19 December 2013
There is a definate holiday feel in the air today. Team Dolly has just enjoyed lunch in the neighbouring cafe (so handy to have next door!). The decorations were as tasteful as the food, and easy Christmas tunes pervaded the air. Just delightful.
In the crazy world of magazine publishing we dealt with our Christmas issue way back in September, so December seems long gone. After thirteen years at the helm I am used to this scheduling, but nevertheless, each year, I still can't believe that the real Christmas is just around the corner.
As this is the last day that I am in the office before the holidays I feel like it is the last day of school term. I'm checking off all those tasks that need to be done, so that I can leave my desk tidy for the new year. And I am thinking of all the preparations that are still to be made at home; last minute presents, a few more decorations to be put out, food still to be bought, and double checking which family members are going to be where and when. When it comes to wrapping the presents I am using my annual trick of using our old front cover design print outs - so colourful, and they never need a label - everyone knows that the gift inside is from me! If I get a spare moment I'll post a picture onto our Facebook page (where you will find regular postings throughout December - so do keep a regular check there).
Once home of course I don't neglect my dolls' house, it will get a sprinkling of Christmas charm. The little pile of presents will be placed under the tree in the parlour, and the turkey dinner is already on the dining room table. In my little house there is always an element of calm, my dolls' house family never seem ruffled by this time of year (but then they rely on home deliveries for everything!). When the dolls' house lights are switched on - and the only illumination in my front room - the whole house looks just magical! It reminds me of why we all love this hobby so much.
So it just remains for me to wish all of you a very happy Christmas and all the joys of the season. I hope that the new year finds you in good health and in good spirits....2014, here we come!
Isn't it lovely?
9 December 2013
I was watching the last epsiode of BBC's serial The Paradise yesterday evening. Apart from the drama of the storylines, I was just thinking how beautiful it all looked. In fact, I could almost be tempted to buy the inevitable CD boxed set (or download as they tend to be these days) and re-watch every episode with the sound turned down just to soak up the period detail.
Last night I was almost memerised as Miss Denise wafted around her ladieswear department, trying to promote her latest acquision...rouge, from the ever-so scandalous city of Paris. Does anyone actually exchange money for goods from The Paradise? Or is this side of business left to the packing department (pick up your gift wrapped purchases on exit)? I scarcely mind because I am so in love with the decor...and that's before I have cooed over the Weston's house. Oh, that green wallpaper! A joy in any dolls' house - and surely little Flora should have one of those.
In the office we have been discussing the contrast with the almost-over Ripper Street. Another BBC period drama and again expertly done in my opinion. It has Victorian gritiness in bucketloads! Victorian vice compared to Edwardian elegance. But all fantastic visual encylopedias for anyone wanting to recreate a period dolls' house, warts and all.
What will I do now that both series have run their course? As I'm feeling their demise there will at least be the Christmas Downton Abbey to act as a stop-gap. But then, come on BBC, give me something to exercise my miniature mind! What...or is it when...will be the next decade to delight?
Propping myself up
28 November 2013
Last night I was working backstage on a production of Les Miserables with a local youth theatre group (a very talented lot I must say). For the next three nights I'm working backstage on an opera..well two actually, Holst's Savitri and Puccinni's Suor Angelica (the second is a real weepy, beautiful music). It's one of those things that I do outside of work because I love it. My role is to find the props needed to support the story. It's something that I have done for over 15 years now and I've covered lots of musicals and operas in that time (this is actually the fourth time I've been involved with Les Mis, and second time that I've done Suor Angelica). As a consequence I have an attic full of unusal items; some I've found, some I've adapted, and some I've made.
The key to any prop is that it has to look right as far as the audience as concerned. The Bishop's table in Les Mis, for example, is set with a joint of meat, garnished with lushious red grapes on silver platters. And the wedding cake in a later scene is a towering three tier structure. They both look wonderful but you wouldn't want to eat either unless you enjoy cardboard, paint and papier mache, and those platters are just plastic. The duplicity doesn't just belong to food items there is artifice in much of what is being used.
Whatever the item is it just has to look as though it belongs. The same is true of the dolls' house. The longer you are involved in the hobby, the more your eye develops as to what looks right, and what somehow jars when you look into a miniature room. And of course, the knack of turning one item into something else by giving it a swift paint job, or adding some suitable adornment, or changing the fabric, works wonders in miniature as well as full size.
Big props or little miniatures, its all in the eye of the beholder.
