Hoist the flag!
10 June 2014
I should have known that a sunny weekend afternoon spent at Shoreham Fort would have a knock on effect. I had gone along to see the 'living history' specialists...they were armed with guns, I with my camera. The sun shone, uniform buttons gleamed, while canon were fired and drums beat.
So, what do I notice when I am back in the office in Lewes...the castle (so easily seen from our window) has hoisted a new flag, but what does it mean? Norman, our Designer, as quick off the mark as always, rapidly identifed it as a Sussex Flag (bright blue with 'marlets' - a small bird - depicted in yellow).
We think that it must be to celebrate the forthcoming 'Sussex day' on 16 June. And why not? I think it's rather jolly myself.
And if your dolls' house is a mini castle why not make your own set of flags to hoist up. And if you have a smaller conventional dolls' house (although an Englishman's home is his castle according to the old adage) you could always pop a flag pole somewhere I'm sure, or at least a gaily strung length of bunting. Pick a day to celebrate and make it your own!
Tea fit for a queen
4 June 2014
Inspiration for your dolls' house can come from just about anywhere - including a recipe book! The new book Tea Fit for a Queen has been put together by the team at Historic Royal Palaces and has an introduction by Lucy Worsley, their Chief Curator.
The book contains 40 enchanting recipes, from bakewell tarts to champagne cocktails (with plenty in between!) But the book's not just about recipes, as there's a good dollop of history inside too. Learn about each royal's connection with tea, what our Queen's favourite tea time treat is, and how mead cake came to be served to Henry VIII!
You can even buy the fine bone china tea set, which is shown in many of the book's photographs, to bring a piece of royal etiquette into your own home. Of course, our minds are somewhere considerably smaller, and already we're thinking how we can create the beautiful recipes inside the book in miniature.
For a good dose of royal inspiration, and something to suit even the sweetest of teeth, this book is definitely worth a peruse. To find out more, including how to buy, click here.
History on my doorstep
2 June 2014
I popped to my local shops at the weekend. As I parked my car in a handy lay-by I noticed that the small cottage opposite had a string of brightly coloured bunting outside. This was a building that I has passed by so many times that I am beyond counting. But it seemed that the cottage was 'open', so I went across to take a closer look.
The cottage is billed an an 'hidden treasure' for the town, for I am sure that like me, many people just didn't realise the history on their own doorstep. And what a treasure it was too, and so charmingly represented. The tiny kitchen was decked out as though it was wartime, while upstairs an area did the same for 'olden days schooling'.
I already knew that there was a Roman villa discovered nearby (though sadly built upon) but display cases did stirling work with discoveries and information. I just love those paw prints in the Roman tiles!
Having been fascinated by dolls' house and historic interiors for over 16 years now my mind always sees the potential for places, like Manor Cottage to be turned into miniature. I look at the real artefacts employed and instantly know where to find them for a dolls' house setting. I wonder if I will ever lose my 'miniature eye'?
Seizing this unexpected opportunity left a huge smile on my face for the rest of the day, when all I'd set out for was a loaf of bread and pint of milk!
27 May 2014
It doesn't seem that long ago that I was writing about the new academic wing opposite the iconic Glasgow School of Art. Then last friday I watched the News agast as I saw the flames ripping through the original Charles Rennie Mackintosh building. Touring the building last July was the highlight of my first ever trip to Scotland and seeing the damage was just heart-breaking. I felt sorry for everyone involved with the building - and those poor students too losing their degree work, not to mention students hoping to start in the new academic year come the autumn.
I see on the website today that a fund has been established for anyone wishing to donate to help re-build the GSA. You can find it here http://bit.ly/1jppJbh As many have penned 'you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone' we need to ensure that all our national treasures are kept safe. I am sure that the GSA will rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and when it does we will all appreciate once again the sheer genius of its designer.
Hurrah for Bank Holidays
22 May 2014
I have been so busy recently that I have only just noticed it's a Bank Holiday weekend coming up...I might just spend Monday doing nothing! Actually I can't do that, I am actually hopeless at being idle! Of course last weekend was taken up with the wonderful Kensington Dollshouse Festival. It was just lovely to see so many of my miniaturist friends. Once again I was blown away by the incredible array of miniatures on display - and you'll be able to see some of my favourites in The Dolls' House magazine shortly. I took so many photographs I am going to have to space them out over several issues.
I enjoyed chatting to some of the visitors over a cup of tea. Being a true miniaturist at heart, not just an Editor, it's great to talk to like-minded people. I also discovered that many of organiser Charlotte's team, were or are keen dancers - even a fellow Argentine tango fan. I am fired up with enthusiasm for the coming issues - what will I be tempting you with? Ah, you'll have to wait and see!
You go Euro?
8 May 2014
The pop fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest is approaching the significant sing-a-long with the final showdown this saturday. The contest has been running since 1956, and has featured 1,100 songs! But how many of them can you actually remember?
If you can name one winner it will be ABBA, from 1974. The final came from my home town of Brighton that year. And I have stood on the stage where ABBA stood for their stella launch into the music hall of fame. But when it comes to ABBA songs I have to admit to liking them, they do have a catchy refrain that fans of Mamma Mia know only too well. Cheesy but somehow cool, that can't be bad now can it?
I was looking at photographs of ABBA, specifically highlighting some of their costumes, this lunchtime while the rain lashed down outside. Super shiny (or should that be Super Trooper shiny?) and glam rock were all in vogue in the 1970s, lingering on into the lycra clad 80s. I had a lightbulb moment.
