Escape the War!
7 April 2014
Don't get me wrong, I am loving WWI in a purely academic fashion. I should clarify that and say that I am loving the television coverage; dramas and documentaries on the subject, that is. The latest one was beamed to our screens last night - did you see The Crimson Field? Not as pretty to look at as previous Sunday evening offering, Mr Selfridge but a worthy dollop of British pluckiness in the face of adversity. And did you recognise Kevin Doyle, best known as Downton Abbey’s downtrodden servant Mr Molesley?
As all dolls' house owners know there is nothing like watching a period drama to provide a memorable history lesson. And now after a long stint of WWI commemorative offerings there is respite as the eighteenth century comes under the spotlight (not a searchlight)!
Tonight I will enjoy my history lesson on the eighteenth century, in the form of a documentary on BBC4. In Rule Britannia! Music, Mischief and Morals in the 18th Century Suzy Klein explores the extent to which classical music played a significant role in shaping British identity and patriotism in the 18th century. In the first edition, the presenter considers the power music gave the new Hanoverian royal family as it dealt with several Jacobite risings in the 18th century, and discovers why Italian opera was so popular in the era. She also reveals the significance of Handel's arrival in London, and revisits the origins of The Beggar's Opera. Featuring works such as Rule Britannia, God Save the King and Handel's Water Music.
You can find out more here http://bit.ly/PFdv7q
I must admit that The Beggar's Opera is one of my favourites, and I have been involved with a couple of productions of it. One was held here in Lewes in a local hotel; raucous and fun. Bawdy, oh yes! But that's a whole other story...although, if anyone has created a dolls' house that is lived in by a highwayman do get in touch. And did you know about Handel's connection to London's Foundling Hospital (now Museum)? I bet there's a reference!
You see, you never know when inspiration will strike! I'll be on my sofa with a cup of tea and a pencil and paper just in case.
Costumes and characters
24 March 2014
I have to admit to cheating when it came to watching last night's final installment of ITV's series, Mr Selfridge. I had already done a little internet search about Rose Selfridge and her health issues. I knew it was curtains for her long before Harry Selfridge looked so shocked as the final episode of the current series drew to a close. Poor old Rose, so put upon but so saintly in demeanor. I can't work out if she was a trophey-wife or simply a clever woman who knew what side her bread was buttered on. But that dropped slice has now landed butter-side down. We will have to wait until next year to find out what is in store for the Selfridge family.
Then this morning I received the July batch of letters from our maids series from their author. Now of course, while you have yet to read those waiting in May and June's issues I have the whole picture. And I must say, I am touched at the conclusion - for yes, I admit it now, the July issue sees the last in the series.
Unlike Mr Selfridge our maids, Maud, Pearl, Daisy and Fleur have no actors inhabiting their fictional skin, so I have created images in my head. No doubt my picture of our quartet is nothing like yours - but that's fine, that's the fun. But I love them and I will really, really miss them. Stephanie Richards has created such a vivacious group of women, and I have enjoyed our own correspondence as well as theirs.
I hope that somewhere someone has created our maids in miniature and given them a dolls' house so that they can live on.
The maids series also appears on the Crafts Institute as a short story. You can read the latest installement here.
Woodn't it be lovely
6 March 2014
I love Folksy, I'm totally envious of all of the talents of the craftspeople making such beautiful items. I'm totally envious of anyone with spare money to buy it all! But I am totally addicted to looking at the site whenever an email notifcation comes through. Is there a help group available that I can join?
The latest 'must have' can be seen here http://folksy.it/NAu6bm and I'm rather smitten. Not that it exactly suits my real house but for the dolls' house that I am planning in my head, oh yes! It's the 'rustic modern' tag you see that has caught my eye. My dream dolls' house was all going shabby chic until I saw this...now I'm changing my mind.
I am pretty sure that I can recreate this effect using different slices of wooden dowel, with maybe a nick taken out of the circumference to get that log slice effect. Maybe I could cut a real twig? What do you think?
OK, not one for the Georgian home...although - imagine the perfect period exterior but modern rustic interior like one of those upmarket hotels. I quite fancy that, and I could get away with some classic Georgian furniture too nestling in with the log baskets and woollen throws, crystal vases and chandeliers. Or, I could go whole hog down the rustic cabin route..Scottish HIghlands? Swiss chalet? Possibilities, possibilties. As long as Folksy don't send another tempting selection I'm hanging out here in my fantasy rustic modern dolls' house.
