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Kristin Baybars - name detail

Two blog posts in a week! What is going on? I haven’t blogged in ages because I have no ‘blogging time’ to spare. But I think this is important and so some other things have had to wait.

Charlotte Stokoe, organiser of the London Dolls’ House Festival (producer) and Fred Burns (director) have made a film called A Pathway of Crumbs. (see previous blog post) about Kristin Baybars, who is the owner of a very special, almost indescribable shop / toy collection in Gospel Oak, London.

I have watched  A Pathway of Crumbs several times now. And, interesting though it is, I have yet to catch more than the faintest flavour of the person whose life and work it is supposed to document. This bothers me because I think that Kristin’s life and work are worth documenting – fully and properly.

It is quite possible that the qualities that make Kristin Kristin are impossible to capture on film. I am certain that I could not do it, not least because I would have to learn all the technical skills necessary in order to make the attempt.

I did try to write down what I thought about her and ended up with a nebulous list of qualities, rather than actions with dates attached to them. So here, for what it is worth, are some of the things that I think are most important – I have left out more that you can imagine, if I hadn’t I would have been writing for years.

Creativity – throughout her life Kristin has made things. She understands, from the inside out, about making things. She created the Ostrobogulous toy range.

Those of you who watched Play School on the BBC as a child will recognise Humpty and Jemima – well, Humpty was designed by Kristin.

And now there are miniature Humptys at Kristin’s (although these were not made by Kristin, herself.)

Kristin Baybars - miniature humptys

When I first knew Kristin, she had just been asked to make, among other things a  number of miniature cricket bats and tennis racquets to go in sports themed presentation cases. A little later on, and over a number of years, she made a series of tiny wooden jig-saw puzzles. What I find truly remarkable is that she found (and still finds) the time and enthusiasm to encourage other people to make things too.

Dedication – if you are not a shop keeper you will have to exercise your imagination for this… It Is Hard Work… Never Ending Hard Work…You Have to Find the Stock…

Kristin Baybars - dolls house detail

If your stock is unusual and not to be found in a warehouse this is: Even More Hard Work…

Kristin Baybars - wooden mechanical toy camel

Then you have to unpack your stock, clear away the packing, price the stock, arrange it,

Kristin Baybars - miniature clothes hanging up

look after it,

kristin baybars - philip beglan doll painting a pillar box

allow people to buy the things you love, re-order (when possible) what you have sold,

Kristin Baybars - dollhouse interior detail - kitchen table

and that is just for starters.

Now consider the sort of things that are in Kristin’s shop:  toys that are not stocked in most shops because they are not a standard, packaged-in-plastic size,

Kristin Baybars - toy ship and fish

unique things,

Kristin Baybars - seen through shelves of toys

delicate miniatures…

Kristin Baybars - miniature mechanical toys

If Kristin was not utterly and completely dedicated to what she does she could not have done it at all, let alone continue to do it for years and years and years.

Kristin Baybars - dollshouse interior

‘Fauvist Inspiration’ –

fauvism - kristin baybars shop front

I am not trying to say that Kristin’s shop (particularly the front) is Fauvist, but I would never have looked at a Fauvist painting ‘properly’ if I hadn’t seen Kristin’s shop front. And now Fauvist paintings, with their unexpected colours, are a great joy to me. Kristin and her shop have this effect on me: they are make me look at things afresh. They expand my mental horizons.

Helpful Advice – it would be impossible for me to relate all the advice that Kristin has given me over the years, there is so much of it. One of the earliest pieces has stuck with me though. It sounds quite simple and yet it is vital: ‘Babies eyes are in the middle of their faces.’

Elizabeth Plain - miniature baby dolls

Try making a doll, which is I was doing when Kristin told me this, and see how important it is to get the position of the eyes exactly right.

Imagination –

Kristin Baybars - facebook - the ghost of marie antoinette sets up a cake shop

‘The ghost of Marie Antoinette has set up a cake shop at Kristin Baybars’

When I saw this it set me thinking: What sort of cake shop would Marie Antoinette have? Would she have a very flouncy apron? Would she have to wear one of those bakery caps? Do ghosts have the same rules and regulations that we seem to have? I wonder what the court painter would have made of her and her cakes?  Would he have to be a ghost too, or maybe he would be a very brave (or scared) mortal.

