Monday, August 20, 2018

Miniature Fair

Hooray!  It's only a few sleeps until the biggest little event of the year.  See you at Miniature Fair this weekend.
There will be a number of workshops to make dollhouse items. I will present  the Little Birdhouse workshop.  Contact Maryna at 082 922 0883 for workshop details and to book your spot.
 Birdhouse Workshop R 130

 Polymer Clay Bunny R 270
 Bookends R 100
 Utility Trug R 90
 Disterssed Shelf R 140, Distressed Table R 140
 Woodland Scene R 130

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Teapot for Jodi and Other Stories

Jodi Hipler at My Miniature Madness is building a dollhouse called Storybook Cottage. It's got a teatime theme and I'm enchanted with the house even if it's far from finished.
Ages ago I made a few mouse teapots following a Youtube tutorial by Christel Jensen. Christel is one of my long-time miniaturist heroes, and together with Angie Scarr probably the reason I started making polymer clay food. I see that Christel has taken the teapot video down, but there are still some delicious cupcake tutorials on her page.

Enough name dropping. Jodi, I'm sure I could do a better job if I tried making one of these teapots now and I would love to send you one to add to your cottage kitchen. If you would like a mouse teapot please let me know what colour you prefer and I will get onto it. You will most likely only receive it at Christmas for reasons below.

On to Other Stories.

You might have noticed that there have been no new posts on my blog for a while, that I've stopped commenting on the blogs I regularly follow and dropped off Facebook and Instagram.  I hope everyone haven't been having too much fun without me. As soon as I settle into my new routine, I will be back in full force.

What happened?  I GOT A NEW JOB!!! Yeah, I know. I already have several. But this one brings me closer to a dream I had almost given up on. I've always wanted to be able to say that I'm a writer. Real writers get paid for writing. Well, it's finally happening! In June I started working as a writer for a company that employs a whole team of writers. We even have editors who read the stuff we write and return it with lots of red marks. And then we get paid. I love it! (Ha ha, Emily and Sharon, I know you are reading this with your pencils tucked behind your ears). I'm not going to tell you who the company is or who our clients are, but I might talk in general terms of what I'm writing about in future.

For those of you enjoying summer in the northern hemisphere, I'm jealous as I sit at my computer under a blanket. If you are suffering from the heat wave in Europe, I hope it rains soon.

Writerly yours

P.S. One of my tarantulas is going to have babies at the end of August!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hi Everyone

This is a quick update on the comment notification issues we are having in Blogger.
Yes, Blogger is aware of the problem.  It is not clear whether it has something to do with GDPR.  They just say that they are 'tweaking' the system and it should be back to normal soon.  They don't say when soon is, let's hope it's SOON!

Several people have suggested this workaround:
As soon as you post a new blog, leave a comment on it, and tick the 'Notify Me' box before you post it.  You will receive email notifications of any comment below yours.

If anyone is still battling with GDPR compliance, HERE's the best summary article I've found:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Plan A, B, C and D...

Ta-da!  The right hand wall of the Del Prado dollhouse hallway is finished. 
Here's the colour reveal you've been waiting for months to see.  I'm continuing with Chiffon Blue on the upper part of the walls, white above the picture rail and the dark blue on the bottom part is called Dutch Blue.  The hallway is going to look suitably formal, just the way the Victorians liked it.  The colours work well together.

I've been reading with amazement and admiration how some dollhouse builders make something, change their mind and do it over, then change their mind and do it over again.  The hallway is going a bit like that for me.  But I'm starting to realize that it's worth working one's way down the alphabet starting at Plan A, till you find that thing that works best.  Here's how the hallway developed so far:
You will remember that right in the beginning the walls were grey.  I hated it.  Looks like a prison corridor.

