An odd title for an odd page – home to articles and and musings on all things miniature or vaguely connected to miniatures!
NUMBER 4: MAY 2023 Kensington Show report – The People!
I’m just back from the two day Kensington dollshouse festival, after weeks of
working till the ‘wee small hours’ on new products and building up my show
stock, I am now busy updating the website shop and musing (or rambling) about the show…
Its funny what stands out from it – for me, it was the people. All those catch up chats with fellow exhibitors and regular customers, and the new ones who I look forward to seeing again!
Fellow exhibitors shared moans about things being in short supply – but with Covid and the economic climate, so many companies have ceased trading or have so little stock available, we miniaturists are feeling the knock on effects of it. (This is why I make many of my own ornaments, dolls and accessories with the 3D printer – as well as now branching out into wooden furniture – I now can make most of what I want myself – keeping costs down – and they are my own exclusive designs – a win-win in anyones book!)
Visitors may have noticed that exhibitor numbers are down at shows, but that’s because so many people have retired, closed down or passed on, over that last few years and there are not enough new businesses starting up to cover this, so I think its going to get worse before it gets better. (And if you know anyone who can make Fimo parrots – I’m sure Robert at Tumdee would love to have a chat – he hasn’t had any in for ages – LOL)
The show was undoubtedly hit by the train strikes so that although transport within London was working, people couldn’t get into London to use it!
But where there’s a will there’s a way, and some people were determined not to miss the show… one of my ‘regulars’ (a mother and daughter) – the daughter was in London and made the show, but her
mother lives in the midlands and had her show tickets and train tickets ready but couldn’t get to it… so we face-timed her on her daughters phone and I gave her a video show of the stand, chatting to her about what was new and what matched what she had already!
Two older ladies made of sterner stuff stood for two hours on one of the few trains working – they were dreading the trip home but would not be deterred from getting to the show! (not only were the
trains operating reduced services but the trains were reduced in carriage numbers too – hence having to play ‘Sardines’ on the way in!)
Two of the nicest people I met at the show were an American brother and sister who were having a fantastic time on a once in a lifetime trip – taking in the dollshouse show, then off to a concert of choral music in a church, then back for day two of the show and off to see the musical ‘Wicked’ then off to Lichtenstein for a few weeks to visit relatives.
They were both experienced miniaturists – but another highlight for me were the two ladies who were new to the hobby. Each one was just starting her first house and had come to show to get ideas, but
the quality of the exhibits absolutely stunned them and they were like rabbits in the headlights!
It was great to get chatting and explaining to them not to panic – it takes years to get the skills and experience of the show exhibitors. I gave them my best advice – first deep breaths and calm! Do it one room at a time, and buy your furniture first then decorate to match (saves redecorating later!) and only buy what you love – if you don’t you’ll regret it later and change to what you love and have wasted the money on trying to be ‘right for the house’ Only do what makes you happy not what you think it should be – mix, match and play to find your own style!
I also recommended they should come to the York dolls house show (June 4th 2023) it has a much broader range of prices and includes more DIY type products which is what you need when first starting your house. Kensington is fabulous for ideas and looking at what is best in the world – but not everyone has (or wants/suits) a dollshouse packed to gills with designer pieces, and we all have to start somewhere…
I originally finished to article here, but then I noticed it had been a year since my last Random Thoughts article (time flies!) and co-incidentally that one was about the Kensington May fair too! So read on to get my best tips for shopping at shows – its almost like I planned it LOL
PS. And if you see me at a show – ask me about the mother and daughter with the mouse – I’m still trying to get my head around it!!!!!!
NUMBER 3: MAY 2022 SHOPPING GUIDE!
I am writing this ‘Random Thoughts’ article after a very busy Kensington Dollshouse Festival as I reflect on all the chat that goes on at such occasions.
With plenty of shows ahead this year its worth pointing out that although shows are a lovely way to spend the day – it always pays to be prepared!
