not the clock.

30 years is a nice round number.  Pleasingly it will be half of my lifetime.  Always assuming I make it to 60, which is by no means guaranteed.

So when I am 60, THD will be 30 and will then gradually cease to exist in its current form.
As a complete, standalone business it would be impossible to sell, so it will be dismembered and its constituent parts sold off.  I have SO MUCH stuff, it will take ages.

However, till then, I'll still be working hard on transforming as many of the raw materials into magical miniatures.  Speaking of which, one of my first tasks of 2017 will be to take a complete inventory of everything in my workroom.

That's the contents of every single cupboard, shelf, storage unit, bookcase, drawer, box, file and folder.... 

If I keep at it I just might be done by the time that helpful timer hits zero. 
*sigh*



Thursday, 15 December 2016

Celebrating 10 years...!



What with all the kerfuffle in the past week, I completely overlooked the 10th anniversary of my very first post in Tales From A Toymaker!!

Yes, hard to believe isn't it.  I've been 'writing' this absolute drivel blog for ten years.

TEN YEARS!

That's a l-o-n-g time.

120 months 11 days
or 523 weeks 3 days
or 3,664 days
or 87,936 hours
or 5,276,160 minutes
or 316,569,600 seconds


*shakes head in disbelief*

According to the stats, in that time I've penned almost 1600 posts, most of which have been published, although a few still languish in 'drafts'.

It has been read in more than 100 countries and has had just over 250,000 hits!

3000 people have left (mostly kind) comments.

Small Dog has featured 754 times.  Actually I just made that bit up (the other state are genuine though) but it does feel as though she is a co-contributor.  

My blog is like an old friend, with whom I have shared my best and worst times.  My successes and failures, trials and tribulations.

Highs and lows....

I have confided some toe-curlingly embarrassingly experiences and shared my views on just about everything.

Last year I was considering pulling the plug, or at the very least putting it into cryogenic suspension, but we've limped along regardless.

Thanks to FB the volume of posts has fallen dramatically, but if I'm to keep it going then I really must commit to posting more regularly.  Even once a week would be an improvement.

For those of you who have been here from the very beginning (and I know there are a few of you) thank you for your support and encouragement over the past decade.  It's been much appreciated.

Now, I'm going to close before I come over all emotional *sniff*







Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Things that go bump in the night.....

Thanks for all the 'Get Well Soon' messages via FB and email.  It seems I have hit a groundswell of fellow feeling amongst others who have fallen foul of Norovirus.

Perhaps we should form a club... our coat of arms could feature a bucket, toilet roll, biohazard symbol and bottle of antibac gel.

Feeling incrementally better today.  At least my body has stopped trying to emulate a Karcher Pressure Washer.

Which is progress.

However, it's now doing a very good impression of 'Limp Rag Doll' with added pins and needle sensory overload thrown in for good measure.

Good old MS.... never knowingly undermined.

Anyway.... following on from my last post, and my fevered nocturnal imaginings, there have been some odd goings on upstairs.

Small Dog and I have a bedtime routine.  She waits patiently for me to do my ablutions, brush teeth etc.  I tidy up her blankies and she lies at the bottom of the bed till I get in, usually with my Kindle and evening meds.  She waits until I've taken them, and settled down to read, then she trots up the duvet and settles down by my side for strokings, before eventually heading off to her own little bed,

She has this thing she does sometimes, when she suddenly sits bolt upright and stares intently up into the corner of the bedroom, over my right shoulder.  I am always convinced she's seen a spider and glance up fearfully, ready to spring out of bed, screaming like a girl.  

There has never been anything there though (thank goodness) and I usually ascribe it to her simply pulling my leg.

Last night, after I had settled down, she suddenly sat up, jumped over me into the middle of the bed and sat with her back to me..... staring up at the top of the wardrobe.

*cue Twilight Zone theme tune*

The TV wasn't on, and there was nothing else to attract her attention.  A few seconds later, she lost interest and wandered off to her own bed, curling into a tight ball and falling fast asleep.

Sleep was rather less quick to come to me, but eventually I did nod off.

