Half a year almost...too long since I have posted here.  
I have been very busy though.  Sadly in July a miniaturist friend of mine passed away.   Many of you may know her blog Elly in Amsterdam.  Elly had asked me to take care of her collection of miniatures in agreement with her wishes.

So for the past four months I have been packing, sorting, identifying, pricing and selling Elly's miniatures.  Part of Elly's collection has gone to the Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis where it will go on display soon.  
A few pieces have gone into the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection while many other miniatures have gone to private collectors.  

Elly had been collecting for 30 years so you can imagine the size of her collection.  I created a blog to post the available miniatures on.  If you'd like to have a look:  https://ellysminiatures.blogspot.com

There are still many miniatures to photograph and make available on the blog.  In between I get to play with them, put them in my rooms, tempting me to buy them myself.  Which of course is not always possible as my budget is not limitless.  Here are a few of the miniatures in my rooms (some are my own, some have already sold, some are available):




The gorgeous Alan McKirdy dining table with wonderful Georgian Key Stokesay Ware china (which is sold).  The chandelier has real Swarovski crystals.  Elly stitched the seats for the dining room chairs herself in petit point.  





The silver is by Jens Torp.  The cat fire screen in the background is, just like the table, by Alan McKirdy and the stitching again was done by Elly herself (also sold).  



This wonderful pitcher from Elly's collection is by Marsha Hedrick.  I will be available soon on the blog along with some other Marsha Hedrick pieces.  


I loved seeing this piece in my kitchen.  The stove is by the late French miniaturist Philippe Bordelet as is the kettle.  The roasting tin is by Marie-Louise Markhorst (Smallscale).
Some people (you know who you are!!) tried to persuade me to buy this stove myself, but I already have the AGA for this kitchen so, as much as I love it, I'm not buying the Bordelet stove.  





 Apart from ellysminiatures.blogspot.com I post about once a week on my Instagram account: @josje.bouwt




Fifteen years ago I started working on my Canal house Singel 224.  More than 5 years past my estimated completion time, it is finally near to being finished.  The photos you see on my website and here on my blog mostly show the house looking beautiful and pristine.  But that is not entirely how it looks on a daily basis.  I keep the house in my workshop, so you can imagine the amount of dust and dirt collecting in the rooms.  

The grey haze on the floor of the Salon below is not a trick of light or caused by a photographic quirk, no, it is plain old dust.


To make it even more clear, here's a shot of some items the Bedroom.  The jewels have rather lost their sparkle.  You can imagine when there's a layer of dull grey dust, the whole house loses a bit of its sparkle.  


I always intended to cover the front with glass or perspex. In fact, I did have a sheet of acrylic glass screwed to the front for quite some time.  But it was a huge task to get it off when I wanted to work on one of the rooms.  On one occasion when putting the acrylic sheet back on, it cracked.  As I was never very happy with this solution, I didn't buy a new sheet.

While cutting glass for another project a few months ago, I had my aha moment.  Sliding glass panes for every room!  The glass panes slide in a groove of a very simple wooden construction which I attached to each of the floors of the Canal house.  So simple yet so effective.  I can't believe it took me so long to come up with this idea ;-)  



So, going through my stash of old picture frames, I cut glass for all of the rooms.  This was fairly easy compared to my next task: cleaning all of the rooms.  I decided the best way to handle it was to clean the house room by room, tackling any repairs which needed doing as I went.  


I packed all items from one room into a storage box and started cleaning that room first.  Then all of the items, one by one.  It was a perfect opportunity to take stock of what I have in my collection and to take a few good photos of all of my pieces.  I am sure in future you will see some of those photos pass by here or on my Instagram account! 


Happily cleaning the first room.  It wasn't so much fun anymore when I started on the third room.  It was so much work!  It felt like it was more work than cleaning a full sized house.  


Although I do clean my silver fairly regularly, some of it was badly tarnished.  But I don't mind cleaning silver, I actually quite enjoy it.  It is so satisfactory seeing it come to life again!



Not quite finished yet (the attic and basement still need cleaning), but here is an impression of the house with the glass panes in place.  Closed and protected from dirt and dust and bugs and mice! (read what happened when mice visited here)






As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I have been working on a new roombox based on a 17th/18th century drying attic.  A drying attic is a room at the top of a house where laundry was dried and ironed and some items were stored.  

