Propping myself up

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

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

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

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!

Karen Bamford

Karen Bamford

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?

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

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

Karen Bamford

Karen Bamford

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.