Friday, March 27, 2015


Something I was working on a few months ago, a recessed buffet for a dining room.   The room was designed around some beautiful antique silver miniatures.  I will show the finished room next week.  For now, please enjoy my feature film 'Handwork':


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Curtains for the floor...

Progress on my second Canal House is slow.  But I suppose that is what happens if you don't work on it, isn't it?  Having said that, I did get some work done...

I wanted to have plain pinewood floor boards in the dining room.  Something which you often see even in the grander houses of the 18th century.  During my last private visit of the beautiful canal house on the Herengracht one of the caretakers of the house told me that pine floors were very expensive in the 18th century as all the wood had to be imported from the Nordic countries.  

I started making the floorboards from wooden slats from discarded blinds.  With some knots drawn on the bare wood the floor was starting to look like pine.   The wood did look a bit too new so I did several tests with different finishes to find the perfect used look...

I found the perfect finish to simulate an old, unwaxed pine floor.  Or so I thought.  On the sample it looked perfect.  When I applied it to the floor, my carefully drawn knots almost disappeared and the overall colour was too dark, too new looking.  So that floor is not staying.  I will probably sand it and start again.  Or put down another floor, using a different wood.  I don't know yet.  

I also started making the curtains for this room.  This time I used a fine blue cotton which I lined with  white silk.   For the roman blinds I hand dyed silk to match the colour of the wallpaper.  Getting the right hue on the fabric was a lot of work and involved several dye baths, drying the fabric in between each bath.  I dyed just enough fabric to make the three roman blinds for this room.

After a break of a few weeks, I wanted to get back to working on the dining room.  As I was setting up the room to decide what to do next, I just could not find one of the roman blinds.  I looked absolutely everywhere for it, but it was nowhere to be found.   Out of frustration I decided to clean up my workshop instead.  As I grabbed the vacuum cleaner, my eye fell onto something blue inside the dirt cup.  

Yup, the missing roman blind.  I just cannot understand how I could not have noticed that being sucked into the hose.  It's not exactly tiny like my poor little teddy bear from several years ago.  
After a quick rinse and dry the curtain was fine.  Thankfully, as I did not have any fabric left to make a new one, and with hand dying it is almost impossible to get the same colour again.

So, on with the windows and doors.  And the floor of course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Warm light, cool light..

In November all the lamps of my first Canal House suddenly started giving a very feeble light.  Pretty though it was, it meant there was something wrong in the electrical circuit.   In order to get to the root of the problem, I had to turn my house so I could reach the back where all the wiring comes together.  Quite a big job and I didn't have time for that until last week.

After a time consuming process of elimination, I found the defective light on the upper landing and was able to fix it.  While I was able to reach the back with my soldering iron, I added a couple of new lamps to the system.

In my electrics drawer I found the table lamp with the two hearts.  I'm not sure where I got this from, but it was a cheap light which I bought online I think.  It fits perfectly in my Arts & Crafts room with the heart shapes reflected in the chair backs and the shape of the foot of the lamp reflected in the little Moroccan table.

I still have to remove the white sticker pad underneath the lamp, I don't like those at all.  

In the kitchen I finally plugged in the small refrigerator I made ten years ago, it still works!  So that is now ready for use.  

Looks good!  At last we can see what's in the fridge at night too.

There is not much in the fridge.  I think a food shopping trip is in order.

Ah, there's the basket with groceries.  Some white wine and...hang on, what's going on there??

It's that rat again!  The one who stole my radishes in the garden.  And now he's got a sausage!  Cheeky little bugger.   I think I need another cat!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best wishes...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bear with me...

Oh dear,  another month and a half have passed in which I have not managed to post anything.  Not for lack of anything to show you, as I have been busy.  But that is just the reason...I have been busy.  Very busy. 

 But now it is time to put up the Christmas decorations.  I can't put it off any longer...

Hang up the stockings and drape the tinsel.

 And if it gets cold, get into bed with a good friend and maybe a book.

 The painting is an impression of Govert Flinck's 'Girl by a High Chair' (1640).  The miniature oil painting was made by Elly Ypma. I really like how Elly paints in her own style, using existing paintings but, rather than slavishly copying them, she gives them her own touch.   Which in some cases I much prefer to an exact copy of an existing painting. 
The adorable old, much loved bear was made by Jeanet Dekker of Classic Bears (no website).   She makes beautiful aged teddy bears and other stuffed toys.  I bought this bear at the DHN show in October, along with the sweet and cheerful soft garnet red bear, made by Elles Leenders. 