Its always easier to make decision when you see something that might be ‘the’ thing to make your miniature scheme complete – so a big thumbs up to those shoppers who come prepared with photos of rooms, sizes and even colour or wallpaper swatches to match to…
As both a miniaturist and retailer I see the customers dilemmas and decision making processes – everything from ‘I love it I want it now’, to ‘I’ll get my husband, other half, friend to come back with me to help me decide’ to ‘I’ll take a card and look online’
It strikes me that some advice that I give out at shows, still holds true after all these years, and I have distilled it down to some key things, but essentially it comes down to buy what you love when you see it and you can never go wrong! (See the key four points listed for more details!)
1: Only buy what you really love – don’t buy if it is just to fit with what you have – eventually it will niggle away at you until you ditch what ‘fits’ and start again with what you love. Buy what you love first and save money!
2: Buy your furniture first then decorate – its easier to match wallpaper to furniture than furniture to wallpaper. If I had a penny for every time someone has decorated, then seen a room suite they love and had to redecorate!
2a: Speaking of wallpaper – you don’t always have to use it – In Featherstone hall I used silk, cotton and gift wrap amongst other things – it doesn’t have to be wallpaper!
3: Buy it when you see it. Once again, if I had a penny every time someone came back to the stand to buy something and it was gone!
4: Don’t think because you have a – for example Georgian house – that you have to decorate it in Georgian style. My Featherstone hall is a Georgian House, but I have dressed it in the Edwardian period because I prefer that style. Always go with what you like not what is strictly correct – if you like it, that is all the justification you need – don’t get too bogged down in detail (unless you want to!)
NUMBER 2: April 2021
THE BIG THREE (PART 1)
Many people will know what period their house fits into, but not the essence of the the things that make it ‘of that time’. My second Random Thoughts article is themed on time periods, focusing on the three styles that most dolls house enthusiasts work in, they are – 1: Georgian 2:Victorian 3:Edwardian (there are many other styles and periods – but as the title says these are ‘The Big Three’). However once I started the Georgian period I realised I was going to have to do this one bit at a time, so this is all about the Georgian period and the other two will follow after!
1 GEORGIAN PERIOD: 1714 to 1837 This covers the period in British history ruled by the house of Hanover – Kings George l to lV followed by William lV.
There is a sub-period to this era called The Regency (1811 to 1820) which covers not only the actual period of the regency by the Prince of Wales, while his father king George lll was deemed unfit to rule due to mental illness, but more widely as a distinct style period of between 1795 to 1837.
ARCHITECTURE: Georgian houses were marked by their symmetry and elegant proportion inspired by ancient Greek and Roman styles. Many of the upper classes took ‘The Grand Tour’ to explore the ancient ruins of Europe, and brought back a love for all things classical which they then decorated their new homes with (as well as bucket loads of art and statues!)
Because of the increased number of upwardly mobile industrialists and middle classes it was then seen as the style to ape for well to do homes as well as for the masses of public buildings, which were funded by the growth of the empire.
Georgian building style was influenced as much by advances in the Industrial Revolution as ancient civilisations, with the new industries bringing improved materials and techniques for builders, with developments in glass and iron technology, paints, plumbing and and lighting.
The architect John Nash is a name to note, one of his most famous buildings being the Brighton Pavillion (funded by the Prince Regent) – although he was also involved with Buckingham palace, Regents Street, and Picadilly Circus in London to name but a few!
Other architects/styles to look at: Inigo Jones, sir John Vanburgh, Palladianism, John Wood (Royal Cresecent, Bath)
Above: Brighton Pavillion
Right: Regents Street
Above: Buckingham Palace
KEY GEORGIAN EXTERNAL FEATURES: Ancient Roman and Greek style columns – especially porticos over the front doors and half round ‘Fan lights’ over doors. Sash windows of a 6-9 pane panel over another of 6-9 panel, both of which could move up and down due to weights on cords inside the boxed frame of the window. Metal railings, boot scrapers by the front door and drainpipes and rainwater heads. Arch topped (Exterior) doors and front windows. Low triangular Pediments – usually including some sort of plaster work ornament or scene. Dark Green front doors were popular as Verdigris (derived from corroding copper) was one of the most expensive oil paints! Front door fittings were usually black painted iron (not brass unless very wealthy) and were sited in the middle of the door at waist height – AND NO LETTER BOX (a later Victorian addition!) A fun addition to a dolls house could be fire insurance plaque (see below)
NB.The ‘Colonial’ style is the North American counterpart to Georgian, and has all the same style elements but the roof pitch tends to be steeper and large central chimneys are more common.