I am going to stop now, before I drift off into a dissertation about the French Revolution, interwoven with remarks about some Louis XVI sugar decoration moulds that I once saw. This is what Kristin and her shop have always done for me: fired my imagination, allowed me to think, to ask questions, to have ideas.

In conclusion, I know that this small, vividly coloured, crowded shop, ‘in the middle of nowhere’ is not going to be to everyone’s taste. But if it suits you, you will love it.

Please go there before it vanishes. It is unique and you will not see its like again.

Kristin Baybars, 7 Mansfield Road, Gospel Oak, London, NW3 2JD

Telephone: 020 7267 0934

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Kristin-Baybars

Usual opening hours Tuesday to Saturday, 12 noon to 5pm.

Please check this information before visiting – it may be out of date by the time you read this.

Kristin Baybars - film still - detail of front door

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A Pathway of Crumbs…

A Pathway of Crumbs - a film about the life and work of Kristin Baybars

I have a dilemma (again). You may have noticed that I get them now and then.

A friend has just sent me a copy of a short film about the life and work of Kristin Baybars, owner of possibly the most amazing shop that most people have never heard of.

The film is Called A Pathway of Crumbs and I had four main reactions when I watched it.

1. my personal reaction:  What can I do to help save Kristin’s shop ?

2. the miniaturist reaction: Why are the amazing jig-saws that Kristin used to make not mentioned ? And what about the beautiful, tiny, wooden ark that she made ? What happened to the huge the dolls’ house that she made when she was at school ?

3. personal reaction again: I can’t comment on the technical side of this, but I am going to stop the film so that I can look at David Ward’s work. Ten Thousand Curses, I Was Looking at That… Thank Heaven for the Pause Button… etc.

4. personal reaction yet again: This is not ‘easy’ viewing in places. One of Kristin’s friends, Janet, contracted meningitis and, in order to save her life, had to have what is euphemistically termed ‘life changing surgery’. Kristin, herself, is growing old. This is real life, not a pretty advert for a unique shop.

I hope you can now understand why I felt that I had a dilemma. I haven’t been asked to review this DVD, yet I found it evocative and emotive and think that it is worth seeing. I think it will interest people and yet I hesitate to recommend it because it is not ‘pretty’ and does not fit in with the generally cosy image of the dolls’ house world. My perception of the dolls’ house world being  that, for a great many people, for a great deal of the time, it is a haven and an escape from the cares of the ‘real’ world. And a good and necessary addition to the ‘real’ world too because, would you like to live without your imagination?: I wouldn’t.

The online-trailer, although brief, is (I think) wonderful.

It is possible to watch the whole film on-line – on Vimeo – at a very reasonable £3.99 to hire (48 hour access), or £6.99 to download and watch at any time.

The DVD is also available to buy from The London Dolls’ House Festival – payment details are at the bottom of the page.

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The following short films, also about Kristin Baybars, are charming and free to watch online:

David Ward miniature cat in Kristin Baybars dollhouseLondon Film School – KRISTIN BAYBARS

Talking with Kristin – an 80-year-old toy shop owner in North London – is a lesson in true values and authenticity. Above all she is inspiring, she inspires you to start creating yourself, using your hands, but mainly she inspires you to change your way of thinking. Toys are used as a medium to reveal Kristin and her values, which allow her world to exist. A little journey, escaping from reality but at the same time returning to what really matters…

Running time: 9 min 3 sec

Year of production: 2012

Watch now

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This little place in gospel oak - a film about kristin baybars

Kentish Towner – Kristin Baybars’ ‘Little Place in Gospel Oak’

Filmmaker Alexander Osman has made a short docudrama that captures some of the unique atmosphere of her shop, with a rare cameo role from the softly spoken 80-year-old Kristin herself…

Running Time: 6 minutes 9 sec

Year of production: 2014

Watch now

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Watching A Pathway of Crumbs was a rather odd experience for me. You see, I have been inside Kristin’s shop and it brought home to me, yet again, the fact that looking at things on-screen is no substitute for real-life experience. I can’t describe Kristin or her shop adequately in words. I can only urge dolls’ house enthusiasts and lovers of finely made, intelligent, thought-about, toys to make the journey to Gospel Oak and experience the wonders of Kristin’s shop for themselves.

