Archive for December, 2018

webb's characters and scenes in aladdin or the wonderful lamp - coloured in

My scanner does dreadful things to colours.

Not everyone likes toy theatres, either full-size, or in miniature, so this is a bit of an unfair blog post for those who find them unbearable twiddly and annoying and are  hoping for something entirely Dolls’ House.

So, before I launch into Toy Theatre Land, I am going to inset a link here to a programme about dolls’ houses that I found fascinating and enjoyed enormously.

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Now, about Toy Theatres –

They were not what I had planned for a Christmas blog post.

In fact I was wondering if I was going to write anything at all, or simply find some Christmas themed scraps to fill this space, when someone asked me if I would consider selling a pdf for the miniature Mathews Theatre set that I make.

I am going to leave out most of the story surrounding this – which is not at all interesting – and get to the point where I did some maths and worked out the cost of the original artwork,  my time spent water-colouring the theatre, scenery and figures (on nice paper), etc, etc, etc and came up with a fabulous sounding sum for producing a pdf.

Need I say that, naturally enough, I have not heard anything about a pdf since then. (I did warn the person who asked that making a toy theatre was a labour of love).

However, the person concerned did give me an idea and I hope that they read this and will be able to use some of the things here.

First I have to say that I am not an expert on toy theatres. I like them, but that is not the same as being an expert.

Most of the things that I know about them, I have learned from one book – Toy Theatres of the World, by Peter Baldwin.

photograph detail of a french theatre from peter baldwin's book - toy theatres of the world

Theatre Francais and a Jacobsen theatre from Toy Theatres of the World

photograph detail of a pollock's theatre from peter baldwin's book - toy theatres of the world

Pollock’s Theatre and Skelt’s new improved stage front from Toy Theatres of the World

The book is currently out of print, but if you can get a copy it will repay the effort of finding it. (They do turn up on eBay from time to time and there are a few on Amazon at the time of typing this.)

The book is slightly smaller than A4 in size and it is beautifully produced on glossy paper. There are 175 pages and and at least one illustration or photograph on almost every single page. It is informative without being hard to read or overladen with technical terms. I would dearly like to upload it here so that you can read it for yourselves: Peter Baldwin clearly loved toy theatres and it shows.

Having said that I don’t know much about them, I proceeded to draw a plan for a simple theatre, mainly so that I could demonstrate how a flat surface can give the illusion of depth by the way the lines lead inwards towards a central point.

I think that it shows that, if you would like to make your own unique theatre, it would not be too difficult to come up with something rather attractive and interesting.

drawing of a simple toy theatre front and curtain

My design (above) is very simple, but it is the basic type that was used for a great many of the original British toy theatres – a couple of which are shown below.

toy theatre - redington's new improved stage front - coloured in

This was later reissued as ‘Pollock’s New Improved Stage Front’

h c clarke - part sheet - toy theatre - not to scale

The trick for making the front of a toy theatre 3D, rather than flat, is a surprisingly simple one. Basically, looking at the picture below, you cut along the green lines, fold along the pink lines and then re-attach the uppermost part that has been cut away. The result is remarkably stable and durable when stuck to reasonably solid cardboard.

detail of how to cut and fold a toy theatre

The following are French and were produced by Pellerain, who made a great many high quality paper toys. I like this set of theatres particularly because they are so small and neat.

petits theatres - pellerain - french paper toy

Once you have found, or made, your own theatre you do, of course, need scenery, characters and a play.

The following are scans of a set of Webb’s Aladdin – the picture at the top of this blog post is from this set.

pdf for full-size webb’s_characters_in_aladdin_black_and_white

pdf for full-size  webb’s_scenes_in_aladdin_black_and_white

pdf for full-size webb’s_juvenile_drama_aladdin_play_booklet

They are the original size and in the original black and white. You will need to colour them in (and resize them, if you would like a miniature set).

[Before anyone asks, I am not going to upload the characters and scenery in colour. The reason is that my scanner is not capable of doing a good quality colour scan, and no amount of trying to fix things on my part ever results in a good quality colour print from something I have scanned at home.]

For those of you wondering: Who was Webb ? and What about Pollock? I thought it was Pollock’s Toy Theatres ?!? … there used to be more than one seller of paper toy theatres.

pollock's business card from peter baldwin's book - toy theatres of the world

As I said before, I would like to upload Peter Baldwin’s book here, so that you can read about the history of these remarkable toys for yourselves, but I can’t. I have however, found a blog called Spitalfield’s Life  which has a long blog post where the various makers and sellers of toy theatres are explained in fairly clear detail. There are also some excellent illustrations and photographs, which are worth while seeing, at the bottom of the post.

If you would like to buy reprints of the plays,  I can thoroughly recommend the Toy Theatre Gallery. They have a wonderful, and growing collection of plays, some of them in colour, plus a few theatres.

Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop, in Covent Garden, sells modern versions of some of the old toy theatres.

Pollock’s Toy Museum, in Scala Street, has an amazing collection of all sorts of toys, but no on-line sales outlet. You will need to visit to see what they have in their shop and I urge you to go. It is a magical place.

[By the way, the two ‘Pollock’s’ are entirely separate businesses. The Scala Street Pollock’s came first.]

