Great Good Fortune or (another) Happy Accident

A miniature Canaletto, 4 inches across in oils on wood.

I’ve told you how I got into dummy boards all that time ago. Now I suppose you would like to know how I came to be crafting tiny figures for the dolls house?

Firstly, let me say that I am not a ‘dolls housey’ person. I have never owned a dolls house, not even as a child and have no desire to have one now.( I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the fun one might have in owning one, of course.) I love my display roombox.

I have, however, always been drawn to tiny things. It’s always been easier for me to create something tiny than something big, in every sphere of life -almost.

I can remember a conversation with my ( perpetually inebriated on gin ) art mistress when I was about 17 and doing my A level art. She wanted me to ‘spread out’, ‘get big’ and ‘express myself’! Hmmmm. Needless to say, the larger the canvas, the more detail I was tempted to cram into it! I cannot be a ‘splodgit and bodgit ‘ painter! I’ve tried. If I was going to be any painter of the past, I would have been in the vein of either Canaletto ( see the above 4 inch wide picture which I painted in 2009) who covered every inch of his relatively small canvasses with all manner of boats, birds and buildings; or Isaac Oliver the 17th century miniaturist famed for his exquisite portraiture. Oh My! That was when art was ART-ful…but I digress.

"Say Cheese" Water colour of Harvest Mice by Susanne M. Newstead 2 inches across

So painting detail has never held any terrors for me. The larger dummy boards which I made were alright as far as they went but I always wanted them to be more full of detail and as the originals I was copying were made by jobbing sign painters, coach painters and itinerant decorators in the main, I wasn’t going to get detail was I?

Quite a long way down the road in my quest for knowledge about the dummy board figure my friend Hilary and I went for a day out to a nice little town in Oxfordshire. There, we popped into a dolls house shop because it looked interesting. “Everything for the miniature home..or garden.” The owner boasted.

” Aha!” exclaims Hilary, ” I bet you don’t have any dummy board figures!”

And like ( nearly ) everyone else, when faced with these three small words, the owner of the shop looked blank and said ” eh?”

Hilary explained very kindly, that here, standing before her, in her very own shop, was one of the world’s leading authorities on that art form, “and she can paint them to boot.”

Well -it was an open invitation. Would I like to paint some replicas in miniature for her? And so I did. Below you can see what I created.

From left to right in a 17th century parlour: The V&A piglet, Servant in Livery, the Gentleman with cane, The Rotterdam Sweeper, the Baton Rouge Girl, The Sudeley Girl, a pair of 19th c. Spaniels,The Regency Basket of Fruit and the Lulworth Ginger Jar

I painted dummy boards from every era of their production; from the late 17th c. to the 19th. I painted figures from many of the groups which we talked about on yesterday’s post.My husband Stephen and I made the custom built 17th c. parlour to house them. We made everything but the glasses, the lights and the pewter candlestick.

And when I took them to show the lady in the shop, she reneged on the deal and said she couldn’t possibly sell them! Hummph! What was I to do then?

Go to a miniature show and see what people thought of them.

This we did and had the great good fortune ( or was I just Happy Accident Prone?) to meet up with and be encouraged by John Hodgson ( only THE most famous miniaturist there is!), Joy Stanley Ricketts ( the most amazing miniature artist ) and then Charlotte Stokoe, who runs the Kensington Dollshouse Festival. I was invited to participate. My career in miniature painting was off

And it’s ALL Hilary’s fault!

2 Responses to “Great Good Fortune or (another) Happy Accident”

  1. Bon's Mots Says:

    Of all the pieces you’ve done (with the exception of Lady Bon, Duchess of Mots, of course) the room box is my favorite Past Mastery piece. It’s perfect in every detail. You and Stephen are a rare team! And of course Hilary’s contrigution can’t be faulted. ;-}

  2. Hilary Says:

    Right, blame me, why don’t you?

    I reckon you bear a modicum of responsibility. Who was it who (literally) dreamt up the Old Woman’s Shoe, hm?

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