Sunday, 29 December 2013

A new miniature hobby

It seems we have accidentally acquired a new miniature hobby over the Christmas period. Next December we will be assembling - somewhere in the house - a very small Christmas village made up of a few buildings, a pond and a tree. Wandering around in the snow will be Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, as well as Mr Scrooge.

For some reason it is a tradition in our family to visit a garden centre or two after Boxing Day - you never know what bargains you might be able to grab. While my mum was sorting through the reduced rolls of wrapping paper, my husband was eyeing up the half price model houses as he has done for several years now. 

The trouble with being accustomed to 1:12 scale hand crafted miniatures is that some of these looked rather crass to me. I am fully aware that an LED lit village with moving parts could be seen as a little (a lot?) tacky but as we throw ourselves into Christmas anyway, why not?

The beginnings of our Christmas village

The idea is that we'll buy a new building each year to slowly build our little village - always after Christmas though as I don't think I could bring myself to pay full price for them.

Having now done a little research, there seem to be several makes of models and scenery available and some people have achieved some amazing scenes. The films below should give you an idea of what we're aiming for (eventually!).

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A miniature Christmas

After our successful trip to the Christmas Kensington Dollshouse Festival recently, I was determined to clear out our spare room so I could decorate my house for the festive season.

After a few days of very hard work, the room is looking an awful lot better and tonight I was able to deck the halls, as they say. Much like in real life, I'd forgotten quite how many decorations I have...

The first job is to get the tree in position although to be honest, it doesn't matter where it goes these days as I don't use the lights. When my dad first built my dollshouse I, for some unknown reason, felt the Christmas tree should have coloured flashing lights - so that's exactly what it has.

The socket that connects to the plug on the tree

Next year I am hoping to swap the bright lights (although you can actually adjust the brilliance on them as well) for more delicate white bulbs, though I'm not sure quite how easy this will be.

I got over excited and put the fairy on first

Decorating a 1:12 scale tree when you have massive hands is no mean feat, trust me. It's worth persevering though as it does look beautiful when complete. I struggled to know whether or not to use the flash in these photos as although I want to show the detail, I also want to capture some of the cosy atmosphere.

The tree is up! 

And here it is in context (after a slight disaster with the draughts board but we won't go into that).

Ready for Christmas

I love that there are lots of details to spot in this room and am particularly fond of the sliced Christmas cake ready to eat.

Good enough to eat

It took me a while to work out where to put Father Christmas's plate of treats and then I realised this must be the fireplace he would come from so he could have easy access to the tree (where the presents would be left, obviously).

Ready for his visit

Obviously my family need an advent calendar to countdown to Christmas (cue cries from husband: "You bought them an advent calendar and not me?!) but I think the children have got over excited when opening the doors - it looks like number 24 is already open.

The countdown begins!

Down in the kitchen cook has everything under control. The turkey is ready to go in the oven (although this one was just in case of extra guests and won't be cooked) and the sprouts are ready for boiling.


In the dining room the table is laid with the new centre piece taking pride of place.

Can you spot the Christmas teapot?

And again, in the context of the room.

Turkey and pudding at the same time? Why not! 

Before I turn the lights off, I always put the fronts back on the rooms so I can step back and admire it. I love peeking through the windows and imagining what's going on inside.

Who wouldn't want to go inside?
A very inviting scene

And of course, no house would be complete without a holly wreath on the front door.

Looks like it's been snowing

Merry miniature Christmas, everyone! 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Christmas at Kensington

Yesterday my mum and I made our annual trip to the Christmas Kensington Dollshouse Festival which turned out to be a very successful shopping spree for us both. Unlike the previous exhibition, the Christmas show is held on just one day and we immediately noticed it was a lot busier.

I saw a couple of friends on the way to the show who both suggested I was heading out to consume a glass or two of wine. Little did they know I was off to enjoy one of the most sedate hobbies around, mainly taken up by middle aged women. That said, when I was being elbowed out the way by an elderly lady struggling to see some tiny vegetables a couple of hours later, I wasn't thinking of it as a 'sedate hobby'.

The main hall - which is one of many - at the Kensington Dollshouse Festival

I didn't really have a shopping list on this occasion but knew I wanted to get a few Christmas themed pieces. This is partly motivation to sort out the room where my dollshouses live so I can decorate for the festive season. It has got to the stage where I can't get to my house, shop or pub at all because of the boxes stacked up in front of them. This week, I'm hoping to at least make a start on the room so I can put some of my purchases in their new homes.

Ready to begin the Christmas dinner (five pence piece for scale)

As usual we started on the ground floor and one of our first stops was Pride of Plaice. We have already bought most of the beautiful things on the stall but I couldn't resist a few additions to my kitchen. The turkey and sprouts above are all ready for Christmas dinner, and although I already have a couple of puddings, I really like the texture on this one.