Time to finish decorating!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Search light

Before you send out a search party for me, I'm still here!  I've just been busy and with a beautiful summer behind us, I have not had much time to spend on my miniatures.

Autumn is definitively here,
the days are growing shorter again, it is time to turn on some lights.  
I always find it difficult to find a light fixture which I like and which I can afford.  

For my Blue Salon I have used cheap light fixtures which I slightly modified, added a couple of embellishments and gilded.  Although they're not quite the style I would like, they will do for now. 

In the center of the room I would like to add a chandelier.  I have a beautiful chandelier by Ray Storey which I have used here to try out what it looks like.  It is far too big for the room though.   

With a lower voltage like 9V or even 6V the lights are dimmed and look much better.  The wall sconces would benefit from that also, although in reality the lights don't look as bright as in the photos. 

I am curious to hear about your light choices.  Where do you buy your lights?  Do you make your own? 

 Progress is slow on these rooms.  The rooms need furniture.  I have collected many lovely small decorative items, but no cabinets or tables to display them on. I have so many ideas for furniture and maybe a lovely carpet, but I haven't had the time yet.  Hopefully this autumn and winter I'll be able to dedicate my time to making furniture.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inviting inspiration...

The painting below by Adriaan de Lelie is called 'The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz.' (1794-1795).   Some of you may remember that I used this painting as the inspiration for the two reception rooms in my canal house 'Herengracht'.   Jan Gildemeester owned the house at the end of the 18th century and had the two rooms shown in the painting remodelled to use as his art gallery. 

The rooms in the painting still exist, almost exactly as they were in the time they were painted.  They are part of a canal house at the Herengracht which, unfortunately for us, is not open to the general public.  So, other than in photos, I had never actually seen the house inside. 

That is, until two weeks ago!  I was very kindly invited to come to the canal house and see the rooms in person.  Needless to say I was very excited about this.


A selfie of sorts ;-)  Of course this photo is all about the gorgeous overmantel with mirror and the double doors in the background.  These are the doors which you can see in the painting.

A copy of the De Lelie painting is reflected in the pier glass between the windows.  The room felt rather familiar to me, which wasn't that surprising as I have spent much time looking and studying photos of it. Very unreal.  This photo reminded me of a photo I took a while ago of my miniature room...

I have always intended to put a pier glass between the windows and now I am even more convinced I should put a long mirror there.   My rooms are not exact copies of the real rooms, but I think they have the same feel.  The similar yellow colour of the curtains is a lucky coincidence.

Here's a peek into the magnificent stairwell.  The incredible stucco decoration was created by the sculptor Jan van Logteren in 1736.   It depicts Apollo, God of sun, light and music, and the muses Clio (history) and Melpomene (tragedy).   Above them sixteen musicians with their instruments.

Sunlight streams through the windows of the beautiful cupola into the stairwell, providing a wonderful play of light and shade.   Wouldn't something like this this be fantastic in miniature as well?  I still have a lot of work ahead of me ;-)

The visit was very inspirational and I feel privileged to have been able to look around in one of the most beautiful canal houses in Amsterdam.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pigments, porcelain and patience...

If you have been reading my blog posts for a while, you may remember I have written about the miniature porcelain painting classes I take once or twice a year.  I really enjoy them and for a long time now I have wanted to buy a kiln so I can paint porcelain pieces and fire them myself.  

Unfortunately kilns are very expensive so buying one wasn't really an option.  Until a few weeks ago when I managed to buy a small kiln without going into bankruptcy.   The kiln goes up to 1000ºC which is more than enough for firing porcelain glaze paints (they need around 800℃).

Although I have painted porcelain before, mixing the paints was always done for us.  So, the first thing I did was make a colour chart with the pigments I have.  I had a lot of fun trying different mediums and learning how to mix the paints.   

The firing process itself takes 6 to 8 hours.  One of the more difficult things is to keep my curiosity under control and not peek inside the kiln until it has cooled completely.   Ah, that pesky patience!

 Here I tested different mediums and different firing temperatures with quick little sketches on tiles.  My painting technique needs to improve, but it will over time.  I also need to paint smaller so I am on the hunt for tiny brushes.

