Monday, 29 February 2016

Forward planning.....

With another birthday looming on the horizon, and the prospect of being able to semi-retire in the next few years, I've been giving some thought to what remains of my working life.

I've been making dolls and miniatures since 1988... that's 28 years, and I'd like to complete at least 30 years before I hang up my dollmaking apron.  So, while Tower House Dolls won't be closing its doors just yet, I certainly feel as though I'm on the home straight.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you will know that nothing galvanises me quite like a deadline.  I still have lots of things I want to do, but I'll have to prioritise if I'm to have any chance of completing my work-related bucket list.

To this end, I've decided to stop taking commissions, as of now.  I will, of course complete all outstanding commissions, which will probably take me through to the summer.

Then there's my 'work bucket list'.  I have entire notebooks full of random ideas, cuttings and illustrations from books and magazines, collected over the past 27 odd years and that's before considering my many, many Pinterest boards.  There's no way I can ever hope to make all of them but I'm going to select my very favourites and work towards making them a reality.  

Finally, I'm going to implement a Rule of Ten in relation to kits.  I really enjoy devising and designing them and I've calculated that over the years I've created well over 200 different kits.

Yes, I'm amazed too!

Some of my 'bucket list' miniatures will be available as kits, but I'm only ever going to make just ten of each.  It's a nice round number and is eminently manageable without my losing the will to live.  I want to begin downsizing my copious toymaking supplies and my lovely collection of fabrics and trimmings and producing a limited number of different kits seems like the way to go.

From now on, I plan to concentrate on fulfilling some of my work ambitions.... time is running out so it's now or never.  In a way it will be like reclaiming my love of the hobby, which is where it started all those years ago.  Anyone who turns their hobby into a business will identify with the adage that when your hobby becomes your job, it stops being your hobby.  Time and space to work on your own projects simply evaporates in the face of the constant pressures of earning a living from a small business.

It feels as if I'm coming full circle......  

Sunday, 21 February 2016

CMW Workshop bookings now LIVE!

Bookings for the CMW Workshop event in October have gone live this weekend.

Details of my workshops can be found HERE, and for further information and photos, please visit my blog post HERE.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Puppy love.........

Scene: Early morning. Daylight, but only just.  My slumbers are interrupted by the sudden arrival of four small, pointy feet, planted firmly on my chest.

Me: *blearily* Urghblergh.... whatshappnin?

Small Dog: *brightly* Happi Vallintyns Dai!!!!!

Me: *sleepily* Oh for dog's sake!  What time is it?........errmm, happy Valentine's Day Small Dog.

A pause, during which I feel her stare boring into me.

Me: *cautiously opening one eye*  Yes?

SD: *flirtatiously*  Kissy kiss?

Me: *involuntarily recoiling from the onslaught of dog breath*  Errm. No, you're alright.

SD moves her paws so that they're strategically placed on points of maximum pain.

Me: If you could see your way clear to removing your stiletto heels from my solar plexus I'd be much obliged.

SD settles down beside me and I slip back to sleep. After a few minutes she puts her Cold Wet Nose on my shoulder, jerking me into wakefulness.

Me: *testily* What?

SD: *oblivious* So, whott ar we doen todai?  Wokk along the seefrunt.  Gude sniffens?

Me: *vainly attempting to reset my snooze button*  Hmm... yes.  Probably.

SD: *settling herself comfortably into the hollow of my arm*  Ai eckspekt weer haven a speshul dinnur tonite.  Whott with itt beein Vallintyns Dai and evrithing.

Me: *non committally*  Mmmmmm.

SD:  *hopefully* Stake.  Ar wee haven stake?

Me: *barely conscious* Mmmmmm.

Deft application of Cold Wet Nose shocks me into wakefulness.

Me: Wossat?

SD:*ponderously*  Stake.  Ar. Wee. Haven. Stake?

Me: *resignedly* Yes.  Yes we're having steak.

SD: *warming to her theme*  Ah... ai thott so.   Shattowbreeyond?  Pheelaymeengnong?

Me:  Sirloin

SD: *taken aback*  Sirrloyn?  Knott evin fillit?  Sirrloyn?

Me: It was on special in Tesco.

SD: *witheringly* On speshul in Teskoe?  Hardlie Foretnum and Maisun is itt?

Me: Beggars can't be choosers.  The trouble with you Small Dog, is that you have champagne tastes on an Irn-Bru budget.

Silence...... during which I slip back to sleep.

SD: *hopefully*  Soss?

Me: *sigh* Pardon?

SD: *doggedly* Soss.  Ar wee haven soss with the stake?  As yue kno ai amm a bitt of a goormond and ai do liek a nise soss.  

Me: *wide awake now*  Is that right?

SD: *elaborating* Ho yuss.  Ai am a dogg of dissernen taist.  So this soss..... Dyeanne?  Bernyais?  Bloo Cheez?  Redd wyn?  Joo?

