Bind to come in handy!
27 February 2013
I've just picked up a message via our Facebook page regarding a project that was featured over one hundred issues ago! It's good to know that readers are hanging on to their copies of The Dolls' House magazine. Who knows when the time is right for a project from years ago to be the one that you want to make today?
We can provide binders for you to store your copies - maybe like me you already have a shelf (or two) of the bottle-green coloured binders already. These work so much better than toppling piles of magazines stacked on the floor - the paper equivalent to the Leaning Tower of Piza! Though I am also partial to the wooden file boxes beloved of IKEA.
When I look back though the issues I'm always struck by just how much material we have covered. It's rewarding to re-visit the collections that we have featured in the past. I for one never tire of looking at a well-executed, or quirky dolls' house! And of course - how many incredible creative projects has the magazine seen over the years?? Hang on to your copies - because, if you haven't made them all, one day you'll find that the perfect one is neatly filed waiting for you to re-discover the fun!
To Russia with love
21 February 2013
When The Dolls House Emporium announced this week that it had appointed an official Russian distributor I was rather surprised - at first. My own experience of the former USSR left me unable to imagine Russians indulging in the dolls' house hobby.
When I was a child in the 1970s and early 80s, my father was away much of the year on business trips behind the Iron Curtain. My childhood was dotted with visits from Russian scientists wearing ill-fitting suits, eager to be treated to a spending spree in Marks & Spencer. I particularly remember Peter, who having joined us at a family party, cried when it was time to leave for the airport and my mother's anxiety over the possibility of a defector on our hands.
When I was 18, my father managed to obtain a visa for me to visit him in Moscow. My overwhelming memories are of the greyness of the weather and the concrete apartment blocks, the 'department store' that appeared to sell only polyester nightdresses and the hurried walk of people who never seemed to smile, dawdle or pause to chat.
That's not to say that I didn't appreciate the beauty of St Basil's Cathedral or the treasures of the Grand Kremlin Palace, but they belonged to another time. No, what impacted my naïve teenage mind the most (apart from the vodka) was the poverty and pollution and fear. I went to see the changing of the guard outside Lenin's tomb very late one night and was all too aware of being observed by the KGB. On another outing to Red Square an official demanded that I had over my camera for inspection. And when I tried to get a taxi back to my hotel, no drivers wanted to take me as they could be prosecuted for taking me to a Westerners' hotel if it transpired I was there to provide illicit services!
Happy to be proved wrong
A lot of time has passed since then and recent events have challenged my no-doubt flawed perception of a joyless people. When Leonardslee Gardens in Sussex was sold in 2010 to a Russian billionaire who closed the gardens and the educational display of miniatures to the public, my heart was hurt. I imagined the 'Behind the Scenes at Leonardslee' display gathering dust and rotting away. Now I prefer to think of the owner entertaining guests both from the UK and overseas with a tour of this wonderful collection.
This thought was spurred by two events that happened this week. One was the end of an eBay auction in which my daughter sold her Sylvanian Families schoolhouse to a bidder in Russia. It was incredible to think of those cute and colourful characters winging their way to Moscow.
The second was the news that The Dolls House Emporium had linked up with Russian retailer S&B Toys to introduce customers across the Federation to its range of miniature houses and accessories. The Derbyshire-based company said it was responding to a recent increase in demand for the traditional dolls' house, which has always been part of Russian life, just as in the UK.
S&B Toys was established by Andrey Seliverstov with his wife Ilona in 2008 to specialise in dolls' houses and miniatures, artisan dolls and train sets. Many customers like to build their collection step by step - while a few are on the lookout for big exclusives, such as Grosvenor Hall and other classical English designs, ready built. Customers will now be able to buy a wide range of collectors' items, as well as dolls' houses in QuickStyle and Fully Finished versions.
Russian dolls' houses embrace Georgian English designs although their tastes include other classical styles, as well as French, some Art Deco and Victorian - as mirrored in the architecture of their full-size homes.