Several hours later I woke, to find my bedside light, was on.... low.  I had definitely turned it off.  Also my clock radio was flashing, the way it does when there's been a power cut.  It was odd that the light was on but I assumed I'd maybe touched it by accident in my sleep.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, PP's bedside light had also come on, although her clock radio was unperturbed.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Now.  It is entirely possible that it was down to an electrical fault, although both bedside lights run from different sockets.  We've never known them switch themselves ON before. And they must have done it at roughly the same time, as PP had awakened too.  It is beyond coincidence that we both accidentally reached across and touched them in just the right spot at the same time in our sleep.

It's a mystery.

However, putting everything together.... my fevered 'sighting', Small Dog's odd behaviour, weird electrical anomalies.... it's tempting to think that there is something strange afoot. 






Monday, 12 December 2016

Norovirus.... you don't want it

Our Christmas preparations have been put on hold while PP and I work our way through a dose of Norovirus.

As we've both succumbed simultaneously, we've had to quickly perfect a seamless bathroom relay turnaround, complete with bucket.

Yes... I know.

Too much information.

On the plus side, we're already feeling sick and bad, so synchronised vomiting isn't really an issue.  

Ditto the other end.

Yes, yes.... WAAAAY too much information.

If you've ever had Norovirus you will be nodding sagely, possibly even sympathising with our joint plight.

If you've never experienced it, you will be all about the 'EEEEWWWW'.

As well as the all too obvious symptoms, I've had aches and pains, a raging headache and in the wee, small hours last night, feeling hot and feverish, I started hallucinating.

As I drifted in and out of sleep, I thought I could see some 'thing' crawling along on top of the wardrobe.  My bedside light was on low so that I could easily negotiate the now well-worn path from bed to bathroom and out of the corner of my eye I kept catching sight of it.

A low-slung creature, lurking in the shadows behind the TV and boxes.

I toyed with the notion of switching off my bedside light, but the thought of 'it' slithering, unseen, down the front of the wardrobe, across the carpet and up onto the bed..... *shudder*

In a brief moment of lucidity, I reasoned that if there really was anything up there, Small Dog would have been going ballistic, but she hadn't budged.  I glanced down to her bed on the floor to check she was asleep.

She wasn't there.

Gone off downstairs on one of her regular nocturnal peregrinations.

Typical.... 

Anyway.... no thanks to SD, I survived the night and am feeling marginally better today. Even managed to stomach half a slice of toast and some soup which is progress, although my gastro-intestinal tract currently feels and sounds like Vesuvius.

Completely washed out too....  the summit of my ambition today has been to sofa surf daytime TV which, given the time of year, is wall-to-wall festive food.

A whole world of NO!

Hopefully, over the next few days we'll stage a careful return to eating, and may even be able to stay upright for more than 10 minutes before having to sit down and have a rest.

As we've effectively been in quarantine since it started, we're hopeful that we haven't passed it on to anyone else.  We've also been implementing forensic infection control measures, mostly involving industrial quantities of bleach, disinfectant and antibacterial gel.

Because.... trust me.....












Thursday, 17 November 2016

Tap dancing's out then.....?

I am currently hobbling around like an old granny, courtesy of slipping down the stairs  and badly spraining my foot.

Or to be more precise, my big toe.

Ouch doesn't even BEGIN to cover it!

I blame it on my new glasses, combined with general crappy balance.  I was coming downstairs yesterday morning when I misjudged where my feet were and my right foot slipped off one of the stairs.

My entire weight came crashing down on my right toe and as I grabbed for the handrail, I pivoted round, still on my toe, like a tragically inept and ungainly ballet dancer.

The nearest way to describe the sensation is A WHOLE WORLD OF PAIN!!!

It all happened so quickly, and I was so relieved not to have stacked it down the entire flight of stairs that I dismissed the pain and throbbing.  I could still wiggle my toes and flex my foot so I was reasonably confident that I hadn't broken anything.

However, as the day wore one, I experienced pins and needles, and spikes of pain, radiating up my leg.  Overnight the pain woke me up, and this morning I couldn't move my toes without excruciating pain, so we judged that a trip to A&E was probably in order...

In my slippers as I couldn't get my foot into a shoe.

