Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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Jeanette
Member
Posts: 68
At Easter I will be visiting Torquay. I am really looking forward to Babbacombe miniature village. As usual, I have been looking up the net to see what is around and nearby in dolls house shops etc. A lot of what I have found is now closed or is just described as a gift shop. Is there anywhere that I can go to that we would call a dolls house miniature shop and browse and buy and come out happy. I really only want to do something that is ' high street ' not to visit collections or craftspeople. I'd ideally only want to hear about shops that people have visited and know are open...
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February 19, 2018 at 5:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Rosemary
Member
Posts: 2481

It is strange - that as interest in miniatures as a hobby seems to grow. all the lovely shops that used to cater for our desires are vanishing. Is this due to ebay? I am finding ebay very disappointing - or vastly overpriced these days. 

The only outlet for miniatures in my area has got smaller and smaller over the years and the selection a  run of the mill products. Once upon a time, it was exciting to visit it and fabulous items could be found. Now it is mostly mail order for the usual makes.

February 20, 2018 at 2:45 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Trumble's Mum
Member
Posts: 586

We all love the net when it comes to research and groups like this one, but it is the cause of the specialist shops closing down. Bricks and mortar shops can't compete because of the overheads. Now, small businesses even have to provide shop assistants with a pension, another cost putting those employing a handful of peole out of business.

The only d/h and miniatures  I could reach at all was in Hereford, some 40 miles away, but it is doing more and more in the way of model raiiway stuff and jigsaws and less d/h products. I asked why and was told that they were charged the retail on-line price for house kits and furniture and, once they'd put a slight mark up to make a bit of proffit themselves, peoplew would say it was cheaper on-line and the free postage made it better for them to buy direct.

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February 20, 2018 at 3:56 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Rosemary
Member
Posts: 2481

There also seem to be less skilled artisans about too.  I know that when I make my tiny houses, they take three days to complete, although I try to work on three at once - there is so much drying time inolved - so as one dries, I can do some work on the next. There is no way that I could make money on going out to fairs to sell, even if I could produce in quantity.  The overheads for craftspeople doing fairs like the Kensington one must be prohibitive, parking, accommodation, stall fee, etc.so naturally the price of their beautiful creations are going to be high.  If they sell through a shop, the mark-up could be as much as fifty percent. I must admit that I have not visited any fairs for some years (apart from Cobham) so don't know who are the up-and-coming artisans but it can't be easy for them.

February 20, 2018 at 5:00 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Trumble's Mum
Member
Posts: 586

Rosemary at February 20, 2018 at 5:00 AM

There also seem to be less skilled artisans about too.  I know that when I make my tiny houses, they take three days to complete, although I try to work on three at once - there is so much drying time inolved - so as one dries, I can do some work on the next. There is no way that I could make money on going out to fairs to sell, even if I could produce in quantity.  The overheads for craftspeople doing fairs like the Kensington one must be prohibitive, parking, accommodation, stall fee, etc.so naturally the price of their beautiful creations are going to be high.  If they sell through a shop, the mark-up could be as much as fifty percent. I must admit that I have not visited any fairs for some years (apart from Cobham) so don't know who are the up-and-coming artisans but it can't be easy for them.

It is sad that so few people actually value, or even recognise, the cost, skill and time that goes into making miniatures or any other handmade items.  Few young people are interested in such slow, patient work and so, as older artisans give up because of physical difficulties or just in disgust as to how undervalued their work is, there are fewer young ones rising to take their places.
I made my daughter a OOAK sweater, it took me a total of 300 hours as it was quite a complex design that I was working out  as I went along and required me to pull back and reknit parts in up to 14 colours if they didn't work as I hoped. Her friend asked if she could get me to make her one and she'd pay £5 for the wool and another £5 for my time. Needless to say, the girl is a buy it, wear it, chuck it out sort of gal and has no idea even how to make a meal from scratch, so she doesn't understand. At nearly 40, I was surprised that she was quite so clueless though. Her attitude seemed more teenage than adult  and I wasn't surprised later when she came to visit and wanted to know why I would 'waste my time when you could by a plastic one' when she saw me sanding an antique German d/h wardrobe door that would no longer close.

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February 20, 2018 at 7:21 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Rosemary
Member
Posts: 2481

OH DEAR.  My heart sinks when I see people piling onto the bus with lots of bags from Primark. I know the stuff won't wear well and will be discarded within weeks.

