Monday, 6 March 2017

A room full of memories

This weekend my mum celebrated her 70th birthday and as it was a special occasion, I'd decided on a special present. We're very lucky to share our love of miniatures and I thought it would be nice to give her a room box that reminded her of all the things she loves.

So without further ado, here's the completed room. The accessories won't mean much to other people but most of the items in the room mean something to us.

The completed room box

The photo above was taken in the middle of the day so the lights aren't having much of an effect but in the shot below you can see they do really light up the room.

A homely feel with the lights on

When I started this project I had the idea that I would do all the work and that would make it more special. Then I realised that actually it wouldn't be much of a present if the walls fell down and there were bubbles in the wallpaper so after buying a kit and the necessary items to decorate, I handed it all over to my dad.

First he built the box.

Then painted the outside and the ceiling.

And finally came the decoration.

He not only did a great job in putting it all together but also managed to keep it a secret for the last couple of months (although there was a close call when my mum returned early from an outing on one occasion).

As I'd hoped, rather naively, to assemble the room myself I went for battery lights for the first time, knowing full well that electrics would be well beyond my non-existent DIY skills. I'm really impressed with the ones I ended up with from Minimum World but this was the second attempt at lighting the room.

When I unpacked the first lot of lights that arrived I loved them - until I turned them on...

The first attempt at lighting the room

Not only was the bright white light very harsh, it didn't do a particularly good job of illuminating the room either. Next time I went online I made sure I searched for 'warm white' but unfortunately couldn't find a standard lamp with the right colour bulb so decided on a ceiling light instead.

Buying miniatures online isn't ideal as it's so difficult to judge the quality of the piece. But with so few shops around these days and the big fairs few and far between, I was forced to search the web more and found some great new sellers. I'm particularly fond of the cheese plant in the corner (we had one in our lounge when I was growing up) from Ladies Mile Miniatures and the wrapped presents and bouquet from Janet Goodrick Miniatures.

Who's for cake?

You may have noticed the room is all set to celebrate a birthday. There's a '70' cake on the table alongside some 'happy birthday' plates, as well as a bottle of white wine and a couple of glasses (we do like to share a little glass of Pinot).

On the mantlepiece you can see some birthday cards, one of my many purchases from Dinky Delights. I actually bought these at a local dollshouse show we went to last month but I couldn't blog about it as most of the things I came home with were for the room.

I also bought the mirror there and the Wedgwood vase - something I'd been looking for for a while. My mum has always loved Wedgwood so I really wanted to find a piece for the room.

The log basket was also purchased at the show, as was the flooring and the sofa just out of shot so all in all it was quite successful. It wasn't always easy as my mum was there too but I think I just about got away with it.

I also bought some fudge from Dinky Delights but as it came loose I needed to make a box for it. Easy, or so I thought...

The one on the right was the first attempt

I was quite excited about finally using the skills I learnt in maths many, many years ago to draw a box. I thought it was all going well until I discovered the flaps were far too small to actually stick the box together. Cue lots of swearing, soggy cardboard and the realisation that the box was probably too big anyway.

My second attempt (on the left) was much more successful and was stuck with Tacky Wax. For non-miniaturists, this is an amazing little pot of adhesive that allows repositioning. I ended up sticking everything in the room down with it as I knew it had to travel in the car. Amazingly, nothing moved despite a couple of abrupt stops on the journey to my parents'.

Some of my mum's favourite books

I wanted to put more books on the shelf but I also wanted them to be seen clearly so settled on a small-ish selection. The Haynes manual might seem odd but my mum had a much-loved Mini when I was younger so I thought it was a must. Next to that is a gardening book as that's another of her hobbies and the shelf below is full of Catherine Cookson novels I found on eBay. I love that they look slightly worn and well-read. The bottom shelf is reserved for children's books including Noddy as the birthday girl has been known to go out dressed as him.

Every miniature room should have a dollshouse

All the pictures in the room have some meaning. On the right are my parents in one of my favourite shots of them. I took it on my birthday last year and I think they look so happy. Next to that is an image of our wedding with my mum and dad on either side of us and in the corner is Alice - a big part of our family now.

I made the Shaun the Sheep calendar as my mum gets one for Christmas every year. I searched everywhere for a Shaun or Gromit that was close to 1:12 scale but had no luck so the calendar was a way to get Shaun into the room and also to highlight the date - 4 March 2017 is circled.

On the side are some favourite snacks - a tin of shortbread, a box of Turkish Delight and the fudge that caused so many problems!

Just to give you an idea of the scale, here's my mum peering into the room. Despite appearances, Alice is not sitting on her back.