The first big change came with Plan B, when I switched to blue, which is a much softer colour.
I decided to divide the wall into panels.  But it looked incomplete.  It wanted something more, like a decoration inside each panel.
My first brilliant plan was to use my Cuttlebug (die cutting machine) to cut out medals to glue in place.  I even had a die that was the  perfect size and shape.
But I found the solid white centre part too overwhelming.  Then I had a not so brilliant plan - cutting out only the edges and the flower detail and sticking the pieces down individually.  After hours of untidy cutting and strips that broke and tore, I gave up on that plan, and all the bits of paper went sailing into the dustbin.  So much for Plan C.
Next, I rummaged in my costume jewelry stash and found this silver pendant.  I like the design and it has lots of texture, but it had some drawbacks.  I have only one, which would mean making a mould so that I could replicate it.  Even then, it's a little bit too small.  I would have to rethink the entire layout of the wall.  So I coshed that.  But I'm keeping the pendant in mind, it might feature somewhere else in the dollhouse later.
Finally, I found these pressed metal decorations in the bead drawer.  They fit perfectly!  And best of all, I have a whole handful of them.
Several layers of white paint later the wall is perfect.
Even with several coats of paint, there is lots of fine detail on the metal pressings. 

So this is where I'm at right now.  I really can't put off working on the staircase any longer.  That will have to be the next thing I do.

P.S.  Blogger is misbehaving when it comes to leaving comments on my blog.  For some reason I'm not receiving notification emails when there are new comments on my posts.  When Blogger ignored my request for help, I went into settings to try and fix it myself, and all of a sudden everything went G+.  When I finally got rid of that, a whole lot of comments that I had seen, but not replied to, just evaporated into thin air.  If you haven't been able to comment, or your comment disappeared, my sincere apologies!  I hope that the problem is resolved soon.  If anyone has had a similar problem, and know how to fix it, I would love to hear from you.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

It's always cocktail hour...

They say it's always cocktail hour somewhere in the world.  It's true for other activities too. 
I've been attending a series of lectures in San Francisco, which is why you didn't hear much from me in May.  The fact that I'm in South Africa no longer matters, one can virtually participate in virtually anything online these days.  My night-time campus home in San Fran is only a click of the mouse away. 
The snag is the time difference.  I've become used to setting my alarm for 3am so that I can stumble out of bed to watch students in strappy tops stroll into the auditorium at 7pm while I'm huddled at my computer under a blanket clutching a cup of cocoa. 
I've done it for so many days that I lost count.  By the time the sun comes up in the morning I'm not sure which hemisphere I'm in, never mind winter or summer, sunrise or sunset.  My circadian rhythms are confused. 
Yesterday I saw a large bird perched on the fountain.  It was the approximate size and colour of an ostrich, only with short legs.  When I blinked it disappeared.  The same has been happening with creatures scurrying across the floor, seen from the corner of my eye.  I realized that I'm exhausted and I need a break. 
Last night I slept for twelve hours. When I woke up this morning I knew that it's a sunrise I'm seeing out there. 
I've had a leisurely breakfast, dusted the Del Prado dollhouse and today I'm doing nothing but work on the hallway. 
If it's cocktail hour in your part of the world, have one on me!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Meet Gene

In an age where my contemporaries are writing letters to Santa about laser cutting machines and 3D printers, I'm dreaming of milling machines and a lathe.  I just can't conform.
These are the kind of toys one can't really afford to buy with one's pocket money.  It could also easily turn out to be that toy that one absolutely had to have, just to figure out it's not nearly as much fun as it promised to be.  So when Elga Koster invited me to spend some time playing in her workshop, I grabbed the opportunity without a moment's hesitation.  Not only does she have the coolest equipment, she's one of the world's foremost carpenters in miniature.  Learning from her is a privilege bestowed on very few.
Gene started out as a number of blocks of wood cut to length and prepared for the lathe.
After careful measuring, first cuts are made on the lathe to determine proportions and guide future shaping.  She looks like a little robot doesn't she?  At this point my head was spinning faster than the lathe.  So many calculations and adjustments, and does this thingy tighten clockwise, or the other way around?!
Some time later this...
... has become this.
A recognizable doll.  So thrilling!
The milling machine is used to create flat surfaces, drill slots and holes for the joints, and a groove where the nose will be attached later.
Robot girl no more.  I'm about to cut the doll free from the waste wood at the end of the limbs.
 A dry fit to make sure that everything is in the right place.
Then some fun painting her with enamel paints.
Inserting and cutting off the wooden dowels for the peg joints.
Meet Gene.  She's a fully posable 1/12 scale penny doll in the style of dolls made in Germany and the Netherlands in the late 19th century.  They are also sometimes called Dutch dolls.  I'm going to have lots of fun dressing her in future.  She will be Hitty's best friend (I'm going to introduce you to Hitty soon).  For now she sits on my desk and keeps me company.
Below are some examples of antique penny dolls I found on the Internet.
Understanding how these dolls were made, I have lots of respect for them.  Even though they are called penny dolls and were meant to be inexpensive toys, hours of work goes into the making of such a doll. 
Would I make more of them if I had my own equipment?  Undoubtedly.  Smaller and smaller too!  Until then I will be happy to work with clay and fabric and do simple carpentry and dream of dolls.