February 20, 2018 at 9:33 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Linda B
Member
Posts: 1496

Last year I was going with my daughter to Walsall, so thought a visit to Jennifer's of Walsall would be great. Wrong, the shop had closed down, she now only does big fairs like Miniatura.

Such a shame.

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February 20, 2018 at 2:50 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Brooksey
Administrator
Posts: 1654

Linda B at February 20, 2018 at 2:50 PM

Last year I was going with my daughter to Walsall, so thought a visit to Jennifer's of Walsall would be great. Wrong, the shop had closed down, she now only does big fairs like Miniatura.

Such a shame.

They have an excellent website, too! 


https://www.jennifersofwalsall.co.uk/


I believe that Jennifer and Andy closed the shop because the increasing overheads that small businesses face were making it unprofitable (as Jenni highlighted above).  

February 20, 2018 at 4:04 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Holly
Member
Posts: 168

Sometimes you stumble across dolls house miniatures in Antique centres but nothing in quantity.


It is a shame that so many shops close down there seems to be so much interest in Doll House items it makes you wonder that more shops don't persist.


I guess a majority of people are satisfied with items that come from China so cheaply no artisans could compete and the higher or more discriminating end of the market is just a relatively small pocket of people that seems like a lot when they convene at places like Kensington once or twice a year. However, if you start to filter these people down who have saved for 6 months for a splurge at the fair to how many would regularly support a shop in their local town with enough day in day out business to make it viable it would probably be quite apparent that there would probably just not be enough trade in small localities.


Plus, I think you have to be really 'into' the hobby to understand how much time and effort goes into making one of a kind pieces and how it is almost impossible to price your time accordingly even at 'minimum wage' and expect people to buy.


The auction sites that get the most traffic create a frenzy for for antique pieces achieving insane prices and it is just about visibility online and the ability to be found by customers, a shop in a sleepy little town would struggle to stay afloat and never achieve the same prices as online dealers do as we all know to our dismay.


Internet shopping is ok and I like the convenience of having something delivered but I do miss the pleasure of going in a little shop and seeing something for real and knowing exactly what you are buying.


Online you find yourself paying overblown prices to cover the sellers 10 - 20% marketplace fees and their profit mark up and additional shipping or the seller has had to 'absorb' the shipping cost to offer 'free shipping', which is just the same overblown price. I know people who are dealers online for various things and they also have to charge the highest prices they can for popular pieces as 'insurance' to cover the times when things get damaged or dishonest buyers cause problems, so we lose out that way too a bit the same way as car insurance works paying for the bad drivers.


The high street is like a monster that eats itself as councils and landlords charge high rents and business rates and the more shops and businesses that fail the more they raise the stakes to recoup as much money as they can from surviving businesses all the while raising the bar and making it difficult for little artisan shops to either get a foothold or survive.


The best bet for artisan sellers is if they can have some kind of co-operative on the high street or a shared marketplace more artisan shops should go the way of antique centres and rent out small spaces to give little businesses a chance to exist. I can't think of any other way it could work these days.



February 21, 2018 at 1:17 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Claire Quick
Member
Posts: 469

The only dollshouse? Shop I know is Halcyon in st Marychurch precinct Torquay. But that is it. As far as I am aware there is only one shop left in Cornwall and no others in Devon.

Totnes outdoor market on a Friday morning has an eclectic mix of vintage bric a brac and stuff. I have found Dh stuff there before but it’s hit or miss. It’s only about five miles from Torquay. Lots of vintage and charity shops as well

February 21, 2018 at 3:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Rosemary
Member
Posts: 2481

Holly - that's a very good summing up of what is happening today with the dolls' house trade. When i used to run a small craft market, I always charged half price for the miniatures stall run by Ken Ketteridge. He only took up half the space that  others did so it only seemed fair. I do miss the shops that we had around here back in the 90s - the hunting was fun.

February 21, 2018 at 4:01 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Trumble's Mum
Member
Posts: 586

I do buy the 50s furniture made in small factories, because that is what is suitable for most of my houses, but there is nothing more pleasurable than having one or two artisan made pieces. It is the same as those special bits of big people furniture or objects that one might have as a feature. In our real drawing room, that is a longcase clock that was made for an ancestor in the late 1700s.

I couldn't afford to completely furnish a d/h with handmade items, any more than I could do so for our own home, there will always have to be homemade items and cheaper, mass produced stuff, but my dream is to have a couple of 'specials' for each d/h. So maybe I better stop buying houses and start working on that?!

