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

Monday, August 15, 2016

If It Doesn't Move...Paint It!

Along with 'I work in a muddle'.....'If it doesn't move, paint it'....has always stood me in good stead.
Back in the day, before miniatures absolutely took over, I was inclined to paint or paint on all kinds of things.
As a 'general' crafts person I painted everything from blown goose and ducks eggs to wooden boxes, furniture and proper pictures.
But I did always love painting on a BIG scale!

I do think that any kind of creative work informs and enhances whatever comes next, even if it's just the confidence to try something completely new.
I came in from hacking back my very overgrown shrubs to sort through old photos and found some more really old ones.

As a youngster I'd loved painting scenery for school productions of 'The Pirates of Penzance' and such, so later, with a young family and big blank walls to decorate in old houses I was in my element.
Does anyone remember 'Noggin the Nog'? I painted scenes from the popular children's cartoon on the hall wall.....'Rupert the Bear'...was on a bedroom along with a very bizarre aeroplane scene on another....but my little sons loved it.
We lived in an old house with a staircase that had been turned round - someone left the old blocked doorway behind on one side.  Yes that was odd!
.......that was clearly also my  macrami phase...

The Pied Piper of Hamelin was a favourite story and the door was a blank canvas. The little boy is now well into his 30s.....Whoops, where have the years gone?

The reflection from the paintwork made it difficult to photograph - but hopefully you get the picture and you can click to make them bigger.

Decades later I revisited the Pied Piper as a 1/12th scale miniature, and also added a few rats to the finished set piece.

The Pied Piper door was a great success and one day my brother-in-law turned up with his little daughter's bedroom door on the roof of his car. She loved the film '101 Dalmations'.............the door lived in the kitchen while I worked on it - not exactly convenient - but she loved it.

Thanks for looking

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Blowing The Cobwebs Away

Three of us decided to take a walk along the ancient Ridgeway -  a route for travellers since prehistoric times.
Actually it's about 80/90miles long but we are two different generations who grew up in different but nearby places just under the hills, so the bit we know best is between Wantage (Oxon), the White Horse Hill at Uffington and on past Wayland's Smithy to Foxhill (Wilts). We walked about 3 miles...phew...puff, puff .....

We were all in need of blowing a few cobwebs away - and we did -  nattering randomly along the way in that comfortable way of one conversation drifting into another. Nice!
Wayland's Smith was our objective, walking from the car park for White Horse Hill it's supposed to be roughly a three mile round trip - aching feet suggest a bit further, but I'm out of shape.....

There is something truly spiritual and unspoilt about this ancient pathway without any kind of twenty first century influence and it's easy to imagine ancient peoples walking the same chalk route along the crest of the downs.

The rolling hills and farmland stretch out on all sides and down to the villages in the Vale of the White Horse, the birds flit in and out of the wild hedges and there's a huge variety of native flowers and grasses.  Even a bank of thistles look magnificent in this setting.

Of  course history and archaeology define Wayland Smithy as a Neolithic long barrow but we know is of course the home of the fairy smith Wayland (Wayland/Welund, being the Saxon god of metalworking).  In times long gone a traveller would leave a silver coin at the cave's entrance and tether his horse to be shod. He must go away for a while and never look, so no one ever saw the smith - when he returned the coin had gone and the horse had been shod. 
This is the local tale, but there are others, some gory and others that seem to have their origin in Nordic myths and legends.

Today it is a peaceful but magical place in a green copse and a favourite destination for walkers just off the main path.

Thank you for looking

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sad Times

I'm sure that like many of you, I'm not feeling in the mood for writing 'cheery' blogs at the moment.

Sadness is all about us it seems in these last days and weeks, wherever we live.  Be it close to home in saying final farewells to friends or family members or watching tragic events on the rolling news broadcasts - many, many people grieve. I hope that time and the support and love of those close to you will bring some small measure of comfort.

Robin xx

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wild Apples and Fimo

I was searching for some old family photographs when I came across some ancient ones of early 'miniature dolls'.
These are the traditional apple dolls I've mentioned'll see why I've hesitated over 'miniature' when you look at them.

