Sunday, December 26, 2010

Z is for Zither

The presents unwrapped, the eggnog is done, and the yule log still burns merrily. Ah, what lovely Christmas has past. And, now on December the 26th, it is time to get busy again and think about all the pretty things I'd like to make in the coming year. But, first, it was time to finish the little zither today, and finish it I did. Displayed by my own Marie Terese, the little zither, if you recall, was made for the same doll who is being turned into Annabelle from Tasha Tudor's darling poetic story of a French Fashion doll who has everything she needs A to Z. I would like to imagine Annabelle spending many a comforting winter day playing lovely tunes on this wee zither.

When I look back on the process of creating this instrument, I have to admit that it was quite the challenge to miniaturize such an elaborate and complicated instrument. For one thing, there were all the angles and curves to consider, but also all the many strings a real zither has. Thirty to forty-five I've read, but just today when I had to admit (which was difficult) that I'd not enough room for thirty, I read that there is a zither which only has 25 strings. The most important thing to remember about miniatures is that they are most often an illusion of the real thing. With 1:12 scale, drawers may not open, water is not in flower vases, and stairs may lead to a ceiling in a doll house. However, I try my very best to make my creations as real as possible.

Presenting: the zither! I had to work up the nerve today to drill the holes for the tuning pegs, but the thing that took the most patience in finishing the piece, was the stringing. The musical strings are actually wound around the pegs as a real instrument would be, and the frets on the side bar are there, however hand painted in gold leaf. Only 3 3/4" in length, Annabelle will now have the finest zither in town.

And, what is in store for 2011? It is time to begin a focus on the 18" Daisy doll's toys and accessories. Wooden circus pull toys in the Schoenhut style, and a larger carousel (like the Becassine one) with circus animals just for starters!

Should I not post before the new year, Wishing you all a very magical New Year, propersous in every way imaginable.


Miss E. Mouse

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Unto you a child is born!"

The rain comes down and skies remain gray. The leaves slowly, very slowly begin their final descent to the earth. Winter where I live is soggy and soft. The rich soil soaks up the rain and when a storm comes, the creeks fill and rush from pond to pond keeping the geese happy and winter bulbs full of promise.

Since the weather keeps me indoors, I just finished this lovely little creche for Bleuette. It is made from mahogany, oak bark and moss. The inspiration was a creche that the company Fontanini made some years ago. The little porcelain nativity figurines came all the way from France. My favorites are the little animals - the lamb, the camel, the donkey and cow. So tiny, so sweet!

And, what did Miss E. Mouse get for Christmas? Well, a new home! Not so much a home, but a little retreat for when I need to mouse away to rest and read. Thank you for popping in to take a look at my new etrennes, and thank you for enjoying my work. If you have a moment, I'd enjoy hearing from you in the comments section. I hope you're enjoying the holiday season, and for this little mouse, a few Christmas television shows are on my agenda.

Miss E. Mouse

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trim up the tree with Christmas stuff...

...Like bingle balls, and Whofoo fluff! No one sings Christmas like the Whos down in Whoville. Memories of watching this darling Dr. Suess cartoon when I was little bring back such bright times. Well, it is a bright time, and despite the cold, rainy day, my little paws are dancing around the tree as I've just finished my 2010 Becassine Toy of the Year. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult a task this was for me! Of course I'd had the 1" Becassine wood cuts painted and ready to mount since, well, November 7th, but when I went out to drill the holes in the little top and turn platform, the drill press was broken! Alas! Tools. Where is a mouse without her tools? So I trotted down to the local Home Depot and bought another one, then quickly went to work again. However, measuring little disks to find an exact center, measuring tiny areas where to drill the hole for the ribbon ties, and getting this thing all put together to function properly was quite the challenge.

As it turns out (that's a pun, hee-hee) it took a couple of tries and lots of wasted silk ribbon. The silk was too fine and hooks onto the pole no matter how much you sand to smooth it. But, I didn't give up. I never do. I found a different kind of 1/16" ribbon to use and in a sweep of looping it all together, it finally came to be! Yay!

You twist the platform around the pole then let it go. As it winds down, back up again, and winds back down, it spins the figures like a top! So cute. I often wonder if I'll ever run out of ideas for these toys and then something comes along and goes off like a light in my furry little head.

And, what am I working on now? Why a zither! The zither is an ancient instrument going back as far or beyond 433BC. It is played very much like a dulcimer, laid across your lap. And, why a zither? Well, the 10" French Fashion doll, Marie Terese, made by Alice Leverette, is being made into Annabelle, from the story A is For Annabelle, by Tasha Tudor. In this story, set in poetry, Annabelle has all the items a French Fashion doll should have A-Z. And, Z is for Zither. So yes, it will be a tiny one.

While I've bent wood on my own before, I may be looking into a wood bending tool soon. Micro-Mark has a miniature one and it bends the wood through a heated device much like an old fashioned washing machine clothes wringer. Indeed! I think the larger ones are used a bit differently, but for my purposes, a miniature one would come in handy. I have, my friend, Martha Nichols, and her wood working husband to thank for this information.

And, so we are on to yet another dear and wonderful project. The holiday season is upon us so trim up tree with Christmas stuff...then run out to get some more!

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Christmas Maypole

Is it already November? And, the 7th at that! Well this little mouse gathers no moss and with that, I'm rolling along. Ah! I finished the wee Pipos Kitty Trunk and she is with her little 7" mama and happy owner. I really love the way this came out, more so because in the course of finishing it, I found out that the artist who commissioned it, paints flowers. So, I added the little framed flower painting to the inside of the trunk to make it a wee painter's studio. A pink dress, a teeny pallette and brush, a wee wood framed canvas, and an easel that folds down completed this precious little set.

