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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Cleaning

I can see the cobwebs, but the sun is shining so I'm going outside for a spot of spring-cleaning....

My diddy little pond created from a huge old wash pan has been a great success since it went in a few years ago and attracts frogs, toads, dragonflies and the like, and the local blackbirds perch there for a drink.  However as it is so small it does need a bit of a clean out once a year and the reed clump reduced in size if the tiny waterlily has a chance of flowering - I did that on Friday.

I upset the two big frogs sitting in the mud at the bottom and disturbed a couple of amorous toads nearby, but pressed on.
Obviously I didn't upset the frogs too much because this morning the pond is full of frogspawn!! Exciting!


It's remarkable how much difference a tiny amount of water can make to the wildlife in our gardens - most of whom will (hopefully) eat the slugs that also thrive. I made a huge mistake a couple of years ago when we had frogspawn, topping up the pond during a particularly warm spring with tap water, instead of rainwater. Killed all the frogspawn - I won't make that mistake again.


Wild flowers also happily do their own thing as you can see - these lovely violets colonising  a crack in the paving beneath the back door.


In my wild patch the fritillaries, anenomies, primrose and cowslips are spreading well and I'm very happy.  I'd be even happier if squirrels hadn't dug up and eaten all the extra fritillary corms I planted in the autumn, but at least they left the snowdrops alone and we enjoyed them for the first time.

For the gardeners among you I wonder if you've discovered spent coffee grounds to deter the slugs and snails? Our local coffee shop gives away bags of the stuff and as far as I'm concerned it works like a miracle!! Worth a try if you haven't.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Monday, March 20, 2017

Jolly Boys Outing

Random days out, often involving long treks up and down hills or jaunts to strange places, have for decades been deemed 'jolly boys outings' in our family.  The name borrowed from the 1980s T.V. sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses' was adopted because I was outnumbered 5 to 1 by one husband and four sons...and occasional (usually male) hangers on.  These days the 'boys' are adults with families but outings are still 'jolly boys outings' even if there are only two or three of us!!

Today is the first day of spring and I had visions of taking snaps of the lovely spring flowers out in my garden....but it's chucking it down with rain........ instead I'll take you on our outing to Wittenham Clumps.

The Clumps are two hills topped with Beech trees in an ancient landscape rising above the village of Little Wittenham in Oxfordshire, not too far from us - The Round Hill and  Castle Hill, which is an iron age fort.  Both I believe have been excavated by archaeologists.  Anyway - the walk itself is just lovely and we plan to go back during the summer when the surroundings,  which along with the clumps are maintained by Earth Trust, should be a wild flower paradise.


The Round Hill
Castle Hill
Back in the 'old days' the clumps were variously named 'Berkshire Bumps' (boundary changes moved the area to Oxfordshire) and 'Mother Dunch's Buttocks' after the local Lady of the Manor - Hmmm! The clumps are also notable because apparently they were the first  beech trees to be recorded as having been deliberately planted to create a 'feature' in the landscape, around 300 years ago.  One huge ancient tree on the Round hill had a long poem carved into its trunk around 1845 - still visible we saw this a few years ago - sadly it has now succumbed to age and fallen down.

Blackthorn in full bloom
 
The Thames
Didcot Power Station
As you can see, there are wonderful views from the top, of the Thames valley, the Thames and Days Lock, Dorchester Abbey and the rather more modern Didcot Power Station - and the brisk breeze blows away all your cares of the day!!

Thank you for looking
Robin

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Old Barn - Finished and Ready to Frame

If you saw the last blog you'll know that I've been working on a 3D 1/24th scale (more or less) picture of an old barn in the town that has since been demolished and replaced by a group of new houses. Anyway my affectionate representation means that in my house, at least, it won't be forgotten.

Using simple brown card and mountboard the barn was built up - now it's time to get landscaping.  You wouldn't expect such a utilitarian building to warrant landscaping, but the land behind and to the sides was a haven for buddleia and elder as well as sycamore sapplings, and the debris at the side of the road as walls collapsed encouraged wild flower growth.


I wish I had the patience to cut hundreds and hundreds of 1/24th scale leaves for the trees - but I don't, so hope you think this ubiquitous 'moss' works as folliage.


Nothing very fancy has been used for the planting - a bit of paper, some dyed hemp and a little preserved natural plant material and of course a paint brush.....  Probably too small to see, but there are tiny butterflies up on the blossoms.



