That’s ONE Crooked Hen!

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laughter broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”

If the author of the enchanting tale of Peter Pan is to be believed then Sir James Matthew Barrie will not doubt be reassured to discover that there is still at least one faery who can be found skipping about within the stone walls surrounding the ancient City of York – although at first glance, she may be mistaken for just another conventional human; appearances can be deceptive!

For those of you who have known me since childhood, it will be of little surprise to discover that the return to my hometown of York has reawakened those mystical qualities of my character and with the opportunity to acquaint myself with the inhabitants who reside at the bottom of my new garden – my fascination for all things fey has taken flight as it were…

And now with my wings firmly in place as the Crooked Hen – I’m either engrossed in my own little world in my garden studio or I’m at the bottom of my garden getting messy with paint, wood and glue!

And it is from within the cosy confines of this studio that I am working on the design of one of two rather unique 12th scale structures stuffed with those fantastical and whimsical items that I hope will add a perfect finishing touch to the shopping experience for the inhabitants of the All Hallows Hamlet!

And on that note I shall bid you Adieu for now…

Wake UP! September’s Over!

Summer has come and passed

The innocent can never last

Wake me up when September ends…

© Green Day

Dear Diary…

It’s probably something of an understatement to tell you that I’m rather glad to see the back of September and that of the month before when my father died suddenly and even though I had walked away from our painful relationship some time ago, these last few weeks have been rather challenging to say the very least!

He died of heart failure in the morning of an early August day at the age of 68 and now when I think of our relationship from my earliest memories and what has been revealed since his death; I really believe at least in the emotional sense that his heart failed him many years ago and as my intention had been to share my story and then leave the man to his rest; I shall say no more about it.

Now, can I have a drum roll please? For, wait for it; my websites are FINALLY published!

It’s been a long process as I was building them myself and yes, I could have given birth and moved house in the time that it has taken me to arrange the images, text, icons, links and others I have since forgotten about but it felt so wonderful to finally hit the ‘publish’ button!

And if you fancy a wander through my 12th scale worlds – here are the links:

Making the World a Better Place One Mouse at a Time.

The Crooked Hen

The Story of Nicole’s House…

I’ve also been building in 12th scale over at my studio in Bar Lane and have spent many an hour through August and September wrestling with some MDF, getting messy with paint and glue, cursing at my solder iron, thwarting the mischief from that one Little Big Cat and seeking solace in large cups of tea and the occasional biscuit.

However, as the studio has been so warm and I’ve been working with the windows open, I have found myself an object of curiosity from tourists who while walking along the Micklegate end of the Bar Walls here in York were also enjoying a great view of my studio and so I’ve had to be on my best behaviour, particularly when I realised one day that it was me who was at the end of a long camera lens!

And if you should ever stumble across a image on the web tagged ‘Strange Folk of York’ of a woman with wild blonde hair wearing a paint splattered apron and yellow sneakers with something of a crazy look about her; it will probably be me!

Anyway back to the tale about the expansion of my 12th scale property empire and having received more than one request for the secret of my ‘realistic’ stonework, I have put together a recipe for the budding stonemasons among you.

There are so many different ways of creating realistic looking stonework but this is the way which works for me and if you are going to use a stencil, I have found the best ones from Bromley Craft Products and yes, you can order directly from them.

But what of the 12th scale build that I have devoted most of my summer to, I hear you ask?

Well, as I have also been taking advantage of the glorious sunshine in my garden in which to work on the design for another 12th scale model of the fantastical variety for Crooked Hen Productions; my summer works schedule is a ‘little’ behind schedule but at least I can be thankful that unlike in the ‘real’ world, I shall suffer no financial hardship for any late penalty clause.

However, now that September has come to an end and the celebration of All Hallows Eve is beckoning, I need to wake up and create or I could end up with a wake up call of a different kind!

Now, as to what this 12th scale build will finally be; well, here are some teaser images of my creation in progress to whet your appetite.

And talking of appetites, mine as just been whetted by the sight of that bar of chocolate which has lurked just out of view until now.

Please Handle With Care!

Dear Diary…

Once upon a time as I rattling on to a good friend about my plans for the summer, she shared a childhood anecdote with me when she too had been busy regaling her grandmother about her plans and to which the grandmother had replied: “If you want to make God laugh Susan, tell him of your plans.”

And, yes after the summer that I have just had, I have had cause to reflect upon this conversation with Sue as I witnessed all of my carefully thought out plans evaporate with as much brisk alacrity as that of my New Year’s Resolutions!

It had all began so promisingly with the excitement at being finally reunited with the tools of my trade and a planned schedule of fabulous design, eons of creative thought topped off with delightful messiness and all ready to enjoy after the annual holiday club organised by yours truly had ended triumphant if a little sad, as this was to be my final year.

