Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Apothecary in History and Dollhouse Miniatures: much more than a Druggist

In this article, I will explore the history of the Apothecary as well as the essentials in creating a miniature Apothecary setting in your dollhouse or room box. My investigation began after seeing this incredible Apothecary Chest made by Lil Witchy, pictured below. She is yet another fantastic Etsy Miniature Artist!
The listing:
The Shop: Lil Witchy Haunted Dollhouse Minaitures

“Apothecary” is a historical name for the medical professional who formulated and sold medicinal materials, a role now served by pharmacists in the US or dispensing chemists in British English. According to Sharif Kag al-Ghazal, the first apothecary shops were founded during the middle ages in Baghdad. By the end of the fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400) mentioned an English apothecary in the Canterbury Tales. These men continued to ply their trade until the advent of modern medicine in the last century, completely dominating mainstream medical care and so marginalizing female practitioners, such as midwives, during this time.

The early Apothecary performed a much wider range of roles than today’s Pharmicist. They performed surgery, they took over midwifery, they were the dentists, and even made house calls. In Colonial Williamsburg, apothecaries also sold cooking spices, candles, salad oil, anchovies, toothbrushes, and tobacco, making them true precursors of today's drugstores.
The work of the apothecary may be regarded as a precursor of the modern sciences of chemistry and pharmacology, prior to the formulation of the scientific method. Some of the ingredients that were used in Colonial remedies are the basis for modern medications. This includes chalk for heartburn, calamine for skin irritations, and cinchona bark for fevers. Later it was discovered that cinchona bark contains quinine for malaria and quinidine for cardiac conditions.
Ancient folk herbalism and healing practices continued in tandem with the new Apothecary system as many people could not afford professional Doctors. They would simply self diagnose and buy the needed ingredients for home made medicines from the local Apothecary shop.

What items must you have to make an Apothecary room? The basics are bottles, mortar and pestle, and storage units. Throw in an Apothecary sign, vintage labels, dried herb and powder specimens, and a scale for further realism. You could even refine your theme to Colonial Early American, Medieval European, the Country Quack, or Asian style medicine. Well, my aspiring mini herbalists, lets begin!

Containers for all the powders, tonics, and salves are the key to creating an Apothecary scene. Glass canisters, tubes, jars, and bottles of all kinds are a must! Here are examples of actual Apothecary bottles and vintage look labels: Below, you can see the dark glass bottles used to preserve contents from sunlight: Good sources for miniature glass bottles and chemistry components:
- Dollhouse Hand Blown Glassware by Royal Miniatures from FINGERTIP FANTASIES Dollhouse Miniatures Examples of this line can be seen below: - Glasscraft of England hand blown glass can be found at various dealers such as Daisy’s Dollhouse and Bits n Pieces Dollhouse Miniatures online. Examples of this line can be seen below the links. I have personally seen lovely work from Glasscraft and it is cheaper to buy it online rather than in an exclusive dollshop. The cranberry and amethyst pieces are especially lovely! - D’s Miniatures and Collectibles on eBay has some very unusual medical pieces including these handmade glass test tubes.

Here are various examples of actual life sized mortar and pestles available today. They come in a wide range of shapes and materials so be creative when crafting miniatures! Try beads, clay, or carved wood.
I found several antique miniature mortar and pestles on the market, mostly made of brass and dating to the early 1900’s. They are easily found at online dollhouse auctions, just search ‘vintage’, ‘brass’, or ‘antique’ miniature mortar and pestle. Below are a few examples.
There are also many sources of new porcelain, turned wood, and brass mini mortar and pestles. I like the one made by Clare-Bell Brass Works. You can find this through several retailers priced from $4 to $6. Here it is at the Dollhouses and More online store: 3) APOTHECARY STORAGE
Concerning storage, you could have a store room full of shelves, a single desk or cabinet next to a working table, or even a carrying case for a traveling practitioner. Here are several historical examples for inspiration:

Below are examples of Apothecary carrying cases and travel trunks:

Personally, I love love love the labels available in Dead Spider’s Etsy store Curios and Dark Arts. There are wonderfully vintage looking labels for both 1:12 scale and life size bottles. She has two different sets of miniature lables and I just ordered one of each! Yay... presents in the mail! Item link:
Store link: Don't forget to make your Apothecary Sign!
For futher inspiration, check these links to historical Medical, Scientific, and Industrial Museum collections and dealers:
2) Urban Remains Chicago: Antique American Architectural Artifacts
3) Gilai Collectibles
4) Transylvania University Museum of Medical and Scientific Apparatus

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moving Into My Miniature Haunted Mansion...

The Origins...
Last summer, while I was working at a dollhouse miniature shop, a lady rushed in with this rickety, dusty, warped, badly scaled unfinished cedar dollhouse that she picked up for $25 at a garage sale. Her deal was this: she and her family were storm refugees in town from Austin and her daughter needed something to play with at their hotel room pronto. Uh, well… refurbishing any dollhouse takes time and this one, OMG. The proprietor of the shop, who is notoriously brash with her opinions, straight away told the mother to just chuck it in the trash because it was beyond fixing.

