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

Saturday, October 8, 2016

On The Horns Of A Miniatura Dilemma!

We've all been there haven't we - be it Miniatura or KDF or another super show......
You start with a plan and/or a budget, or both........then it all goes out the window!!

So - 'best mate' and I went to Miniatura last weekend, by a series of trains and a bus, with a bus driver who wasn't sure where he was don't want to know!  Neither of us needed ANYTHING - but went with open minds to be tempted, as you do.

In the very back of my mind, bearing in that mind that my focus in these last few weeks of good weather is hacking back the garden and not miniatures, was a 1/12th dresser I'd painted and distressed several years ago. I would like to finish it with lovely pieces....sometime.

Going with 'best mate' is probably not a good idea, as despite determination to stick to the premise that we don't need ANYTHING and have fixed budgets - we are inclined to lead each other astray!

It's two or three years since I last went to the Birmingham show and it did seem smaller, but it was good to see some top class artisans whose work is a joy.  All the following are in 1/12th scale.

I treated myself to another couple of pieces of cabbage ware by Sally Meakin which are destined for the aforesaid dresser. Fabulous!

I can't pass Elisabeth Causeret's stand,  and spend so much time looking, drooling and deciding. I chose a lovely pot and an exquisite shallow dish with beautiful tracery, which the photo doesn't do justice to.

Al'turnative have such a range of turnings and lamps now it is always a difficult choice.  The burl wood shallow dish was an instant 'must have'.  I look forward to seeing them again at The Thame Dolls House and Miniature Fair in February next year.

Jan Southerton, The Flower Lady will be at Thame as well so I can have another look at the delightful pot of mixed cacti I wish I'd bought......I bought a little one though, isn't it brilliant? Sorry the photo isn't as brilliant as her work.

With so many wonderful artisans leaving the 'business' for a variety of reasons I feel it's important to indulge while I can.

Thank you for looking

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trawling Through The 1/12th Scale Archives

As I've told you before, these summer weeks have been in the garden - and you really don't want to see pictures of the rather necessary but brutal pruning that has taken place. So let's get back to miniatures.

When you've been creating character dolls as long as me, it's fun/instructive/ go back over the old picture files.  I've been fortunate in having many, many super commissions over the years which have stretched me and enabled me to not only create a raft of characters but indulge my love of historical costuming.
Some of the following are more than a decade old so the quality of the pictures does vary.
Fag Ash Lil'  - my favourite character
A beautiful gipsy lady
One of those old ladies who fits so beautifully into many scenes, wearing and antique lace shawl
One of my Scots - with his bagpipes
A couple of 'posh' 18th Century gents

Georgian lady

The old pregnant lady I've made. She now lives down under with Sus and her family.
Thank you for looking.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Glorious Summer!

Great - we've had some proper sun - doesn't it make everything seem brighter and more cheerful?
My Gloriosa Lily has been blooming gloriously after years of struggling to even survive and I'm back from a week in glorious Devon.

In this country the Gloriosa Lily is very definitely a conservatory climber - it must look amazing in its native setting, although I'm not quite sure where that is.  Anyway....after years of semi-defeat it has finally rewarded me with fabulous flowers and is still going strong.

I love the way the colour subtely changes as it opens fully
A week in Devon with lovely members of the family - assorted ages - was super, despite rather  typical British weather which saw sun and showers.  Not that a few showers is going to stop little people from building sandcastles and going in the sea!!
As well as wonderful safe beaches and beautiful varied countryside, there are exquisite and quirky villages to explore.
One of the most famous is Clovelly, a tiny old fishing village of mainly small cottages that cling to the sides of a cleft in the cliff with a steep and narrow winding cobbled street that drops 400ft to the habour. No cars! Everything has to be transported by wooden sledges.

Click on the pics. for a bigger version.

'Spectacular' and 'Beautiful' really don't do it justice and although we've visited a number of times, it never fails to delight.
Apparently Charles Kingsley lived there and was inspired to write 'Water Babies' and as you'd expect it has been painted many times.  As famous as the cobbled street are the donkeys which used to carry loads of herrings up from the beach - now they give children rides and have a much easier life.

Talking of children's book - didn't we all love the book and film of 'The Railway Children'? So did a lovely lady who recreated their cottage in 1/24th scale - and this is the family I made for her.

I hope you've all enjoyed some days in the sun too.
Thanks for looking

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