We're back in the day here - late 1980s - when a friend and I had embarked on turning our craft hobbies into something more professional. We had come together as part of the team to run a craft fair raising funds to save our little village school under threat of closure (we won and it's still doing great) and enjoyed ourselves so much.

Between us there weren't many 'crafts' we hadn't had a go at and both made small original dolls from a variety of materials.  Craft fairs were in village halls, redundant churches and tents at Country Shows and Ploughing Matches - we frequently got wet or stuck in the mud and didn't make a fortune, but loved it.
Margaret also created soft sculpture dolls and I created poppy seed head dolls - if I find a picture of them I'll show you another time - then I discovered traditional Apple Dolls.

There was no internet then and I only saw them once but I was captivated and had to discover how to make them.  In the end my cousin in Canada came to the rescue - N. America I assume being the home of these characterful and unique dolls  - and I obtained the recipe to preserve the carved apple heads.  My aim was to create miniature versions so that they complemented the poppy dolls - large apples didn't work.  Finally I discovered the perfect apple; small wild apples we called wilderns, a little larger than crabs which grew along the bridle paths near us, and eventually dried to what I considered the right size. There was lots of experimenting!!!!  Quite a learning curve!!

So, here they are. No digital cameras or computers then either - so photo quality isn't great.

I do shudder a bit looking back at them now - so out of proportion for true miniatures. Clumsy costuming.  Still it got me started and led to an invite to the first Marlborough Dolls House Fair - that was a real wake up call - and I learned what a true miniature should look like!!

Fag Ash Lil' - in 1/12th, 1/16th and 1/24th scale. Probably my most popular character.
When I eventually found Fimo I decided to continue with elderly characters still using natural sheep wool for the hair and abandoned the awful 'paws' for proper sculpted hands. .....and sorted out what scale truly meant.

Thanks for looking

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Workshops, Fisherman and Flowers

This last week or so has been about three of my favourite things.....the Nostalgia in Miniature Workshops with my great chum Celia, creating character dolls and my overgrown garden.  It's all in the pictures .

We closed the little door on Nostalgia in Miniature Workshops after our final day with eight lovely and talented ladies last Saturday. Thank you for a super day ladies.

Working well...
Who's that in charge.....?
Yep...that's Celia...
A 1/24th scale version of the shop is taking shape
First reveal 
Our website will be up until the end of the month if you'd like to take a look at our gallery of past projects and I hope next year Celia will be able to start her own workshop programme if circumstances permit, and her website KT Miniatures will be the place to go for news.
The two of us will of course need to maintain our regular coffee mornings (previously 'management meetings'). Hot chocolate with marshmallows in good company is hard to beat!!!

The little 1/24th scale fisherman was my last commission and he, together with his family has gone on a caravan holiday I'm told. So the door to Coombe Crafts is closed too - but after all these years I can't lose the name completely so it will stay in my Blog title.

I'm now officially retired! Ooo'er! I've managed a few minor tweaks to the blog, but nothing exciting - I can stop trying to be techno-efficient now. Phew! When I get back to being creative for 'me' I hope to share with you - in the meantime I've still got lots of pictures of my quirky characters you haven't seen........

The answer to the question 'what are you going to do now', is pretty obvious if you look at my lovely but madly overgrown garden.....get out the secateurs. Click on pictures for a bigger version.

Thanks for looking

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's All About The Weather!!!

Well here in Oxfordshire it's been raining - heavy, heavy deluge type rain!! Clearly it's been doing the same elsewhere to judge by the number of us who've been complaining that our beautiful paeonies and roses have been battered to bits.
So it's out of the garden and back to the workbench.

An elderly little lady (1/12th scale of course) has been waiting for her new easy chairs - not too posh, comfortable and upholstered in nice hardwearing material.  So the Coombe Crafts workshops swung into action to fullfill this last furniture order before shutting up shop.  Hope she likes them.

There are creatures who have flourished in this weather - unfortunately in my garden!! The slugs and snail have marched in battalions and have chewed their way through some of my prettiest plants and flowers.  I hate the pesky creatures!
I'm hoping that the frogs who live in my tiny ponds.....I call them ponds but really they're vintage wash tubs....will jump out and redress the balance.

