Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Imagine with me:
Cold winter day.  The skies are a clear bright blue and sunlight streams in the window.  Far off and indistictly you can hear the sound of birds, traffic, people talking.  You are warm, sitting in a comfortable chair and under your hands you feel the texture of the blanket that covers you.  Look at the dust motes, they are making patterns as they swirl in a sunbeam.

Why are we doing this?
I was having a chat with a hypnotherapist.  Ha ha, no I'm not her patient, I'm probably beyond help.  She's doing research for a script she's writing and asked people to describe the most relaxing place they can imagine. I'm a contributor.
People who are asked, come up with a walk on the beach, waterfall in a forest, campifre on an island... Am I the only one who goes to a place much closer to home?  I hope it is a good sign that I am so grounded and happy in my surroundings.

Whenever I see dust motes caught in a sunbeam I stand transfixed.  It is my quiet spot, it triggers the happy hormones in my brain. 

We all need to hold still, take a few deep breaths and feel calm wash over us sometimes.  What do you imagine when you go to your tranquil place?  How many of your senses can you use to describe this place?  We would love to hear from you!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The cat is disconsolately wandering through the empty Del Prado Dollhouse, wondering whether the human was eaten by giant spider.  The truth is much more mundane.   I'm dealing with real life at present, and it's crap.  Happily, I'm able to escape once in a while to make a sweet little birdhouse or two.  I will be posting about that next week.

In the meantime, everyone who is within driving distance, remember that there is a miniature fair in Bryanston, Johannesburg next Saturday.  I hope to see many of you there for shopping, and to attend the Sweet Little Birdhouse workshop.
Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Plinth box, architrave, dado

The post title sounds a bit like a counting rhyme, doesn't it?  That's one of the things I love about building dollhouses.  You learn things about all kinds of things. Like architectural terminology.
Meanwhile, back at the dollhouse, the cat has left the room.  Not surprising really.  Mrs Smithi from next door came to see what all the banging is about. 
Her full name is Brachypelma Smithi, she's a mature 12cm (5 inch) tarantula, and the loveliest neighbour one could wish for.  Quiet and tidy, a dainty eater, and she's very handy with a thread!  
After she shooed the cat out, she took her time inspecting every corner of the master bedroom, which is the room in the dollhouse I've made the most progress with. 
I've finally decided on a colour scheme for the house.  Blue.  Blue is one of my favourite coulours.  When I found the chiffon blue paint, all my decorating ideas fell into place.  It is a soft and restful colour, and so pale as to be nearly white.  I can use it as the unifying colour in every room. 
In this room, I've made true Victorian tripartite walls.  Wallpaper found on the Internet, rescaled and printed, goes below the dado rail.  Chiffon blue along the middle, and white above the picture rail and on the ceiling.  I haven't painted ceilings and finished cornices yet, need to figure out the electrical wiring fist.
Apart from painting walls, I've been very busy with wood strips.  The skirting boards and door frames are made of strips from the original Del Prado house kit.  They were marked 'roof beams' but I guess I'm so immersed in kit bashing now that I can just use what I like, wherever I like.  The dado and picture rail is made of square and half round pieces of bamboo window blind.
I neatly circumvented the need for mitred corners around the door frame, by making an architrave over the door mantle.  
 I think it also looks much prettier than the original house plans.
Around the bay window, I built a casing with wood strips.  I was wondering how I'm going to make the seam where the window joins to the house look neat.  A casing to hide the join is such an elegant solution. 
You will notice that around the bay window casing and door frame, I made plinth boxes with the skirting board.  I did have to mitre the corners for these, but it was worth the effort.  It makes the whole room look so much more complete. 
Henning criticized my decision to paint the skirting boards white, and not leave them the natural colour of the wooden floor, but after looking at lots of pictures on the Internet, I decided that either would be correct, and painted skirting boards go well with all the other painted rails in the room. Shortly after Mrs Smithi left, the cat started spraying corners to stake his claim to the room.  Seems like nothing around here is mine, sigh.

I am so happy with this room now, and I've already started work on the hallway, where I'm adding Dutch blue.  In the next few weeks I need to tackle the staircase, and electrical wiring.  I've never worked with either of those, so I'm doing lots of research in my free moments.

Wishing you a happy weekend!


Note about Mrs Smithi:
Tarantulas do not commonly live in South African homes, thank heavens!  Mrs Smithi is a pet tarantula, a terrestrial species from Brazil.  She is not poisonous or aggressive.   Tarantulas make the best pets ever, for so many reasons.  They are quiet, clean, and fascinating to watch.  They need very little care, and can be kept in a small space.  Mrs Smithi lives in a terrarium next to the armchair where I sit to read.  She's very good company.  I thought that people who keep spiders are creepy, until I got my first one, and fell in love!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sweet Little Birdhouse

I will be teaching a workshop to make this sweet little 1/12 scale birdhouse at the Miniature Fair on 24 March.  There will also be a tutorial e-book available soon, and kits.
This will be the first workshop I teach in three years... feeling like a total beginner :-) but hooray, I'm getting back into the swing of things!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

In the Pink

I dyed a batch of mohair fabric this week.  It's been a few years since I took out the large dye pot to make my own colours. I've forgotten what strenuous, messy work it is.
First, the fabric is washed and excess water squeezed out.
Then comes stirring in a boiling dye pot on the stove.  I was happy to rediscover my special Dodo dye spoon in the box with the dyes :-)
 When the colour intensity looks right, the fabric is ready to be drained and rinsed.
Several rinses in cold water to remove all the excess dye, and neutralize the acidity of the dye bath.  After this the fabric is lovely and soft, and ready to hang out to dry.
Drying on a line under the trees, away from direct sunlight.  The beautiful bougainvillea flowers pick up the colour!

These pieces of fabric will be packed into kits to make a teddy bear called Erika.  Everything to make the bear and her little kitten and bunny slippers is included.

Available on my website HERE.

I'm still musing about the direction I want to take with the dollhouse.  Now that am over my  mental block about colour, a whole world of possibilities has opened up.  Here are three people who have influenced my thoughts this week:

The Dutch artist Peter Gabrielse.  If you are not familiar with this miniaturist's work, have a look at his website.  Peter also has an Instagram account.

Claude Monet's home in Giverny.  A person who could make colours have a party in every room.  Never too bold, nothing clashes.  I could live in a house like that.

The Canadian artist Marina Bychkova, whose dolls are commanding hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The incredible workmanship and attention to detail in the video makes it clear why her work is so highly valued.

And finally... a blast from the past.  Faded photos of my first experiments with fabric dyeing in 1994.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!