Sunday, 24 February 2013

Miniature shopping

Today my mum and I took a trip to a dollshouse and miniatures fair in Maidstone. Organised by Wendy's World, the venue was new and we had high hopes of picking up some goodies.

Sadly when we arrived it was a lot smaller than we'd hoped with just nine exhibitors. Fortunately Shepherd Miniatures, one of our favourite sellers, was there and we spent a long time hovering over their beautifully crafted items.

Just a small section of Shepherd Miniatures' stand

Note the blue bowls and tweezers which are there for buyers to select their items easily without knocking the entire display over. When you hand over your bowl to the exhibitor and they start totting up the cost of the tiny items you've selected, it can be a bit of shock. A sweet bag is exchanged for crisp £20 notes but it's worth it.

One of the things I really enjoy about this hobby is how friendly everyone is. I suppose it's the same with football or book clubs (the first two hobbies that came to mind) but when everyone has a common love, it's easy to chat with strangers and share our enthusiasm for life in miniature.

Can you spot the Thermos flask? My mum snapped one up for her seaside cafe.

My mum and I both own a lot of Shepherd's items but we still managed to find new things to buy. I was very pleased to find a lead and food for my recently purchased dog. He'll be going in my pub, along with a few other items I bought today.

Beer bottles, pumps, a dog lead and food all bought today for my pub.

My mum found a few pieces for her seaside cafe and fish stall so considering there were so few stands, we did well.

Shepherd Miniatures' stall in its entirety

Our next exhibition may well be the Kensington Dollshouse Festival in May which is always full of incredible craftsmanship. Time to start saving for our next trip out!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Choo choo - model train time!

Today we took our annual trip to Tonbridge Model Railway Club's exhibition. As it's held less than half a mile from our house, we normally make it every year - and it's worth going as the layouts do change from one year to the next.

I must admit this wasn't a vintage show in my book. The actual trains will always be secondary for me but I love the scenery, my favourite setting being the English countryside from times gone by. This year there seemed to be more industrial and urban settings, or (heaven forbid!) those that concentrated purely on the trains and hadn't bothered much with the rest of the layout.

That said I did take a lot of photos so will share a few of my favourites.

This is close to my favourite type of scene, although it's in a larger scale than I usually prefer.

I have an N gauge layout myself, so I tend to lean towards trains in a smaller scale but the one above was done really well. I like to be able to look at a photo and not be quite sure if it's real or not. Sometimes layouts in O or OO can look plastic to me but this is beautiful.

Another view of the layout above.

Water can be a difficult thing to pull off in miniature but these days it tends to look very realistic. The modeler who created the layout below used rippled glass which is very effective.

Whether it's a model boat, dollshouse or train set - it's all about the detail. Look at the bunnies!

I was very fond of the scene below too - lovely detailing on the buildings and this was just a small part of the layout.

 The closer you get, the more detail you see.

Although I like taking close up shots, I also think it's important to show how much detail is contained in such a small space. It's only when you see a layout in context that you realise just how much work must have gone into it.

 Talking of context - GIANT HAND ALERT!

I adore my train set but my dad built it for me about 23 years ago and I can see that it looks a little dated. Modelling has moved on since then and trees are now so realistic, it's hard to tell if they're real or not.

I don't think the photo does this river justice - it had been done rather well. Lots going on in this layout.

I don't mind the odd industrial layout if it's been done well and the one below is a good example - lots of detail and different things to look at.

 See the bus above? Turns out there was a bit of a drama in front of it.

Also on this layout was an engine carrying a couple of Daleks. I enjoyed listening in to the young boys next to us who were speculating that this was, in fact, a Dalek factory where they would be melted down to make new Daleks.

Another tranquil scene. I like the greenery in the garden and creeping up the house.

Taking a break from collecting the hay.

Note how big the humans are here....

...and how tiny the man is in front of his workshop.

You can't tell that the Scout's fire was flickering here but it makes the cotton wool smoke look quite effective.

A more modern, urban setting. Not my favourite of layouts but touches such as the graffiti make it very realistic.

And finally, one of my favourite layouts. Church bells rang out from this busy country scene, I could have stared at it for hours.