Happy 70th birthday, mum! 

I'm pleased to say it's already found a home between the cafe and the seaside stall, although the fisherman's hut is temporarily homeless. One day I'll tell you about all of my mum's miniatures, but that could take a while.

The room box in its new home

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Christmas village is growing

A few years ago I mentioned we had 'accidentally' begun a new miniature hobby. As this one is seasonal it's a slow burner but our Christmas village is growing little by little, year by year.

We still go to a garden centre for the annual post-festive sales and pick up some half price bargains. Amazingly, this year I escaped having only spent £3. This little horse and carriage fitted our specification of 'nothing too big' as storing the village from January to November is a bit of a challenge.

The village sits just in front of our TV, largely because it's an empty surface but the fact it's white means it adds to the snowy feel.

As you can see, it's still a manageable size - for the moment...

We were hoping to pick up a 'firework display' my dad had seen online but unfortunately we couldn't find one. The film below is something to aim for next year!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Time for a new challenge?

I love going to dollshouse fairs but it's not quite the same when your current projects (my house, pub and shop) are almost completed. Window shopping is all very well but if I don't come home clutching a tiny paper bag that cost me a fortune, I don't feel quite the same level of happiness.

With Kensington Dollshouse Festival fast approaching I've been wondering what to put on my shopping list. It's also that time of year when my husband is nagging me for Christmas present ideas and picking up a couple of things at the show has become tradition.

I joined a few dollshouse groups on Facebook recently, partly to nose around other people's houses and partly, I admit, to promote this blog. It's been really inspiring to see what everyone else is making and I've also spotted a lot of bargains in the 'For sale' sections, particularly for beginners.

So what's this got to do with my shopping list? Well something caught my eye in one of the groups that gave me an idea for a new project.

It was love at first sight
Isn't it lovely? You can see the full range from Susi's Miniatures on eBay. So all being well, I'm going to create a 1950s diner which combines my love of vintage and miniatures. I don't know why I haven't thought about it before!

There are two things that are making me slightly hesitant. Firstly, where on earth am I going to put it? I think I can get over this as Tim has the entire third floor of the house for his games room, meaning I should be entitled to a little space elsewhere in the house.

The second issue is much more problematic. Are there many products available that will suit my diner? To date, I haven't really purchased any miniatures that are post 1940s. I'm not pernickety about dates but I like things to look like they belong. I know it's easy to buy traditional miniatures and there are more and more sellers making modern pieces but what about that period in between?

And what kind of room box will I need? So far I've only found Victorian or Edwardian styles which don't really cut it. Obviously if I was talented I'd scratch build it but I want something that looks beautiful, not disastrous. I'm wondering if the option below might be my best bet as the big windows seem more appropriate than anything else I've seen.

Could this be a diner? 

I've also been wondering if I could find a small 'neon' sign. I know they exist for train sets so I suspect it's possible - I just need to find one.

Of course, the best place to look for new items - and to be inspired - is shows. So roll on Kensington, I'm ready!*

* I may not be quite so ready on the day as it's the day after the work Christmas do...

Monday, 21 November 2016

My latest Lego project

I can't tell you much about it yet but I've been playing with Lego again (as if the first time wasn't time consuming enough).

This is the state of our dining room after weeks of waking in the night with a new idea, immediate eBay searches and lots of late night bidding.

It's all for the work Christmas competition so I'll tell you more in December...

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Halloween Special: And now for something a little different...

These days it's possible to buy almost anything you can think of in miniature. There was a time when choice was limited to a Victorian or Georgian dollshouse so it wasn't too hard to pick a theme and get going. Not any more...

One of the ongoing projects in our house is my husband's castle. He had seen a kit for sale but my dad knew he could make something far superior so for Tim's 40th birthday, my parents gave him the three room building below.

Quite rightly, they didn't decorate it as that's such a personal choice they wanted Tim to decide how it should look. He was thrilled with it (still is) and it meant a lot to me that we could share the hobby. I was pretty lucky to marry a man who not only tolerates my miniature obsession but also joins in.

The problem is Tim's going to be 50 next month. Yep, that's 10 long years the poor castle has been nothing more than MDF.  

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, we're perfectionists when it comes to our miniature projects but between us, we have very little skill. We know how good it could look but we're scared to start in case we get it wrong.

Secondly, Tim has changed his mind so many times over the years about the theme I've completely lost track of what it's going to be.

What started as a witch's home then became a Victorian Doctor Who themed castle. That turned into a monster's lair and for the moment, he seems to have settled on a magical superhero's headquarters.  

