Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

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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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.

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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 !

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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.

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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 Red riding Hood Wooden dolls' house theatre set

This miniature theatre comes complete with a curtain, 7 pieces of scenery and 6 characters for the Play of Red Riding Hood.

In the last scene there is a “remove”, so that when the piece of scenery is taken out, the wolf in bed can be whisked away and replaced by an empty bed.

In this version Little Red Riding Hood’s father kills the wolf, and so one of the character sets shows a dead wolf.

The theatre is constructed from wood.

The box, scenery and characters are made from acid free card and paper, and  the characters are mounted on wood and have metal ‘sliders’.

There is also a handmade box, in which to store the scenery and characters, when not in use.



The stage of the theatre measures 2 inchs (2.5cm) by 1inch (2.5cm).

The top of the arch stands just over 1 and 1/4 inches (3.3cm) tall.



Toy theatres were a very popular toy during the mid and late Victorian era.

This set is completely my own invention and the characters and scenery have been made using Victorian scraps – which is why they are so brightly coloured.

The label on the box top has been adapted from a games box, dating from 1895. It had no connection with a theatre set in its original form.

This is one of the first theatres, with a complete play, that I made – many years ago now.

It is horrendously difficult to photograph !



The theatre is strongly coloured and the scenery and characters are VERY strongly coloured.

The box is slightly more muted in colour, but  the label is a bright, fresh print.

This theatre set is handmade and contains wire. It is not a ‘toy’, it is a ‘collector’s item’

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Mathews Victorian Toy Theatre #2

I blogged about the Mathews theatre, in some detail, in an earlier post.

This is my version of that theatre.

It is more robust than the original construction, as I have adapted my theatre design to fit it and it now has a wooden structure at the back.

Open House Miniatures - dolls' house Mathews theatre with Cinderella play

It is delicately coloured, and retains a strong printed paper / graphic feeling to it.

The proscenium, scenery and the characters are made from acid free card.

The top of the proscenium is reinforced with a separate, double thickness of card, and it is supported by wooden (pine) batons at the bottom.

The front of the theatre, scenery and characters are reproductions of Victorian originals – which I have hand-coloured.

My version includes –

A safety curtain

6 pieces of scenery –

The kitchen – with side wings
A room in Cinderella’s home – with side wings
The ballroom at The Palace – with side wings


6 characters –

Cinderella and her godmother
The baron and his two other daughters
Cinderella and the Prince dancing
The Prince running after Cinderella
A Fairy and
Cinderella putting on the glass slipper, watched by the prince and his companions
There is also a kitchen table, complete with pumpkin.

In addition there is a handmade box, in which to store the scenery and characters when they are not in use.


The front is made of folded card and so the width of the stage may vary – very slightly

The stage measures approximately 1 and 5/8th inches (4.1cm) by 1 inch (2.5cm).

The top of the arch stands just over 1 and 3/4 inches (4.5cm) tall.


This theatre set is handmade and contains wire.

It is not a ‘toy’, it is a ‘collector’s item’

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Open House Miniatures - wooden toy theatre, Fairy Garden scenery and characters set

The stage of this minature toy theatre measures 2 inchs (2.5cm) by 1 and 1/8 inches (2.9cm).

The top of the arch stands just over 1 and 1/4 inches (3.3cm) tall.

This theatre comes complete with a curtain, 5 pieces of scenery and 3 characters for ‘The Fairy Garden’.

There is also a box, in which to store the scenery and characters when not in use.

The scenery and characters are made from acid free card and paper and  the characters are mounted on wood and have metal ‘sliders’.

Please note –

The theatre, scenery and characters are vibrantly coloured.

The box is slightly more muted in colour and looks slightly worn and as though it has been used.

Historical note –

The theatre front was originally used for a Victorian Punch and Judy show and measured over 3 foot wide.

The scenery and characters and box are entirely my own invention and are not founded in historical fact.

This theatre set includes wire –  it  is not a ‘toy’, it is a ‘collector’s item’

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Victorian Toy Theatre

Open_House_Miniatures_Victorian_Toy_Theatre_ Cinderella_and_the_Prince_dancing

This miniature toy theatre has been recreated from a handpainted original and is made, as the original would have been, from thick paper/thin card which is ingeniously cut and folded to make a surprisingly robust, 3 dimensional structure.

The theatre stage measures 1 5/8 inches wide (42mm) x 1 inch (25mm) deep x 1 7/8 inches (47mm) tall (the proscenium is relatively tall).

It comes with a set of 7 scenes,  5 pairs of side wings, a coach, a fountain, a kitchen table and 28 characters/sets of characters for the play Cinderella.

The set is very nearly complete, but one set of wings was missing and so I duplicated the one that I had in order to make a matching pair.


Other ‘cheats”…

The triangular pediment, and the bust of Shakespeare that fits on to it, were originally three pieces that were glued together – in this version they are one piece and have been resized to fit the top of the proscenium more exactly than they did in the original.

The weakest part of these sets was always the side wings. It is a design fault that I find maddening and I have strengthened the side wings  with an extra strip of card and they are no longer nearly as bendy as they should be (!), but they are still the most fragile part of the theatre.

I have omitted the ‘trick’ items as they are too small to be used at this size.


A little bit of history and credit where it is due –

Theatres were very popular toys for a great part of the 19th Century and they came in all shapes and sizes. This reproduction is slightly larger than 12th scale, but it is still of a typical size.

This miniature example is based on one originally published by H. Mathews of Acton, Middlesex – sometime in the last 20 years of the 19th Century – and it comes with a set of scenes, side wings and characters originally published by B. Pollock, 73 Hoxton Street, Hoxton (London) and these,  from the address, it can be dated to circa 1876.

The scenes and characters were originally published in October 1844 by John Kilby Green and the theatre is very similar in design to one that was created by him too.

The folded card structure for the theatre is courtesy of an example in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The box is completely my own invention – these sets did not (as far as I know) ever come boxed – and it features part of a page from the character set by Mr B. Pollock and reproduction antique marbled paper.

The box makes a very useful stand for the stage.


The characters are mounted on paper bases and ‘sliders’ made of florist’s wire – this is not a ‘toy’, it is a ‘collector’s item’

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