The Dolls House

artists residency at Cliffe Castle Museum

An Arist’s Residency at Cliffe Castle Museum

Inkers printmakers spent two years in residence at Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley between 2015 – 2017. We spent time drawing and studying the eclectic collections in the museum and each artist made a body of work inspired by different aspects of the collection. The residency culminated in a public exhibition in the Museums Gallery.


I have always loved dolls houses and the idea of a complete alternative world in miniature. At the museum I sat in the corner of the gallery with the displays of dolls houses and noticed how children played with the contemporary dolls house, photographing the different results after each group had left it. The scenes ranged from total mayhem to very ordered arrangements with everything in its proper place. The children talked as they played, creating characters and situations, and I noted down some of the things they said; these varied from suggestions for funny or forbidden activities to re-enacting comfortable domestic routines.

The panels

Each of the centre sections in the Dolls House panel shows a room in the house, some characters appearing more than once as they move around the house.The stairs play with optical illusions like an Escher print and suggest an Alice in Wonderland world where things are not quite as they seem.


The outside panels on the right show the ‘real’ world as the children get a glimpse into the interior world of the dolls house, the panels on the left are the dolls’ view from inside house looking out.

The text

The text is taken directly from childrens’ conversations while they played with the real dolls house.

Technical information

I made waterproof plates from pvc, acetate and vinyl. These incorporated drypoint, relief and collagraph techniques and were all inked up as intaglio and relief before being cast in strong plaster. The plaster picks up all the details and also has a distinct low relief surface with textures to touch. The surface is sealed and waxed so it is robust enough to with stand lots of handling. All the plaster panels are mounted into a wooden frame measuring 110 x 100cm.

Permanent display

After the exhibition in Cliffe Castle the panel was installed at Acomb primary school in York. Here it has inspired them to do storytelling, new art work and craft projects.


“You choose who you want to be”

The big sister arranged all the dolls in a semicircle, paying audience to the Queen. She generously allowed the little ones to choose which of her subjects they could be.

“Darling, it’s time for tea!”

Some of the events in the dolls house were exceedingly proper and rather grand. This contrasted to other chaotic or mischevious events.

Printing plate for “Mummy! Go back to bed!”

The printing plates must withstand the water and heat from the setting plaster. I use pvc, acetate, sticky back vinyl and textured wallpaper to make the plates. They are inked up with oil based inks and cast as plaster tiles.

“Let’s put baby in the wardrobe”

This is my favourite caption. Many people have probably wanted to do this at one time or another.

“Let’s pretend I’m coming home from school…”

The museum had Victorian dolls houses on display, and I wanted to make the contrast between children then and now.

“Mummy! Go back to bed!”

Definitely time to get your own back on the grown ups!