It is a hobby shared predominantly amongst like-minded fanatics who – for the first hour at least – appeared to compete with one another for risk of possibly missing out on their desired miniature investments. Completely barmy, but also exquisite; a rare art form that fed both my innate curiosity and love, more appreciation, of all things art-related. The world of “proper” dollshouse collectors is definitely one to be experienced…
My time staying with the Grandparents is all too rapidly coming to an end. I will miss them SO much when I’m off on my travels. It was important to me then that we fit in as many activities as possible (whilst also enjoying some R&R, obviously) – they have such busy schedules, I was only too excited to tag along and see how they do. Last week I attended their Arts and Lits evening in a nearby seaside town where we saw Welsh singers (and their fabulous pianist) “Trio” perform the night away. The Chapitre was also on the cards last week, which I’m glad to say I now remember far more of.
Today, I experienced a whole new level of crazy in the form of Kensington Dollshouse Festival. My Grandad has always been amazing at building things – from toys for his children to play with (way back when) to outdoor play houses for the grandchildren. One creation he is justifiyably proud of is a dollshouse he built – from scratch – for my Grandma. He began in 1990, completed a few years later and has been Grandma’s winter hobby of choice ever since. I say hobby, I’m not sure that does it justice.
Once or twice a year she attends a dollshouse show somewhere in the UK (though she has also found a few bits and pieces whilst on holiday in the US and France) – slowly but surely she has furnished this joint masterpiece. Whilst she would agree that it’s pretty much complete, there are still a couple of little things desired to make it “homely” (or “homey” if you’re Canadian).
I had never been with her when she has purchased anything dollshouse related, until today.
We caught a train in to London, stopped for an obligatory coffee, then made our way to Kensington. After paying a small entrance fee, we made our way in to the first of many rooms that comprised the Town Hall. I wasn’t sure where to look.
Stall after stall…after stall of dollshouse-related merchandise; 90% of which is hand crafted. Actual dollshouses, ranging from small modern-day structures to thatched cottages, hollowed tree stumps to 3 meter wide Downton Abbey-esque mansions and everything in between. Bits and pieces to go towards your own construction; windows, doors, flooring, wall paper, skirting boards, ceiling roses, light fixtures – you name it, they had it. Furniture, decorations (including many Christmas-themed for the time of year), bedding, curtains and curtain poles, suitcases, newspapers, ornaments, FOOD. They literally had everything.
It is easy to see how some people a) get sucked in to the hobby and b) spend as much money on producing their perfect miniature “home” as they would their actual home. Certainly nothing there was cheap, but if I had been the one to hand-craft a 1/12th scale box of macroons (measuring 1.5cm in length), complete with gift wrap and an openable lid, I too would expect £5 in return.
People come from far and wide – internationally, even – to attend these events. Whether selling or buying, there were a lot of airmiles in those rooms.
One Italian couple were selling miniature ornaments, vases and paperweights sculpted (if that’s the right word to use??) from Murano glass. When I say miniature, take a look at the photos below: the tallest vase was 3cm in height; most of the animal ornaments were the size of – if not smaller than – my smallest finger nail; there were recognisable characters, be it Disney or Charlie Chaplin, that measured less than 1cm in height; their smallest piece (part of a set of 3) measured 2mm in height and it contained DETAIL; there were horse sculptures reared up on their hind legs, with legs a mere 1mm in width. It. Was. Incredible.
Again, you can understand the price tag when you realise what it is you are buying in to. Grandma purchased a paperweight to go on the desk in her “study” which fits like a glove, though we were all scared to breathe near the thing for fear of it being blown away, or one of us unknowingly inhaling it.
As I said; whole new level of crazy.
Speaking of crazy. Never before have I been pushed, nudged, walked over or squeezed to within an inch of my life as I was at the dollshouse festival. It’s the closest thing I can imagine a One Direction concert being like, only I was in a sea of grey, rather than a sea of achne and braces. Not to deter you from going at all – we arrived not long after it opened, two hours later (yes, there was that much to see) the crowds had dispursed and it was a far more pleasurable place to be. So there’s a bit of advice for you – hold off until the afternoon if you ever go to anything like this.
Kensington Dollshouse Festival turned out to be far more enjoyable and interesting than I had expected and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience it with my Grandma. I can completely understand why she enjoys it so much. It clearly appeals to all ages, judging by the people there today, though as it does cost a reasonable amount of £££ to do properly, I realise too why it is dominated by the older generation.
Who knows, maybe one day I will reinvent the dollshouse Grandad built for my sister and me to play with all those years ago. For now though I will enjoy seeing my grandparent’s almost-finished work of art, not to mention the enjoyment they – particularly my Grandma – gets from pursuing such a hobby.
Disclaimer: My Grandma was in no way involved – consciously at least – in the pushing, shoving or squeezing antics displayed by some of her silver-haired peers.