Archive for September, 2011

I am Depressed….

It was a grey old day yesterday and I think some of the grim grey seeped in to my bones.

Outside Miniatura - September 2011

I did some maths while we were aqua-planeing, in the pouring rain down the motorway, on the way home from Birmingham…

UK minimum wage 2011   £6.08 per hour

35 hour week  £212.80 per week

52 weeks in the year £11,065.60 per annum

less tax and national insurance    £8,299.20 – as approximately 25% taken in deductions

Required income per month  £ 691.60 – as according to above, this is what you officially need to ‘survive’

So a miniaturist would need to make and SELL (!!!) goods to the value of £691.60 per month in order to ‘survive’

This is before cost of materials has been deducted

To exhibit at Miniatura would take nearly half a month’s income           –         £300 per table (!!!)

The actual audience at a fair is very limited in size – even if it is keenly interested

End result – Miniatura is pricing themselves out of existence

Also, the poor miniaturist now has to churn out so much stock, in order to ‘survive’, that quality and spontaneity is bound to suffer

In addition to which, there are now so many imports, usually made on an industrial scale in China, that the expectation of what prices should be is, in reality, completely unrealistic.

I then lay awake for most of the night and worried about the maths…

Which, of course, means that I am in no state to make anything today…

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The more I think about this autum’s Miniatura the more gloomy and Eeyoreish I become about the lack of new makers / exhibitors and the future of handmade quality miniatures as a whole.

The weather probably did not help as it was overcast and rained all day and, with the best will in the world, that level of damp does soak in to everything and create a very depressing effect.

That said… I came away without buying anything…

This is unheard of.

I would have dearly liked an egg timer made by David Edwards, but I had left it too late and he had sold out.

This was unforgivably careless of me as his order book is closed and I will have to hope that he will make some more – while keeping an eagle eye on his blog


David Edwards - Miniatura 2011

Something that was new to me and made me smile was the inventive work of Teeny Weeny Teddies and Friends – I am not doing their work justice with the following photo, but the light levels in the exhibition hall were NOT GOOD

Teeny Weeny Teddies and Friends

and  I would like to put a link to their website here -so that more of their work could be seen and appreciated – but they do not have a website ! or even a blog !!

Teeny Weeny Teddies and Friends - contact information, Sept 2011

Contact Information for Teeny Weeny Teddies and Friends

A quick look at the exhibitors list for this autumn’s Miniatura will show that they are, like a great many miniaturists, apparently able to exist in the ‘real world’  where computers are non-essential pieces of equipment and what really counts is imagination and being able to make incredibly small things.



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Christmas comes but once a year – and a good job to, if you ask me.

I remember watching a television programme about a prestigious shop in the West End of London, where planning for the coming Christmas started on the 2nd of January.

So, although this may look like a very early start, in reality, I have really left things very late indeed…

Open House Miniatures dolls' house nativity scene 2011

This miniature Nativity Scene is based on a vintage one,  and is constructed a full size one would be – with slots and tabs

I have, however changed the original design slightly (and it is lightly glued together) for extra stability.

It is made from acid free paper and card – laminated together – and measures 1 and 1/4 inches (3.2cm wide), by just over 1 inch (2.5cm) tall, by just over 1/4 of an inch (7.5cm ) deep.

I do not know who made the original as it has no printed name, or logo, to identify it.

If anyone recognises it, I would be very glad to know more about its history.

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I will be selling these from my Etsy shop, but if you would like to try making a nativity scene for yourself, the following image should print at approximately the right size – but please bear in mind that I cannot guarantee the results as these depend on the computer / printer / paper used.

Open House Miniatures - dolls' house nativity scene, printable

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Here is an alternative to my tiger skin rug.

the Miniature Textiles Company - Tibetan Tiger Skin Rug (needlework kit)

I have worked this rug and it makes up beautifully.

The instructions are clear and the (black and white) chart is large and easy to follow.

All the required materials are included in the kit – except an embroidery frame, and you will need one of these to get a good, flat result.

It is one of many rugs, carpets, cushions and quilts for dolls’ houses from Janet Oliver.

