No Time to waste.

No time to waste.

If I’m sounding like the White Rabbit, it’s because I have no time to waste. It’s the last room tomorrow.

Finally after a year and a quarter of house makeover, I’m on to the final room.  Those television shows where they transform the lives of the participants (I nearly said contestants) by waltzing in and remaking and completely redecorating some suburban dump in the three days that will just about fit into an hour long TV show with advert breaks, are a complete lie.  Occasionally they do feature neighbours giving builders biscuits. That was true.  The local supermarket reported a drop in profits when I stopped buying builder’s biscuits.  The housekeeping money suddenly seemed more plentiful too.

Finally the last room.  It’s my bedroom.  This bit is as bad as tipping a cat out of the basket on the radiator. The stuff I have assembled in my room is beyond belief.

Just like every other room I have done it properly.  Nothing has been moved around in its box and dumped somewhere else.  Everything has been gone through – charity shop, repurpose, reuse, chuck.  I have found correspondence from miniaturists dating back to the last millennium.  Much of which I have managed to chuck or recycle.  Some has gone into new wallets, labelled.   (To assist with chucking it at a later date do you think?  Me neither.)

When the OH was a County Emergency Planning Officer he used to annoy the workforce effectively by handing people piles of stuff with attached sticky notes with ‘PS deal’ written on them.  Just as well I never worked for him, I’d have made him eat them.

Anyway, I have PS dealt with everything, nothing has gone undealt.  I know what the junk is in detail and I am still keeping it.

Labelled.

So today it’s furniture moving, and cutting off the edges of the carpet (I have ordered a new one.)  I shall be glad to see the back of this carpet chosen by my mother.  I am having the deep blue one I originally wanted.

I am paying decorators to do the painting and paper hanging.  I have had eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenuff.

I have had a conversation with a surgeon about my intestines, and will receive appointments through the post for various procedures to find out what exactly is wrong and before these and the cataracts I wish to be back in my own bedroom, with the house done.

Next time we go into lockdown I’m planning to be faffing around doing pointless crafts like everyone else.

But first my sock drawer.

There is only one question.

The week before last I bought the stuff to have a go at rag rug making. A craft I confess I have not tried yet (probably the only one.)

Shall put my old socks in the bag for textile recycling when the tip opens up again?

Or shall I make my old socks into a rug?  It will, after all, still be socks underfoot.

(There is a possibility I have experienced too much of the makeover lark and have gone completely varnish and gutters.)

Children’s socks as a rug – that would be cute.

Would it?

Get a grip woman! (I can, I have ordered fresh gripper strips, if they can do it on the telly, so can I.)

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Sawdust

Are you an Autumn enthusiast?

I am in a qualified sort of way.  It might be something to do with getting older but I do see Autumn as a sort of death of nature.

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The cannas are doing a last hurrah.  These are last year’s planting, the new ones from this summer haven’t established yet.

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The dahlias, similarly, are showing off still.

However, a couple of weeks ago I became aware of a fine crop of toadstools on the front lawn.  These burgeoned in lines from the flowering cherry in the middle of the lawn towards the hedge.

I called in the expert on trees, according to the flyer he had put through the front door.

He arrived, yes it had flowered in spring, and yes the leaves had been sparse in the summer.

It hangs right over the community library on the drive.  Small branches have dropped off.

So the removal was booked and came a week early.  The flowering tree is chips in a skip.

But when they got to the trunk, cutting it into big logs that were too big for the chipper, I went and had a look.  Inside the tree was sawdust.  The whole core was rotting from the inside out.  All that was left was a thin ring of wood round a dead centre.  It had turned to sawdust on its own.  I didn’t know trees did that.

I shall leave the lawn over the winter so the roots can rot down.  There will be more toadstools, everything will decay.

Is it a metaphor, or just an old tree?

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The removal cost nearly six hundred quid.  Blimey.  I would have a wake if I could afford it, with less than six people from the same household, standing two metres apart in the garden, drinking responsibly and if anyone sneezed in their mask we could all leg it across the empty lawn and on to the pavement.

Autumn.

Are you a fan of it, or not?

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Nikki’s (very small) miniatures.