This is where I am

I am around. I'm furiously busy, both in 1/1 and 1/12 scale.  I'm chatting with all of you in my mind continuously.  On the other hand, I have a deep yearning to be in a place of silence.  Ha, if the above is correct, soon the tension will become too much and I will burst forth with a volley of stories!

Monday, April 30, 2018

D is for Dog, every day

Attila and I have a secret.  Every morning, we meet at the kitchen window and I sneak her a little snack without the other dogs knowing.
It's been years and we've never been caught.
Rain or shine, when I put the kettle on, she's there waiting for me.  I love this quirky animal so much.
She makes a pretty picture.
There is an amaryllis plant outside the window.  Last spring, for thirty days, I took a photo of Attila and the flowers as they grew.

Here's a slide show.

Wishing you a lovely week.  And the devotion of a dog.

Friday, April 20, 2018

C is for...

This week my mind is all over the place, so I've grouped some random thoughts under C to share with you.  C is for comfort food, crochet cat, curated collection, and Chaco.   C is also for covetous creeps who consume my time.  Those are covered under Curate.
Do you have a special comfort food?  When I'm feeling out of sorts, a slice of bread spread with peanut butter goes a long way to smoothing things out.  It's even healthy.  The cute dolly tableware is manufactured at Ceramix, where I sometimes work.  Here in South Africa we have a brand of peanut butter called Black Cat.  It's my favourite.
I haven't had time to crochet anything this year, so I made this little cross looking cat.  I found the pattern HERE.  Hitty likes cats, I think I will let her keep it.

People sometimes contact me when they want to sell their collection of teddy bears, dolls, or related items.
But is it really a collection?  If someone has a box filled with a hundred teddy bears, and the box includes mass produced synthetic Valentines, hand-me-downs with no provenance, and little bears in traditional costume they bought to remind them of their holiday in far flung places, it's a sentimental hoard, not a collection.  Unless the boyfriend forked out for a limited edition bear, or the tatty one eyed bear inherited from a great aunt turns out to be an early Steiff, probably nothing in that box has any monetary value.  In a collection, it's not quantity that counts, it's quality. 

If you want to make sure that your collection becomes worth money, here are some tips to curate it.

What is a curated collection?  It's easy.
  1. Items in a collection have a unifying theme.  It can be as broad as 'teddy bears' or 'dolls' or 'dollhouse', or as specific as 'late Victorian 1/12 scale artisan made English dollhouse furniture'.  If your collection grows too large, you might consider specializing.
  2. Items are organized and looked after.  Not just a jumble in a box.  Make sure every item in your collection is clean, dusted, well maintained, correctly stored or displayed.
  3. Trade up.  Don't be afraid to sell or swap in order to improve the quality of your collection.  If you find a better example of an item you have, trade or sell it, and add on a little extra money to get the better one.  That way your collection will grow better without growing bigger.  Museums do it all the time.  
  4. Weed your collection.  We all have the problem that our collections tend to outgrow available space.  From time to time, go through your collection and look for items that don't fit in anymore.  Maybe you found a better specimen and now you have a duplicate.  There's that piece that isn't quite the right scale.  Your taste has changed, or these days you can afford something better, or your field of interest has narrowed.  Get rid of a few things.   A small collection with good quality items is worth more than a large discordant collection.  It's also much  more pleasing to look at and display.  If your surplus items have no value, donate them to someone who's just starting a collection.  If you think you can get money for it, visit eBay or sell it at a show.  You can use the money to add a quality item to your collection.  
  5. Collections are documented.  Keep a little book and write down where and when you acquired an item, how much you paid for it, who made it and when they made it, and any other information you might have.  You can even add a picture.  If some day your collection needs to be sold, or passes on to someone else as a legacy, documentation to back up the provenance and value of items will be of utmost importance.  
Even my spider collection is curated and well documented.  Each tarantula has a fact sheet where I write down when I bought/traded it, their size, sex, date last molted etc.
Meet Ms Chaco.  She's big as a house, ha ha.  That's a 1/144 scale dollhouse made by my friend Frieda la Grange in 2017.  Ms Chaco is a Grammostola pulchripes aka Chaco golden knee tarantula.  Chacos are native to Argentina, this one was captive bred.  She's 12cm (4 1/2 inches) long.  This young lady will grow to 22cm (8 1/2 inches) over her lifetime of about 15 years.  Because of poor record keeping by her previous owner, I don't know her exact age or how many times she has molted, but we think she's about four years old.  She was a rescue purchase from an owner who had lost interest and sold her entire 'collection'.  When Chaco came to us she was badly dehydrated and looking very sorry for herself.  The first day, she sat with her face in her water bowl for hours.  It made me cry.  Over the next few days she ate voraciously, then went into premolt and just rested and didn't move around much for several weeks.  She moulted two weeks ago.  I took her out of her terrarium today to give it a good clean.  Her new exoskeleton is beautiful and sleek, none of the bald patches and scars she had before.  Now that she's settled in, she's a very calm and docile girl.  Because of their hardiness and friendly nature, Chacos are recommended tarantulas for beginner collectors.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Teddy Bear Workshop

