Sharing a love of Dolls House Miniatures - and making time for other creative crafts and the garden.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Working on New Plants for the Greenhouse

It's been a real struggle this week to concentrate on basic housekeeping jobs - who wants to iron and hoover when there are miniature plants just crying out to be created?? In an effort to find exactly the right piece of saved dried plant material, I was forced to empty and thus reorganise a BIG cupboard.....so I did actually move out, move on and dump some bits and pieces and felt quite smug.


The rather weird seed heads pictured came from a flowering plant I grew a few years  in the garden - the trouble is I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Does anyone out there recognise it? It wouldn't have been anything rare or exotic.
I've kept three or four because they fascinated me and finally found a use for one as a rather interesting mossy support for the Cheese Plant I've just made for the greenhouse.  I need a couple of large plants in the place to balance the heavily planted shelves on the back wall.


I had to rely on memory and Internet images for the cheese plant, but fortunately I have a Clivia, just flowering, so I could study that before embarking on what I hope is a passable miniature. The tiny buds are dried plant material but the flowers and leaves - as in most of my plants- are paper.


I've been working on enough different plants to fill three shelves on the back wall and apart from some titivating I'm almost there. 'Titivating'!! I love that word - reminds me of my elderly aunts titivating their summer hats with new ribbons.
My second large plant, a Strelitzia, is proving to be VERY challenging, despite the fact that I have one three feet away from me I study every day!

More next time, hopefully.
Thanks for looking
Robin

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Autumn Inspires a New Miniature Houseplant

It has certainly been chilly the last couple of weeks and damp and misty, but autumn has given us some spectacular sunsets, bright frosty mornings and wonderful autumn colour in our gardens and countryside. I've been working on my little greenhouse, and it's also given me  fabulous miniature plants.

Although we live in a fairly built-up area we are still able to appreciate some lovely sunsets, and some bright frosty mornings when the sky sparkles with tracer trails from aeroplanes.


While I know we can't compete with the glory of the N.American fall, our trees, hedgerows and garden shrubs give us enormous pleasure at this time of year.


Just outside our back door we have a Cotinus bush that gives us pleasure all year long, from the early purple foliage, through smokey flowers, to chocolate-coloured leaves and amazing auumn colour as the leaves change and fall.
I spent days looking at the gorgeous changes as the leaves coloured, then had a light-bulb moment!!!

As you know I'm quietly plant-making for my mini greenhouse, and I am so enjoying myself - proper playtime!!
It dawned on me that the Cotinus leaves resembled any number of exotic house plants....I was out there collecting leaves!!!  Scanned, reduced in scale, I had miniature exotic houseplants!


I've used real leaves in this way many times before and have always been pleased with the result...if you haven't tried, have a go.

Thanks for looking
Robin

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Indoor Gardening - the miniature greenhouse

The weather has turned decidedly chilly and damp and now our clocks have changed so that Autumn has really arrived - and maybe winter. It's curtailing outside gardening so it's time to move inside and pick up my miniatures again and make a start on the little greenhouse I mentioned before.

The fact that it has been abandoned in garages and sheds for the last couple of decades means, to my delight, that it has acquired a genuine patina of age so a minimum of 'distressing' will be necessary I think.
I've glazed the windows using acrylic packaging material and hung the doors.


We used a little old glass and brass terrarium for the inspiration and measurements and this had a mirrored back wall, which obviously won't work now. Back in the day I had different plans and my clever other half who built it for me also cut a mirror for the back.....I can't decide if I can use it for something else, or if I should just bin it.....

Anyway the lean-to greenhouse needs an old stone wall so I cut pieces of mountboard and polystyrene pizza packaging to shape and glued them together. Using a paper shaping tool it's quick and easy to 'sculpt' a stone wall which will take acrylic paint really well. I gave it a light stone base colour then gradually built up paint layers in various tones - it might get another tweaking later.
I would really have liked to cut and glue card to the wooden floor for flagstones, but there's just not enough clearance on the doors and there was no way I was going to mess with them! I think the painted flags look O.K.ish, but again nothing is finished until it's finished!!


So there we go...I've made a start. Although I've got shelf supports and shelves I'm avoiding doing anything with them until I have enough plants to go on them and I can see where to fix them to the wall  - this may take a while.
Actually this will take ages I expect!! I am determined to make a good number of plants of my own from scratch, although I'll no doubt be tempted by Georgie Steeds's (The Miniature Garden Centre) great paper kits and have once again already succumbed to another fabulous plant from Jan Southerton, The Flower Lady.


Georgie and Jan can be confident that I'm NO competition.
Jan was at a new fair in Burford last weekend organised by Little Priory Fairs. They are also hosting The Thame Dolls House and Miniature Fair on February 17th 2018  - I wish them well.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Treasures from Miniatura

Visiting a Dolls House and Miniatures Fair is always exciting isn't?  It's the thought of the as yet unseen treaures and the inspiration provided by exceptional artists ....and a little retail therapy is always fun!

