Monday, 26 September 2011

Miniatura, NEC, Birmingham, 25th September 2011

Last night I got back from the NEC absolutely exhausted. It was decidedly the best show I've done so far.  There were masses of stalls, something like 200 I think; it felt more like three hundred.  I did my usual methodical tour of all the stalls before I bought anything and then went trawling round again trying find the bits and bobs I thought I might want. 
I did actually spend money on my first tour. I picked up from a couple of people who I had ordered things from.
The first was Jennifer's of Walsall. I have bought from them by post and at shows a few times before so I know their stuff well enough to know what I wanted. the most important piece was a kit for a gas cooker from Phoenix Models. I managed to locate it for sale in three three places . Phoenix itself at £35 in kit form, at Pinchbeck, where it is made up and painted beautifully but costs £65; then I saw it at Jennifer's for about £25 pounds. I've girded my loins and ordered the kit and intend to have a go at building and panting my very first white metal model.  I'll post details of how that turns out whenever I get round to cracking on with it. I did buy some more bits and bobs from them - Arts and Crafts wallpaper, brick cladding, a shop door and door handle (oops I only bought one!) and a small size dresser.

This shop is a bit of a challenge in that the rooms are very small so everything needs to still be 1/2th scale but made finely and on the small side. No huge welsh dresser and six foot table for this kitchen. I'm not convinced by the vinyl brickwork now I have got it home. I don't find it very convincing or the bricks very defined and it seems a bit dainty in the handling of it which wouldn't bode well for the outside of a house which might take a bit of wear. No decisions made as yet. As it cost £9.95 I'm in no rush to throw it away. I'd appreciate opinions from you about doing realistic bricks easily and even better how this particular material works if you've used it.

The second pick up was even more wonderful.  At the Stafford show I hade bought three perfect (meat) salads and had since contacted the maker to see if she had a veggie option or one with prawns she said she would make me one.  After a bit more chit chat and my saying I have a problem getting historically correct food she offered to make me Ellen's cold supper if I sent her pictures/ideas of what I wanted.  Hey presto three days later she had the lot made and waiting for me to collect from the show.  Her stuff is absolutely wonderful and around around £3 a shot unmissable. Absolutely wonderful........go visit Amanda Speak I can't recommend her enough.

So, within half an hour of being in Hall 11, I already had several little treasures in my bag.  After that I spent my time sussing out how to do the outside brickwork and roof tiles (no decisions made!) and collecting heaps of ideas and information and contacts for all kinds of future plans.  As always I did very badly in terms of actually buying anything from my 'I absolutely must get these things at the show' list.

I did do the classic thing of buying two chairs cheaply and then later seeing 2 much better ones for about double the price I paid. I had seen identical ones to these at four times (!) the price which is how I ended up buying the cheap ones in the first place. When I saw the nice ones at a good price I actually plucked up courage to ask the first supplier if I could change the chairs for something of a higher value.  This was a bit of a problem for me as they didn't really have anything I wanted. My problem ten pounds pair of chairs got swapped for quite a nice sink for the kitchen.  This is for a kitchen which wasn't going to have a sink as that would be in the scullery. It wasn't unknown to have a sink in each place and any way Ellen has done a lot of remodelling and modernising of Le Tout Paris so she could have it as she wanted.  After all she has chucked out the range had the cimney breast knocked out and got a newfangled gas cooker.  

So here I am, one tired, but happy, mad lady with a lot of new toys. You'll notice that all the furniture is unfinished white wood so this new project is becoming more and more mine as I have a lot of finishing of stuff to do. If you want to see all the things I bought you'll need to click on the Wentworth contents album for the prawn salad and Le Tout Paris contents album for the rest. Feel free to ask me about any of them ..........

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

More bits and bobs

I bought this trio for a few pennies from EBay for the mirror which is very nice and exactly what I want for the shop.  It is better than it looks in this photo!  The evil-eyed cat has grown on me so I might find him a corner somewhere.  The plants will go to the charity stall at Miniatura.

The photo on the right is an order from Valerie Claire Miniatures.  This is a site to be recommended for all kinds of slightly unusual stuff at a good price.