Fast forward several hours and two X-rays later and happily there is no fracture.  Merely a bad sprain.

I have to try to stay off the foot and keep it raised.... as if THAT'S going to happen. 
Especially as every time I position the pouffe in front of my chair, Small Dog immediately jumps up and settles down on it, daring me to move her or try to perch my foot on one tiny corner of it.

I will likely be in 'hobble mode' for the next few days.... a cross between Mrs Overall and Baba Yaga.



Friday, 11 November 2016

What big ears you have......!



My latest kit has been a long time in the making.  I first started thinking about it 18 months ago, after discovering the image of a vintage travelling theatre cart, which was pulled by a goat.


Red Riding Hood Travelling Theatre Cart
I worked extensively with the lovely Nick Day of Treacle Lane who transformed my ideas into a perfect little 1/12th scale toy theatre cart which is exclusive to us and forms the basis of the kit.

The cart is made of wood, lavishly decorated with vintage illustrations both inside and out.



Two doors open to reveal the interior, with panelled walls and wooden floor.


The kit comes complete with a full cast of precision cut characters, including several variations of Red Riding Hood and the wolf.  Movable scenery adds a 3-dimensional effect. Scenery and characters have clever magnetic bases so that they can easily be moved around but will stay in place without falling over!





Red Riding Hood's mother talks to the woodcutter


"Walk with me....."

Grandmother's cottage.... enter the wolf!


"Oh Grandmama... what big teeth you have!"

Hurrah!


All of the precision cut characters and scenery pieces are double sided and can be stored in a pretty box....


Just a few of the character and scenery pieces.....

Externally, the cart is decorated with vintage illustrations on all sides.....


The roof is removable to allow easy access to the interior




 Last but by no means least, the cart is pulled along by a remarkably amenable wolf! 




He wears a lavishly decorated leather saddle and jewelled harness, while around his neck hangs a little golden bell on a silk ribbon.

"What big ears you have.....!"
It turns out that this particular wolf is an endangered species.  No sooner had I identified him as the perfect wolf than he was discontinued, and I had to spend several months tracking down the last of his kind on the internet in order to gather enough to produce this kit.

For this reason, this is a one-off, limited edition kit and cannot be repeated.  Available in a very limited quantity, they are now listed on the website in the new Red Riding Hood category HERE.

Also coming soon..... Little Red Riding Hood toy doll, plus vintage games and books.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Website update.....

I've been really busy over the past few days, photographing and uploading new toys and kits to the website.

Here's a sneak preview of what's available.... click on the links under the photos to go to the website listings.


Complete Kit for Parisian Toy Kiosk
Complete Kit for Toy Doll in Trunk with Accessories


Personal Accessories with Boxes (1/24th scale)

1890s Dress Up Animals Kit

Vintage Litho Pullalong Toys Kit


Set of 6 vintage litho rocking toys kit
Fairy Tale Toy Theatre Kit 




Jumeau style dressed doll's dolls


Shabby Chic doll's dolls
More to follow over the coming weeks when we re-open the Miniature Christmas shop.
Happy browsing..... 

Friday, 28 October 2016

Better late than never.... CMW debrief!

I've been very remiss in posting about the CMW event last week.  Having been working on the planning and preparation for the past 18 months, then the inevitable frantic flurry of activity in the days leading up to it, I don't really feel my feet have touched the ground since we got home.

Well... what can I say? 

The organisation, by Pat, Sue and Louise, both before and during the event was nothing short of perfect.  The new venue in the village of Eye was warm and welcoming, with plenty of space for tutors, students and their assorted paraphernalia.  

Parking was free and plentiful. 

Chairs were padded and comfortable.

The lovely ladies of Eye WI produced delicious lunches on Saturday and Sunday and there was as much tea and coffee as anyone could wish for. 

We three arrived in Cambridgeshire a day early and headed for Ferry Meadows Caravan Club Site which is probably the best campsite we've ever visited as it's sited within a large country park, with more walks than you can shake a stick at.  Small Dog gave it a firm paws up and thoroughly enjoyed a different lakeside walk every day, even spotting a heron to cross off her twitching list.