Miniatura at Birmingham NEC a couple of weekends ago did all of the above.  In the last blog I featured the lovely Begonia Rex plant created by Jan Southerton, The Flower Lady and now I'll show you the other little treasures I purchased.  All the items are 1/12th scale.

Karen Cunningham's stand was a feast and it was difficult to choose just a few toys I suddenly decided I needed for for a project that has been only an idea up to now...... the little vehicles are by Klaas Schultz.


I actually went to the show with only two small purchases planned - some shelf  brackets for the greenhouse and a beautiful stoneware bottle from Elisabeth Causeret I'd seen at KDF but stupidly didn't buy. I was SO pleased to see her there and chose a splendid lidded cook pot to go with the bottle which has a wonderful textured glaze just like the full size version in my home. Both will be for an aged old dresser when I get around to it.



Victoria Fasken's work enchants me every time I see it and I'm completely blown away by her exquisite and delicate painting.
The decorated 'china' looks completely authentic, the detail she achieves is unsurpassed - the longer we looked and chatted the more I was drawn to this perfect little bowl - no I don't need it. But I just have to have it!!!
 

It's the unexpected treasure or the light bulb moment inspired by the artistry of top miniaturists that makes such shows special and hopefully encourages new miniature makers to be the very best they can and not settle for O.K.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Back in the Workshop

As I've mentioned before we've been having a clear up, and miniature items and supplies that are longer needed now that we've retired have been found new homes, or put to one side for 'another day'.
Buried in the workshop was the beginnings of the small greenhouse that my clever other half made many years ago.


It doesn't look very exciting at the moment, but there are doors somewhere which is something and I'm planning....
It also has a mirrored back which doesn't work for my ideas now - but I won't throw it away - you never know!


Last weekend a friend and I headed for Miniatura and I definitely had the greenhouse in mind so bought rather nice Victorian-style shelf supports and a simply gorgeous Begonia Rex from Jan, The Flower Lady to start me off.

+

That wasn't the limit of my spending and I'll take some pictures and show you another time. It was a lovely outing - such fun to have time to catch up with old friends and admire their wonderful work.  It was, I must say, made more exciting by news of the arrival of my friend Celia's new Grandson - much happiness all round.

My clever other half has in fact been back in the workshop restoring a full-size chair.  We love chairs...have restored lots...have toooooo many...and still can't resist them. We don't need ANY more.

Long story....short version....
Local pub is closing down and changing hands.......and chucking out 'stuff'.... old, old pub chair.


How can he resist????

And here it is. Isn't it lovely??
Needless to say it has swiftly found a new home with a member of the family.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Monday, September 25, 2017

Thinking Ahead......Miniatures and Workshops...

Autumn has definitely arrived....we've picked the almonds (the squirrels have had the hazels), the borders are looking a little tired and we're into a big tidy up.  But looking ahead is exciting and apart from looking at spring bulb buying, this week I 'found' a half built tiny greenhouse, so that's my winter project, and my chum Celia of KT Miniatures is planning a Spring Workshop. Yay!!

The greenhouse  needs a wall behind it, glazing, doors fixed, flagstones laid - OH yes, plants. I'm at the thinking stage...you know how it goes. So I'll tell you what Celia has been up to instead!

The summer of 2016 saw me (and Coombe Crafts) retire after around thirty years of very happy miniature trading, it was also the saddest time as our dear friend Dave, Celia's lovely husband, passed.  It was therefore the right time for us to close the doors on our joint Nostalgia in Miniature Workshops after many happy years of working together.

I always hoped that when the time was right she would pick up the baton and continue with workshops, as she has so much to offer as an inspirational teacher with a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share in friendly workshop setting. I'm sure if you attended any of our workshops you will agree and I know many were hoping she would carry on.
I'm just so delighted that she has decided to continue under her own KT Miniatures Workshop banner and am excited to see what she is planning and very happy to share some of the details with you.

At this stage she is keen to hear from anyone who might be interested - no commitment. She is hoping for the same  Bicester, Oxfordshire venue and  plans on using the same ethos and basis as we did at the previous workshops ie. all are welcome, beginners and experienced miniaturists alike. Plus using ordinary everyday materials, as well as alternative techniques to create beautiful miniatures. 

She has a rather super project in mind of a freestanding antique German style kitchen. It would have two sides, a back and a base plus separate pieces of furniture - in 1/12th scale. (The base shape will not be too dissimilar to the project we made last year ie. The Early 1900s German Style Shop).   
The real antique miniature German kitchens and accompanying furniture cost hundreds of pounds these days, and are becoming as rare as hens teeth to get hold of! This particular project should be quite versatile and adaptable, and you will have plenty of scope to put your own imagination and as much creativity into it as you please so this particular project may appeal to both antique and vintage dolls house collectors, as well as miniaturists alike.