While the conversation continued, I eyed the house. It did have a mildewed lampshade as the tower’s roof. It had several splintered and missing pieces of exterior wood. It had a horrible layout with huge oversized stairs cutting up each floor through the middle. Windows were broken out. Shingles were placed crooked and many were missing. The front porch roof was put on upside down. Terrible. I fell in love with it and had a vision!!!

As the boss lady went on her way to the back room leaving the crestfallen mother, I stepped over to comfort her and point out our pre-built decently priced dollhouses. Then there was all the bargain furniture sets well suited to children. I even offered to take that rotten house off her hands for the same amount she had paid at the garage sale so that she wouldn’t be loosing any money. Ta-da!!! The store made a $300 sale, I got my trashy treasure for $25, and my boss was outraged.

The shop owner buzzed over unhappy that I had spent any money on such ‘junk’ (and probably annoyed that the lady hadn’t agreed to purchase a new house when she had a crack at her). The customer left all smiles. Then it was on. I was reamed for nearly 30 minutes about the ‘mess I was in’. I should just ‘donate the house’… I asked her, why would I donate ‘trash’? Plus I pointed out, buying the house for a pittance had given the store a good sale. Hmm… mean stare.

I was overjoyed and took my prize home - after throwing out the lampshade! Below are pictures of the house after a good cleaning.

It has taken a year before I have finally pulled the house out of my closet. What prompted this move? Well, I made this super cool little cauldron with an owl and stars and liked it so well I decided to keep it for myself rather than selling it. Ok, its sitting in my room on a bookcase. It needs a ‘place’… hmm, the place should be a spooky mansion!!! Shabang. Just like that I got busy. First, remove rotted splintered wood and replace with fresh new pieces. Glue all the loose floors back in and straighten the walls. Re-attach the roof. Make spooky!!!

Below are pictures of exterior alterations to my haunted mansion. Notice how one of my kitties, Pumpkin, is monitering the whole project. She is very organized and demanding.

It definitely needs a name so I will have to think on that. I also will be purchasing a spooky electrical light kit for dollhouses. These can be found at in two different sizes!

This will be an ongoing project... I have big BIG plans, like seasonal decorations, basing it on a round board and landscaping, making dolls to live in my creation and so much more! If I can find the time with college starting soon... no no think positive! Anyway, below are various examples of lovely haunted houses that inspire me:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Spooky History and Examples of: The Witch's Hat!

When you say the word ‘witch’ a whole host of images come to mind… cauldrons, brooms, and HATS! In fact, anyone at Halloween can claim to be dressed as a Witch as long as they put on a pointy wide brimmed hat. You can’t just carry a cauldron or a broom and pull that off. It is the HAT! Whether you see it on the vamp Elvira or a fairy tale hag, the hat says it all.

Shadow Play Magazine offers several historical origins for the pointy witch hat in this article:

Conical medieval hats, often pictured worn by a princess with a veil attached, were called Hennins. I have heard the theory that the rural populations who were slow to give up their folk ways were also wearing outdated fashions like this hat style. Both the hat and these beliefs became associated by the Church with witchcraft. Further negative connotations were added to the style when the pointy cap was used by the medieval Church to humiliate Jews and heretics during Inquisition trials. Remnants of this practice can be seen in the dunce hat today. Strangely, the stereotypical Birthday hat is also conical which may be related to ancient European revelry and festival practices.
- on a witch doll or even on an animal familiar
- hanging on a coat rack or within a witch’s wardrobe
- sitting amidst other magical items on a witch’s desk or bookcase
- on top of a jack-o-lantern or on a scarecrow
- sitting on a scenic wooden or stone fence
- on top of a hay bale, a basket of apples, or on a broom
- on a little mannequin head with jewelry

Here are my own sculpted clay hats.

First, check out Kat the Hat’s amazingly cool BlogSpot. I already did the search for ‘witch hats’ for ya! Her work is outstandingly creative with high craftsmanship. Her hats look to be made of wound straw braids and are very whimsical. The artist resides in the UK and sells on eBay.

Next, you have to look at Richard and Jodi Creager’s collaborative dolls and miniatures! They work in a wide range of themes but their witches and ghosts are to die for… Their elegant hats are made of a variety of rich fabrics and doodads like feathers and gems. (the Halloween gallery)
Here's a darker example of their work... so very nice.
Harry Potter. Enough said! Between this guy and Gandolph, it’s a wonder that pointy hats aren’t being seen on fashion runways… then again, you are supposed to be wise to wear one. Well, I found 2 equally fantastic examples of miniature Sorting Hats!

Once again, the Creager’s came through beautifully, with this cloth example.

Then, one of Etsy’s own artists, NJDMiniatures produced this fantastically sculpted clay version! Even the stool it rests upon is superbly detailed.

Although the Country and Primitive Crafts crowd may not rub shoulders that often with the spooky Goth and Dark Art crowd, they have witches and Halloween motifs in common! I love rustic and autumn harvest inspired witchy crafts and dolls. Here are a few fine examples of hats from this genre:
Gotta love Halloween time when all the sexy costumes come out… Our moment in dark paradise for all my fashion conscious sisters! It’s the only time of year I can walk around in public and not be stared at like a… dare I say it… freak. I manage to celebrate Halloween every day in some capacity. Woops, my striped stocking are showing… Here are a wide range of witchypoo hats to inspire you!


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