Saturday, 14 December 2019

Michael Mortimer Fire Surround

I’m delighted to have identified a wooden fire surround I bought secondhand about three years ago from eBay.

It was made by the talented miniaturist Michael Mortimer. [I added the blazing fire in the hearth.]

I bought it because I loved the realistic old oak grain effect of the wood and because I thought that, despite being a relatively modern miniature, it would suit my old German chalet very nicely.

I had no idea who had made it but knew it was very nicely made.

Curiously, at the time that I bought it, I posted a photo of the room I had placed it in on the Dolls’ Houses Past & Present website and a member commented: “Does the fireplace have a maker’s name - or gold squiggle on it? The smoothness and fake holes are ringing a bell in my fuzzy mind” to which I replied “No, no marks on the fireplace at all, sadly.”

And yet I just looked at the back and there are these marks!!

I can only think that I didn’t distinguish between these marks and the glue residue on it from where it must have previously been attached to a wall - maybe my contact lenses are better these days!

Well no matter, whatever the reason for my temporary blindness, I now know that the marks are those of Michael Mortimer because last week I was browsing eBay in a spare moment (as you do) and I spotted a lovely secondhand Welsh dresser with the same distinctive finish as my fire surround. The dresser was a signed piece by Michael Mortimer.

This led me to Google Michael Mortimer and eventually I discovered a very similar fire surround of his which had been for sale on the US site

Interestingly, most (if not all) of the photos of pieces of Michael Mortimer furniture that I found online had this comma type mark (the top mark in the photo above) with a heart underneath it, whereas mine has this intriguing wiggly L-shaped mark underneath. I wonder what, if anything, the two different marks denote. [**I now have more information on these marks from Michael himself - see my footnote below, added 2nd January, 2020.]

By the way, I’m posting this blog entry mainly to make sure that I remember this discovery as it’s pretty scary what information I seem to have discovered and then subsequently forgotten in the last few years - not to mention the makers’ marks I may or may not have noticed...!

Until next time,
Zoe (But do read on because there is almost as much added to this post below as there is on the post itself! 😀)

[Added 1st January, 2020: I discovered today that Michael has a shop on Etsy and that the pieces for sale there are signed with symbols more like those on my piece. He mentions too that since 1996, “every piece (mostly)” he has made has had a message attached to it, printed on paper and stuck to the back. The messages are things he made a note of if he: “heard something, read something, or just generally picked up on something that felt too important to overlook”. I think he might have only started selling miniatures about 1996*, so perhaps my message-less piece is one of his very earliest, from before he started to add them, though “most” suggests that some do go out without messages so it could be later, and of course, it might have had one which was subsequently lost or removed.

*The reason I think Michael might only just have started selling miniatures around 1996 is that, by sheer coincidence, I was reading an old issue of ‘Dolls House World’ from October 1996 yesterday and saw this enigmatic advert:

Although Michael’s business seems to be based in Checkendon in Oxfordshire these days and not Honiton in Devon, I’m assuming, because of the symbol used and the reference to 16thC style furniture, that this was his advert and, as you can see, it refers to the business having “begun”, presumably as in ‘just begun’***.]

[Added 2nd January, 2020: Following the discovery of Michael’s Etsy shop yesterday, I messaged the man himself to ask if he’d be kind enough to take a look at my blog post and let me know if the information I had gleaned was correct, and he was indeed kind enough! So, thank you to Micheal for letting me know that:

My fire surround is a very old piece of his and, though he couldn’t remember exactly when it was made, he would guess that it was before 2000 because he has been adding a plaster moulding to the front of them (as seen on the one sold by for quite some time now.

**The squiggle on the back is his signature and the top bit represents a nine, not a comma as I had thought. The reason why he chose are nine? Well, he says it: “is a whole different story, and I’m not sure I can really explain that!”

**More recently, Michael has put a heart under the ’9’, but he has also changed this quite a few times over the years and still does - it doesn’t denote anything and is just him “seeing if something else feels better”.

He has been adding the messages, or phrases, for a long time too, but there have been periods when he has left them off.

***The advert from the October 1996 ‘Dolls House Word’ magazine (shown above) was placed just after Michael had moved from Sussex to Devon and changed his business name from ‘Michael Mortimer’ to ‘9’, hence the use of the words “has begun”. Michael said: “it felt like a new start”, but the new start was in name and place only as the furniture was the same that he’d been making since he started which was actually around 1991.

Michael moved from Devon to Oxfordshire in 2006.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The Most Amazing Lines/Triang Dolls' House Collection!

As promised in my last post, this post is about a private collection that I had the privilege of viewing recently with my friends and fellow collectors Clair and Brooksey.

The collection is owned by a couple with a passion for G&J Lines and Triang toys and their collection is VAST!

Filling several very large, two-storey outbuildings, the collection includes not just Lines and Triang dolls' houses but just about every toy that Triang manufactured, including dolls, dolls' prams, rocking horses, pedal cars, model cars, aeroplanes, ships, forts, trains, garages....and so on!

Mr Triang Collector seemed to have a particular passion for pedal cars and this photo and the one below show only a fraction of his collection of them.