We haven't totally neglected the project though as every time I go to a show I pick up a little something that will, I hope, be on display one day. With Halloween upon us it seemed like a good time to share some of his treasures.

Anyone got a miniature feather duster?

The first piece I bought was this table and chair set (now complete with authentic dust), back when the theme was very definitely witch-related.

Handy for going into battle
At one point there was talk of wood panelling and a nod to medieval times which is probably why we ended up with the pieces above. Whatever the final theme, I still think they'll look pretty good on the walls.

Then there's one of my favourite pieces - a beautifully put together shelving unit complete with scrolls, books and maps. I suspect there are hundreds of spells and potion recipes in those books, just waiting to be discovered (by a witch, monster, Doctor Who, whoever). 

I tend not to buy this kind of thing, generally believing that half the fun is in finding the right miniatures and putting it all together yourself. However, when I saw this I knew Tim would love it and it was so nicely done - so into my tiny tote bag it went (after paying for it, obviously).

A selection of the 'horrifying' things that will find a home in the castle

In recent years there has definitely been more unusual miniatures at the exhibitions so it's getting easier to pick up a skull, a book of spells or even this amazing room divider.

There's a close up below (because I think some of these pieces are just lovely).

One day I imagine there'll be a lot of shelving in the castle full of potions, which is why we ended up with jars of dragons' blood, eyeballs and tapeworms...

Everything you need to conjure up... who knows what? 

Of course, even the most accomplished witch/wizard/superhero can't remember everything so they're going to need a few books - and what better place to store them than an old coffin?

One day I hope to post pictures of the finished castle - or at least a work in progress - and hopefully we won't be waiting another decade.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Tiny toys - a tour of my miniature nursery

Continuing the tour of my 1:12 scale Tudor dollshouse that I started some years ago, the nursery is another of my favourite rooms.

The nursery in 1:12 scale

I could have filled this room many times over because tiny toys are so very beautiful. I'm particularly fond of Humpty Dumpty and Paddington Bear - in fact, I would love to own the entire range from Sally Reader Miniatures but these two are my favourites.

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall

There's a lot going on in this room - all on top of the rug my nan made more than 20 years ago. Right at the back of the nursery is a toy garage that I'm also rather fond of - complete with cars.

Spot the garage. Look out for the kite and skipping rope too - both have lovely details

I'm always in two minds about whether or not to add people to a room. There's no doubt it takes away from the realism and, particularly in photos, the vague doubt over whether or not you're looking at a miniature scene or a full size room. However, sometimes I come across people that I feel I have to have, or I just think they'll fit well in a room.

It wouldn't really be right to have a nursery without children playing

When I first saw these two laying on their stomachs, I knew they'd be perfect for the nursery. They were in the library for a little while but I actually love that room too much to add people.

Hmmm, where to start?

It's worth taking a closer look at what they're doing as the detail in that plane kit is astounding. It feels like real balsa wood but I have to admit, I've never got it out the box and explored properly as it's just so delicate.

Perhaps one day when I'm fast asleep the children will build it themselves :-)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Mixing Lego and collectable miniatures

I'm very lucky because I like my job - a bit of a rarity these days. Sometimes, I absolutely love my job. Recently I was able to get a bit creative and came up with something for the company website I'm rather proud of.

I work for PR agency Maxim and am always trying to think of new ways to get different messages across. Photographs are really important when trying to gain media coverage but some of the images we're sent for issuing to the media are truly terrible.

Obviously we can't share these pictures so I decided to recreate some of the issues we have to help explain to people how to take a good photo for the media. And that's where my love of miniatures came in...

My first job was to beg, borrow and steal until I had a team of Lego figures ready to help out.

Lego people - ASSEMBLE! 

I turned our dining room into a makeshift photo studio using an old cardboard box, my mum brought some of her miniatures round and I raided my own collection.

It was like a Blue Peter challenge
A behind-the-scenes shot - amazing what you can do with a box (and a very expensive 1:12 scale plant)

The scene above eventually turned into the shot below - the lesson being you always need to keep an eye on what's going on in the background of your photo.

Watch the background

My mum has a seaside stall where she sells deckchairs so obviously I had to use them. This photo is actually based on one we created on Brighton beach some years ago.

Ice cream, anyone?

You might recognise the props below from my nursery but again, this photo is based on one we created in real life. An oversized prop can go a long way!

Lego + miniatures = smiles

It's also really important to remove anything from a photo that might date it, assuming you'll want to use it again at some point. I remembered I sell poppies in my shop so it seemed only right to use them.

Don't worry - I didn't cut the stalks - that's down to Photoshop
 To see the full article (and lots more pictures) take a look here