Archive for March, 2010

A little Brown to our White…


Now I have got a bit of energy back, have a bit less of the bone ache and have recovered from my exertions, it’s about time I got on with the two commissions I have been working on for the past couple of weeks.
The next commission  it seems, is soon to arrive, so I had better move on. Stephen and I spent a little part of the last weekend just throwing around a few ideas about    ” Downpark”, our proposed dolls house project ( see A Home at Last ) but nothing is as yet on paper. We shall probably do some work on it over Easter and if we do, you will be the first to see anything we have decided.

We have a pair of curtains to make too …mind you…. for our guest room. Stephen is a dab hand at the sewing machine. And there is a garden that needs a bit of attention. He’ll take care of that too. Oh…and just a spot of indoor decorating that needs finishing.Yes, he’s good at that as well!

No… you can’t borrow him! 🙂

So, – the little French waiter and the Dutch Lacemaker miniature dummy boards are now dry. We shall today put on the ‘detail’ of the last layer of paint.This is where I shall work exclusively under two magnifiers.

If we want to remind ourselves of how they looked when we left them last week, we can go to A Bit of a Mixture if we like and scroll down to the bottom to have a look?

There should now be quite a good dry base of oil on the bass wood, for adding detail in fairly thin paint and with a very small brush. This is going to be important when we come to the features of the waiter, René and the bobbins, lace and embroidered cap of the Lacemaker.

When painting a dummy board from an illustration, one that isn’t an existing figure, it’s necessary to be economical with the features that make up the design, particularly if you are painting in 1/24th. It’s not possible to dot every tiny i and cross every minute t. The features have to be distilled. They have to be pared down to the minimum and the artist needs to work out what is practical to make the figure work. With our French waiter we have actually got very little to go on as the illustration is so small in itself and is not very detailed anyway.

Certain features can be exaggerated to make him a bit more realistic.For example we cannot see his right arm – it’s just a black blob and even though the left arm is shown it isn’t much better delineated. The artist has to make it up as he or she goes along. With our French Waiter, we have added a little brown to our white, in places, to show how his clothes sit. These would otherwise just be

The Lacemaker is a little different. We have quite a lot of detail in the original and when we blow it up on the computer  screen, we can see quite well what is required. Below we are looking at the detail of the sleeve with the chair and part of the arm.

Quite daunting isn’t it? However, here too we have to decide what we can leave out and what we must retain to preserve the integrity of the image.

The other important thing about dummy boards is that they are painted on wood.

I have been asked quite a few times why I don’t paint on another easier and less temperamental medium…. like Ivorine ( a very smooth ivory substitute), or vellum        ( calfskin). Simply – the original dummy boards are wood and I want to be true to the history of my form. So when I paint a figure on wood, I want it to look like wood still…underneath the paint. The full sized dummy boards do… when you get up close. And so must mine.

To that end, I have worked uninterrupted this afternoon. Delphi Dog has gone with Stephen to work and so I don’t need to take her for her customary walks.

She will be tearing around a very large garden, wading in the pond/ cum lake after frogs, helping to dig holes for tree planting and rolling in the muck heap! The earth, as you can see in the area where they were working last week, was a nice soft brown.

She is usually, as you know, a white dog with a few black and brown patches. She has added – like our French Waiter- a little brown to her white! 🙂

This is how she looked last Friday after only half a day with Daddy….

A brown dog with a few white patches!

Now I know why they call it Dog Tired!

And she was falling asleep on her paws

So – after working on the French waiter dummy board figure for not quite two hours, this is how he  looks now. I shall send this picture to the client and keep my fingers crossed.

The two inch waiter.

We shall add just a few more touches before it must dry thoroughly. We can PVA him then – you remember that really useful stuff? If not, click here Coming-a-Cropper

and then you will see what it is we use PVA for and why. This evening I shall do a little more to the Lacemaker and you shall see what she looks like tomorrow.

But not before we have given DD a

B -A -T -H ! ( see Dog Digression ) More like an under – carriage swill actually.

I wonder if PVA ( Pet Varnish Additive – perhaps ) might work on DD? Mmm, there’s a thought!


Stepping Out


So here we are!

The Equinox has come and gone. We now have extra daylight and are all one hour more tired because of less slumber. The birds are singing as madly as they can in order to keep us from sleep and the grass is growing like fury, filling what rest we do get with dreams of Mad March mowing.

