Sunday, 31 March 2013

A successful miniature shopping spree

Local dollshouse fairs can be a bit disappointing but today's - a D&M fair at the Inn on the Lake in Gravesend, Kent - was definitely an exception. 

Unusually, my mum was the first to start spending but I ended up going home with the most purchases. There were quite a few sellers we hadn't seen before as well as some old favourites.

A beach scene that we all fell in love with

The scene above belonged to a lady who was selling off some of her collection to make room for new items. We got chatting to her and it turned out she has 16 houses and her husband has had to build an extension (with 24 power points) to accommodate them all! 

One of her displays was a Christmas shop which included the paper boy pictured with the rest of my shopping below. The whole scene was £199 but just as we were leaving, the husband chased after us and said they would sell the boy individually for a bargain £6. He'll soon have a new home standing outside my general store and the pub, the perfect place to sell papers. Tim (my husband) has just informed me that his name is Tom - because that's what's he's decided. Fair enough - he looks like a Tom.

My shopping which will find a home in my Tudor house, Tim's castle and my general store.

I like having several projects on the go. It means it's acceptable to buy the most intricate flowers, tasty looking sweets and a cauldron of eyeballs and teeth all on the same day. I was particularly pleased with the flowers from Julia Connett Miniatures as they are beautiful and were very well priced. 

Tasty looking veg

Unfortunately I didn't get the name of the stallholder above, but I was very impressed with their veg. The quality of dollshouse items can vary hugely. When you first start out, you think everything is amazing but gradually you learn to pause before buying and appreciate the hand crafted items rather than buying mass produced accessories that simply don't compare.

More food from the same stall - all lovely stuff
One of my favourite sellers is Jay's Miniatures. I don't see them too often but I'm always a fan of the way they lay out their stall, showing so many items as part of a room setting. 

Part of Jay's Miniatures' stall

Today they had some beautiful bikes that I was very tempted by. I already have one but once my pub and shop and in situ, I'm hoping I'll have room for another.

I have my eye on a Royal Mail bike

Their website is well worth checking out for more inspiration and for dates of future fairs they will be attending. The picture below gives you an idea of the size of their range which really is very impressive, especially for any collectors who have a shop, a pub, or have a particular love of miniature food.

A selection of the lovely goods available from Jay's Miniatures

We moved on to Dinky Delights which was a stall I hadn't seen before. Full of really well made food and other accessories, it was mostly for the more contemporary collector but they had some items that really made us smile - not least the tiny copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, a leather flogger, spanking paddle and a pair of handcuffs

The owner said she'd prefer it if I didn't take any photos which to be honest, I don't really understand these days. Before the internet, I think people assumed that the only reason buyers took pictures was so they could rush home and copy the items (little does she know I have no talent whatsoever in that respect) but nowadays I don't get it. The photo I've just linked to is a close up that could be used for the same purpose but maybe she has other reasons that I'm not aware of.

Fortunately for me, everyone else I asked today was happy to have their stall photographed - for which I am extremely grateful. Peter Clark is another of our favourites and over the years, we've bought quite a few of his beautifully crafted items.

A section of Peter Clark's stall

Peter, a lovely gentleman who is always keen to stop and chat, specialises in birds, game, wildlife, fish and brick and tile effects. At first glance most miniaturists would wonder where they might home such items - but in the past my mum's bought a Blue Tit for her bird house (below) and I've bought a coat and hat that will hang on the door in my shop.

The bird table that is home to one of Peter Clark's creations

We enjoyed Peter's story of how he collects the feathers he uses on his birds, stopping when he sees one that has been 'bumped' in the road rather than 'squashed'. He also produced a fabulous vulture from behind his stall after Tim started talking about his castle...perhaps a purchase for another day.

Half skinned hare, anyone?

Today my mum purchased a fish in a box (for her fish stall) from Peter which is pictured below with the rest of today's haul. She was also pleased to pick up a few items for her seaside cafe including bunting that she's been hunting for for a while.

My mum's shopping...she seems to have less than me.

All in all a great day out and a very good value fair at just £2 per person. Now, it must be time to put some of my shopping away...

Monday, 25 March 2013

A pub in progress (part 3)

My dad has been very busy with my little pub lately. It's amazing how much love and skill can go into one tiny room box.

The finger plates are now in place (in case you missed the previous post, that's what the metal pieces were lined up next to the pound coin) and are a very pleasing finishing touch on the doors.

Finger plates are now in place

You'll notice the sign is also on the way to completion but the company we've ordered the lettering from has been rather slow in delivering the goods.