Do check the shop opening times before you go. Much to my astonishment, I found that Kristin Baybars now has a page on Facebook, where there are updates on what is going on and contact details.

For those of you who are not Facebook fans (and I have to admit that I am not a happy Facebook user):

Address: 

Kristin Baybars

7 Mansfield Road,

Gospel Oak,

London

NW3 2JD

Phone: (UK code 44) 20 7267 0934

kristin baybars map and link to google page

 

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book cover - the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973

The Dolls’ House Book – 126 pages
Author: Pauline Flick
Published by Collins – 1973
ISBN – 0001921568

Having been (possibly) unfair to the 1970s in the previous post, I thought I had better try to redress the balance and mention something that I do like from the 1970s.

Having said that: I didn’t know about this book in the 1970s; I bought it in a library sale in the early 1990s.

[And if you ever wonder why there are so many ex-library copies of books on eBay – the libraries in the UK started selling their books and downsizing quite a while ago now. Our small local library is about to close soon and then it will be goodbye to real books and we will only be able to get digital editions. People without computers, or no internet connection at all, (and there are still quite a few of these) are going to suffer.]

But back to the book: it is a modestly sized and I bought it because I liked the various illustrations of the window pelmets that are used above the section headings.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - pelmet illustration

I very nearly didn’t buy it because there is a section devoted to building a dolls’ house from a cardboard box.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - make your own dolls' house

But when I started reading it I was pleased that I had succumbed to the lure of the pelmets and the suggestion that you could build an Australian dolls’ house.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - australian house illustration

The book is clearly written with a juvenile audience in mind:

Grown-up collectors are always on the look out for old dolls’ house furniture…

but it is far from childish in its approach and, in a quiet sort of way, contains a great deal of historical information.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - cardboard chairs from the 1930s

It is divided into three main sections:

The History of Dolls’ Houses – I find this part fascinating as it is full of details that interest me and it is where I first learned of ‘The Girls’ Own Toymaker and Book of Recreation’ (published 1860 and now available on Google Books)

Making Your Own Dolls’ House – this contains a (sensible, if you ask me) description of making a robust dolls’ house from a cardboard box and suggestions of different types of styles of house that you might like to make, with pictures of the differing architectural styles of houses to be found in various British regions.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - timber framed suffolk house

Furnishing Your Dolls’ House – this is a very short section, but it ends with the wise words: “If you’re like me, once you begin collecting you’ll go on and on.”

*** *** ***

Re-reading the final section just now, in particular where the author describes cutting the head off a plastic deer in order to make a stuffed head to hang in her dolls’ house, I was reminded of something that I think might be of interest to someone reading this.

Jane Harrop (her website is here) provided instructions for making a hobby horse, using the head of a plastic toy horse for The DollsHouse and Miniature Scene Magazine (the article is here)

jane harrop - hobby horse

This is part of a series of ‘How To’ published by the magazine and made freely available by them on-line.

Not all the projects mentioned in the ‘How To’ section have detailed instructions, but there are lots of ideas, even when the instructions are non-existent or a bit sketchy.

*** *** ***

Finally, I have had a look and there is next to no information available on-line about Pauline Flick. This is a great shame as I am certain that she influenced the development of dolls’ house books and collecting in the UK.

The best I can do to redress this lack of recognition is to reproduce the biographic details from the back flap of the jacket ‘The Dolls’ House Book’ here.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - biographic details

While I was searching for information on-line I did come across a scanned copy of this book here.

I am not an expert of UK copyright law, but I am reasonably certain that it must still be in copyright in the UK.

Following Project Gutenberg’s reasoning on the matter of book copyright, it would therefore be an infringement of copyright to download this book to your computer.