Better get writing!

I also picked up a pack of 10 shaped Christmas cards which will look great on my mantelpieces, or possibly in the bar.

All ready for Crimbo!

I'm very pleased with my beautiful fairy from Sally Reader Miniatures who will sit on top of the Christmas tree in my house. Her site is well worth a look - even if it's just to see the tray of tiny Basil Brushes. I'm lucky enough to own Sally's Humpty and Paddington already but suspect I'll be adding to my collection at some point.

The plate will, of course, be left out for Father Christmas. He'll need a mince pie and a little tipple to keep him going and I'm sure Rudolph will appreciate the carrot. Thanks to the very helpful chaps at House of Mindy, where the plate is from, who spent a long time digging around behind the stall to find the shelves that my mum wanted to buy.

The very detailed table arrangement is from The Flower Lady - can't wait to place it on the miniature dining room table.

As well as shopping, there were plenty of amazing things to look at.

The very talented Julien Martinez made the model on the left. To be honest, I'm not quite sure what it is but it reminded me of the kind of thing that Tim (my husband) likes which is why I took a picture.

Julien also had a house of horrors fairground ride on display which was very impressive. I didn't quite manage to capture it on film unfortunately and photos just didn't do it justice - not least because of the flashing lights!

There are plenty of traditional displays on show but I was a little more reluctant to ask for permission to photograph them this time around, partly because I'd forgotten my cards and couldn't always find the energy to explain that I wasn't going to rush home and copy the designs, I just wanted to say nice things about them on my blog.

We also hovered around the huge house below for some time, hoping to get a clear view. It wasn't to be though, there was always a queue of people waiting to get a closer look. Can't really say I blame them!

We were also very impressed with the unusual miniatures created by Dee-Daw Designs. There were some great characters on the stall but I think I was most taken with the scene below - it's not often you see a 1:12 scale cow!

A scene created by Dee-Daw Designs

It's well worth having a look at Dee-Daw Designs' Featherstone Hall Hotel project which was created for the 200th issue of Dolls House & Miniature Scene magazine. It includes great photos of some fantastic scenes.

A few bits for my shop

Back to the shopping. My store is almost full but I'm hoping I can find space on the walls for a few signs and a chewing gum machine, all courtesy of Platts Mini Packages, which is also where the fantastic paper chains (pictured earlier) came from.

A pair of leather gloves for the lady of the house

At this point of the day I still didn't have a 'lady of the manor' for my Tudor house - but I figured that once I found her she'd need a pair of leather gloves. I love The Luggage Lady's miniatures but already have a suitcase and a bag - there's only so much I can fit in.

And so on to my final purchase. I was doing reasonably well on the spending front (I'd managed to tear myself away from the amazing bathrooms at Hearth and Home Miniatures) but we popped back to the ground floor and I had a second look at Crumpled and Rumpled's stand.

We'd spotted the lady we called 'Nanny Doris' earlier as she bears an uncanny likeness to my late grandmother - an incredibly lovely lady who was very talented with her hands: knitting, tapestries and sewing were all part of her repertoire so it seems only right that this Doris is sat at a sewing machine.

'Nanny Doris' from Crumpled and Rumpled

There were a couple of other figures that I was debating between which lead to the stallholder commenting on what vivid imaginations we all have. You always have to think about their back story - will they fit in, is she the right age for the man of the house, is she too modern or too old-fashioned? But no, I think she's just perfect which is why she now has a new home with me.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A visit to Mouse Town

This weekend we made our annual visit to England's Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle (more for Tim's benefit than mine but it is a good day out).

While the majority of the sights and sounds are very much life size, we couldn't resist a visit to Mouse Town. A small tent houses a model - which must be around 1:12 scale - of a street scene in darkness.

Amongst the shops are numerous mice, scurrying around and generally enjoying themselves.

Mouse Town is home to a large collection of real mice.

We've seen Mouse Town before but obviously each time the mice are doing something different so it's always enjoyable, perhaps more for us than others because we love the model. There's something magical about a mouse disappearing through a pub doorway though.

There was a tense moment when a couple of the creatures were balanced precariously on a balcony (cue shouts from nearby children of 'he's going to jump') but fortunately they decided against the giant leap to the ground.
The film below gives you an idea of what you can see in Mouse Town, although the reflection of the glass and the lighting make it difficult you can still make out the odd furry friend.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

An inspirational fairytale

One of my colleagues recently sent me a link to an article with the subject line 'Thought you might like this'. Like is a bit of an understatement and doesn't seem appropriate for such a magnificent dollshouse, or more accurately, dolls' castle.

