Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bijou Dollshouses, Braintree, Essex

This post is coming to you via an unexpected internet hotspot in our cottage in Lavenham, Suffolk :)  More photos from Lavenham in a later post, but I wanted to share with you today's trip to Bijou Dollshouses in Braintree.

This tiny shop is located in a craft centre outside Braintree in Essex.  It is very, very small, but everything in it is really good quality.

Bijou carries a wonderful line of 1:12 Tudor furniture by craftsman Tom Burchmore, and I was coveting a 6.5 inch long table with barley twist legs I had seen on the website, for the William and Mary House.  In the photo above you can see the short one on the bottom level and the really, really long one on the top -- the very kind saleswoman finally found the medium one in one of the gorgeous Tudor dolls houses :)  Hooray!

I wish I had taken more photos of the dollshouse pictured above.  It was absolutely gorgeous -- inspirational, beautifully-made -- and on sale for 1100.00 GBP :)

I adore the way this one has been finished.  It's a very East Anglian construction -- brick with flint infill -- and amazingly the finish is totally done in paint.  It's a bravura piece of trompe l'oeil painting.  I want one of my houses to be finished this way, although I'll probably use actual stones to represent the flint.

And here's what I bought!  Here's the table, with the pewter I picked up -- the large pitcher is by Warwick miniatures, and the two tankards, the flagon and two plates are old stock by St Justin Pewter in Cornwall.  In the second photo you can see a Warwick miniatures tea caddy and a griddle by (I think) The Village Wheelwright.  Really nice pieces.

And here's a nice pair of firedogs.

The last of my purchases today were four kits by McQueenie Miniatures.

These three are for Mum's roombox.  A side chair and a dressing table, that I will use for a desk under the window.  And a lovely bookcase.

I also splurged on an aumbry kit for the Tudor castle. All of  the McQueenie kits are mahogany, so I'll have to finish it in a way that disguises the colour of the wood, but I really, really wanted an aumbry and this kit has all the twiddly gothic cut-outs already done :)

What a lovely day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Farewell to Staithes and Yorkshire!

Today we drive down to Suffolk, saying goodbye to Yorkshire, Staithes and David's wonderful family.  We're both quite sad about leaving, because it's been such a wonderful week, but we know we'll be back :)

Here's the view from our front door this morningn (it's 7 am):

And here's the little cottage in which we've been so happy this week:

The little black cat has been in and out all week (mostly in :) and right now is upstairs with David.  I don't know where she lives, but her companion humans can't have seen much of her over the last six days!

Suffolk brings three miniatures shops (I hope), more wonderful family and enough Tudor buildings to satisfy my most antique tastes :)  We won't have regular internet at our next location, so I may not be online again until we get home on Thursday.  If I don't check in with you all until then, have a great week!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

I won the PastMastery competition!

Okay, I truly NEVER win anything, but Sue informs me that I have won her wonderful competition at her PastMastery blog!  It's wonderful because not only was it tremendous fun to search for the dummy boards based on their reverse silhouettes, but the prize is my choice of a wonderful range of miniature dummy boards :)  Thank you SO much, Sue!

We went to Whitby yesterday, and enjoyed the narrow streets of the old city at the foot of Whitby Abbey. We had some excellent fish and chips (Mister Chips), visited a very good pub (Black Horse Vaults) and David bought me a hexagonal jet ring set in silver, that I had simply fallen in love with :) 

Then we went up to the Abbey, one of the most famous ruins in England and one of the inspirations for the wave of interest in all things Gothic, including Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The views, as you can see, are stunning.

I've been collecting reference photos of the stone hereabouts, too, just in case I need to reproduce some Yorkshire stone buildings sometime in the future :)  These shots are of Cholmley House on the grounds of the Abbey:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trains and toys

Yesterday we drove to Grosmont and rode the North Yorkshire Moors Railway down to Pickering.  I had never been on a steam railway before and I was so excited about this trip!  The scenery is, of course, beautiful on this special line, but the really amazing thing are the engines, coaches and stations, all run and maintained by volunteers.

Today we drove up to Newcastle and Hexham to visit some of David's old stomping grounds when he was an undergrad at Newcastle University in the 1960s.  We also paid a visit to the smallest miniatures shop I've ever seen, House of Cards in Middlesbrough :)  I picked up a couple of pieces:

The little black and gold chinoiserie table will either end up in my Mum's roombox or my William and Mary house.  The blue and white vase and the large brown jug are definitely for the William and Mary house.

The copper pans will brighten up the William and Mary kitchen, and I'm not sure where the desk will end up -- David loved it and bought it himself!