One of the German shops from 2016
For more information, contact Celia or receive KT Miniatures Newsletter go to www.ktminiatures.com
To whet your appetite you may like to look again at some of the projects from our Nostaglia in Miniature Workshops  - a  trip down memory lane for me. Go to KT Miniatures archive pages ktminiatures.com/miniature-workshop-gallery

I'll pop along on the day to hand out the paint and glue, and make encouraging noises......

Thank you for looking
Robin

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Praise of William Morris ...and a lovely outing.

My summer (varying between hot and soggy) has mostly been spent in my garden trying to restore some semblance of order - and very nice it's been too! Now and again we've trundled off for a visit to somewhere interesting and inspiring which I have to say does whet the 'miniature' appetite.  Kelmscott Manor  in the village of Kelmscott near Lechlade in West Oxfordshire was the country home of William Morris and is just such a place.
For anyone interested in the Arts and Crafts Movement it is definitely a 'go to'!


Kelmscott itself is a delightful little village off the beaten track close by the river Thames, with beautiful cottages, village hall and medieval church.  The Society of Antiquities of London acquired the Manor in 1960s and to their huge credit have restored and furnished the property in the most sympathetic and exemplary manner. So many of the furnishings, be they furniture or tapestries, embroideries, ceramics or printed works were collected and placed there by Morris's family so that there is an absolute sense of the man, his colleagues, family, friends and his times.


Very generously photography is allowed, although no flash. Regretfully I couldn't seem to get my camera to understand this flash thingy so I limited myself to outside pictures of the manor itself - which is a late C16th early C17th gem.  However if you love this period or are interested in William Morris, his family, friends and colleagues, do go to the website for a real treat and many pictures of his work and the interiors of the property.
https://www.sal.org.uk/kelmscott-manor/



We came away so inspired and also learnt so much of his versatility and that of his family. For instance, the wonderful Morris design for 'Honeysuckle' - used in wallpaper and fabrics surprised me that it was actually a design by his daughter May and we were all struck by the amount of design work carried out and inspired by him that was undertaken by his wife and daughters who were immensely talented ladies.  I do wish I'd taken a photo of the fantastic three-seater privy, outside which is a garden full of strawberries....there is a wonderful story that he sat there and watched a thrush stealing his strawberries, which inspired his 'Strawberry Thief' design!
I must ask Celia if she took one.

The road to the Manor is bordered by willow trees so it it easy to see where his inspiration for that design came from, and the short walk through the village from the car park is lovely.
A unique specially designed stone slab fence alongside fields is stunning.


He was a man who inspired and encouraged others, and was also influenced by them.  He and his family commissioned work  by other artists and artisans and were influential in setting up a number of important businesses, groups and organisations.  After his death his wife and family arranged for the building of the village hall and two cottages designed by Webb and Gimson to commemorate him.  The beautiful carved stone relief on a cottage is a tribute to the man himself.


The Morris family are buried in the village churchyard - commemorated by a beautifully designed tombstone by Philip Webb. The C11th Church of St George is itself very special and is justly proud of the restoration of the medieval wall paintings, and well worth a visit.


The three of us had a wonderful day - I hope you have had some good times lately as well, there is so much that others are having to endure on the other side of the world at this time.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tiny Carved Wooden Village

I've always loved little wood carvings and am fascinated by the intricate detail and delicacy of the skilled artisans.
I have a small collection and have just added another, purchased for next to nothing at the latest car boot sale.


 
Now it has been brushed clean of an accumulation of dust you can see the tiny buildings carved into what appears to be a thick piece of bark - maybe cedar or some such.  I've absolutely no idea how old it is - and the wording cut into the back doesn't help me - but I don't think it was carved a day or two ago! Click on the pic. for a bigger version.



This is a really small piece, only 8" long and barely 2" high. If anyone in the miniature wood carving community can tell me more about it I'd love to know as I've never seen anything quite like it.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Landscape and Legend - in my part of the world.

I'm fortunate to have grown up and still live in a beautiful area of the south of England where the counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire meet and have sometimes swapped their boundaries.  As in many areas of the country, landscape, legend and myth merge together and present us with glorious stories and fascinating historical information. 
The Uffington White Horse Hill  (now in Oxfordshire) is one of these, and a favourite family place.


A few weeks ago we spent a lovely few hours climbing White Horse Hill, walking around Uffington Castle behind it and looking over the beautiful Vale of the White Horse with the Manger and Dragon's Mount beneath us.



Legend has it that King Alfred had the stylised horse carved through the turf into the chalk hillside to celebrate his victory over the Danes.  He was born in Wantage (originally Alfredston) - a few miles up the road....actually, up the Ridgeway, the ancient trackway to the north of the hill...... But it wasn't him - probably much earlier, a bronze age tribe for whom the horse was sacred.

