Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Sight for sore eyes.....

Had my post-op eye check up and sight test last Thursday.  The operated-on eye has healed nicely and the new lens is sited perfectly.  So all good there.  

The other eye however, is struggling, and as a result I have been referred back to the opthalmic surgeon to have it done too.   I will probably have to wait several months for a date for the surgery though, and in the meantime I really need to be able to work, so as an interim measure I'm having new glasses for close work, which should hopefully be ready to collect later this week.

Since the op, although I haven't been able to do anything creative,  I have been gainfully employed with general admin and website stuff, as well as sorting through my stock boxes and re-organising things.  I've made some progress on the three project kits, which I'm hoping will be ready before Christmas, and in order to kick-start my return to full-time work I've booked to exhibit at the September Mini Miniature Show, which runs from 15-19.

So... less than a fortnight to completely re-jig my dealer page.... no pressure there then. 

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Selling platforms suck......

While I've been unable to do anything miniaturely creative, I've been catching up with admin and doing the eleventy billion work-related things which I don't normally have time for.

One of the outstanding items on my To Do list from last year (yes....and the award for procrastination goes to...... ) is to list my book on Amazon.  It's been available on the website since its publication last November, and since then I've had a few fruitless attempts to create an Amazon listing.  Why do they make it so damn difficult?  I only want to list ONE ITEM, but for the past few days I've been jumping through endless hoops to no avail. 

My seller account was dormant, so I re-activated it.

The credit card associated with my seller account was invalid, so I updated it.

I had to re-verify who I was, where I was and that I had a boney fido business account, so I re-verified.

However, it still won't let me create a listing and I'm all out of patience.

Back in the day, I used Amazon to sell books from my own private collection.  The process, although lengthy, was fairly straightforward.  Ditto Ebay and Etsy, where I sold my own miniature creations.   Admittedly I haven't used any of those selling platforms for several years, but exactly when in the interim did they become so impenetrably difficult to negotiate?

However the main bugbear is the fees structure, which is positively labyrinthine, and seems designed solely to strip every last penny of profit from sellers.

Here's a handy pocket guide to Amazon selling fees.

For individual sellers, they charge a flat fee of 75p per item sold,  Plus a referral fee, which varies depending on what you're selling.  For books it's 15.3% which seems a lot.

If you use Amazon Fulfillment, where the company stores your inventory and despatches it for you, they charge for those services too. 

Then there's a myriad of other charges, depending on what additional services you want or need.

As an individual seller you can't set your own shipping rates, and on checking the actual costs of shipping to each zone , I discovered that I will be losing money on every book I post.  Which means I have to increase the cost of the book simply to break even.  I don't ever make a penny on packaging/shipping charges, but I certainly don't expect to be out of pocket. 

Which just makes you wonder how on earth you're supposed to make a profit!

In any case, my seller account is currently sulking and won't let me list anything, so I'll just have to wait till it decides what to do. 

Monday, 9 August 2021

Eye rolling emoji......

Any novelty caused by not being able to work pending my eyesight disparity being resolved has waned considerably.  With two weeks still to go until my post-op assessment, I'm in a no-man's-land of wonky vision which has rendered miniature work impossible.  I have tried, but apparently, decent binocular vision is mandatory for doing really tiny stuff.

Who knew?

The best I can manage at the moment is further sorting out my workroom, and planning/making lists.  Also trying to make inroads into my admin, which is a sisyphean task.  My filing system can best be described as 'chaotic', and I rarely ever get to the bottom of the teetering pile of papers atop my desk in the office.   So while actually making anything is out of the question, I've been trying to detox my desk and generally get rid of all the extraneous clutter.  I mean, who really needs THREE pots full of pens and pencils?

Also the planning thing.  Back in spring I thought I'd be well advanced on planning for the kits I want to make.  Of course then, I didn't know that I'd be out of commission for the best part of two months while the eye thing is sorted, so I've kind of faffed about, tinkering round the edges... making progress, slowly.  But it's already August, and I should have my pre-Christmas kits underway if they're going to be completed in time.

Then there's the website which needs a thorough tidy up and re-organisation.  I'm always blaming lack of time for tackling that, but suddenly, although I have oceans of the stuff, I'm constantly finding reasons not to do it.

Which is obviously simply not good enough.

So today I'm absolutely, definitely going to make a start.


