Archive for the ‘Catalogue’ Category

Spot the Difference

Open House Miniatures - new look fireworks

From time to time the materials that I use to make something become unavailable.

A good, recent, example of this was the large box of Wilder’s Fireworks, shown in the photograph above.

I made both of these boxes of fireworks, and both boxes are marked / dated on the back.

The paper used to cover the box is different.

The paper used for the label is different and the printing method / printer used is different.

However, they look similar on the outside, and so does the arrangement of the fireworks.

Open House Miniatures - Firework box interior

The box on the right was made in 2006 and it has been played with.

The box on the left was finished this week and it is pristine and new.

The contents, and arrangement of the contents, have remained the same since 2006.

The box, and the arrangement of the fireworks inside it, vary slightly from box to box. This is because they are handmade and not mass-produced.

The new box is a fraction larger than the old box –

Just under 2  (5 cm) inches long

Just over 1 and 1/4 (3.3 cm)  inches wide

Just over 5/16th inch  (0.8 cm) deep

The box contains 13 fireworks, and these are fixed in place in the box.

I did not invent fireworks, or a box to put them in. However, I do make these particular boxes of fireworks and so I now have to add the following caveat –

All copyright, design rights and intellectual property rights existing in my design and products and in the images and text on this website are and will remain the property of Elizabeth Plain 2013.

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I was hoping to blog about Spoonflower’s fabric this week, but it (naturally) takes longer to make up a swatch pack than it does to print one sample piece and so I am still waiting for my swatch pack to arrive.

I still think that Spoonflower’s service is incredibly fast !

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For the Record…

I wondered how long it would be before I found myself writing a blog post like this one.

Last week someone sent me a photograph of a theatre that was evidently based on one of mine.

I hadn’t made it and I sincerely hope that the person who owns it had not bought it because it had been sold as mine.

I have not asked for permission to reproduce their photograph here, which perhaps I should have done, however in an attempt to set the record straight…

Here is the prototype of one of my theatres – it is the one that had evidently been copied.

open house miniature - prototype for theatre

open house miniatures

I have been making this type of theatre for many years now and…

Elizabeth Plain theatre the dolls' house magazine november 2003 - issue number 66

This is from The Dolls’ House Magazine
November 2003

… because I make far too many different things, I keep sample and prototypes of everything so that I can match colours / size etc when / if I would like to re-make something after a while.

Over the years this theatre has undergone changes.

open house miniatures - theatre colour change

For example it was greener than it is now – that is due to a change in printer / paper / inks etc.

The curtain was originally ribbed silk – this was a piece of antique fabric and eventually I had none left, so I had to reinvent the curtain.

(Incidentally, the current curtain is not a copy of a toy theatre curtain.)

The look of the boxes, for storing character pieces and scenery, has changed too – this is because I like variety.

The first theatres that I made, which looked exactly like my prototype, were (and still are) only available through one London retailer, and they have never been available on-line.

However,  for this type of wooden theatre, I have sold on-line –

The Fairy Garden set

The Red Riding Hood set

The Cinderella Set

For the record, the Cinderella set, which has not been mentioned here or been available on Etsy, has scenery that looks like this –

open house miniatures

I like toy theatres and so I do make other types of theatre, and the characters and scenery to go with them.

However, this particular theatre is the one that has been most “visible” and widely available.

Dolls from the Marie France Beglan archives with an Elizabeth Plain theatre

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Open House Miniatures - detail of painted dolls house firescreen

Here I am about to be depressing again as I am (reluctantly) coming to the conclusion that “on-line” is not a good place for the majority of things that I make.


Well, in order for something to exist here,  I have to photograph it.

And in order to photograph something I have to wait for a day when the light levels are “right”.

This is not too bad for repeatable items, but for things that I cannot repeat exactly, it is a distinct problem.

What do I mean by “repeatable” and “not-repeatable”?

A good example of “repeatable” would be this year’s nativity set.

It is going to be printed and so when they are finished all the nativities are all going to look very nearly identical.