I have come up with two ideas to work with with regards to forthcoming themes for the August and September issues. My strength has always been in finding unusual sources to base miniature projects on. The next two issues are going to be such fun....and don't worry, I'm not going to introduce mini glam rock (not this time round anyway). My ideas are more universally appealing than that but you are going to love them! Trust me, I'm a miniaturist!
30 April 2014
I was delighted to hear from Richard Bromley of Bromley Craft Products this week. He said in his email;
'I’d like to thank you for the recent feature on the Crofters Cottage as this generated a lot of interest and some extra sales which was much appreciated. I since received several requests for a 1:12 scale version and I have now produced this so the Crofters Cottage is now available in 1:12, 1:24 and 1:48 scales.'
This is so exciting - for him and for dolls' house lovers too, who can now find the lovely Crofters Cottage dolls' house in a size to suit them.
This isn't the first time that I have heard from people who have had their work featured in the magazine..and it is what I love...spreading the joy of dolls' houses and miniatures.
Bromley Craft Products Limited, PO Box 283, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22 9DY
Telephone: 01825 732515
Waiting to be loved
28 April 2014
Like many miniaturists I love a good rummage in a charity shop, flea market or antiques fair. I am still looking for my new dolls' house for starters. I say 'new' but I don't mean it in the strict sense of the word. I am not looking for a bright new shiny house. And I am not actually looking for a house at all - but a cupboard. But it has to be the right type of cupboard as I hope to create something rather like the Petronella Oortman dolls' house at the Rijk Museum...just a little more shabby chic. Of course the trouble with looking for that hoped-for item is that there are an awful lot of 'nearly but not quites' out there and the problem is knowing when to compromise and stick.
One of my regular haunts is the local antiques fair at the South of England Showground in Ardingly. Of course, I keep an eye out for conventional dolls' houses too, because I still love them. I wouldn't say 'never' to buying a proper dolls' house if it appealled, but it would have to be really special as I have such limited space at home.
But it is a familiar story isn't it, running out of room. Over my 13 1/2 years as Editor of The Dolls' House magazine I have been contacted by owners, or spouces/partners of owners of dolls' houses needing, often reluctantly, to find a new home for a much-loved doll's house. You can find my advice here: http://bit.ly/PKy0PE should you need it in the future.
Some dolls' houses end up at Ardingly and they always tug at my heart strings. There weren't so many on my recent outing there, probably because I couldn't make the first day of the fair, which is the collector's day, and I like to think that the real beauties and bargains were snapped up. Two of the dolls' houses (shown here on the left) were particularly poorly!
The one on the bottom looked as a house might after a fire, or a landslip. The one next to it on the right was a much jollier example and I really hope that this one managed to find someone to love it. The blue house above it at just £25 was surely a bargain. And as I know - a bit of bargaining, and certainly the offer of cash could secure it for less.
Where do these dolls' house go if not sold? Back on the van for next time. Of course I rather like to hope that even if they didn't secure a new owner for themselves, they just might kindle an interest in the visitors. Maybe that will set a seed...a seed of desire for a dolls' house. And next time, maybe next time, they will be snapped up!
Not quite Selfridges
22 April 2014
Lots of peole are interested in genealogy, and television programmes like 'Who Do You Think You Are?' make the most of the celebrity names they give airtime to. Over the Easter break with time to research my sister has been revealling what she has discovered in her quest to find out more about our family. And it has been fascinating stuff on both my father's and mother's sides.
We may not be famous now, but I have been delighted to discover that research into my father's family has thrown up an Edwardian department store!
The store in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire was established by Michael Huntbach, (1837 - 1910). The unusual name making it easier to track possible ancestors. Coming to Hanley in 1852, Michael served an apprenticeship with a Mr. Thomas Swift, of Upper Market-square, before starting a business for himself in 1861 in a small shop in Lamb Street. With the assistance of his wife and his two sisters, he laid the foundation of Messrs. Huntbach and Co., Limited. The company eventually had a permanent staff of about 300 persons, with shops, workrooms, and warehouses. There are Huntbach Streets in the neighbourhood too I have discovered, so we must once have had some standing in the community.
The next time I am creating some packaging for my dolls' house I think I shall include a little something from the ladieswear department from this illustrious Stoke-On-Trent store. Who needs Selfridges when I have my very own emporium to browse?!
A big day in Glasgow
10 April 2014
Last July I went to Glasgow for the first time and loved it. High on my list was the Glasgow School of Art, an iconic building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. If you get the chance – take the official tour, so worth the insider’s view of the building. The School of Art building was completed in 1909 and is widely regarded as Mackintosh’s finest work.
I am delighted that the building site opposite during my visit is now an incredible new structure. The Reid Building officially opened yesterday, and looks to be an amazing space full of light for the students and staff who work there. It has been designed by US architect Steven Holl, and is named after GSA’s first female director, Dame Seona Reid. The new building is part of a £50m project and replaces the former Foulis building and Newbery Tower on Renfrew Street.
Facing such a world-famous frontage as the GSA main entrance I am so glad that it isn’t a copy or pastiche of the original but a bold and striking companion. I love the way that the new building wraps around and incorporates CRMs original work.
To my knowledge there has never been a dolls’ house that incorporates two very distinctive styles but it would be amazing if there were. Real size architects are utilising this concept, especially when dealing with historic buildings. Astley Castle in Warwickshire was the 2013 RIBA Sterling Prize winner. How long will it be before dolls’ house architects follow suit and give miniaturists something truly amazing?
BLOG PHOTOS: C.MCATEER BY GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART
Further information: visit www.gsa.ac.uk