Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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My Period Room Boxes by Sharwynne Drennan

I would like to present photos of my period room boxes, all built by me and all depicting events or periods in history that fascinate me.

 

I am a half Welsh lady living in the United States; my mother was a war bride who came over here in 1946. My mum was from Maesteg, in Mid-Glamorgan, South Wales. I still speak a tiny bit of what she taught me and from hearing my "Nana" speak when we visited but I'll admit I don't have to use it in Mississippi!!

 

A picture of me with my roomboxes in a display at the local library

(I always like to visualize who I'm speaking with).

 I have been over to England and Wales many times and dream about actually living there. My mum instilled a love of all things British; I heard many stories of WWII and life on the homefront; in her case she was a student at the University of London in Torquay. (My mother LEFT Wales to go to London to study, which is ironic considering all the terrible things that happened there.) Therefore many of my miniature scenes show my perception of life during that era. It took much intestinal fortitude to "Be calm and carry on" and strange as it may sound I believe I have that and would have liked to be part of that time. Since I cannot I make my own event, my British World War II kitchen shows a lady, Mrs Beryl Thomas, sitting over a cup of tea at her kitchen table sewing blackout curtains and listening to the wireless. A picture of her husband (borrowed from WWII images) is sitting framed on the radio. I tried to make it genuine down to the appliances.

 

 

A slight twist is the efficient looking woman standing talking to the lady of the house; evidently little Trevor is misbehaving at school as he has a slingshot hidden behind him while the woman discusses things with his mother!

 

Hot water heater made by Carole Houseman, Norfolk, UK 

 

As you can see I really enjoy "setting the stage"! I have over half a dozen of scenes, including one featuring the iconic (and fictional) Rosie the Riveter in a flat I think she would have been comfortable in if she had been a real person. I made the setting in Washington state as that is where "Rosie" first came to life as a Boeing employee.

 

Quilt made by Cheryl Hart, WA, USA

 

The story for her is basically this:

If Rosie the Riveter had been one real young lady of the times (1940s) where might she have lived? As a factory worker she didn't earn much money but was a modern thinking girl with a streak of independence and pluck. So I think she might have chosen a one room flat in a boardinghouse in the Pacific Northwest area. She has a room with a "view" as Mount Rainier is peeking through her window. Despite her hard job she is a typical young lady who likes to dress up and go out with her friends so the screen hiding her wash tub and sink holds a pretty 1940's dress and her shoes are waiting below for her evening out. She has everything she needs  in this little room except the bathroom, which, unfortunately is down the hall; she shares it with other girls like her.

 

In Rosie the Riveter's box, the bed is a true Murphy bed that lets down at night and closes against the wall in the daytime (it's obtainable from Hobby Builder's Supply, www.miniatures.com). I had fun with the setting, improvising with things at hand, the black burners on the little stove are actually dimes (American money) painted black and glued down! So I got a bit creative; the wallpaper, which I loved, is scrapbook paper, something I use frequently for the right print.

Rosie folding up her Murphy Bed before heading out to the factory in the morning

 

Some vegetables were made by  Jen Brooks, Ontario, Canada.

Both Rosie (above) and Mrs. Thomas (below) have Victory Gardens right outside, so they are also doing their part for the war effort in that area too.

 

In another of my roomboxes,  the little girl's bedroom is called "Fit For A Princess" but if you look closely you'll see that the two little children in this ultra-feminine bedroom have dressed up their dog, whose name (on the dog bowl!) just happens to be "Princess"!
 
And then there is "Chaos"!
 
 

     There's a party upstairs
     All the "toffs" will attend
     Everything must be genteel -
     But behind the baize door
     Reigns CHAOS galore!

     There's trouble ahead we can see

     The butler is tippling
     And his foot it is slipping
     Dear Me the dog has to go -
     The milk is all spilling
     And the cat is a-sipping
     And the mouse is in charge of the show!

 

 

 

 

Now I feel I have to point out that carpentry isn't my strong point and these are definitely not museum, or even competition quality! But I think the overall feel is all right and sets the mood I was trying to convey. I built these quickly because I found out the shelves at the library were too small for the existing boxes I had!

Most of my figures are resin, although as you can see in "Chaos" I also have a number of soft dolls. I never mix the two of course. In a cluttered scene I like the resin as the folds of clothing don't knock over things and overshadow the picture. In "Chaos" though I needed the look of movement and action so I used my cloth ones for posing. The nice thing about resin is you can paint them with acrylics and change the look a bit. The teacher who brought little Trevor home with a flea in his ear was wearing a 40-ish drab brown suit so I perked it up by painting the top and adding a little Ladies’ Aid picture to her purse so she obviously is a civic-minded woman who does her bit for the war effort! I love detail; it makes a room come alive.

Even though I may have an idea in my head for a particular period box I might not find the perfect figures to inhabit it; so if a doll catches my eye I buy it and try to let choose its surroundings. Some I adapt with paint or trims.  Most of my dolls come from inexpensive sources; I then modify them to suit the look I'm trying to achieve. I am always on the lookout for period dolls, especially 1930's-1940's and Victorian/Edwardian ones. Hobby Builder's Supply or www.miniatures.com is a great source of Houseworks dolls. Ebay is another. But the best resource of all is imagination! You can take minimal supplies, a bit of glue or fabric, scraps of wood and voila, you are transported!! I am very passionate about my miniatures, imagine a little world where you create the events!

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