I’d just started work on the outside of my new pride and joy, a fourteen-room Georgian dollshouse by Squirrel when I saw the ad for the magical mystery tower project for the Dolls House Emporium (DHE) annual Build-it Competition. I promptly ordered the kit, not originally to enter the competition but to use it to try out different ideas for my dollshouse.
Before my kit had arrived I had this really weird idea for the tower, making it derelict building. I’ve always loved stories of King Arthur and, in particular, of Merlin and thought of the myth of Vortigen’s tower. Merlin was bought in as a consultant to solve the problem of why the tower kept falling down. Merlin discovered that it was because of two dragons, who lived in the hillside, fighting. So Vortigen gave the tower to Merlin. So this was my starting point.
I was amazed at the way the Merlin’s Tower project was coming together and lost track of the time I’d spent on it. Once the main part of the work was done I made the decision that I would actually enter my creation into the competition. Once the last splodges of paint were dry and the figures were carefully placed, I took some photographs and sent them off to DHE.
A few weeks later I got a phone call saying that I’d actually won first prize. I couldn’t believe it, I never win anything! My prize was to be Cadogen Garden’s kit and a VIP tour around DHE HQ. It was an amazing day, and something I’ll never forget. I got to talk to some of the designers and the people behind the scenes at DHE. I even was shown some drawings for Stratford Place.
Whilst all this was going on, I’d been painting miniature pictures for my own dollshouse but, being extremely shy and having very little self-confidence I’d never really considered that anyone else would be interested in buying my work. Winning the DHE competition helped me gain so much more confidence and my local dollshouse club asked me if I’d be interested in having a stall at a small charity dollshouse show in Haddenham. I jumped at the chance even though I had just ten days to prepare. There I met Celia Thomas for the first time and she invited me to the Thame Dollshouse Fair and Exhibition run by MTM dollshouse club. Well, that was where I sold my first painting to a total stranger. Since that show over four years ago I’ve been absolutely hooked and have been developing new ideas ever since.
I quickly realised that I needed to extend my range to include smaller items, so for Ally Pally the following October I introduced a range of 1/12th scale artist materials and books. I try to create something new each year and I’m working on a 1/24th scale range of items, but my passion has, and always will be, recreating in miniature the paintings of George Stubbs.
So, in creating Merlin’s Tower some magic really did happen and it changed my life. When I visited Miniatura for the first time and bought that dollshouse, which is still my pride and joy, I never imagined that I would be there myself as a trader selling my paintings. I don’t think I’ve ever met a nicer, friendlier bunch of people, both customers and artisans, and we all share that same passion, miniatures.
Ellie de Lacy HS
Congratulations to Ellie Smith who was the talented winner of the 2003 year’s creative competition with her “Merlin’s Tower” entry. The lucky winner beat over 300 entries to win the Cadogan Gardens dolls’ house.
The annual “build-it” competition, which is set in March each year, is always a hit with our customers and this year saw a record number of entries which varied enormously from lighthouses and fairy retreats to mystical castles and even a tattoo parlour! Entries were judged on both their creativity and craftsmanship skills and we are delighted to award Ellie first prize.