Film star Colleen Moore and her incredible dollshouse.
Sadly, I am never likely to visit Chigago's Museum of Science and Industry but they do have plenty of pictures in the form of a mini tour on their website. 

You can also see the full article here. I did wonder if it might be an inspiration for Tim's castle (a project that has been in the wings for some time) but I think it's a little grand for his liking. I'm sure his will end up being full of witches, potions and cobwebs, not chandeliers and grand dining tables.

The film below shows some of the objects in the house being handled. I have to say if it was mine, I don't think I'd let anyone touch! 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Sorry I've been rubbish...

It turns out it's harder to keep up with this blogging lark than I first thought. I really enjoy it once I get into it but because I spend almost every day at a computer, it's not always what I want to do when I get home.

However, today is a new month and a new outlook. Tim, my husband, does blogging so well over at Heropress - even if he's not in the mood to write he'll post a picture or a film to keep his regular readers happy. He also schedules his posts in advance so if there's a day when he's not up to it, there will still be a post going live.

So, as of today, 1 August 2013, I vow to be more like Tim. I shall be more organised, post more regularly and hopefully it won't be long before I'm back in the swing of things.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Fame for The Rachel's Return!

Today my latest miniature project appears in the local paper the Kent & Sussex Courier - The Rachel's Return is famous! You can read the full article here.

My little pub and my huge head in the Kent & Sussex Courier

Hopefully a few readers may be visiting Miniatures make me happy after reading the article so I thought it was a good time to post pictures of some of the things mentioned. Firstly, if you'd like to see more pictures of the pub, you can find them here.

I mentioned that collecting miniatures isn't about creating a perfect world, far from it. I love the fact that you can buy broken eggs, spilled jam and half eaten food - it all adds to the realism. 

Spillages on the kitchen floor

I'm terrified of most creepy crawlies but when I saw a spider trapped in an upturned glass from Mouse House Miniatures, I thought it would be perfect for one of the maid's rooms. I suspect she's scared too and now that she's trapped it she's not sure what to do with it.


There are many more pictures of my beautiful Tudor dollshouse over on Facebook which you are welcome to take a look at. There's also a post here with more details on my first dollshouse.

The dollshouse that my dad built for me from scratch

I am extremely proud that my dad built the house from scratch. Every beam, staircase, wall and door is hand crafted. He installed all the electrics, including the flickering lights in the fires. The fire grates are made from a pineapple tin and the 'logs' they hold are twigs from the local woods.

The master bedroom - one of the many rooms to feature a fireplace

So, thank you to the Courier for making more people aware that dollshouses are not just for children. It's a thriving hobby that provides pleasure for millions of people worldwide.

And thanks for taking the time to visit Miniatures make me happy - I hope you'll drop by again soon.   

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A trip to Kensington Dollshouse Festival

The Kensington Dollshouse Festival is one of my favourite days of the year - an opportunity to shop (and window shop) for some of the best miniatures around.

Yesterday my mum and I met as usual outside Kensington Town Hall; she had quite a list whereas I was sure I didn't really want anything. Famous last words. Four hours later and with purses a little lighter, we'd had to buy a couple of the lovely new bags to make sure our purchases didn't get squashed on the way home.

The new bags will come in very useful for future shows

The format had changed slightly with the summer show being run over two days instead of three. I think this meant it was slightly busier than usual but with a little patience, we still got to see almost every exhibitor there. There are many that we simply admire; I'll never be at the stage where I can justify spending £780 on a 1:12 scale piano but it was beautiful.

Unfortunately my camera decided not to work on the day so photos have been taken with a mobile phone - not quite the same but I did my best. Many thanks to the festival organisers and the exhibitors for allowing me to take pictures - that's not always the case. Perhaps unnecessarily, but just for my own pleasure, I'd had some business cards printed so I could show people where the photos will appear and will hopefully reassure them that I'm not going to rush home and try to copy their products.

One of our first stops is always Pride of Plaice. They make the most amazing food including fish, hence the name, cakes and the best fruit and veg I've ever seen. Unfortunately they don't have a website I can direct you to as like so many miniaturists, they rely on shows to sell their wares.

The huge selection of veg on sale at Pride of Plaice - the tweezers give an idea of scale

Pride of Plaice's wonderful food
They used to do a lot more fish, most of which my mum has bought in the past for her fish stall, but they seem to be branching out these days. There were still plenty of lobsters, prawns, crabs, eels and much more but I suppose there is a limited market for fishy products.

I'm particularly fond of the chopping boards that contain food being prepared. I love the 'half finished' items because they add life and realism to a miniature scene. I'm sure more work must go into a half baked cake than a completed one.