It’s nearly April…and so, Easter, but we are not one of those households that, pull our shorts from the drawer as soon as there is a glimmer of warm sun. Ohhh Nooo. We are paid up members of the ” May be out ” club and we cast n’er a clout.

Ever since we moved to this county, it has been Summerless. Three years – and we haven’t yet experienced a Northamptonshire ‘*Pabby’, known for some inexplicable reason as a drought 🙂

Just rain and cold. So we are owed one are we not?

IN anticipation of this, I shall today talk about Garden Dummy Boards; those figures designed to be kept outside, to decorate the grass platts ( the lawns ) of the wealthy landowner, to fill the nooks and crannies of the Pleasure Garden with people and to impart a bit of fun to the flower beds.

We don’t really know when people started using pretend statuary in the garden but I suspect it was in the 17th century. Everything seems to have been tried in the 17th century!

The stumpwork garden. Embroidery showing the 17th century garden

This, of course was when large gardens were becoming the ‘thing to have’ and when it began to be fashionable to show what taste and wealth, one had. It was, I suppose, the IPhone of the age! Only less portable.

So what would people wish to have in their garden in the way of dummy boards?

Anything that could, in true trompe l’oeil fashion, fool the unwary onlooker.

Gardeners, of course. If you had one or two real ones, it couldn’t do any harm to pop a few pretend ones around the place to make it look as if you forked out a veritable fortune to keep yer’ weeds down, ‘yer pineapples prinked and ‘yer muck raked. Well of course you did, but there’s no harm in over egging the pudding is there?

Mid 18th century gardener at Wilberforce House Yorkshire. 50 inches.

Talking of pineapples; these too were very fashionable, as dummy boards for the garden. The first real one came to England in the beginning of the 17th century and it is said the first home grown one was produced at Dorney Court near Windsor, and presented to King Charles the 2nd by the gardener there in the mid 1660’s

I suppose it was a bit like the craze for garden windchimes that we had at the end of the last century. ( PLEASE…we have seen the last of them..I hate them with avengeance!…nasty antisocial things.) At least pineapples are quiet!

The Dorney Court Pineapple- a lost dummy board figure

Figures from the Commedia dell’arte appeared as dummy boards. (This is short for “Commedia dell’arte dell’improvvisazione” — “comedy of the art of improvisation”) a professional form of theatre that began in Italy in the mid-15th century. It was characterized by masked “types” and improvised performances. It continued its popularity in France during the 17th century, and evolved into various entertainments across Europe. For example, pantomime which flourished in the 18th century, owes its genesis to the character types of the commedia).

This type of board was popular in the large garden. One well documented private garden in Holland had a whole troupe of figures, Harlequin and Columbine, Pantalone and the Doctor, Pulchinella and Pierrot. These were used in the theatre which was built in the garden but also appeared dotted here and there amongst the potted plants.

The theatre at Zijdebalen, Holland with Commedia figures

We have already met a few of this type of figure in a previous post, Treading the Boards. Although these particular figures were meant for the theatre, some very like them will have been seen around the gardens of Europe.

Pantalone perhaps...?

Soldiers too were common out of doors.

Why ever should it be that this type of figure came to be associated with the garden?

We have plenty of evidence in the form of diaries, letters and newspaper articles of the day, to help us in the search for an answer to this question.

In the United Kingdom today, professional soldiers are not used in any ‘civilian peacekeeping’ role though we only have to look outside our borders to see that, eleswhere, the practice is still carried on. And it was not always so here..

Of course we didn’t have a standing army as such till the 17th century….just a rag-bag of assorted types with pitchforks and the odd musket. When we did get a proper trained bunch of men and they were not engaged in bone fide fighting, we used them as police and they were often to be seen at The Pleasure Garden ( a very rowdy place sometimes), keeping order.

The little soldier at Harewood House Yorkshire. By kind permission of the owners.

Not such a long step from The Public Pleasure Garden to the Private one.

You might too have seen, Gods and goddesses, hermits, Green men, nymphs and shepherds, peacocks and lions ( that too we have explored in Lion About ).

Large lion in private collection 19th c.

But alas, owing to the nasty nature of, in particular, British weather, ( back to that again) they are nearly all rotted long ago.

Ah no… there are still a few gardeners about….they are a hardy sort! Wrinkled and chipped, weathered and a bit wonky, they are still to be found in the odd dummy board collection.