Tomorrow is Whitby -- fish and chips, another abbey, another pub and perhaps some more miniatures!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

York, first of Staithes, family reunion

Yesterday we motored up from Chesterfield to Staithes on the North Yorkshire coast near Whitby.  We decided to take a scenic route through the city of York itself, where we stopped at one of the oldest and most respected model shops in England, Monks Bar Models.  David bought a OO scale loco in the Battle of Britain class (which he's wanted for some time) and we had a great time chatting to the staff about trains and railways, model or 1:1 :)

On the way back to the car, I saw this amazing sign for a fish and chips shop:

(This has to be right up there with my favourite punning shop name of all time, "The Merchant of Tennis" in Toronto :))

We then drove to Staithes through the moors themselves, stopping at one of our favourite pubs of last year, The Lion at Blakey Ridge, in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors.  I took some reference photos of the interior because I just adore it. (The couple in the photo below were a little surprised that I took a photo of them -- I really just wanted the wonderful settle they're sitting on!)

We got to Staithes about 3:30 pm, and negotiated the narrow streets down to our self catering cottage which overlooks the Beck and the rest of the village.  The views from our windows are staggering.  I can't wait to get painting.

Today we had a walk around the town which is so scenic I felt my brains melting from the beauty and patina and history of it all :)  Then we went to the Mosey Family Meet-Up, where David got to meet his cousins and their children and grandchildren in Brotton, only six miles away!  These are cousins David never knew he had (his dad and his brother (David's cousins' dad) were orphaned and separated as youngsters) and not only are they close blood relatives but they are amazingly marvellous people!  I have never felt so welcomed anywhere in my entire life and David was so happy.  If you sat down and DESIGNED people to be related to, it would be the extended Mosey clan of Brotton :)

I particularly enjoyed meeting 10 year old Anna and her little sister Eve, who made me feel right at home and who I think must be honourary KnitWits at heart.  Anna likes the colour green and dancing and is brilliantly inventive and Eve likes the colour pink and gymnastics and has a great admiration for tarantulas and pythons.  These are my kinda girls :)

Anna created the following piece of challenging installation art, inspired by her father's nose, which was, tragically, "tidied up" by some members of the Bowls Club who didn't realize that she's the next Young British Artist à la Damion Hirst:

Ah well,  Anna, art, like life, is ephemeral.  Friends for ever, though :)

When we got back to the cottage, David cooked dinner.  After dinner I opened the front door to find a little black cat with half a tail waiting expectantly on the front steps.  "Hello there', I said to the little black cat with half a tail.  It walked right in as if it was totally at home (which I expect it is), and sat pointedly in front of our tiny refrigerator.  David and I exchanged looks.

"What do you think it would like?"  I asked him.  "Try some milk" he suggested.


And here's a photo of a little chair and side table I bought at a totally random toy shop in York yesterday, which are destined for my mum's Edwardian roombox:

In the background, do you see a black shape asleep on our sofa?  If you live in Staithes and are the companions of a glossy, well-fed black cat with half a tail and more than the usual feline amount of chutzpah, it's safe and sound down at #5.  Don't worry, it's already had supper :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

First dolls house shop -- Dolls' House Gallery, Chesterfield

Well, here I am in a lovely hotel room in a pub just outside Chesterfield, having had probably the most exquisite sleep of my life, because I needed it so badly!  We had an incredibly smooth and easy flight on Thursday, picked up our car at Gatwick by 7:15 am yesterday and had motored up to Chesterfield by 10 am.   After opening time, we had our first pint in The Spread Eagle ... (well, David had a pint, I had a half of cider ...)  We were insanely jet lagged, footsore and feeling very middle aged, but we were so happy to be in England again!

More importantly, we visited the first dolls house shop of the trip:  the Dolls House Gallery on South Street in Chesterfield, just down the street from the pub :)

It was a great shop to start with -- fairly small, lots of lovely, affordable things, and staffed by the friendly husband of the owner, who was off packing for their three week trip to Florida!  (They were leaving the next day, so I almost missed them!) He very kindly allowed me to take some photos of the inside of the shop for the blog.

And here's what I bought:

A real, light-up Tudor fixture for The Great Hall, more "pewter plates" (I've decided you can never have too many), some baskets, a little cauldron, two jugs and a wooden bowl (I wish I'd bought more) whose perfect rim I can carve away at and make just a little more rustic!

Some things for the future William and Mary House (it's interesting to me how many of us have projects which only exist in potentia, but which are as real to us (if not more so :) than the ones that have actually been constructed!)  I'll use the hat stands as wig stands :)  David spotted the kittens, so of course we had to have a couple!  I'll refinish the library steps.

And here's my little treasure -- a tiny Swiss-made sewing box for my Mum's roombox :)

I apologize to everyone for not having visited their blogs -- I hope to get caught up this evening when we're settled into our self catering cottage in Staithes, North Yorkshire.  I've really missed reading your blogs, I feel so out of touch!

