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Doll's House Delights

Saturday 14/10/17

Debby Faulkner-Stevens

The downside of being an artist, for me at least, is that I rarely meet the buyers of my work with most of my paintings sold through galleries and exhibitions. I spend many hours working on the various pieces of artwork and am often curious where they have gone and to whom, so when I am given a private commission it is a real pleasure to be able to work directly with the client, to get to know them and, on occasion, get the chance to deliver the work in person.

Recently I had a most fascinating visit to a client who had commissioned me to paint some pieces for one of her dolls houses.
I had worked for her a few years back, painting what has been my tiniest miniature to date  - a goldfinch on vellum, to fit inside a miniscule silver and enamelled frame she supplied - so I was delighted when she got in touch with me again and asked if I would be interested in doing further work. I did not need asking twice!
She has, as I'd discovered previously whilst talking to her, an extensive collection of miniature items and dolls houses, one of which had featured on the Antiques Roadshow, and as it didn't take long to establish that I was as enthusiastic as her for all things tiny and intricate, she said I was welcome to visit and view her many exquisite pieces and so, once my work was finished, off I went ...........

I knew I would be in for a treat but I can honestly say I was rendered speechless. I was reduced to nothing more coherent than 'oooh' and 'oh my goodness' as item after item met my gaze, and to be honest, I am finding it difficult to describe the things now as I type, retype and delete sentence after sentence here as I struggle to convey the many extraordinary things I was privileged to see.
I'll keep it brief, and try to describe two of the pieces that have stuck most clearly in my mind.

A wooden sewing box with a marquetry pattern on it's lid, the box edges banded in contrasting coloured wood. ( I would struggle to draw the tiny design on the lid, let alone construct it from minute slivers of wood )  When opened - and this was done with fine tweezers - the internal removable compartments were revealed, along with the tiniest cotton reels complete with thread and an incredible pair of working needlework scissors. As if this wasn't enough, by raising a tiny pin at the base of a drawer ( again with tweezers ) a secret drawer popped open to reveal a necklace.

A Georgian style chest of drawers with microscopic brass handles, each drawer opening to disclose the sort of collection an Edwardian gentleman would have had in his country house : pinned butterflies, samples of minerals, sea shells and a tray of birds eggs, all correct in scale, pattern and colour.

And there was a glass bowl of strawberries, complete with green tops and the pips showing, Venetian glass goblets, leather gloves in a box, a drawer full of knitted baby clothes, and the most incredibly small porcelain mice - and please bear in mind the scale of most of the items is 1/12th - and a mouse is barely 2" long in real life!
There were room settings, all beautifully decorated and furnished as befitted the particular period as well as the actual dolls houses themselves, and I was fascinated by the flickering candle lamps and glowing fireplaces and ranges that brought the houses to life.

Although I was very pleased with the work I had done for my clients Tudor style dolls house - and thankfully so was she - I couldn't help but feel large and clumsy after my visit and have an ambition to work even smaller - just to prove I can!

PS - as a result of my inspiring trip -
I have bought myself a 'starter kit' of a very small scale open fronted caravan, complete with accessories, and have so far had huge fun making up tiny books, photo frames, flip flops and a chopping board with knife and slices of lemon. The instructions are in Chinese English which is proving a challenge, so a workout for the brain in more ways than one ........

The image shown here is of my Dutch style still life, commissioned for the dolls house, photographed against a 2p piece to give an indication of scale.

Dutch style still lifeDutch style still life Dutch style still lifeDutch style still life

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