This means that once I have managed to photograph one nativity, the photographs can be used for every nativity set,

Open House Miniatures - Notebook - Nativity Scene 2013

This is an old photo.
I started working on the nativity at Easter.

“Not-repeatable” on the other hand, would be something like the fire screens that I made last week.

Here they are, waiting to be wrapped for posting.


It was not particularly sunny this morning, but my camera is still picking up far too much reflected light and the detail is burned out.

I can cut down on the reflected glare by using a different background.

Open House Miniatures - miniature firescreens

and by using pieces of off-white paper to soften some of the light.

Open House Miniatures - dolls house firescreens

but I can’t honestly say that I am happy with the result.

Open House Miniature - doll house firescreens

And because I cannot reproduce a painted item exactly, I have to photograph every piece individually and this, in our uncertain climate, can be a very frustrating and time-consuming business.

****    ****    ****    ****

The photographs on this blog post are watermarked to protect their integrity and reproduced with the permission of the new owner.

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The design on the bluer screen is based on a painting by Renoir.

The basket of flowers on the greener screen is my own design.

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Open House Miniatures - Cinderella Cartel Clock

This type of clock is sometimes called a Cartel Clock. Cartel Clocks are usually made from gilded metal and designed to fit flat against a wall.

There is quite a story attached to the making of the clock, and the book that inspired it deserves a blog post of its own (which it will get shortly) but here (very briefly) is what happens in my version of Cinderella –

There is no big, booming clock to signal midnight because, in my experience, most drama happens quietly, and there is never a beautifully timed clap of thunder when you need one. Anyway –

The Prince and Cinderella were sitting on a gilded sofa and one of these clocks was on the wall, above their heads.

The Prince had just begun to say,

“Mysterious and Beautiful Maiden, will you marr …”

when the little clock started to whirr and then to chime – chinging, ting, ting…

“Oh !” exclaimed Cinderella, jumping up…

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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I don’t know if you have noticed, but I have just done two things that I usually avoid doing on this blog

I have used a richly coloured back ground and I have indulged in story telling.

Why have I done this?

Well, you know my boring, boring photographs and my long-winded explanations? Even I get fed up with them sometimes, however let us consider the alternatives…

Open House Miniatures - Cinderella Cartel Clock

Does this photograph tell you
how large this clock is?


Does this photograph tell you
what the clock is made from?


Does this photograph tell you
anything at all?


All this says to me is – STRIPES !


Oh well…

***   ***   ***   ***

As a matter of interest it has taken me about 6 weeks to get from here –

Open House Miniatures - Cinderella Cartel Clock

to here –


– and now I am not at all certain that I like the metallic finish and I am going to have to look into alternatives.

So what about this clock?

I made the original clock from DAS modelling clay. I then made three moulds from this original, and I then cast three clocks from the three moulds.

I did think about making a slideshow about the whole process and then decided that Life Is Too Short.

The essential, minimum details are as follows –

I cast the clock in resin, rather than metal, for two reasons.

The main one was weight – in my experience, miniature metal clocks fall off walls with depressing regularity. Araldite seems to be the only thing that will keep them in place.

Secondly, if I had wanted a metal clock, I would have had to make my master in something like Milliput. I would also have had to send it away to be cast, because I do not have the equipment to do this myself. This would not necessarily have been the more expensive option, but I would have had no control of the process and making changes would have been difficult.

The finished clock is 2 and 1/8th of an inch long, just over 1 inch wide at the widest point and just under 1/4 of an inch deep at its deepest point (54 mm x 25 mm x 7 mm)

The clock dials are reproduced from antique scraps.

(By the way, did you know that most modern clocks are photographed with their hands at 10 minutes to two? This is supposed to give them a “smiley” face.)

***   ***   ***   ***

I bought the mould making and casting supplies from MB Fibreglass   If you are interested in casting (on any scale), I can thoroughly recommend checking out their product range. Their service is excellent too.