Unfortunately for my dad, this has given me time to think about what else I'd like. A friend of mine is also to blame after dropping me a casual email saying 'Your pub needs frosted windows'. It took me about 30 seconds to decide that yes, I simply couldn't have a pub without frosted windows.

A mock up of how the frosted windows might look

A quick email to my dad ("Errr...have you put the windows in yet?") and it wasn't long before he sent back the mock up above. I loved it instantly, especially the 'RR' on the doors which, of course, represents The Rachel's Return.

That was the easy part. Since then there have been several practices, the ordering of window frosting that's printable and a font change - but hopefully we're almost there.

A mock up of the A4 sheet

I did a little research into pub frontages of the 50s - I imagine the pub to be roughly in this era - and decided the words were just right. I hadn't realised that 'snug' is synonymous with the 'smoking room' which was hidden away from the other drinkers.

The smudging is an issue that will hopefully be overcome

As you can see from the image above, there's a slight problem with the ink drying on the sheet but it shouldn't be long now before the lettering arrives, the windows are in and the regulars can settle in their chairs with a pint in hand.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A pub in progress (part 2)

I think we all know that miniatures make me happy - but they also calm me down and make me relax. The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy both at home and in the office, hence the lack of blogging. While I never get stressed about work (I love my job but nobody will die if I have a bad day - it's not brain surgery), the last few days have been particularly challenging.

We haven't been able to receive any emails at work which meant I didn't open my dad's messages with the latest photos of my pub until I got home. But what a treat it was when I did.

The anticipation - ready for wallpaper

I've asked him to take photos as he progresses and it's lovely seeing this little room take shape. I can't wait to have it back and fill it with all the furniture and bits and pieces I've purchased over the years.

The front of the pub

The front elevation has now been painted and is just as I imagined - the colour is perfect. There's been a lot of discussion lately about the name of the pub (which will always be The Rachel's Return) and how the sign should be painted. Letters have been ordered and hopefully I'll be able to show you them in my next post.

Almost ready for furniture

The inside of the pub is looking amazing - wallpaper, flooring, skirting, coving and lights are all complete. I've always known it would be what I call an 'old man's pub' and I hope that has been achieved with the decoration.

Finally, who can guess what these are? Excuse the photo - taken with a mobile rather than the camera.

Pound coin is for scale

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A pub in progress (part 1)

Some years ago my parents gave me a box room as my next miniature project - The Rachel's Return. I'd wanted a pub for a while and have loved it from day one, especially as my dad made it so I know it's unique.

However, my decorating skills are somewhat suspect and I've never quite got round to turning it from a plain box into the beautiful room I know it can be.

That's not to say I've been neglecting it. For years I've been collecting furniture, people, glasses, bottles and everything else a pub needs. If you look closely at the photo below, you can get a peek at the wonders within.

The Rachel's Return before decoration

You'll also notice the 'Proprietor' is 'R.L Howsley' which is my maiden name. As we're coming up to our sixth wedding anniversary it shows just how long this project has been in the making.

Now my dad has taken charge and taken the pub away to decorate. This week he's been emailing me photos as it progresses and I'm getting more excited with each one. What can I say? Miniatures make me happy.

The first stage of decoration

I think the tools in my dad's workroom give his skills away. If I was doing the decorating it would be at our dining room table, possibly with it covered in newspaper if I remembered.

The inside of the front door

I'm still making all the decorating decisions, of course, but this way it will look amazing when it's finished. My way would be...well, less amazing.

I've bought most of the items needed from eBay, although due to a slight error with the measuring I had to put in second orders for more wallpaper, skirting and coving.

The floor with newly stained skirting board

I did get the floor right though and am very pleased with it - just £6.49 from BeautifullyHandmade. You can buy much cheaper flooring which is generally a picture of tiles or floorboards printed onto thin paper. I don't really understand why anyone would buy such an inferior product but perhaps it would be suitable for a child's dollshouse.

Half way through the undercoat

This week I finally found what I hope is the right colour paint for the external woodwork. Although I've had it in my head for a while, tracking down a dark red in a pot that wouldn't cover a full size room was tricky - thank goodness for HobbyCraft.

Last week we were watching the BBC's Call the Midwife, set in the 1950s, and as The Masters Arms appeared on screen, I immediately thought 'That's my pub'. This is the colour I have in mind and while my pub might be a little smaller, I'm sure it will be just as lovely.

The Masters Arms as it appeared in Call the Midwife

Decorating is continuing at apace so do check back soon for the next update.