This room was the domain of the (laundry) maid, so this room is quite plain, with white plastered walls and only the most necessary furniture.   The main piece is the large cabinet in the center of the back wall.  It was a bit tricky to make because of the odd angles.  




The two benches on either side of the cabinet are for holding laundry baskets and ironed laundry before it is put away.  The whitewashed table is an ironing table, copied from the one in the Petronella Oortman dolls house in the Rijksmuseum.  

The ironing table consists of a board and trestle legs.  The trestle legs also had some odd angles on them, but to fit them together perfectly was a fun little puzzle.  


In the 17th century (earlier and later too) attic floors were made from spruce wood.  The attic floorboards were usually flat sawn, showing that wonderful cathedral grain which in Dutch is referred to as 'vlammen' (flames).  Unfortunately I was unable to find anything like that in scale, but I have kept last year's Christmas tree (along with several large conifers I cut down in my garden) to see if I can get 'small flamed' wood from it when it has dried.  That's all for a next project.  

After a long search and some support on the Fine Miniatures Forum  I eventually found a small piece of fir which had wonderful small knots and a fine grain.   I cut the wood on the vertical grain and although it doesn't show the flames (they would be terribly out of scale) it does show all the little knots.  With a watered down light stain I think the floor looks perfect!


On the left wall of the room is a simple small fireplace.  Not a common feature of drying attics (oh! imagine the soot on the laundry!), but it gives the room a bit more opportunity to play and collect.  As seen in many 17th century dolls houses, the floorboards run to the back of the fireplace so a hearth plate, fire back and fire basket are needed before a fire can safely be made.  





In the reflection of the mirror a shelving unit can be seen on the opposite wall.



To accommodate an ever-changing collection of miniatures, I came up with the idea of adjustable shelves.  With a wink to Shaker peg rails, I turned the peg rails vertically and hung shelves from them, making the shelves easily adjustable in hight. 

A fun little demonstration below. 



Of course no drying attic would be complete without a drying rack.  The drying rack hangs from the ceiling beams and has five long wooden poles on which the laundry would be hung to dry.  







The miniatures I used to decorate with:
*baskets on benches by Will Werson
*silver mirror and vase by Jens Torp
*pottery by Elisabeth Causeret
*copper kettle by George Chapman
*copper iron by Philippe Bordelet
*chair by Colin Bird
*a few old pieces I have in my collection



When I get supplies in the mail it often makes me chuckle, after all, I make miniatures!  Small things which mostly fit in the palm of my hand.  OK, and a few roomboxes here and there.  But still...

Look at the size of this box!  A person would fit in there easily. Hmm, cheap holiday???
Back to the box...it contained a rolled up sheet of very thin plywood.  I used to get it from another supplier who sold smaller pieces, but the shop has closed so now I have to buy whole sheets.  


Here's another photo from a few years ago.  I know some of the packages contained wood, and the square one I think had my bandsaw in it, but I can't remember what else was in there.  All related to miniature making though.  

The problem for me when buying these supplies is getting them down to the size I need them.  Most of my shop tools are for miniature making.  Another problem is space.  I don't have the room or the machines cut a 150 x 150 cm sheet of plywood.  My initial cutting up of supplies is very crude and requires quite a bit of creative thinking.  


Over the years I have acquired a nice collection of tools for my workshop.  But with all the cutting, sanding, drilling, routing etc. that goes on in my workshop, I create a lot of dust.  Not good for my miniatures (which are in the same room) and certainly not good for me either!  

So, after nearly killing my regular vacuum cleaner, I finally invested in a shop vac.  I bought the Record Power DX1000 and wow, what a difference that makes!  Even the thickness sander, a machine I only ever used outside because of the incredible mess it makes, can now live in my shop and be used regularly without problems.   


The shop vac comes with a huge hose, far too big for my workshop machines.  Online I did see rubber attachment pieces which stepped down to the size of my regular vacuum hose, but the prices with shipping were rather steep.  

I worked out a simple solution:  I cut a piece off the existing hose to be able to attach it to the shop vac.  I then cut a circle of plywood the size of the hose, cut another circle in the middle the size of my  vacuum cleaner hose and glued that inside the big hose with a two part adhesive to create a seal.  

