Answers to the most commonly asked questions about Featherstone Hall
Featherstone Hall has appeared at several shows - it even has its own stand at Miniatura! - and even when its not on display, its always a subject of conversation. Here Julie Jackson its creator, answers to the most frequently asked questions:
1. How long did it take?
I started the house in July 2009, but after making the shell of the house had a panic attack at the size of it and left it for several months! I then realised that I had made a commitment to Dolls House & Miniature Scene for their 200th issue, and could not let them down. So I gave myself a good talking to about not being intimidated by an MDF box, and completed it in November 2010. So in all it took 17 months from start to finish, but if you look at time spent on it, only about 9 of those months were working ones!
NOTE: 'Completed it in November 2010' is a bit of an understatement, as I was working to the magazine deadline, I had booked a session in a local photographic studio for one of the last days possible before I had to deliver the first article, and as the house was not finished I actually worked through the night to finish it, and went straight to the studio to spend two days photographing it!
2. How do you transport it?
Right from the start of the project I had planned that it would have to go out to shows on display. I therefore glued everything down VERY securely as I was making it. When it is travelling, it is packed with scrunched up tissue paper (about 4 bin bags full when it's unpacked!) the Perspex fronts are put in place then some fibreboard sheets, then the whole house is wrapped in cling film.
It is transported in two parts, house and basement with a folding plinth which is set up at the show, draped with fabric then the house a basement sit on that for the duration.
3. Does it take long to set up and does anything get broken?
It takes about an hour and a half to set up from arrival at a show. After positioning the house and removing the tissue, the seven transformers for the lights are unpacked from the hatches in the back of the house and connected to the electricity. If we are lucky only a couple of light bulbs need a twist in their sockets, but occasionally a transformer or a light fitting can fail completely. Luckily my husband is always on hand when the house goes anywhere and as he is chief electrician he can usually sort it out! I have been very lucky and had no major breakages - It never ceases to amaze me that the dining room chandeliers still work - they seem so delicate!
The only recurring problem item is Mavis the cook, she is determined to not stay stuck to the floor tiles and I have to glue here back down at every show!
4. How much did it cost?
More than I care to admit!
5. How many rooms/dolls?
The house, with the additional rooms I have created has 23 rooms (including ensuites, hallways and bathrooms) with 55 people.
6. Can I look at the back?
NO! The back of the house is currently a 'pigs ear' and it's the most disappointing area of the house - but I have plans to change this!
7. How do you do the partitions?
The room partitions have been one of the most loved parts of the project, and I have to say getting the MDF strips cut to the room heights was the key. The task was not so daunting when I only had to cut the verticals (not that I was any good at it even then!)
Another big topic of conversation is always the staircases - and I think there are enough questions to warrant a whole book on how you put them together - but not by me-like most people I find them no fun at all!
9. Is it finished?
No. I had to stop work on the house so that I could start and write the first article. But because I didn't have all the time I really needed (next time I won't be put of by a huge MDF box, and will crack on straight away!) there were things I did not get to do, like the inside of the house fronts, and a million little touches inside the house, so I plan to do the 'missing bits'(including tidying up the electrics at the back) and add this to the already written articles to create a book. I will also be adding more detail on the actual make of the house and each room as DH&MS did not have the space to include the whole story in the monthly articles.
10. When is the book out?
The book was launched at the Autumn Miniatura show in September 2013, and is available to buy from this website.
11. What are you going to do with it?
Although I have given it to my daughter, hopefully for her to pass on to her daughter, I would like to have it go on display at a museum - it seems a shame to pack it away for years (and its HUGE!)
12. How do you get all your ideas?
I am always looking and thinking! I probably spend too much time in front of the TV, because when I began to think about what inspires me I came up with Downton Abbey (although the project was started before it hit the screens), Upstairs Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke Street, and the film Gosford Park. I am also a great Sherlock Holmes fan, and of course Hercule Poirot - Lord Peter Wimsey and Richard Hannay are growing on me too!
13. What's next?
I couldn't possibly say, as its top secret. I have had a session with Lucy the DH&MS editor and we have planned some fantastic new projects for 2013 and 2014, and the most exciting is something physically bigger than Featherstone Hall, which may not be able to be made from a kit, and which will have an optical illusion at its centre! Watch this space as they say...
This was originally written for the Dolls House and MIniature Scene supplement which accompanied the last Featherstone Hall article.