Monday, 16 June 2008

A Dark Secret

Have I attracted your attention?

Firstly, I would just like to apologise for my absence from the blogging world over the past few days. I've been forced into practising my word processing skills, so that I can apply for a job, which I need, but don't want. It's a hard life, sometimes, isn't it?

I was tagged by maggie may a few weeks ago. I had to have a think about it, as I found it a really difficult one to try and make into an interesting post. The requirement was to relate 6 things that you may not have known about me, but the things you don't know about me become fewer and fewer! Anyway, here goes:

1. I'm a miniaturist. For anyone who is not sure what that means, (and nowadays, when the word is used, it doesn't often refer to an artist who paints very small paintings) a miniaturist is interested in making and/or collecting items in a smaller scale. In my case, I mainly like to make, as opposed to collect, and I favour one twelfth scale. Miniatures are generally displayed in a cabinet, dolls' house, room box or vignette.

Many miniaturists tend to keep quiet about their interest, as it can still be regarded as mildly eccentric, by some, but it is a growing hobby and its popularity, amongst women, in the UK, is reputed to be second only to gardening! There are shops throughout the country, numerous internet sites, a large section on Ebay and fairs every weekend, in many different locations, where dolls' houses and miniatures are available.

Queen Mary's Dolls' House, on display at Windsor Castle, is probably the most famous dolls' house of all and, no doubt you have all heard of it and perhaps even seen it. You may be interested to know that the White House has been faithfully reproduced in miniature, over a period of 32 years and that the Royal Pavilion, in Brighton has also been treated in a similiar way.

2. I have a one twelfth scale dolls' house, which contains many miniatures I made myself.

3. My dolls' house has been featured in 2 magazines.

4. I made the vignette pictured below for my mother:
(Clicking on the pictures should enlarge them.)

The vignette is reminiscent of the living room, in the house where I grew up, which my parents moved from, only a few years ago. We were a working class family, so there was never much money to spare. We didn't have anything fancy and none of the furnishings were stylish, but it was a cosy, comfortable home, and we lived there very happily. Most of my mother's interests are represented in the vignette. She liked to sew and made most of my clothes, when I was a child. We always visited my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon and it wasn't unusual for her to make me an item of clothing, on a Sunday morning, to wear the same afternoon. This would often result in us going out later than intended and my father would get very frustrated with waiting around, as I'm sure you can imagine!

I can remember coming home from school, on many occasions, to find the living room covered in paper patterns and fabric, whilst my mother worked away industriously, on her old Singer sewing machine. She also enjoyed knitting and crochet and, when I was younger, putting together a jigsaw puzzle was often a family activity. I was fascinated by my mother's button tin, as a child, and this is also represented in the vignette. My parents both have a weakness for biscuits and a mug of tea must always be accompanied by the same, so this explains the presence of the tea and biscuits, on the table.

For many years, my mother and one of my aunties visited the local market, on a Wednesday afternoon, and returned with many 'bargains'. They would bring home an assortment of cheap items, which they wouldn't have wanted at their full price, but which became irresistible at a knock down price. They were teased mercilessly about their little outings, but they very much enjoyed themselves and the outings continued until my auntie's death. The 'Bargains' carrier is a reminder of those happy occasions.
I cut out the display from balsa board and a piece of green velvet represents the carpet. I scanned a piece of one twelfth scale wallpaper into the computer and printed out the picture onto a piece of fabric, which I then used to cover the back of the display. The picture on the 'wall' is one of our family photographs, which I reduced to an appropriate size, on the scanner, and then framed with one twelfth scale picture framing. Getting a miniature picture frame square, is always a nightmare, for me, as I invariably manage to cut one side a millimetre too long, or too short!

I made the chair and table from scratch, from my own patterns, but the spindles, for the table legs, were bought ready made. The pouffe is made from a piece of balsa wood, covered with a thin layer of foam and then fabric. I prised the sewing machine from a very cheap miniature of a treadle sewing machine and then inserted it into a piece of wood, to give an impression of my mother's favourite old Singer sewing machine. I made the work bag from my own pattern and then worked the knitting, in thread, on pins produced especially for miniature knitting. When the knitting was the desired length, I transferred it to dressmaker's pins, which make realistic one twelfth scale knitting pins. I also worked the crochet with thread, using a very fine hook. The crochet hook, displayed on top of the crochet was fashioned by me from Fimo clay.