Talking of ponds - this beautiful and also tiny water lily has just flowered.  Perfect!

I've also seen a very precious wild flower here in Oxfordshire, although I won't say exactly where - this is a Bee Orchid one of our rarer wild plants. Up close it looks like a little bee settling on a flower.
Sadly this beautiful wild plant has disappeared from many of its natural locations, as have many others of course and there are lots of reasons for this, including unscrupulous 'collectors' who dig up plants, often destroying the habitat.

Fishermen don't seem to mind rain, and a little fisherman is my last commission before I down tools and I hope to show him to you in another blog.....then I shall have to think which little character will be the first one to create, just for me.

In my last blog I mentioned and pictured my Staghorn Fern that I was endeavouring to repot.  Almost the next day I was stopped in my tracks to see the most wonderful miniature Staghorn Ferns on Illona's blog...I run out of superlatives to describe her exquisite talent so do take a look at her blog on

Thank you for looking

Sunday, June 12, 2016

So What Shall I Do Next??

First I have to say a huge thank you for the kind comments and emails from so many lovely miniature friends after announcing my imminent retirement as a professional miniaturist - I'm quite overwhelmed.

I've been trying to get the last bits and pieces sorted for our workshop on 2nd July, organise 'last orders' and tackle a few essential gardening tasks while the sun shone. We did manage to give the strawberries a nice straw bed to ripen on before the rain came down again and the blackbirds bagged the lot!

I dragged yards and yards of goosegrass (cleavers) out of the borders - so much that it rolled up into bales!
The garden looks great if you don't look too closely - in this first picture believe it or not that's a tall ancient chimney pot filled with houseleeks (sempervivum) disappearing where the border is supposed to meet lawn....and there are some lilies in there somewhere.

When we originally laid out the garden from scratch we created a series of 4 different 'rooms' leading one into another but not to be visible all at once, in time. WELL that bit is true anyway!!!

Finally after months of looking at it hanging in the conservatory where it was getting larger and larger and being scorched near the glass roof, I found time to tackle my Stag Horn Fern.

 It took hefty cutters and the bread knife to get it out of its pot after which I crossed my fingers hoping that I wouldn't kill it and took the bread knife to it again and chopped out a big chunk to repot separately.

 Now I've got two and it looks better than ever, or will do when the scorched leaves are replaced with new ones.

Digging around in my 'archives' checking details for the new doll I need to make in a day or two, I came across Geppetto and Pinocchio, a particularly favourite commission in 1/12th scale I created about 10 years ago.

 As doll makers we all try to improve our skills but I think he stands up to the test of time fairly well and I know he's still in his workshop on the South Coast.

Thank you for looking

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Times They Are A'Changing.... Special Announcement

On Saturday Celia Thomas, my partner in Nostalgia in Miniature Workshops, and I hosted our  workshop with a lovely group of miniaturists at Bicester Avenue Garden Centre. It featured our latest workshop  - 13 different ones in all since we began.
On 2nd July we shall  do it all again...and then I said......times are changing


This spring I had what is deemed a 'significant' hands and wrists caused problems again making it difficult to sculpt for any sustained length of time...the old back played up.....I realised I'd had a great run for over 30 years and loved every minute of it, but had neglected my much loved garden recently and hadn't got around, for yet another year, to do any 'me' things on the famous 'to do' list.  Hmmm......

I think that's what you'd call a decision made for me - so I've decided to retire as a professional miniaturist.
I have a lovely commission to finish but cannot  undertake further commissions and I'll stop trading during July sometime. The miniature doors on Coombe Crafts will be closing with huge thanks to our many wonderful friends and customers.  Of course it will take a while to sort out closing the website (too technical for me...need help) tweaking this blog and such 'stuff' and there is some (mostly 1/24th scale) stock if anyone would like to enquire.

I plan to keep Blogging so I hope  you may stay with me to see more of my garden, cats, 'archive' miniatures pics. and whatever I manage to get up to in miniature for myself. Apart from anything else I love your fantastic Blogs!

So - that's  the Coombe Crafts announcement.