Middle age, I often think, is a bit like jam.  There you are sandwiched in between your elders and your children, trying to care for both in some very sticky situations.

Nikki compensates by miniaturising and is firmly of the opinion that the settee is for projects in progress, which her family work around because Nikki is taking good care of everyone.

Her preferred scale of working is one thirty sixth, dictated by the need to make homes for Tim Burton key chain figures.  Victor and Victoria’s daughter is a skeleton girl but Nikki chopped her head off and made a new one.  She uses Milliput and air drying clay to make many items because of scale constraints.  This can cause unusual difficulties – unable to find a bathroom set in the right size, Nikki was left holding a bath she had modelled for an hour and a half to stop it sagging while it cured.

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Nikki does love pink and pretty but tends towards dark and Gothic.  She was still at school when the Addams Family film escaped and is a great fan of all things Tim Burton.

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As Nikki is working in small scales, weight is a consideration.  Although she has collections of cardboard notebook backs, wood offcuts and metal miniatures, she also uses mediums that are difficult to control in miniature. These dogs are made of shrink plastic motes, glued together

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as are these tasty Battenbergs, glued to glazed paper plates.

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Curtains and soft furnishings in this Corpse Bride House

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are made from air drying clay.  This is very tricky in miniature but has the advantage, for Nikki, who does a really expert paint job on the clay, of being light so that it does not disturb the balance of the small shelf unit on which the house is based.

The rooms are beautiful and so detailed.  In the girl’s bedroom

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Nikki painted a purchased dolls’ house to go with all the toys she made from scratch.

The pink cabinets in the kitchen

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are a nod to Selina Kyle, who, as Catwoman, has a pink cabinet in her kitchen.

Nikki likes to buy laser-cut dolls but add ears (it’s all about the detail) before painting. Just take a look at these wonderful miniatures, see how small they are.

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Here in the sewing room, the Pin Cushion Queen is a Tim Burton Character, made by Nikki in Milliput.  It is sitting on a purchased chair.

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The chest, shelf and sewing reel rack are card, the tailor’s dummy is clay on a cocktail stick, the basket is braid round a card form.

These miniature dioramas are very engaging.  The love and work poured into them, is apparent in the beguiling result.

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The wonderfully miniature miniatures made By Nikki are proof of the therapeutic benefits of taking time to cut the difficulties of life down to size, to be able to return to reality, refreshed and renewed by happy hours spent with the very tiny thoroughly deceased.

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If you have minis that deserve a wider audience please email me by clicking on the link below.  If we all go skidding back into lockdown it could do us no end of good to have another house to live in, other than the one we’re stuck in.  If you want a different life, get out the glue and make it.


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Sylvia’s room.

I am aware that regular readers here are usually creative people.

If you suspect that further time spent at home could be looming in the future, you may appreciate creative inspiration from other readers.

Sylvia makes lots of room boxes and still quilts, although other hobbies have fallen by the wayside.  She has piles of stuff everywhere, in the normal way, and, during the 2020 lockdown came over Elizabethan and made this lovely bed chamber.

Sylvias Elizabethan

There is such a lot of work in this wonderful room, which is, of course, what makes it so believable.

The room is built on an MDF base.  Sylvia used to buy furniture but now makes most of it.  She has good online skills too, having printed black work, flooring, marble and tapestry.  As a true miniaturist she utilises acrylic paint and plenty of lolly sticks, coffee stirrers and so on.  I never met a miniaturist who thought anything other than that the best price is free.

The wood panelling was a problem until Sylvia decided to paint MDF walls brown and use coffee stirrers as panels.  She visited bathroom showrooms online to find marble to print for the washstand, though she isn’t sure if there were Tudor washstands or not.  I think if it’s your work of art all such decisions are up to the artist.

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Sylvia turned a bed base she already had into a four poster and decorated it with die cuts.  She made the hangings from her fabric stash using a fuse wire needle she made herself for the sewing. The tapestry is a photo, printed on to velvet paper, then distressed with a wire brush.

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Sylvia makes mice, with sewed, glued and beaded clothing.  Elizamouse the First is wearing a lace ruff.  Other items were purchased online or magicked from the stash.