Dolls House Emporium managing director Jackie Lee said: "We're very pleased to be working with Andrey's business as he has an established base in Moscow and rapidly developing a thriving miniatures community. There has been a lot of work involved on both sides to make this happen and most of the first shipment has already sold out."
For further information visit dollshouse.co.uk/PR13RU
Moscow-based S&B Toys can be accessed online at www.dollhouse.su
21 February 2013
The sun was shining on Tuesday afternoon when I went to the Ardingly antiques fair. When I was there last October there were plenty of dolls' houses to be seen. But this time disappointingly there were very few; plenty of lovely teddies and dolls for those wanting a new nursery friend, but miniature property was in short supply. I guess it really is the luck of the draw and I wonder if dolls' houses are seasonal? Do the traders bring them out pre-Christmas hoping to hit that nostalgia button?
But of course you never know if you're going to find a little gem, and there were a couple of dolls' houses that did catch my eye. The first was this detailed shop with its unusual render on the exterior. It was very narrow and opened at the back. But I love the wooden display units inside. And is that a tiny dolly in the window?
The other dolls' house that I could have taken home (if I'd had £1400 to spare, a trolley to transport it plus a larger car!) was this mansion. I'm always saying to readers that if you only have room for one dolls' house buy the biggest one that you can afford. This has the potential to be someone's pride and joy. You won't find another dolls' house like it, again, one of the advantages of buying a vintage house.
These other dolls' houses were pretty much the styles that I had expected to see. But they seemed to be tiddlers compared to the previous find, although certainly much easier to get home!
As much as I love my dolls' house part of me is itching to re-house the miniatures that it contains. It's like wanting to move house (real size) but without really having a need to do so or the finances to make it happen, but when I see that new property that tugs at my hearts strings, you'll get to hear about it!
Student digs, Victorian style
18 February 2013
I've just been reading about a collection of nineteenth century photographs from the Royal Holloway University archives.
The article shows a number of photographs of the student rooms, contrasting the nineteenth century examples with contemporary ones. Am I the only person to prefer the older ones?
I just love the group of women (who seem so elegantly dressed, even if it is the style of the day) sitting around drinking tea, surrounded by their home trappings, pictures, books, soft furnishings. It just looks so homely and inviting and I'd love to be able to join them and find out what they're studying and what there plans are for the future. In the modern equivalent all the students are conversing with their mobile devices - they don't look fun at all to be with!
Of course either setting would be a great idea for a dolls' house - student 'halls of residence'. It's not something that I have seen done before. But what fun! In fact, imagine one dolls' house but spilt down the middle with the Edwardians on one side and the modern on the other! It could be a challenge to find the exact opposites, if you wanted a real mirror image.
Do you dig it?
On my high horse
14 February 2013
There's not much you can get for £1 these days. A pack of four frozen horse burgers perhaps? A far better idea would be to spend it on a ticket to Kensington Dollshouse Festival in May. Amazingly £1 is all they charge club members to attend this prestigious event in London.
With your entry ticket you will receive a free show catalogue and the cloakroom is free too. Hot and cold food is available to buy, but there's also plenty of space for you to sit and eat a picnic if you prefer.
In theory, you could have a great day out ogling gorgeous miniatures for just £1. In practice, I know this to be virtually impossible (due to the aforementioned gorgeous miniatures) so don't leave your purse at home.
When I'm at KDF, it's usually for work. I scour the stands looking for interesting, new and inspiring miniatures to feature in the magazine. I borrow them briefly to be photographed and then return them. It's all the fun of shopping, without spending, although I don't get to take my finds home with me, sadly.
However, even though I'm not there to shop for myself, I always take home a little something. I allow myself a spontaneous £10 spend-up. Usually this happens when I've had something photographed that I really don't want to give back, and if it's under £10, I treat myself. Last time it was a ceramic frog-shaped sponge holder by Janice Crawley that simply had to be mine for keeps.
