Washu

Yes, I am full of cold.  Is it because of the idiot young doctor who I think gave me stress fractures in my better arm?  Is it because I had been shut away so long I succumbed to everyone else’s germs as soon as I was set free?  Is it because the OH is permanently sneezing?  Or is it just December?

I had a cold two weeks ago.  I was supposed to be going to hospital for day surgery to investigate a problem.  The previous week’s booking had been cancelled by the hospital.  Then, coughing, I cancelled one.  Then last week I sat in a freezing cubicle for four hours until the surgeon came to apologise that he had run out of time.  This week if I cannot stop sneezing I might have to cancel.  I originally went to my doctor suspecting a problem in October.  October, remember that?  Two months ago.

Am I sneezing because the problem I thought I had has taken hold and is undermining my immune system?  Is worry about the OH and his disintegrating toes compromising my immune system?

Did I get the germs out, finally, in my car, hooray, doing the Christmas shopping?  Thank goodness I did.  Haven’t any food yet but I have the presents.

The S&H and family have had theirs.  He wanted a plumbing/electrical/computery thing that switches the heating on when they are not there so the house is warm when they get back.  Instant heat.

We had that in the Fifties.  My mother laid the fire in the lounge in the morning.  When we got in she doused the sticks with paraffin, held a newspaper over the fireplace and chucked a match behind.  Surprisingly often the newspaper caught light.  And for lo!  Instant heat.  Also scorched wallpaper round the fireplace but lots of people had that.  Hence non combustible marble fire surrounds and hearths.  In the winter the cat used to sleep actually on the coals that had gone out in the grate in the morning room.  After which I used to wash her in a dolls’ bath in the garden.  I got scragged regularly.  We all got dirtier in those days but my grandmother put Omo in your bath and you were clean as a whistle.

Did we ail less because we had a protective coating of filth?  I remember my grandmother examining my fingernails and asking me who I was in mourning for?  If I had black nails now would I still be sneezing?

Wushu.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Ash!  Washu!  Whoosh!

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Someone will have to go out in the cold for more tissues.  I gave some fabric hankies to the charity shop in the seventies and made the rest into doll’s house bedding in the eighties.

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The weakest link.

I had a disastrous meeting on Tuesday, which has taken me some time mentally to recover from.  It was my last scheduled meeting with the surgeon who put my arm together with a lot of metal in it.  But instead, after the usual round of X-rays, the person who ducked into the cubicle was a young man I hadn’t met before, well over six feet tall and big with it.  I explained how I was beginning to be able to put my arm behind my back but he interrupted : Oh no, you must think of yourself now as permanently disabled.

What?

He lifted my arm right up until I was on tip toe, then he let it drop.  ‘See, I can lift it up but you will never be able to – the tendons will never mend, you must think of yourself as disabled.’

I said I thought they were mending but he asked how old I was.  ‘There,’ he said, ‘you are too old to get better.  If you were thirty you might but not now you are disabled.’ He asked me to push my left wrist (the one I broke five years ago) against him, he pushed back until he hurt me.  ‘You are weak,’ he said, ‘and disabled now.’  Then he left the cubicle laughing.

In the evening I went next door to visit my neighbour, the orthopaedic surgeon.  He told me there had been complaints about the young man but asked me not to make a formal complaint because the man had a young family.  He said to wait six months and if I was still not better then, that he would himself refer me to the surgeon again to see what else could be done.

On Thursday the physio, who I don’t think is allowed to see me again, lifted my arm, gently and, mostly, it stayed there.  She pointed out that I couldn’t do that just a month ago and therefore the tendons must be healing, or it wouldn’t stay up at all.  She then booked me into a shoulder class which begins next Friday.

I am hoping that my arm will continue to heal and regain strength.  I am hoping to be well enough in another four months to do the 70th Miniatura, to which end I am currently assembling 48th scale dolls.

In life, sometimes you meet the right person in the right job, which makes the world a better place and benefits everyone.  Then, sometimes, you meet a person in the wrong job which helps no one except himself.  He was arrogant, loud and very keen to put me down and aggrandise himself.  My next door neighbour’s wife, a lady of litigious inclinations, was very keen that I hang the young doctor out to dry.  Ten years ago my frequent dealings with my mother might have made me frightened to do so, for fear of repercussions, because, with her, there were always repercussions.  Four years ago, overcoming my fears by facing them, I might have written a stiff letter to someone senior at the hospital.

