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The China Shop

Not long after my interest in miniatures was sparked, I realised that there are some things that are eminently collectable but there's very little space in most settings for them. This is probably why some miniaturists have an 'attic' setting, for all those odds and ends that they like and buy, but won't really fit in anywhere else. Someone wrote to one of the magazines once that her son had become interested in miniatures, and had bought a shop, which he had made into a 'junk shop'; anything and everything went into it.

One of my friends 'opened' an antique shop; she also has a retired Colonel who saw service mostly in India but was also stationed briefly in other parts of the world, and he gets things that won't fit any of her other settings.

I went for a collector, one of those people who simply collects things; and a china shop. I'm in process of changing the collector's room to a fan room, and setting up a shop that sells collectables, but the china shop remains unchanged.

It occupies two full shelves of a three-shelf glass-fronted cupboard that was probably originally meant to be a bookcase. It's laid out in 'departments' the way a proper shop would be. 'Downstairs', a shopper can find routine, everyday items - baking bowls, casserole dishes, mugs, the odd teaset - and fairly run-of-the-mill ornaments, vases, etc.

Proper miniature vases can be quite expensive; however, large beads can substitute quite satisfactorily and cost only coppers to buy. I've replaced some of the bead 'vases' over the years with proper ones, but most of the 'vases' on display are still beads. I was careful to get at least two of every kind, rather than have the shop look as if it only stocked one of everything.
'Upstairs' are the ornaments and a selection of fancy teapots - the kind that aren't ever used, but displayed as a collection. Some of these ornaments are fairly large (for a dollshouse) but are in scale for the kind of large porcelain sit-on-the-floor china dogs, etc, that some people have. Some of these large items came out of Christmas crackers - for non-Brits, a UK tradition at Christmas, expecially in families with young children, is to have crackers with Christmas dinner. These are basically tubes of paper with a strip of paper running through which, when pulled into two bits, gives a 'crack', hence the name 'cracker'. Two people pull the cracker, which tears into two. Inside there is a variety of things, depending on how expensive the cracker has been, and each cracker in the box (of 6 or 12) is different; but there's always a paper hat, a slip of paper on which is printed a silly joke, and a toy, mini ornament or - occasionally - something useful; one make of cracker has in them a mini screwdriver, a mending kit containing a needle and some mixed thread, a mini pack of cards, things like that. For four years my cousin got animal crackers, and as a result the china shop carries a dolphin, a bison, an armadillo and a pig, each of which, in full scale, would be about two feet long. In addition, one of the dolls house shops seems to stock some 1/10 scale items, rather than 1/12, and it's possible to buy from them (mail order) something that's not quite in scale for a regular setting; but these can fit into the china shop, too.

There is also a selection of picture plates and one or two paperweights which started life as tietacks; made by Caithness Glass, which specialises in paperweights, they are tiny millefiore replicas of paperweights, stuck onto the tietack; all I needed to do was prise them off (very carefully). Some of the picture plates are cheap cardboard ones with a computer-reduced picture stuck on and touched up with a gold pen.

At one point early on, I bought two stirrup cups, one a fox's head and the other a hound's - and because the setting wasn't yet ready, I put them away somewhere carefully. Too carefully. I've never found them again. However, I did manage to buy another fox head one last year. This is one of the problems of the hobby; things are so small it can be very easy to lose something.

Among the items in the china shop are three spice jars and three teapots that came as free gifts for renewing my subscription to a dolls house magazine. Without the china shop, I wouldn't actually have had any place to put them.

I don't have much space left for additional 'stock'; however, if I see something I like, that little detail isn't going to stop me. If necessary, one or two items can be recycled into one of my other settings.