Thanks again for your comments -- I'm thinking of you all, and I feel sure that some year some of us could meet up in person over here!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On our way ...

David and I are sitting in Halifax Airport waiting for our flight to Gatwick to be called.  We had a the typical kind of hectic morning that people do who are chronic procrastinators who suddenly realize that yes, they really ARE going away for two weeks! :)

But here we are, getting ready to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  In a few hours we'll be experiencing a rather bleary dawn over England, a drive to Chesterfield (that's a 1960s photo of the truly freaky and disturbing crooked spire of its parish church) and, finally, at the end of a long day tomorrow, blessed, blessed sleep!

My laptop is running out of battery power, so I'll sign off for now.  I see that you're all up to interesting things and I wish I could comment -- tomorrow I'll get all caught up :)

England, here we come!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More goodies for my Mum!

Most of these arrived in the post yesterday from The Linen Press in the UK.  They're from their extensive and charming line of Victorian paper ephemera, and are destined for Mum's Edwardian roombox.  (The exception is the little blue book on the left, which is my first attempt at making a book from the lovely book kits sold by Paper Minis -- although the kit is excellent, I didn't do a very good job and got glue on the cover :(  I'm sure I'll get better at it, though!)

This is a 1:12 scale deck of Happy Family cards!  (Look, you can see the grotesquely bread-like head of Master Bun the Baker's Son!)  David remembered playing this game when he was a lad in the 1950s, so I bought him a 1:1 reproduction Victorian deck a few years ago, and it's become one of the KnitWits' favourite games to play.   When I saw this tiny version, I had to have it.  It's an authentic reproduction of the Victorian original and the print quality is startling -- these cards are less than half an inch long! 

The Linen Press sells a variety of little photo albums either full of preprinted family photos or blank, for you to add your own.  I decided to get a blank set, and spent a pleasant half hour yesterday shrinking some scans I have of our family photos to half an inch long :)  The photo above shows my mother's grandmother and her five maiden aunts (her mum was the only daughter to marry).

And, lastly, there is this charming little version of the 1897 children's book, Nursery rhymes and fables.  Again, you can see how extraordinary the print quality is.

I'm going over to see Mum this afternoon to do some computer stuff with her and visit, and I'll take all my little presents with me! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wood turnings by Thomas Saunders

My order from Tom Saunders of Turnings in Miniature arrived today, which is incredibly quick considering the vagaries of Canada Post :) Aren't they beautiful?  The fruit bowl and platter are from tiger wood -- look at that extraordinary grain.  And the tiny bowl is of "mystery wood",  and I like it all the more for that :)

Thank you so much, Tom!  Your exquisite work will have a proud place in my castle :)

Kitchen at twilight

The light was so beautiful yesterday afternoon that I had to take a few photos.

The shot above is of the upper floor.  Two days ago I cut and installed the plywood for the first floor.  I was very glad I made a template of the left hand corner of the floor first, because it made making the cutout for the spiral stairs much, much easier!  Now I'm going to work on finishing the upper floor, cleaning up the window cut outs, finishing the walls and installing the shutters. Oh, by the way, the door you see in the photo above will be for a garderobe or loo!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Look what I got in the mail!

At the post office were a number of intriguing little parcels for me today, and when I opened them I found these goodies!  (Even though I ordered them, it still feels like Christmas getting stuff in the mail :)

The painting is one of Monet's atmospheric works showing the Houses of Parliament.  This one was painted in 1904, and it's perfect in time period, subject and colouring for my Mum's Edwardian roombox. I bought it from Etsy seller LDelaney and it was a really good value.  Fast shipping, too.

There there were these tiny unfinished turned mortars and pestles and a wee spurtle for stirring 1:12 scale porridge!  The spurtle and one of the m&ps is for the William and Mary house, the other m&p is for the Tudor castle.  They were ordered from Ann Marie Miniatures in the UK.

And last and perhaps best of all is this incredible miniature bear from Bassom Bear in Wales.  This is for my Mum's roombox, as well, as it looks very like her beloved old teddy bear, Jackie, who still lives on a chair in her bedroom :)   When I opened the box, I was gobsmacked by its tiny perfection.

Bassom Bear is on Etsy, and she makes hand sewn miniature stuffed toys, usually around 2 inches tall, which would be large stuffed animals in our 1:12 scale.  Some of them, however are described as "tiny miniatures", like this perfect little bear, which is just under 1 1/14 inches when standing.  It's jointed and has teeny onyx bead eyes and tiny ultrasuede paws, and it's the most perfect little thing I've ever seen. 

I'm going to see Mum tomorrow afternoon and I'll take her these little gifts -- I hope she likes them!
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