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Kensington Dollshouse Festival

kdfs17My mother introduced me to the world of twelfth scale miniatures when I was a young teen, having just discovered a love for it herself. She came home from a dollhouse fair one day with a panoply of tiny treasures, from tea cups to turkey platters, and I was instantly hooked.

We lived on the North shore of Montreal at the time, and hobby/craft stores were few and far between. So, the only way to get our fill—of inspiration or shopping—was by going to the annual MEM show in the spring.

Now that I’m living in England, I can technically visit a miniature fair every weekend if I wanted. And that’s exactly what I did last Friday: Vibrating with excitement, I took the train to London for the popular Kensington Dollshouse Festival.

It was my first time at a world-class miniature event like this, and I admit I was a bit daunted at the scale of the venue. Artisans and vendors were set out across 3 floors, in and out of nooks and crannies, on stages and in stairwells. Luckily the organizers provided us with a booklet that included a list of vendors and a map of where we could find them. (Between you and me, I could have used a GPS waymark to help me get around!)

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Friday morning, the doors opened at 11a.m.—there was actually a queue!—and the show went on until six o’clock. Despite having seven hours in there, I admit I missed a few tables, and I didn’t even break for lunch!

There were artisans from all around the world—many European countries, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, India, U.S.A., and likely some I’m missing. Since this is an expensive hobby, and I only have a small budget, I’m really picky about what I buy. But this festival raised the bar and made it difficult for me to choose. Here are some of the amazing things I saw:

Links will open in a new window. Top row, from left: roasted chestnut stand by Carlotta Rossi, incredibly realistic jeans by Marie Creutz, two photos of a vignette by Mulvaney & Rogers. Bottom row (from left), vignettes by Janny Warnaar of Art of Mini and Veronique Lux.

My budget was small to start with, and in my excitement I’d forgotten to bring cash, so all I had on me was £55. Luckily, some of the vendors accepted credit cards and PayPal. Since I had to be ruthless with my spending, I prepared a mental list:

  • I’m currently planning my very first mini project, which will be a rustic, French-inspired cheese shop. So, collecting cheese-related items was my initial goal.
  • I already have the dollhouse shop itself and I know space is limited.
  • I want my collection to include pieces by artists from different countries.

Armed with those constraints and my tiny pile of sterling, I wound my way through Kensington Town Hall, feasting my eyes on the incredible variety of miniatures.

Ultimately, I bought four pieces. Although I chose some rustic pottery and (miraculously) found a cheese press, alas I was seduced by a vase of fine paper roses from Germany and a pair of glittery purple shoes from Italy. And there went my budget.

Links will open in a new window. Vase of roses and hyacinths = Janny Warnaar of Art of Mini; heels and shoe box = Graffialuna; clay pitcher and bowl = Elisabeth Causeret; cheese press = Harlands of Hedon.

There are a few vendors I’ll be getting in touch with for mail orders, and a few others that I will save my pennies for when Miniatura comes around in September/October.

Other than a blasted headache that followed me all day (due to the heavy backpack I didn’t want to leave at the free cloakroom), I really enjoyed myself. It was nice to be out on my own for once, all the way in London no less! I got to speak with many interesting people, discovered amazingly talented artists, and now have a wish-list double its original size.

The only thing I could have wished for, for the day to be perfectly perfect, would have been to have my mom with me. She would have loved it. Bet we would have rented a room in London, stayed the two days for the show, visited a palace or two, had tea in a tea room. Miss you, mom. Love you. xxx

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