The personal touch please
25 November 2013
New research from the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association (UKGCVA) has revealed that 49% of consumers are likely to give a gift card or voucher as a gift this Christmas to their friends or family. The survey of more than 2,000 consumers, carried out by YouGov Plc, is in line with recent industry data from BDO that showed consumer sales of gift cards and vouchers grew by 8% in the third quarter of 2013.
Andrew Johnson, director-general of the UKGCVA explains: “We recently predicted that £2bn will be spent on gift cards and vouchers in the run up to Christmas; given the results of the survey we believe this figure will definitely be met – and most likely exceeded. We have seen the popularity of gift cards and vouchers grow immensely over recent years, and Christmas 2013 is on track to be one of the strongest for the industry to date."
I know that gift cards and vouchers means that you can avoid the receipient not liking your choice of present or buying the wrong size, but I also feel it is a bit of a cop out. I'd much rather the personal touch when it comes to present buying (or receiving), however small or inexpensive.
Two of my favourite presents to give are calendars using my own photographs (I take so many...and I'm thinking of doing a calendar of photos of my dolls' house), or painted pottery - which I've done for significant birthdays and as wedding gifts. I know that my mum will be giving pots of homemade jams and chutneys, not to mention beautifuly scented lavender bags. Of course if you are giving to a friend who is also a miniaturist, small is always beautiful and hopefully over the last year The Dolls' House magazine has given you a few ideas of projects to make. And a gift subscription is a great idea as it means that each month the gift keeps on giving!
With a month to go until Christmas Day itself, I hope that the personal touch won't be forgotten under the onlaught of tinsel and tacky tunes.
It's a date!
19 November 2013
Usually at this time of year I enjoy shopping for a diary. I’m very particular. It must be small enough to fit in my bag but large enough to accommodate all my family and work commitments. I prefer lines to keep my writing tidy and spiral binding so it will lay flat. A gorgeous cover is essential too!
This year, however, I’m not going to invest in a diary as I’ve been modernised! Throughout 2013 I’ve been getting used to the calendar on my iPhone and now that I’ve come to trust it, I am a convert. It’s not as pleasurable as a tactile little book, but it is convenient.
What really matters is not the format of the diary but the dates to look forward to – birthdays, holidays, special occasions. And, of course, all those wonderful dolls’ house and miniatures fairs! For 2014 we’re welcoming back fair organiser MGM after a five-year break from the dolls’ house circuit. Shows will be held in Bath in March and October, Plymouth and Matlock in May, Swansea in September, and Plymouth again in November.
Check The Dolls’ House magazine’s monthly fairs listing for details of these events and many others. It’s good to have something to look forward to.
Too many toys?
6 November 2013
I've just been reading an article on the BBC News website about whether children today (in our country at least) have too many toys. With Christmas approaching and the toy manufacturers disgorging a veritable Santa's grotto of possibilties to please our offspring, it's a mote point.
In the article Liat Hughes Joshi, author of Raising Children: the Primary Years, stresses the importance of 'play value'. She says, "There are enormous benefits to toys - they bring joy, creativity and learning."She sees three factors that make a brilliant toy: "Social value - a dolls' house allows children to play together, versatility - Lego bricks can be made into anything, and durability - such as a wooden train track that the child will use for years."
It's good to know that the dolls' house keeps its place in the nursery. And if you are thinking of buying a dolls' house for your youngster December's issue of The Dolls' House magazine includes a feature on some of those available.
You can read the full article for yourself here:
The appeal of the poppy
5 November 2013
Have you ever volunteered for something you didn’t really want to do? I’ve often regretted being pushed into saying ‘yes’, but occasionally a gentle nudge reaps unexpected rewards. Take last weekend when I ‘did my bit’ for the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal. My son has recently been invested as a Sea Scout and, as representatives of HMS Shoreham when she’s not in port, his Troop was asked to sell poppies. Regulations state that the youngsters are not allowed to hold the collecting pot, so I volunteered to do that.
I had expected to stand outside our local Co-op, simply holding the pot while the Scouts did the selling. Unfortunately, it turned out that we had to go to door to door. So Arron and I were dispatched with a map marking our allocated route. As I looked at my lad in his new Scout uniform, topped by a sailor’s hat with a poppy tucked in the band, my heart swelled with pride. But I was also gripped by worry that we would be given short shrift by householders whose Saturday afternoons we were about to interrupt.
