Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Creative beginnings

A crude dollhouse, made by my father, was one of the few playthings I had as a child. If there was a toy store within 25 miles, I didn't know about it. We had a 5-and-10 (anyone remember those??) in town, but that's where we bought sensible things like dishes and underwear.

For playtime, the dollhouse was it, and I loved it.

My cousin (photo shows us today!) and I would sit for hours furnishing and decorating the rooms. We'd make beds and sofas out of popsicle sticks and toothpicks, and bedding out of worn pieces of flannel or lace from old curtains. We'd cut pictures of flowers out of used greeting cards, "frame" them, and hang them on the walls.

My parents never told me there were stores where you could actually buy ready-made furniture! Maybe they didn't know.

Since I began writing the miniature mysteries, I've connected with so many other dollhouse and miniatures enthusiasts through shows, like Molly Cromwell's (I'll be at her Sturbridge show in June) and Good Sam (in October); yahoo groups like CAMP; and organizations, like NAME, the National Association of Miniatures Enthusiasts.

LATEST NEWS: A first-person article I wrote on how making miniatures has a lot in common with writing novels appeared in the latest issue of Dollhouse Magazine. I'm thrilled to be included in this first rate magazine for miniaturists.

I've never outgrown my need for dollhouses. I'd much rather shop for a three-inch sofa than a life-size one.

One of the most famous dollhouses, and one of my favorites, is Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle. It's in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and is surely worth its own blog soon. Here's a quote from her that explains my love of miniatures:

"The child yearns to interpret the adult world in terms he can handle, and small replicas of grown-up things answer his need."

I guess I'm still trying to interpret the adult world!
Did you have a favorite toy that served that need for you?


Betty Hechtman said...

I bet the interior of your first doll house was fabulous.

I wanted to make doll clothes when I was a kid. My mother gave me some pink cotton baby suit someone had given her for me when I was a baby. My mother never used it because it covered the hands. I happily cut it up and figured out how to sew. I remember the moment when I figured out that if you turned it inside out after you sewed it, the seams woulnd't show.

There is nothing like figuring things out for yourself like you did with your doll house

Chris V. said...

I bet your parents just didnt' want to tell you where there were more toys to be had. ha!

congrats on the article; have to find that.

My first dollhouse was not as glorius - it was a metal house with plastic furniture. I don't recall liking it much though those are very collectible now. But small always seemed fascinating and I'm still hooked!

signlady217 said...

Barbie and all her stuff! Of course, a lot of her "stuff" was made from whatever we had, not store-bought, but I still remember a lot of it. And I still love her!

Also, I love my Christmas village stuff. It gives me much the same feeling.

Camille Minichino said...

That's a wonderful story, Betty!

And I remember those suits with hands and feet covered. Fine for the feet maybe but the hands??

I love your revelation and how great that your mother didn't tell you first.

Camille Minichino said...

I have a few special Christmas village pieces also. I favor the city pieces (surprise!). I have the Ed Sullivan theater, which I use as a night light all year.

There is that fascination with small stuff, even Barbie stuff!

Camille Minichino said...

A miniaturist friend shared this story via email:

I was sitting on the floor in the basement one rainy day. My mother had just finished doing laundry using the old wringer washer and hung clothes to dry on the lines strung across the basement. I was thinking about curtains for my kitchen, looked up, and there was the perfect material. It was my mother's polka dot dress. I didn't think she would notice if a piece was cut out of the back, after all, she couldn't see the back of her dress. Well, mother did notice, and my backside was as bright red as the polka dots on the material when she found out!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Love this. I used to make fairy houses in the roots of the trees in my neighborhood. It was so much fun. I think kids today don't have the same options for creativity!

Betty, what a darling story about the seams.

Miss Merry said...

I was a last minute chaperone on my daughter's class trip to Chicago. I was so surprised to walk into the room at the Chicago Museum and see Colleen Moore's Dollhouse.

Our Library had a book of color photos of the dollhouse and I used to check it out as often as allowed. I never dreamed I would ever see my "dream" house.

The display is excellent. I went around at least twice, listening to the descriptions with the headphones (as if I couldn't narrate myself!).

Thanks for sharing your memories and awakening mine!

Camille Minichino said...

The book I have is from the Museum of Sci and Industry, 1997. I wonder if it's the same book you borrowed, Miss Merry?

It has beautiful plates!