The room is impressive and made without a trip to a miniatures shop, craft fair or any such outing.  In this respect it is true lockdown art.  It is approximately twelfth scale, though Sylvia makes to fit the latest mouse, which is very mice of her, I am sure they are all happy.

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How lovely to be a little Tudor mouse with your very own room.  How nice to be the kind of person who produces a work of art in a time of difficulty.

If you are one of us and would like to send me a photo of your art to inspire us all, I’ll get back to you, if you write in English.  I am not clever on a computer and can not get those translation programmes to work for me.  Fortunately we all speak art and in times of trouble we can be at home, working away but together online, inspiring each other.  Sylvia says she doesn’t aim for perfection but just enjoys the making, which sounds to me like a pretty good benchmark.

JaneLaverick.com was eleven years old last month, created by request for miniaturists, artists and collectors.  Join in, there’s no judgement here, we just enjoy the making.

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Going up the walls.

I have finished going up the walls.  It took a couple of weeks because I had to have enforced breaks when my metal arm seized up.

me painting

I don’t suppose Michelangelo had the same problem.

(If you have low self esteem I’d recommend painting a frieze – instant delusions of grandeur!)

Actually he did, he kept a diary, complaining constantly about drips of paint in his eyes.  His first lot went mouldy and he tried to use the mould as a get-out. 

When I was immersed in dolls’ housering I discovered that replicating work of the past, in miniature, answered many questions about architecture.  In the main the answer was: because that’s what they had to do to make it work.  At the foot of this column I will answer the interesting question: Why are all the figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel outlined in black? I was amazed when I went there.  It gives the entire work of art a fantastic cartoon-like quality to modern eyes. (And I do mean Tom and Jerry.)

So anyway, not the Sistine Chapel but would you like a look?

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It starts along the RSJ that separates the dining room from the lounge. Here I strictly stuck to books and your suggestions, pencil pots and so on.  And the stencils I had drawn and cut.

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There’s a bunch of keys going round the corner and a sock monkey.  Then I did exactly the same as Michelangelo, abandoned the plan and did what I liked.

For some time, thinking endlessly about books, I was struck by a notable feature of literature.  Namely that the best drawn characters transcend the pages and take on a life of their own. So I began to add the characters who have jumped out of the pages at me.  Here is Gollum.  Yes we love Frodo and his friends and assorted wise and kind elders and magical creatures but it is poor gibbering Gollum I love the best.  He encapsulates the nature of addiction and stands for a universal truth that we all recognise and find echoed in ourselves, which is really what great writing is about, I think.

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Then there’s a musical box, which a couple of people suggested and I do have on shelves.  Then there’s Mr Toad just about to get into his shiny yellow motor car.  I do love Toad.  He is utterly obnoxious and reminds me of my mother. Loud, crass, fearless, tactless, hypnotic.

On the end of that wall there are inhabited books, a tribute to Colin Thompson, who I missed until Megan told me about him.  Up at the top of the wall the detail is too small to see well, which is why none of the books are titled.  And there is an owl money box.

The window wall will be covered with curtains, so the next painted wall is the one behind the sofa.  Here reigns the wonderful Nigel Molesworth imparting the nollidge you need to akwire to keep the brane klene and be topp.  This 1950s hero, written by Geoffrey Willans and drawn by Ronald Searle, was my childhood icon.  Not only did I long to be subversive, I too went to a posh school with huge amounts of healthy sports, strange swots and unfathomable parents.  I had days when I felt Nigel Molesworth was the only person in the universe I had anything in common with at all.

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Next to him is a scene from my unpublished book in which Socks the cat climbs the ectoplasm net into the biplane and then there is James Bond.  If a character ever escaped, it is James Bond.  He is a billion trillion pound, multi-person phenomenon.  He is the absolute embodiment of everything the red-blooded Western male aspires to be. He is suave, cool, good-looking, strong, brave, daring, successful, on the side of good, always gets the girl and has killer throw-away lines.  I don’t live too far away from Daniel Craig, whom I once saw cycling down my road, wearing a balaclava.  I am quite certain it would have been the meeting that moved mountains, had he not been cycling quite so quickly and me been digging out the dandelions prior to planting 20 mid-season tulip bulbs.  You see? He is actually a middle aged actor and I am a very (very) late middle aged gardener.  It’s the power of the character, that’s what it is.