I made the skirt pattern pieces on a desktop publishing program and then printed them out onto tissue paper, which first had to be sellotaped onto a piece of ordinary paper, before it could go through the printer. I also made the biscuit wrapper, the carrier bag, the jigsaw box and the tape measure on my desktop publishing program. I found the tiger picture, the envelope for the skirt pattern, (on the table) the knitting patterns and the crochet pattern on the internet, reduced them to one twelfth scale and printed them out. I used a fine pen to outline the pieces of jigsaw on the tiger picture. I bought a copy of each of my mother's favourite magazines, scanned them into my computer, reduced them to the appropriate size and then printed them out. The mug, biscuits and buttons were fashioned, by me, from Fimo clay and then painted with acrylic paint, followed by a coat of varnish. The mug is filled with scenic water, (a firm, rubbery, jelly-like substance, which is one part resin and re-meltable) which is coloured with acrylic paint. The scissors, button tin and the items inside the carrier bag were bought ready made.
5. I made a second vignette, pictured below, for a friend of mine. She enjoys knitting, cross stitch, baking cakes, buying and reading books, and card making. Each of her hobbies is represented in the vignette. The display is made in the same way as I described, before. I made the armchair from balsa wood, cardboard, thin foam and fabric, from my own pattern. I copied the table from a picture in an Argos catalogue. The knitting basket is made from tapestry canvas, shaped over a mould. The cushion is filled with salt, so that it can be realistically indented! I cross stitched the sampler on the 'wall' and framed it, once again, with great difficulty! I made the cake, small plate, cup and saucer from Fimo clay. The magazine covers and book covers were scanned into the computer and reduced to the appropriate size.
The small book, lying on the floor, was one which belonged to my friend and was lent to me. The larger card standing up, on the table, is a paper copy, which I scanned into the computer and reduced to size, from a full sized card, which my friend cross stitched for me. The Craft Creations magazine, lying on the table, is a card making magazine. A page of card making 'scraps' and a card 'blank' lie on top of the magazine. I made the carrier on my desktop publishing program. The glasses, fork, scissors, table legs and paper plate, on which the cake stands, were all bought items. The most difficult things to reproduce for this vignette were the embroidery silks. I have fairly small hands and fingers, but even my fingers were too large to wrap the paper labels around the embroidery silks!

6. Some of my miniatures, but not those pictured here, have been on display at 2 local dolls' house fairs.

There we are then! I hope you don't feel that you've found out things about me, which you would never have wished to know! My dark secret is that I am a miniaturist and it's something which some miniaturists would only ever admit to other known enthusiasts! There doesn't seem to be any in-between, as far as miniatures are concerned. People are either fascinated by them, or think they are 'naff' and pointless, so I've taken a chance with this post, and I can only hope that you've found it interesting and not too naff or pointless!


blogthatmama said...

Wow mean mom, that's a surprise, how do you do it? I think my fingers are too much like miniature Walls bangers to be able ever to do anything as skilful as that - good on you. Blogthatmamax

aims said...

You are kidding aren't you? You can't be embarrassed by this talent! You just can't!!

I am impressed! And that's hard to do with me sometimes. I'm very creative - but this - oh my!

No wonder your vignettes etc. are so cherished and that you are featured in magazines! I'm proud to just know you!

Mean Mom said...

blogthatmama - I do it with great difficulty, to be honest! People tend to think that, because something is small, there isn't much work in it, but that's a total fallacy. Everything has to be very exact, because any mistakes are obvious, with things so small. It's a frustrating but fascinating hobby and there are plenty of people out there who are far better at it than I am.

softinthehead said...

Mean Mom - amazing. They brought back memories of my Barbie playing days as mentioned recently in a post. I used to collect anything miniature I could lay my hands on to furnish and decorate Barbie's home in the corner of my bedroom, I mean literally the corner of my room, no doll's house. The only little things I made were Barbie clothes. Well done - it looks like very fine work and I don't have the eyes (or patience) for that anymore.

Liz said...

I would have thought it naff but having seen your lovely personalised vignettes, I couldn't possibly say that. They're beaitiful. How lovely of you to have taken so much time and care to make something so precious and unique.

Second only to gardening? As you're the only person I've ever herad of to do it I'm a bit dubious about that. Unless everyone except me does it but keeps quiet about it.

Working mum said...