I used –

Polycraft GP-3481-F General Purpose RTV Silicone Mould Making Rubber for the mould – http://www.mbfg.co.uk/rtv-silicone/gp-3481-f.html


Polycraft SG2000 Paintable Fast Cast Polyurethane Liquid Plastic Casting Resin for the clock – http://www.mbfg.co.uk/liquid-plastics/sg2000.html

This was the first time that I had used either of these and I was very impressed by the performance of both.

Open House Miniatures - Cinderella clock miniature mould and unfinished cast

Last, but by no means least – I would like to thank Susan Mortimer (I am so very, very deeply jealous of her photographs) for bringing David Neat’s WordPress blog to my attention.

If you are interested in casting or working with paper / card to create models, I would urge you to take the time to visit it too – http://davidneat.wordpress.com/

His tutorials are clear, well-presented and full of essential detail and his (mainly London based) list of suppliers is truly impressive.

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Dear RG,

I have tried to email you, but my message has been returned as “undeliverable”.

In answer to your questions –

Yes, you may.

No, I don’t mind you asking – if you don’t ask, you will never know !

I am sorry, I don’t have a Cinderella scene for this theatre.

I found the parts that I do have in a small second-hand book market that used to be held on the South Bank of the River Thames, by the Royal Festival Hall. It was years and years ago now.

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Open_House_Miniatures_Fairy_Tale_Theatre_Proscinium Open_House_Miniatures_Fairy_Tale_Theatre_Curtain Open_House_Miniatures_Fairy_Tale_Theatre_Backdrop Open_House_Miniatures_Fairy_Tale_Theatre_Scenes

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The above images above are 80 ppi – They are not the best quality but they are “not bad”.

They should each print onto an A4 piece of paper / card – they are SMALLER than the original pieces.

In order to make the theatre at this size, I would use at least 140 / 160 gsm paper.

Sometimes this weight of paper is sold as “card”.

I am in the UK and I would look for something called “cartridge paper” – basically you will have to find a card / paper that works for you !

Everything that I wrote about scoring, folding, etc for the miniature version of this theatre I would say again for this size.

***   ***   ***   ***

4th May 2013 – Sharon has very kindly shared a couple of links, please see the comments for her full explanation –

I recently came across a link to this “set” on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/taffeta/sets/72157614068345415/

… Images for the theater in this post were published in the magazine in 1924. They can be found starting in the middle of the third row of images… The images are posted by the “owner” of the Agence Eureka blog, where she has posted hundreds of vintage paper projects over the years… http://bibigreycat.blogspot.com/

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I have been busy this week, and I am still paying back the “Blog Time” that I borrowed earlier, so to be very, very quickly –


I make the cloth books as an antidote to “This has to be exactly right” book-binding.

This ABC book is based on one published in the late 19th Century by the McLoughlin Brothers in the USA.

The books are very flexible and can be opened and “posed” in a variety of ways. If they are left open for any length of time they will need to be placed under a solid weight, or between other books on a miniature bookshelf, in order to shut flat again.

The smallest text is just about readable without a magnifying glass.

Just as it does in real-life cloth books, the printing on the interior pages wanders up and down a bit – particularly on the last page.

The top and bottom edges of the pages are slightly rough.

These “faults” are intentional and reflect the condition of the original book.

Size when closed – 1 inch x 3/4 of an inch (2.5 cm x 1.9 cm)

PLEASE NOTE – the books are not “toys”, they are “collector’s items”




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Open House Miniatures - Theater Bilderbuch - one scene

I haven’t seen many copies of the Theater Bilderbuch, and the (very few) antique ones that I have seen usually resemble the one on the V & A website.

[ Lucia Contreras Flores has an edition on her website that I have never seen before – you may need to scroll down the web-page to find it. ]

There are two modern editions that I know of –

  • a German edition (ISBN 978-3480131631)
  • an English language edition (ISBN 978-0722655368)

and these have been  re-engineered to work on a smaller scale, and using much thinner materials, than the original publications.

In order to make my miniature version work (to my satisfaction) I had to re-work the original construction too.

Open House Miniatures - Theater BilderBuch - construction of one scene

My version was designed for 100 gsm paper (I use the smoothest, best quality that I can find.)