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Next up Alice holding the ‘drink me’ bottle, discovers a small sized door and wishes to go through it.  A miniaturist no less.  I wonder how many girls have been called Alice because of this Alice?  My granddaughter’s middle name is Alice, for this reason.

Then there’s Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg off for a stroll in Lancre Forest with Greebo.  Oh I do love Greebo.  I was spoiled for choice with Terry Pratchett, few writers have authored such phalanxes of memorable characters.

Here we are going round the bend

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First there is Matthew Shardlake, CJ Sansom’s Tudor Lawyer.  I think this character is hardly beginning.  I do hope he gets into film before the author is much older.

Last, but not least, Mr D’Arcy fresh from the duckpond.  Oh yeah.  Colin Firth says he has been a curse, which might be his own fault for draping himself with duckweed so effectively.

And that’s it, my oeuvre.

The OH hates it with a passion.

I am not going to do the doileys, I think that’s it.

It used up a whole box of acrylic paints and two pots of gold. (Paint.)

The reason Michelangelo outlined his people in black was that he got down from the ladder after a couple of days, squinted upwards and said:  You can’t see them from down here, I’ll have to do something about that.*

So, what do you think?  Rubbish?  Not far off a public convenience wall?  Like a kid’s bedroom (this is the OH’s opinion.)?

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Hmm?

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* I’m extrapolating but, you know.**

**And, of course he said it in Italian.  But you can imagine the gestures.  It’s quite annoying, when you suspect you have perpetrated art, to climb down and find you can’t see it.  Sciocchezzo!***

***What do you think of it so far?





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A happy week.

Last weekend should have been Miniatura, which is always a happy week.  It lifts me, cheers me, gets me out among those I regard as blessed, being the folk who miniaturise the world and all their troubles.  But it did not occur.

However, that saying about doors and windows – when one shuts another opens – turned out to be wonderfully true.

Early in the week a lady stopped by to ask if I would like a lot of books for the community library, as she was clearing out the loft.  I accepted with alacrity and two big bags full of books arrived on the drive.  The next day the OH was out in the garden when another lady stopped by with exactly the same question and result.

I took myself off to the local hardware shop, where I found a lovely metal three tier trolley, perfect for the books. It was so desirable that the one in the shop had been thoughtfully glued to the wall.  Taking my queue from this, and the theft of the first metal table, I requested assistance from the OH who helpfully sunk a huge metal ring into the drive, and with the addition of a padlock and chain there is now a modern take on a mediaeval chained library on the drive. It really looks the biz, there is still room for a plastic table with big books and children’s books behind it and I now have enough books to rotate the display and probably keep us all going through the next lockdown and beyond.

I went off to the opticians for drops in my eye so the optometrist could look at the back of my eye.  The eye that suffered the blow, which was my good eye, has responded by very quickly growing a type of cataract and I am now borderline for driving and have been referred for cataract surgery to save my sight.

I came home trying to console myself, reminding myself that at other times in history and in other locations on the globe, I would just lose my sight and to be glad that I have enough inherited money left over to have the surgery privately.  I did know I was struggling to see, so do you, if you’ve noticed the typos.  On a bad day I squint to see the words on the screen.

But as I came back, weighed down with dark words, determined to stay positive and grateful, it suddenly got a lot easier.  For lo! A big cardboard box of crafting things as a thank you from Hochanda for the lengthy birthday card, was waiting in the porch.  I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled.  They really didn’t have to do that, because I didn’t win.  There are stamps in the box, dies, paint pens, enough card to make all of my Christmas cards, bottles of glue, ink pads and some lovely little glass rectangles, which you are supposed to put in memory albums but which look like real dolls’ house glass windows to me.

The box was huge and so was my delight.

I instantly used the black paint pen on the frieze, of which more next time.  I shall use every single thing, and the box.

Such a pleasure, a box full of lovely things just for me.

