Notes on Life

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January 19, 1998....Crafting is what I do, who I am. I accept that. If I could get a job crafting AND make a lot of money from it, I would. It is precisely this reason why I get a bit gruff when someone infers that "hand-made" is somehow "second-rate". Where did this attitude come from? True, we live in a world of instant gratification, mass produced merchandise of questionable quality and artificially low prices, but that should only increase our appreciation of something made from our hearts and hands. I think the greater reason is that somehow hand-crafted is considered too homey by the mainstream. This is something mom used to do while watching t.v. This is something that you did as a hobby inbetween your real pursuits. No one has great craft shows featuring eccentric artists. No government's art council has ever paid several million dollars to the creator of a pot holder. Somehow the crafter has become less of an artist than someone that can handle a paintbrush, or can weld bits of junk together. This reaches to all crafts, not just miniatures. However, I think of crafting every bit of an art as the so-called traditional paths. To deny this would be to insult to our ancestors that November 12, 1997...Holidays are practically here! So, what do you think you are going to get? Ok, maybe that is the wrong question. What are you LIKELY going to get? If you are the only miniaturist in the house, perhaps you had better get a list going, so your family doesn't get you that out-of-control gift of a blender this year. The thing is, non-miniaturists simply do not know what to do with us normal folk. It is up to us to help them! First, make up a list. DO NOT say things like "anything is fine dear". You know this is an incorrect statement, and you are liable to get something that will remove excess body hair. Yah, like we have time for that. Think about things that won't embarrass your significant other. Things like a hand-cranked pasta machine (for conditioning fimo), embroidery floss (handy for a number of things), beads, etc. If you are a collector, and there is a good mini store in your area tell the person who is gift giving that you would like a gift certificate from the store. NO HINTING! Non-believers seem to ignore our cleverly placed ads, opting instead to use them as coffee coasters. If you prepare now, your Christmas season should go off like a bang, and you won't have to march that waffle iron back to the store! September 22, 1997...Ever notice that when you choose a large project to do, you automatically look for small subpatterns? (Well, even if you don't, I do, and it is my page so I can say what I want to.:)) Case in point was some thread doilies I was making over the weekend. I kept trying and rejecting patterns because of the large spaces that were turning up. To me, it seemed...well...ugly. I like things to be a bit more compact. I finally found an interesting pineapple pattern that I thought was great...lots of close stitches, clusters and the like. It is interesting to note, I guess, that you can take the girl away from miniatures, but not the miniatures from the girl.

The other day I was looking through some magazines, when one of those (ugh) women's publications caught my eye. It told me in accusing tones that I was not tall enough, was too tall, was too heavy, should wear more make-up, should become a better person to fit into the "norm". Well, I am not in the "norm". Wouldn't want to be. Where do they get off making me feel like I am not good enough? I decided that I must make a protest, so I turned the magazine around on the stand. I do that a lot! It also gives you a hint on what kind of magazines I *do not* buy. Why can't I be who I am? Well, that is why miniatures is such a great hobby. It doesn't care what you look like, how fast you can run, how good you are. You do not need fashion doll measurements, or know how to make eggplant anything. It just accepts you. I like that:).

September 2, 1997...I haven't written in a long time. Chock it up to the usual "hurry up and wait" attitude of summer, the fact that the DH (dear husband) has been home for vacation and vile virus (alliteration, you have got to love it!) so I really did not have much of a chance to put anything down in print. That changes today! As my husband has been sick all week, I have been a miniaturist obsessed because pesky cooking and cleaning didn't need to get in my way.If I were to say that I spent 12 hours a day eating and breathing minis would be a gross understatement. In that time, I made a knitted teddy bear, slippers, mittens, a christmas stocking and two sweaters. I made a smaller than 1/4 inch scale bunny sleeping in a cabbage, and a second one sleeping in a bed (too cute, I know...I think this will be a great little girl toy!). I designed and french knotted a kitchen rug. I designed a needlepoint rug, though I did not have the right cloth to needlepoint it. I made one shoe (don't ask...), A tam o' shanter hat, a crocheted baby blanket and a few crocheted sets of potholders. I made a corset in red with black lace, a basket and started on a scarf last night. Miniatures are so great, don't you agree?