Wow. How talented are you? When you are producing such amazing scenes on such a small scale it cannot possibly be naff. It's a real art. You could offer your services to Aardman Animations and make Wallace and Gromit stuff for their house. (Their 'SMUG' fridge kills me!)

I am very impressed.

Mean Mom said...

aims - Oh, what a nice thing to say! I have mentioned that I'm menopausal, and thus over-emotional havent't I? Now I need a new box of tissues!

softinthehead - Every time we took our lads to Toys R Us, I would gaze longingly at the special Barbie dolls, in the glass display cabinet. A few years ago, my eldest son bought me one!

I had a Tressy doll, and loved making clothes for her. I haven't been able to do any close work, for a few months due to problems with my eyes. I'm hoping to have another try, very soon.

liz - I, too, feel that the vignettes are very special. You can never be sure how anyone else will react, however.

Yes, I know what you mean about the popularity of the hobby etc. When I saw a dolls' house shop open up in our country town, I thought the owner was crazy. It wasn't until I became involved myself, that I realised how big the hobby was. Just because I read it somewhere, it doesn't mean to say that it's true, of course. Think about it a minute, though, dolls' house fairs held every Saturday and Sunday, at various locations throughout the country! Check on Ebay. There's an enormous section of dolls' house stuff. There are also clubs throughout the country. I used to belong to one in our town.

working mum - I'm a big fan of Wallace and Gromit, of course and it's so good to impress someone!

auntiegwen said...

I think they are charming. You should be very proud of your skill, it's an art and you have great talent. Thank you for sharing them

Mean Mom said...

auntiegwen - Thanks for that. I'm feeling better about it, all the time!

Nora said...

I think that is pretty damn impressive and I can only imagine the time and incredible amount of patience you must have to be able to create these wonderful things. I stand in awe. Really and truly amazing.

Mean Mom said...

nora - You are right. Miniatures do take an enormous amount of time and patience. Believe it, or not, I developed an interest in them, at a time when I had 3 part-time jobs. I don't know how I found the time. Well, I do. I used to stay up late.

It's been quite a while since I made anything in miniature, but I would like to do something else. I'll have to see whether my eyes can stand up to it.

Grit said...

they are very beautiful! after a radio 4 programme about dolls' houses as a form of 'time capsule' shark, squirrel and tiger have just renewed interest in theirs... now i will bring them over here to have a look at these exquisite creations! thank you for the inspiration!

Mean Mom said...

grit - How lovely that your girls have a dolls' house of their own! I did think of you and your family, as I was putting this blog together. I wondered whether it would be of any interest to you, as I could see that you have an interest in 'making things'. Dolls' houses can be such a fascinating 'slice of life'. It's very fashionable, nowadays, to aim for a 'lived in look'. Furniture is deliberately aged, for example. My dolls' house kitchen had a drunken cook, showing her bloomers, with her hat over her eyes, plus broken eggs and spilt milk on the floor! You and your girls could have some great fun, in this way!

Maggie May said...

That is SO clever Mean Mom! I am REALLY impressed. That is really professional work. My eyes are too bad for that type of thing but I really do enjoy watching other people's.
Very well done for answering my meme in such an unusual way! Thank you.

Mean Mom said...

maggie may - Oooh, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! My eyesight is beginning to worry me a bit, now, to be honest.

Suburbia said...

Gosh you are soooo talented, those are very lovely.

Just popped over to say thanks for the birthday wishes, the chocs have all gone now (Did you come over twice for some??!) but there's some cake left if you're interested! :)

Mean Mom said...

suburbia - Thanks!

Oh, you've sussed me out. Yes I did sneak over again. I have to try and avoid real sweet things, these days, because of my teeth, but virtual stuff is ideal, of course! I'm not sure whether you're winding me up about the cake, but I will call by, just in case. I do so hate to miss out!

the mother of this lot said...

Wow, that's clever! My dad made me a three storey dolls house when I was little. He wallpapered and carpeted it, but all the furniture was bought.

Have you done one of your own house?

Rose said...

Since I hardly know you other than that our birthdays are close together, anything you could have included here would have been new to me. But this is a fascinating hobby, and your skill is amazing. As I read how you created each part of the vignette, I was even more impressed. I'm sure I couldn't do it nor would I have the patience required.
This brought back memories for me, too, as my mother made most of my clothes growing up. She would often finish a special dress just before I had to wear it. One time I was sitting in church on Christmas Eve and discovered she'd left the basting thread still in my sleeves!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

Mean Mom said...

the mother - Oh, you were so lucky, then! My mother made a dolls house for me out of a cardboard box and we papered it and furnished it etc! Eventually, I did have a dolls' house, but it was a Mettoy tin dolls house and the wallpaper, cupboards and floor covering etc were already painted on!!

