I have frequently contemplated the lack of miniature interest in my grandchildren. Out of the ten, only one was once genuiely fascinated and adequately rewarded, while the others at best ask to see and say "How nice".
This past week, a ten-year-old came to visit. Almost the first thing she did was produce a shoe box full of dollhouse furniture, some of which I recognised. "Granny, she said solemnly, you once gave me a dollhouse, but I was too young and silly. My little sister and I drew on the wallpaper with crayons, pasted stickers on doors and broke furniture. I now want to make a really nice dollhouse, like yours. Can you help me mend the furniture?" If I didn't burst into tears it was not to scare her.
The dollhouse I gave her when she was young and silly had belonged to my daughter who never showed any interest, although I made furniture, curtains and bedding for it when she was of relevant age. It is a Lundby, 1:18 scale, the most popular children's dollhouse in Sweden (although also favoured by many collectors), and since it was bought in the early 1980s it may be of some value - or maybe not at all. During one of my recent visits in Stockholm, I asked whether the dollhouse still existed, and my son dutifully fetched it from the cellar, but it never went beyond that.
And here I was, with a shoe box full of broken furniture and a grandchild eager to become a miniaturist.
I don't post pictures of my grandchildren on the web, but I do have some fabulous pictures of her engrossed in work. We mended everything, even things that at the first glance seemed beyond redemption. We also rummaged through my treasure chests. I don't do Lundby scale, but I have some collectibles, including several Arne Jacobsen pieces. However, I will wait a few years and see whether the granddaughter is really into it. But I have lots of odd stuff from various bargain buys: beds, tables, cupboards. I let her choose whatever she liked. I saw she thought it was Christmas. I told her that everything may not fit into her bag and that I could bring it in Augurst when I would travel to Stockholm, but she assured me that she had plenty of space and would take it all now. In a way, I understand. August is far away in the future when you are ten. And of course she wanted to put all the new things into the dollhouse.
I showed her how to cut out pots and pans from chocolate boxes. We made plates and vases from clay. We made a mirror from a tiny photo frame. I made bedding because she adnitted she wasn't very good at sewing. She repainted some items, asking me for advice in colour choice. I told her she could choose whatever she liked because she was the artist. This was a new idea for her. "I am not an artist", she protested. I explained that being an artist means being creative, and that's what she was. I think she liked it.
I brought in from the garage a hugely neglected dollhouse, waiting to be collected by its new owner. I explained to my granddaughter that the house was for another little girl, but that we could repair it a bit. "We must make it as pretty as we can, she said, so that the little girl likes it".
She painted the front, and I showed her how to make a floor. We discussed wallpaper options. Not for a second did she show any grudge, making a dollhouse for somebody else. Moreover, she kept referring to her little sister - two years younger - and how happy she would be that the broken furniture was mended and some new furniture added.
On her last morning, when it fortuitously rained, I asked whether there was anything she would like to make from scratch. She had been observing the numerous items in my large dollhouse, inquiring how I had made them. Of all the objects, she chose a broom and a rug.
I think for the very first attempt at miniature-making, it's brilliant.
I am profoundly happy. As I have said repeatedly, I am a recycler, and I am very much anti-consumerist, so she won't be getting sets of Lundby stuff for Christmas and birthdays. Instead, next time I go to Stockholm, I will bring something for us to make together.