Only it didn’t quite end this way and the successful week that I had anticipated rapidly vanished!

For it wasn’t enough that I would take a tumble while playing football with a trio of boisterous boys or that I would stand on a chair to lift a heavy stacking box of books thus violating every health and safety procedure I could possibly recall and that the impact of which was not to be a positive outcome for either myself or the box –  for it having duly snapped was consigned to the rubbish bin and my spine was thus contorted into an uncompromising position trapping several nerves and straining the odd tendon or two!

And so at the end of that fateful week when I should have been manipulating several yards of chicken wire onto a plywood base to be thus smothered with yesterday’s news and wallpaper paste – I found myself at my local surgery awaiting a proverbial ticking off with “You should have known better” and a prescription for strong painkillers.

However, I am happy to report that apart from the odd painful twinge now and again, my creative fire burns once more; which is just as well for the doors of a new emporium will finally creak open on All Hallows Eve and on display will be an exclusive array of magickal miniatures.

As you can see, I already have one customer waiting patiently for the doors to open! I wonder if he’s heard the news that there may be the promise of a GIVEAWAY…

Why not fly over to the world of the Crooked Hen for news of the magickal kind or if you are in need of a little retail therapy – the All Hallows Hamlet is always ready to offer a warm welcome!

A Death So Final. So Over.

Today commemorates the untimely death of Marilyn Monroe at the age of 36, an effervescent glamour puss and arguably the most famous female icon of all time.

I suppose she was trying to make a phone call before she was overwhelmed. It was just so unbelievable, so simple and final and over. ~ Ralph Greenson

My interest in Marilyn began as a teenager as I was waiting for a flight to Spain for having spent most of my holiday fund on the book by Fred Lawrence Guiles in an airport store and to the consternation of my family, I spent the rest of the week with my head buried within the pages and I have been reading about her ever since!

Her mysterious death on Sunday August 5 1962 has only added to the myth and intrigue which surrounds her complex and fascinating life and with every passing year, the events of that hot and balmy August weekend in 1962 would appear to demand yet more theories and innuendo as the clamour for reasons to refute the official cause of death as ‘Probable Suicide’ remains undiminished

Is it likely that we will ever know the truth of what happened to Marilyn Monroe?

And even if incontrovertible evidence were presented that she did indeed die by her own hand, would we believe it?

For is it possible to accept that a beautiful and talented woman took the conscious decision to end her life one lonely Saturday evening?

“I could see from many feet away that Marilyn was no longer living…”

The answer is ‘probably not’ when one considers the demand for the books which are published in ever increasing numbers with each passing year and which all purport to tell us ‘The Final Truth’.

Whether it was the tragic 1997 car accident of a Princess who perished for failing to wear a seat belt or the jealous rage of a successful and affable O.J. Simpson leading him to butcher two innocent people on a June evening in 1994; or indeed the probable suicide of the most famous film star of all time; it could be argued that the most logical explanation would appear to be the most absurd.

However; conspiracy theories, motives and explanations aside, all we can know for certain is that the nude body of Marilyn Monroe was discovered in a partially decorated bedroom of her home in Westwood in Los Angeles 56 years ago on this day.

“There she was, laying face down on the bed, bare shoulders exposed…”

For it was the idea of this ‘death scene’ which captured my imagination for the design of one of my more controversial pieces and as Marilyn had died in the house she had bought only months before with a tiled doorstep bearing the Latin inscription for ‘My journey is completed’, ‘Cursum Perficio’ is a recreation of the demise of this icon inspired by the published material and photographic images.

“And as I got closer, I could see the phone clutched fiercely in her hand..”

The ‘Marilyn’ figure is the creation of Jain from the Giddy Kipper and although she is internationally known for her miniature unique characters – several of which have now moved in with the other fantastical folk over in the All Hallows Hamlet – Jain would probably be the first to argue that a ‘deceased’ Marilyn Monroe was far from the definition of a ‘whimsical’ character!

However, having accepted my commission with some bemusement, Jain has created a shockingly poignant figure of some grace and contention and in keeping with the maelstrom of conspiracy which continues to swirl around the death of this lady – even after all of these years!

Sources Used:

Goddess The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe Anthony Summers (UK: Indigo 1985)

Flaming June!

It only seems like a week ago to the beginning of last month when I had spent the morning looking at some images of two brides who had both married on the first day of June some years apart and my memories of being surrounded by buckets of glorious sunflowers, fragrant roses and lush foliage as I grappled with scissors, silver wire and the clock!

And although June may have left us for another year, she has been kind enough to leave some glorious weather and as I was sprinkling the lawn with water earlier today for those hens to enjoy some grubbing around – I admit to feeling somewhat nostalgic for the occasional rainfall but alas, with no rain in sight let’s get on with my June Mash-Up!