And now with Christmas upon us shortly, I am once again inspired by my muse, the French cartoon character, Becassine. As you may have noticed, I wear the Becassine costume proudly. It is around this time of year that I begin to ponder what cute little etrennes I might come up with to tickle the fancies of prospective patrons out there. While awaiting an appointment, I was playing with this darling little wooden, kitty "Maypole", for lack of a better description. You'd wind it up at the top, and the platform of kitties would go spinning down. I then thought, What would it look like in miniature with wee Becassines going around it? And, so I began to cut out the little Becassine figures, sand them, and paint them. They are 1 1/8" tall and painted all around. I fastened them onto straight pins at the bottom so that I could fit them into an old sanding block to dry in stages. No less than three coats of each color decorate the little wood figures. These were cut in 1/8" basswood, gessoed, sanded, then painted. At present, I am exhausted from finishing the paintwork on them, but had to share the work in progress. My guess is that the finished Maypole will be about 3 1/2" tall, a toy for the French doll, Bleuette.

Another folk toy I am considering is a Becassine jumping jack of wood. The kind with the strings you pull down so the legs and arms pop up! This, and several peg wooden paper dolls are being made, and it occurs to me that none may sell as prospectives are holding tight to their dolly dollars. I have often thought in slow times that I would simply stop creating these wonderful little heirlooms, but then inspiration hits, and I am back working my little paws in wood and paint again.

My friend in The Netherlands was celebrating Sinterklaas this past weekend, and then gets to celebrate the fun of Santa Claus for the rest of the year. We American mice must wait until after our Thanksgiving to begin. Well, some do. I like to have my tree up, undecorated a bit before Thanksgiving, and decorate it the day after. This rainy weather surely puts us in the mood for a little holiday cheer. A warm fire burns in the fireplace, the snow has begun to gather up in mountains, and I'll be busy with my muse for the next month or so.

Warmest wishes as the holidays approach!

Miss E. Mouse

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Pink Dress for Miss Kit E.

"And what do you think Miss Kit E?", I asked our little princess. Having just finished her wee, pink dress, she turned this way and that, jumped on top of her trunk, purred, and said it was very pretty.

I'm seriously having to question my mouse brain as to whether or not I'll be able to do this tiny work much longer! I know I always say this and then once again launch into something equally tiny and difficut. sigh Such is the challenge. I've been doing this a long, long time, but it never gets any easier, I promise you that. And, then there was that tail to design the dress around! Well, she was a sweet and mannerly little model. It is a very serious thing when a mouse plays with a cat, no matter how tiny she is.

But, look!! The trunk is done, the back side illustration has been painted, Miss Kit E. is dressed, and its on to the little details. Should I put a handle on top of the trunk so the Pipos kitty doll can carry it with her? I think so. And, Miss Kit E. needs a few toys to play with as well. The goal is a finished trunk set by the end of the month.

Time to rest my eyes and paws, and enjoy this very rainy weekend. I hear there is snow falling in the mountains!

Miss E. Mouse

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Tail of Halloween

Okay, so I didn't use Hartung! But, can you believe the sweetness and fun of Mainzer's cats? It took me a very long time to make a decision on what images to use for the little kitty's trunk. As I browsed over and over again, the postcards on ebay, I was simply struck by the wonderful imagination and spunk these two artist's possessed. At great expense, I won and purchased three vintage Mainzer postcards. This one of a Halloween street fair couldn't be resisted! Just look a the little cat in the Dutch costume! I have always loved things Dutch. I think it stems from a pin my auntie gave me when I was a little mouse. It was an enameled pin of a little Dutch girl and boy. I used to look at it for hours thinking about their costumes and where they lived, what Holland was like. So for Halloween, I am sharing this darling postcard by Mainzer, printed in Switzerland. If you have a few minutes, do take a look on ebay and see what these artists came up with.

Kitty now has one half of her trunk painted. I think its always fun to see a work in progress, but its also fun to have a look at the materials and studio where the piece is being created. My work in acrylics hails from a background in oils and a love of watercolor. Acrylic is not the easiest medium to work with since it dries so quickly and builds up a texture. Yet, many layers of thin, watercolor from acrylic can produce the nicest effect on a tiny trunk.

In the front of the trunk, I've painted a little kitty girl handing a freshly picked rose to a mama kitty in a yellow striped apron. This vignette was inspired by one of Mainzer's postcards. The garden displayed kitties pruning, hoeing, planting vegetables, and one silly cat watering another by mistake. In all of Hartung's and Mainzer's paintings, there is always a calamity or two occuring. As I continue to work on this little trunk, it is the sweetness that I am pulling from the pictures to create a kitty child's plaything.

In all honesty, the ginger cat and tabby fur was very difficult to render. The mind plays tricks on you and you have to concentrate on shape and color, rather than what you know the thing to be. Also when painting this small, an artist has to be careful not to overcrowd the scene, yet include enough to tell a story and create a pleasant presentation.

The entire trunk is being painted with this one brush you see in the photo. It is a Windsor Newton Sceptre 0000, synthetic sable. Even at that, I've removed several bristles to give it a finer point. Little pools of watery acrylic have dried on the wax pallette showing the colors, some mixed, used to paint the front of the trunk. It is my dream that one day someone will value my tools and scrap pallettes as much as the finished work. sigh!

Happy Autumn, Happy Halloween! And, back to work for me.