It doesn't look pretty but it works!  


I would recommend anyone using machines in their workshop to buy a shop vac.  I should have done this years ago.  It does make a bit of noise  (I must say I am somewhat sensitive to noise), but I wear my ear defenders when I use my machines anyway so it's not a problem.  

Even though the shop vac eliminates a lot of dust, I have opted for another way to improve air quality in my workshop.  So about a month later, with a little pressure from my loved ones who said one can never be too careful when it comes to health, I also bought the Record Power AC400 Air Cleaner.  

This remote controlled device filters airborne particles up to 1 micron.  It runs fairly quietly in the background and as an unexpected bonus distributes the hot air from my heater around the room.  
The effects of this machine are less obvious than those of the shop vac, but when the sun hits my workshop, there are no more dust particles dancing in the sun.  



Not all my supplies are so big they create a problem trying to use them or store them.  Just look at this glass I was given.  It is the thinnest glass I have ever seen.  It is only 0.15mm thick!  (See the photo with the callipers below).

Isn't that incredible?  I had no idea glass this thin existed.  And given its thickness it is still fairly strong.  I don't know what I'll be making with this yet, but given that the box of glass is small I won't have a problem storing it until I need it.



I leave you with this gravity defying photo of a room I have been working on.  It is a drying attic,  a room at the top of a house where all the washing was dried and ironed.  More on this room in my next post!





Due to a little incident involving a horse, myself, gravity and mother earth, I recently have had quite a bit of time to go over my photo files, check out Pinterest etc.  I also found a couple of blog posts in my drafts folder.  Posts I had started to write but never finished.  Here is one such post, now finished!


In my collection of miniatures I have acquired several old pieces which, unknowingly to me at the time of their purchase, could also be found in some very famous dolls' houses.   No major pieces, but such fun to discover them in these fantastic houses.



You may remember my post from several years ago when I went to Denmark and went to see Titania's Palace.  A little book in the chapel of the Palace 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 at an antique market in France.  
The little book with the ivory cover is a well used French prayer book: 'Petit Paroissien', which translates as Little Parishioner. It has several lovely illustrations and the pages are gilt-edged.  
The book is very likely 19th century (one source says it is 1839, but I think it is more third/fourth quarter of the 19th century).  


Published/printed by 'Paris, Marcilly, Rue St.Jacques, 10' and 'Typ. de Firmin Didot fr. rue Jacob 56'.
Firmin Didot was a famous designer of type fonts for the Didot family printing shop. The Didot type font is regarded as one of the first modern type fonts.



My next famous miniature is a miniature etching by Dutch artist Willem Witsen (1860-1923). Its twin hangs in the Dutch dolls' house which belonged to Dame (or Lady) Lita de Ranitz (1876-1960).  The large dolls' house is a modern villa in the style which was popular around 1910.


Lita de Ranitz was married to well known Dutch artist Willem Tholen and through him met many contemporary artists. Tholen himself and many of his friends made miniature art for Lita's dolls' house. Amongst the works of art is Witsen's etching of a draw bridge (ca. 1913), signed 'Witsen' in pencil on the bottom right. The etching hangs in the bedroom, the room upstairs on the right.


I was given the miniature etching as a St. Nicholas gift.  It came in an old frame which was far too big for the dolls house and it was rather discoloured.  After removing the ugly frame I found the etching stuck to the matting with tape. 


Under expert supervision I proceeded to soak the etching in lukewarm water to remove the tape. The tape came off within a minute. The water won't affect the printing ink, the signature (written in pencil) or the paper.  After drying it was in pretty good condition considering it is 100 years old. It had some discolouration but that was to be expected. The next step was to bleach the print.  I was so pleased it came out beautifully clean and crisp! 


Now here is my dilemma... the paper has not been cut since it was printed, so it still has the original edge from when the paper was made.  I really don't want to cut it down, but in its original state it is rather big for the dolls house.  The image itself is about 3.6 by 2.8 cm.  With the paper edge it is 8.9 by 7.2 cm.   It is big, but think I will have to put a frame around the etching without cutting it down.  



My third famous miniature is a His Master's Voice record which can also be found in Queen Mary's Dolls' House.  The record was one of a set of six, commissioned by the royal household and made by The Gramophone Company in 1924.  