We've bought so many wonderful products from Pride of Plaice at previous shows we couldn't find anything to purchase, although I was very tempted by some muddy wellies - I think I might create an outdoor scene in the future that they would be perfect for.

Although I like my scenes to be realistic, my husband Tim is a big fan of fantasy worlds which is why the castle he is collecting bits and pieces for is full of witches, wizards, swords and sorcery. I hope he'll make it to the festival one day as he would adore everything on the Kastle Kelm Miniatures stall.

Some of the characters available at Kastle Kelm Miniatures

This scene makes me smile and I was very drawn to the 'magic' jars pouring an unknown liquid into a cauldron.

Kastle Kelm Miniatures is known for making something a little different 

We were also very excited by the glowing jars below. I knew Tim's castle had to have some so I bought a few and the bulb that will be used to make them glow - a very clever effect.

Jar of moonlight, anyone?

So everything I bought from the very friendly people at Kastle Kelm was for Tim but you have to start spending somewhere!

My purchases from Kastle Kelm Miniatures - all for Tim!

Miniaturists come from far and wide to exhibit at Kensington. I was very taken with the scenes created by Italians Cinen, especially as I have a pub and a shop that I can always squeeze a little something extra into.

Cinen had some beautiful and unusual products for shops

If my pub was bigger, and probably a little more modern, I'm fairly sure I would have bought a foosball table.

So very tempting...

As I have an empty shelf in my pub, I thought the two boxes below would be perfect to fill it. Cinen had many more but they were probably a little modern for my setting.

A few items for The Rachel's Return

When I originally posted the pictures of The Rachel's Return on Twitter, @cathdiscoversee, a Real Ale fan, asked if she could have a tankard on the bar. When I saw the one above I thought it would be perfect so now she will always be welcome in my little pub.

A scene from Phoenix Models

The tankard was purchased from Phoenix Models who make medieval armour, weapons and household goods. This is another stall where I could buy everything and know that Tim would love it. He has one or two of the items in the picture above already so I resisted buying anything else.

Part of the main hall 

After a short rest (spending money is quite exhausting) we moved on to a couple of our favourites. Last year when we visited Glasscraft, the lovely Phil had a call of nature so we minded his stall for a couple of minutes - the perils of exhibiting alone, I suppose. When I explained that I'd lost the ladle for the punch bowl I'd bought a couple of years ago in the hope that I could purchase one individually, he presented me with one for free in payment for last year's favour - how kind.

My punch bowl is complete again

Glasscraft's products are so beautiful and incredibly reasonable. My mum was very pleased to see some new ice cream sundaes for sale so quickly snapped them up for her seaside cafe.

Some of the glassware on sale at Glasscraft

Next door was the familiar Shepherd Miniatures, another stall that we can never resist. As you can see from the picture below, a lot of people had the same idea!


Eventually we did make it to the front and I picked up a bit of stock for my general store, as well as a 'wet' sponge that I thought would be useful to wipe up the spilled jam in my kitchen.

Tins for my general store from Shepherd Miniatures

I also bought an amazing cake from Mouse House Miniatures, known for the detail and humour they put into their products. I hadn't realised quite how many of their items I already own (a broken egg, half peeled banana and fish and chips in paper to name but a few) but I couldn't resist a couple more. I don't think this photo does the Victoria Sponge justice as you can actually see the crumbs! The vegetable peelings are also from Mouse House and will be squeezed into my kitchen. I just couldn't leave them behind.

Items for my Tudor house

Obviously we had to visit Bags of Character to see Eadie's friends. For those who haven't read the post about The Rachel's Return, Eadie is my favourite character in my pub. Her doppelganger is second from left in the picture below.

Eadie and her friends in a brilliant pub scene from Bags of Character

The very talented Carol Bull had also made a few more familiar scenes. The front room from Only Fools and Horses was instantly recognisable.

Alright, Del Boy? 

We've visited the Dolls House Mall stand several times before but had never spoken to them. As well as many shop items, they also make brass signs. I've been looking for a 'staff only' sign for the back door of my shop for years and it turns out they had one all along - and now so do I!

A very detailed laboratory scene from The Dolls House Mall

Finding the 'right' dolls for a scene can be a challenge but you generally know when you see them. World of My Own has some amazing characters but I couldn't find a wife for the man I bought there previously. There was quite a crowd though! I'm very fond of the man polishing silver in the centre of the picture but I just couldn't squeeze him in anywhere.

Quite a crowd at World of my own

I could write an awful lot more about the amazing miniatures on show at Kensington but I've probably said enough. You can check the list of exhibitors with links to their websites where applicable but the best thing to do is go and see them for yourself. The next show is 30 November so put it in your diary now!

And finally, because there always has to be an 'and finally', this little chap caught my eye. I'm tempted to replace the toilet I already have...