Wednesday, 24 June 2020

June Online Show....

Doesn't time fly... ?  It seems like no time at all since I was gearing up for the May Mini Miniature Show and here we are at the June show already.

I set myself a target of having exclusive new kits ready for each show during the lockdown, and although it's been a challenge, I've managed thus far, with different themes for each.

This time I've created 5 new kits, all on a theme very close to my heart..... tiny dolls.

First up.....

Kit includes 3 assorted precision cut printed dolls on wooden block

During lockdown I've been working on some new dolls for my book and these little printed dolls on colour-matched blocks showcase just some of them.  The dolls are precision cut and double-sided, mounted on little Mignonette doll blocks... I'm using them as a display in my doll shop but they would look lovely in a toy shop window, or in a doll's house nursery.  There are 9 different colours and the kits will contain 3 assorted dolls.  On orders of more than one kit I will ensure that colours are not repeated.


Vintage Board Game with tiny dolls, dice and box
Another kit in my vintage board game range.  The tiny dolls are cleverly magnetised so that they can be moved around the board without falling over! 

Boxed Antique Paper Dolls Kit
This kit includes two Tete Jumeau paper dolls and a selection of gorgeous costumes, plus a teeny weeny doll and costumes, all in a storage box with illustrated lid.

Boxed Vintage Postcards Kit
A kit to make a boxed set of 12 double sided vintage photographic postcards featuring children with their dolls. 

Set of 4 mini doll-themed books
Finally, as set of four doll themed illustrated books which are scaled for doll's house children.

These kits, plus ALL the previous lockdown kits are now available on my dealer page HERE

Phew, it's been a bit of a scramble this month and my final flurry of activity today has coincided with the hottest day of the year so far! So I'm off now for a lie-down in a hopefully cooler room with a glass of something chilled. Cheers! 

Monday, 15 June 2020

Lockdown life....

Throughout lockdown, I have been revisiting languishing projects, completing some, developing others.

With no other calls on my time than work, I have eschewed my traditional procrastination methods, and have instead cracked on, working wonders in the workroom.

My main efforts have been dedicated to my book project, and over the past 12 weeks or so, it has taken a different turn and seems to have developed a life of its own.  Every day I have epiphanies over various aspects, which is, of course, why it has never approached completion.  It's been impossible to nail down.

That said, I've actually been enjoying the process, rather than stressing about it.  Over the years I've imposed no end of deadlines for finishing it, so I'm not doing that any more.  It's enough for me to simply enjoy the act of creation.

Long time readers will know that it's a 'how to' book on making little toy dolls, which has undergone several iterations over the years. I have kept the very early versions on file, and revisiting them recently has demonstrated that it would have been a monumental mistake to have published them.  

The current version is by far the most enjoyable, particularly as I've interwoven the 'how to' chapters with a fictional element.  No idea whether or not it 'works' but I'm having fun and that's the main thing.

As the 'story' unfolds, I'm being taken down no end of scenic highways and byways, researching historical facts and testing various hypotheses.  This morning, for example, I ended up on the Thomas Edison National Historical Park website, following the trail of a particular photograph.  The museum is based in New Jersey, and due to Covid-19 is currently closed.   Contacting them isn't a straightforward matter.  Despite an extensive list of ways to write, telephone or fax, there is no email option.

I can't help thinking that Mr Edison would have lobbied strongly for the inclusion of that universal, simplest, most instantaneous method of communication.

Undaunted, I continued down the rabbit hole, and fetched up on their FB page, where I left a message with my question.  Whether or not it is monitored, I don't know.  I considered leaving a message on their Twitter feed, but it has an abandoned feel, with only 3 published Tweets in the past year.  

If I don't hear anything in the next few days I'll have to resort to the mode of communication which Edison spent his life attempting to supercede..... I'll have to write a letter, print it, put it an envelope, find a stamp and take it to the postbox, from where it will be collected and taken to a local hub, before making its way to an international mail hub, loaded onto a plane and flown 3,500 miles over the North Atlantic, where it will repeat the process in reverse, eventually landing on a mat in the museum in New Jersey.

All to find the answer to a question which should take minutes.

Mr Edison will be turning in his grave.....

Thursday, 11 June 2020

It ends in tears.....*

Life seems to follow an inevitably cyclical course.  I'm not talking about the *wake,eat,work,eat,sleep* daily cycle, so much as those things that keep coming up with monotonous regularity, but still seem to catch you unawares.

I've blogged several times over the years about my love-hate relationship with a vital tool in my workroom.... the steam iron.

As with most relationships, it begins with the heady days of head-over-heels love.  
Each morning I practically dance into the workroom, looking forward to smoothing sumptuous silks with the gleaming newcomer.... it's pristine, glimmering soleplate full of promise of things to come.

Predictably, over time, the relationship cools. 
We both make mistakes.
I inadvertently touch it to the wrong side of a piece of vilene.  It carelessly scorches a costly piece of fabric.

There are recriminations, apportioning of blame, feelings of guilt.