The Studio:

With the final final dry-build for Nicole’s House finally completed – I’ve been moving sofas and arranging dining room chairs as I plan the logistics of the kitchen design and the creation of a sunken living room.

Having made so many mistakes in the past with rushed constructions, unsatisfactory room plans and abysmal lighting conditions – I’ve learnt to keep my hands off a dry-build and to simply leave it be until I can imagine myself moving from room to room knowing that every window, fireplace, door and piece of furniture is in the right place.

It was only as I looked at what I thought was the final dry-build did I see the need to lower the roof pitch and that I could also squeeze in another full length window!

As more images of Nicole’s House can been seen on the Brentwood Ghost Blog – there are further exclusives to feast over.

AND having donned my Crooked Hen apron – I have also been experimenting with wire, tape and Mod-Roc to create some trees but as they will be eventually find themselves among the weird and wonderful in the All Hallows Hamlet – these won’t be any kind of ordinary tree!

However, by the time I’d finished plastering these strange little trees, I also looked very far from ordinary with a face of fetching white freckles and those ghost-like hands and you can catch the big ‘Reveal’ with a free flight over to the world of the Crooked Hen…

Ancestor Sleuthing and Grave Hunting:

As you can usually find me in the genealogy office at York Cemetery on a Friday, I’ve been busy ancestor sleuthing for our visitors and grave hunting all manner of interesting folk for my two guided tours in July and August.

The ‘Walk on the Art Side’ in July will celebrate the lives and legacies of the writers, artist, sculptors and other creatives from whom York Cemetery is their final home and in August I will be leading an evening walk of ‘Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths’ around the graves of those who met with an unusual end – and given my penchant for storytelling, there should be a surprise or two along the way!

The Other Stuff:

With the demands of my work and the responsibilities as a full-time care giver; I tend not to stray too far from home these days but with a ‘day pass’ on a sweltering hot afternoon, I took the train to Leeds for the opening party of the5th annual exhibition of Sketch That – a collection of work by a group of West Yorkshire artists: Elizabeth NastHelen DrydenKat ArchibaldLetty McHughLouise GarrettPixiebiscuit and Rejectamental

As I champion Helen on social media, it was an opportunity to meet up and to treat myself to her delightful ‘Lettuce on a Chair’ who will be coming home with me when the exhibition comes to an end later next month.

And as I made my way home I couldn’t resist popping into the Leeds Samaritans shop and came away with some fabulous steam-punk inspired necklaces perfect for the ‘ Little Folk’ over in the All Hallows Hamlet and all for the bargain price of £1.50 as grumpily modelled by Ted!

And it never ceases to amaze me when I discover the felines enjoying a cat-nap in the most unlikeliest places but perched on top of a Papier Mâché model was a new one for me!

As we’re basking in a July heatwave, it’s just as well that it seems so wrong to be working on this model for the All Hallows Eve tale now that I have a problem with a squatter of the feline variety for he certainly looks like he’s ‘Living in Clover’ on his bed of Papier Mâché doesn’t he?

And if your imaginary inhabitants are in need of a little of that Leprechaun ‘magick’ with a pinch of ‘Heather’ and a pinch of shredded paper money suspended in resin – there is still a vial or two available for sale in the Crooked Hen Gift Shop

My Bookshelf:

Blessed Are The Weird – Jacob Nordby (At last! Someone who sees the world in the same crazy way as me!)

A Very Private Woman – Nina Burleigh (An interesting biography of a very intriguing artist)

Frances Burney Journals and Letters – Penguin Classics (A fabulous and authentic letter writer and novelist who actually lived through the the glorious 18th century)

The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer (Crowdfunding pioneer and musician)

The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club – C. David Heymann (An eavesdrop among the movers and shakers of the Washington elite)

Finding Sarah – Sarah Fergson (A poignant memoir from one of the most colourful members of the British Royal Family!

Domestic Management. With Instructions to Servants in General – Multiple Contributors (I can dream, can’t I? Or else I can use this lovely tome for the research of my Lord B house)

My Playlist:

My favourites for June have been: London GrammarTom WalkerEnigmaThe SherlocksBen Howard and Taylor Swift – must keep that last one quiet from my sons!

Here’s to a storybook July!

At Home With Nicole…

As well as a passion for creating ‘Life in 12th Scale’, the Regency world of the poet Lord Byron and chocolate – I also have an enduring interest in the life and legacy of Nicole Brown Simpson.

I just don’t see how our stories compare -I was so bad because I wore sweats & left shoes around & didn’t keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you like it – or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes.

I just don’t see how that compares to infidelity, wife beating, verbal abuse… I just don’t think everybody goes through this.

I called the cops to save my life whether you believe it or not..

