Whilst visiting with Tanis in England during 2005 on a teaching trip, I was sitting at her kitchen table paging through a miniature magazine when I realised that Guild School was happening right at that moment. Suddenly a fully formed plan came to me, complete with every detail and in Technicolor. I would apply for a scholarship to go to Castine. Why not ME??
I shared my plan with Tanis and she left the room only to return 5 minutes later with the Scholarship application forms printed out for me! And so it came to pass..................
I heard in November 2005 that I had been accepted as a Scholarship student for 2006.
Skip 6 months of happy planning and jump to departure date.
My flight took me from Cape Town to Heathrow and then Heathrow to Boston. Whilst waiting for the flight from Boston to Bangor I saw a little lady sitting in a corner and I thought to myself "She looks like a miniaturist!" (Don't ask - she just DID!) So I approached her and sure enough she was Ligia, on her way to Castine just like me. So that took care of the next hour yakkety yakking away about miniatures and looking at her brag album of her work (exquisite).
We flew on a TINY jet from Boston to Bangor - but it was very quick - up and down and we were there. That night was spent at the Comfort Inn, a misnomer if ever there was one! The next morning the shuttle picked us up at the hotel and we met the others in our group who were also heading for Guild school.
Upon arrival in Castine - we booked into our dorms and then met to go down to the local shop (opposite Four Flags) for a LOBSTER ROLL. Now Maine is famous for its lobster and this is a famous way to enjoy it. Sounded good enough to eat and it SURE WAS. I had many a lobster roll in the next 5 weeks in America but none was as good as that first one - gobbled down because we had to be back in time for the orientation walk-about.
After orientation we went to the office to collect our registration pack and I handed in my piece for the exhibition. I felt that being a Scholarship student I should make the effort to take something along for the exhibition and I had made a book binder's workbench that was destined to go into the Artisan's Cottage that I was signed up for with Pat and Noel Thomas. Photo below.
That evening was Opening Banquet. For me, one of the best aspects of being at Castine was the people I "knew". In inverted commas because some were people who knew ME! Some were people I had been friends with over the internet but never met and some were customers of mine. But everywhere I was surrounded by like-minded people who made me feel right at home and many many familiar names.
One of the things I had fun with during that week was tuning into other people's conversations whilst standing in a queue (line to the Americans).
Yes, but if you solder it before hand it doesn't do that...."
"Then you thread the silver around the pins and when you remove the pins - you have a space for the crystals....."
"Well you only put a rebate on the one side so it can receive the glass on one end and the trim on the other....." etc etc etc.!!!! No one talks kids, or recipes or any other topic but minis!!!...
It is just such fun to immerse yourself in minis with no thought for anything outside of the room, no food to prepare and surrounded by like-minded people and taught by experts. The greatest part of the whole experience was being in the company of 200 people - all from the top of their field, and all with a love of miniatures.
Tuesday night was auction night. The proceeds go towards the Scholarship fund for the following year and go towards building up the Tool Pool, more of which later. I donated 3 illuminated Nativity books and they went for 350 dollars!! The Scholarship students have to do the showing of the items around the room and that was FUN. I got to touch and hold and see close up some amazing minis... It was the most sucessful auction ever - raising 25000 odd dollars!! It also set the record for the most money raised for a single item, which was a doll made and dressed by Maria Santos. She created a stir by dressing up in the identical outfit to the doll. May I add, that she was also young and gorgeous and the outfit included a decollete (sp) neckline. The auction was a HUGE success. Prices waaaaay out of my budget. I wanted to bid on a plant by Bev Gallerani. The theme for this year was "Growing your own..." meaning talents, growing your own membership etc etc etc. But a couple of people had taken it a step further and had interpreted it as "Growing your own ....cannibis" So the plant that Bev had made for the auction was a cannibis, and was therefore a fitting memento for the week. But as often happens with me - my mental price limit was exceeded in SECONDS and continued to speed on upwards - it was a very wanted item. Never mind - more on that later.....
Wednesday is Rest and Relaxation night - no activities, just recoup and regenerate your batteries. A wise planning move. They have got the organisation down to a fine art. This year was their 25th anniversary and all have been at the Maritime Academy, so they know what is happening by now. So Wednesday I did all my laundry and had an early night. Oh, and a fun game of Pictionary.
Thursday was Minis, Munchies and More evening, which is another name for a Miniature Fair, where only the teachers can sell. So my friend and fellow South African Janet Reyburn (world reknowned for her painted furniture) had a table.