Well, summer is almost gone and is quickly turning into a blurred memory. The trees are already turning golden and crimson hues, and there is a definite grumble outside as the school children move slowly but deliberately past my house. I never liked autumn when I had to go to school. It is definitely a season that demands ones full attention or you miss its secrets, and I hate not being "in the know". I now appreciate walking through leaf fall in a forest, feeling the warm yet crisp breezes that tell me to enjoy the vibrant blue sky now before it turns gray. Winter is on its way, but for the next couple of months we get to enjoy the transition, at least. What does any of this have to do with miniatures? Well, not a whole lot, I am just waxing poetic today!

Perhaps my somber mood today has a little to do with the tragic loss of Princess Diana over the weekend. Very little shocks me since I tend to be just a tad cynical about, well, everything (yeah, I know, tough to believe!), but her death did have an effect on me. I remember when I first saw her on tv...I was so taken with her that I tried to get my mother to let me have a "Lady Di" hairdo. I was "talked out of it" in the way only a mother could talk a child out of it, but I remember an awful lot of little girls having that haircut! I was never a "royal watcher", but every once in awhile I would hear a story about how someone had met her at some function, and was struck by her friendliness, and her committment to those she took under her wing. I knew she was no saint, but human. I think that is the fact that eludes some of the popular press today. My greatest sympathies to the British visitors to my page, and indeed to the rest of the world as well for the loss of someone who was a "doer" rather than just a "talker".

July 25, 1997...Ah, the joys of owning a pet. Our siamese cat (and I have spent enough money on him to consider him pure-bred now!) has a problem. If you live in North America, you have probably run across the commercial that says "how important is *your* cat's urinary health?". Well, the answer is "very". Toby has a condition that causes small stones to form in his bladder. He had to have a radical surgery a few years back to save his life, and now he has had a reoccurance. He will not be in mortal danger this time because of said surgery. He does need a special prescription food for the rest of his life, however. Toby seems to be predisposed to this condition, but it does tend to happen more often in overweight lazy cats who are being fed food that contains too much magnesium. The estimate is one in every ten cats is at risk. Ask your vet what is best to feed your pet. For the last several years we have been feeding Toby a food that we bought from the pet store, thinking we were paying more for higher quality...apparently not!
July 9, 1997....Canada's 130th birthday was celebrated merely a week and a day ago. Thought I would show a little patriotism and tell you a little about my country!

Did you know that Canada got its name somewhat by mistake? Its true...some explorer or other misinterpreted a first nations word meaning "village" (which sounded like "canada") and thought that was what the entire country was called. Good thing the word didn't actually mean something rude!

Lacrosse is our national game, not hockey

A Canadian invented Basketball

Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world, second only to Russia. We cover six times zones and have the largest coastline of any country. We have two official languages, French and English.

We do not have dollar and two dollar bills anymore. Instead we have the dollar coin (affectionately called the "loonie") and a two dollar coin (which hasn't really got a standard nickname).

We have ten provinces, and two territories (though this will change in a few years. There will be a new territory (breaking up the N.W.T.) called "Nunavut" and will become official on April 1, 1999)

June 25, 1997...If dogs are man's best friend, then surely the cat is the miniaturists! Of course, there are mini people who own dogs, and that is more than just ok, but there has never been a companion better suited to the miniaturist than the cat. We share a love for all things small. We like to get in to small spaces and play, so do they. Almost every miniaturist who owns a cat has a candid snapshot of fluffy peaking out of a dollhouse window, or sitting on the floor of the general store, waiting for the mini owner to come out and serve him. I can tell you that they are only pretending to be lounging...they just want to get a better look at the treasures that are hidden within those magic rooms. I have a photograph of Toby, sitting in my Sherlock Holmes box. He was yawning at the time, looking far too cute for words, but when we got the picture back I could have sworn that cat was laughing...I could tell he was merely in there trying to figure out where all the furniture should go, and upon realizing he had been caught was taken by a fit of the giggles! We cat-owned miniaturists find ourselves being very careful with our mini possessions, as we know that if we don't we would find that our feline friend has pirated something for his own collection! Those things are carefully hidden, and you will never see it again. My cats would mini if they only had thumbs. However, they are more content to watch me...for the moment. They sit in the workshop as we speak, surely discussing the latest nutshell news that Rocky is reclining upon and plotting their next roombox...

Famous People who are miniaturists:

Demi Moore (Bruce gave her a tiny mansion about a year or so ago!)

Stephanie Zimbalist (I came across her name in an old Nutshell News...she was featured in the reader's photo's section, and had made some mini parrots!)