I have put so much into giving things to other people since March.  At least once a fortnight I go off to the post office with a parcel, to lift spirits and keep the people round me and at a distance going, it was an amazement to find something coming in the other direction.

Bad things happen and good things happen.

Sometimes in the same week.

But to bring the good things into sharper focus all I have to do this week is put my head in a box.

Magic!

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A poem.

In the course of the tidying up, which, as courses go, has lasted a year, I discovered a poem I wrote on the back of an envelope, the inside and three sheets of telephone message paper.   I remember writing it and have searched the website for where I have put it, without success.  Quite a lot of stuff gets put in the wrong place – there’s a lot of Dementia diaries in Uncategorised, such as Sayings, which were reported verbatim from my mother.  The second lot of Sayings ended up in The Parrot Has Landed, because they were quite hilarious.

I cannot find this anywhere, except, of course, here.

The haberdashery continuum.

My Great Uncle, Mr. Scroate
Lost a button from his coat.

It dropped off down the nearest drain
He could not fish it out again.

It floated down the sewer and then
Joined more sewers in a giant drain.

One giant drain, then two, then three,
The button floated out to sea.

Being made of bone it did not sink
But floated onwards through the drink.

I bet you bet a million quid
That it was eaten by a squid.

Or bravely saved by clever Flipper
And you’d be wrong; it was a kipper

Unkippered yet, a fishy glutton
It nearly choked upon the button.

He swallowed it, he thought he should
The calcium would do him good.

But though he got it past his jowl
It caused a blockage in his bowel.

His gasses trapped, a dreadful fate,
The poor thing started to inflate.

He rose, and having reached the top,
Exploded with a nasty pop.

Expelled from one fate to another
The button struck a passing plover.

Who caught it, like a circus trick.
She swallowed it; it made her sick.

It made her cough, it made her frown
She struggled hard to keep it down.

Her powers of flight were sorely tested
She held her beak till she’d digested.

Thus knackered, looking for a rest
She made a landing on her nest.

And there she stayed till well past tea
Not even getting out to wee.

She yawned and preened and stretched her leg
And finally she laid an egg.

I know you think the egg contains
A chick with button bone for brains.

But that’s not so because the plover
Was sterile, as she had no lover.

But needing one without delay
She left the nest and flew away.

And thus it was two horrid boys
Could steal the egg to swap for toys

At break in school, and so they did.
The egg then rested with a kid

Elijah Scroate, who has a dozen
Eggs, or more, he is my cousin.

One day he chanced to show them to
The very same great uncle, who

Had lost the button.  So rheumatic,
When passed the egg he dropped and cracked it.

And thus the button was recovered
Drained, and sewered, and fished, and plovered.

Devout religious students know
Because the good book tells them so

That bread, if cast upon the waters
Brings loaves to feed your sons and daughters.

You’ll note this self-same text refrains
From telling you with might and main
To chuck your button down a drain.
And why? Because, as is quite plain,
You simply get it back again.

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It’s litritchure, what we do here, litritchure.


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Fame at last.

The long birthday card

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got on television!

It was on Hochanda’s birthday round-up show at 5 o’clock on September 2nd.  You can see it by going to www.Hochanda.com clicking on Rewind, then, on the next screen, on recent, then scrolling back via the right hand arrow to 5th Birthday round-up and there it is.

It got a bit lost in my life, however, because, in the normal way, so much was going on.

I had a day of intestinal trouble again because I ate one mushroom by mistake and then couldn’t get out of the bathroom.  I emerged in time to open a parking fine.

I had leant my car to the OH to take our neighbour to the airport.

My neighbour had only asked to be taken to the train but I could tell there was a time constriction.  The OH offered to go to the airport far away, which was near the location to which he commuted every working day for fifteen years, which left the neighbour, who is a doctor, an extra hour for patients at the hospital.

Off they went but apparently, entering the car park at the other end, the doc’s phone hadn’t registered on the payment screen.  Happily he had done a screen capture.  Happily the OH can email him in Russia, where he is now able to go for his Mum’s 80th birthday, which he missed because of lockdown.  So the OH has all the evidence and is now writing a letter to the car park people.

