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

Monday, March 19, 2018

So I Got That Wrong!

Well the wintry weather hadn't finished with us and the snow came back - again we were luckier than many and only had a very pretty but not too deep fall.  The sun came out brilliantly, not only melting the snow but showing up dust and cobwebs indoors.  Time to get dusting......

One of the blackbirds that visits regularly was a little put out to find his food under a chilly blanket.

The day before the snow came down I popped out to pick a selection of helebore flowers - we have so many and as it's a deliciously promiscuous plant,  seedlings pop up everywhere and the flowers all vary just a bit. I love them, but if I pick them on the stem they always droop so I find this the best way to show them off. If anyone knows how to stop the droop in a vase, I'd love to know.

I've been displaying my little things on these type-setting trays for decades, long before I got hooked on miniatures. Back in the day....I learned to typeset when I worked in publishing, so they are quite special as well as fabulous display cases and I have several.  As I said, the sun shone and highlighted the dust, so I got out my soft old paintbrush and set to work before I dared take out the camera.
Click on the pics. to get bigger versions.

This one is in a narrow hallway so I had to perch on the stairs and squeeze the camera through the banisters to photograph it in its entirety.  On the top is an ancient little pottery cat, an old Corgie AA van, a couple of vintage pencil sharpeners and a rather nice antique enamelled match box cover - the hanging cord doesn't show as a rule thankfully.

I thought I'd give you a closer look at some of my little 'treasures'.  As you can see they aren't all true miniatures. I love buttons and small toys, old brooches and badges and the bits and pieces that remind me of special places or people. Then of course there's the 'quirky' that's just fun.

Nothing here is very ancient, except the tiny wooden toys and those gorgeous buttons - the poppy is my favourite.

The butterfly and dragonfly are old brooches, the buttons are miltary, except the black Civil Defence one and the stylish ones from 1930s. I have friends who can knit....and have collected Victoria Fasken's exquisite painted ware (bottom right) for many years.

Lots more vintage buttons, some reminders of happy years living in Cornwall and a very early attempt at making paper tulips in a rather lovely vase which is probably Elisabeth Causeret.  I love my little angel that cost me 50p and a teeny weeny picture of two of my sons. The red kite flying above the agate slab is an RSPB badge  - these wonderful birds fly over our garden every day and we never get tired of watching them.

Thanks for looking

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

No More Snow!

Today is a bright sunny one, such a nice herald of spring after the snow of last week.  To be fair, here in Thame (Oxfordshire) we got away very lightly compared to other parts of the country, and were inconvenienced rather than anything else - and it was beautiful!
I was obliged to do the ironing and other such necessary but boring indoor jobs.....

First, as promised, out came the camera so that I could show you the fabulous Orchid by Jan Southerton - The Flower Lady - I purchased at The Thame Dolls House and Miniature Fair.

The bright blue sky lit up the shelf of bits and pieces and plants, of course, in the conservatory, including the dainty flowers of this begonia.

Just before it snowed I brought in some forsythia buds and catkins which cheered us up as the bright yellow flowers burst open and the catkins spread their yellow pollen over everything.

Outside the snow held back the Iris Reticulata in pans just outside the door.  I love these mini iris and think they look wonderful with the bright pink cyclamen.

Now we have a great show as they continue to come out and it's great to see the cyclamen are seeding like mad and making tiny corms  - soon the pans will be a mass of these special little flowers.  I have the more common white and pale pink all over the garden itself but they look best naturalised in the grass under the fruit trees.

The tiny round corms are on the right of the picture

I'm quite pleased with my 'pig pan'- I wasn't sure if it would look O.K. or if they would stand a frost outside. The super stoneware pigs have been with me for  many years and sadly I can no longer remember who crafted them.  All four grandchildren have loved them as they sat on the windowsill indoors and consequently they have lost an ear or two, and the odd foot. Alongside this chunk of flint rock they now look right at home I think.

We couldn't resist this striking primose in the market - I shall have to plant it outside soon - well away from the natives!
There are masses of helebores out, but it's a little soggy  at the moment - when it dries up a little I'll pick some to bring in.

Thanks for looking

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Filling Up The Little Shelves

I very nearly ditched a 1/24th,  not very exciting, glass-fronted set of shelving that I'd painted up a long time ago - couldn't decide if it should be an armoire or a bookcase.  Neither really appealed, but I dithered and shoved it in a you do.