I needn’t have worried. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone seemed happy to donate cash to this worthwhile cause, with husbands and wives often insisting on each paying for their own poppy. At one property, mother, daughter and aunt all coughed up individually. Other householders flung open their doors enthusiastically with their coins already in their hands saying that they’d seen us coming up the street.
Most surprising was the elderly lady who couldn’t open her front door. I thought this was just a ploy to get rid of us until we spotted her passing her cash through an open fanlight! Lots of people gave Arron words of encouragement and several stopped us in the street, keen to add their coins to the collection.
The aim of selling poppies is to aid the serving and ex-service community and their families. I hadn’t expected that Arron and I would also gain from the experience.
Teeny poppies are available from The Dolls House Mall for £1, with proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer Support.
There is no escaping the day job
30 October 2013
I am really pleased with the current issue of The Dolls' House magazine. November's colour-themed content was a joy to put together. Until I got home. And looked at my walls - my real walls! I decided to go on a painting frenzy. Pouring over paint charts I discovered an interesting (or frustrating) thing. The colour chip on the front of the can is only a computer generated colour. This was pointed out to me when, in a 'Changing Rooms' moment I realised that the colour inside the tin that I had bought was not the colour on the outside, and took it back to the store for a refund.
So, how do we know what colour we are getting? Ah, I see.....you have to buy the matchpot, apply it and wait for it to dry to see the real colour. I know it makes sense but it is frustrating when I just want to get on with the job and get that paint on the walls!
Having completely re-thought my colour scheme in the light of this I opted for a couple of more natural shades rather than the vibrance in my mind's eye (with lots of paintings and soft furnishings to provide that zing of colour instead). My reason - I was treating my house as an entireity, as I would a dolls' house. How would it look if the front were removed and all the rooms visible at once. Would my rooms jar? Well, now they don't, they are a harmonious whole!
On your bike!
21 October 2013
Last week I bought a new bicycle but with no intentions of riding it. Found in a local gift shop the bike is made from re-cycled tin cans; a re-cycled cycle as it were, which has a lovely ring about it. The bike is one of a range of tin can home 'standing ornaments' Fair Trade Gifts from the Shared Earth company, who are all about ethical trading. Each bike (and there are two styles) is different because of the variety of materials used, so it took a while to decide which one I wanted, but this one finally won me over - it was the blue saddle with the writing that did it!
The bike is currently parked outside my Victorian dolls' house, and although very 21st century in colour, it will suit my re-imagined doll's house when I manage to move it outside of my head and into reality!
Discover the Shared Earth range on line at www.sharedearth.co.uk
Or telephone 01904 632896
Topsy turvy home décor inspiration
17 October 2013
Lately I’ve been looking at life from a different perspective. You will have noticed that most dolls’ house interiors are inspired by real life homes, whether they are recreations of houses from the past, or places that we would love to inhabit if only we could. But lately I’ve noticed it working the other way around for me… with dolls’ houses influencing my choice of home décor.
It began with Linda Carswell’s French style dolls’ house that we featured in The Dolls’ House magazine issue 159. I was drawn to the Parisian chic of Le Petite Maison and particularly the palette of soft greys and worn whites. Soon I was planning my own shabby chic 1:24 scale cottage with a similar colour scheme. What I hadn’t expected was how it would also influence my choices at home.
Subconsciously I started to recreate some of the features there too, with the acquisition of a white metal bedstead, and muted pink and white bed linen. This week I’m having the exterior of my house painted a soft shade of grey to compliment the new darker grey of the front door. I’m just hoping the overall effect will be elegant, like Le Petite Maison, and not a concrete disappointment.
More miniature design influence seeped into my home unexpectedly during a trip to Ikea. Hitherto my home furnishings have been classic and traditional, but on this trip I bought eight white dining chairs of a contemporary, curved wood design AND a large white modular shelving unit. Back at home, my open plan dining/playroom/kitchen space was transformed. I was very pleased with my new eye for modern aesthetics until I picked up the current issue of The Dolls’ House magazine and realised that yet again I’d stolen the idea. Somehow I’d forgotten Anna-Maria Sviatko’s white room with its four-squares-by-four-squares modular unit just like mine.
Hopefully it simply proves that when you’re creating your ideal home – whether it’s small scale or life-size – it doesn’t really matter where inspiration comes from as long as it works for you.
Anna-Maria Sviatko's scene planted a sublimal message in my brain to modernise my home!