This may not be the final framing - and of course the glazing isn't in place, to enable better photos to be taken - but really that's it!  I'm hoping to learn a little more about the history of the barn, so near the centre of town.  I know it was an agricultural store and maybe a creamery once in its life. Perhaps it was originally part of a farm before the town grew up.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Old Barn - more pizza packaging......

Not far from me - just off the centre of our small market town was a crumbling old barn which fascinated me.  So old that the aging and weathering rendered it almost monochrome, even the old bricks, stone walls and wood had faded one into another.  It was relieved in summer when the buddleia and elder burst into flower and draped over it and the debris at its foot allowed wild flowers/weeds to flourish.  Then it was knocked down!! Now we have a close of 'posh' redbrick houses in  its place.


I took masses of photos thinking that one day I just might be able to recreate it in miniature. Of course the whole thing was enormous so scale was a problem  - I only have so much room in my house! I finally decided to curb my wilder aspirations and use the pictures as inspiration for a 'more or less' 1/24th scale 3D picture.

In the absence of a deep picture frame/shadow box I deconstructed a redundant artists materials box and used half.  I'll need to properly frame and glaze but that's a long way down the road so I'm not thinking about that yet.  Inconveniently it's a bit bigger than A4. Loads of rough sketches, and the SO useful styrofoam packaging that comes with pizzas meant I could start to create the form of the old barn on mountboard.


At this point I need to acknowledge a HUGE thank-you to Drora - http://drorasminimundo.blogspot.com/
I've experimented in the past with 'sculpting' styrofoam, but seeing just what she had achieved really encouraged me to have a go on a bigger project and I'm thrilled with the results on the old walls.



Out came my hoard of brown card envelopes for the planking, which is so easy to turn into old wood with some dry-brush paint effects and the good old sandpaper and scalpel for texture.

Next up is to spend more time with the paint brush, dig out some 'trees', get some clouds in that flat sky and find some weeds.  More next time.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Friday, February 24, 2017

Last Week......

...was very odd.  While I was peeering excitedly at the spring flowers emerging in my garden and conservatory and thinking about future planting I was also thinking about attending the Thame Dollshouse and Miniature Fair for the first time in a 'helping' capacity rather than as a standholder.....

KT Miniatures with Celia Thomas (the boss) was in my old spot - odd for her - but quite normal for me except of course that delightful vintage and antique miniatures  had been arranged on  'my' table and looked fantastic. Slightly strange, but we're old mates and she's trained me well over the years so apparently I didn't disgrace myself!!

I dithered like mad but finally succumbed to this exquisite old French clock - yes I know there's some damage, but I love it  and grabbed it quickly from her stall before someone could beat me to it.


Celia's stand was next to Teeny Tiny Teddies- so that was both of us drooling..............yes of course I bought another exquisite 'vintage' teddy.


The charity stall which raises funds for Breast Cancer Now yielded a couple of lovely jugs - always useful.
 We all had a bit of a shock to learn that Felicity and Ron Holland who had taken on the fair from Celia and Dave, who had established it at the Leisure Centre in 2007,  had decided to call it a day.  Shock horror - it's a much loved fair - the whole ethos being to showcase artisan miniaturists while a strong charity fundraisng link for Breast Cancer Now has been maintained throughout the years. Everyone involved over the years and the many loyal customers and visitors hope that new organisers will come forward so that the fair continues and that Felicity and Ron enjoy their retirement.

And now for my spring flowers, and time to think about a new miniature project. 
Bilbergia Nutans - such a super and striking flower - in the conservatory
The Hellebores are all coming out now
This one is growing in a crack at the bottom of the wall

Miniature Iris and snowdrops - exquisite
Tiny bright cyclamen
Thank you for looking
Robin

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Very Strange Week

This is a very strange week for me because for the first time I'm not rushing about like a headless chicken preparing for The Thame Dollshouse and Miniature Fair  this Saturday - however, others are......so this is for them....

I retired as a professional miniaturist last summer so I now have time to create some for 'me' and can indulge myself looking properly at and purchasing artisan items from those I so much admire.  It took a while to get used to the change but it is lovely!!