Left and right of a card displaying some French belt buckles are a couple of adverts; one for hats and one for shoes. They are on clear acetate so they will go on a couple of windows somewhere.  I actually began with ordering/wanting the little shop opening hours sign, which is also on acetate, to go on the 'glass' in my shop door and then I went on a trawl and was tempted by many things.  I settled on these few things for now.  The little card on the far right is a colour chart card for silk threads for the workroom/fitting room, along with a perfectly scaled yardstick and tape measure.  I also bought a couple of cards with tiny printed cards on them to cut out and wind silk ribbon round.  This sounds easy until you see the size involved....   I'll let you know how that little exercise goes.  The 'brass' hands will probably be used to display gloves and the two fan shapes were originally bought to go on the outside of the shop as a trim which could be painted in with the rest of the woodwork to look like a carved relief/decoration.  Not sure about that idea now... we'll see.  The two little corset posters were sent as a free thank you for the order and might well be useful upstairs.

I'll be back here as soon as I can after Miniatura to show you anything I got from there but it might not be straight away as we leave for the winter a couple of days after the show and there will be a lot of domestic chores getting in the way of my 'playing'.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Finally.......... the birth

We picked up Le Tout Paris from Bracknell on 10th September 2011.  It is absolutely intact - no pieces missing other than the frames on the inside of all the windows.  This might prove more difficult than usual as six of them have arched tops.  If you go to the photo album (link on the right) you can see how it opens.  This offers yet another challenge as three of the rooms get split when it opens which will mean the flooring and furnishing will need to be thought about carefully. I was aware of these issues  before I bought it so they don't come as any kind of surprise.  The thing where I did get caught out is that the loft doesn't lend itself to making it into bedrooms.  The apex is only five inches (= five feet) at the high point so no-one can stand up in there never mind move around.  I have lost two of my planned rooms.  I  considered putting the maid of all work's bed in there as it would have been marginally better than sleeping on the kitchen floor or in a cupboard as they often did but I suspect my suffragette shop owner had more scruples than that and she has probably increased the extension at the back of the premises to include a small bedroom for Molly.  The roof does lift off which is why I thought it could be furnished.  I presume it was just a good idea for  storing dolls house bits and bobs for a child playing with the house.  Already in this photo I have removed all the blue carpet which fortunately hadn't been stuck down, so it came out easily.  I have to admit at this point I am a bit overawed by the prospect of tackling all the changes I am envisaging.

Let me introduce you to Ellen Bentley.  She is one of my purchases from the Stafford show.  If you want to see the rest of the stuff go to my photo albums. (link on the right), to read about the visit to the show you need to go to the Wentworth blog.

 In case you are wondering she is dusting a jewellery box to put back in the window display.  If I can't find another figure the right size for a customer just coming into the shop then I'll leave the closed sign up and she can be just polishing off some finger marks on the box at the end of the day. 

So............  the absolutely final configuration of the four rooms will be..........

The Salon - the shop display area where ladies will choose what they want to purchase/order:

For fashionable clothing, a woman visited a workroom.............. She sat in a chair and described what she wanted.  Samples were brought to her.  After she had made her choice the goods would be put in her carriage or delivered to her house.  Dresses, coats, shoes were made to measure.  Either the customer would return to the workroom for a fitting after the garment had been cut and basted, or someone would be sent out to fit her at home. 

Above the Salon will be the fitting room - where they can have their dresses fitted and try on shoes, hats and (maybe) underwear.  This will also be the work room if I win a bid on EBay for a particularly nice sewing machine.  If I don't get it I shall rewrite the story and have the actual sewing, like the millinery and shoe making, 'sent out'.

I think that's as far as I can get right now.  We leave for our winter in Florida on the 28th and won't be back until April, so I won't get any actual hands on playing done but I'll keep you posted on any purchases or anything else to do with Le Tout Paris.

I have a trip to Miniatura planned on the 25th - a couple of days before we leave where, no doubt, another fortune will have been spent.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Still ante-natal

There's a slight change of plan.  I decided I couldn't cram everything in that I want to do and I couldn't make structural sense of where to put kitchens, sinks, cookers etc.. so the café is out.  Maybe that's another project with my name on it.  Honestly, Ken, I am kidding.

It has also been through several name changes.  I quite liked Top to Toe but decided I want to go with the notion of Ellen Bentley trying to bring Paris to Aston.  (Birmingham).