90 gsm paper (in my experience) tends to be a little bit too thin and “soft” and, with repeated opening and shutting of the book, quickly loses its crispness.

I am mentioning this here because I have been experimenting with some paper that was recommended by the printers who do most of my printing.

It is 90 gsm, comes on a large roll and is designed to go through a printer “under tension” – in other words it is thin, smooth and relatively tough. It also gives a superb print finish, with excellent colour reproduction.

The printers call it “proofing paper”.

I still don’t know much about it, but I am quietly excited by the possibilities it seems to offer.

In the following slideshow I am using that “proofing paper”.

I would still say that most 90 gsm papers are probably unsuitable for this project, but you may know of a paper, or discover one, that will work better for you than the 100 gsm that I recommend.

It is definitely worthwhile experimenting !

***   ***

The pdf for this is here –


– and there is a page for those who like to Make and Do here.

I am going to repeat here what I have written there –

  • Simply click on the link to open the pdf on-line. You can then print it without downloading it.
  • If you want to save the pdf to your computer / a CD / data stick etc. you may do that too.
  • You may use the contents of the pdf for yourself – and if you would like to make 10 of something and try selling them please go ahead, but do think first of all the other people who will be doing exactly the same thing.
  • You may share these projects with your friends and family, and miniature club.
  • You may link to them from your website / blog / satellite station, if you have one
  • You may customise them.
  • You may use them / the design ideas, in whole, or in part, as for inspiration for making your own things.

You may not copy the pdf, or the contents of the pdf, in whole, or in part, and re-sell them.

***   ***   ***

I found the method used to construct the modern German edition of the Theater Bilderbuch very interesting.

The background scene, the text for one play and the front of the next theatre in the series are printed on one sheet and the various sheets are then folded round each other and glued together.

reproduction theater bilderbuch structure

Technicalities aside, the way that the front of the theatre frames the scenes, so that the edges are hidden – even when viewed from an angle – and the way that the overall scene changes depending on the viewer’s position make this (for me) not only an extremely good example of paper engineering, but it is also a wonderful piece of “theatre” – in every sense of the word.

reproduction theater bilderbuch side view

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Open House Miniatures - Papier mache easter eggs with mould

These papier-mache Easter eggs are an “iceberg” thing to make – there is a great deal hidden below the surface of the metaphorical water.

I knew that the process that went into making these was not going to be easy to explain, so I made a short list to begin with.

It looked like this –


  1. Look at a full-size cardboard egg
  2. Make a miniature egg that is the “right shape” (Milliput)
  3. I need more than one egg!
  4. Cast more eggs from this shape (mould making and casting – Polycraft and Alumilite)
  5. Make bases for the cast eggs to sit on (mould making – Polycraft Hiflex)
  6. Make the papier-mache eggs on these moulds (papier-mache)

Then I began to think about all the things that I had not said, for example –

Please note –

  • All of the products that I used for mould making and casting can be substituted by others
  • The mould making processes and casting materials that I used for these eggs will not be suitable for everything
  • There are different sorts of mould making materials, which cure to different sorts of hardness and flexibility (shore)
  • If you are considering casting you must take into account what you want to cast and choose the mould / material to suit it
  • I approach CASTING as though it is a SCIENTIFIC PROCESS and I DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE INSTRUCTIONS on the packet / bottle / tub

Then I started to consider all the things that I could not show easily in a photograph, for example,

  • I can’t make a poured silicone mould, or cast resin, and hold a camera at the same time.
  • I use the lowest odour casting materials that I can find, but I still think they stink and so I only use them out-of-doors – and at the moment we are knee-deep in (unseasonable) snow.
  • I was hoping that the weather would clear up, so that I could, at the very least, make some proper poured silicone bases for the eggs, but it hasn’t and I had to cheat.

Due to this, what follows is very far from perfect.

Background Information 

Casting –

If you are interested in casting things for yourself, you might find it helpful to look at the following videos from YouTube for background information.

The first video shows exactly what I do when I make a mould – I don’t skimp, I am utterly painstaking, it is a hypnotically dull process. It works.