It's possible that this is the largest collection of Triang pedal cars in the world, however, we were told that the largest collection of pedal cars generally is held by one George W. Bush... well you learn something every day!

As far as dolls' houses are concerned, I took photographs of about sixty individual houses but that would, I think, be less than a quarter of those on display.

Our eyes out on stalks, we were shown room after room of fabulous houses.  At times we were speechless - now that doesn't happen very often!

I had never stopped to imagine what all [or nearly all] of the Lines/Triang houses would look like if they were all gathered together and displayed in one place.

I can't possibly include all of the photos I took in this post - it would be HUGE - so I'll have to limit myself to some of my favourites and maybe some of the less often seen models.

Then again, how do you single out favourites and rarer models from amongst a line up like this!

OK, well I'll start with this one. I assume that this pretty little house is an early G&J Lines model but it also has a look of Gottschalk about it, which is not surprising as there was a lot of copying going on between the major manufacturers at the start of the 20th century. The windows on the far side (only just visible in this photo) are quite an unusual feature.

It really was lovely to see some of these earlier G&J Lines models 'in the flesh'. The big house in this photograph is [I think] the No. 25 which came with its own garden (c1909-10)

The smaller house on the far side of it is the G&J Lines No. 13 (also c1909-10).

This is a model I'd never seen before. It’s an early Triang DH/2 (1919-21). I love the design! [This model number was used again between 1927-33, for a different design).

More familiar is this G&J Lines No. 17 - the front-opening version of the side-opening No. 17 I own myself (c1909-10).

And a fancier version with no less than three balconies (presumably also dating to about1909-10).

I can't recall having seen a model quite like this one before. It's similar to the much-loved Kits Coty (c. 1909-10) but with a number of distinct differences.

Another G&J Lines, this one is a No. 31(1909-10).

And a G&J Lines 'Clock House' (again from around 1909-10).

This is the lovely four-storied G&J Lines No. 73 (c1915) - I hope I'm getting my facts right here!

And this magnificent mock-Tudor mansion, G&J Lines No. 80 (c.1925) opens front and back and has eight rooms.

I'm not sure I've seen this model before. It's similar but not the same as the Triang DH/5 (1919-21)

It also looks rather like the house that Marion Osborne shows and describes at the start of her Lines and Triang book as being attributed to G&J Lines from about 1900, however, that information might well have been superseded by now (and I look forward to Marion's new Lines book which I understand is not too long away now!)

The beautiful Triang DH/10 with wonderful fancy timbering (c1934-35).

This sweet little Triang cottage known as 'The Queen's Dolls' House' (1922-30)

I'd never seen this cute DH/H 'Country Cottage before (c1924).

And this Triang DH/2 bungalow isn't seen very often either (1927-1933).

I do like these rarely-seen Triang No. 45s which are similar to the 'Ultra Modern' but with a more traditional pitched roof (1936-40).

Here we have a No. 55 from the Triang Mayflower series (1928-1933).

And a No. 54 from the same series.

This is a Triang No 64 which was the largest of the 60 series at 45" (1.13m) wide (1933-1944).

It's not often you get to see the little Triang Bungalow No. 32, (1930-41).

And there was this lovely example of the No. 71 (1932-36), often referred to as the Half Stockbroker.

Well, I could go on because, as you can see, there were many, many more fabulous Lines and Triang houses in the collection but I really can't cover them all.

Before I end my post though, I do just want to cover a few of the other interesting not-quite-dolls' house toys that were on display:

Like this wonderful Triang greenhouse - something I have hankered after for a long time.

The little Triang cold-frame.

The fab Triang houseboat!

The equally fab Triang motorhome!

The Noah's ark.

The carriage and horses for your dolls!

A Wendy-house sized Triang shop - oh how I would have LOVED this as a child!

Literally the Rolls Royce of Triang pedal cars.

And finally, something completely different since it's neither Lines nor Triang - this is Mr Triang Collector's working steam train. To give you an idea of scale, if I was stood on the footplate, only my head would be visible over the canopy bit and I'm 5'8"!

The train runs on a miniature railway which loops around the sizeable garden. Living the dream eh!

So, that's it from me - needless to say, we had a fabulous afternoon viewing the collection and I can honestly say that it was beyond my wildest expectations!

Until next time,

[With huge thanks to Mr & Mrs Triang Collector for allowing us view the collection and also for giving me permission to blog about it. 

With thanks also to Marion Osborne and the Dolls' Houses Past & Present website for providing the information I needed regarding model numbers and dates - apologies if I've missed or mis-interpreted anything!]

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Claire's Collection

Just over two weeks ago, I made a four hundred mile train journey to Cornwall to visit my friend and fellow dolls' house collector Claire. With me was my friend and fellow dolls' house collector Brooksey.

Claire had arranged for us to stay in a gorgeous little holiday cottage which will be four hundred years old next year.

The cottage is in the little costal village of Kingsand on the Rame peninsular and the beach was only a 200 yard stroll away. And look at the weather - it was perfect!

Not that we had time for sunbathing or sightseeing as we had a full-on, dolls' house-packed itinerary to get through.....

