Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Peep at the World's Fair

What could be more wonderful than attending The World's Fair? Perhaps dreaming of going and having your own special book and souvenir toy to play with. This was the inspiration for Daisy's Library I. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but as I've discovered in the past, one toy naturally leads to another. At the dearest expense, I purchased an 1889 copy of Raphael Tuck's A Peep at the Worlds Fair. The antiquarian bookseller also had two other books I couldn't pass up and one of them was an early 1900's copy of Aladdin or His Wonderful Lamp. This was done with a Chinese theme, and with such gorgeous illustrations that I decided it belonged in my library, too. I knew I wanted to make miniature copies of both for Daisy, but I like things in three so I selected Kellogg's Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures as the third.

While faithfully reproducing the first two books, I was captured by Aladdin's princess on a palm fan on the cover of the book. Bing! A light went off in my head, so I made a little fan for Daisy of this image and backed it with gold paper. The split wood handle was a simple and wonderful bit to add for authenticity. Now Daisy could read her book and enjoy a toy to go with it.

As I struggled under the pressure of replicating a tiny flip page book in Funny Jungleland, I once again gained much respect and appreciation for the genius that not only goes into such silly illustrations, but the concept of being able to flip strips of illustrations back and forth to make hundreds of goofy looking critters. This little book came out marvelously, but naturally after several attempts. It became a toy within itself.

I sat there puzzling over A Peep at the World's Fair. This beautiful antiquarian book was reproduced with such exacting care. The front and back cover were paper boards (or cardboard) and the binding was black cloth tape. There was no wiggle room for mistakes, so with a steady paw and lots of breath holding, I put it together. Aladdin had an unusual binding itself. It was sewn together like a spiral notebook! I had to drill tiny holes down the edge through all the pages to be able to neatly sew the book together. It came out beautifully! I truly thought I was done with this collection, as I troubled over what I could possibly reproduce from A Peep that could be a toy for Daisy. One Thursday morning it struck me like lightening! I would make a monkey marionette and tambourine inspired by the Egyptian page. A street vendor was seated, shaking his tambourine while a little brown monkey danced with a stick, laced under his elbows behind his back. This was too precious! And, so the task began.

First I had to come up with a way to make the tambourine. Although I had 6" wood panels, I wanted a larger circle for the instrument. As it turns out, it was the perfect length for a small circlet of wood and I cut five spaces for tiny brass washers to use as the jingles. Honest to goodness this was NOT easy. At first I used a clear presentation paper for the "skin", but it bowed on me. Later I would use a real piece of pig skin over cardstock for strength, and this became the tambourine.

The monkey took me a slap six days to figure out. Oh, I'd made marionettes in the past, but this was as much a stuffed animal, and a full scuplted figure, as ever I'd done or not done before. The hands, feet and head were sculpted out of paper clay, or papier mache, as is tradition. The fur is fleece, but it took me several thinks and a bit of shopping to come up with this. Fitting the head with fur gave me the fits even though I knew instinctively what should be done. The tail was another matter, but a few stitches down the top end of the tail, and pulled tightly, completed a little curled tail look. He really came out just the way I envisioned! So now Daisy can read about going to The World's Fair, shake, shake, shake that tambourine and dance her monkey marionette!

This is one of the most favorite collections I've ever made. I love antique books and as a wee mouse, I always longed for the books to come alive so I could play with the items in them. Instead of agonizing over the position of so many photos (which I've never figured out on this blogsite), I would encourage you, and be delighted if you would take a look at this collection on my website. There are about fourteen photographs with detailed descriptions of all the items This is not a solicitation, but a chance for me to share this wonderful little toy with you. Look for it in the For Sale album.

And, now I'm onto other treasures while Daisy enjoys a quiet afternoon of play. I wish one for you as well.

Miss E. Mouse

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


March was a busy month, and I spent a great deal of time pulling glue and bits of paper from my little paws. I had this brainstorm to make miniature papier mache eggs for Daisy and I was absolutely determined to figure this out and get it right.

First I tried mashing and forming Paperclay around those 1.5" wooden eggs one finds in a crafts store. I'd wrap plastic wrap around the egg, tape it in places, then form the clay. Well, first of all, papier mache is supposed to formed around a structure that will air dry from both the inside and out! So besides having lumpy shells, the drying stage was not working properly.

I bought egg candy molds and pushed clay into them, then dropped the wood egg sprayed with furniture polish down into the mold (this is what the Paperclay company advised), and THAT was a mess. There were several other attempts at doing this, until I finally went on-line and read up on How to Make Papier Mache. They recommended a PVA glue, which is a book binding glue, and after I ordered a huge bottle of the stuff on, I found out that Aileen's and even Elmers is "PVA" glue. Toilet tissue was used, newspaper was used, torn bits of this and that and let me tell you, its a mess no matter how you look at it. I even tried the cooked flour in water with salt method! What I ended up doing in the long run was use the PVA (from Amazon) with bits of toilet tissue and I molded this around the wooden egg wrapped with clear plastic kitchen wrap. I think I was on the right track from the start, but the Paperclay was the wrong medium.

What I ended up with in the final process was a thin, semi-hard shell because glue is really nothing more than plastic. I lined the insides with a printed tissue paper, then tissued the outer shell with layers of colored tissue to give the illusion of background. The band inside that makes the egg a box is a secret I'll keep, and the ephemera is miniaturized, old-store-stock German Easter scenes. After all, papier mache eggs are German in provenance. The eggs where then trimmed in white Dresden "rick rack" to resember the real ones. ALL this work for three little eggs for Daisy!

The chick was designed from a vintage papier mache egg I saw on ebay. The antique had sold for $113, or I would have enjoyed having it myself for the novelty. The fuzz on the chick's head was made from clipped "fur" from a stuffed toy. Finally I made itty bitty Easter basket grass from green tissue paper and nested, in each egg, three tiny wooden toy animals I cut out on my jigsaw. What a mouse will go through to make papier mache eggs for doll!

The eggs took up much of the month, but I also took on another zither project. A lovely lady asked me to make a zither for her Bleuette and wished it to resemble one that her mother played. We settled on the design of a beautiful instrument I found while researching zithers with dark stain. This one is absolutely beautiful, and turned out to be 4.25" long. Lovely!

Now often we are asked to make another of something we've already conquered, and this was the case for another miniature Daisy doll, and one more Lettie Lane sewing basket. Its funny, but you'd think that it would be easier the second time around?? Nope. In fact making the outfit and shoes for the second little Daisy was like starting from scratch, and I'd wished I'd taken better notes. The sewing basket was a little easier, but I did things a little different as I'd learned from the first effort what and what not to do. Finally, and I'm not sure I mentioned this, I made a second miniature Cracker Barrel trunk. I will not, won't not, never again not, do another. They are much too involved and while I love detailed work, it can become tedious. I did manage to do a better murphy bed with this one though. When my customer received it, she gave me the best compliment you could give a little artist mouse. She said my work was precision. That one will keep me afloat for awhile :))

And, now that all my commitments have been met, it is time to start something new, and also work on the Lettie Lane Doll House. One of the things I'd like to do is make two miniature marionettes, a boy and girl, in French theatre costume in pink and white stripes. These will be created for Bleuette as I haven't done anything for her in awhile. But, mostly, I wish to enjoy spring and run my little paws through the wildflowers in the fields. And, I shall. Every morning before I sit down to work in my sunny studio.

Happy Easter! Happy Spring!


Miss E. Mouse