Do you know of any other celebrity mini people? Send me their names! This is for everybody's benefit...if you say "well Demi has a dollhouse", you'd be surprised how many people take that as a validation of the hobby!

T.V. Shows that have featured a Dollhouse, or mentioned miniatures:

Home Improvement (made a very fancy furnished birdhouse in one episode and an psychiatrist's office for Jill in another)

Friends (Monica received a dollhouse from a dead aunt, Phoebe wanted to play but was chased off when she didn't understand scale. She then builds her own house, but unfortunately it burns down at the end of the show)

Seinfeld (Elaine mentions she is going to the museum of miniatures, and Jerry thinks miniatures are too small (sigh!))

All My Children (Erica tells Bianca that they will redecorate Bianca's dollhouse, and mentions miniatures!)

Lots of shows and movies in the past couple of years have also had a dollhouse in the background for effect. When you are watching the tube, keep an eye out for them!

So what does all this mean? It means I watch entirely too much television!

June 18, 1997...Several weeks later, and we have solved our landlord/townhouse problems. We moved! I hate moving, just as a point of trivia, so you can tell how peeved we became. We are settled, and I have actually had time to mini...finally! Except for a small grease fire, and a couple of worries about why our back gate mysteriously was open when we returned home one day(turned out to be a neighbor filtching grass cuttings for her garden who didn't close it properly!) we like it a lot here. I even have a bigger craft space, joy of joys! The only sad story to tell is that one of my houses (the little yellow and green victorian in "my minis" section, was water damaged when an unexpected rainstorm hit, and we found one of the leaks in the garage was centered over it, sigh. Any one know how to flatten warped floor boards?)

Hey, guess what, Nutshell News, the "bible of miniatures" magazine of the States, is going through a name change! It will be called "Dollhouse Miniatures". It is sad that the old name will be going away, but this might mean good things for the magazine (and ultimately maybe with great hope good things for the hobby and hobbiest!). First, people will know what it is (apparently "Nutshell News" is a tad confusing, considering it is catalogued on one book list under the care and feeding of nut trees. ). Second, it may reach a broader readership, and if that happens the magazine may make more money. Perhaps that means a bigger budget for monthly features? Who knows. I have heard people happy with the change, and others who are not really thrilled. We will see what happens.

Did you know that the most important part of any project (not just miniatures) is the history attached? It is true. Just think of all those samplers the little nine year old girls did so many years ago. Their importance isn't because of their skills (samplers were more practice pieces than anything), but the lives of the ones who made them. Needleworkers of all sorts have started to date and sign their work, and some miniaturists are no different. For any project, you should document when it was started, when it was finished, the signifigance of the piece (you know every scene has a story!), etc. Laminate it, and if possible keep it with the house/roombox/etc. Also try to sign and date accessory pieces. Future generations will thank you!

A few phrases I have heard that I thought were funny, and wanted to share!

"Very funny, Scotty, Now beam down my clothes!"...(anonymous sig line)

"Ooooh, aaahhh, that's how it starts...then its nothing but running, and screaming!"...(scientist character describing the dinosaurs of "Lost World")

"I was Borgged, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!"...

Some people have asked me "how do you think of all your ideas?". This is easy to answer...first, if they gave out PH.d's for daydreaming, I would have been a doctor many times over. I never let the teachers stop me from slipping away into my own imagination, and believe me, they tried. Second, I buy craft magazines, decorating magazines, etc., and try to think of ways to make the items I see in miniature. This isn't always easy. You have to train your mind to see in three dimensions, and be able to rotate it to see all aspects. Some people will try to tell you you can not learn such a skill...bull. The human brain is more than capable of doing this, it just takes practice. Thirdly, you have to view your world in terms of "far away". A wooden bead is a wooden bead until you realize if you were the size of a mouse, it might look like a vase because they are not standing quite as "far away" as a human. Years ago I had a physics teacher who always said if you don't know what to do next in a problem, pretend you were a single minded, take things in small bites, chew on things, etc. It seemed silly at the time, but it did help get me through a few exams. A cow might be a little big, but if you see the world through a rodent's eyes, you will be amazed what you might have previously missed!