Miss E. Mouse

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pussy cat, Pussy Cat, Where have you been?

Kittens, kittens everywhere...and, what's a mouse to do? Well, it shouldn't surprise anyone that this little mouse loves cats, and they love her. I just received a fun and exciting little commission to make a tiny cat doll in a painted trunk for a 7" Pipos cat doll. The Pipos is a ball jointed doll, and these little cat dolls are so sweet. You can see a photo of one on my table below. For the past few days I've been sculpting away trying to come up with the purfect size for the little kitty girl to play with. The first attempt resulted in a little cat doll about 2 1/4" and I just wasn't happy with her. I felt that the tiny cat doll should be a more hand held size, rather than a baby doll size. And so, it was back to the drawing board. I finally came up with a tiny one about 1 7/8" tall.

One of the challenges here was baking the Fimo clay without burning it in the oven. Little toys and items I've made in the past were set on a foil lined baking pan, and undoubtedly, each time, the bottoms, where they met with the pan, would burn. Surely you could sand this off, but it was never quite right. So this time, and with the first doll, I experimented a bit. I found a small glass jar with a small opening, and threaded a needle through the holes that I'd used to string the limbs and laid it across the opening of the jar so that the pieces would dangle, or be suspended inside. Voila! It worked. Timing is also terribly important as you don't want to overbake the little pieces. So timed periods of 15 to 5 minutes would continue until the little body parts were hard.

This is such a sweet project because I've wanted to do something like this for several years now. A friend of mine who works in porcelain once gave me some little porcelain people cats that were assembled on pipe cleaner bodies. I hunted and hunted for them, and the post card book of Hartung illustrations (that I would used to paint the illustrations on the trunk), and nowhere could I find them! In retrospect, I think they would have been too large to use, as they were doll house sized dolls. Still, it would have been fun to see them again. I'm certain they are hiding somewhere, but I'm just as happy that I had the opportunity to sculpt the purfect size for the little cat doll.

Now that she is painted, she will be dressed. A little upright doll trunk will be made and then hand-painted will the illustrations I intended. Its not for me to name her...or is it? I'm sure the little Pipos doll will want to give her a name herself. But, then again, she is taking on a certain pursonality.

Next, I'm off to the miniature table saw to begin the trunk! Stay tuned...

Miss E. Mouse

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Would You Like to Swing On A Star?

How long has it been since I've written? Well, let us consider the time I took from the end of June until now. I guess even a mouse needs to take a vacation once in awhile! And, now my paws are working steadily again and my mind is creating faster than I can work. But, that's the fun in what I do. One idea inspires another. And, finally, Bebe Balancoire is finished. I had to put her aside because I just wasn't confident how to proceed to her completion. Much of it had to do with the presentation of her treasures.

When I looked at the original, it appeared her accessories and clothing were tied into the papers of the sides. When I lined the trunk, the paper was glued down, so how was I to do this? What I ended up doing was making cards exactly like the interior and sewing the items on. This way you could display the piece intact with the cards fitting perfectly, or you could remove the cards to carefully examine the items, or you could even snip the treasures off the cards to play with them and arrange them as you'd see fit. Were I to purchase this, I would keep the cards intact, but one must remember that all I make is made to work and be played with.

One of the last items I made and thoroughly enjoyed doing was the little lamb. As a friend of mine told me, he has a Big Character for such a wee thing. I'd intended to carve him of wood, but I kept jabbing my paw with the X-acto blade and gave up. I finally decided on Fimo, and liteally carved him out of Fimo then painted his tiny features. It took three tries as he fell over in the oven once and got burned on his side, so by the third sculpt I'd made him perfect. I kept the last sculpt from falling over by inserting a 1/4" squared piece of inch long basswood between his legs. This was not the first time I'd scuplted and baked Fimo in a miniature character, but those tiny legs needed the best support. I couldn't help but take a close up of him as, to me, he is the cutest thing about this presentation box.

Lastly, and not true to the original etrenne, I made Bebe Balancoire a gilded stand so she could be posed in a variety of ways. Today she is now up on my website and for sale to a special owner. I'm quite proud of the way this presentation box came out, and its given me the opportunity to experience how to build such an unusual drop-sided trunk.

And, what is next? Well, its fall, and time to think about Halloween and eventually the holidays. Right now I'm making two more peg wooden paper dolls. Both are of the Halloween theme and one is Betty Bonnet, the other Polly Pratt. Both are Sheila Young's artwork from the 1920's, and you may recall that Sheila Young was the turn of the century paper doll artist of Lettie Lane for The Ladies' Home Journal.

Bleuette has been wonderful to create for and I intend to continue making etrennes for her in the future (the new peg wooden paper dolls are for her), but I'm branching off, once again, into the world of the French Fashion dolls. When I consider what I've done for Bleuette, these exact items could well have been made for the French Fashion dolls, however the time frame would have been thirty to sixty years earlier. I find this exciting and inspiring, and look forward to delving into this further. The first thing on my list is to make a chaufferette. This was a wooden box that held hot stones or coals and would sit at the feet of a young lady riding in a carriage. It was a foot heater!

Many of the accessories that were made for the French Fashion dolls came in the form of paper dolls! You'd cut these little accessories out and assemble them by folding and gluing, and many of them came with poorly written directions. So did the patterns used for sewing clothing, so why would this be a surprise? Instruction was much by word of mouth and children were taught the basics early on. I ran across a chaufferette in paper form and could never figure out how to fold it correctly to make the paper one. This frustration gave me notice to make one myself, out of wood, and metal grating, which in the long run would be ten times easier than trying to figure out how to fold one. I will take you along on this creative process next.