When I was working on the last 1/12th dresser I realised I probably had enough tiny pieces to actually make something of the discarded shelving after all instead of leaving it in a box and dither some more.

I'm sure you can spot more of Elisabeth Causeret's wonderful pottery and the little aqua painted kettle at the bottom is the exquisite work of Vicky Fasken.  I was happy with the little glass plate at the top which I painted with 'roses'.
Back in the day I'd hoard old watch glasses which are the perfect size and I enjoyed painting them, so it was fun to do that again.
Lots of different beads - so versatile for miniaturists - and some of my own polymer clay teapots, together with hoarded 'odds'n sods' soon filled the shelves and made something out of not very much.

Last Saturday I visited The Thame Fair, now in its 13th year and under new ownership. After 11 years behind one of the trader's stand it makes a change to be able to browse and treat myself.  I bought a gorgeous orchid from Jan Southerton (The Flower Lady) and met up with chums, but have to admit to being disappointed that there were far fewer of the finest artisan miniaturists that we had expected, and had seen in previous years. What a shame.

I'll take a photo of Jan's orchid for the next blog but meanwhile 'exotic' Kohleria is blooming its socks off in the conservatory.  This is another of those wonderful plants that are pretty boring until they burst into fabulous flower.  I love it.

Thanks for looking

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Surprising World of Plants

I know from comments on my own blog and catching up with many of yours, that I'm not alone in being mad on plants!
It struck me when I was making miniature versions, that plants really can surprise us - often in the beauty of an individual flower that appears from the most modest or mundane looking bunch of leaves, or the weirdest floral offering imaginable.

I took a look at my own conservatory....far too wet to be poking about outside at the moment......and realised that my first surprising plant was in flower. Billbergia Nutans (or its offspring) has been in our family for so long that we call it 'Bill'.  'Bill' is a bromeliad and for about 11 1/2 months of the years a pretty boring clump of spikey green leaves that thankfully thrives on neglect. But once a year it bursts into mad and exhuberant flower - striped in navy blue, pink and bright green with long anthas that shed bright pollen everywhere.

And along comes the snapdragon.  As far as I was concerned snapdragons were a favourite cottage garden plant that grew just about anywhere and boasted a huge variety of colours.  Then years ago a friend gave me seeds of a climbing snapdragon.
It is the same family but is more accurately a Maurandia. She can out-climb just about anything and is currently doing her best to choke the Strelitzia (2nd and 3rd flowers now out and two more to come) and take over the conservatory.  Not frost hardy I shall have to disentagle her take her outside with her support for the summer.
By then big fat seed capsules will have sprayed seeds everywhere and there will be lots of seedlings nestling in other pots. Some will be planted outside to climb away for the summer.

This somewhat ordinary pot of fern seedlings is surprising because when I repotted several orchids last autumn some of the old and decomposing bark towards the bottom of the translucent plant pots appeared to be growing juvenile ferns. Very odd, especially as I'd assumed the commercial orchid compost - i.e. the bark - was sterilised.  Anyway, long story short, I potted up some bits of the bark and they're growing away very happily.  They look like native ferns to me so hopefully can be moved to the garden in the spring.

If you've been popping in for a few weeks you'll have see my miniature greenhouse - the structure of which was made by my very clever husband using a brass and glass terrarium purchased back in the day from a charity shop as pattern/inspiration. I was going to give it to a charity shop, but hesitated - I am a hoarder!!

I knew that even a small plant in there would soon outstrip its confines but an airplant might not. I last had one as a teenager and finally covered in dust my mother consigned it to the bin.  I suppose I never realised then that the poor thing did at least need a little water now and again.
Anyway a visit to a local garden centre having a sale provided, for next to nothing, just what I needed. And of course I have bits old wood and fungus (all sterilised) lurking about so I had just the bits to mount it on.  Apart from the fact that it is really difficult to photograph because the backing is a mirror - it works brilliantly.

And finally....yes this is a shadow.

I was given a super Christmas present of orchids and promised to send a picture as they flowered. Took the photo as the light was fading and my husband spotted this fabulous shadow on the wall............a little bird ( I like to think it's a robin) appears to be sitting in the branches. Magic.