A handy item to include in your mini workbox is parchment paper. It is thin enough to use as tracing paper, but is not too delicate to work with (tho it will curl if the humidity is high). The uses I have found for it? Well, several times I have come across a pattern drawing inside of a mini book that I would like to make, and that they have given me instructions on how to make (A.K.A. fair game). Since it is a book, cutting out the pattern is not an option (especially if it came from the library!). Taking it to a copy center is a hassle, not to mention there is a big chance that they will not want to copy the pattern in fear that they will be sued off the face of the earth for it. So I just make a temporary copy with my parchment paper! I have also used it to keep my mini sewing honest. After cutting out my pattern pieces, I rearrange them so the right sides are facing each other. I then repin the parchment pattern to the pieces. Now I can sew right on the pattern...the result is a perfect seam! The parchment can then be pulled off, and the item can be turned. Other uses? Limited only by your imagination! Parchment paper can be purchased where art supplies are sold. I bought a pad of 50 sheets for six dollars, and each page can be used for many patterns.

In the last couple of days I have heard some horror stories about lost and damaged miniatures due to natural disasters (this includes hurricanes, fires, floods, tornadoes, children, grandchildren, and household pets!). A very good point was brought up in the discussion that followed. If you buy a special miniature from an artisan, and it has a substantial monetary value, you would do well to keep all receipts, insure it AND take pictures of it. This way if something does happen, you have protection. If you do not have pictures, the insurance company is liable to scoff at you for trying to recover money for "children's toys" on your claim. Make sure your picture has a ruler in it to show the size of your treasure.

I found an interesting book the other day called "Victorian Treasures", Carol McD. Wallace, ISBN 0-8109-8149-1. It is an antiquing book, but with a doesn't dwell on furniture and fabrics, but on accessories. It also gives info on what a typical middle class Victorian house would look like, the signifigance of each room, etc. Really quite good. Lots of good color pictures and it also has two pages on miniatures. As I was thumbing through it, I realized just how many of the "new" craft projects that are out and about nowadays are really fairly old ideas. One example of this is taking broken china you don't want to part with, attaching it to another plate and using it as a decoration...apparently pretty big with the victorians. Also decorating picture frames was in vogue then, too. Did those Victorians know how to party or what!

I went to a department store and bought a large bag of cast off buttons. There are a lot of neat ones, enough lamp bases et al for years! My favorite buttons were two small pineapples...think they would make darling curtain tie backs. There were also metal/jewel buttons that can be taken apart, and the metal bit used as a picture frame. Also, there were some pretty buttons that would make pretty "background" items, some that will make trendy looking plates.

I was watching a hobby show the other day ("the Painted House"). They had an interesting table. It had a clock face, and a cylinder base. The clockface was antiqued (crackle finish, sepia look (this is the yellow/brown hue of old time pictures) )It would be so easy to make one in miniature! All you would need is a circle of wood the right size, a photocopy of a watch face blown up to the correct size (or a magazine cut out, if you could find a big enough one). You could decoupage the face on, do a crackle/ antiquing treatment on it. Paint the sides of the table top a matte black. Glue the dowel onto a base of some sort( so it will stand up on its own), paint it black. Glue the pieces together and you have a very trendy table for a modern neo-teckie, post yuppie look!

Recently I attended a dollhouse show. It was small, but I did find several interesting things out. First, when you attend a show, always take a tote bag. This way you can stash your treasures away, and keep your hands me, this is important. I didn't bring a tote bag, and I was constantly juggling three or four small bags while sorting through piles of interesting minis, almost knocking over displays because my hands were full. You may also want to have a zipper on your bag, so in case you are jostled, you won't drop minis all over creation. Secondly, make and bring a list. You may have everything planned in your mind when you go in, but once you walk into the hustle and bustle of a show, your body tends to go into survival mode...result? Well, you get home and suddenly remember that you intended on grabbing those old magazines, or something equally as important but forgot to go back to the table you saw them at. Which brings me to the next point. When you see it, like it, and can afford it, BUY IT! The thing about shows is that many items displayed may only be available at a show, nowhere get it while you can or you will find yourself in regret mode. Fourth, if you are looking for specific wallpaper to go with your carpet, or vice versa, make a sample book of your color schemes to take with you. This can be made up in advance with samples of wallpaper, carpet, upholstery swatches, etc., anything that will help you make purchases at a show. This way you will not have to guess what theme color is in your parlor, or pick a beautiful carpet out only to get home and find that it is three shades too blue and looks awful. Wear comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes and have a good breakfast before you go, too. Most of all, have fun!

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