Thursday, 22 July 2021


I had my cataract surgery on Monday, as planned.  I have to say, although it was mostly painless (the THREE injections into my eye beforehand to paralyse it were 'uncomfortable' rather than painful) it most certainly wasn't my idea of fun.  I could 'see' the various instruments inside my eye as the surgeon was working, which was really disconcerting.  Thankfully it was over relatively quickly, and my eye was bandaged and covered with a rather fetching protective plastic guard.

After 4 hours I had to remove the eye guard and instill the steroid/antibiotic drops. The eye had been bleeding and was completely bloodshot on one side.... think zombie crossed with vampire.  Not a good look. 

I'm now three days on and slowly coming to terms with my new visual landscape.  Initially, my vision in the operated eye was very cloudy, but it's clearing now, and sure enough, for the first time in my life, I can see things in the distance without my glasses.  However, as predicted, if I wear my glasses I can't see with the new eye, and if I don't, I can't see with my old eye, although it's good for close distance.

This visual mismatch is making me feel dizzy, queasy and disorientated, and I'm alternately covering one eye or the other, depending on what I need to see.  My depth perception is all skew-whiff and flat surfaces look alternately concave or wavy/wiggly.  The surgeon had said that my brain might compensate in time, but I don't think it's got that message yet.  I suppose you need to have a reasonable degree of brain 'plasticity' to overwrite neural pathways, and knit two such different visual fields together.

The operated eye is extremely light sensitive, so I've been lurking in the twilight of darkened rooms, away from the blinding sunshine, donning sunglasses when I have to step outside into the unaccustomed heat, now that summer has finally decided to put in an appearance.

Work isn't on the agenda this week.  I was hoping to get back to it today, but after 30 minutes trying to thread a needle using only my good close vision eye I abandoned the attempt as I obviously need both eyes to work in harmony.  There are myriad other things I could be getting on with, but the heat is both searing and energy-sapping so I'm going to call it a day and retreat to the coolest spot I can find.

Thankfully the temperature is forecast to start dropping tomorrow, so I might get out of sloth mode over the weekend. 

Stay cool if you can....... 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

The eyes have it.....

I'm going to be working like a demon this week, clearing my desk of all outstanding orders and one interesting commission, which is very nearly finished.

Yes, yes...... I know I said I wasn't taking any more commissions, but this one was serendipitous and interesting and, for once, I actually knew where to find all the bits I needed for it.

The reason for all this activity is that next Monday I'm having surgery to remove cataracts from my left eye.  My vision has been getting increasingly blurred and hazy over recent months and after tests and scans, I was approved for the surgery, which has been scheduled really quickly, considering the current situation.  It helps that it will be done in a dedicated specialist opthalmic department in a small local day hospital, relatively isolated and insulated from the chaos wreaked by Covid.

I've been told that it will take a few days, perhaps longer, until my vision in that eye settles down.  Having been shortsighted since childhood and having had to wear glasses since I was 5, I was amazed when told that I would likely no longer need glasses for distance, although, perversely, I would need them for reading/close work.  Four weeks post-surgery I will see an opthalmic optician, to asses the other eye and test my vision in the 'new' eye.

In recent years, as my near vision has deteriorated, I've worn varifocal lenses, with zones for far, middle and near distance.  I'm confused that post surgery, the distance vision in my left eye should be perfect, but I will still have to wear glasses for my right eye.  And my current pair won't be correct for the operated eye, so I'll be in the weird position of not being able to see properly with my glasses through the left lens.  But if I take them off, then I won't be able to see properly with my right eye.   Plus I'm also going to have to wear reading glasses for my left eye.


Hopefully,  at the subsequent optician appointment, I will be assessed as needing to have the other eye done too, despite the cataracts not being so bad, purely to balance out my vision.

Inevitably this will have a knock-on impact on my work in the intervening period, as I need good close vision.  With that in mind I may be unable to do some of the more intricate stuff... I'll just have to wait and see..... no pun intended.

Also this.....

Monday, 21 June 2021

History in print.....

As a result of my recent excavations in the workroom, I've unearthed a treasure trove of historical documents, stretching back several decades to the late 1980s.

I've always produced and printed all my own materials, from catalogues to workshop programmes and instruction booklets

Before the internet and email, I had to print my catalogues and send them in the post to customers.  These are just a few of the ones I produced over the past 30+ years.  Back in the day I made a huge variety of 1/12th dolls and kits, each one of which was described in my catalogues. 