Me: *yawning* Peppercorn actually.

SD: *dubiously* Peppurkorn?  Duz it hav bitts in itt?

Me: I'll give you three guesses.

SD: Yore knott taken this seeryuslie ar yue?

Me: *bowing to the inevitable* Well, thank you Small Dog.  I am now wide awake at not quite stupid o'clock.  I suppose I might as well get up.

SD: *settling down in my warm spot in the bed.... yawning* mite hav a littul nap.  Waik me upp when itts tym fore brekkfast.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

How to get organised......

Small business owners are multi-tasking ninjas.  On a daily basis we juggle no end of disparate tasks, from packaging orders to dealing with invoices, from planning new products to sourcing and ordering supplies, from marketing to website administration..... the list is endless.

However, all of these tasks are made immeasurably easier if you're not spending large chunks of time looking for stuff.  Especially stuff you had just a few minutes ago.

If I had a pound for every hour I've spent searching for stuff, I'd be relaxing by the side of an azure sea right now, somewhere in the Caribbean, sipping a glass of something chilled, without a care in the world.


However, in the absence of a 'lost stuff fairy' I have to accept that I have nobody to blame but myself.  Most of the time I muddle through, acutely aware of the time I'm squandering, but powerless to take the steps necessary to sort it all out.

My organisation in the workroom isn't toooooo bad.  I have a rough idea of where everything is and can normally nail down the location of stuff to within a specific cupboard or shelf area. Frustratingly, this works particularly well with stuff I haven't used for ages but tends to fall down with stuff I had in my hand just 10 minutes ago.  

Why this should be I have no idea.  

I expect it's something to do with the space-time continuum.  I firmly believe that my workroom is riddled with teeny weeny little black holes.  Stuff gets sucked into them in one place, then spewed out again in a completely different place.  That's my theory and I'm sticking to it, until there is definitive proof to the contrary.

But at least in the workroom the stuff I'm looking for has a real, physical presence.  Granted most of it is small but it does actually exist.  The same cannot be said for stuff in my laptop, which exists in an airy-fairy virtual way... a bit like a miasma.

Over the past almost 20 years, since buying my very first laptop, I've transferred work files and photos from one machine to the next, gradually integrating them into the new laptop. With each successive machine I start off with what I hope will be an efficient, intuitive filing system but within a short time it defaults to my normal modus operandi of chucking everything into one catch-all folder, fully intending to sort it out 'later'

This has resulted in a maze of files and folders, many of them redundant and long out of date.  From time to time I have a major clearout for as long as my enthusiasm lasts, which, to be scrupulously honest, usually isn't very long, as there's nothing like re-organising a filing system for sapping your will to live. 

On occasions, I fantasise about setting up a brand spanking new filing system, one which will enable me to find the exact file I'm looking for without having to trawl through dozens of folders with almost identical names/contents.  Predictably, that never happens.

I spent about an hour earlier, looking for a folder which I know is somewhere in there.  I did all the usual searches but it wouldn't show up.  I can only assume the completely memorable name I devised isn't as memorable as I hoped.  Or I've made a spelling mistake.  Or, horror of horrors, I've somehow deleted it.

I still haven't found it by the way.

So what better way to spend a cold, wet mid-February Saturday afternoon than taking a good run at re-organising my filing system?

I've spent several hours at it and have managed to partially re-organise ONE FOLDER.
At this rate I'll be finished sometime in 2025.  If only I'd stopped to think, way back in the late 1990s, with my virgin first laptop.  If I'd just taken a few hours to plan a workable system, instead of just setting up random folders on a completely ad hoc basis.

But I didn't.  

Buggrit.  Buggrit.  BUGGRIT!

The task is now Sisyphean.  Which gives me some comfort as I know it's impossible before I even begin, so abject failure is to be expected.  However, I still feel as though I should take a punt at it.  I've even gone so far as to download this handy planner, which I've filed on my desktop under 'Filing. Do It.'

It promises to help me completely re-organise my computer files in three weeks.


Yeah, right.  

I've already fallen at the first hurdle..... Day 1 - Create an easy to use system to organise your computer's folders.  There are handy tips for doing this....'choose an organisation system that works for you', and 'stick to this method in the future as you add more files and folders'.

Simples.   *sigh*

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Industrial relations.......

Despite being a 'no show' at this month's Tower House Dolls management meeting, our erstwhile 'Hedd of Markitten and Komewnikashun' also known as Small Dog, is on the warpath and threatening industrial action.

The spurious reason for this?

It has come to Small Dog's attention that Felix, the station cat at Huddersfield has had a promotion to Senior Pest Controller, a position which comes with a uniform and name badge.

What follows is a rough transcript of our 'discussion' this morning.