These are the harrowing words written by Nicole shortly before her brutal murder in the courtyard of her Brentwood home in Los Angeles on the evening of Sunday June 12 1994.

Nicole’s former husband, the NFL hero and celebrity O.J. Simpson was subsequently arrested, tried and acquitted of her murder and that of her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman in a relentless blaze of publicity the following year.

I began to read about Nicole in the autumn of 1994 and have been reading about her ever since.

She was also the inspiration for the creation of the Ghost of Brentwood.

In June 1994, Nicole was making plans to leave her Brentwood home to escape the abuse and obsession which had dominated her relationship with Simpson and only days before her death, she had seen a beach house in Malibu for rent and was excited with the promise of a new beginning.

‘Nicole’s House’ is a 12th scale miniature of several narratives:

A recreation of some of the principle rooms at 875 South Bundy Drive as they were discovered in the early hours of Monday June 13 1994 and as the investigation into the murders of Nicole and Ron were underway.

Like Rockingham, the interior of Nicole’s condo at Bundy was white with some muted pastels for accent.  It had the tranquil, static quality of a photograph from ‘House Beautiful’.

In the center of the sunken living room sat a large square table. On it stood several candles, which had been burning on the night of the murders. The spent wax had dried in a pool around them.

But everything in that room seemed like wax. Cold. Solid. Lifeless.

Marcia Clark

The additional rooms are created as a tribute to the style and essence of Nicole who loved the style of interior design known as the ‘California Look’.

Everything about the place reminded me of Nicole – cream carpets and overstuffed cream furniture, big fluffy pillows, candles and bunches of fresh flowers she must have arranged in the vases a few days before, family photos everywhere…

Terri Baker

Finally, as we know that Nicole was planning a move to a house by the beach – the creation of ‘Nicole’s House’ is a poignant tribute to celebrate the life of a talented and much-loved young woman who relished nothing more than being with her family in the home she had made for them.

And with completion scheduled for June 2019, I’m busy with the ambitious design of another and much larger ‘Nicole’s House’ and plan to recreate Nicole’s last home at 875 South Bundy Drive as faithfully as possible and as I am sharing this story on the blog – sign up to follow the news!

Screaming Carrots? How Exquisite!

Dear Diary…

Events took a somewhat eventful turn in February and although not entirely unexpected, the last few months have been of upheaval and change as I have moved abode some twenty miles north to York and as this ancient walled city is my hometown, I have been fortunate to have met with much delighted surprise at my return; rather like the arrival of the Prodigal Son over a thousand years ago but without the fatted calf prepared in my honour.

And besides a new nest with a view of York Minister in which to scribble, read and create while surrounded by my treasured books, pots of exotic fauna and a stash of chocolate that remains safely hidden away somewhere – I have also moved into my first studio at 1 Bar Lane!

I would like to tell you that several of my 12th scale worlds add an attractive finishing touch to my oasis of calm and to be fair, most of them do but only if you are prepared to overlook the odd chipped balustrade, a broken kitchen window and an interior of a flower shop that now has the appearance of having lived through an earthquake.

Given that I was a jittery as a blancmange as I supervised the removal of my ‘Small Worlds’ cocooned in acres of bubble wrap like giant larvae from their familiar and safe surroundings and to the care of others who had the unenviable task of transporting them to their new abode, the process was somewhat traumatic and that’s just from my perspective!

The realisation that one of my of fantastical emporiums having done a 360 degree turn was now responsible for the moveable feast dotted all over a busy York street, albeit in 12th scale did little to calm my nerves, particularly when a kindly stranger handed me several plates of ‘Bat Buns’, some ‘Pumpkin Pie’ and four glass jars of ‘Screaming Carrots’ that he had happened to stumble across while walking his aged dog.

And in was in the midst of unpacking and so on that I was contacted by Jane Kubiesa working on behalf of the Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine a monthly publication from Warners Group Publications.

As Jane wanted to include some photographs of a flower shop from the Mouse Town for a future issue along with some copy about my love of all things fauna and flora; I was very happy to oblige and you can image my delight when not only was there a very complimentary article about my work but that I was finally a cover girl!

Artisan, and former floral designer, Tee Bylo is probably best known for her realistic miniature re-creations of florists shops and her attention to detail is amazing.

She uses her first-hand trade knowledge, her passion for all things floral and her love of miniatures to make exquisite mini flower scenes…

Exquisite? What a wonderfully complimentary word! Thank you Jane!

Maybe now is the time to get creative and acquaint myself with another of my flower shops if only to appease the imaginary inhabitants who have been left traumatized by the unfamiliar humans that transported them to their new abode with all the grace of a tornado!

Now all I have to figure out is where I put that piece of drain pipe and wheelie bin that had managed to escape during the move and which I fortunately salvaged from the removal truck…