Right now I am not inclined to let any ego problems the young doctor owns to become my responsibility.  I need to use my energy for my own healing.  I do not accept that I am permanently disabled.  I do not accept that anything at all is permanent.  The nature of the universe is change.  People learn and grow if they are capable of doing so; it is a natural process which will occur with or without my help.  It is only four months since my accident.  My left wrist, still aching, has done all the work for my right arm for four months now but it was only strong enough to do so about two years ago.  I think it took three years to heal to that point and it doesn’t even have any great metal screws in it.

Only someone young, strong and stupid, would regard age as a disability in itself or a disadvantage.  Many of us improve with age, I certainly have done so.  I cannot believe that they paid me to be a teacher at only twenty one, I had a fund of endless ignorance compounded by my strange upbringing.  I had a good education and I was quite bright but when I compare what I know now with what I knew then, there is no comparison.  I think of my mother, most of her head literally empty, watching Masterchef on TV and remarking on the sauce that was going to split or the meat that had seized to the pan in the wrong way a good five minutes before anyone in the studio had noticed that there was a potential problem.

Life is educational, we are all here to learn from experience.  However you are today, you will be wiser tomorrow.

Just think how fantastic you’ll be next week!  I’m proud to know you.

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Not counting.  Four months or thereabouts.

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A first.

Well here’s a first.  The table is covered in china painting and I’m not doing it.  It’s just sitting there.  I love china painting, it’s the reward for all the dreadful grit scrubbing.

Why am I not doing it?  Well. you know when I said I thought I was coming down with flu and then realised it was just RSI shoulder pain?  No it wasn’t, it was flu.

Fortunately I had a letter from the hospital putting back my appointment for the exploratory surgery by a week, other wise I’d have turned up sneezing and been sent home.  Next week I’m at the hospital three days running, one is the first surgeon, the second is the second and the third is the physio and I absolutely have to be well enough for a general anaesthetic and even more importantly, look like someone who can be told they can drive their car.

So I am resting.  Well resting as much as you can coughing and sneezing.  I have found as I have aged, some would say like a fine wine, others like an old sock or yesterday’s forgotten pot of tea, that I am getting wisdom of a sort.  When I am ill, I stop and do being ill.  It’s actually more efficient.  It’s also one of the benefits of being self employed and old.  When you are working for someone else the dilemmas around being ill and turning up for work are all Catch 22.  If you go to work ill you can turn a three day cold into a three week cold in your sinuses and infect numerous people until everyone at work is ill too.  Or you can lie on the sofa worrying about someone else having to do your work, or stealing your work or, perish the thought, doing your work much better than you so that when you go back everyone says ‘Oh are you back?’ with entirely the wrong inflection.

I have had a lot of illness in my life, much of it due to the bungled operation to remove my tonsils.  I have lost count of the number of doctors who have peered into my throat and said the equivalent of ‘Good grief are those your tonsils?  No wonder you are ill.’  Yeh, I know.  But it was a very fashionable operation in the 50s.  You’d have had to go abroad to find a child with a full set of tonsils and adenoids.  Or anyone who hadn’t been to a German Measles party. 

Different times, different customs.  No doubt fifty years from now someone will be Cloud blogging by thought transference how very altered their life would have been if they hadn’t been trolled at 13 by school ‘friends.’  We had bullies at school too but at least you knew who they were.  It’s remarkably simple to spot the bully when they are literally in your face and holding you arm up your back.  These days standards are dropping in bullying; as it’s mostly done on social media sites you don’t have to be physically impressive, or have a snotty nose, a practised sneer or even a henchman.  My bully at school had a hench girl who was little lank-haired rat, attached like the tail of a comet that made them easy to spot as the bully orbited the playground looking for someone to be evil to, or me.  I was the school poet and therefore a standing target.

How glad I am that I do not have a teenage daughter and how much I wish all this would go away before the GD gets to that age.  I hope her parents hold off getting her a mobile phone for as long as they can; when the source of the misery is in your pocket, how do you escape it?

The source of my current misery is up my nose, I am off to get full use out of a box of tissues and I am old enough to be thankful for them.  I used to be allowed to have Grandpa’s big hanky when I had a cold.  You haven’t lived until you have rotated the same cloth hanky three days running to try to find a dry bit, or, equally charmingly, had to wait until Monday (wash day) to get a clean one.  Actually that’s inaccurate, Tuesday was fresh hanky day because by then it had been ironed.