In the meantime, please enjoy the completion of Bebe Balancoire and please do drop into my website to see all fourteen detailed photographs of the presentation.

The season is changing. Summer is sweeping past us with the browning of grass and leaf, the winds are beginning to blow cool. Fall is in the air. I have a birthday coming up on the 18th and have made myself a promise to make this the best year yet! May yours be, too, beginning today.

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Enter My Garden

Summer calls and who would not want to step into the most beautiful garden they'd ever seen? Why Alice, of course! And, me! Having just finished the fifth Wee Alice Trunk Set, I am ready to take a little nap, perhaps curled up in a leaf in a shady corner of the garden. However, I do know that if I dally too long, I'll find myself scurrying for something to do.

One of the most unique and interesting aspects of this latest little etrenne, is that I've not created a little storybook trunk set in quite awhile. It was asked of me to use a slightly larger doll, this one being 3 1/4" tall, so I had to build her a little trunk that was larger, instead of one that has always been this doll's exact size. So 4" it became. Also, I wanted to do something different and rather whimsical. I chose the interior paste boards of the book's binding and painted all the little Tenniel characters illustrated. It turns out that including the interior of the trunk, 17 characters in all were respresented! And, then there was the garden.

After having finished painting the exterior of the trunk, it took me several days to figure out just what to do with the interior. Tenniel did not have a proper illustration of the rabbit hole, which I found rather sad. I looked to other volumes of this story by other illustrators, but I didn't feel comfortable mixing images. It came to me, then, to create the little door, or the garden that Alice finds behind a curtain at the end of a corridor. At first, this was going to be just a painted door. I messed with this idea a little, and wasn't happy with the effect. So I made the little door and naturally made a frame, hinged the door and added the door knob with the keyhole, so that it could actually be opened to the lush garden Alice so desired to step into. I used the garden from Through the Looking Glass, but at the height of 1", and the fact that this was the first book I was depicting, I chose not to paint the faces on the flowers. And, that is how this mouse found the proper Tenniel garden!

The other side became a trompe l'oiel of the Tea Party. I included only the March Hare and the Dormouse as the Hatter was already painted on the outside of the trunk. Then, I added a draped tablecloth to set the little porcelain tea set upon. I added a wee illustrated volume of the book by Dateman Books, a Drink Me bottle, the pig baby, and a tiny set of cards so that Alice could play in the settings. I think above all else in this piece, the opening door to the garden was the most whimsical and magical of the design. How many times that little door will be opened and closed, one can only wonder.

Another unique design in this set was having to give the doll stockings and real shoes. In the past I've used a lady white porcelain doll that had shoes painted on her feet. This was actually alot of fun to do and seemed to give the doll more life. One of the lovely things about the little doll is that her head turns! She is then far more poseable than the others I've put in these little settings. Wigging these dolls is a nightmare. Mohair flies as if tiny fairies were fanning the process. Add to that the glue used to affix the hair and you can get into a real frenzy! It took me three times to get it right. A bit of hairspray keeps the mohair from continuing to blow away and keeps the do just right. All in all, I was pleased with the outcome.

And, now with this little Alice Trunk Set behind me, I do believe its time to take a few books off the shelf, trot out into the sun and find myself a corner to daydream in. Next? Oh, Miss E. Mouse always has a little hopper full of ideas. Perhaps it will be to finish Bebe Balancoire! Or begin a little doll in a trunk with a small wardrobe. I know that I've been asked to make a pair of skis and ski poles for a Bleuette, and there is also a peg wooden of Caddie Woodlawn that I'd like to do...

Oh dear! If I don't run out into the sunshine right this minute, my summer will disappear before I know it!

Miss E. Mouse

Friday, June 25, 2010

Music To My Ears

Hello again! So soon... Well, why not? It has been a most extraordinary month, so busy and yet, so rewarding with accomplishment. I've been winnowing down my own personal doll collection and one of the dolls I sold was a Momo. She's a 14" doll with a Japanese face on a Jumeau or Bleuette-style body (that's taller than Bleuette). When I sent a photo to my friend to ask her if she was interested in the doll, she inquired after the little black shamisen accessorizing the doll.

It turns out my friend is an accomplished musician, and plays a variety of stringed instruments, and probably a few she failed to mention. She also has a phenomenal Asian doll collection, so how could I turn down her request for a little shamisen? A shamisen is likened to a Japanese banjo. It has three strings and is played with a rather large pick. The most interesting thing about this project was that I'd decided instead of making a duplicate of the one I had, I would size the little instrument up to fit the Momo perfectly.

After the pieces were cut and assembled, I asked her if she'd prefer a black one or a polished wood one similar in look to the shamisen she'd just acquired that belonged to her grandfather. Polished wood it would be. So here I strayed once again into unfamiliar territory. Anytime you treat wood, especially Basswood, (which is very absorbent), with a liquid substance, the wood grain puckers up. Not so much with stain as its oil based, but with all other liquids such as paint, gloss, etc. Well, I'd already gone through a stain nightmare with the prie dieu and was highly reluctant to go through it again.

I did alot of research on what kind of gloss I could use on top of an oil stained piece of wood. I went to three different hardware stores and the answer was always the same when discussing the process. I had to sand in between gloss applications. I really didn't think the gloss would adhere to the stain, but after two day's drying time following the stain, the gloss adhered. I did have to sand, and I had to sand twice. I also had to apply multiple applications of the gloss, but the result was a hard, "guitar-like" shine that I was pleased with. phew!

