Lidi Stroud has a special vice that she loves. And it isn't Strawberry Dacquiris - although she is partial to them.
"My special vice, awl and fingers are my favorite tools. I make miniature baskets - be they cane or twined wax linen - or a combination of both," she explained.
"When scaling down a basket, the traditional materials cannot necessarily be used as they do not provide the flexibility needed and the end product looks out of scale. Finding the right material with the strength and flexibility to achieve a realistic-looking basket would have to be my hardest challenge and I am continually experimenting with different materials. I love 1/12th scale most. It allows me to put in the "detail" that I love so much," said Lidi.
This talented basket maker and her family keep the miniature hobby alive in Nambucca Heads, a small town on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia.
"We moved here in 1992 and bought a little gift shop. Amongst the shop stock was a few pieces of miniature furniture - and not too nice at that. The shop has evolved somewhat since those heady days! Now it is purely a dollhouse miniature shop and we are in heaven," said Lidi.
Her husband Peter is an electrical engineer and "has been train/plane modelling since the dinosaurs roamed free in Australia." He also makes miniature Tudor lighting, flickering fires and furniture while her 18-year-old daughter, Jessica, makes "great anything" from Fimo.
The Tudor influence came from Lidi's year working on a detailed Tudor kitchen.
"I spent a year making a Tudor kitchen and just got it finished in time for the display at the Sydney Miniatures Show. It sold on the first day! My husband thought this was really funny because I really loved the piece and didn't get a chance to 'spend time with it'. I thought it was pretty sad!" she said.
There is no question of their family spending time together creating minis - all over the house!
"We have a train carriage in the back yard as a workshop, also a room the length of the house (10ft wide x 45ft long). Then we also have the dining room table, which is constantly covered with someone's project, the kitchen bench which suffers the same fate and a coffee table as well. With three of us all practicing the art form in the house the place can look like a bombsite! But we can always find whatever it is that we are looking for!!! When I make baskets, I tend to hog the dining table or the coffee table," she admitted. "We love each other's work and have a ton of fun."
In addition to her family's talents Lidi finds herself inspired by many talented miniaturists but her tutor/instructor, full-size basketry artist Helen Beale, tops the list.
"Helen is an Australian basketry artist of 35 years with national and international experience. She is a hard task-master as far as technique is concerned - will not let me use glue or any short-cuts in my basket weaving. I really have to blame her for my love of weaving baskets! She is awesome," said Lidi.
"I find my inspiration in the world around me. I see shape, form and colour - they lodge in my brain and rattle around there for a while - and eventually come out through my fingers in the shape of a basket! It seems to work for me so far," she added.
Lidi is a member of CDHM and several other miniature groups: SmallStuff, The Camp, South African Miniatures, AMEA, and NZAME.
"It's great to have people to share your mini experiences and excitements on-line. We don't get this opportunity too often in our small town. We also have a local miniatures group here with about 12 members who meet monthly. Some people travel up to 150kms to join in - we have lots of fun. I've taught a few workshops to my group and I was recently asked to display my baskets in a real life basketry display in Melbourne, Australia and was so chuffed to hear that the miniature baskets got most of the attention. I even sold some!!" she said.
She sells her baskets on her website, at miniature shows and anywhere else she can for between $10 to $80 each depending on the basket.
"My baskets and I are currently under consideration by Dolls House & Miniatures Scene for maybe the December/January issue (I think!)," she added.
There are a few non-mini influences in her life as well, including two chocolate brown standard poodles - Madi, an eight-year-old female and Monte, a three and a half year old male and one "feral" cat, Sox, an 11-year-old female. She also has an older daughter who visits the rest of the family at Christmas, Lidi's favourite holiday.