Just looking at it on a computer screen, however, appears to be another matter entirely.

If you do decide to read it on-line you will be time travelling, so be prepared – there is only one colour photograph.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - frontispiece

This does not stop it being one of my favourite books about dolls’ houses.

 

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Spear’s Project Cards

spear's project cards - build your own dolls' house - 1970

SIZE – just over 6 x 4 inches

At the moment I am stuck, work-wise, in the 1970s.

Fortunately, the end is in sight for this particular project. I am saying fortunately because, although I am certain there must have been worse times to have lived through, there are all sorts of things that annoyed me in the 1970s that still annoy me today.

These project cards, which were published in the UK by J W Spear  are (in my memory at least) typical of the time: the strong, clashing colours, the determination to make something out of nothing, the way that it necessary to have a plywood base for a wobbly cardboard box house, the utterly unreasonable certainty that it is a little girl who will be making her own dolls’ house and that no little boy could be in the least interested.

While I am shuddering at my memories, I hope you will enjoy looking at the cards and marvelling at how things were.

If I think of these cards as an ancient historical artifact, I can almost persuade myself that they are no longer capable of annoying me intensely. Almost, but not quite…

Would anyone, these days, I wonder, suggest cutting off the end of an egg box to make a sofa?

If they did, I hope that at least they would try to disguise the essential egg boxyness of the finished article.

Paint? Beads for legs? Something, anything to make it more like a sofa and less like the end of an egg box…

No wonder I make every effort to avoid ‘How to Make’ books.

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You may have noticed that, although I do mention other websites and blogs from time to time, I don’t have a side-bar list of links on display.

This isn’t because I don’t appreciate the work of other bloggers, but because I know that I don’t have the time to maintain an up-to-date list.

WordPress statistics tell me that the following websites and bloggers have been kind enough to host a link to my blog this year and  over the past month I have checked that the links are live.

I look forward to doing more in-depth reading over the Christmas Holidays, with many thanks to all the following:

MINIATURES

Dada’s Dollhouse

Bickersgracht in miniature

Nuestras Minis – miniatures

Maria Inez Garibaldi

Kunnen nukkekoti

Minitarinat

Miniature Dreamworld – miniatures

Mini Foreningen

Le Petit monde Merveilleux de Marie

Villa Rendezvous ja muita tarinoita – miniatures

Wasting Gold Paper

Anajah’s Favoriten – a collection of dolls’ house projects to do

Dolls’ House Past and Present – miniatures and quarterly on-line magazine

So Mini Projects

One Tiny Little Thing

And then there are:

PRINTABLES

Jennifer’s Printables – printable things for miniature homes

Amy’s Wandering – printable nativity scenes, other printables and home schooling

PAPERCRAFT

Papermau – papercraft, models to make

Tektonen – papercraft, models to make

PaperCraftSquare – papercraft, models to make

AND

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures

Minitreasures – a Wiki for miniatures

Freubelweb – crafts, paper projects

* * *

Finally, a special mention for littleglitterhouses.com, which has downloadable plans for many small building projects, some of which can be adapted for miniature use.

open-house-miniatures-christmas-2015-glitter-houses-and-bird-tree

I was looking for information on nativity sets when I came across the website and was amused at the way little snow scene houses (aka “putz”, or “glitter houses”) have travelled around the world and the ways in which they have changed in design as they did so.

For the record, these little houses  existed in the UK too. I can remember, when I was very young, helping to make a small village (there was even a postbox!) from cereal box card and gummed coloured paper. The glitter that we used came in a box and the flakes were large, flat and translucent – fascinatingly and memorably different to the silver glitter that came in a glass tube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ettore Sobrero

ettore_sobrero_1991-catalogue

Ettore Sobrero’s books are, some of the most beautifully bound miniature volumes that I have ever seen and I was very glad to discover that I still had one of his catalogues.

I scanned the catalogue to see if I would be able to reproduce the fine quality print here. The answer to that is: no.

