I am a collector. A collector of delicate and unique antiquities, some old and some modern. I choose them very carefully, but I do not buy them right away. I regularly visit the establishments to make sure they are still in one piece; if they are tampered with, they lose their value. I am given time to examine them thoroughly, check for blemishes and if they are pristine, I will make a handsome offer. If they need refurbishing, then I will offer the vendor what I think they are worth. The restoration of something is such a fragile and time-consuming process. It is frustrating because sometimes they can be missing important parts. I must seek certain items in order to piece everything together to make them look finished. You will never find the original parts. A replacement is good enough, if you can make it look as it were authentic.
The theme of the dollhouse differs. Last month it was the roaring twenties and this month is the Victorian era. One of the most important rooms in a typical aristocratic Victorian household was the dining room. This is where I will stage everything. I have chosen floral drapes with a red antique rug which matches the deep red on the walls. I believe that the colour red just breathes life into the room. The table is a deep mahogany and the chairs decorated with fine elaborate carvings. It’s truly gorgeous craftmanship. It has been intricately set to mimic the era in all its elegant glory, with the best china, silverware dipped in gold and crystal wine glasses. Each place setting has a plate, two large knives, three forks, a soup spoon and a water goblet. I have used fresh flowers from my garden as an ornamental table display and they are arranged en plateau. These are centerpieces. A large crystal chandelier is hanging from the ceiling and the room is scattered with souvenirs, furniture and statuettes, but to true Victorian fashion there is no sense of coordination. The décor is to give dinner guests the sense that the lord and lady of the house have an irritating ability to spend money frivolously.
Once the vendors deliver the dolls, I prep my workroom in which I prime everything before they go on display. First, I must strip them, then I wipe them down and clean them. I like to use a light sponge with ordinary soap and water and pat them down to dry with a soft towel. Then I massage them to relieve the stiffness. I hand paint plastic eye caps and glue them. The jaw must be secured by wires, that way I can manipulate the mouth into my desired position. All unnecessary liquids are removed and replaced with Formaldehyde. A small incision is made, and a trocar is inserted. Everything is punctured and drained of any gas or fluids and then formaldehyde is pumped in again. I then wait a few minutes and lather them in a chemical concoction of glycerine and formalin alcohol with a few more additional elements. I then have the leave this soak in to the skin for a few hours. But while I wait, I choose their wardrobe and if it needs altering, then I use my sowing machine to make the modifications. I then iron them and hang them up, so they do not get wrinkled. I check to see if the glycerine/formalin alcohol has dried. Next is the cosmetic preparation. The hair is washed and styled. I rub moisturising lotion in to the face, lips and hands and apply the make-up.
I carry them carefully into the dining room and place them at the table. I alter their arms, legs and mouths. I cautiously place a wine glass in one of their hands, while another stands, as he presents conversation to three others at the hearth. Unfortunately, these dolls do not last very long. They will have to be replaced next month for the new theme. I will tear everything down and start from scratch. When my dollhouse is fresh, it brings a life-like presence that is completely absent with miniatures.
There is no life, no heart.
It’s truly a masterpiece.