Janet is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and lectured on interior textiles for over 20 years.

She has an ever growing collection of designs, dating from the 16th to the 20th Century, on her website The Miniature Textiles Company – which is well worth a visit !

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FAKE Tiger Skin Rug

Open House Miniatures - FAKE tiger skin rugs

These miniature tiger skin rugs contain absolutely no tiger.

They do contain –

  • air drying clay (head and claws)
  • water based paint and glue
  • UHU glue
  • unravelled furry white  pipe cleaner (whiskers)
  • fine sheepskin (instead of tiger skin)
  • felt (backing for the ‘tiger skin’)

I have come to expect three responses to these rugs –

* * *
Annoyance – It is too big to fit in my house !

Adult tigers are large animals – and dolls’ houses are not (usually) scale models.

These rugs are the ‘right’ size scale-wise, any smaller and they look a bit silly next to furniture and dolls’ house inhabitants.

Many modern, commercially made, dolls’ houses – even the ones with grand exteriors – have small, shallow rooms with relatively low ceilings.

So, if you want to recreate authentic interiors, in scale, buyer beware

* * *

Outrage – How could you ?!?

I, personally, do not think that any animal should be killed in order to make an exotic rug. If I lived in a place where tigers regularly ate  my livestock, and killed my family,  I might feel differently.

Be that as it may – No tigers were harmed in the making of these rugs. They are complete fakes.

* * *

Amazing – How did you do it ?

It is always tempting to say at this point, ‘A great deal of practice!’

The truth is that, although they take time and patience to make, they are not too difficult if you take them in easy stages.

  • First decide how large the rug is to be and make a paper pattern of the entire shape.
  • Second find a picture of a tiger, or a tiger skin rug, or find a cat to look at (one with a round face / head is best), then model a head to fit the rug size. Remember to give it nice big teeth and a snarling expression – it doesn’t have to be the finest bit of modelling ever, in fact sometimes a slightly rough finish actually looks bette because tigers have fur. (Don’t forget to make claws while you have the clay to hand).
  • Third find something to make the flat part of the rug – I usually use fine leather (the ‘wrong’ side up) as it has a bit of texture, is the right sort of colour and takes paint nicely.
  • Fourth cut out the rug shape and glue the head and claws on to it – this is the point at which to be thankful that the edge of the neck is as thin as it is possible to make it. If it isn’t as thin as you would like, either file it down or resign yourself to the face that your rug is going to have an interesting bulge – an interesting bulge can be a good thing, but may be a nuisance if you want to stand a table or chair on it at some point in the future…
  • Fifth paint your tiger. I start by painting the inside of the mouth a slightly improbable pink, then I dull down the colour a bit and move on to the nose and then continue with the orangey brown base, then put in the white markings and then the black stripes and then go over again refining the detail. Finally I age the teeth and the claws and the inside of the mouth – either with a little brown paint, or with cold tea, or coffee.
  • The main thing to remember with painting the main part of the rug is that it is to add a little paint at a time and build up the effect – as it is, in my experience, almost impossible to remove paint from the leather.
  • Sixth glue some whiskers under your tiger’s chin and then put a backing on your rug – this will support the (heavy) head and make it easier to keep flat on the floor – or wall, if you are going to hang it up.
  • Seventh add a few more whiskers at the side of the head and some long whiskers on the muzzle – nylon thread makes good whiskers

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A Chinese Screen

Open House Miniatures - dolls' house screen

I greatly admire the way in which masters of Chinese and Japanese lacquerware achieve beautiful, intricate decoration with a few colours.

My attempts to produce similar effects always leave me unsatisfied with the result – but at least this means that I have an incentive to keep on trying !

I haven’t photographed any of my efforts before and was surprised at how reflective the black background was – even the subdued gloss on the front of this screen picked up all sorts of reflections that I had not noticed.

This made me wonder how much my eye and brain “edit out” – as the reflections must have been there (or the camera could not have photographed them) although I did not “see” them.

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This slideshow ought to have a backing tack of Elvis Presley singing ‘ Did you Ever Have One of Those Days Boys’…

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