First off was Claire's own collection.

I have been friends with Claire for about six years now and during that time we've met up several times, we chat on the telephone every week (boy can we chat!) and we've shared countless photographs of our collections. However, nothing could have prepared me for seeing her collection 'in the flesh' for the very first time.

Having collected dolls' houses and miniatures with a passion for many years and having been fascinated by all things tiny from a very young age, she has managed to accumulate the most amazing collection of houses, furniture and well... suff!

Oh and little dolls. Hundreds of little dolls - she's not affectionately known as Bobadoll for nothing!

A lover of Lines/Triang (amongst other things), she has some fab examples, including this biggie - the capacious Triang DH/12 which is nearly four feet wide.

And a lovely Triang No. 80.

Here we have a Triang DH/3 - I wish I had photographs of the insides too - they're all packed to the gunnels with amazing treasures.

I was particularly pleased to see this lovely G&J Lines No. 32 (aka a "Half Kits Coty") as I made the replacement sloped roof piece with the window and widows' walk on it for Claire a few years ago (apart from the turnings which were made by Cliff Hirst) and it was great to see it in situ.

The windows on this G&J Lines No. 37 (I do hope I'm getting the numbers right!) are the beautiful tin litho ones. This house was one of Claire's legendary bargain buys, costing the grand sum of £6.50!

This is the official "Dolls' House Room" in Claire's real house. I suspect it filled up and overflowed many years ago!

Anyone who knows Claire will know that she has long been a fan of Barton and has a very comprehensive collection of Barton dolls' house furniture. She also has no less than three of the rarely seen Barton houses.

Tucked away on the upstairs landing we have a towering Lundby dwelling.

One of the wonderful things about Claire's collection is that it is truly eclectic.

The more modern white property in the centre of this photo has been made into a fabulously groovy Pippa fashion boutique which really takes me back to my childhood!

The huge castle to the left of it is relatively modern too and is beautifully and imaginatively decorated in a quirky gothic style.

This huge, early 20th Century house has been beautifully furnished and is packed with mouth-watering treasures!

And talking about packed with treasures.....this is Peggoty Leggoty's house. Every room is a feast for the eyes. This is one of the few houses I remembered to photograph the interior of (I'm always too engrossed and forget!)

For some reason, however, I forgot to take a photo of the exterior...😊

Finding just one of those little wooden eggs with a tiny peg doll in it would make my day!

I could have spent a whole week looking at just this one house.

Back to exteriors and next there is this tiny Silber & Fleming type house - home to a group of lucky
wee Grecons.

And this beautiful, larger Silber & Fleming - lovingly rescued from under a layer of white gloss paint.

I love the bays, the arched window and the balcony on this beautiful house.

This interesting house has, most unusually, bay windows on two sides and is currently being beautifully furnished with stylish treasures from Bassett-Lowke as well as the rare Triang 1930s 'modern' dining suite.

This one is a more modern box back, beautifully crafted by Frances England. And you might just be able to see some very rare pieces of Ladies Guild furniture in the upstairs room (as seen on The Antiques Roadshow!)

There is a more modern shop....

....or two.  This is the eccentric Madam B's shop of weird and curious objects. Believe me, Claire had no shortage of "weird and curious objects" with which to stock this shop since her taste is, by her own admission, somewhat quirky. And, I would add, fab!

This is 'Mouse Castle', home to quite a number of cute little vintage cloth mice, and complete with an imprisoned kitty in the dungeon! I'm kicking myself for not photographing the busy, quirky interior - especially the nursery with a line of adorable little cradles made from walnuts shells.  

Incidentally, I had a good play with the Sooty, Sweep and Sue glove-puppets you can see here too - I loved watching them on TV as a child, and I have to confess that since I've returned home I've acquired a set of my own! Sweep has a squeaker - how fab is that!!!

Ahem, anyway, back to the collection. This is Bartons Antique shop (run by Dolly Barton!) - a shop I could spend an entire day browsing in.

Here we have some wonderful vintage shops - a Binbak doll shop on the left and a rare Barton toy shop on the right - both packed and overflowing with mouth-watering mini toys.

And a Kaybot Wheeler grocery store next to a vintage radio which has been cleverly converted into Bartons Second Hand store, owned by Grecon grandpa Albert Barton.

A Jenny Wren shop just like my own little treasure. And more tiny things.

And finally, at least for the purposes of my blog, a little cabinet packed with some of the most beautiful dolls' house silverware, glass, china and more - something for everyone to drool over in here, I think! 

One of the fantastic things about Claire's collection is that she has built it up steadily over many years; scouring car boot sales, second-hand stores, charity shops, fairs and eBay to find the most amazing items at bargain prices - oh that I had her eye for tiny treasures lurking in dark corners!!

So, there we have it - Clarie's wonderful collection, or at least some of it - trust me, there was more!

Thank you to Claire for sharing it and for allowing me to blog about it. I really hope to see it again
one day so that I can spend many more hours taking it in. 


In my next blog I'll show photos from another fabulous but entirely different collection we viewed during my visit to Cornwall.

Until next time,