The second video is in two parts, and is not so dull. This person knows what he’s doing but he does not mention fumes once!

I enjoyed his website http://www.stormthecastle.com 

What I could not find on YouTube was a good example of casting a sphere.

Essentially, what you do is place the object in the centre of the mould and create feed lines – one for the casting material to enter the mould and another for air to escape from the mould.

Like this –


I made this half egg mould with Hiflex – not a good idea in my opinion, but the best I can do at the moment.


In order to get resin into the egg shape,
I need to cut two channels.
1). to get the resin in and 2) to let the air out.
At this size it was easier for me to cut the channels, rather than embedding them when I was making the mould.

Printing on tissue paper –

I stick my tissue paper to a piece of photocopy paper with glue – a very little bit of glue all round the edge. It has to dry completely before it goes through my printer. I don’t use it all at once and it stores better this way.

A “professional” print from my print shop –

Open House Miniatures - Easter scrap prints

I have an arrangement with my local printers. I supply them with 600 ppi, colour-separated, tiff files and they print my images onto a paper of my choice, using their exceedingly expensive, ink-jet printer. I pay them money to do this and they don’t laugh at my small pages crammed full of odd things. In fact, we enjoy surprising each other.

They had a roll of their own 80 gsm HP plotter paper and they printed a strip of Easter scraps on to it for me. I was very pleased with the results and held my breath when I made the paper wet with glue – the ink did not run.

Papier-mache ?!?!?!

I had a quick look for an on-line definition of “papier-mache” and the recipes vary widely.

I think all that I can say is that I use the method and materials that work for me.

Finally –

The eggs that I make in the slideshow are slightly smaller than the ones that I photographed before.

I have longed to make smaller ones, but have been thwarted by a lack of the “right sort of” paper. (It is astonishing how thick and unwieldy “thin” paper gets at this size.)

The plotter paper has allowed me experiment and has, I think, has produced a superb result.

Many, many, many thanks again to Sharon for mentioning it.


Press the Esc key on your keyboard to escape from the slideshow at any time.

Finally, finally…

I am fairly certain that commercially made cardboard eggs were never made by this layered paper process !

For one thing, I have tried my layered paper method full-size and it works (with many, many more layers) but the drying time involved is ENDLESS…

If you are looking for full size eggs to decorate, they are still available from a few places – the quality and price varies.

I have found the following on-line suppliers, but I have not bought eggs from them in real-life.

Great Art UK

Crafty Bugs UK

Blumchen USA

32 Degrees North USA

Pr moebel GERMANY

Panduro Hobby GERMANY

32 Degrees North had some (full-size) decorated eggs too. I have not seen these in real-life for years and years and years.

I am very pleased that they are still made somewhere.

Happy Easter

OHM Happy Easter

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Open House Miniatures Paula Rose Needlework Carpet

I do not make these for sale.
At the end of this post there is a link for
Jaques Andre Human,
who makes exquisite needlework items.
The chart for this design is here

I  wrote about the pattern for this rug in an earlier post.

After looking at my original pencil chart, I came to the conclusion that my charting is very like my handwriting – after I have forgotten what I have written, not even I can read it.

I am very fond of this design and one day – when I have the time ! – I would like to make a full-size version of the rug.

So, in the hopes that I could re-chart it from the finished piece, I have been searching (off and on) for my box of completed needlework.

With a great deal of help from an exceeding patient friend –

Quote – “Why do you keep all this stuff in the same sort of cardboard box ?!?!?!? ” 

– we  finally found the rug itself.

The design is a direct copy of a one on a small purse, which belonged to the mother of my Exceeding Patient Friend.

The purse was worked in silk, but I like the hairy, slightly uneven, effect of wool and so I worked my rug in wool – in half cross-stitch, on 22 count canvas. (This is a larger canvas size than the original.)

Open House Miniatures - Paula Rose needlework rug corner

When I made it I didn’t have any “proper” wool, so I used darning wool (of the sort you used to be able to get for mending socks) for the coloured parts of the design, and thin yarn (of the type that comes on a cone for machine knitting) for the white background.