The fair will be held here in Thame, Oxfordshire on Saturday and for all the details go to the website it's always been a must for anyone who can make it; top quality artisans and friendly atmosphere.
 Following a difficult year, me old mate Celia - KT Miniatures - will be there and in my old spot at STAND 38, and she's asked me to lend a hand so actually I'll be there too until she frees me to have my very first proper look at all the stands and indulge in some retail therapy.
As we live near each other I've been lucky enough to see some of the antique and vintage items she will be bringing and also some of her wonderful handmade 'vintage' pieces that fit so well into old houses you have to pinch yourself to believe they're not ancient.

The fantastic Ellie deLacy is back at last - Yay! - and of course many others like Victoria Fasken, The Flower Lady and Teeny Tiny Teddies to mention just a few.....but others like me have retired so there will be some new faces which will be interesting.
One thing that all the artisans will have in common is the desire to create something 'new' for their potential customers so I'm sure we'll be seeing some super work that will inspire and delight us at Thame and the other artisan fairs around the globe this weekend.

Since the use of the internet and social media became so widespread, sadly some less talented 'makers' decide to take a short-cut,  copy artisan work and sell like mad online.  A new one on me is the use of multiple names to confuse purchasers - so clearly it's very deliberate and shocking. It's happened to me and is so upsetting, but one positive aspect of any quality fair is that old and new friends can catch up, have a laugh, have a gossip and share worries and triumphs and pass on information.....and generally spend some of the takings on colleagues' work too. 

Thank you for looking
Robin






Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice and the White Rabbit

I've had enormous pleasure making this little scene and bringing to life a favourite classic children's story.

In the last blog I showed you the basic rabbit hole before I got going with the paint brush mixing and messing until I was happy with the inside of the hole and the ground in front. A rough sandy mixture was used to rough up the ground tipped on and off white glue brushed on fairly randomly until I was happy.
Click on the pictures for larger versions.


The bubble wrap - yes that's an odd component in landscaping I know - was glued over the cardboard 'hill' before the paper-backed grass sheet was glued on top.  The photos don't really show but it gives a rounded, less flat appearance and can be squashed and prodded for a natural look.  Also it's much easier to have the extra depth when 'planting'.
A piece of thin acrylic from packaging was glued to the back of the hole.

I often use roots rather than twigs for bushes and trees in my landscaping and all the rest of the plants are paper, my own invention except the super ivy leaves which I bought many, many years ago and am hoarding and using sparingly.


Alice is perfect so I just needed to sort out my white rabbit.  After much discussion with myself, and as it was a nicely detailed model I abandoned the mad idea of furring him, painted him up and changed his eyes and nose to pink. I actually think dressing him was the most difficult part of the whole affair - solid plastic rabbits don't move their arms so it was 'tricky'!! Even the fiddly pocket watch was a doddle in comparison.


And now it's finished and I'm a happy bunny.


Next? I need to make marmalade before anything else.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Friday, February 3, 2017

Diane's Stables...and...Looking at Alice

During the many years of doll-making, one of the pleasures has been fulfilling someone's wish for a specific character or characters for their own very special project - often receiving photographs on completion.
One of the pleasures of retirement I'm discovering is fulfilling my own miniatures 'wishes'.

 

Diane's local Dollshouse Club set themselves the challenge of turning a basic shed into something completely different - what a great idea for a club project!  So she decided on stables - Hmm... I'd call that different!
So one of my very last commissions for my long-time friend was to create a young girl in a riding outfit and her Dad - who I expect will be the one mucking out her super stables.


Many thanks to Diane for allowing me to use her photographs, and thanks for the years of friendship (and lovely commissions).

Now to Alice.  'Alice' is the creation of the talented Sandra Morris of Tower House Dolls - another lovely friend.  She's been quietly sitting in her box for the last two years waiting.....as soon as I saw Alice, a picture of her emerging from the rabbit hole in Wonderland came into my head and has sat there ever since. In her recent blogs, Sandra has been explaining the intricacies of making these fine and very beautiful porcelain doll's dolls, which has been fascinating - do take a look.

So - Alice and the 'hole'.  Followed by Alice and the hole taking shape - card, round gift box, bubble wrap, tissue paper, lots of paint and glue...
I need a white rabbit.
I consider A. Sculpting a rabbit.  B. Buying a plastic rabbit.  C. Painting or furring a plastic rabbit.
Little characters, not rabbits, are my sculpting thing - I know when I'm beat so buy the plastic (top quality) rabbit and begin to landscape.



Break for visitors.......................more next time.

