There are a few perks to my day job and the best by far this year was meeting dolls’ house doyennes Jane Fiddick and Caroline Hamilton.
The two friends are fantastic characters and have spent the last 40 years collecting and making houses, room boxes, shops and the miniature treasures that go inside them. Luckily for us, the London-based pair have just gifted them all to Newby Hall, near Ripon. The 65 properties will be on permanent display in the former potting sheds next to the garden restaurant and there is no doubt that it will be a major attraction when it opens on July 11.
I defy anyone not to utter “wow” when they see it. There are, of course, lots of traditional little abodes but best of all, in my opinion, are the unconventional, thought-provoking and the hilarious. These are dolls’ houses but not as you know them and every one of them tells a story. This one, below, is labelled “Millenium Dome” and shows Nick Loadsa Money, a city banker, in his flash London apartment, complete with can in hand, a pizza box at his side and a cannabis plant on the terrace outside. “Well he would, wouldn’t he?” says Caroline.
There’s also the blingtastic Abu Dhabi hotel foyer.
And this amazing recreation of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s house is by Jane. Charles is at the drawing board and his furniture and paintings have been faithfully reproduced.
Caroline and Jane are sticklers for authenticity and their attention to detail is legendary. If it doesn’t exist in miniature, they will find a way of making it. “Our mantra is, ‘It’s not beyond the wit of woman,’” they say. They can tackle everything from electrification and upholstery to furniture making and wallpapering, though they also commission pieces from miniaturists.
Gift wrap with small print makes good wallpaper and silk ties are the perfect upholstery fabric. Fimo is ideal for fashioning food, while a fountain can be conjured up with nylon thread and resin. Another trick is making cobwebs from old tights and dust from the contents of a vacuum cleaner – which is sprayed wth lacquer to make it stick. There’s quite a bit of both in Steptoe and Son’s gaff , below, which comes complete with rooftop bar.
I know I have had a sneak preview but I can’t wait to go and see the little people again.This not just a day out you’ll see history, sociology, architecture and observe all human life played out in 1:12 scale.
*Pictures by Bay Hippisley