And let’s face it…anyone who wants to collect such things…has to be a bit odd….?


The 2nd gardener at Wilberforce House Yorks. 1750, 50 inches

*The Dialect and Folklore of Northamptonshire by Thomas Stebnbebg

A bit of a mixture!


This post is just that. About a bit of everything and about mixtures too.

Before I begin to talk about the projects in hand, can I just answer a query from Pippa?

She is asking what ‘livery’ is….and is puzzled, since she is in to horses, that there doesn’t seem to be an equestrian connection to our servant pictured in the sidebar! 😉 I suppose a lot of readers particularly outside the U.K., will wonder what we are talking about.

Servant in livery at the V&A

The term ‘livery’ applies to the costume that our young man of about 1750, is wearing. He sports a smart pink coat with yellow turned back cuffs and a yellow waistcoat and pink breeches. This would have been a uniform supplied by his employer in the colours of the family crest, say, the heraldry…or just the colours chosen by the family to represent them. It would have marked him out as an employee. Of course, Marks and Spencer do the same today don’t they? To give you another example, The Rothschild family colours are dark blue and gold and you find it everywhere in the properties they own. Even down to the planting in the flower beds at Waddesdon Manor which is quite near to where I live. The lovely photo below was taken by Dave Law at Red Bubble. ( Thanks to Dave ).

Waddesdon Manor Bucks. U.K.


We are now on the third layer of paint on the Lacemaker and René. This will have to dry thoroughly before we can put on the final detail.

We have managed to get some tiny features on to René, our French Waiter but there is still a way to go.

At this level, the secret is to push the paint around to where you eventually want it to go. The brush movements are so tiny, that really, all we shall do is put the paint where we want it and then push it with a very fine brush. Any blending is done with a dry-ish and colour-less brush. All this is achieved under two magnifiers.

I have invented something….! Maybe invented isn’t the right word. When working with oils…sometimes we make a mistake and it’s not easy ( at this tiny level) to rectify that without doing damage to your labours.

rubber ended tool 🙂

Using one of those rubber ended tools that potters use for sculpting clay, you can easily ‘pick off’ any pigment that is sitting where you don’t want it…with no damage to your existing paint work. They are quite cheap too!

I have often been asked, when I exhibit my 1/12th people, cats,dogs and flotsam and jetsam how it is that I can get a good historic colour to my work. When you look at some work in miniature, the colours are too vibrant and certainly, some of the pictures don’t look as if they have been around a bit! They don’t look historic.

I remember the first thing my good friend Joy Stanley Ricketts ( the miniature painter of wonderful Stubbs horses, amongst other things.), said to me when we were discussing putting colour onto surfaces – whatever they may be.

Mare and foal by Joy Stanley Ricketts ( at the Founders Gallery )

A bit like ” keep your powder dry…”, she said

“Keep your medium clean.”


What she meant was.. don’t allow the medium that you use as a thinner for your oil colour to become too dirty.

And there you were thinking I was going off on some kind of strange psychic ritual!

Is there anybody there?

Now, under ‘normal’ circumstances I would agree.

But I am actually an advocate of the dirty.

(My husband always said he fancied a dirty woman well …now he’s got one!) 🙂

I like my Sansodor ( the thinners I use ) to get a mucky grey colour. If start a new pot, I always add a bit of the old mucky one before I discard it. ( I’m sure that I am an art material suppliers nightmare. I buy very little thinners over the year! ) This means that my work gets that old patina, the colours of history, that look of age and wear and tear, with no real effort!

Try it in your dollshouse projects and you’ll see that instantly things look more realistic. Incidentally another trick… if you want a real object to look old ( and I use this trick on some frames etc. that I restore now and again), go to your vacuum cleaner, take out a pinch of the dust that accumulates in the bag/drum. ( Yes…I can tell you don’t empty it every time you use it.. tut!) and rub it – not too much- into any of the projects you want to age.. it works a treat!

So here are our two creations with the penultimate layer of paint drying.

René Layer three

The Lace Maker - next layer

We shall be quiet for a while now as all the work over the past few weeks – and blogging, has aggravated ‘me bone pain.’

I’ll have a rest.

You have plenty to chew over for the moment I think……we shall be back in a while.

