Friday, 25 January 2013

The Sarasota Show

Last weekend I did my first overnighter dolls house show. The Sarasota Festival of Dollhouse Miniatures (19th and 20th January 2013)

Molly Cromwell's shows are certainly events.  They are actually usually spread over four days, as was this one.  There are some terrific classes on Friday and Monday and the show itself is over the weekend.   I am ruminating on signing up for a class next year; I have really been bitten by this mini bug.

The show is held in The Ramada Waterfront Hotel so it is more than convenient to stay there and flit from room to show.  Even better if you have non-mini folk with you - often known as 'husbands' - as they can do their own pootling around (bar and swimming pool) and you don't need to make complicated pick up/drop off arrangements with each other.  The hotel offers bed and breakfast and at a discounted rate if you are going to the show and it is a true discount. My other half is the very best at scouting discounts - he did his Expedia and Kayak et al mooching around and the Molly discount still came in at the lowest rate.  It is probably the best rate in Sarasota and right where you want to be.

This is a small show - under 50 stalls - but there are hours of interest to be had.  I have written a piece for DH&MS magazine (prob May issue) so I don't want to say the same things twice by writing it all again here.  I chose six of the best vendors to highlight which was no mean task.  There were at least a dozen absolutely outstanding artisans there.  The whole show is about stuff you can't just buy in a shop.  Ninety per cent or more is actually made by the people there, so each piece really is (pretty much) a one off; miss one and you have missed it.  

 If you opt for the General Admission on Sunday  ($7) there will still be tons of wonderful things to buy,  but if you are travelling a long way and staying overnight you should buy the great value weekend preview ticket ($18).  This is what I did this year as we had planned to stay over and build in other things that we wanted to do on the way up and down between Naples and Sarasota.  So rather than do a rushed mini shopping trip this is a way to have a really nice inexpensive weekend break with a dolls house show thrown in for good measure.

The preview ticket buys you what it says - Saturday preview/early sales, a pizza and sodas get together after the sale with a chance to meet each other and the vendors , prize draws and, of course you get to come back again Sunday for the 10am - 4 pm General Admission show.  Actually with the preview badge/ticket you get to go in at 9.30am!!  What a bargain.

Instead of showing you the vendors I chose for the magazine article I'll just share what I bought with you.  You can see all the show pictures in the Sarasota web album.

My first stop at a stall was the True2Scale couple.  

 It is hard to see from my photo of their stand in the web album all the lovely things they do as mostly they are packages like these.  Please go to their site and have a look around.  Here's what I bought from them.  

I have been wanting the pitcher and forsythia that they sell for ages and I still want to fit in their lovely Eiffel tower display stand in Chocolat - it might happen; but I managed to resist it for now. However  I didn't manage to resist the lovely dishes and decals, even though I have no idea where I can use them! The cake boxes will certainly have a home.  I intend to just manage with these few on top of the counter along with a stack of unassembled ones in the shop ready to be made up and filled with the best French (chocolate) patisserie for each customer. I chose their pretty white ones in hopes that my pretend flattened boxes look like a match.

I then trotted off to the stall I should have gone to first -  Ron's (Dollshouse Shop, Orlando) to trade four of my five Little Women for something else.  I had decided before the show I wanted a better pretty pleater.  I have just followed a curtain workshop with Hazel Dowd and had mentioned to her how I couldn't get on with these contraptions and I asked if it was worth binning it and buying a silicone (?), rubber (?) one I had seen and she agreed whole-heartedly.  She said she had had hers for a zillion years (she did actually state a number but I have forgotten) and they are great.  It looks better to me than wood, as it is flexible and less likely to cling on to the fabric fibres. Ron had kindly brought one along for me.  I added in these three cute cake stands and a five dollar bill and we were done and dusted.