Now, remember the cannibis plant? Well I had spoken to Bev and asked her if she had another for the Fair and she indicated in sign language, ONE! Now you may not shop ahead of time or ask people to keep you items, not even if you are a seller!! The only person who gets preferential treatment is the person who won the bid on the auction for Early Entry!! That sold for 250 dollars!! They get to go in and shop 10 minutes before anyone else.!! Sooooooooooo, on Thursday night people start queueing EARLY. I had 5.30 dinner and went straight down to the gymnasium where the Fair is held to start queueing. I was 6th in line. The Fair opens at 8.00 but you could see the stall holders setting up so you could get the layout of the tables etc. One minute before the doors open they start a count down from 60, (by now the queue stretches for a long way back!) but the count gets faster nad faster. When the doors opened I went straight to Bev's table and said CANNIBIS! and got it. Don't ask. Still expensive but less than I would have paid if I had won the bid at the auction. So once I had that I was happy. I turned around to see the rest of the hall and saw Greg (a guy I had met on the shuttle on the way in and by now a firm friend) clearing the table of all but three items of Janet Reyburn!!!!!!! He bought the lot except for the clavicord, a clock and a demi lune table.!!! All in the time I had bought my cannibis!! That was sooooooooooo exciting. Then I bought a few more things for myself (having done considerable research whilst in the queue) and had fun shopping for my friend Geraldine who had given me dollars to spend for her. That was SUCH a fun night and of course the stuff on sale was amazing. It was as good as any international fair and there were some people who ONLY sell there.
Class schedules always get hectic towards the end and Castine was no exception. Everyone wants to FINISH! Classrooms are not opened outside of normal hours because of all the power tools and finger-chopping-off opportunities they present, but you can take your project back to the dorm and work there. The organisers had kindly arranged for an Ott light for me (wonderful light - pity it does not match our valtage), so on Thursday night, after Minis Munchies and More (the Fair night), I went to my room and finished off the mullions on my windows (hundreds of them).
Friday was HECTIC. Finished the bracket clock to my satisfaction (remember that phrase and remind me NEVER to use Super glue, especially when you are trying to position a 3 mm hinge inside a rebate). Then went up to Pat and Noel's class. One of the nice things about choosing the 36 hour class was that once you got to your second class you settled for the day knowing you would not have to move again. Pat and Noel were insistent that we did not try and finish, that we were there to learn the techniques and that we could finish at home. But every miniaturist has projects gathering dust that were started in a workshop and intended to be completed at home. So Teri (my neighbour) and I agreed we were going to get as far as we could. Never-the-less you cannot get on to your drain pipes if they have not been handed out, nor the demo. demoed! So we worked like demons that day and certainly got further than the rest of the class, right up until the last second. We then had to clean up and take our projects down to the Exhibition where everyone displays their group's projects. Being a Scholarship student, this was another reason why it was important to me to have got it to a certain stage of completion. There was an amazing cocktail party on the balcony with all the usual Maine seafood delicacies bountifully and beautifully presented, whilst inside the Exhibition Hall next door you had a chance to view all that had been made by this incredibly talented group of people under the instruction of this incredibly talented group of instructors. It also gave you a good insight into the instructors and changed my preconceived ideas of some of them. There was not a class there that I would not have enjoyed doing - even the SEWING!(SHOCK HORROR), so satisfying were the end products. For example the class given by Maria Santos (remember the one who got the highest price for her auction doll) produced amazing results and some of her students were NON sewers in the accepted sense. (Her ballerina dolls were featured in the latest DH Collector - Odette, Odille and a Spanish ballerina - to DIE for).
From the exhibition and cocktail party we went into the closing banquet. Beautifully arranged complete with an ice sculpture to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Guild School, back lit from behind with blue light - stunning. A wonderful meal of fresh asparagus and fresh salmon and lots of thank yous (not least to the catering staff who had been amazing and got a standing ovation!) and sad farewells.
The next day was packing up and moving out and catching shuttles to the airport.
What an experience Castine was. I would recommend it to every miniaturist. I had an incredible week.
The South Africans at Lunch.
The first weekend after getting home I spent working on my Artisan's Cottage. My local Miniature Guild meeting was in 2 weeks time and I would HAVE to have it ready for Show and Tell. I enjoyed working on the finishing bits as much as I had enjoyed making the cottage.
I discovered a new product (new to me anyway and available in South Africa) called Gilder's Paste. I used it to give the finish to the plinth underneath the cottage. It comes in various colours (I used Verdigris) and is like a shoe polish. It just goes on with a soft cloth and went over the forest green paint finish which was a bit too green and needed 'knocking back" as my friend Annie would say. When dry you polish it with a soft cloth. It buffs up to a slight sheen.
Another tip that I worked out for myself doing this project was how to make a set of faux books sit nicely on a shelf. I make lots of faux books but had always glued all the pages together to make them lie properly (a pain). The faux books that you can see on the shelf were made separately and then glued with 2 part epoxy to a thin strip of card. This held them closed and in place without glueing the pages. Then the whole strip was glued to the shelf.
Note the tiny box of matches on the shelf. A present from Verity van Wyk from Port Elizabeth many years ago. They had been waiting for the perfect home and have now found it.
The brass candle stick was made by Roy Reycroft. The book press was a commission made for me by Mike Cox. The press winds up and down and actually presses mini books.