Nostalgia in Miniature Workshops has been around since 2011 - 13 different workshop projects, some repeated two or three times,  and a number of magazine features and 'How To' projects.  Celia and I have had a great time - it's been such fun bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with original projects using very ordinary materials in innovative ways using our different but complementary skills.  We've had such a ball, made lovely new friends and we hope inspired a few along the way!!

My own decision happens to coincide with a particularly tough time for Celia and her family.  Many of you know that her lovely husband is seriously ill and 2016 is an especially testing year.  SO - time to close the little doors on Nostalgia in MiniatureWorkshops  too after the next workshop.
I very much hope that things will improve for them and that another time Celia will pick up workshops again; she's still got lots to offer  and is only a 'youngster' - I'll volunteer if she needs a sweeper upper.... so do keep an eye on  KT Miniatures website.

Let me end this blog with pictures from our Saturday workshop and thank all the ladies for their fun and enthusiasm  - they all worked really hard and should be proud of their acheivements.  We look forward to seeing what emporia the little shops become in due course and of course look forward to seeing another group of talented miniaturists in July.  There are more workshop pictures on our Nostalgia in Miniatures Workshops  Blog if you want to see what Janet and Celia were waiting to see unveiled. .......

Thank you all for looking

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

This and That Blog...

At this time of year I'm torn between the garden and miniatures.  Mostly the garden won although a visit to Kensington Dolls House Festival was very inspiring.
Thanks to the warm wet weather, the garden is very colourful - also full of very healthy weeds which require serious attention.  The beautiful apple blossom I hope means we might get more than the two little apples we had last year.

My great mate Celia Thomas, and I have had our heads down working on the kits for our Nostalgia In Miniature summer workshops which are just around the corner. The Early 1900s Little German Style Shop is very versatile so we're looking forward to seeing what kind of emporia they all become. 

Talking of workshops and the prototypes we create - we do run out of space so a few get sold - mostly we keep them.  Celia has taken ownership of last year's 1/12th scale Little Vintage Toyshop and enhanced it with her own collection of antique and vintage toys - I love it!!!

The Original Toyshop
The Interior now that Celia has worked her magic
As many of you will know,  as KT Miniatures she is an acknowledged expert on antique and vintage dolls houses and their furnishings, so she is enjoying including  her personal collection of toys in the replica antique toyshop alongside those we created.  Her recent blog all about it is super - pop over and take a look here and read all about it.

Last weekend, KDF  - as we all fondly call it - was super, duper, inspiring. Actually I run out of superlatives and don't dare list all the stands that inspired  - just too many!! The Perfection In Miniatures (PIM )exhibits were particulary wonderful and I can't imagine how the judges were able to make their decisions. Pictures and details on KDF website.

I'll settle for showing you what I was able to purchase - rather more than usual thanks to a very special birthday present.  Thank you 'girls'.

Glasscraft candle sticks
Pansies by Sandi Sandri
Sally Meakin - Cabbage ware ceramics
Vase by Elisabeth Causeret

Thank you for looking

Friday, April 29, 2016

One Of Those Weeks!

We all get them don't we....a week when things go 'not according to plan'. Days you'd rather forget, appliances that cease working and arrangements arranged and re-arranged....

It was one of those! Consequently no work was done on the miniature front except for a start on kits for the two workshops this summer.  To be fair my other half has been in the workshop sawing manfully for us so that the shop room boxes can be part constructed,  while Celia and I have been chasing down mountboard and extra paint..........don't even ask!!

On the much brighter front the garden looks super (also the weeds), bluebells are out and the weather perked up long enough for a lovely trip to Badbury Clump, a bluebell covered hill located just outside the historic market town of Faringdon in Oxfordshire.

This has been a favourite haunt since I was a child and we try and visit at this time of year, although it's wonderful at any time.  The hill is an iron age fort set in ancient woodland and managed beautifully by The National Trust - a truly magical and spiritual place.

The town of Faringdon itself is dominated by an eccentric folly - called The Folly Tower, built in the early 1930s on a wooded hill above the town (already called Folly Hill) by Lord Berners, reportedly as a birthday present for his protege. Some present!  Still it's a lovely view in the distance from Badbury Hill, as is the ancient White Horse carved on the hill just above the village of Uffington, in the other direction.  

Thanks for looking