I snagged a sweet little cash register for Bentleys.  I didn't really want want one in the shop as most of Ellen's business is done by ordering goods and then settling accounts as they go along, but she is branching out into selling bits and pieces like collars, hat and dress trims, perfume and gloves directly from the shop to the casual shopper and so she probably needs a cash register.  This was labelled as $15 but the trader let me have it for the same price as his two clunky, ugly ones which were $12.  It just needs a bit of judicious photocopying of old money signs to go in the display area. The cash drawer opens too.  I suppose I need to find out if Ellen's 1911 shop would have had one like this...... time to Google National Cash registers!

I had the usual 'I am weak for fabric' itch that got scratched a teeny bit on Saturday and Sunday.  Gulliver's Emporium has the nicest of stuff and for silly prices.  Sadly, a note on her stand said her business is closing and she was open to offers for her stock.  I wish, I wish.  It is the oddest thing, when given a basket full of lace trims the first piece I pick up - right out of the middle, under layers of other stuff is (probably) the most expensive.   Sooooo lovely - old, French,  silk lace, ecru-coloured trim.  I was a good girl and put it back.  Talk about champagne taste and beer pocket, it seems I also have an inbuilt champagne magnet.  Everything I bought was only a couple of dollars each - and less!!  I have to be firm with myself as I just seem to collect fabric and trims and do nothing with them.  I just covet them.  Her colours are lovely and her patterns perfectly scaled.  The fabrics are fine silk and cotton.  I have a lovely cotton lawn here.  She also had the last of some very fine silk velvet.  I averted my eyes.

I snagged a pair of shoes for $5.  I don't recall the name of the seller. Poor, poor photo - bad lighting and magnification too large.  They look very dainty in the flesh.  I actually stopped to look at the wonderful plants and flowers on the stall - made by the vendor's mother-in-law, she told me.  I wish I had picked up a card or noted her name so I could find her again.
[footnote 1 March:  They are from Clara's Cuties]

These are destined for Bentleys Salon.  I bought them for Vianne in Chocolat but then remembered that her daughter complained that she wasn't like everyone else's mother because she only ever wore red or coral shoes.  Chocolat's loss is Bentleys gain.

I bought this trio from a very kind gentleman, on Marie's Miniswho agreed to model them for me on his hands to show their scale (the photo ended up out of focus!).  They sell very nice floral items and fruit and veg and many related items.  There is an on-line link to contact them but not a shop on line.  Again things bought for one place will probably end up in another.  The bowl of nuts was for Chocolat; I then remembered it is set in Lent so seasonally they are more suitable for the October setting of Bentleys.  The hyacinth is for Chocolat to help pin down the timing.  The jug and bowl may just join my Little Women stock of Victoriana for an (as yet) undreampt of project.

From Feather Your Nest I got this little set for $34 which I thought was a good price as I had been looking at the stools in various places at around eight dollars plus.  It was absolutely bought for Chocolat as there is something like it in the movie BUT my Chocolaterie project may be in the throes of veering away from the original so this could end up in Starfish Cottage or maybe just kit-bashed for Chocolat.  I put a cup and saucer on it to give you a sense of scale.

And now for something completely different ...........

Shows for a lot of people are a great excuse for meeting old friends and making new ones with a shared interest.  For me, they are purely a shopping-for-goods-and-ideas expedition.  Those who know me know I will run a mile from any socialising - not out of snottiness I am just very nervy about meeting new people.  Shy seems such a feeble word - I would prefer to have a full blown phobia.  Any way I avoided reminding anyone I had met them before, didn't go to the pizza party and then, blow me down, ran straight into a lady who my neighbour had tried to 'set me up with'.   My dear friend next door here in Naples knew someone who knew someone who was into miniatures and she emailed my details through the grapevine to connect us.  Susan Werner and I went politely through the motions and let the 'hello' fade away.  At the show Susan spotted the accent and the name and introduced herself.  She was exceedingly nice as are most strangers when you get to know them!  Her work is very special.  I loved so many of her things.  She seems to be very capable in all kinds of media.  Needless to say I mostly craved her chocolates.  Her Etsy shop seems to be under construction but maybe her Blog - Tabitha Corsica  will let you find a way to contact her if you are interested in her work. Click on this picture to enlarge so you can see the excellent detail.