“Swiftly and with style”


Our lace maker is looking quite alive… ! ( You will remember that M. Alphonse was the undertaker of ‘Allo ‘Allo and that the above title was his motto….) perhaps it’s not the best title for a figure that is so vibrant. It, I hope, reflects what we would like to think we do here at PastMastery, when we take on a commission. 🙂 As a phrase…I like it! We shall go all French at the end of this post, to boot!

The Lacemaker... the second layer of oil paint

We have now added a second layer of red ( crimson) and a black ( lamp ) over the dark brown we used for the skirt in the first layer. This will give it quite a richness and make it seem to have a nap like real wool.

If you leave the oil paint on the wood, partially dry and then work it quite thickly in the next layer of paint you find that it will give a good approximation of wool.Then all we need to do is add the appearance of the nap where the light catches it, with a pale grey.

I achieved ( with trial and error ) this in the red of the skirt of Magdalena de Vos, the full sized dummy board I made a few years ago ( the one who appears on our blog header ) and the one that I take round to shows with me to demonstrate what a full sized child dummy board figure looks like. See.. The Girl in the Red Dress

You will notice that the pattern on the girl’s cap, the bobbins and the lace in her lap have not been painted in yet. This will be the last thing we do ( yes…alright…I am putting it off!) as there is a wealth of detail there and it would be difficult to achieve this at this point when there are few paint layers on the board. However when creating something so tiny, we must make sure that the underlying paint is quite smooth.We would meet lumps and bumps if we hadn’t made sure of this and the nastiest thing a miniature painter in oils wants is lumps and bumps!

Well…yes I have a few of those…..And not on the base that my Lace Maker sits on..but my own ‘situpon.’

We don’t talk about them. 🙂

They’re a legacy of sitting still and painting for hours, sadly. Spreadability.

Anyway ( ahem….) back to the painting…

We are using once more, few colours- a limited palette, in this work, as we did in Belle, but because this figure is so red it appears a brighter figure.

The paints we use are

  • Paynes Grey
  • Lamp Black
  • Flake white
  • Mixing white
  • Crimson
  • Yellow ochre
  • Raw Umber
  • and mixes of all of these.

Incidentally they are the same colours we use for our French Waiter. That is very handy as we are painting the two figures side by side and wouldn’t want to have two palettes running at the same time. Not much red in René though, only for his ruddy cheeks. We only use yellow ochre here too, as a skin tone.

So here is René with his first coat.

René our Diminutive French Waiter

or should I say pinny? 😉

You remember that he is only two inches tall. It’s quite difficult to get detail into a figure so small but if we layer the paint and we use small enough brushes we might just be able to do it.

A word here about the brushes I like to use. I am using, for this painting nothing larger than a double 0 and the smallest is a 10.0’s. All are squirrel hair or sable, more often used for water colour painting. They don’t last very long in my hands, as I give them quite a bashing, but one tip, which my friend Joy Stanley Ricketts, the renowned miniature painter, gave me, and one that I can pass on to you budding painters 🙂 – is Use your old brushes to mix and your new ones to paint. That way you are prolonging their life. I don’t like synthetic brushes as I find they are never quite smooth enough.

We shall be using the magnifier throughout and when we come to the last layer we shall use the headset and hope that the window cleaner doesn’t call! You look really silly with a pair of magnifying lenses sticking out six inches in front of your nose…

We will have to worry about René’s sticky out bits later too…maybe this post should have been called : “Lumps and Bumps and Sticky Out bits” ?

Sounds like a porn site!

Maybe not…..;)

‘Allo, ‘Allo…Night’awk calling……


Belle in the window of the Emporium. Well Done Julie for such a fine job on the shop!

Well – Belle is happily ensconced in her Toyshop window

A closeup.. she looks a happy little girl!

and we are now about to embark on our third project online…the dummy board of a French Waiter ( whom we have christened René. ) You will all remember the wonderfully funny television series, ‘Allo, ‘Allo! with its contantly stressed cafe owner, René Artois. Stressed, of course because of the ” knockwurst containing the picture of the fallen Madonna, with the big …*you know whats*, by Van Clomp”…if you haven’t a clue what we are talking about then go to:

‘Allo ‘Allo

and you will begin to understand.

Or not as the case may be….

