It has been hot, hot, hot this week and not being a sun worshipper meant that I hid away to keep out of the raging sun. So, my little creative juices and ideas started to overflow and I just couldn't find anything suitable. Yes, I know my crafts have been taking a back seat for a little while. I needed to find something that wasn't as warm as being tucked under a woolly blanket while crocheting. This pleasure is for those cozy dark winter months with members of the family sitting that little bit closer to share the warmth of 'Mum's latest project!' At the moment I just want to cozy up to my late Grandma's lavender!
Now, yes I know I have loads of projects that need completing but my greatest work in progress has very regretfully been sitting in the corner of my lounge gradually aging with dust and neglect. Ok, maybe I'm over dramatising this but I am writing this to make myself feel GUILTY! So, I have decided to kick start my need to get going on this and write a post to put this right in my mind and motivate me into concentrating on this enormous project. There are no trips out to write about this week (as all I did was moan at how horridly humid it was - my family hate July and August with me because I do nothing but moan!!), the only trip was for this project to make its way outside into the garden to blow away the cobwebs, a GUILT trip for me.
I need to explain from the outset that my dolls house project is going to be HUGE! It will take years to complete with each thing being carefully thought through. You see, this is no normal dolls house with the usual furniture, carpets and curtains and hours of enjoyment with little fingers and thumbs playing house with the dolls in each room. No, this is going to be a family history encapsulated in a piece of 'furniture' that will be loved and respected in the corner of the lounge. This will be a testimony to my darling Grandad Tom who, when he passed away, left a mountain of paperwork which encompassed his research on the London Docklands and his stories of his life and of the history handed down from my ancestors. The following photo is the contents of just one small box!
Nearly all the papers are in his own handwriting and, most surprisingly to us, the Museum of London oral archives gave me copies of 7 CD's that they had collected with him over the years of his most amazing memories from 1908 to his death - captured forever. His writing is all over the archives of the Museum of London Docklands, his knowledge of the area can't be outdone or disputed. My role is to now put this all together (another reason for this GUILT trip post to also kick start this again!).
I have an old book that I am beginning to write myself where I am trying to piece everything together. It reminds me of an old Bob Cratchet accounts book in Scrooge.
Now, I don't know when the 'spark' came to me, but I decided to get a shell of a dolls house and put together an heirloom to future generations where there would be a story to each item, a reason for it to be there. A story literally attached to each individual thing. I started this
a couple of years ago four years ago - A Christmas present from hubby - A plain brown shell was perfect!
The inside was just oozing ideas to me.
To start with, the house had to be set in the Victoria era. My Grandad's family originally came down to the East End of London in the mid 1800's from South Shields so that my Great Great Grandad could set up, own and manage one of the docks. This era was perfect as my love for the Victorian period is basically obsessional! I love anything Dickensian - Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and The Old Curiosity Shop being particular favourites. So, well, obvious purchase really, this sign was ordered from New York and graciously they agreed to add Est. 1879 - The year that my Great Grandad was born.
The roof was a wonderful thing to do. I wanted to lay this myself and crack and shape the tiles with parts being covered with moss to show the fragility of the roofs back then. I found a wonderful slate tile supplier on Ebay whose tiles were mixed so that they weren't uniform in shades of grey, each one seemed to be individual. The calming influence over me while laying these tiles and filling with the moss made me remember the times I used to sit with my Grandad and listen to his stories, sometimes sitting on the floor next to his chair while he slowly went through the maps of the old London town, who lived where, what the streets looked like, the poverty etc. Sometimes, while laying the tiles I would play one of the CD's of his voice and I was right there with him again, feeling his presence.
The outside walls were the next challenge. I knew that Victorian houses were brick but I really wanted to have mainly textured walls which exposed brickwork where cracks would have appeared. Sand and paint was the answer and I drew where I wanted the bricks exposed and set to work. Believe me, the roof was a doddle by comparison! I gave up many times, hid it away, cursed it, but one rainy afternoon I laid down on the floor with the brick slips, cut and shaped each individual one and slowly made progress. Admittedly these are still incomplete as the mortar still needs to be pushed into the gaps - another rainy day soon perhaps.
After looking at many of the old photos, I saw that the houses had darker windows frames due to the industrial area and decided, with a bit of artistic shading, that I could mimic some age to these. The street sign was specially made to show my Great Grandad's road, this has long gone, well before the Docklands redevelopment, but the stories of that road are still in my Grandad's papers.
The chimney pots were lots of fun. The dolls house came with some clean, wooden, uncharacteristic tubes which were nothing like the worn, dirty, weathered Victorian chimneys. So, paint, moss, glue and I set to work with some clay pots I found on Ebay and these were transformed. One of them cracked in my hand, so with the thought that everything was not going to be pristine, the glue and moss was perfect to create an abandoned chimney that in the future will show a pigeon's nest!
The dolls house came with a porch with arched gaps either side. Again, inspiration jumped out at me and I thought how lovely it would be to make some stained glass windows. I will try my hand at anything, but I thought real stained glass would be too much of a challenge so decided on Shrinkies, some glass pens and some research into the colours and patterns from that era. This was so much fun to do. Firstly creating a ruler on a full size shrinkie, carefully putting all the lines for each mm, and then baking this until it shrank. This gave me an accurate recording of what size the windows would be (measuring with the shrinked ruler and then the real measurements being used on the full size shrinkie). Once two had been created and coloured it was time for the oven. They curled up - I panicked - please lay flat - then shrank to the right size. They were then filed a little bit to sit perfectly and Ta Dah!!
Then, my favourite part so far, the door! The best part of Christmas Carol for me is when Scrooge approaches his foreboding front door, with the lion head knocker. It speaks the opening of a wonderful story and this is what I wanted to portray. Again, the door that came with the house was very plain so this came off and a heavier more ornate door was ordered and then painted a deep black gloss. The door knocker was extremely important and my search went all over the place. Why didn't I go to Ebay first?! There it was! This seller had one that moved and was nicely heavy. How can something so tiny give me such joy! So here it is, the door to be opened to start the journey.
My word, I am waffling on this week aren't I?!
So, The Old Curiosity Shop, which is going to be full of curiosities each having some relevance to my family's history. A shop in the making and that will be cleaned this weekend to prepare for new wall coverings, flooring, a rearrangement of the ground floor to depict an old Victorian shop, cornicing and skirting boards. A couple of hours will be spent on looking at some of the many Victorian photos I have from my Grandad so I can reduce and frame them. At the back of each frame will be a pull out book (small of course) with a history of the person depicted. The history lesson will then begin.
I know this is a break from the norm for my weekly posts, but I am telling myself off a bit. My Grandad's life's work is sitting in boxes, folders, cupboards and drawers all around my house and needs to be catalogued properly and sorted out so I can put this all in a book that he never got round to writing (he was 98!). The dolls house will be my mark of his work, something different but equally as educational with my love of crafts and ideas popping up.
So, I can now say to myself I have been well and truly told off! It has been hard, and with getting some of the papers out, very emotional. I miss the family that I had back when I was younger, the weekends staying with them, the stories they told, the love we shared. The memories are still very strong, such as the smell of lavender (my Grandma), the smell of Imperial Leather soap (my Grandad), face powder (my Nan) and tobacco (my Grandpa), but I hope through the years I can encapsulate most things to future generations by the stories, sounds and smells I hope to put in this wooden box of wonder.
Is there anything that you have got hidden away that needs to be completed or re-started?
Have a wonderful week and take care.
(Remember that if you want to see a larger version of my photos just click on one and a slide will appear)
This week I am sharing with:
Time Travel Thursday