Thank you for looking
Robin





Thursday, January 19, 2017

An Early 1900s German-style Haberdashery Shop

In the early part of last year my friend and erstwhile partner in crime Celia Thomas and I completed our final workshop before closing the miniature doors on Nostalgia in Miniatures Workshops for the last time.  So the final project had to be very special.  In both 1/12th and 1/24th scales this little German-style early 1900s shop was, we hoped, just that and would be very versatile.

All our participants were able to make adjustments and variations as they went along, depending also just how they were going to stock their little shops.  Everyone enjoyed themselves and did brilliantly - and so many different contents were being planned from haberdashery to apothecary.
 I get to keep the 1/24th prototype and Celia the 1/12th...now I've had the time to turn mine into a haberdashery and ladies' outfitters,  somewhat faded and struggling into the new century but elegant still.
Click on the pics. for bigger versions 
 

It was too pristine and I prefer a little 'tatty'! We had aged the larger scale prototype but left this to allow our workshop ladies to see how both effects would look, so the first job was take it back to 'faded' with washes of burnt umber and lots of sandpaper.  The mirrored door was given a curtain of antique lace and I decided to shift the display cabinets and add a work table and chair so the sewing machine could be included - I'm sure 'Arbery and Golding' would have done alterations for their best customers.


I've always enjoyed making tiny accessories for my dolls so I indulged myself in creating a collection of posh hats with blowsy paper roses and feather trimmings and dainty handbags. Those of you who've done this all before will know how long it took to fill the shelves with fabrics, laces and ribbons and wind fine wool into skeins. Celia's faux glass doors really add to the authenticity and the finest fabrics are kept here. I spent ages making a rather classy mannequin and then promptly covered it up with the frock.....still, I know it's there.


We had supplied instructions and materials for a variety of packaging for the workshop so I was ahead here, adding a few extra, filled jars with micro beads and a basket with feathers until I was satisfied that it looked nicely cluttered. The shop till (saved from our Coombe Crafts stock along with the table, chair and broom) sits on the counter where clearly the assistant is busy with a customer. I could still fill all those enticing little drawers at the back...maybe another day.



Celia and I had a lovely time creating this room box and it's been such fun to be able to bring it to life. 
Although I've retired and can now please myself and 'play' in miniature, she is of course still working happily as KT Miniatures with a wealth of wonderful vintage and antique items for sale on her website, along with her very special handmade 'vintage' creations that work so well in houses and room boxes alongside the authentic.
 KT Miniatures will again have a stand at the prestigious Thame Fair on Saturday February 18th at Thame Leisure Centre, Thame, Oxon - come along if you can, it's a terrific day.

By the way, we'd both love to see pictures of other little shops from the workshop ladies.

Thank you for looking
Robin

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Framing the Orchids

I'm slowly thinking through my 'wish to do' list - e.g. those packets of lovely paper flower kits that have been languishing for a few years...the bookcase I was going to fill with beautiful books....the little shop that has no stock... I've started with the orchids.

It's no secret that I love flowers and plants,  also collected many beautiful miniature creations by some stunning artisans and made a fair few of my own from scratch for a variety of projects over the years - which in no way compare.  For years I've been a fan of Georgie Steeds's brilliant paper flower kits  https://www.etsy.com/uk/people/TheMiniatureGarden 
Her eye for detail is superb and she has a really good range in both 1/12th and 1/24th scales,  supplied with excellent instructions. I love working with paper and card so I dug out those lovely little packets and made up my orchids.

As I grow orchids I have some real life ones to study which helps with colouring petals and adding a few extra details like aerial roots where appropriate. I was SO happy with the way they turned out.

I had already decided which aged terracotta pots I needed for them and was properly stumped when I couldn't get hold of any.  After a lot of hunting and research I gave up, dug out the paper and decided to give it a go and make my own - this would be an all paper project after all!  Actually I think they turned out pretty well and decided to use them so the orchids were planted and the pots topped up with tea leaves and moss which looks quite authentic.

All I needed now was a deep box frame to display them in. Out came the cardboard to work out dimensions as usual, a cheap, cheap gold-coloured photo frame which I pulled apart and a  willing husband who braved freezing conditions in the shed (sorry - workshop...) to actually make my box. I painted it with emulsion paint, sponged with different tones and replaced the original flimsy glazing with thicker acrylic 'glass'.



And this is the result. Difficult to get a good picture now the plants are in the box, and I've left out the glazing as the glare made it impossible to photograph, but I'm happy with the finished project.

Thank you for looking
Robin