Our cafe owner looks very much as if he would be at home in Nouvion!
My client has sent me a tiny picture which I have scanned into the computer and blown up. ( no bombs present at this juncture.) 🙂

Our black and white French waiter

She would like a 1/24th creation and so the finished figure will be just two inches tall. It is to go into a smaller scale Bistro type cafe which is being made by my client, as a present. (Shhhh- It’s a secret).

So here we have the figure transferred to primed basswood, grain going vertically and painted in umber coloured oil paint. Now- we can see that this is not going to be an easy figure to cut out. The tiny bottle on the tray and the tray itself pose problems.

We may find that we have to brace the back of the figure at this point to give it stability.

This sort of thing was often done in history, with the larger dummy boards. Sometimes the damage had already been done and the broken piece was re-attached with a bracing bar at the back. Sometimes the maker thought that his design was vulnerable and he would attach a brace, just in case.

Below you see what I mean….

The back of the Norwich man showing bracing.

This is a large 18th century figure of a Inn keeper with a considerable amount of bracing. Belt and braces, I would say… 😉

( The figure is at the Strangers Hall Museum in Norwich, Norfolk, U.K. )

Our little figure doesn’t need that much but we are going to be a itsy bitsy bit worried when it comes to cutting out that tray – so we shall see.

Now to paint in the basic oil layer and wait for him to dry.

Of course he is not terribly colourful, so we shall at the same time be continuing with the nice and bright Lace Maker we started a while ago and work on the two together.

When we left her, The Lace Maker was drying with the first oil layer. Now we have the second applied and some of the detail is beginning to emerge. I shall need to work day and night, with everything I have going on at the moment,  to turn this image from the flat page to a three D dummy board.

You might say…I too must be a night’awk 🙂

It will be quite a challenge to go from one figure to the other; from 1/12th scale to the other in 1/24th but we shall manage….I hope. Our lacemaker is much more complicated than the 1/24th waiter who should be able to be finished in much less time.

“Swiftly and with style” as Allo Allo’s M. Alphonse, would say. 🙂

Letting go


I am veering off a little in this post ( though I am still touching on dummy boards) to tell you all about the last major project that Stephen and I indulged in. It’s a 1/24th boot house..based on the children’s rhyme ‘There was an old woman who lived in a shoe”

We had never done anything like it before….never mind in 1/24th. I had never painted such very tiny people.

It was a project that was to take us over for the whole Autumn of 2008, evenings and weekends and we ‘unveiled ‘ it at KDF the following Spring. With its smoking chimney, its tiny little dummy board children and animals and the miniscule flowers growing round the base, it was an immediate hit with the fair going public.


Here is a picture of it…sitting on our dining room table….

There was an Old Woman.....

There are others on the website:


The house was bought by Mrs Gillian Ross of Surrey.

What she has acquired is the following:

  • The 1/24th house with lighting and chimney and the oil to make it smoke.
  • All the 1/24th dummy board children, who are doing all sorts of things including skating, playing whip and top, hoop and carrying various toys. ( there are about 10 of them ) These figures are all based on Victorian scraps and are incredibly detailed at just an inch and a half or so high. The smallest figure is less than this.
  • The animals… cat, goose and hen. Sadly I have parted with the dog and with The Old woman herself but these can always be commissioned and added later.
  • All the furniture and effects including a cast iron stove and a dresser with some crockery on it.
  • The contents of the loft!

All entirely hand made and crafted.

Here you can see into the kitchen/living room which is continuous over the ground floor.

The ground floor of the boot house

The old woman herself is just three inches… the tiny dog is less than an half an inch, the cat sitting on the roof isn’t much bigger!

Here is a picture we took when we displayed it at Kensington.

The boot at KDF

It’s all perfectly playable with and anything can be added or taken away as it pleases..

Here are some of the children…all oil on wood. They are very probably actual size on your screen!

Boy with posy

Boy with balloons

Girl with ball

The roof of the house lifts off and there is another room here ( which is a loft at present and full of stored items).

There are two further rooms…one a sitting room and one a bedroom…remember…”she has so many children she didn’t know what to do…” They must all sleep in one bed! 🙂

There will never be another one made. It ‘s unique.

So….Stephen and I are onto the next all consuming project!

A Home…at last


After a few years on the miniature scene, one roombox and one ‘display’ house ( which we built ) later….I am , it seems, finally about to succumb to the joys of dolls house owning!

The 17th century parlour..our display roombox.