What would be really nice would be to find a list of artesan miniaturists which is regularly updated. Several times I've emailed such people directly, using the details from their old site, only to be told they are now retired and no longer making anything. If DHP&P can ever get onto a host that is a bit more user friendly, I would love to see such a page here.It might be a good source of sales for crafts people too.

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February 21, 2018 at 5:59 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Linda B
Member
Posts: 1496

Brooksey at February 20, 2018 at 4:04 PM

Linda B at February 20, 2018 at 2:50 PM

Last year I was going with my daughter to Walsall, so thought a visit to Jennifer's of Walsall would be great. Wrong, the shop had closed down, she now only does big fairs like Miniatura.

Such a shame.

They have an excellent website, too! 


https://www.jennifersofwalsall.co.uk/


I believe that Jennifer and Andy closed the shop because the increasing overheads that small businesses face were making it unprofitable (as Jenni highlighted above).  

I know she has a website, but it doesn't compare with a good old mooch around a real shop  :(

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February 21, 2018 at 7:22 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Jeanette
Member
Posts: 68
Claire, Thanks so much, I really did miss that shop when I was scouring the net. The bonus is that it is so close to Babbacombe model village. Thanks again for your reply... Jenni, I agree that it looks like a good page to keep updated, it would be fantastic to load it up and know that you were going somewhere special...
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February 21, 2018 at 11:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Brooksey
Administrator
Posts: 1654

@ Linda:  I couldn't agree more about real dolls house shops! I really miss the one which closed down here a few years ago. Almost every time I passed it, I nipped in and bought something! It's a hairdresser's, now. Before long, every shop in town will be either a hair/nails/beauty/tanning salon or a coffee shop/café, take-away, restaurant, or a charity shop. Besides the DH shop, the town has lost many independent shops in the last few years, which sold art supplies; home furnishings; lighting; electrical appliances/white goods; clothes; meat and game; cookware (after the dolls house shop, one of my favourites - I was always in there!); flowers; "ethnic" and "boho" greetings cards, clothes/jewellery/ornaments (another fave!). There used to be a specialist tea and coffee merchant, a chocolatier, and two bridal shops - all gone. Almost all the different banks have closed their branches. The former bookshop is a coffee shop which displays a few books and the last greengrocer's is under threat. There's still one grocer/delicatessen, a couple of butchers and an excellent fishmonger, but for how much longer? 


I posted the link to Jennifer's website for the benefit of members who might not have heard of it. (For those who don't know, she has an excellent selection of wallpaper and floor coverings, including hard-to-find American imports from Mini Graphics and Brodnax (and Brodnax's matching fabrics). She also sells imported Houseworks items for DIY, and Chrysnbon kits). 

February 22, 2018 at 4:42 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Brooksey
Administrator
Posts: 1654

Jenni: your suggestion of a directory of artisans is a good one. Maybe one day, I'll have time to compile one! 

February 22, 2018 at 4:57 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Trumble's Mum
Member
Posts: 586

Brooksey at February 22, 2018 at 4:57 AM

Jenni: your suggestion of a directory of artisans is a good one. Maybe one day, I'll have time to compile one! 

Oops! Didn't mean to offer you yet another job, Brooksey! It hardly seems worth it until Webs sorts out the problems or we move on as I'm sure you'd be chasing your tail over it. ( I am having problems with my messages being deleted before I've finished typing them now)

A doll group I've given up on, have just contacted me to say they have moved to a host called IO - as in eye-oh not one zero. No idea how good it is for a group  such as ours here, but some think it is wonderful. Have you heard of it?

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February 22, 2018 at 8:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Jeanette
Member
Posts: 68
I'm very sad to report back that Halcyon, dolls house shop in St Marychurch, Babbacombe, Torquay has closed down 9 days ago, just a few days before I arrived. The owner still has a newsagents/card shop across the way from it but...it is no more, I was too late... I did manage to visit the wonderful Babbacombe model village and would give it 10 out of 10.
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April 15, 2018 at 4:10 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Brooksey
Administrator
Posts: 1654

That's such a pity, Jeannette! Another one gone...  I'm glad you enjoyed Babbacombe, though!

April 15, 2018 at 6:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Ninja
Member
Posts: 115

Jeanette, good to hear you loved babbacombe, hope the rest of your holiday was great too in spite of missing the DH shop :). Shame to hear of another closing :( 

April 15, 2018 at 8:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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