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The past is another country, the national costume includes a pair of grey flannel knickers with a pocket in them for a week old hanky.  Lovely.

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OH! Ooh! Ow!

I did it.  I unpacked the kiln this morning, look.

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Two shelves full of 48th, which is only a particular number of dolls when you start to match them up and see how many left legs you have for a certain doll, for example.

The shelf at the top is jointed dolls, where there are two holes in the body and the arms and legs are wired on.  The shelf at the bottom is the wired dolls in which the torso has a big hole at the waist and is hollow and has holes for the arms and the half arms and legs are also hollow.  Here’s a closer look at each.

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And then the idiot Jane did something really stupid that anyone with a metal arm should not do.  Yup, I did.  I grit scrubbed the lot.

Mid way through the afternoon I began to feel very odd.  I thought I must be coming down with flu.  Everything ached.  My shoulders hurt so much I could have sat and cried, I didn’t because I don’t and then half way through the evening I had the brilliant idea of taking some painkillers.  I have some morphine left if it is so bad I cannot sleep.  I am a total idiot.

But, you know what?

PB200362

Die Hard in a dirty vest, banana up the nose, but I did it.

Someone at a show many years ago expressed the opinion that making dolls must be a dainty occupation suitable for a lady.

And the rest.

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70th show in the spring.

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Things I love, things I hate.

The last week has been one of ups and downs, filled equally with things I love and things I hate.  Hate is a strong word, there are few things I hate, although being shouted at by someone with a damaged brain is definitely one of them and there seems to have been enough of that lately.

I have spent the last few years reading a lot about the brain, not just to understand what doctors were saying about my mother, but because it seems to have been my lot in life to have to pick up the pieces for people who have damaged brains. 

I don’t think you are your body, though the popular adulation of tall, slim, white young women with long hair seems to be causing difficulties for  many girls who do not have that physical appearance.  I do think you might be your brain because that is where your construct of the world lives and where you make the decisions about how to interact with the world of your perception.  A healthy brain, working well, is one of the wonders of the world and must be one of the greatest because it is responsible for all the other wonders that have been made by people.

A brain damaged by disease, at birth, by accident or by substance abuse is a difficult thing to deal with.  I cannot admire enough the people who choose to make the care of people with damaged brains, their work.  In my life, so far, it has been my lot to have to care for and/or interact with three of those four categories.  I have not had to deal with a person with significant head injuries, though perhaps if there is acknowledgement from the outset that damage has taken place, no one is expecting ‘normal’ behaviour.

I do know a young person born with an incomplete brain and I have taught children whose brains, either poorly nurtured or damaged before they were born by parental substance abuse, were never going to reach their potential and would struggle just to live independently.  I knew Downs Syndrome children and married into a family where there was an inherited gene responsible for the condition, there were a number of unsuccessful pregnancies and some children with the condition who survived, one to maturity.  Such children are a constant source of worry to good parents, especially ageing parents.  In the course of all Dolls’ House activities, I met quite a few families with these types of problems, both as collectors and exhibitors and interviewed a fair few.  The Dolls’ House is the family where the maker calls the shots and ensures that everyone is well and happy and beautiful and has everything they possibly need.  When I began miniaturising, I thought it was because we had failed to sell the house and move to the new town with the commuting OH.  It took some years before I twigged that it was about the people, though you’d think as I knew I was adopted and didn’t have people of my own I’d have realised earlier.  Some miniaturists have been so badly treated and have had such experiences at the hands of others that their houses are devoid of people; they just have perfect rooms and tidy, clean furniture without any pesky people to mess things up.  Queen Mary, who made the House that inspired the nation between the wars, doesn’t even have a servant in her house, though there is a snail that is reputed to move around the garden when no one is looking.

When I began I used all the evenings in the week when the OH was down the pub to miniaturise and, as that was every evening, except one, I got a lot done.  Thirty years later I am still alone every evening, making dolls and I still don’t think much of some real people, especially those who destroy good working brains by idleness, by dehydration, by alcohol abuse and then use what’s left to harangue me.  I thought that had finished with my mother but apparently not.

So to the things I love, which are, of course the dolls.  I have spent a week pouring 48th scale, three days cleaning and  the kiln has just gone off.  I did have a huge wastage rate, about half of what I poured.  My right arm is still not strong, picking dolls up to clean was a bit hit and miss and when my arm got tired I was clumsy and broke dolls at a great rate.  I had not realised just how dextrous I previously had been.  But two kiln shelves full later there will be 48th scale dolls for all the people who have been asking.  For the next few days I will be china painting and then assembling, so, if it was you asking, I’ll be dressing soon, all requests considered.