I haven't made a model of my own house. My dolls' house was just an MDF kit and, to be honest, I was not very much interested in the outside of the house. I am fascinated by the furniture and accessories, which go inside, however! It is particularly interesting to research different periods and my dolls' house is Victorian. Oooh, lots of stuff and clutter, everywhere!

rose - Thank you. Lol! I cherish those sort of memories, so much more, as I grow older. I suppose it's something to do with my parents becoming ever nearer to the end of their lives and also, something to do with the realisation of how much things have changed, since I was a youngster. They really were totally different times.

Perhaps your situation was similiar to mine. My mother did enjoy sewing, it's true, but if she hadn't made my clothes, I would hardly have had any! There simply wasn't the money.

Bollinger Byrd said...

I so loved my dolls house when I was little, it was an antique one full of wood worm but that didn't matter.
There was a toy shop in the place I visit in Philly that sold beautiful tiny items and I would spend hours looking and marvelling at them.
So I think you are very talented and patient to make the things yourself.
Can I come round and play ?

Mean Mom said...

bollinger byrd - Those dolls' houses with woodworm are usually the most interesting, of course! Miniature is just fascinting isn't it? Well, to some of us, anyway! Yes, of course you can come and play!

Mignon said...

These are amazing. You must have a lot of patience. Never be shy about your passion!!

MarmiteToasty said...

Oh my goodness, these are amazing....... how brilliant are you :)... I'll let you into a secret....... I LOVE dollshouses and miniture things.... maybe its cos I have boys and Im not really girlie, except that I LOVE dolls houses :) there now Ive let the cat out the bag lol...

What a wonderful talent you have... Im gobsmacked how anyone can make something so small and so real looking....

Hats off to you girl :)


Dusty Spider said...

Your miniatures are beautiful MM. I don't have any skills in the arts and crafts department even though my Mum is a wonderful knitter and used to make all our clothes, even my wedding dress! I sometimes wish I could do those things. Flick x

Robin said...

I have always been facinated by minitures. I remember seeing at a museum (I can't remember which one)that someone had modeled all of the rooms of the White House at various periods of time.

Just thinking about working with that small of stuff makes my palms sweat.

The only bad thing about miniaturist, that I know of, is a serial killer on CSI, an American television show, is a very talented miniaturist.

Mean Mom said...

mignon - Thanks so much. I'll try not to be too shy about it! Now, you're just encouraging me.

marmitetoasty - It's good to see you out and about again! Thanks so much. I'm glad that there are others in the blogging community, who have an interest in dolls' houses and miniature things!

dusty spider - Your mum made your wedding dress? Wow! I have enjoyed knitting, sewing, crochet and cross stitch, at different periods of my life, but I'm not desperately good at knitting sewing or crochet, to be honest. I can't pick up a dropped stitch in knitting and the edges of my crochet tend to be uneven. I will never be as good at any of those things as my mother was, when she had good eyesight.

robin - You need to follow my link about the Whitehouse. I would LOVE to see that model! Of course, a lot of serial killers turn out to be miniaturists! Everyone needs a hobby. ;0)

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

These are just quite incredible works of art. You must have tremendous patience to go with that huge talent. It was a joy to look at the level of detail that you put in and how perfect each vignette looks.

I am quite astonished at such talent.

Read your other post on the party report - absolutely brilliant. You clearly put a lot of thought into the things that you do.

Hope the infection has gone - you don't think I'll catch it popping in here do you? X

Mean Mom said...

mob - Thanks for your kind comments! I'm so glad that you came over and read the party report, as you played a large part in it. Once the idea entered my head, I couldn't rest until it was done! I can't seem to do things by halves, for some reason and this is why I find blogging so difficult. You obviously put a lot of thought into your posts, too, though. It doesn't seem possible to me, that you 'dash off' your posts in a few minutes. You couldn't be that lucky, could you?

Chest is much better, but I'm still having to sleep sitting up! I don't think I can be infectious any more, but no-one will let me take the mask off, just yet, so I'm sure you're safe!