During my research on shamisen finishes, I noticed that the instrument was played with a large and oddly shaped pick. I thought first to cut one out of wood and stain it to match the shamisen, when I remembered that I had some thin pieces of ivory sheets. No more that 2" wide, but about 1/16" thick. This was legal ivory acquired through a proper source, and I had no qualms using it. The first little pick came out adorable, but was only large enough for my older, black shamisen. That was the practice piece. The second one, a bit larger, came out perfect. I did not photograph the second one, but you can see the first in the photo provided with the original black shamisen (7" long).

And, so I've become a carpenter and a musical instrument maker. Another friend of mine inquired about a zither earlier in the year, so I'm hoping to have the opportunity to make her one in the future.


Miss E. Mouse

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Spiritual Journey - Sentimental, Too

The twenty-first brought us the Summer Solstice, and the first day of summer. The sweetness of the warm days reminds me of dipping my paw in a jar of honey and watching the glistening gold syrup drip slowly down like the days ahead. I'm particularly fond of beehive and honey bee ephemera and tend to want to decorate my hole in the wall with images of this busy little friend. Like the honey bee I am always working. Even if the work is pleasant, its a task put before me that must reach completion. This month I am trying to finish all my commissioned projects so that I can begin something new. As promised, the prie dieu and First Communion accessories were completed and I've selected a few photos to share with you.

The entire collection includes the Gothic prie dieu with four holy vignettes painted down the sides in the oval cut outs, and a presentation box of accessories. Represented on the prie dieu were God the Father, St. Peter, Jesus holding a heavenly orb, and the Blessed Mother Mary in the clouds. These were incredibly difficult to paint. Mainly because I first wanted them to have the same look and feel, although the originals were done by different artists. Secondly, they all had a halo or holy glow to them that had to be done just right. And, third, each had a tiny face about 1/2" to 1/4" big. Its not that I haven't done miniature faces before, but when you're painting religious figures, you don't want to mess up!

The presentation box contained a small gold chest with a sterling silver neckace with a cross on it, a scapular, a folding Stations of the Cross and a faceted garnet rosary. Included with this collection was a white leather covered bible with a gold ribbon page marker. The presentation box itself was a delight to paint although it took me quite some time to figure how to paint the lillies on it so they would stand out. I'd mulled over putting them in an oval, putting them in a leit motif from the middle shape on the side panels, but ended up with the circle. The idea of the circle came about when I was thinking of the communion host a Catholic receives at mass. White would not do however, so I chose a pale sky blue to show off the lillies. I was very pleased with the affect.

Then there was the folding Stations of the Crosss card. I don't know if you've ever tried to fold paper like this before, but it pops out. It won't stay folded. I pressed it under five coffee table art books and it still wouldn't stay folded. My first thought was to encase it in a leather binding like a book, or even make a leather envelope for it. Finally, days later, the idea of the ribbon to wrap around it, with the end tucked in was the decision made. I'd had these teeny tiny gold crosses in my stash and glued two together with the ribbon pressed between them. This made tucking the ribbon in very easy, and gave it a unique look. The purple ribbon was chosen as it is a holy color.

The rosary was probably the most difficult to make. I must have ordered seven different types of beads to make one. I thought 2mm crystal beads would be appropriate, but the spacers were just about the same size. I settled on 3mm faceted garnet beads, and while I felt they were larger than I wanted, the overall affect was perfect. A sterling silver crucifix was threaded on to finish it. Beading the rosary was not easy either! I have to laugh because while I thought this project was going to sail, it was one of the most difficult I've ever done. Of course, I never do anything easy, but this one not only cost me greatly out of pocket, but it was a meditation in sheer patience. Did I mention that I had to cut all the prie dieu's pieces twice? I'd mistakenly stained them first, making the pieces impossible to assemble. I will never do that again! I learned so much with this collection and in retrospect, it was an entirely spiritual journey.

I have never figured out how to properly place the photos I share with you on this blog site. They seem to have a mind of their own where they go. Sixteen photos were take of this collection and I will have them uploaded to my website shortly. Please do drop into the Bleuette Collection Gallery to see them.

The Wee Alice Trunk Set is well under way by now, indeed more than halfway done. I just finished painting the last Tenniel character on the trunk and will be doing the wash background to tie them all together. Next I'll wig and dress the tiny doll to be Alice, then put in all the finishing touches. I've been painting for the last three months on these and another project I finished (a Hitty trunk) and I need to rest my eyes, switch gears for awhile.

So what are my plans for summer? I think I need to find a shade tree lose myself in a good book. But, like the honey bee, I will keep busy working on sweet things, yet you can rest assured, a few books will be enjoyed as well.

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Painter's Life

I can hardly believe an entire month has gone by since I last posted. A little mouse can only do so much in a day, and the days have have been mighty filled. To be very honest, I've been burrowing and licking my paws alot. I often wonder how other little mice can wake up everyday and be cheery. And, yet, when I'm like this, I often do my best work because it is the meditation or zen of work that gets me through the day. If we don't have occasional blues, the pallette of our life is missing the entire spectrum. I'm a yellow and orange mouse. High creative energy colors, so a swing to the other side of rainbow makes a long trek back to the sun. So what have I been working on? Goodies.

After the Alice challenge, a dear collector asked me to make her one of my Wee Alice Trunk Sets. I love painting Tenniel so accepting this commission was a delight. While the other little storybook trunks I've painted in this genre have been illustrated with entire scenes from the story, my OOAK necessity positioned me in a way to try the front first pages of the book I have, which are little vignettes of the characters with washy backgrounds of the outdoors. On one side, the front has been finished with the characters, and when the other side is complete, the individual background washes with be done together in a connective way. Some of these characters I've never painted before, and Tenniel is always a challenge, a sweet challenge.