It might not be much, but going home, knowing that I've done a good day's work and I've got a little memento, keeps me happy. And I'd rather have a little cup and saucer or tiny wire basket than a batch of frozen horse burgers any day!
Kensington Dollshouse Festival is on 11-12 May 2013.
The £1 offer applies only to Sunday 12 May for entrance from 12noon-5pm. You must book at least 10 tickets to take part in this offer.
To book, please send details of your club to: LDF, The Studio, 70a Lawford Road, London, N1 5BL with a cheque made payable to 'Kensington Dollshouse Festival' or call 020 7812 9892 if you wish to pay by credit card (£1 surcharge).
Visit www.dollshousefestival.com for up-to-date information on the show, watch films and find out about KDF Tours taking place on 10 May.
Love's labours not lost
14 February 2013
Valentine's Day can be remarkably sad for those who have lost loved ones to the disease of cancer. So when Sarah Oddy got in touch to tell me about her dolls' house club fair I knew it had to be supported, profits are going to Marie Curie Cancer Care support - a worthy cause.
If you live in South Devon make a note in your diary on 6th April for the South Devon Miniatures Club exhibition and fair at the Recreational Trust Hall, Marsh Road, Newton Abbot, TQ12 2AR. 10.30am - 4pm, £1.50 admission, 50p children accompanied by an adult, light refreshments available.
It's one way to spread the love!
12 February 2013
A while ago I explained how I'd used a J-cloth to create a sleeve for my daughter's costume. And i thought that you might like to see the finished garment. I'm pretty pleased with it and have already had a request to make another, though I'm not sure that I want to go into business! But the experience of making this outfit did make me think about the real Tudor seamstresses.
I was lucky, having my trusty sewing machine to hand for this project. Luckily creating the 'slashed sleeve' effect was not nearly as difficult as I had first thought - especially as there were very helpful instructions on an internet site! But back in the days of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I - those wonderful portraits of them in their finery - I now marvel at the time it must have taken to sew those garments from scratch...not to mention stitching the embroidery and adding jewels. And, no electric light either to work by! My eyesight isn't what is was so again, more food for thought for our forebears. And as mine were lacemakers, it made me think further onto the subjects of lace ruffs...thankfully my daughter hasn't asked me to come up with one of those yet...do you think it is only a matter of time?
What a sweetie!
7 February 2013
Just received this in an email
Thank you very much for sending the magazine with many interesting features. Love the magazine and it has inspired my wife Gloria to get her Triang dolls house out of the garage to redecorate and furnish.
Kind regards, Keith Tordoff, Oldest Sweet Shop
It's good to know that we inspire - as I am sure that the feature the March issue contains on the Oldest Sweet Shop will do too!
Any old iron?
6 February 2013
What a shame that iconic board-game Monopoly is replacing it's iron-shaped playing piece with a metal cat! The iron has been steaming its way around those London streets since the 1930s, but it seems its time is up...a sign of the times when no one uses a flat iron like this any more. The little iron is the perfect size for the dolls' house however, so now could be your last chance to find one and relegate it to a more homely environment.
Dancing on the edge
5 February 2013
Well I loved BBC2s drama Dancing on the Edge by Stephen Poliakoff, which kicked off on television last night. It was while watching the drama that I recognised one of the locations, from a visit I'd made there back in 2009. In the scene the Louis Lester jazz band were set up under a marquee on a lawn outside a splendid period property. The band looked across the lawn and gazing above the beautifully clipped topiary trees to the windows they could just about make out the guests who were peering out through the tall central window. As the music started up the guests - including the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) - made their way into the garden to enjoy the music at closer quarters.
I knew immediately that this was Fenton House in Hampstead Grove, London. Its a seventeenth century townhouse owned by the National Trust. The ball-shaped trees - holly - are a notable feature of the garden. And to cap my identification was this garden statue behind the actors in another shot.
I was reading the reviews this morning - and the production had an £8.2M budget -enough for the swanky locations and period costumes...well, it is the 1930s! And those wonderful hotel suites...surely inspiration for a large dolls' house?