There might be a slight hiccup.  The current conditions of stress have given me some physical symptoms which need to be explored surgically.  It would have been this week, as I have been fast tracked, but it has been put back a week by the hospital.  As usual I am so grateful they are helping.  I am doing everything I can to help myself, I am working out, I am positive thinking, I am making dolls.  I should be making Christmas cards but I don’t have the heart.

Over the years I have collected some friends who have also had lives that were not easy.  I used to say to them it was proof that they were the hero in their own story because, if you’ve ever watched an adventure film, you’ll notice that a lot happens to the hero and it’s never of the ‘hero goes shopping, gets some great bargains, goes home and has toast and tea’ variety.  In reality, of course, the Die Hard hero would have done exactly that in a dirty vest, years ago; Indiana Jones would be gibbering to himself in a care facility for the completely loopy otherwise-abled with a selection of interesting tropical diseases and Lord Greystokes would be sitting quietly in the corner of his cage trying to stick a banana up his nose.

Would that real life were shoved into two and a half action packed hours with popcorn.  Reality, I have discovered. is twenty four long hours in every single day and, whilst nothing lasts forever, maybe, under the onslaught of it all, neither will you.

Will your hero survive and triumph?  Will I be last woman standing?  Will I break anything else and be left incarcerated with ranting all day because I’m still not allowed to drive my car?  How will the dolls come out of the kiln? 

For the answers, or very possibly, a load of new questions, as ever, watch this space and, I would like to add, one of the things I love is that you are reading.  (Otherwise, you know, I’m just muttering away to myself.)

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Once I’ve got the dolls I might begin the countdown to the next show ( which is the 70th) or is that tempting fate?

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The Joy of Doing Stuff.

For the last few days I have felt like me again.  Not 100% me, about 89%, I think.  I have been pouring porcelain.  Oh what a joy.  I’ve been doing the 48th scale dolls, which is an act of faith, of hope and also of desperation.  If you are used to doing stuff and making stuff and you do very little stuff for four and a half years and then nothing at all, when you had got through the previous few years by promising yourself an explosion of doing stuff, well then you get very desperate and frustrated.

But finally I got the porcelain slip out and got started.  I immediately encountered a difficulty; a gallon of slip is a heavy thing, normally wielded with two working arms and the hands at the end of them.  Three days in, the OH knocked a poured tray full of dolls on the floor, then this morning he started cooking all over the kitchen, and when I tidied up after him, trying to chivvy him out of the way I did the same thing but worse, I stood on several and killed them dead.

However, I do still have my fine motor skills and can still pour and stop and know how thick my slip, how turned my scalpel, how green my valley and I am more back than Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Finally something going right.

’Tis getting better too.  If you were one of many interested in the decoupage, I should tell you that tomorrow on craft TV www.hochanda.com before Leonie is let loose at eleven with new Stamperia products, Dali, the stockist of them, is there at 10 with more new things from Stamperia and then Leonie is back in the afternoon at 2.  That sounds like a solid three hours of lovely things being demonstrated by people who know what they are doing to me.  I will be here with my cup of tea.  Times are British though the shows are available afterwards on Rewind.  However, I have noticed that shows having a majority of items which are mainly sold out during the show tend not to be repeated.  Shopping channels on TV can reach millions of people and therefore undercut the prices of individual shops.  To do this they get a huge wodge of whatever it is they are selling and sell it and then that’s your lot, goodnight Vienna.

The principles of economy of scale were explained to me long ago by the lady who at the time was the principle importer of dolls house accessories from the far East and one of the first to have a factory working for her and making her designs.  It was a beneficial arrangement.  For the factory workers, mainly young women, the work was lighter, cleaner and better paid than most other jobs available in the area.  Although the furniture was hand made, doing it on production lines meant improved efficiency.  Raw materials could be bought in bulk and even with shipping and packaging costs, the items could be retailed in the UK at very reasonable prices and still make a profit for the shopkeeper.  The workers did not necessarily understand the foreign and historical items of furniture they were making, they just saw the photo and made a little one like that.  There was one occasion, when sent a photo of a wardrobe, without the note saying: this way up, they made it upside down.  The lady received a consignment of several thousand wardrobes standing on their pediments, with the top shelf, top cupboard and the hanging rail at the bottom and a twiddly decoration firmly glued to the ‘top’ because it looked a bit plain. She was still quite annoyed with herself when she told me the tale a couple of years later.