The shop will have an attractively decorated shop floor with several displays. There will be a couple of comfy seats and a small table so ladies could spend time choosing fabrics and pattens for their clothes and a place to try on hats.  They could also buy accessories such as parasols and other bits and bobs.  It won't have a counter (or a very small one).  In 1910 the ladies who can afford to shop here would have had their purchases delivered.

The room above is for trying on shoes as they wouldn't have wanted to flash their ankles in a shop window for all and sundry to stare at.  The room above that in the attic space will be the fitting room for fitting the clothes which will be made on the premises.  I have seen a lovely corset cupboard so lingerie might also be available.

The left side of the property will have the kitchen on the ground floor which is a bit strange as it is on the front of the building with a window on to the street.  That would be a bit unlikely but there's not really another option (suggestions welcome).  I will put in a back door to get out to the yard (and toilet) . The kitchen is pretty much the room where most working people lived - it was warm!.  The room above will be Ellen's parlour and will be reasonably nice and (almost) kept for best as she will sometimes have business to conduct in there.  Above that will be her bedroom.  Few properties at this income level had bathrooms so I have all the rooms I need.  I have seen a brilliant wheeze in one 1910 picture of a bath in the kitchen under a lid/shelf/table and I actually remember the existence of such a thing in someone's scullery when I was a child.  If there's enough room in the kitchen I might do this.  I don't have space in my spare room to do the backyard with the toilet and coal store which would have been attached to the back wall and even better a scullery but, even without that, the building will be a convincing story of a 1910 shopkeeper's life.  I hope.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Before it is even born

This isn't my shop - more later...........
Next weekend 'Poor Ken' will be driving us to Wolverhampton to pick up a dolls house table and then on to Bracknell to collect a new project - a doll's house/shop.  As that is something like a four hour drive from Bury you can see how he earned his name.  He will then fork out for B & B (and numerous other meals) and the next day drive to Stafford for a Dolls House Show and then on home.  Yes, I know, he is a saint.  I am typing all this because he proof reads my blogs!!! 

As always with me this is something of a meandering tale.  Last year when I bought Wentworth Court it all began by seeing a doll's house for silly money on E-Bay.  I also saw one of these shops (not so silly money) which I bid on.  Neither came to fruition so I ended up buying the Wentworth from Dolls House Emporium.  I have absolutely loved doing it but I can begin to see it being finished and want to do more.  in truth I have never stopped hankering after the one that got away.   A couple of days ago whilst trawling EBay for nothing in particular I came across another one. Even whilst I knew it was totally crazy (no room, no time, no money) I put a bid on it and got it. I am happy to convince myself 'it was meant to be' because the very next evening with only ten minutes to go in the auction I saw a dolls House display table for it and won that too.  Happily Wolverhampton is en route to Bracknell.

Last year when I saw the first one I researched its origin and located it on the Doll's House Man's site. This photograph is borrowed from there as I don't have a photo of mine yet.

I want to try to make more of a model/miniature this time rather than it have the feel of a doll's house about it.  So far that means I will be sticking on a couple of thousand brick slips (one at a time) and individual roof slates; that's just for starters.  I am even more phased by getting the lead trims, guttering and downpipes right; but I am already having a whale of a time researching the period (c1910) and making plans.

Downstairs will be predominately a hat shop but will also offer a dressmaking service and sell gloves, parasols, perfume as well as the hats.  Upstairs will be a ladies' café - yes they did have such things; so we didn't have to sit with roughfty tufty men.

I intended to call it La Belle Epoque but realised that this was a term which was applied to the period retrospectively so it would have meant nothing to its c1910 clientèle.  The name I think I've settled on (as you will have seen) is Le Tout Paris.  Paris fashions were the most desirable around this time.  It is hard to accurately translate 'Le Tout Paris' and has meant subtly different things at different periods of history but at that time it sort of meant the cream of society - anyone who was anybody.  The influences from the continent won't end there as I intend to decorate in the art nouveau style.

The building is decidedly Edwardian so it is too late to be true to the Victorian era.  Even if I wanted to fudge it because Victorian doll's house stuff is easier to get, I'm not fond of high Victorian furnishing and colours so I am very happy to slide into the Edwardian period and the challenges that brings.  It will lend itself nicely to being a (pretentious) height of fashion shop/café in a small town.

I can't wait to get started for all of two weeks before we leave for six months!!  Aaaaarrrgggh!