The tiny shellac record (it only measures 3.4 cm across) plays 'God save the King', sung by Peter Dawson (you can listen to a much longer version in the video below).  Queen Mary's Dolls' House has a fully functioning 10 cm high miniature replica of a HMV Grand Cabinet Gramophone to play the records on.  


In 1924, when Queen Mary's Dolls' House was exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, HMV produced replicas of the miniature record "God save the King" to sell to the public.    According to the Guinness Book of Records, about 35,000 of these miniature records were pressed, so my copy is by no means unique!

I found my miniature record in May 2011 at Chiswick Auctions in London, as part of a lot of around 20 glass topped boxes from the 1920's.  Apart from the miniature disc, the boxes contained several other miniatures.  Tiny knitted socks, blue glass blown vases and jars of marmelade and strawberry jam.  The jam jars can also be found in Queen Mary's Dolls' House.

Although I had just visited Windsor Castle and seen Queen Mary's Dolls' House the day before the auction, I had no idea the miniatures I had bought as a nice souvenir were copies of the ones in the Royal Collection.  A lucky find!  







...on the placement of windows.
Or actually it isn't such a new view, as the windows I am about to show you are from the 19th and 17th century.  

When I was drawing up the design for my Herengracht Canal House, I had to scrap several ideas because the placement of elements like windows, doors, fireplaces etc. were conflicting with one another.  Especially if there are only three walls in a dolls house the design can be a difficult puzzle to solve.  But should it really be such a puzzle?  Please read on!

 I recently saw a TV program called Castle Hunters in which a French castle was viewed by potential buyers.  Below are some photos taken with my cell phone while viewing the program on my laptop, so please excuse the quality of the pictures.  (The white text in some of the pictures are the Dutch subtitles.)  


The rather lovely French Chateau which was for sale.  


One of the rooms with doors opening onto the garden.  The room is connected to the next room with a single door.  The open door allows a view of a nice fire burning in the fireplace on the end wall.  

The window above the fireplace lets in lots of light and offers a nice view of the garden.  The fireplace has..., wait, what?  A window above the fireplace?  Oh yes dear readers, that is exactly what it is.  A working fireplace with a window above it.  No sign of a chimney breast anywhere.  


I have never seen this before.  A small window in or right next to the chimney breast, yes.  But never a huge window where the chimney breast should be.  

The other rather wonderful thing about this window above the fireplace is that it has a hidden mirror in the wall.  The mirror can be pulled out in front of the window, serving as a sort of shutter, keeping out drafts or light.  


It looks like all the rooms on the end walls have a fireplace with a window above it.  Here is one of the bedrooms with the same arrangement.  


I don't know how the smoke from the fireplace is extracted.  The walls don't seem thicker than normal  and the windows are as wide as the fireplace, leaving no room for extraction going straight up.  The smoke must go into the walls via the side of the fireplace somehow.   See the handle on the wall to the right of the fireplace?  That could be to open or close the flue.  Or to close shutters.  Or to open a secret door leading into the tower. Who knows.


The next window I want to show you can be found in one of the canal houses in Amsterdam which houses the Biblical Museum.  The 17th century canal house has a wonderful (winding) staircase which passes in front of a window.  No attempt has been made to adapt the window to the staircase or vice versa.  


Halfway up the stairs there is another unusual element, a doorway leading to side rooms.  The windows of the staircase and the side rooms look out onto a small inner courtyard.  The courtyard serves as a lightwell in the center of the deep canal house.


Is the house not wide enough to house a grand staircase?  Then just add a bit onto the building.  Simple as that.  


And below again, part of the staircase is going in front of the window and taking off the corner of the door frame and door.  


The moral of this story?  As a dolls house builder I can have a lot of freedom in my designs and still keep some sense of realism and historical connection.  The reality is that probably everything has been done before, so I can't really go wrong, can I?  And if I do, so what?  I can do with the house what I like, that's the fun of it all.  

Update:
I found more photos of the French castle which show the side of the castle with the chimneys for the fireplaces underneath the windows.  It still doesn't give me any clues to how the smoke is getting from the fireplaces to the chimneys...

The first photo shows the side on the right with the chimney for the fireplaces in the photos above.  The second photo is of the left side, which shows this side probably only has fireplaces on the upper level, as the ground floor has windows/doors opening to the garden.