I have no idea if this is a case of oh!  Technology!  or oh! Why do bad things happen to good people?  or oh! why has my poor little car got a bad mark against it when I have just spent a vast amount on a service and wasn’t even in it at the time.  Or maybe just …….oh!

And the lift, which I was so happy to have, had a whole day of lift engineers, after half a day of engineer who had to shoot off to someone trapped, because it isn’t working.  (That’s two in a day, was this such a good idea?  I won’t know until I’m too decrepit to climb upstairs.)

And someone sent the same parcel twice, which I didn’t realise until I had destroyed the delivery note and the packaging.  I always used to keep these.  I have delivery notes going back 20 years for QVC the shopping channel, in a folder in the loft.  (Is this normal?)  Thinking it was probably not normal I have just begun destroying delivery notes.  Third one chucked and for lo!  I need it to return the goods.  I printed the order out from my computer, which ran out of toner subsequently. Does this represent a change of luck?  It could have run out of toner before it printed it, leaving me with nothing to enclose in the parcel (because I had cleverly just destroyed it.)  But no, the printer printed it three times, lucky me.  One to send, one to keep, one spare and then I rummaged around in the printer queue and stopped the other six.  It would have been a lot simpler to have kept the original delivery note, which now, obviously, I shall do for the next twenty years.

All of which answers the question you have always wanted to ask, namely – are famous people who have been on television, happier people with more organised lives than the rest of us?*

Except that, of course, I haven’t been on television, just my bit of card.

But it was on telly.

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*Not if it’s me, dear.

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The long happy birthday.

I do enjoy a shopping channel, most of all a craft shopping channel.  What a good invention!

I am currently enjoying Hochanda, which stands for Home Of Crafts Hobbies and Arts.  It announced its fifth birthday and a competition to make a birthday card.  As I was supposed to be designing the frieze and was stuck I didn’t need inviting twice.  Just as soon as I had finished the moving house card I was doing for a friend.

Having then only three days to do it before the deadline, I naturally planned to make a card five and a half feet long by six inches tall.

I thought I had gone past the days where I worked myself into exhaustion, but apparently not.  I worked until my eyes stopped working, which is not a thing I have experienced before.  Sunday morning, after a few hours sleep, I simply couldn’t see. Roll on the cataract operations, this is very frustrating.

Finally finished and photographed, yesterday afternoon, I took it up to the post office, where they carefully explained that there was no way it would go before tomorrow morning.  As the deadline is tomorrow afternoon I have failed miserably.

But I still enjoyed doing it.

Here it is.

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I have photographed it at the top of the stairs, which was the only place I could find to put it down, spread out. 

Here’s a closer look

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Hochanda studios are, like most television studios designed for the cameras.  They are a row of sets, like room boxes.  They are ranged on either side of a long hall with a huge area in the middle for the cameras, their electric cables and assorted technical bits and pieces.  Each set is a box simulating a room and a table in front for the wares they are purveying to be displayed and the demonstrators to stand or sit behind and do the demonstrations that make us, the shoppers, want to buy stuff and have a go.

So that is what I have tried to reproduce in cardboard, for what is after all, a birthday card.

I started by measuring my available card. I had some kicking around that was six inches by sixteen. which, scored, would give me two back walls of six inches, two return walls of two inches and two left over to bend behind and glue to create an endless run of however many studios I wished to make.

I consulted the presenter details on the web site.  Ten presenters were mentioned, so I made ten six inch square zig zags, all joined together.  I didn’t realise until the entire length and the counters were all constructed, fastened and decorated that there are, in fact eleven presenters.

I cut a six inch square to decorate for the back of each studio, based on the actual studios, as on television.

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The tables in each studio are supported by white wood trestles.  I cut the tables twice the height, bent them in half and drew and cut the trestles on the bottom.  As the birthday theme was the Wizard of Oz I embossed gold card to a brick pattern and glued a strip to each table top to reinforce the structure..  The backs were drawn and decorated with alcohol marker pens, cut embellishments, such as windows and so on.  The return of each table has a cupboard with silly things drawn on it, such as presenter props, comfy slippers and so on.  I am quite proud of the cage with Matthew Palmer’s bearded chough in it.  Some of the cupboards have cardboard doors.