A creative way of life
24 February 2014
I love reading about people who make stuff; anything creative although best of all, miniatures. Surfing the net recently I came across Tim Holtz, the Creative Director of Ranger Industries. He had a great quote on his website:
“In a world where the moments of our lives can be captured and created in art of the everyday, it’s important it reflects our own unique personality. Finding just the right objects, accents, and tools to use are most important. Whatever your artistic vision is, exploring the imaginative is a chance for our creativity to escape understanding. Remember life isn’t about finding yourself – life is about creating yourself…”
I think this is just as applicable to the miniaturist creating their dolls' house; just the right object, just the right tool..don't we all have that Eureka moment when we find them?
I'm off to create myself right this minute!
All sewn up
20 February 2014
As BBCs 'Great British Sewing Bee' kicked off its second series this week we're all talking about the show format. Of course we are just as interested in the personalities of the contestants as in the actual sewing challenges. I felt so sorry for Cliff, bowing out through ill health. I know Cliff as a fellow tango dancer (where is and his partner are always beautifully attired). You may remember my blog last year when I mentioned that the camera crew had come along to one of our tango dances to film Cliff, to provide that bibliographic footage. Sadly I won't see whether there would have been a glimpse of me in the background.
For those of us actually do sew (rather than aspiring to do so but never actually putting thread to fabric), the star of the show is that incredible workroom. Who wouldn't want to have those facilities (as opposed to the kitchen table)? Shelves stuffed full of sumptuous fabrics there for the picking, racks of ribbon and trims galore, a large work table, and that fabulous view across the Thames.
Karen and I were discussing how wonderful it would be to make such a set up in miniature. An old riverside warehouse is a great starting point - so you'd need to adapt the front of a dolls' house with brickwork, shutters maybe, a hook and hoist, and some faded signage. I'm thinking that a tall thin dolls' house building would be a good basis.
Inside - well lots of tables, sewing machines, mannequins and materials! You could even create an upper floor (spiral staircase?) to continue the theme or include a fashion design studio. Add a film crew too if you feel adventurous.
While we have seen lots of wonderful 1:12 scale habberdashery shops, the majorty are from a by-gone age; Victorian or Edwardian. The Great British Sewing Bee shows us a blueprint for a modern interpretation that could be just as rewarding to assemble. Time to get busy I think.
With sewing in mind pop across to our Facebook page to find some sewing related prizes!
13 February 2014
Valentine's Day isn't always a bed of roses. It's great for those with a special partner to snuggle up next to...or if there is a potential romance in the air, but for singletons it can rub salt into the wound. Being surrounded by shops resplendent with big red heart motifs in their window displays it does little to cheer. And right now, given the weather, there are a lot of us who are feeling down in the dumps.
My solution to the Valentine's Day love-fest is to treat myself. I am my own centre of attention for the day. This friday I am not at work, so I'm starting off with a long lie-in, no doubt catching Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 before I surface. I can check my emails and Facebook thanks to my Ipad. Not only that, but I can read The Dolls' House magazine on it too courtesy of a handy little App. Infact, loving the App so much there's 25% discount on a 12 month subscription just for Valentine's Day. Go to www.pocketmags.com to find out the details.
Valentine's Day gives me a reason to eat chocolates without feeling guilty. But I'm saving mine for the evening when I have a date with my favourite people. I'm meeting up with my sister and my mum to go to the theatre. We're seeing a production of 'Avenue Q' - in which my son has a staring role, so I'll be bursting with maternal pride. Feel the love, oh yes!
It's always sunny over the dolls' house
6 January 2014
For many of us today heralds the start of the first full week back in the office. My new wall calender (showing minature scenes) is pristine and promising, like the ghost of Christmas present when Scrooge first meets him, but I know it'll all be rather dog-eared by the end of 2014.
But what a gloomy start to 2014 given the terrible weather! As I look out of the office window the sun is actually shining, but it was a sharp contrast to the blowing winds and stair-rod rainfall of earlier in the day. My heart goes out to any of you clearing flood damage! Our designer here on The Dolls' House magazine was telling me how his house was without power for five days over Christmas thanks to the stormy weather causing power cuts in the rural area where he lives. It did sound grim, although thankfully with an aga and wood burning stove there was at least heat and the ability to cook food (though lots did go to waste as the freezer and fridge went out of action). Yes, there were candles at Christmas but through neccesity rather than choice!
Such calamities never happen in the dolls' house world. There may be wellington boots and umbrellas in the hallway but I am never convinced that they are ever used (rather like the wooden sledge!). The minature weather forecast is always for sunshine, and the flowers in the garden (and vegetables in the little allotment) still grow despite the lack of rain! Is it no wonder that we love our miniature worlds so much?
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.