Above: Columned portico
Right: Sash Windows
Above: Fanlights were popular between 1720 -1840 and were not always fan shaped!
LEFT: Pediments could be used over both doors and windows and could be combined with rounded shaped arched ones on bigger houses. RIGHT: Simple iron railings with a slightly more ornate gate – the perfect finishing touch to a town house facade.
Fire insurance plaques were in use on house facades from 1710 – The first company being the Sun Fire office and marked insured properties out to the company fire brigade – no plaque – no putty outty!
Just a quick note here about the house I used for my Featherstone Hall Hotel – it is the ‘Cottesmore’ House from Barbra’s Moldings and is a classic Georgian mansion.
See more by clicking on the ‘BIG PROJECTS’ tab at the top of this page. The book of the project is available to buy in the shop.
INTERIOR STYLES: There is one name that epitomises Georgian interior style – Robert Adam- but he was also an architect and furniture designer – and so could provide the discerning (and rich!) Georgians with a one-stop shop for an elegant new home!
After serving an aprenticeship with his architect father, Robert Adam then spent five years in Europe studying classical styles, and was further inspired by the discoveries of Herculanum and Pompeii. On his return to England he set up his own business in London. Drawing on his studies abroad he began to develop what is known now as the ‘Adam’ style, and he focused on producing whole house decoration and furnishing schemes rather than designing buildings.
In an Adam scheme, every last detail was custom made to match, including specially woven carpets, door knobs, mirrors, fireplaces, ceilings and furniture – they were all one integrated scheme. You might sum it up in modern parlance that he was the first true interior designer with a ‘matchy matchy’ complex!
Adam had a distinct colour palette of pastel shades and preferred to accurately copy ancient styles and decorative elements. His collaboration with furniture maker Thomas Chippendale resulted in some of the finest neo-classical pieces ever made. Their most notable work has to be Harewood House, and is a perfect living catalogue of the styles they produced. The house is open to visitors (when everything reopens post COVID) and is one of the ten best stately homes in England visit: https://harewood.org/
In Britain, the Adam style was at its height in the 1760s and was followed consecutively by the Regency and French Empire styles.
REGENCY STYLE: is an eclectic mix following on the Adam style but adds touches of India, china and the gothic. The perfect example of this, both internally and externally, is Brighton Pavillion designed by John Nash. Most regency Architecture appears after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 when exotic goods and materials became more freely available.
FRENCH EMPIRE STYLE: Flourished between the 1790s to around 1820 – taking its name from the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte – especially after he conquered and looted Egypt (in Britain the style became popular after Nelson defeated Napoleon at the battle of the Nile in 1794). It was much more ostentatious with bright ‘Egyptian tomb’ colours like yellows blues and reds (and especially black and gold) with an emphasis on symmetry and a dash of mythical creatures and ancient Egyptian motifs.
KEY GEORGIAN INTERNAL FEATURES: As mentioned above, the key to an Adam style interior is classical decorative details, in pastel a palette with everything matching! The Regency was typified by more glitz, an eclectic mix of ancient civilisations from Greece to China and of course the two tone regency stripe. The Empire style added a touch of ostentatious ancient Egyptian to the style melting pot! Se the gallery below to get a feel for the interiors.
NB: The Georgian and Regency periods are also known as the Federal style in North America, Biedermeier style in Germany, Directoire style in France which was followed by the French Empire style. In Scandinavia this style was known as the Karl Johan style after the Swedish king.
GALLERY OF GEORGIAN STYLE: a few pictures to inspire and give the feel of the many different styles of the period. Below this is a gallery of Georgian style pieces I have made over the years.
Click on a picture to open the gallery and see larger images.
Soho House, Handsworth
Sir Thomas Gainsborough (Portrait Artist)
I think I could go on and on about Georgian house style, and in fact I have just realised I have not really covered the ‘Chinoiserie’ style of the period – which I love – so I think there will be an article 1A after this one and before I get on to number 2 – the Victorians!
