Mouse in the house

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A theatre designer uses her model making skills to handcraft adorable mice from scrap materials

Kathryn Ashcroft originally trained as a theatre designer before beginning her business creating sweet fabric mice. ‘I’ve been lucky to always inhabit a world in which Sellotape, string, paper and cereal boxes were plentiful!’ she laughs. After studying at university, she discovered a real love for the scale modelmaking that comes with being a theatre designer. ‘I loved exploring materials and lowtech techniques, and completely transforming them into accurately detailed models. I’ve also always had a fascination with stories and histories, and collecting interesting objects.’
Kathryn began making the mice in 2014, working with scraps of material she had to hand. ‘Gradually, they’ve have become more refined as I’ve discovered methods and techniques that are the most successful,’ Kathryn explains. ‘I love using my old theatre design methods, but feel I can work more freely this way. I can set my own parameters for accuracy, and be playful with the scale.’
Her business, Mouse in the House, grew as family and friends shared her work and more and more people requested mice of their own.
The models themselves are all imbued with personality and quirks. ‘The mice are tiny collectors of treasure and pilferers of cheese,’ smiles Kathryn. ‘They are made entirely from fragments of stuff – scraps of fabric, pieces of broken things, lost buttons and forgotten memories. Things that have had a former use, but are now redundant. I love the idea that the mice can be just a flit of colour or a blur in the corner of a room. It’s really important to me for people to engage playfully with them.
More recently, I’ve been working on a series of historical mice. I’m becoming fascinated with the concept that mice are everywhere, and have had a role throughout history. I’m constantly searching for historical references to mice that I can use in this work.’
Kathryn’s also very keen on the reclaimed aspect of the materials she uses for her work. ‘I love to work with fragments of fabric, paper, wood and metal – anything I can find that seems like it can be put to good use!’ she laughs. ‘It’s of the utmost importance to me to use salvaged materials as far as possible – practically every aspect of the work is reclaimed.’ Commissioned mice are often quite personal to the customers, who sometimes supply their own fabrics or pieces of memorabilia to use. ‘I’m also very lucky in that I have fabulous friends and family who are constantly collecting old treasure and bits and pieces too!’
• Find out more about Kathryn’s work at www.jarvisthemouse.co.uk.

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