In 208 I was accepted to teach workshops over two days at the prestigious Kensington Dollshouse Festival.  I still have the little doll I designed.... she's currently in La Migonette.

A selection of newsletter from past years. This was the only way to keep my students and customers informed about new classes, workshops and dolls.

A few of the leaflets advertising my very first workshops after moving from Tower House. Relocating the business and getting it going again was a very stressful time, but fortunately many of my students followed me from Kent to East Sussex.

Over time, my workshop projects became more and more ambitious.  This one, to make a Victorian Toy Shop was particularly elaborate and featured a wooden box which opened to reveal a toy shop setting full of toys and dolls. 

I generally taught one or two workshop sessions a month, and produced bi-annual programmes with details of the dolls and projects.

Another programme featuring a particularly ambitious doll which students completed in one day!  The amount of preparation involved was intense.... from cutting out costume pattern pieces in advance, to hand pleating miles of ribbons and lace.  Although she looked daunting to achieve in one day, I carefully worked out all the timings in advance and every student took home a finished doll!  

Latterly, my website has served as a catalogue, and I haven't produced a printed version for many years.  Similarly, workshops, projects etc have all been announced online, which has been so much easier, quicker and cheaper.

I must admit though, when looking through all the many leaflets and booklets from over so many years, I do feel nostalgic.

Looking back, I also feel very proud of my small business, which has endured for over 30 years, and which I've enjoyed enormously, despite all the hard work and occasional stress and worry involved. 

As I head towards my retirement I have so many happy memories of working in a field which I love.... from the scores of shows I've attended, to the hundreds of workshops I've taught, both in person and virtually, over three decades.  I've met lovely people, who share my passion for miniatures, and some have become firm friends over the years.  Similarly, I have known other artisans, well-known in their own fields, and collaborated in projects with several.

Quite what the lasting effect of the Covid pandemic will have on miniatures generally, remains to be seen.  In recent years, the hobby has contracted significantly.... specialist 'bricks and mortar' shops have closed in favour of selling online, shows and fairs have been badly hit, having been in decline.  Many of my artisan colleagues, of a similar vintage, have already retired, or will be retiring in the near future, and there don't seem to be enough new artisans coming in to take their place.

Ever smaller scales are becoming increasingly popular, and although I class my little dolls as 1/24th, it is incredibly difficult to scale porcelain dolls down to 1/48th or smaller.

For the remainder of my miniatures career, I plan to concentrate on dolls and projects which particularly inspire me and over the next few months I will be working on a few interesting projects, which will be hopefully be available as workshop packs later in the year. 

I also need to get back to my Mignonette Doll Club project, which has been languishing for way too long.  So I need to get out of Memory Lane and back into the present!

Saturday, 19 June 2021

What a difference a few days make.....!

Happily, the shelf support plug thingys finally arrived, so I was able to re-install all the shelves after working out the exact configuration for maximising space for all the storage boxes, which flank the bureau on both sides.  

If I take all the boxes out of the bureau drawers, and put them into the bookshelves, where they fit absolutely perfectly and are immediately accessible, that will help clear a lot of the stuff which came out of the wall and base cabinets, which were sold last week. 

However, the resultant mess was a sight to behold.....

Having reached peak chaos, there was nothing else to do except work through it all and do the 'keep, recycle, sell'  thing with each item.  This starts off being difficult, and as the hours tick by, and decision fatigue sets in, it becomes much, much easier.  Lots of stuff in that pile is now in the dining room, awaiting collection by buyers and/or freecyclers.

With the space cleared, I was able to set about restoring the room to a workable state.

First we moved my cabinet bureau to the wall by the window, between the freshly painted bookshelves...

I've moved stuff into these boxes from the drawers in the base of the bureau, which are relatively inaccessible when the desk is open. 

I have installed a strip of LED lights inside the desk unit, which are powered by a USB plug and throw a lovely, bright, white light all over my working area

I treated myself to a new magnetic cutting mat, specially for the bureau desk. It will hopefully make it quicker and easier to clear off the drop-down desk by doubling as a tray! 

Elsewhere in the room, I've moved the shelves which were on the worktops into the space vacated by the cabinet, and relocated the chair.

My day nursery room box now resides on the worktop and is much easier to get to.

I've moved my table centrally between the south-facing windows, where I will get good light but not full, blinding, direct sunlight.

There are still things to sort though, and a few areas to tidy, but overall, considering how it looked a few days ago, the transformation is almost complete and I can now get back to work.

Happy days.....!