The presenters are drawn with a matching shape glued to the waist, then bent out so they will stand.

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There is a space behind every counter for a presenter.

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I enjoyed doing them all, especially Leonie Pujol.  Leonie, who has a show twice every Wednesday, called Let Leonie Loose, has practically lived at the studios since the start of lockdown.  It has been her endless cheerfulness that has helped me to keep going through lockdown.  I have been trying to support elderly friends by telephone; when it got me down it was Leonie was pulled me back up.  Needless to say, if you are the arty type, who inhabits the same studio for several months without having to tidy up, you eventually get to inhabit a creative space with about six square inches left to work on.  Just like the rest of us.

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I loved every minute of doing this, even though I know it is sitting under the post office counter and will go nowhere until tomorrow and not be in time to enter the competition. 

As you know I have spent the last year redoing my house.  As you can see, I am still waiting for carpets.  Time off to do something for a lark has been a bit of a holiday.

It will probably arrive through the post mangled, mashed and late but. as all arty stuff, the joy is in the doing.

And I did enjoy the doing.

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Isobel’s lockdown house.


Many readers may, like me, have conceived the laudable ambition to fill the endless hours of lockdown stretching before us with a dolls’ house, emerging at the other end with an actual achievement.

Isobel Ridley managed it, using only materials she had to hand. She says she has mis-spent many years cutting up cardboard and there is a certain degree of wonkiness. (To those of us with years occupied assessing photographs of miniaturists cookie-cutter houses, all made from the same kit, the individuality is the goal that turns the hobby into art.)

Isobel 1

The base is 21cm by 25 cm and 28.5 cm to the top of the chimney. The exterior is similar to the Triang Mayflower 50 House (from the catalogue pages in Marion Osborne’s book but made into two storeys with the additions of the porch and extra shrubs.) The original Mayflower was backless, Isobel has cut away the roof to access the upstairs bedroom.

Isobel’s house was once a box holding packets of coffee. The walls are double thickness and the corners are reinforced with paper strips. The base is the back of a pad of cartridge paper, the floors and roof are cut from a shoebox, which was made of lovely thick card. Tiles were cut in strips from various packets, mostly biscuits. The inside walls were all lined, before painting with emulsion testing pots. The exterior walls were also papered before rendering with kitchen roll and wallpaper paste. The lattice work in the windows is cut paper, painted black and varnished. Isobel says it was a fiddly job, but she had a lot of time on her hands.

Chairs and the bedside table are cotton reels, the bed is from the shoe box, the table is a chess piece and a piece of wood. The masterpiece is the chest of drawers, made from a halved matchbox, with the halves stacked and re-glued.

Miss Peg was made by a friend and dressed by Isobel, the doll on the bed is by J. Laverick, dressed by Isobel.

Isobel 4

Curtains are scraps of fabric, the blanket is a place mat.  The shrubs are cardboard covered with paper and paste.

Triang made Mayflower houses for just a few years from 1928.

Isobel 2

Isobel is an inveterate collector and maker of houses.  She counted them and arrived at 31 but missed one and the two still in their boxes and isn’t including the shops or room boxes or the Mouse Village.  Her ambition was to represent the 20th century with a house for every decade.  She loves miniatures because the hobby includes woodwork, modelling, needlework and bodging things together from cardboard.  She has a house in each room except the study, her bedroom and the kitchen as she exercises restraint.  (If I had any restraint myself I could make a smart remark here.)

I first met Isobel when she was wearing a press badge, in her capacity as editor of much-loved magazine, Galatea, at Miniatura.  She has been a volunteer at Oxfam for over 20 years and is a keen local historian.

Very definitely One Of Us but the one who thought of making the lockdown dolls’ house and then actually did it.

Isobel 3

If the lockdown comes round again and you manage to make a mini from what you have to hand (or even get out one of the kits that is behind the settee and, you know, do it), let me know and be up here in the hall of fame because there is no one more inspiring than the person who takes a negative situation and turns it into a positive reality with hand and heart and brain.

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Posted in About artists. | Tagged | Leave a comment