This of course is the beauty of craft TV.  You can see which way is up.  I have to be honest here and say I buy more than I actually get round to doing.  When I worked for Dolls House magazines I did once ask how many Dolls House kits people had under the sofa.  The replies kept the ‘letters to the editor’ page going for months.

Setting out hopefully is a wonderful thing; excuse me while I go back into the kitchen to pour over my work and be happy to do it.

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The watching for the way and the joy of the journey.

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Lost Victorian novels 7

Returning to the loft to squint up the chimney at the old penguin nest, irritatingly just beyond my reach, my eye alighted upon the bag full of lost Victorian novels that I had bought from the antique dealer in town.  Riffling through, I came upon these slightly exciting few pages which, according to the frontispiece attached with a ribbon, seem to be the last chapter of:

The Man in the Iron Underpants

A tale of confinement, deceitful identity, miraculous simulacrum and the besnatched bestowment of a birth right.

Chapter 26

The eyes of the minister constantly volleyed between the two faces.  Which was which?  Who was the rightful Prince Pomeroy of Woomera and which his identical twin cousin, Matthew Sock?

Behind him the cook turned her rotund frame betwixt the perplexing twosome.  Next to her the boot boy, mouth agape and dribbling slightly, swivelling like a lawn sprinkler, completed the astounded trio.  He was the first to break the silence, ‘I never seen nuffink like it!’ he opined, ‘Like two peas in a pod!’

It’s amazing,’  announced the cook, ‘when you fink that one of them has been locked up in the dark since birf for twenty-six years, whilst the ovver has been abroad, free as a bird for forty-eight years and yet they are like two dumplins in me soup, so they are.’

It is,’ agreed the minister, ‘utterly astounding.  Perhaps we can differentiate them by their preferences.’  He turned to the tall bald man on the right in the purple silk tights, slashed puffed red velvet shorts and golden cape.  ‘Tell me sire, ‘ he ventured, ‘knowing, as I do, your dietary requirements, would you eat a chocolate biscuit?’

The ensemble waited with baited breath.

Eventually the right hand man spoke, ‘Too right, Cobber, I wouldn’t feed it to the Kookaburra, that’s for sure!’

I see,’  the minister turned to the short man standing to the right of the man on the right.  ‘And what,’  he enquired, ‘would you do with a chocolate biscuit?’

The man stroked his long ginger beard thoughtfully.  Finally brushing some ginger hairs from his Black Watch tartan jodhpurs he announced, ‘If oi faand one, oi would ’ave it in a flash, ’oo wouldn’t, Guv?’

Amazing!’ cried the cook, ‘they would each eat a chocolate biscuit!  How unusual!’

The minister tried another tack.  ‘One of you, ‘he asserted, ‘will have the birthmark of the rightful heir; it is a mole in the shape of a crown on the left breast.  I require you to bare your chest, at once.’

The tall, bald man tossed back his golden cape.  Unbuttoning his purple velvet shirt he revealed his chest.

That’s no ’elp,’ said the boot boy, regarding the tattoo of  three crowns, a bunch of keys, a dolphin jumping through a hoop, a skull and crossbones and six hounds chasing a fox downwards emblazoned on the chest of the tall man.  ‘I bet,’ said the boot boy, ‘I know where the foxes ’ole is tattooed!’

‘Aha!’ exclaimed the minister. studiously ignoring the boot boy.   Pointing at the four foot ten fellow he declaimed: ‘If your chest is bare, it’s him!’

The midget undid his tartan waistcoat and spotted shirt.  Lifting his vest and moving his beard aside, he revealed a freshly inked panorama of tiny crowned mermaids in a synchronised swimming display, watched by a rock full of very small coroneted octopi.

‘Unbelievable!’ cried the cook, ‘Where else in the land could you find a man with tattoos on his chest?’

The minister sighed, ‘What an impasse!  One is patently a potential prince, the other a pretentious imposter.  But which is which?’

Suddenly the doors flew open to admit the Dowager Queen Auntie, walking backwards dragging a horseshoe magnet, half the size of herself, on a tea trolley bristling with breastplates.