Eventually, we are barely even on speaking terms.  
It sighs with disdain, spluttering gouts of scale-laden steam onto my padded ironing board.
I glower, huffily cleaning up the mess, muttering under my breath about age-related incontinence.

However, as with most relationships, it's difficult to resolve the ingrained difficulties.  Even more difficult to abandon a true love.  Better the devil you know....

Its once frictionless soleplate is battle scarred with deposits of ancient glue and melded-on vilene.  
There are scratches... the result of accidentally running over pins.
The laughably named 'non-stick' coating is worn round the edges, revealing bare metal beneath.
Its vent holes are rimed with scale, and its steam no longer purrs, but explodes in great bouts of uncontrollable coughing, startling us both.

Finally, there is a showdown.  One frazzled seam too far.

No longer will a wipe with a soapy cloth suffice.  Neither will any of the household remedies for restoring iron soleplates.

Salt, vinegar, baking powder paste... none have any noticeable effect.
Moving up the chemical scale... nail varnish remover, isopropyl alcohol.  Still no improvement.
We've almost reached the end of the line.  We both know it. 
We've reached the point of no return... It's time for one last ditch attempt to heal our fractured union.

After half an hour of sustained scrubbing, rinsing and more scrubbing, the worst of the accumulated accretions have been removed and only the most stubborn and intractable remain.

However, victory comes at a cost and we both know it will be short-lived.  The surface no longer gleams... it is dull and lifeless.  

Full of remorse, I gently clean out the vent holes with a damp cotton bud, hoping to improve its steaming ability.  In response, drops of water form, like tears, to overflow and roll down the surface.

My iron is crying and I suddenly feel conscience-stricken, so sorry for all the harsh words and actions which have passed between us. 

I lightly mist the surface with a silicone spray, hoping to smooth and repair.  Tentatively I switch it on to do a test, trusting it with a piece of very special silk, which I've been keeping for a very special little doll.

There is an initial splutter, and I hesitate, holding back, but it quickly resolves to a gentle hiss of steam.  Encouraged I tentatively touch the soleplate to my precious silk.  It glides across the surface, smoothing the creases.  Not perhaps as speedily and efficiently as when it was new, but gliding nonetheless.

We are reconciled and my elderly steam iron lives to press another day.

*I think the lockdown might be having a serious impact on my mental health*

Saturday, 6 June 2020

All fired up......

After what has felt like months of fine weather, with wall-to-wall hot, sunny days and balmy nights, this weekend we finally have wind and rain.  

Our lawn, never lush at the best of times has become a crispy, brown carpet, with only the weeds still flourishing.  

Last weekend I spent hours potting up several dozen plug bedding plants, which I'd ordered back in March when the lockdown began, fondly imagining a riot of colour all over our patio during the summer months.  When they arrived late last month, the entire collection fitted into a slender A4 box, and the plants themselves were millimetres high.  

Undaunted we made 78 pots using newspaper, and the tiny plants were carefully bedded in compost.  Each morning I put them out on the patio, mostly in the shade to protect them from the blistering heat, then each evening I tucked them carefully away in an outdoor cabinet, to protect again rogue frosts, and the depredations of slugs. I watered them carefully and watched over them, willing them to do well.

Despite my motherly concern, quite a lot of them died.  Some of the survivors were shrivelled and stunted, but grimly hung on, seemingly for spite.

By last weekend, when I judged that the threat of frost was over, and in a last ditch attempt to save the survivors, I planted them out in pots, adding fertiliser pellets and watering them assiduously.  

Over the past week I've hovered over them, checking their progress and hoping that they would forge ahead, freed from the constraints of their tiny pots.  So far, so good.  They all appear to be growing and some of the more thug-like specimens are thriving.  I'm cautiously optimistic that over the coming weeks they might even flower.

PP has taken a more practical approach to horticulture and has transformed a languishing bed into a vegetable patch, and utilised two large storage containers into beds for peas and beans further up the garden.  After a slow start, her plants, which have almost all been grown from seed, are growing fast.  It's a tiny veg patch so we won't be anywhere near self-sufficient, but we're looking forward to some homegrown salad and vegetables later in the summer.

The sudden drop in temperature has spurred me to wheel my kiln into the dining room and prepare to do a series of firings.  I've had several boxes of greenware doll parts ready to soft-fire since last year, along with dolls to soft-clean, and more which have been bisque fired and awaiting china painting.   I haven't counted them all but there do seem to be a lot.  Which has propelled me into a decision which I've been putting off for ages.

When I've completed all of the firings (which will take several months over the summer) I'm going to sell my remaining molds, dollmaking equipment and my lovely kiln.  I think that the dolls, when finished, will keep me going for the next year or so, after which I'll no longer be a dollmaker.

Despite tentatively working towards this retirement goal for some time, it's still a bit scary.  This is what I've done for over 30 years, and I've mostly loved every minute of it.  But if the last three months of lockdown have engendered anything resembling an epiphany, it's that life is fleeting and incredibly fragile.  A simple virus has snuffed it out in over 40,000 people here in the UK, in just three months.  We need to stop putting off doing the things we really want to do and enjoy the time we have left.

So, the timer is now counting down and I'm feeling almost optimistic.