These days I would probaly use 2 ply crewel wool.  I would find it difficuly to choose just one supplier of wool to recommend, but if I could only choose one then I think it would be Appleton Wool   as it is always (in my experience) excellent quality and comes in a good variety of colours.

Everyone who believes that the stitches need to be worked in the same direction, please look away now.

If you look at the back of the rug you can clearly see that I worked the blue motifs in a variety of directions.

Open House Miniatures - Needlework Rug Reverse

I did this so that the fabric would not drift out of shape and the rug edges would remain straight.

When I am working in half cross-stitch, both full-size and in miniature, I very often work the decorative motive from the bottom of the design to the top and fill in the background in a right to left (or left to right) direction.

Varying the stitch direction is not orthodox, but I think experimenting and bending “the rules” can be rewarding – sometimes.

I vividly remember that it took me a week – one rose, or one blue medallion, a day – to complete a row of pattern.

This is not exactly a speedy result, but if you would like to make one of these rugs for yourself  the pdf  for the full design is here –


The colours in the pdf chart are slightly different from the ones that I used in real life (I was using very odd yarn, in non-standard colours) and the design, although it looks simple, is rather intricate.

If you click on the image below, you will be able to see, and print, a larger version of part of the chart.

Open House Miniatures - Paula Rose rug - needlework chart

I like bold, strong colours, but I think this would work well in paler, subtler shades too, and I am sure that you will find it a rewarding project to complete.

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I hardly ever make small needlework items for sale, and I certainly never make large items like rugs.

So, if you are looking for fine miniature needlework (at what I think is an astonishingly reasonable price!) I would recommend considering the work of Jacques Andre Human .

It is unfair of me to single out just his work on the Petit Connoisseurs website, as there are a great many things there that I think are delightful – far too many to mention…

All right, maybe just one …

Bianca by Anna Braun from the Petit Connoisseurs website

Bianca by Anna Braun

Or two…

Flower Arrangement in Handmade Vase by Pam Jones

Flower arrangement in handmade vase
by Pam Jones

or three…

Large Pitcher by Hestelle Mare

Large pitcher by Hestelle Mare

***   ***   ***   ***

Finally a big very thank you to everyone who voted in last week’s poll.

The result was a tie – 31 votes for the McLoughlin Circus Procession book and 31 votes for a papier mache Easter egg.

I hope to have the slideshow for the book ready by next Friday and (hopefully) will have another one (for the papier mache egg) ready by Easter weekend.

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Papier Mache Easter Eggs

Open House Miniatures - minaiture papier mache easter eggs

German Cardboard Easter Eggs were part of my childhood and I love them dearly.

My miniature versions are made with paper, on to handmade molds, and the decorations are replicas of antique lithographed scraps.

I like to vary the pictures as much as possible and I can never decided if there is one that I like more than another.

The miniature eggs are are surprisingly robust but, just like the real thing, they will deform if they get wet / too damp.

Open House Miniatures - papier mache easter eggs open and shut

I have spent most of this morning trying to photograph the batch I have just made and have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to get a decent close-up, although I did get some very interesting effects.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A minor point –

All the antique / vintage eggs,  that I have seen, have the top of the picture at the fat end of the egg.

This looks odd to me and so I always make some with the top of the picture at the pointy end of the egg, as well as the “correct” way round.

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Open House Miniatures - handpainted screen, birds and foliage

I have been working on a painted screen this week.

It is quite a sophisticated and complicated design, and has a greater range of colours than I normally consider using in something of this size.

It made me remember conversations that I have had in the past, when I have been asked to scan something so that copies can be made more quickly (and cheaply).

Below is an example that shows why I have always said, “no”.

Open House Miniatures - scan of screen

They really are the same screen  – only the bright light of the scanner has burnt out subtle details and flattened the colours.

The image is also blurred – this is mainly the fault of my scanner, which can just about cope with black and white documents; but the upload process to WordPress (when an image gets “crunched”) did not help !

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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