The other project I'm working on is for a dear friend who joined the Bleuette Sewing Group not too long ago. The current sewing challenge is First Communion dresses and veils for the dolls from the vintage patterns. Bleuette was Catholic and La Semaine de Suzette (Suzette's Weekly) was published to teach little Catholic girls how to sew and become good mothers and housekeepers. So far, the outfits these ladies have made would make you swoon! Glorious. And, my part is to make an accessory set a little Catholic girl would receive for her First Communion. These items include a scapular (a prayer necklace, worn dutifully, will ensure your escaping the fires of hell upon death), a rosary and other times. I've learned not to give too much away on the Internet so that my work does not get copied (for awhile at least).

The other piece for the First Communion is a Prie Dieux, or kneeler. This is for an individual to kneel upon and say their prayers to God. In the past, many have been made quite ornately, while modern ones are more simplified. Naturally, a Missy Mouse prie dieux would be ornate! I found some incredible cut-work wood, in a Gothic style, that made the perfect "trellis" work to showcase the paintings, or holy portraits. The images came from holy image cards a Catholic could collect. Currently I am working on the Virgin Mary in the clouds. It is the last painting of the four as there are four ovals in the cut-work that accomodate the paintings. These would have been originally done in oil, for the soft blending of fabric folds and the delicate loftiness of clouds. However, my experience with acrylic has given me the ability to create these effects ratherly nicely in this medium. When the prie dieux has been assembled and stained, I will post a photo of it. The doll it is being made for is 10 1/2" tall and made for her specific body type so she can kneel at it comfortably.

Now the challenge for me, is switching from Tenniel to the oils of the holy cards. Two entirely different techniques are required to paint these images. Just as all paintings are a product of the artist's technique, these are as individual as expected. Imagine painting a face only 1/2" long, sometimes smaller.

It is the Memorial Day weekend and the weather finally cooperated for barbeques and picnics. Its been the coldest May on record and at least one resort in the Sierra reopened for skiing and snow boarding this weekend. Mercy! I need summer so I can scamper through the warm lawn again and feel my whiskers twitch in the rays of the sun.

June is just around the corner and its time to think about lakes and beaches, bathing suits and shorts to hike in. May your days be sunny and your disposition merry!


Missy Mouse

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Mind is a Wonderland

April is coming to a close quickly and the month just seemed to fly by! Rain and hail came frequently, and in equal measures we had the most beautiful warm spring weather imaginable. Even though the winds prevailed after a particularly warm weekend, this little mouse took her kayak out on Lake Folsom Monday with her husband and we paddled out to the island which is a wildlife sanctuary. High above the trees in the tallest Digger Pine is this large eagle's nest and we always look to see if we'll spot an eagle. Indeed we did as a mama eagle was in her nest with two little eaglets. Such a magnificent sight! So I hunkered down real low so I wouldn't be noticed and become a meal.

As you know, I hosted a mini challenge in the month of April for the Bleuette Sewing Club to make Alice costumes for their dolls. A drawing prize for one of my peg wooden paper dolls in an Alice theme was offered as incentive. The challenge was quite a success and the seamstresses made the most lovely and creative dresses inspired by the various illustrators of the Alice books. This week I put to the task of a second Alice in Wonderland peg wooden paper doll for the drawing. I chose the Tenniel illustrated paper dolls from a Shackman Company poster card. The pieces were intricate and lovely and they turned out beautifully. But what to do with them to make them different from anything I'd done before was a question for me.

I thought to make stands for them, but for some reason was having difficulty doing so. I decided then that they might make nice play dolls as is for the Bleuettes. Then three minutes after I turned out the lights to go to bed in my hole in the wall, it came to me that a peg board, or game board to display them on would be the answer. So I found a lovely garden scene and miniaturized it, pegged Alice and the White Rabbit and drilled two holes in the garden back drop, or peg board. Now the dolls had a place to play and a fine way to be displayed. They could be dressed in thier costumes and chase through the garden on their various adventures through Wonderland. I'll call this the Alice Peg Wooden Wonderland Peg Board. I'm so pleased with it, I may try it again for other little etrennes such as this.

I would also like to share Margie's fabulous Nursery Alice costume with you, expertly designed by a most talented seamstress and designer, Nicki Burley. In the photo Margie shows how much fun it is to have a little doll dressed just like her! If you love heirloom doll clothing with distinction and historical accuracy, keep your eyes out for more of Nicki's work as she's going to be sewing for me and designing her own patterns while creating a fabulous website.

Welcome May and all the flowers the April rains will bring!

Miss E. Mouse

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Wonderful Fashion Doll

In each of our lives there is always one special moment, one special toy, or one special book that stands out as having shaped our dreams...or a least made a very memorable impression. Such was the case with The Wonderful Fashion Doll, by Laura Bannon, for children born after 1953, the year the book was published. I wouldn't know about it this treasure until just a year ago, when one of my favorite doll artists, Wendy Lawton, recalled this book to her on-line group, trying to remember its name. After learning about the story, I had to find a copy. I could not believe the difficulty I experienced finding this book, and when I did, it was expensive. Very. I bought it, read it, reread it and enjoyed it for a year. Then I sold it. Sadly, yes, but I needed the cash. But, not before copying out a couple dozen pages! My intent after reading it was to recreate this story, bring it to life in a real doll, naturally in miniature. It was one of those things in the mouse hopper, and it wasn't until I actually parted with the book that I longed to build on this dream.

