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

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.

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

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

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 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

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

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Glorious Miniature Flower......... and a collapsing arch

We  did indeed have a heatwave - PHEW - the roses came out, looked lovely, went over,  and the strawberries fruited and finished in under a fortnight - so none for Wimbledon! Now things have changed yet again .....

Actually my entire purpose in this blog is to flag up the fact that my Gloriosa Lily in the conservatory is looking wonderful - BUT, more importantly to urge you all to rush over to Ilona's blog to see the most fantastic, wonderful delicate representation of the same plant in 1/12th scale.  Truly this lady has magic in her fingers! I run out of superlatives each time I see her newest blog. Thanks for being such an inspiration Ilona.

This is my real life Gloriosa Lily - now take a look at Ilona's
Out in the garden the heatwave came to a dramatic end with high winds and rain - to be fair the ground was desperate for rain - our rose arch, already ancient and wobbly has almost collapsed and resembles a flowery tunnel into a secret garden.
A big pruning operation will be necessary very soon but I've been rather too keen with the secateurs later and sprained  the old dodgy wrist............not 'appy.

The Rose is Veilchenblau, a really old rose introduced in the late 1800s.  We first came across it in an old garden established in 1900 that we inherited, and it's been in our gardens ever since as we love it. It's still readily available and is a proper trouper - this one is also climbing high into the nearby conifer along with American Pillar and a clematis.

Back to miniatures next time as I show you the little treasures found at a car boot sale and Antique Fair.

Thank you for looking

Monday, June 5, 2017

Here Comes the Summer!

We've had more than a week of lovely weather with just enough rain to keep my garden watered. More of the same please!

So my miniature workbench, which these days is a space to play just for me, as distinct from 'working,' is an idle muddle while the weather is calling me to the garden. The end to frosts meant that we could relocate really BIG plants from the conservatory to the garden for the summer, so again we have space to sit on the sofa and chairs for early breakfast or a glass of wine and a big re-jig moving the orchids to the back wall means that they are happier and there are YARDS of extra space.
The big picture you can see was once part of a much loved dress - back in the day when The Beatles were Top of the Pops.
(Yes that does make me feel old....)

Out in the garden our mammoth efforts to prune, clear and tidy in the autumn and spring have paid dividends and even the weeds are feeling the fight-back!

Super dark-leaved elder with flowers like pink lace
Glorious peony
Rosa 'Blue Moon' - lives a long way from more traditional roses so the clours don't clash.
The old shed is resplendent now with a series of hanging pots
Dainty little collared doves have taken their young from the nest in the middle of the rose arch so when it's flowered we can prune (before it collapses the actual arch) but we're looking forward to a spectacular display very soon.
In the pond the tadpoles are growing little legs and skitter about very happily, and the wild patch is about to errupt in moon daisies and corncockle.  Happy days!

Thank you for looking

Monday, May 15, 2017

DISASTER......and now to drain the pond!

Way back in 2012 I created a little 1/12th scale pond - full of 'water' with a perky frog, some cheerful birds and detailed landscaping around the edge - that I was really pleased with. I hadn't looked at it for ages...and ages....
Then I did.

So here is the pond back in the day.
Click on the pics to enlarge.

And last week I discovered that the 'water', i.e. 'Scenic Water' had shrunk away from the edges and looked like an unpleasant, lumpy, discoloured, gelatinous mess.

I don't mean to rubbish a very popular product, because maybe I missed sealing a tiny spot on the pond lining which was made from air-drying clay....has anyone got any ideas or had the same problem?  Anyway I was not happy. There seemed nothing for it but to dig out the yucky, rubbery mess which wasn't easy, to say the least, together with paper leaves etc. that partially disintegrated as I did so.

So here's the problem. I had a pond with no water, and although I have some more of the product I'm afraid to use it again. I decide I shall fall back on a tried and tested alternative that I introduced in the Nostalgia In Miniature Workshops Celia Thomas and I ran. It looks very effective and is such a simple method that works brilliantly in small water features - not quite so easy when it means trying to put it into an irregularly shaped, fully finished pond.

1. Cut a piece of clear acrylic - used in all sorts of common packaging - that fits just below the rim of your container. It helps to cut a paper template first. (Not that it helped me this time)  If you are adding rushes or plants at the edge, snip away a small portion so that these can be dropped through.

2. Run a thin line of tacky glue around the inside of the container and drop in the plastic. Run a thin line of glue around the edge on the plastic to secure. Leave to dry.

3. Glue in place any plants, stones or creatures, and using a Fine Tip Applicator swirl tacky glue in ripples. Leave to dry. In a day or two the ripples will be clear.

This is what works so well with a simple container!

So I did all that and it was a proper fiddle as I couldn't get the exact shape, and had to push and shove it around the existing plants and twigs and fill in gaps with extra reeds, stones and weeds. What a palaver!

Anyway - it's done - I don't like it as much as the original as the planting is a bit 'busy',  but it's 'O.K'.

Thank you for looking

Monday, May 1, 2017

Moving into Talskiddy...etc...

If you've popped in and out over the years you'll have seen my miniature round houses, inspired by real ones in the village of Veryan in Cornwall. They've inspired us to create a number in all three scales for around 18 years now - but I did need to keep one! I kept 1/48th 'Talskiddy'. But an empty house is no fun!!

An empty house needs furniture and people.  No problem with the furniture because I made sure that we retained a selection of the fabulous 1/48th handcrafted items made by my husband when we retired.  Sadly I forgot the people bit, so apart from  4 or 5 'skeletons' hiding in a box,  I only have a policeman and Granny.  Hmmm - not quite right for this little house, but they'll do for now, and hopefully when the garden is abandoned for the winter I can create another little house and have fun with that too and maybe dress the 'skeletons' appropriately.

So - let's move them all in........
Sorry about the wobbly roof - must check before photographing in future!

And now to something completely different.

Back in the day - dim and distant - with a Mother who was passionate about wild flowers and was very knowledgeable.  On Good Friday we headed to The Grove, a private wood where everyone was allowed to pick primroses once a year as a local tradition. Then we all headed for the Folly path to find the first violets and finally down The Smeeths (a sunken footpath) to find the only patches of Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) in the locality.
I suspect these have now all disappeared under the plough.
Then we were off to Badbury Hill, which I've often mentioned in blogs in the past, for the Bluebells.

Star of Bethlehem
Now falling apart, Mum's much loved wild flower book.
Still relevant although it was published in 1908
Wherever I've gardened I've always had primroses and violets - Star of Bethlehem was harder to find and harder to get to survive. Now I've done it and have a healthy group of these lovely bulbs despite the best efforts of the vicious and dreadful weed Ground Elder to wipe it out. I have an ongoing war with it, Mares Tail and Bindweed. I dig them out and confess to chemical 'kill', but they still beat me!

Thank you for looking