However, perhaps the most surprising plants of all are the incredible  miniatures that our finest artisans create using nothing more than paper, polymer clay and wires. I am in awe of you all.

Thanks for looking

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Brand New Workshop - With The Emphasis on Vintage!

A couple of years ago Celia Thomas and I closed the doors on our final workshop after a number of very happy and successful years.....finally I opted for a 'graceful' retirement.  But I'm delighted to be able to tell you all that under her own KT Miniatures banner she's going it alone and has just announced her first workshop. Fantastic news!

As many of you know, as well as being an immensely talented maker of items that have that much loved vintage look, she is also a highly respected expert in vintage and antique dollshouses and miniatures and very experienced in the restoration of both.  It is this very popular vintage emphasis that will be the unique focus of her workshops and I'm sure will have wide appeal as she shares her knowledge and tricks of the trade using very ordinary and readily available materials.

Numbers at each workshop will be limited so if you might be interested don't delay as I know bookings are already being made. It's a great venue, and I know it will be a friendly and productive day, working at your own pace whether you are a novice or more experienced.

Celia is offering two options of workshop kits...

Option 1 : Early 1900s German Style Kitchen Workshop -   Main Room Box With Furniture & Accessories Kit @ £105.00
Are you an antique and vintage dolls house collector who has been wanting an antique German kitchen but unable to find one at an affordable price? Well, at this workshop for just a fraction of the cost of a genuine antique one, you can make your own. Or are you a miniaturist seeking a workshop where you can create a miniature room setting that is just that little bit different? If so, then this first workshop option that contains the kitchen room box plus the furniture & accessories kit, may be perfect for you.

Option 2: Early 1900s German Style Kitchen Workshop - Furniture & Accessories Kit Only (No Main Room Box) @ £89.00
Are you an antique and vintage dolls house collector with an empty dolls house kitchen that needs furnishing? Or are you are a miniaturist who has run out of room for any more large projects and would prefer to just make the furniture and accessories for your own display or project. If the answer is yes, then this second workshop option may be ideal for you.

There are two dates, either Saturday April 21st or Saturday May 19th and the workshop is being held in the Conference Room at Bicester Avenue Garden Centre just off junction 9 of the M40.

If you hop over to her blog - you'll see lots more details and pictures too.

It's so exciting to watching a project develop from beginning to end.....think I'll have to pop along and hand out the paint and glue just so that I can see....

Thanks for looking

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Getting Back to Miniatures

So without too much enthusiasm I thought I might as well slap a few layers of paint on the basic 1/12th scale white-wood dresser, dig about in my boxes of treasures and concentrate on vintage/antique pieces where I could. It was better than tackling the pile of ironing ......

And what do you know....I was enjoying myself.  Before the second layer of paint was on the dresser I was rooting around and rediscovering pieces that had been displayed 'temporarily' elsewhere or actually acquired because I'd imagined them on an old dark and distressed shelf one day. Top of the list was this lovely vintage but damaged clock and the elderly wooden plate from my friend Celia at KT Miniatures, and the old gent and his wife which I painted decades ago, a perfect miniature reproduction of the china pair that sat on my Granny's mantlepiece.

There is a sprinkling of Elisabeth Causeret, and the full size Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Staffordshire) on the top shelf were once in the family home.  Victoria Fasken's glorious blue bowl picks up the colour from the 'plate' behind - actually a vintage enamelled brooch. Some items have been with me for a time like the Staffordshires and the stoneware jars at the bottom, and sadly although I can't recall all the makers' name I will always appreciate their artistry.  On that very bottom shelf an old handmade pewter pendant, made by an aunt, doubles as a tray and the wonderful set of pans was made for me by a lovely craftsman many, many years ago after he retired as an engineer on the Great Western Railway.

If I have a favourite item it's probably the 1900s bentwood Scandinavian style storage box, (that, and the clock started me off) purchased at an antique's fair, I've never seen anything quite like it  before.

Now all I have to do is find a home for the dresser...... I think the perfect place is next to one I finished last year and the late C19th dresser which contains a wonderful selection of antique glass.  I expect it was played with by the girls in the (1920s) photo alongside and probably originally belonged to their mother and aunts......

.......and fill in the gaps on other displays where I have taken pieces for the vintage dresser. Oh, and I've found a 1/24th scale set of glass-fronted shelves........that had already been painted.....