I have told you all that I don’t own a dolls house and that I didn’t have one as a child. Do I feel that I was deprived? No, not at all. I had lots of other things to play with. But at the tender age of 55, I do feel a teensy weensy bit short changed and so I am, I hope, about to acquire my very first proper dolls house.

It came about like this.

You all know that I have been making a special dummy board for Julie Campbell of Bellabelle Dolls. In the process I have been looking at lots of dolls house and miniature blogs and websites and have felt – yes- rather left out in that I haven’t an ongoing little project like Julie’s Edwardian Toyshop or Debbie’s ( Tower House Dolls ) Nursery; something that will absorb me for years to come and be really worthwhile in the making and the collecting for. I also, it transpires, need a proper home, at last, for some of my dummy boards, somewhere for them to live when they are not “on show”. { and for the ones I want to keep 🙂 }

Master Nathaniel Trumpington- well, that is what we call the V&A servant in Livery!

And so, when my husband ( who is the handiest person alive when it comes to DIY and ‘jobs’ ) told me that he was bored and needed a hobby, I began to think that I might get him to make me a dolls house.

Not any old dolls house mind you.

I want UPPARK!

That gem of an 18th century house- Uppark

Have any of you been to this most delightful of West Sussex gems? It is quite simply one of the most beautiful 18th century country houses I have ever been to and the only one I have ever truly wanted to live in. ( Well I love Baroque but you can’t live in it can you?)

If you visit this National Trust beauty, you enter the house through a ‘museum’ of a ticket office which shows a video of the house the night it burnt down!

The fiery furnace...Uppark in flames 1989

Now, I am not a particularly sentimental soul, I am not given easily to displays of emotion – but when I saw this horrific but quite morbidly compelling footage, – I cried. I couldn’t help it. ( Good job there weren’t too many visitors the day we were there, but I have to say I wasn’t the only one).

There was a deathly hush as the film was played and a collective groan as the beautiful plaster ceiling of the mid 18th century Blue Salon, fell through the floor into the room below.

The Blue Salon and my favourite room at Uppark.

Grown men were trying to control their quivering lower lips. People were fiddling with their rings and biting their quicks.! It was rather like watching a ship sink. It truly was one of the most horrible things I have ever witnessed….

For someone like me who absolutely loves and lives for the history and for the skill and dedication of those 17th and 18th century artisans who created that most gracious and elegant of buildings we know and love – that phenomena, our ‘Stately Homes of England’, it was an awful, awful sight.

BUT when we eventually enter the restored house… the shock of the ‘new’, is even more breathtaking!

Who ever says that the 21st century craftsmen and women ( or in this case the late 20th ) cannot match the perfection of the 18th…think again. It is practically impossible to tell the difference ( except where they want you to see it ), between the surviving historic work and the modern copy, renovation and restoration.
True- they did have to commandeer the few and very best artisans they could find ( not all British either ) to rebuild it; they did have to train young people on the job, they did have to do a tremendous amount of trial and error before they got it right, but By Heavens have they got it right!

It was a privilege to walk around that house and see what they had managed to do to a dying house; a house that might so easily have gone the way of the many derelict mansions dotted about our countryside.

And so, my house will be a tribute….AN Uppark…Not a slavish copy… I can’t afford that. I can’t run to commissioning the actual wonderful carpets and the actual beautiful furniture, but I can ( we can hopefully ) build one very similar and I will fill it with as near to the actual objects as I can.

Much of the work I will be able to do myself, of course.The paintings, the trompe l’oeil that sort of thing. Stephen will be the builder and you….my miniature producing friends – will be the hired help!

I will people it with dummy boards of the right era, right down to the smallest and meanest kitchen maid.

It will be a very long process, but then anything that is worth doing, often is.I will do my best to document it here….in between writing about dummy boards.

And probably, when it is finished…I will cry.

Again. 🙂

Diary of a Dummy Board- Photofinish!


BELLE ROCKS!….. she now sports a specially made curved back support

( BluTac underneath the rockers will put a stop to that!) 😉 She does rock…not well- but she does rock. I shall explain to Julie how to make her move more fluently by putting weights on the ends, at the back of the rockers,or a small pendulum at the back, if that is what she would like the figure to do.

Back of Belle- showing stand unpainted and unshaped.