The story is the tale of a little girl named Debby who moves to her family's farmhouse in the country. Her great-grandmother had left letters about hiding this wonderful fashion doll to keep her safe from theives, and no one ever knew what happened to it, although it was a guess that it may be hidden somewhere in the old farmhouse. Debby's mission then was to try and find the doll...and does.

When I first thought of doing this, I was going to make a miniature Gay Event, the fashion doll, and all her clothing and treasures in the antique trunk. Then it occurred to me how cute it might be to make Debby and her doll. The story is just as much about Debby as it is about the discovey of the wonderful fashion doll. I knew I had the perfect little porcelain doll for Gay Event, a tiny 2 3/4" lady doll, but what was I to do about Debby? After much consideration, I decided I would use Mary Lee of Mary Lee's Tribute, a 9" Wendy Lawton doll, as my Debby. Now, once I've made my mind up, there's generally no turning back. Mary Lee is sweet, but with a different wig, (which I have found and need to purchase), and an outfit made like the one Debby wears when she finds the doll, she'd be perfect. This does however mean that I give up Mary Lee, but if this comes out the way I hope it to, it will indeed be WONDERFUL!
This tiny lady doll's head is even threaded so it can turn. From all the pages I've copied from the book I've a detailed description of all that was in the trunk, and even illustrations of most of the items. I just think this is just super!
Lastly, Marcella's dress has been made and she will be on her way home from the dressmaker shortly. These projects of mine are once again becoming quite elaborate in conception, detailed to the hilt and truly labors of love. How could I call them etrennes if they were not?
Miss E.Mouse

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Beautiful Balloon

When I was a little mouse, my mother used to take my sister and brother and I to our local Sees Candies store where we'd each pick out a beautiful sugar egg with a perfect, tiny little scene in it. She would then save them for our Easter baskets. These sugar eggs with their windows to a miniature world would fascinate me for hours. I never nibbled on them, but also have no idea where they went to. As you can see, I have a very pretty one today with a pink sugar rose on top. I know you can't see her, but there's a tiny yellow chick sitting on eggs inside!

The last few days have been spent finishing up projects, getting them mailed and cleaning up my studio. I simply cannot work in such a mess, but as I do, all these little bits gather around my paper pallette until I can no longer find anything. A paper pallette? Well, I suppose this goes back to the days when I painted more often than not, but you can tear a soiled page away so easily and find a nice clean surface to begin on again.

Oh! Bebe Balancoire has a new silk dress. The white one in the presentation box has been made, and so has the powder puff and folded shawl or kerchief shown above it. The hat is a bonnet and will take a bit of fussing with. There is a white brush I think must be a "tooth brush" and a black brush for her hair. I've found I must remake her beautiful leather gloves, but this is alright. Making the perfect pair of 1/2" gloves takes some doing. There are four napkins, a bar of soap, and what looks to be red curlers. The ball in the net bag was also made recently. So why not share a photo? Because its EASTER!! And, Easter cards must be sent.

I think I've decided on two things I shall be working on along with Bebe, and a commissioned piece I'm painting. I have been wanting to make male and female harlequin marionettes for some time now. Antoinette Marionette was so beautiful and sweet and I must make more like her. (See my website under the gallery Bleuette Collections and The Versailles Collection - I think she was about 2 1/2" long. So sweet. These may be about 3" tall. Just like me! I am also going to finish the second miniature Chinese Checkers set since my marble artist said he'd make me more teeny tiny marbles in the right colors. My love affair with dolls and trunks calls, so I must make a little Jumeau in a trunk with a small wardrobe - or even a presentation box! That's it! Those French presentation boxes were divine. And am I not making etrennes? Oui! I guess that's three, but who is counting?

So, I wish you a Happy Easter, and when next I write I hope to have some wonderful works in progress to share.


Miss E. Mouse

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Material Mouse

Oo, oo! Li-ving in a material world, and I am a material mouse!

Today, after fidgeting and fussing and trying to figure out how I was going to find the perfect silk for Bebe's second dress and bonnet, I decided that I would finally make the journey to Grass Valley to visit Fabrics on Mill Street. I've been told time and again that Fabrics on Mill Street was the store I would find what I was looking for, but taking that long drive down Highway 49 was not something I was looking forward to.

Earlier I'd learned that the one good quilting store in our area was closing due the owner's retirement, and as the ladies and I were discussing fabrics, the subject of this store once again came up. So I broke down and took a little drive. Incredibly I found a parking space right in front of the store, and this was a good thing since a mouse crossing a busy street can prove hazardous. I was skeptical that I would find what I was looking for, which turned out to be white silk Dupioni Shantung, and I feel smart just saying that name. I was looking for a variety of fabrics for several projects and this wonderful lady, Susan, finally came to my assistance and taught me so much about fabrics in the brief forty-five minutes I was in her store.

For a long time I would search Internet stores looking for material, and while swatches looked pretty, I had no idea what I would be buying because I wasn't familiar with the terms. Radiance is a cotton/silk blend that is so beautiful, and next to Ultra Sateen, which is also a cotton, the richness and "glow" of the fabrics are undeniable. I also am now able to identify Dimity, Pima Pique, and Voile, all of which are cottons. Natural fabrics are the only ones suitable to miniature dressing, but little does the public know that I'm also planning on sewing doll clothing for a Daisyette, which is a Daisy only Bleuette sized.

