Dollhouses, Part 1
Not Just for Little Girls, One Woman’s Story/Best Kept Secrets
Who enjoys this hobby and Why
I have been passionate about this fascinating hobby for years, possibly most of my life. I remember always wanting a dollhouse but thought I’d finally resigned myself as an adult that I was beyond that stage of life. Fate intervened however, and I continued to yearn for a “little place of my own.”
The term dollhouse is a bit misleading. Miniature buildings might be more accurate. Of course, if you own such a building and your dolls want to move in, that’s between you and them!
The motivation to become involved in ‘miniatures’ is as diverse as those who become involved. For some, recapturing treasured childhood memories is sufficient reason to kindle an interest. For other; women and men alike, the challenge of creating or recreating architecture or other components in small-scale is the driving force.
Some miniaturists hope to recreate a particular historic or personal place, such as Abe Lincoln’s log cabin or the home they themselves grew up in or even currently inhabit. For other people, working with or collecting miniatures is a means of having something they could never attain in full-scale.
Yet another angle is creating a repository or showcase for a particular collection, like the way my Goldilocks and the Three Bears Cottage, a bit of a Black Forest dwelling, was inspired by, and now revolves around, my assorted collection of teeny tiny honey pots and other honey containers.
When I first began to act upon my interest in dollhouses, I had no idea other adults indulged in this hobby. I did not even know where to begin to research my ideas. Traditional toy stores were not much help. If they carried any dollhouse items at all, they were apt to be plastic and/or flimsy and poorly mass-produced; not what I’d envisioned.
I had (shyly) mentioned my interest to a co-worker one day, and she ‘confessed’ to a similar desire to become involved in the hobby. Between us, we discovered that there were actually shops that specialized in dollhouse miniatures and catered to folks like us! Who knew! In the many years since then, we have shared a love for this hobby together and grown a wonderful relationship that has gone far beyond work.
There are even groups of like-minded individuals out there that have banded together to share ideas and resources, and they’re all levelheaded, otherwise pretty normal people. Huge fairs are hosted regularly all around the globe to support this hobby/obsession. There are even cruises with a miniature collecting and building theme. Have I shocked you yet? Most group members are adults and I was surprised to learn that many are men. Several magazines cater to this hobby. So much for the ‘little girl hobby’ myth….
There are catalogs and on-line chat rooms that cater to these folks. Needless to say, I’ve come out of the miniature closet.
I am guilty of creating my ‘dream home’ in 1/12” scale, the only way I will ever have it at all. For me, this translates into Briar Rose Cottage, an Olde English Tudor style home, complete with flagstone floors, herbal still room, weathered exterior and cottage garden, currently occupied by the 8th generation of the same family. Constance Yarrow, an elderly woman author specializing in historic mysteries, is the current 1-inch scale resident. This house began as a kit which I unceremoniously proceeded to ‘bash’. Bashing is a term in the miniature world meaning to alter to some extent; minimal to maximum. I added a room at the end, moved the placement of the interior walls, hand-carved beams and woodwork for every room inside and much of the outside, covered all the walls in and out with plaster, installed wooden and real slate floors, replaced the windows with ones that open and close… When that was all done, I weathered it all so it would appear to be several hundreds of years old. My next step is to create a cottage garden in the front. We will return to this house in a later installment.
1-inch scale, sometimes referred to 1/12th scale, refers to the size of the miniatures collected, including the dwellings. There are many scales, but the 1” to 1’ scale is currently the most common. It means, that something that is 1-inch tall/high/long in ‘real life’, is 1-foot tall/high/long in miniature. For instance, most adult dollhouse dolls range from 5 to 6 inches in height.
Dollhouse enthusiasts come in many forms. Some are collectors only. They go to shops, shows and fairs and buy items they collect. They may even have pieces custom designed and made for them by specialty craftspeople. Some hobbyists are carpenters, designers, doll makers, needle workers, painters, clay artisans and others. Some are multi-talented. I enjoy building dwellings and wooden furniture. I also create foods and other items from polymer clay and dabble in doll making, sewing and landscaping. My greatest interest is the design and interrelation of the many various aspects and craft forms.
This covers some of the hows and whys of the miniature or dollhouse hobby world. In the next installment, I will take you on a little tour of the ‘whats’ of the hobby. Don’t forget to duck going through the doorways!