Just a glimpse of the horse as we walk towards it.

Whoever was responsible it has changed shape over the centuries as succeeding generations have scoured (cleaned up) the chalk carving which continues to this very day and is well documented. It is now very difficult to see it in its entirety from the road in the valley as the horse is galloping up the hill.  Incredibly this is true but is more to do with erosion, scouring and geological movement than any thing else.  Back in the day...as children we would stand on the eye of the horse, turn three times and make a wish - no longer possible of course as rightly it needs to be preserved.

Looking down to The Manger

Looking down to Dragon's Mount
At the foot of the horse is the Manger a steep-sided natural valley rising from which is Dragon's Mount.  Legend has it that at magical times, like the full moon, the horse will gallop down the hill to feed in the Manger and then back up the hill and along the Ridgeway to Wayland Smithy to be reshod by the faerie blacksmith.  If you would like to know more about this legend I blogged  about it back in August 2016 - or go for a Google.
Historians suggest that 'manger' is actually derived from  a Saxon word meaning trader and that more likely a trading market was held here - not quite as romantic!

Dragon's Mount is properly magical!! It's a small hill at the foot of the main hill, the top of which is scarred and no longer grows grass at its centre. Back in the day it was a steep climb - now there are steps I see....
SO - St George slew the dragon there and where its blood spilled, no vegetation will grow. Fact - ancient peoples chopped the top off  the hill to flatten it and used it for centuries for fires and beacons and consequently there is so much potash in the chalk sub-soil vegetation doesn't flourish. Shame.......I like the dragon story.

Just above the White Horse on the hill is Uffington Casle an ancient hill fort, steep sided and dry-moated.  Our children flew kites and picnicked here  -  new thinking has moved from a theory of defence to simple security for people, animals,  community and trading.  To my delight, the familiar flowers that thrive on chalk were in much inevidence:orchids, wild thyme, bell flowers, rock roses and more.  Magic.
Wild Orchids
Rock Roses
Thyme

A lovely old solid metal sign - must be forty years old - tells us that The Ministry of Works is in charge of safeguarding this precious site. These days it will be English Heritage, but I'm glad they've kept the old signage and that sheep may safely graze.

Click on the pics for bigger versions.

Thank you for looking
Robin



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Miniature Car Booting

I do so love trawling round a car boot fair, even if I don't find a treasure. Over the years I've picked up some lovely pieces, some super plants, books and pictures.....someones's junk is someone else's treasure!

A couple of weeks ago with the sun high in the sky over the field a friend and I went to see what we could find, and both came away very happy with our bargains - then we topped it all by calling in at the local antique fair for one or two more!!

Not a miniature,  but I spotted an unusual sand picture from The Isle of Wight - it's approx 7" x 5"   and I haven't seen one before.  The island is famous for its coloured sands and these have been used for many, many years in creating sand-filled glass ornaments for tourists.  When our 'children' were small (long time ago now) and we holidayed there we created our own small version in a glass jar.

Sorry about my large shadow...try and ignore it!
Close-up of detail.  The sand looks like pastel.
What I loved about this one is that according to the handwritten script on the back is that it was given to 'Mum' by her son in 1948.  I'm sure it was a much loved present and I hated to think of it unloved and languishing in old box.
It would be fair to say that not everyone else who has seen it likes it......Oh well - one man's junk etc...

A couple of small Toby jugs will look just right on one of my hanging type-setting frames I think.
I love little vintage tins -this one is Tiger Balm.


I couldn't resist this little carved wooden angel and splendid elephant who surprisingly still has his tusks. The tiny vintage wooden dog will get used along the way in a future project, and I expect my lovely china lady will move to the hanging boxes...... I wonder what she used to top?


The worn much loved vintage handpainted wooden plate, a present from my car-booting friend, will be included in the new project, when I get around to it.



Now for my favourite bargain - again very little money spent for what I think is an absolute treasure.


We, and the stallholder were baffled by this tiny decorated bentwood box, with a lid that did not appear to be removable.
Clearly of some age, I couldn't resist it and spent an afternoon researching.  Tiny pokerwork writing on the base indentified it as being made in Gothenburg (Sweden) but I couldn't decipher more.


Finally I THINK I have identified it as being possibly early 1900s and a copy of a traditional Scandinavian storage box used for seed grain or valuables - an ancient and traditional design.  I also found out how to open it, but it's so tiny and delicate I'm not going to risk that.
So if any of you can confirm that or tell me more I'd be very happy to hear from you.

And finally - purchased at an earlier  car boot, a lovely small Edwardian jug only around 7"" tall that will look lovely filled with summer flowers.


Thank you for looking
Robin