‘Enough!’ she cried, ‘if anyone can tell my sister’s son from his cousin, I can!  After all I bore one of them,’ she asserted scanning the faces before her with perplexity.  ‘Is it you?’ she interrogated, seizing the nearest figure.

‘No Maaaam, not me, I’m the cook.’

‘Oh, sorry’ she relinquished her grasp to grab again, ‘you?’

‘Gerroff,’ said the boot boy, pointing,  ‘it is them what must be chose between.’

‘Oh gosh yes.  You!  You with the long grey hair, bushy ginger beard and black silk pom poms on your hiking boots, do noses run in your family?’

‘In the cold, daalin’ dun’t they all?’

‘What of your family?  You, bald fellow with the didgeridoo?  Do ears twitch in your family?’

‘Fair dinkum, Sheila!’

The first minister shook his head. ‘Impossible, your Auntieship, they simply cannot be told apart!’

‘Right!’ she cried, swinging the tea trolley round in a circle, picking up a light clanging of monocles, teaspoons and the coffee pot, ‘I have had enough of the uncertainty!  The throne of Woomera must be secured once and for all.  I will know which one is the Man in the Iron Underpants!’  So saying she grasped the handles of the trolley afresh, gathered speed and ran at

Sadly the rest of this baffling tale is missing, though happily a local handyman did manage eventually to retrieve the penguin nest from the chimney.  So the fire has stopped smoking and there have been no more surprise egg bombs setting the hearth rug alight.  All things considered, a beneficial result.

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Yesterday is resting until it turns into history.  Yesterday is the tomorrow you were worried about last week.  Yesterday and yesterday and yesterday rolls back this petty pace until the first syllable of before there were tape recorders.  Yesterday I was taller than I will be tomorrow though not as shrivelled as I will be next week.  Say Yes to yesterday, Ow to tomorrow and Od to today.*

*But only if you want to.

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Rice paper

When I was a child rice paper was the stuff you found on the bottom of macaroons.  My Aunt (the one who was the fabulous patissier, which in the North East in the Fifties was pronounced: good at cakes) made wonderful macaroons – crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside and an almond on the top.  These days they are pronounced macarons and come in strange colours and have too much filling in a taste you can’t quite indentify.  They are much smaller, less satisfying and much more fattening because they come in boxes of twelve.  The macaroons my Aunt made were put away after tea, in a tin, on a high shelf.  Food in general was cleared away in this manner in the days when not everyone had a fridge but I do remember being allowed to eat the leftover rice paper.

The rice paper I used to cover the scrapbook box is a different proposition, I wouldn’t eat it, I don’t think it’s edible. But it is very pretty.  You do need to get a grip on yourself to rip it up for decoupage.

I first came across craft rice paper when the use of it was demonstrated by Leonie Pujol, the artist who currently works on craft TV channel Hochanda.  www.hochanda.com   She has two hours on her own, called Let Leonie Loose, demonstrating amazing stuff on a Wednesday.  The hours (British time) are 11am and 2pm.  You can watch previous shows on the Rewind facility.

I will be glued to this week’s offering if my hospital appointment is finished in time because this week unprinted rice paper is one of the featured products.  I have already sent for mine, naturally.  Leonie went on a course in foreign abroad to learn how to use the beautiful Stamperia papers and has subsequently held workshops and may do so again, read all about it at www.leoniepujol.com

Meanwhile, if you are bursting to have a go, the British online retailer  www.daliartmarket.co.uk is the stockist for the Stamperia products; be warned this is one of those sites at which you will spend hours window shopping, if you are arty, and you are likely to want everything.

Having read my own writing I’ve had an epiphany – it’s the fridge that is making me fat!

For many years my Aunt only had a larder and she was tiny.  When I lived in Aylesbury I had a fridge and a larder and I was quite slim.  Once I moved here and got a fridge freezer – pow!  Instant weight gain. (Over twenty years).  (The weight gain was so distressing I was obliged to console myself with chocolate)  (And cakes)

It’s probably just as well you can’t eat the arty type of rice paper, I’d be found with all paint, no decoupage and a partly chewed cherub stuck to my face.

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If you have glue all over your fingers chocolate buttons are the best bet because you can tip them in, out of the packet and not get chocolate on your work, either. ( This is for information only.)

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Stuck up.