Thanks for looking

Monday, January 15, 2018

A New Year.....thinking of what comes next.

I don't know about you, but I don't do New Year Resolutions....far too depressing when they're broken almost immediately.  I have a kind of  'might do' list and a 'really should do' list....I'll just see how that goes then....

I would like to wish each and everyone of you a very Happy 2018 and hope all your 'might do' and 'should do' lists come to pass.

 Our Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise) burst into flower in time for the New Year and I'm really thrilled that there are five more buds coming along. Believe it or not it is around thirty years old, grown from a seed by my lovely Mum - until the autumn it was one of a pair, but our conservatory isn't made of elastic so that has gone to a new home.  I hope they have five buds too.

Looking around I'm reminded how many of my plants, or their offspring came from her and friends. Nice!

Top of my list after Christmas is MARMALADE.  This is an ancient family ritual originally vested in my Mum and before her, no doubt, her Mum. Now of course it is my turn and Granny's Marmalade needs to be made in sufficient quantity to supply family and special friends (and us) with a few jars 'in case'. Off and on it lasts about a week, the house smells lovely and I have an annual meltdown about having enough jars ......and I pop a few Seville oranges in the freezer in case we run out later in the year.

 So now I'm revisiting my 'might do' miniature list and looking at a 1/12th basic whitewood dresser I've had for ages and thinking it would make a nice old dark 'vintage' piece to display some of my vintage/antique odds and bits. Like all collectors I have lots of treasures squirrelled away and not a lot of room to display them.  Then again when I see Elisabeth Causeret's stand I just can't resist...Still thinking - I'll let you know.

Thanks for looking

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Christmas

In wishing you  a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, I hope that the next year will bring you all the things that you wish for yourselves and those you love.

Many of us will be thinking of those who are no longer with us, so there's always a moment or two of reflection I guess.

It is also time for a huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to pop in to my blog over the last year, and the kind and encouraging comments. I've loved reading all your blogs, even if I don't always leave a comment, and really think it's a very special blogging community that encourages, inspires and values each and every one .  Thank you.

Thank you for looking.
Robin xx

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Let it snow...let it snow....let it snow...

It snowed overnight so today it looks like a proper winter!!  I don't have to leave my snug home or travel on our snowbound roads so I can enjoy the beautiful transformation  - lucky me.

Somehow a winter without a decent snowfall leaves me feeling somewhat cheated so I'm very happy to see it.  I totally appreciate that if you are living in North America, for instance, where three or four inches is a mere trifle and you manage easily with feet of snow on a regular basis and nothing stops working, you may be having a chuckle....

Our sons grew up at the foot of the Wiltshire Downs and the hills and valleys were their winter playground, along with all their friends.  Of course the biggest bonus was when the school bus couldn't make it down into the village, sometimes for days, and they had an extended winter holiday. At the foot of the hill, our house was always full of steaming wet gloves and boots, hot chocolate and toast and a back yard full of assorted sledges.  Happy days.

Indoctrinated by their fathers from an early age, the grandchildren are equally excited by any chance of playing in the snow. A very large (over 6ft) grandson bounded through the door this morning asking 'Have you taken photos yet Granny?' ( how well he knows me).....before racing through the virgin snow in our back garden to make snow angels.  He did also kindly dig out my poor owl that had toppled into a 'drift'.

In the conservatory a couple of my favourite plants are blooming beautifully - a Chirita and a Kholeria both distant relatives of African Violets and very easy to grow.

Thanks for looking

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Little Greenhouse Is Finished

Now that all the plants have been shoehorned in and fixed down I can call the little greenhouse complete.

I had intended to permanently fix the structure to the back wall - I've changed my mind on that idea so that it can easily be removed to see the detail of the plants on the shelves.  I've just got to sort out the fixing, but at least for now a couple of pieces of velcro at the apex of the roof work just fine.

Click on the pics. for bigger versions.

It was a bit of a problem squeezing in the main plants and a few pots etc. so that it looked 'lived in'. Not much room to waggle as my aunt would say......

Finally I got some in from the front, and some in from the back.

Anyway, they're in.

This is just a reminder of the back wall - then everything in place.

Finished. It's approx. 9" high, 6" wide and 4" deep.

Thank you for looking