However, I thought that the  scans weren’t completely unflattering and decided to see if I could remember how to make a slideshow and upload it to Slideshare.

This was only partially successful because I had to compress the images in the presentation in order to be able to upload the file. This naturally affected the quality of the image on-screen and the scans became decidedly uncomplimentary.

Below is the result of my Plan B, which was to host the images on another site. I hope that this will prove to be a reliable way of storing images, although, in this instance, I still had to reduce the files a little in size.

Another reason for writing this particular blog post was to experiment with some of the changes in file management that have taken place on WordPress.

My apologies to all who find my experiments in the technological field duller than ditch water.

 

 

 

 

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The Not Very Encouraging News

  1. My camera is not working reliably
  2. My little home printer is not working at all

Result: no paper projects to do on this blog until above are fixed or replaced

The Good News

  1. The scanner part of my printer is working. (I am not saying that it does a wonderful job, but at least it is working)

The “Oh no, what now…” News

Due to building work at home, alot of my things have been in store.

While in store, some things evidently became damp (see foxing on scan of card below)

example of foxing due to damp

Foxing (the brown spots) is the result of a type of mould and I have to go through everything and check / air / scan / throw away / make tough decisions about it.

While doing this, I thought that I should make the effort to digitize my paper-based archive. [Archive, in this case = a very grand word for a box of postcards, scraps and other miscellaneous junk.]

However, I have so much to do (in general) at the moment that I cannot – must not – spend more than 1 hour a day sitting in front of my computer.

Despite this, in an unwise(?) but praiseworthy(?) attempt to share what I thought might be useful to other people interested in making miniature things, I created a page called Printables on this blog.

I then came swiftly to the conclusion that:

  1. My idea of what is “useful” may not be universally “useful”
  2. I will soon run out of storage space, if I add full size images randomly
  3. Looking through lots of thumbnail sized images on a computer screen is tedious

Result: a suggestion that is going to end in disappointment for some people.

The suggestion is this:

There should be a comments box on this page and, if you would like to, you can leave a message there letting me know what would be useful to you. Please be as specific as you can, for example magazines is good, but magazines (fashion, 1950s) would be even better.

This would be a great help to me, as I could spend more time scanning and less time uploading (not at all useful) images here.

A couple of things to bear in mind, please:

  1. My 1 Hour a Day Computer Rule
  2. There are only 24 hours in a day and I do my best to be asleep for at least 6 of them

Finally:

Below is the result of one hour’s work. Most of the time was taken up by typing the descriptions and double checking that the right description was with the right card and how they were displayed on screen etc., etc., etc. This means that any scans I upload here are not going to have detailed written descriptions.

And I can’t decide if the following should be called: “cigarette cards“, “lithographic prints” or “possible miniature theatre scenery“, so please don’t be surprised if images are not classified as you think they should be.

No. 2 of 25 Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings -

No. 2 of 25 Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings
“Dutch Boats off Flushing”
De Reszke Cigarettes – J Millhoff & Co Ltd.

Cigarette Cards No. 20 (of 80) in the series Evolution of the British Navy - no manufacturer name given.

No. 20 (of 80) in the series Evolution of the British Navy
– no manufacturer name given.

Cigarette card - No. 19 (of 25)

No. 19 (of 25) Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings
“Dutch Boats in a Calm”
Army Club Cigarettes – Cavanders Ltd

Cigarette Card - No. 3 (of 25) Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings

No. 3 (of 25) Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings
Dedham Mill
Army Club Cigarettes – Cavanders Ltd

Cigarette Card - No. 12 (of 25) Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings

No. 12 (of 25) Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings
“The Valley of the Llugwy”
Army Club Cigarettes – Cavanders Ltd

No. 7 (of 25) Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings

No. 7 (of 25) Reproductions of Celebrated Oil Paintings
The Stream
Army Club Cigarettes – Cavanders Ltd

 

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Afterword

I don’t sponsor any advertisements on this blog

WordPress need to make money in order to run their blogging service and so they sell advertising space.

I could, by paying WordPress a small fee, make this blog advert free – nice as this would be, it’s not going to happen soon.

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