Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

A Passion for Plates by Christine Hayward


After books, I have a passion for china. I have no idea how much I own - it hangs on walls, fills cupboards, overflows into the bathroom and laundry and garden.


I am strict about not getting more (40 or so trios is already probably more than I will ever use) and as most of my love is china from the 1930s, my dolls house was the obvious place to keep 'collecting'.


Blue willow from dinner size to dolls house size


Given my lack of control when faced with china, I decided to make my own for the cottage so I could have whatever I wanted ... and lots of it! Some of these I could never dream of owning in real life but Mr and Mrs Hollyhock Cottage (they will have a name one day) were lucky enough to number among their wedding gifts Clarice Cliff and Royal Doulton 'Pansies' sandwich sets, a Grindley dinner set, Art Deco display plates and  Royal Winton chintz. This in addition to inherited Victorian transferware and flow blue pieces and oddments from Mrs HC's 'bottom drawer'.



Some bits have even inspired me to think about a second cottage! Something pretty and shabby...



The history behind the much loved English china we treasure today is fascinating and when you realise the human cost behind it, it becomes much more precious. Child labour (15 hour days), plumbism (lead poisoning), potter's rot (silicosis) along with immorality and drunkenness were commonplace. Even those locals not working in the industry had a shortened life expectancy as they breathed the poisonous air belching from the approximately 4000 kilns of the Potteries. Interesting reading is The 1840 Scriven Report on Child Labour in The Potteries


If you have a china obsession that you need therapy for, follow these steps - they are also an excellent 'front of the TV at night' project:


1. Fill a page of Word with clear images of your desired pieces. You can format them to the size you want here and adjust brightness and colour. I usually copy 2 of each plate as my printer is prone to adding stripes or splodges and it doubles my chance of getting a good copy. Print out a sample page to double check and then print again onto light card - photo paper is fine but not necessary - my printer objected to it. Spray with a matt paper sealer and allow to dry.

For inspiration you can visit online gift stores or museums.



2. If you want round plates, scrapbooking punches are wonderful, especially if you are going to do lots. Plastic circle templates can be bought from newsagencies or stationers for a couple of dollars and can be used to draw the circle for cutting if you don't want to invest in punches. Curved nail scissors used carefully will give you a lovely scalloped edge. I actually like using nail scissors for the fancy edged plates or non-round (eg octagonal designs). It doesn't have to be perfect, just a few extra snips and curves. The joy of these plates is that you can have whatever shape you want!


Cut a coloured copy of each plate and a plain copy from light card.

If you are not using a punch, it is easiest to glue the cut coloured top onto the uncut plain card then cut the plain back carefully around the coloured top. If you are really inspired you can print a page of backstamps to cut your backs from! Glue the front and back together with a dry glue stick and tuck under a heavy phone book while you cut some more out.




When dry enough not to separate, but not entirely dry, pop the plate on top of the plastic circle template choosing a circle size to form the indented centre of the plate. With the rounded polished end of a paintbrush or a large embossing tool (mine came from the markets and I think may have started its life in millinery), carefully push the ball point around the circle to give the plate shape. You can do this under the plastic circle template onto a foam mat, but I found the first method more effective. (If you need an irregular shape, a mat is excellent without a template). The sides may crinkle as you go - just push them back flat with your embossing tool. Don't worry if it isn't looking exciting yet.


Now for the part reminiscent of Victorian pottery hazards. Open all windows and give the top of your plates a coat of varnish. The best varnish is cheap clear nail polish, several coats for a good shine.

When dry, varnish the back. Repeat until you have a lovely gloss level, I found 3 front coats and 2 back coats to be effective. When the varnish has hardened run along the edge with a gold paint pen and you are finished!

It is very addictive!




Cups, saucers and mugs

I used metal cups and saucers from Phoenix Model Developments. (I did try a quilled cup but wasn't thrilled with it - maybe someone else can perfect it and share the technique.) Mugs were rolled paper and need a bit more work too.

Print patterns for cups and saucers onto waterslide transfer/decal paper (found on ebay for inkjet and laser printers with instructions for use). I usually wait until I have a page to print out (of various bits for my real house as well), although you can print out a line of pictures and it still leaves a sheet big enough to go through the printer again.
Apply with tweezers and gritted teeth! Always print out more than you
need as well and if everything goes perfectly and you have spares they can be swapped or used for gifts or stored. A lot of the plates you can buy on etsy are made using waterslide paper on bought plates.
Avoid solid patterns like Cornish Ware because you do sometimes get a
kink which is invisible in patterns or single pictures but sticks out like anything on solid lines - both paper printing and decal printing.
I just used border patterns for cups with sloped sides because it is
fiddly enough without trying to shape it and if you can get a photo of a section, play with it in Paint to make the section longer by either stretching or copy and pasting several in line. For straight sided mugs overall patterns or single pictures are fine.

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