Another wonderful thing is that now I have the fabric to send to my seamstress (no I won't sew this time) to make a dress for the 7" Claire Jolie (Wendy Lawton), who will become my Marcella for the Raggedy Ann and Andy miniature marionette theatre I have long wanted to make. How tall will the theatre be? About 7 or 8" tall. The marionettes will be 2 3/4" tall. If you'd like to see what I've done with miniature marionette theatres, do visit my website at

And, the happiest news is with the perfect silk in paw, Bebe Balancoire's trousseau, and treasures in her presentation trunk, will be well on their way to completion.

...and I am a material mouse!

Miss E. Mouse

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Dream Come True

Oh how spring calls to me! My whiskers twitch and my paws long to scamper among the cool blades of damp grass in the sun-filled morning! What a joy to be a mouse!

Yesterday I finished the Mini Bleuette and Her Cracker Barrel Trunk set. This little accomplishment has me giddy with delight. This is solidly one of the very best pieces I've ever made. And, it should be. I've always held that your latest work should always be your best or you aren't growing as an artist. This is not to say that art of the past isn't notable, but we gain so many new skills and confidence with our abilities with each piece we finish. And, so it is with the Mini Bleuette and Her Cracker Barrel Trunk.

From the curved drawer in the vanity, to the quilting on the stool and bedding of the fold up Murphy bed...from the tiny 1 1/2" dresses to the three little wood hanger, its a mini masterpiece. There's a baby blue silk party dress with lace and rose bud embroidery, a rose and pink striped day dress with a rose silk sash, and the mini Bleuette wears a lovely jardin tablier dress over her eyelet onsie under things. Her Jumeau style shoes are brown leather and she wears them over lace socks. Her auburn curls come to her shoulders so you can change her dresses without mussing her hair. I honestly could have continued to make yet a couple of more dresses, but it comes now time to work once again on Bebe Balancoire. She's been awfully patient while I worked on the CB trunk.

I also finished the three mini wooden jigsaw puzzles and chose The Doctor to share with you. Each little puzzle was completed with a cardboard box authentic with paper tape corners, and the lids were finished with a high gloss paint and photo of the puzzle. These puzzles have to be one of my favorite Etrennes since all the puzzle pieces fit together so nicely. I love toys we can actually play with!

With no further ado, I will scurry back to my table and get back to work. Then again, I'm certain you have guessed that I will be enjoying the 77 degree weather we are having throughout the day to take those much needed breaks.


Miss E. Mouse

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coming Together

Today I'm taking the day off to see the new Tim Burton Alice film. I recall a friend of mine telling me about the movie earlier in the year and we were both excited over the costuming and novelty of the piece. When I go to see a movie like this, it is because of the pure entertainment value of it and also the inspiration of another artist's work of art. It need not be good per se, but just snuggling into a stadium seat in a dark theatre can take me away like no other venue. Speaking of which, I just gave a huge membership donation to our local PBS station to get one ticket to see Celtic Woman Songs From the Heart. I adore Chloe. That woman can sing!

Speaking of singing, I'm doing my own little song and dance after braving the latching and hinging of the tiny Cracker Barrel trunk. I also finished the bedding, bolster pillow, stool and cover. Often times I simply ride with my vision having no idea how I'm accomplishing something - I just do it.

I also attached a photo of the "real" trunk so you could see the comparison of the two. The tiny one needs a handle atop, some hangers and of course the tiny doll and her wardrobe. How tempting it is just to sit and home and keep working, but my mind needs a rest least for a few hours.


Miss E. Mouse

Monday, March 8, 2010

Something Good's A-foot!

Easter is coming! I was reading the newspaper this morning and found out that Jan Brett has a new book out. Its called The Easter Egg. Jan has been one of my favorite illustrators and story tellers since the early '80's. Her charming stories and delightful paintings have always brought a smile to my heart. I was reminded this morning of a childhood memory when my mother would troop us down to Sees Candies every Easter to choose a panoramic sugar egg to find in our Easter basket Sunday morning. The tiny sugar and paper images would delight me for months. I don't think I ever braved eating the egg, but would save them in a box somewhere for another time. What happened to them? Who's to say. Maybe a little mouse came along and nibbled on them.

For the last week I've been slaving over creating a miniature version of the elusive and quite collectible Cracker Barrel doll trunk that became the item for Bleuette some years ago when Agnes Sura, one of the founders of bringing Bleuette to the States, posted a photo of her dressed dolls in front of one. Recently, on ebay, they've been selling for as high as $245! A twenty-five dollar toy found in the South's gift shop of the Cracker Barrel restaurant has become a true treasure. I have four of them. Well, come on! All my dolls must be spoiled.

I have long wanted to miniaturize one and finally found the nerve to do so. This is it. This is the only one I'll make because it was and still is, the challenge beyond Bebe Balancoire's miniaturization. (Yes, I'm still working on her, but she had to be put aside while I drove myself nuts doing this!)

The trunk comes in three sections, a place for a Murphy bed (a bed that folds up into the wall), a section for hanging clothing and a drawer for storing shoes, a space for the doll to be stored and a curved drawer dresser and stool. The stool is being made today. The stool is covered, and the bed has a coverlet and bolster pillow. To this I will add a 2 1/2" porcelain mini Bleuette, dressed, and maybe two extra dresses. I like things in threes. So before I hinge and latch this little Etrenne, I wanted to share this small triumph with you. I also photographed it with a penny for sizing.

I wanted to thank the new members for joining my blog. And, I want to wish you happy dreams as we waltz into spring!

Miss E. Mouse