Modelers are always keen to tell you about their work. They tend to be men in their late sixties which makes me worry about the hobby a little - I would hate for it to die out. This particular show is always full of very young enthusiasts though, carrying little steps around provided by Tonbridge Model Railway Club. It helps them get a better view and I hope gives them an added enthusiasm for the hobby.

If you're into miniatures but have never been to a model railway exhibition, do go along to a local show. I'm sure you'll find it just as enchanting as I do.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A miniature Valentine's gift

I've been totally spoiled for Valentine's this year. Last week I had flowers and sweets delivered to work and today I received some lovely music and also a miniature Valentine.

One of the projects I have in progress is a pub - The Rachel's Return. It's been 'in progress' for some years but before too long, I'll be able to show you how far I've got.

Today Tim gave me the two bar stools on the left which will fit perfectly in my 'old man's pub'. I can't wait to see them in situ.

The chocolate heart is really just for scale - by the time you read this it will have been gobbled up.

I've been collecting bits and pieces for my pub for more than six years now but I could never decide exactly how I wanted to decorate it. Now the decision's been made and I can't wait to see it finished.

I say finished but I'm not sure a miniature project is ever truly complete - you can always squeeze an extra little thing in there if you spot something lovely.

Happy Valentine's day everyone.

Monday, 11 February 2013

"Is that your house?"

I love this question. I have the picture below as my wallpaper on my computer at work. When people visit the office and get a glimpse, they'll often ask "Is that your house?".

The library - my favourite room in my 1:12 scale Tudor dollshouse

Of course, the answer is "yes". It is my house - it's just not full size and not the one I live in. When you look closely, there are things that give it away (that plant doesn't look too well) but I think it could easily pass as full size if you don't linger too long.

My favourite corner of my favourite room

I think the desk and its surroundings are my favourite part of the whole house. I love finding new things to buy - the half peeled fruit are fairly recent additions and add a little life to the house.

The map on the wall is one the many things I've bought from Shepherd Miniatures, a shop I would highly recommend. Nothing beats seeing miniatures in person but if you want or need to buy online, their site is one of the best.

As I've got older, I've replaced some of the things in the house with better quality items. That said, the desk and chair pictured here are original, bought with pocket money and earnings from my Saturday job.  

This isn't a cheap hobby, by any stretch of the imagination, but being a collector means just that. You don't go out and buy everything at once - where would be the fun in that? I'm still finding lovely things to fill my house 20 years after my dad built it. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

My first dollshouse

This is my Tudor style dollshouse which was built for me by my dad when I was about 13. If it's possible, I adore it more now 20 years later.

My beautiful Tudor style dollshouse
Every single piece of wood was hand crafted, exactly to my specification. I drew on a scrappy piece of paper what I wanted and my dad built it for me.

He made the lights, the fire grates (out of pineapple tins), the servants' bells, the doors, the beams, the roof tiles - everything. Each of the tiles was made and put in place individually. They started life as cereal boxes, were covered with different types of sand and then mixed in a bucket to ensure the selection was random when they were stuck to the roof. I still think that's amazing.

Actually, this wasn't my first dollshouse. I had a lovely chunky wooden one when I was small - the kind of thing you'd get in the Early Learning Centre. It was my first introduction to a miniature world where I could decide exactly how things should be (yes, I'm a bit of a control freak). 

I can't remember why or how my mum got into dollshouses but my dad's first project was her Victorian house - again it was hand crafted from scratch. We went to exhibitions and my dad couldn't believe how expensive the houses were. He knew he could create something far superior for a fraction of the price.

From that point on I wanted my own. Today it's a hobby that is shared with my parents and my husband. We are very lucky to have some beautiful things so I want to share them. 

I thought the internet would be flooded with similar blogs but I can't find many at all. I hope that doesn't mean people aren't interested - perhaps it's the age profile of the average miniaturist that is to blame.

For now, here's a sneak preview of the inside of my house. Over time, I'll show you the rooms in detail and tell you a bit more about them. 

Front of the house removed 

Other projects to come include two general stores, a pub, a seaside cafe, a fishmonger's hut, a castle and my train set. Stay tuned!