I had some cheap dishes in my stash and wanted to see whether I could fire them in my kiln, so I quickly painted them with a little design based on an old Chinese piece.   Here again I tested different mediums and mixes to see how it would look once fired.  

I made a bit of a mess in some parts, but I was impatient and fired them anyway.  Again, technically they're not good but as an experiment they were a success.  I must do better next time though!

These pieces are only test pieces but they look rather nice in the Arts&Crafts inspired dining room in my first Canal House.  I now need to practise, practise, practise until I achieve pieces I am happy with.   I've got a whole set of china for the dining room waiting to be painted...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A little Tune...

In July I drove to Tune in Denmark with two miniaturist friends to attend classes at the summer school there.   First we made a stop at Egeskov Castle, a beautiful castle with wonderful gardens,  well worth a visit.  But the main reason for stopping there is because it is where Titania's Palace is housed.    Titania's Palace is a miniature castle which was commissioned and worked on by Sir Neville Wilkinson from 1907 to 1922 for his  daughter Guendolen.

I had seen Titania's Palace before when it was still on display at Legoland.  I think the castle is a much better setting for this wonderful miniature Palace.  Taking photos of the rooms was very difficult because of the glare from the windows on the protective glass.  My photos are therefore not the best, but I'll show you just a few anyway. 

Egeskov Castle
Titania's Palace (inside Egeskov Castle)
Titania's Palace, interior.
Titania's Palace, interior.
      Something in this little chapel below drew my attention...I have the same little book! Mine is a bit more worn, the velvet on the spine has almost worn away and the ivory cover is a bit chipped. But it is the same little book.  I found mine a few years ago on an antique market in France.  

Titania's Palace, chapel.
I have the same book!

In the evening we visited Ursula Dyrbye-Skovsted, who lives near Egeskov Castle.  We had a delicious dinner in her garden and very much enjoyed ourselves in wonderful company.  After dinner Ursula gave us a tour of her marvelous workshop and place of business ' Intarsia wood'  .  Wow, that was something else!  What a fabulous workshop!  The house and workshop are nearly 100 years old, and have maintained all the charm which the history of craftsmanship, passion and life brings.   Unfortunately I did not take any photos, but there are some on her website Intarsia ApS .

We left Ursula late that evening, and after a long trip with heavy traffic, relentless rains, roadworks and a detour we finally arrived at the school in Tune around 1:15 AM.  
It was all worth it though, as this was what we woke up to the next day:

Some of the buildings  and many seating area's of the school. 

My classroom.  This is where I spent most of my time the rest of the week (until 11:30 PM on some days!).

Not too bad ;-) 

Even during the occasional shower the view from my desk was wonderful.

 My teacher for both of the classes I took was Bill Robertson.  Here he is showing us a technique on the metal lathe.

During the first class we worked on making a wine decanting machine.  The machine holds a wine bottle which can then be slowly tilted to separate the wine from the sediment.  
My machine is not ready yet, although I did make most of the parts.   I am waiting for some tools to be delivered to me so I can finish it.  

 I had only once, very briefly, turned metal on a lathe, so basically I was new to the lathe.  There was a lot (!!) of measuring involved.  We had to turn three or four of each length so that we could pick the two most similar to use.  I made a few mistakes, so I turned more than required but that's all good experience. 
All the parts are screwed together, so we had cut nuts and bolts too.  So cool when the parts you have turned actually screw together!  As I said, my wine decanter machine is not ready yet, I'll write another post when I have finished it and show you how it all comes apart.

My second class involved more work on the lathe, in wood mostly this time.  We made a set of campaign chairs, the main feature of these of course is that they can be taken apart easily for travel.
The front legs of these chairs were turned on the lathe.  Trying to get four legs to look the same takes some practice!  Again, I did not finish the chairs, but that was not my goal.  My goal was to get acquainted with working on the lathe, and that I did!

It was very hot that week, so the last night of school my friends and I went to the beach for a swim.  Well you can see my friends' interpretation of 'going for a swim' ;-)  To be fair to them, they did go for a swim. 

After spending a leisurely Saturday in beautiful Copenhagen, my friend and I returned home on Sunday.  We spent the last night at the school as well which was rather spooky as we were the only two people there.  No staff, no teachers, no other students, just us two.  We had quite an eventful night with alarms going off and running into the security guard in the dark...but that's another story ;-)

For us Tune was just wonderful.  We will be back!

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