Decoupage is an interesting term which broadly covers most activities involving cutting bits of paper out of their original source and sticking them somewhere else.  In card making it can involve repeated cutting of the same duplicated image in decreasing surface area and mounting them in a glued stack to produce a three dimensional effect.  A much older version involves cutting out images to cover an entire surface.  One of the first items I bought when we moved into this open-plan house was a Victorian scrap screen, a three fold room divider covered with brightly coloured paper pictures, some sold for the purpose in sheets.  The other side of the panels is monochrome, which years of existing in rooms with coal fires has reduced to a not unpleasant ginger and brown.  The pictures for this have been cut out of magazines of the time.  When I first got the screen I spent many happy months sourcing Victorian scraps and illustrated books falling to bits to mend the holes.

Now I am having a lot of fun using printed rice papers from Italian firm Stamperia.  The papers fray very nicely but do not disintegrate under the onslaught of glue below and a layer of glue as varnish above.  This enables me to make smooth edges in transition from one piece of paper to another, a facility which would have benefitted the scrap screen; much of the damage had been caused by paper ungluing at the edges.

You have already seen some of the decoupage in my trial effort.

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The mummy’s sarcophagus is covered with the rice paper.  It is glued to a black card base, so the whole effect is both old and rich which was exactly what I wanted.  I was also able, once the item was dry to add metallic foil rub-ons on the surface which are similar to those in a line down the plan black card in the middle, looking very like rub-on-o-glyphs.

What I learned from the experiment is how long it takes the glue above and below rice paper to dry.  This is a craft which takes patience, the old ‘stop now you idiot, you are only spoiling it, go to bed and see what it’s like in the morning’ is the right attitude.  You can, of course, blast it with a heat gun if you are really impatient but I, who have been schooled by the porcelain, which takes its own time, believe in letting things settle.  You can never be sure when things dried by artificial heat are going to go curly on you, or even, step out of the natron and stalk the land.

So the next project took several days.

After I had recovered in the spring from matters arising, I took all the old photographs I found and put them in a scrapbook.  It was a big book and I added pages but there were actual items such as baby shoes and my father’s spectacles, which made the book burst at the seams and fan out a lot.  So I decided to take the cardboard box which the scrapbook album had arrived in through the post and decorate it so it could contain the album and all the bits of memorabilia for future generations to enjoy or take to the dump in one handy container.

First I painted the box with acrylic paint, inside and out.  When this was dry (overnight, stop Jane, enough, enough, go to bed, go now!) (One more streak.)  (Ooh, pretty!) (Stop, stop.)  (One more, oh my arm is hurting.)  (Stop, idiot, stop.)…..

The following day I added a long ribbon glued and stapled on right round the box to tie it together.  I used very strong double sided sticky tape.

PB040346  I then started to glue on pieces from the paper pads that match the rice papers and then, finally the rice papers.  You can get a soft edge by drawing the line you want with water on a brush, on the paper then tear with a soft feathery edge along the wet line that you have drawn.  After a day or so I had this.

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As you can see I revived the old calligraphy skills to make a title, mainly to avoid the ‘what the heck is this?’ when I have lost my marbles completely.

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I continued adding.  I found and photocopied a picture of me, aged 14, and coloured it with alcohol markers and added that and then doodles and rubber stamped on top when the glue was dry.  I used Ranger matte medium for gluing because although wet it is quite viscose and dry in terms of not soaking into the cardboard and making that soggy.

The finished item is quite strong.

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I found as I went along that it was worth keeping scrap paper handy and experimenting before adding to the item.  Some inks will not stamp over the medium, some glues will lift ink, some pens will skid on a surface and so on.  Just have a try before you commit, although one of the great saving graces of this medium is that you can decoupage over anything you hate when you come downstairs next morning to see how you are getting on.  You could also paint over a mistake and then decoupage on top.  The rice paper is wafer thin but strong.  There are many patterns to choose from, as you can see I have chosen to incorporate faces with eyes looking at you from the past because that’s what it feels like, reading the album.

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Here is the finished article, tied with a bow, very fetching.  Here is the actual object with all the junk inside the box, tied with another ribbon going the other way just to keep it all in there.

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The past, laid to rest.  (Or it will be if the solicitors get on with it.)

Here’s looking at you, and moving on.

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The joy of the future is that no one has mucked it up yet.

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Blog tracking, big pictures and huge babies.