Here's some good Monday morning news.  Liezel from Bresbears will be teaching a teddy bear workshop during the school holidays.  Contact her for more information.  Wishing you all a wonderful week!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Del Prado Dollhouse - Staircase

I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend.  I spent mine trying to get up a staircase.

One of the more daunting tasks ahead of me with the Del Prado house is constructing the staircase.  I've never built one before.  According to the instructions it should be a simple matter of a dab of glue and slotting the pieces together.   We know how that worked out so far.
I started by finding all the pieces, and doing a test assembly.  Surprisingly easy! Then I put it in the hallway to see how it looks, and discovered that it doesn't fit.  This is not Del Prado's fault.  When I replaced the outer shell of my house with solid sheets of plywood, I didn't take the thickness of the wood into consideration.  As a result, I had to trim 5mm off the back of all the interior walls to make them fit.
Now I had a staircase sticking out in front of the kitchen door.  Sigh.  Why does a small little problem like 5mm always come back to bite you in the bum?  I could cut off the banister I suppose, but the more I stood there and got upset over it, the more I wanted someone else to blame.  Then I noticed something so glaringly stupid that I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed it before.  April fool!!! A dollhouse person would go running up the stairs and smack his face against the back wall.  There is no landing!  Not even Escher would have done something that crazy.  I'm all for a bit of deceiving the eye. Doors that lead nowhere, for instance, don't bother me at all.  But a staircase that runs up against a wall, just not on.
Obviously the staircase needed a turn in it.  That would make it shorter to both not stick out in front of my kitchen door and not run into the back wall.  I set about making a mock staircase with cardboard to see how I could possibly alter it to make it work.  A bit of Lego to keep the right angles, a bit of glue...  Voila! Much easier than I thought.
Except when I fit it into the house to test it, I realized that it would now run smack up against the side wall.  Duh! In addition to that, there was no way to put a turn in the stairs without cutting the corner off the door-that-leads-nowhere that I intend to install against the back wall.
I learnt something here.  Unless you want impossibly steep stairs that run up against a wall, you need a much wider hall, or much more height to the ceiling.  Neither of which I was going to get without rebuilding the entire house. 
After a weekend of ripping up mock staircases and cursing my inability to think in 3D, I finally found what I think is an elegant solution.
I'm going to make a small downstairs landing, with triangular stairs that angle around the corner.  The staircase is going to run from the back of the house to the front.  How the dollhouse people are going to carry their couch around the corner and up those stairs is not my problem.  I will have a plausible staircase, my downstairs nowhere-door will have more than enough room, and as a bonus, the entire downstairs hall will not be hidden behind the staircase.  Instead, I will have a lovely interesting space under the stairs to play with. 
I will repeat the same design for the stairs leading to the attic rooms.  I will need to re-cut the stairwell holes, but since I haven't worked on the upper storey floors yet, it is not a problem.  After an entire weekend my staircase doesn't look like much, but it will soon.  I can't wait to work on it some more!
The only downside to my design is that once the staircase and interior walls are installed, one won't see much of it. 
Unless you have a periscope.  Or one of those angled little mirror thingies the dentist uses.  Is there a dentist in the audience?