Seeing these chocolates did confirm what I begin to think is going to be a problem for me.  If properly in scale a chocolate is going to be something like 1/12th of an inch which is bordering on invisible.  Chocolat will take thousands of them to make any impact on the window and shop displays and will simply be a zillion tiny flecks when they are en masse.   I am veering towards making the shop a chocolaterie and a (chocolate cake) patisserie with a few seats for customers to eat a cake or drink a cup of hot chocolate.  This way the number of chocolates required gets reduced.  I really have to master the art of polymer clay next summer, like everything else in this business I have never done any.

So that's pretty much the tour round the show, spending all my pocket money with me.  

I seem to be in all sorts of organisational dilemmas right now which is very bad news for a pedantic control freak.  In this game I am often doing 'stuff' which affects more than one project - taking a trip to California, buying things at a show, writing for a magazine.  I am already having computer filing  traumas trying to put material away tidily.  There is an effect on my Blogs too.  For example, this show visit is written up here because, chronologically, I am working on Bentleys but some of the things I want to share cross over into other projects or just dollhousing generally.  I already have to divide my recording of the actual day between my Clavering Blog (my diary) and the mini Blogs and I am endlessly finding myself having to leave stuff out of Clavering because it is being written about somewhere else and vice versa.

When I was typing this post for example, I also had Clavering, Chocolat and Starfish Blogs open and have copied and pasted bits and pieces across to them.  I now understand why many mini bloggers just have the one blog and simply record what they are doing chronologically whether it is minis or not.  I decided against that because most folk following the diary would rather stick pins in their eyes than read about minis and mini followers couldn't care less what I was doing last month.  So, for those of you who are looking at all my mini blogs I am sorry there is so much (or too little!!) crossover.  It is the best I can do.   I am open to suggestions.


  1. Hello Em, it's good to catch up with what you've been doing and look forward to your show review in DH&MS. Had to smile at your multiple blog dilemma, it's definitely got something to do with the way our brains are wired IMO. It's that mad desire to document every fascinating little detail and at the same time deliver a straightforward overall picture at a glance - not really possible so we veer from one to the other. It's akin to spending ages tidying up your workspace in order to streamline the 'making things' side, and all the time that background niggle says that you should just get on with the making! And how about the amount of time miniaturists spend just musing and working out how to interpret the big world to a smaller scale . . .

  2. Hello Chas
    Yup, spot on. The nit-picky tidy/organising thing has been the bane of my life. I spent so much time organising cupboards, desks, drawers etc during my office working life and then in my teaching working life that I had very little time to do the actual job! BUT I always had the tidiest room and could find anything instantly!! Just the same with this for spending hours transforming 1:1 to 1:12 - that's pretty much non-stop. Right now I am holding lengthy mental debates as to how big is a chocolate!!! Might need more samples .....

  3. What an interesting read and how nice to get the opportunity to be there for the whole weekend. You picked up some nice bits AND they didn't cost an arm and a leg. I seem to spend for Scotland at a show (I call it taking full advantage as we don't have many here!)

    I sometimes wish I'd gone down the one blog route (and I'm working on it) but my brain must be wired like yours - into compartments!

    Looking forward to reading your article.

  4. Thanks Irene. The bits I bought in no way reflect what was available at the show. I have to try and find the odd bargain at most shows to build up the stuff I want as I just can't afford proper prices. I was just talking to someone and bemoaning not having parted with $8 for some beautiful knitting needles (!) because I need so much more important stuff than that. She responded with how she understood the dilemma as she has trunks full of things she bought because she liked them not for a project and often buys things she likes at a $1,000 a pop (never to see the light of day!). I don't think she quite grasped my point. So, yes, I fully understand the occasional splurge at shows. I shall be at the Edinburgh show in April (first time) as my daughter lives there and we will just be back from Naples and catching up.

    As I said - not convinced about the single blog route - hard on your readers to sort out the bits they want to follow(?)

    Got several more articles in the pipeline for DH&MS - Orlando show review, two profiles of artisans, a one off Bentleys, maybe a Chocolat series of some sort and may be another history one using Bentleys, so keep lookng out for me.