As promised the S&H did get on to the blog tracking, signed me up to a service that you could sign on to that would tell you when I had posted, all was well, birds sang, rainbows, no bills in the post and then we hit a snag.  In  order for me to do this I had to provide my postal address upfront on my website and I wouldn’t do it.  Friends and customers already have this information; when I get the shop up to speed again you will find if you make an order, which you can do with any plastic card from a bank through PayPal, to which you do not have to belong, that the order arrives with a hand made card from me, a letter in it, any necessary details about the doll and my address and phone number in case you don’t love it as much as you thought you might.  In 25 years of selling my dolls only one came back for a slight running repair that was my fault and one that had been dropped on concrete, sustaining brain injuries.  Both were mended free with love and have been fine ever since.

However putting my address out there for anyone on the web to read………..I think not.  It is apparent from the real news and the fake news that not everyone who keeps up to date with social media is as lovely as regular readers of this blog.  So I am sorry, I had hoped to provide this service.  Regular readers did provide a couple of suggestion, Bloglovin does look remarkably simple to me and I have no doubt that you could find similar services with a search engine.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I have been busy.  We have a small social media group in the local community; about three weeks ago there was a request posted on it for decorations for a Halloween Ball in aid of the local hospice.  I thought this was a good idea and it sounded like good physiotherapy too, so I volunteered to make some cardboard pictures.  It did take the whole three weeks and I did have days where I simply could not make the XYZ scissors work and stuff like that but I finally finished on Friday and emailed the lady who had asked.  A few days previously I had seen the ball advertised and realised it was going to be at the poshest local swanky swanky hotel, a fact that I’m glad I didn’t know at the outset.  I was thinking village hall, not local Hilton.  Anyhow, the lady rang and turned up to collect, these.

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And this one

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They are a tribute to my sad love of shopping craft channels and are all made with stuff bought postally; the backing and frames are made from the packaging that all the other stuff came in.  They are huge scale for me, look –

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that’s me there holding them.

I did have the usual misgivings such as: why did I not keep my big mouth shut? and also: can I do this and even: can I do this in the time allotted and: why did I sit and watch that stupid TV show when I could have been getting on with it and so forth.  I think it is known collectively as the artist’s dilemma.  When the lady appeared to collect them she squealed, so I knew it had all been worthwhile and even more so when she said her father had been in the hospice.

It would have been nice to go to the ball but the S&H and DIL came to deposit the GS (Grandson, new character to the blog, six months old with the body of a much older all-in-wrestler and very cute.)  They were off to the engagement party of a friend and hoped I would baby sit.   Well they were hoping we would both baby sit especially as the Physio had told me not to pick up the giant baby but needless to say the OH felt the call of the pub and went leaving me and the GS alone together.

We had a very much better evening than anyone could have had at a ball, engagement party or pub.  The GS has the temperament of the OH’s father.  My father-in-law woke up laughing, whistled all the time and was one of the easiest people to get on with that I have ever met.  Considering my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s, from which she died in her early fifties, and his job, which was fireman and his navy service in the war which was eventful and occasionally traumatic he had plenty of reasons not to be cheerful but I don’t think I ever saw him frown.  He was naturally happy and so is the GS his GGS.

The GS thought the flowers on my shoes were very interesting.  He liked the toys I had bought him.  He thought the slippers with Santa on them were tasty and the trees in the garden were fantastic.  He liked his milk, his banana and peach and being changed.  He liked his new teeshirt and a cuddle and bouncing his legs on the floor and chewing the changing mat.  He enjoyed the children’s TV cartoon a lot but when the OH put on a dreadful war film with aeroplanes neeowm neeowm and bombs badoosh bang neeowm ack ack ack arrgh bang –  he was utterly transfixed.  He sat open mouthed and smiling, bottle cast aside in favour of drinking in the rush to the planes, the whoosh through the skies, the over to you red leader one, the Ay say old chap, the whole nine yards, he loved it.  And for lo, there was my father-in-law back again, genetically speaking. 

Why do they love that stuff?  I have no idea.  Is it suitable for a baby?  Absolutely not.  As soon as the OH had departed so did the cowboys, sorry aviators and all was peace and quiet.  We had a lovely evening and when the S&H and DIL came back so had they.

Grandchildren are wonderful and, best of all, you get to give them back.

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Even without a postal address you can contact me. You can email me just by doing the leave a comment thing here, I read all emails and respond to most unless they are spam and get filtered out or in very foreign languages where my computer skills are not up to accessing a different character base and being sure I was saying what I hoped I was saying.  Despite Star Trek, given social media and International relations, I think we are still some way off a universal translator on this planet, never mind any others.

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