The stand needs a bit of adjustment and to make it rounded at the edges. It’s possible to see the back stand through the rockers if you are looking at Belle from above but not if you are on a level with her. Can’t be helped I’m afraid. That’s the sort of thing we talked about before…a good shape for a dummy board. Belle is partly ‘see through’, on account of the gaps made by cutting through the white space to reveal the rockers, and so the stand must be partly visible. However, we shall work on it and make it less so.

One thing Julie could do when Belle is finally in place…put some toys onto the stand and around the rockers. This would hide it….just a thought.

I’ve got very fond of dear little Belle these past few weeks…and just found myself saying…” come on then little Belle…let’s paint you.”

Talking to my figures now… don’t have to be mad to like dummy boards I think, but it helps…. <big and silly grin> 🙂

The back is now painted in Paynes Grey- a blue black, **acrylic – the only time I ever use acrylics to paint dummy boards and this is because it dries so quickly and if I manage to get a splodge on the oil colour of the front it is incompatible and will wipe off with water.

The BluTac 'handle' in place

It’s a good historic colour as the paints that were used for the back were generally black ( of the blueish variety) and dark brown. Sometimes the wood of the back was simply varnished but I don’t think this helps the trompe l’oeil effect as the edges don’t disappear well.

I need to hold the figure carefully (and do so by attaching a piece of BluTac onto the front surface ) in order to get good access to the edges, stand and back. Oil would be far too messy for this.

Belles edges being painted

The varnished back of the Lydiard Girl- Lydiard House WIlts. 4 ft.

Now Belle is varnished. I use a special mixture I “invented ” myself which allows tiny crackles to appear ( not quite one twelfth crackles but not far off).This gives it an aged appearance when rubbed in with brown. I shan’t do too much of that as this isn’t an Historic figure and doesn’t really need to be aged.

Belle, now painted... and with a 2 pence coin

So here she is with her PastMastery gold seal ( telling us that she is the REAL THING – hand painted and crafted by us). Each figure comes with a ‘wax’ seal saying that it’s a PastMastery original. The Historic ones have a leaflet telling you about the original life sized figure too but as this isn’t an historic one we shall forgo that. I haven’t, you will notice, attached the seal to the figure. I usually do….if the figure is big enough. I shall leave that to Julie if she wants to…. it might upset the balance of the rocking action, you see.

Belle with her PastMastery seal

Notice how the dark edges disappear now and she looks three D!

And here she is in my own display house with the 19th century dummy board Christmas tree and a few nice wrapped presents that she will open later. 🙂

You can see that some of her little friends have crept in to see her new horse

Belle ( and friends) playing in the Morning Room!

**I have often been asked why I don’t paint these figure in acrylics. For one thing, the originals were not painted in acrylics and I’m trying to be true to my source. One comment that comes out time and time again…. is ” your colours are so good, so historic looking, not brash, they look authentic”.

I rest my case….

Thank you for following the progress of Belle. Thank you for all your comments and encouragement!

I hope you will all continue to follow “The Making of Another Dummy Board- The Lacemaker which we will take up again in one of our next posts. Interspersed with this project, there will be ( yet) another commission…. ( “Listen very carefully…I shall say this only once.”- with apologies to ‘Allo, Allo’ ) – The Making of René…. the French Waiter.

Hope you can join me?

à bientôt!

Dairy of a Dummy Board- The Tail End….


Last night we cut out our Rocking Horse. Stephen has just rung me ..a bit worried that I am letting out, as he said, ” trade secrets” about how we make our dummy boards. I’m not worried in the least. If anyone wants to learn to paint in oils, on basswood, like myself, then turn their creations into dummy boards, fine…as long as they don’t copy the actual figures that I make! A lot of us miniaturists are worried about this aren’t we, copying, judging from the comments I see on our AIM noticeboard? There are just a very few of us who make miniature dummy boards for sale. I have to blow our own trumpet a bit here and say that none make the detailed copies that PastMastery are able to produce. No one else makes them in ” the old way” oils on wood, as far as I know. ( If you do please..tell me about it..I’d love to swap notes!)

I think you can see, over these past weeks, how complicated the making of one of these figures is…so good luck to anyone who feels they can do it. I shan’t be upset.

Belle has now been filed – under B…of course 🙂 to take out the burrs on the edge of the wood. The next thing to do is to file and sand the edges of the back to bevel the thickness of the wooden table,in exactly the same way that the historical dummy boards were made.

