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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Definitely in Need of a Little Assistance

On the workbench is a little 1/48th house in need of furnishing......in the garden the weeds are growing faster than I can yank them out......and the conservatory is over-run with tomatoes....but at least the washing is drying in the sun!

I thought I should get back to miniatures in this blog...but you know how it goes.....

So, we love tomatoes and my husband loves to grow them from seed, which he does VERY successfully....every year.  Although he planted less than usual, they all came up, so I am in the annual process of convincing the extended family that when they visit they should take some home! Still there's danger of frost, so nothing tender can go outside....the conservatory is full to bursting with the orchids and other conservatory plants, plus the toms., carnation plug plants, leek and parsnip seedlings. I need help!!

Running out of room fast...
Finally...nowhere to sit...

Bert arrived, released from his box which he never liked anyway to help tie one or two to supports.

Thank heavens for Bert
Out in the garden - which is looking pretty good despite the weeds - tulips are blooming and my favourite shrub Exochorda - The Bride is looking wonderful and I have finally decided to stop trying to cull the bluebells which are everywhere.

Exochorda

It's a losing battle anyway really and they do look beautiful and I do love them; we have a mixture of the native and the spanish variety in different areas and I had a wild ambition to only keep the native.....oh well.  When they die down other things appear and the garden is ever-changing.

I hope you're all enjoying your garden too, whether it's real sized or miniature.

Thank you for looking

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wishing You A Happy Easter

Easter is a special time for many of us across the globe and I hope that it can be a time spent with those you love.
Our gardens and open spaces, and even our indoor plants and window boxes also seem to know that it's time to renew and celebrate.


I enjoyed a lovely day in Oxford with a very special guide a week  ago visiting some of the  Colleges, and trod the medieval pavements, touched equisite and ancient wood and stone carvings and sculptures and gazed at unbelievably ancient and beautiful stained glass windows. It was absolutely a walk back in time and a huge privilege and I'm grateful for the enormous work and dedication undertaken to preserve this for us all.

It's decades since I last did this, so a big thank you P.


The parks and garden within college precincts are just a joy too, and for me, best of all was seeing for the first time the snakes head fritilliaries (yes I do have a 'thing' about them) flowering in their thousands across the water meadows at Magdalen College.


Oxford was bursting with visitors on a sunny day - youngsters drawn by a location for the Harry Potter Films, and 'oldsters' drawn by the 'Morse' stories (and spin offs) by Colin Dexter. I hope they all enjoyed themselves and will come back one day to look at the 'ancient dreaming spires'.

The garden is bursting into colour and so too, the conservatory - orchids vying with each other for centre stage.

Enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing.

Thank you for looking
Robin

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