I have found that the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of toy theatres is either aggravatingly scanty and / or difficult to locate on-line, but they do have a  download for a version of Pollock’s Cinderella

If you make your own characters, colour them in and so forth, you might like to try something that used to be called ‘tinselling’, where metallic shapes were stuck to black and white prints that had been hand coloured.

tinsel picture - mr elton as sir kenneth of scotland

In the picture below (which is a great deal smaller than a print used for tinselling would have been) I have used gold and silver paint and various sorts of glitter.

detail - miniature tinsel picture


I was enormously pleased to find the following short films available on line (and free to watch):

Firstly, The British Film Institute has a short (3 minute) film  which shows Benjamin Pollock demonstrating printing and painting scenery and then assembling a toy theatre in his shop.

benjamin pollock assembling a toy theatre in his shop - 1928

The film was made in 1928 and so it is silent, but the picture are remarkably clear and crisp.

benjamin pollock and his daughter operating a toy theatre - 1928 - gaumont mirror film

[Note: toy theatres came in various sizes and this is a large one.]

Then, British Pathe News have two films:

There is an old very short film, without sound, about Pollock’s theatres here

british pathe news - pollock's theatre

And there is an old very short film, without sound, about Tinsel Pictures here

british pathe news - mr webb - tinsel pictures

Now I am going to sit here and think about the Christmassy scraps that I have been meaning to share.

There really are never enough hours in the day.



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Miniature Calendars for 2019

open house miniatures dolls house calendar 2019

This type of calendar is old-fashioned but I like them a great deal.

Generally speaking, the examples that have survived seem to be the ones that were produced for advertising purposes.

great eastern fertilizer co calender 1890

If you would like to make a miniature calendar, of this type, there are a variety of pictures backs to choose from at the end of this blog post. There is also a set of calendar pages for 2019. The calendar pages do not have 2019 written anywhere on them, but the days and dates are correct for next year.

Keep scrolling down if you just want to make one.

I am going to add a few tips here because, although these are ‘easy’ to make that doesn’t mean they aren’t a bit tricky in places.

I used coated ink-jet printer paper to print the picture, varnished this with water based varnish. I let this dry thoroughly.

I then glued the picture to some thickish card-stock and then I had to wait while it dried flat. I put it under a heavy book and this slowed down the drying process. (Waiting for things to dry is something that I find difficult, but it is important.)

Then I made a (largish) hole with a small hole punch, so that the finished calendar could be hung up on a pin. (Huge pin in the photo. I wanted to do this, you don’t have to.)

Then I cut round the calendar, using a sharp craft knife. (It is important to use a ruler and a sharp knife if you want straight, un-torn edges.)

I printed the calendar pages on the thinnest paper that I could find (75 gsm) and, when they were dry, I cut them out.

The pages are small and there is a trick to cutting them out so that they look reasonably square and straight-edged: cut the short sides first.

(Cut inside the blue lines, if you don’t want the lines to show. I like the blue lines – you may not.)

open house miniature calendar pages 2019 - cutting short sides

Then cut the long edges all in one go.

open house miniature calendar pages 2019 - cutting long sides

and hopefully, you should end up with neat calendar pages…

open house miniature calendar pages 2019 - finished pages

…which can then be glued together, along the top edge.

open house miniature calendar pages 2019 - clipped for gluing

I gathered the calendar pages together and held the bottom edge in a clip. Then I applied a tiny amount of white wood-working glue to the top edge with a paintbrush and pressed the edges together with my fingers.

This then had to dry, which seemed to take ages.

The calendar back has a single calendar page printed on it. This should (hopefully) make sticking the pages to the back relatively simple.

NOTE: because I had varnished the picture, I needed to score a few lines into the surface of the calendar back in order to get the block of calendar pages to stick to it.

If you have trouble getting the pages to look level – and in real life they are very often not level – line a ruler up with a side edge and slide the calendar pages about, until you have them where you want them. Like this:



The paper that you use and your printer will make a huge difference to the finished look of the calendar. So experiment and use the things that you like.

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The only way to make (reasonably) certain that a download will print to the correct size is to make a pdf.

For this blog post, I also made thumbnail size images. These are so that you can have an idea of what the various calendars look like.

Please click on a picture to open the matching pdf and then print from that: the thumbnails will be poor quality and will probably not be the right size for the calendar pages.

Miniature Calendar Back - January  January

Miniature Calendar Back - February February

Dolls House Calendar Back - March March

Dollshouse Calendar Back - April April

12th scale Calendar Back - May May

Miniature Calendar Back - June June

Dollhouse Calendar Back - July July

Miniature Calendar Back - August August

Miniature Calendar Back - August #2 August #2

Miniature Calendar Back - September September

Miniature Calendar Back - October October

Miniature Calendar Back - November November

Miniature Calendar Back - December December

Miniature Calendar Back - December #2 December #2

There are two calendar backs for August and December because I made these over several days and lost count of what I had done.

All the individual calendar pages are in the pdf below.


Finally, on an historical note – the pictures are from various sources and none of them is a reproduction of an antique calendar. I made the calendar pages using Microsoft Word.

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If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know what I am about to say about adverts which you may see here: WordPress puts them there from time to time, they aren’t mine. 😀

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