NUMBER 1: JULY 2020
For my first Random Thought fate took a hand, as while thinking about what to do on this page, I received an email from a show organiser in Holland to say that as the Dutch government had relaxed the lockdown, her October show would be going ahead (as long as there was not a second wave of Covid -19). This reminded me of a show report I did a few years ago of ‘The Big Event’ show in Holland, and after reading through it again, I decided to add it here as a reminder of the good old days when we could do shows!
BIG FUN AT THE BIG EVENT!
The show is about an hours drive from the Rotterdam ferry terminal, and is held in a huge hall just outside the town centre of s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch). With well over 100 stalls, the miniatures show was packed out with visitors from all over Europe. The miniatures show runs alongside the more established dolls and bears show, and it was so packed last year, the organisers made the all aisles a couple of feet wider this year to avoid the crush!
Never the twain!
I have exhibited in Holland for several years, so I already knew there would be no problem with language, as almost everybody speaks some English (and those who don’t are with someone who does) and everyone is so friendly! However I did wonder if the show would work being combined with dolls and bears. The organisers had a simple solution – the entrance was in the centre of the hall, with miniatures on one side, and dolls and bears on the other (divided by a walkway of red carpet down the middle). Although there were a lot of ‘crossover’ visitors I did notice that there were more dolls and bears visitors looking at miniatures than the other way around!
I think this was probably because there was so much more to see on the miniatures side – including the Featherstone Hall Hotel! It has not been on show for a while, and I was quite surprised how little I had to do to get it back in show condition – especially since it caught fire at its last Miniatura! All I actually needed to do was replace a few light bulbs and my husband added fused switches into all of the transformer lines to reduce the risk of another fire.
Really moving… no really!
One stand transfixed me, Ashtown, they specialise in dioramas and scenes, as well as selling the materials and accessories to produce your own. But what caught my attention were their moving people – I absolutely loved the two biblical ladies who were shaking a fabric sheet between them. Their arms rose up and down and the sheet wafted, I kept waiting for them to step together and fold the sheet, but they just kept shaking it! Also on the Ashtown stand I saw a decorated chimney pot – which I thought would inspire all those keen on the current trend for miniature gardens!
I kept waiting for them to fold sheet after shaking it – but they just kept waving it up and down!
This chimney pot has a plant in the top and is clad to make it look like a tower house
I spent a good deal of time at Anitas Grote Kleine Wereld (Anitas Big Little World) as it took some time to focus on her TINY 144th scale pieces! I met Anita several years ago at a Dolls House Nederland show when she had the next door stand, and it was lovely to see her new items – she sells laser cut miniature kits as well as dressed and lit houses. One typically Dutch thing I have noticed over the years is the ‘Spooky’ house – Dutch people love to have wizards, fairies and ghouls in their miniatures – and if its not a whole house full, its a single room in a conventional dolls house. Anita addresses both of these for her customers, by producing a spooky house in a cupboard to go inside a dolls house!
Its always wonderful to stand and gaze at the Christmas trees created by Annemieke Derksen – vet of OMGardens, and this year a white one really stood out for me, dressed with lights crystals and ribbons – it was gorgeous!
I was very fortunate at the show to meet for the first time, Janny Warnaar – Gruis from Art of Mini. It was lovely to see several of the box scenes I had seen in magazines ‘in the flesh’ and I was able to snap a picture of one of her new creations – the ‘Restyle’ shop. Her miniature laser cut kits and accessories are absolutely stunning, and I was blown away by a piece of laser cut lace!
Finally, I have to confess – I did cross the red carpet and venture into the dolls and bears side of the hall, and although I had a lovely time buying dungarees and a t-shirt for my daughters bear Henry, the very first stall I saw will give me nightmares for years to come… And then there was the lady with the (doll)baby in a silver cross 50s style pram with a remote control to make it blink and move, and the little boy carrying a life size (and life like!) pot-bellied piglet wearing a hoodie and with a dummy in its mouth (the piglet not the boy!) …I just can’t wait for the next show!
The Big Event show: www.poppenhuisbeurs.com
Anita’s Grote Kleine Wereld: www.anitas-grote-kleine-wereld.nl
Art of Mini: www.artofmini.com
I hope you enjoyed this reminder of better times – more articles will follow on anything that takes my fancy, but I think historical periods would be good to explore soon, and I think I have an article on the history of the bathroom somewhere….