SD: *belligerently* I will be goen on stryk unles mai deemands ar met.

Me: And good morning to you too.  What demands?

SD:  Ai deemand a speshul yewniform AND a naim baj.

Me:  Hmmm.  Duly noted.  Anyway, you're management.  Management can't go on strike.

SD:  Who sais?

Me:  It's obvious.  Managers can't join unions.  Only members of the work force.

SD: Thatts bolox.  Ai am entytld to withholed my labur if ai hav a ligitimitt greevans.

Me.  Hmmm.  I could take issue with the whole 'witholding of labour' thing, seeing as you don't actually do anything.

SD:  How VERI DAYR YUE!  Ai amm a wurkhors.  Evin when ai am haven a napp my brane is churnen with ideeyas.  Ai amm totallie a ideeyas dog.

Me: *sigh*  You'll be telling me next that you completely espouse the struggle of the proletarian working classes against their evil masters who strive to subjugate them through the attrition of endless labour.

SD. *emphatically* Ecksaktlie. 

*looking doubtful* Probablie.  
Eniwai, this isent abowt wurk, its abowt mai kondishuns of emploimint.  

Me:  I don't recall you signing a contract of employment, so in fact.....

SD: *interrupting, shoutily*  AI AMM HEDD OF MARKITTEN AND KOMEWNIKASHUN!!!! Ai deserv a yewniform AND a naim baj.

Me: Look.  I hear what you're saying.  You want recognition commensurate with your status within the management structure.  I totally get it.

SD: Ar yue taken the pis?

Me:  Heaven forbid.  No, I do agree with you.  In fact, I've had our Design Director draw up a sample of the style of uniform which we feel best suits your undoubted creative flair and chutzpah.

SD: *suspiciously*  Hootspa.  Is thatt gude?

Me: It's excellent.  Allow me to present.... your new uniform!

SD: *speechless*

Me: Look!  It's got a hat and everything!  Plus your name and job title initials embroidered onto the fabric.  Tassels.  Pom-poms. And the colours really suit you.  What's not to like?

SD: *defeated* Ai am kompleetlie waistid in this plais.  *muttr, laffen stok, grumbl, industryal trybewnul, growl, konstruktiv dismisil...... *

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Oh lordy......

It's happened again.

I was hoping I could hold out until the weekend but despite my best efforts I've had to give in and set to.

I don't even notice it happening until it reaches an event horizon and I threaten to fall into the black hole that is....... The Workroom. *cue dramatic 'da, da DUM! music*


Yes, I know.

I have nobody to blame but myself.

But in the throes of creative endeavour I simply forget about everything except what I'm working on, and as more and more boxes litter the floor, and bits and pieces colonise every inch of the worktops and desk I carry on until I can't.

As of 10 minutes ago the event horizon was breached.  There is now not a single scrap of free space anywhere.  Granted I have managed to leave a little winding path from the door, between all the boxes but I've run out of places to put anything.

Small Dog came wandering in earlier, looking for a place to sit and observe.  She walked through the path, piles of boxes towering over her on either side, failed to find a suitable spot then gave a 'huff' and hurried out, throwing me a pitying glance over her departing shoulder.

If you have the stomach for it, here's a guided tour.......

This is the view which greets you as you enter.  The worktop is completely covered and there are drifts of stuff lapping against the cupboards and bookshelf.

Moving on.....

On the floor, boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff.

More stuff climbs up the walls, threatening to engulf my little cabinet of toy animals.

The worktop area at the end of the room is where 'work in progress' is kept but as you can see, things have got rather out of hand........ *ahem*

And my desk......

What can I say?  This has got to be right up there as one of the top 10 worst messes EVER!  
If I wasn't so ashamed I might be feeling proud.  

So it's no good.  I simply can't continue in this unholy guddle so I'm going to roll up my sleeves and make a start on restoring order.  Who knows what I might find... Atlantis, the lost treasure of Sierra Madre, Shergar?

That's the rest of my working day spoken for then........ *sigh*

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

For sale on Etsy......

It's been AGES since I listed any of my miniatures on Etsy but this morning I received a promotional email from them,  giving me a gentle nudge.

I had a bit of a falling out with Etsy a while back, when they removed Doll's House Miniatures from their categories, forcing miniature artisans to use the Art & Collectibles category instead.   However, they seem to have seen sense as the miniatures category has been reinstated.

Sooooo...... throughout the dreary, dismal month of February I will be listing a different item each week (or until they have sold) at a 25% discount.

First up is this little cutie.......

I made her only recently, using the last tiny piece of a beautiful burgundy and green shot silk for her bustled jacket, so she can't be repeated.

She comes in a bespoke box with illustrated lid

She measures a diminutive 1  3/4" tall

She is also supplied with a signed certificate of authenticity.

For full details, or to buy, please visit my Etsy Shop.