Belle and her horse cut and filed

You will remember, we have spoken about beveling before. In “Just Hangin’ around”. This was done so that you could not so readily see the thickness of the board, or table, that the figure was painted on. If this was too obvious, the illusion of three dimensions would be destroyed. We shall do our best to bevel the back with a small file- in those important little places where the thickness is visible. It isn’t possible, as it would be in real life, to bevel every inch. The holes cut in the figure are too small in some cases.

Stephen and I have decided that we shall try to make the horse rock like the real thing! I have no idea if we can do it…but watch this space for the next instalment!

It’s just one of those little challenges us Miniaturists love isn’t it?

Just in case…I don’t mind admitting defeat online! 🙂

A bevelled Belle back

Tomorrow…. Belle has her stand attached and is painted, varnished and finished!

Then, off she goes to her new home. I hope there are lots of lovely toys for her to play with Julie?


Diary of a Dummy Board- Approaching the Winning Post.


We are now approaching the final stages of the making of our Edwardian dummy board rocking horse.

Shall we call it…Approaching the Winning Post? Well… it is Cheltenham Gold Cup week!

Here is how she looks when we make the first pass with the blade of the tiny saw.

1.The wooden horse is laid flat on the saw bed. The wood on which the dummy board is painted is known as the 'table'.

1.We cut the bottom of the rockers first as this is the longest single pass.

Pressure is exerted on the flat bed. This activates the blade and causes it to pass up and down through a tiny hole in that bed.

2.The rockers are cut.

2.More than one pass with the blade is need to allow for the curved shape of the rockers and a steady hand guides the blade around the tip.

3.The blade is a black blur! Rounding the end.

Care must be taken to cut within the lines, of course. When you are working in this scale, the features of the figure are so small, that even a tiny fragment lost spoils the look.

3.It isn’t possible if you think about it, to cut ’round’ with a flat and fixed blade and so several cuts have to be made at angles to turn the blade through 90 degrees.

The chest of the horse and the front legs, one of the longest runs of the blade, are done first.

4. Here the blade is turned carefully into Belle’s hair. The figure is then adjusted and a v shape cut into her curls.

4. Belle Begins to emerge!

5.Detail of the cutting of Belle's curls.

5. The V is gradually narrowed until the whole area is cut out.The finishing of her hair will be done with a small file, later.

6. Belle's head is free.

6. Here we have cut down to the reins.

It won’t be safe to cut out between them as the remaining wood would be too fragile. This must remain white….but it’s only a tiny piece.

7.The blade is held securely against the horse's ears

7. This is rather a dangerous moment! Here the ears of the horse are cut. You can just see the blade passing over the top of his head. Stephen has to hold the wood tightly to prevent any juddering.

Here – we are against the grain….driving the blade through it and not with it.

It’s quite a small piece to cut and could easily break off. Sticky out bits see… 🙂

8.Two horizontal cuts are made towards the horse’s nose, the blade ‘turned’ gradually and the v shaped piece slides off.

8.The ear of the horse- nearly free from the back board and his nose emerging.

9.The last cut of the horse's ear

9.Here the last tiny piece of the ear emerges. Hold your breath……………..

10. The chin of the horse is cut

10. The v shape of the chin is released.

11. In the next picture we see the largest white piece of the backing board being removed.

A small hole is bored into the wood with a file tip or a bradawl and then the process is repeated for the other white spaces.

11.Cutting the largest white space

12.The rockers nearly free.The process is repeated for the other white pieces.

Again the blade has to be turned and turned again, through various angles to change direction.

12.The blade is pushed against the rockers time and time again to cut the tiniest sliver from the inside.

13. The last hole is bored in the last white space. The blade is inserted into the hole and the process starts again- this time inside the figure. Oh..sorry…. 🙂 you can all breathe now!

The last and smallest piece of white is taken out of the middle of the rockers. And Hey Presto!…

13.A hole is bored in the white wood space.

14.The last white space goes........

15.Belle is free!

The figure is free from the backing board! 15

She is already throwing good shadows, just laid against a piece of paper!

There is still a way to go before Belle is finished though. She now has to be filed, in the places where the blade could not cut finely enough. She will then be sanded smooth and the edges will be painted with PVA ( Positively Valuable Adhesive) to prevent furring of the basswood.

The back will then be finished.

But that’s another story…. and the other side of the table…!

Nearly there…..Julie!