My Friday evening workshop was attended by five lovely ladies.... and one very intrepid gent.  Who only happened to be the editor of Doll's House & Miniature Scene magazine, Carl Golder.

No pressure there then! 

He happily admitted to being a complete beginner and threw himself into the class with great enthusiasm.... although his plans to 'live tweet' the session were abandoned due to glue.

Everything Alice workshop - boxed picture blocks, playset with scenery and characters and boxed paper dolls 

My group on Friday evening.... getting stuck in!
On Saturday, my most ambitious workshop, the Parisian Toy Kiosk, which had been designed in collaboration with the very personable Nick Day, of Treacle Lane.  As he was also teaching two days of workshops it was lovely to finally meet him in person, having been in email contact for almost two years.  

Four determined students arrived bright and early to make a start and worked right through the day, all completing the construction before heading home with a variety of toy kits to fill their kiosks.

Toy Kiosk kit complete will a variety of toys and games




Sunday, and the final session..... a Jumeau style toy doll in wooden trunk with accessories. So many different techniques and skills, from micro wigmaking to mini rosemaking, and all were tackled with passion and humour.  Again, everyone finished their project and a good time was had by all.

Jumeau style toy doll's doll in wooden trunk

Accessories include silk dress on hanger, silk rose posy, silk and lace hat and illustrated fan



I will admit that by the time PP collected me on Sunday afternoon I was flagging.  Back at the caravan the table was set with candles and wine and I had a lovely meal cooked for me while I put my feet up and recounted tales from the day.

It was good to see some old friends over the course of the weekend.  

I've known Janet Harmsworth, a fellow dollmaker and MS sufferer, for close to 20 years. She was attending a doll dressing workshop and we caught up on each other's news.

Sue Newstead is another friend I haven't seen for some time.  Her two Wire Haired Fox Terriers, Delphi Dog and Samos are also great friends of Small Dog, and we exchanged doggy tales over the course of her workshop session on Saturday.

Likewise, Sue Reeve, who I met online via Sue N. She also has two lovely dogs, Bosun and Blaze, whose exploits Small Dog follows on Facebook. 

So, all in all, a very enjoyable (if exhausting!) weekend, which I would strongly recommend to any miniatures enthusiast.

A few kits for all of the workshops are available now on the website!






Friday, 7 October 2016

Conundrum of the day......

OK... here's a mathematical conundrum for you.

If...

x = amount of work to do
y = effort required
z = available time remaining
q = deadline

When will the work be complete?

You can show your working but do not write on both sides of the paper simultaneously.

Done?

You can use a slide rule or calculator if you need to.

Ready now?

Well, the answer is, of course, NEVER.

I fall into the group of clearly insane task orientated people who will fill ALL of the available time, right up to the deadline and beyond.

For the past z weeks I've been head down, working steadily towards my CMW workshops which start next Friday (14 October).  The main prep for each of my sessions was mostly completed during the summer, leaving only a few bits and pieces to finish off, as and when.

But then, because I appeared to have time in hand, I decided to embark on some new kits to launch at CMW.  It started out with just one or two, but like Topsy, the task 'just growed'.  

And growed.

And growed some more.







I think I may have gone a little overboard........  

Friday, 30 September 2016

We're hiring......!

BREAKING NEWS!!!  

Here at the international HQ of Tower House Dolls (Unlimited, Amalgamated, Consolidated) we've been conducting interviews for a new apprentice position in our operations department. 

We're looking for young, enthusiastic, free-thinkers, with energy and flair.

Small Dog declined to apply, citing the fact that she already held a 'manijmint possishun' and was of more use in the 'strategy and planning' department.  

I ventured to observe that if we had a 'snoozing and napping' department she'd be a definite boon, but it fell on deaf ears.

No matter.

We did have an application from an outstanding new talent though, and she agreed to undergo a gruelling series of selection tasks yesterday afternoon.

Thoughtfully responding to probing questions

Practical test involving natural history recognition
Subject areas covered included Geography, History, English literature, Natural History, Languages, Art & Design and Numeracy and we're pleased to report that she passed with flying colours.  

We look forward to welcoming our new staff member very soon!