Small Talk

How Do They Do It?

How Do They Do It?

We get this question at T/m a LOT when people visit the fine-scale miniature galleries. We stay awake at night contemplating it ourselves. So, when we started talking about what we wanted to add to the miniature galleries, a look into fine-scale miniature artists’ studios was at the top of our list.

In T/m’s new exhibit, In The Artist’s Studio, visitors can watch four videos that take them into the studios of William R. Robertson and Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel. Not only did the artists let us invade their studios for multiple days of filming, which included shoving cameras inches from their faces (everything is really small!), but they also donated all of the tools they used and created multiple pieces that illustrate the steps in the process towards the final product. Robertson turned a metal candlestick on a lathe and carved a dovetail drawer. Chellis Wessel painted an egg tempera canvas and turned a ceramic plate on a wheel. While the exhibit provides some answers, it will still leave you in awe of their work!

Bitty Belter Furniture

Bitty Belter Furniture

Thomas Warner once explained his attraction to the Belter style: “I have to be able to capture the ‘feel’ that the original had. I think that’s why I enjoy the Belter designs so much. Its quality is massive—yet the intricate carvings make it ‘feel’ so delicate. It’s capturing the delicateness in such a heavy piece that is the true art—and the source of my genuine feeling of accomplishment.”

The center table in the Belter Parlor took about 40 hours to complete! Warner mainly used rosewood for the elaborate pierced carvings of the Belter style. John Belter himself favored rosewood and its ability to be bent and shaped without splitting or cracking like a more solid wood. In 1856, Belter patented a lamination process that allowed layers of wood to be more easily steamed into curves and carved.

Warner pieces’ replicate the intricate carvings of Belter furniture: multitude of grapes, vines, scrolls, and not a straight line in sight! If you are lucky enough to find a piece of Warner’s fine-scale miniature furniture (he produced limited quantities), it’ll be easy to tell it’s his: Warner signed all of his pieces.

A Home for the Holidays

A Home for the Holidays

Forgoing the mall or busy big box stores to find the perfect Christmas gift can save your sanity during the holidays—especially if you’re crafty enough to make a custom, handmade gift. For three lucky Kansas City girls in 1971, a gift from their father was a dream come true: Thomas Baker constructed a dollhouse version of the family’s home in the city’s historic Ward Parkway neighborhood.

Baker’s replica of the 1928 Tudor Revival-style home aligns with the Victorian tradition of building personalized dollhouses. The exterior features painted brick and half-timber details along with the signature pointed gables. The inside of the dollhouse is a 1970s time capsule with bright (and rather groovy) wallpaper, and half walls to allow for easy access to the rooms. Above the hallway’s staircase on the second floor is a photograph of the three Baker sisters with a heart-melting note that reads, “To Janice, Jennifer and Julie, with love from your daddy.”

First-Class Miniatures

First-Class Miniatures

Every December, we get pretty excited to see the latest gingerbread house creations that pop up on social media. After all, they are miniature structures, and they’re covered in candy and frosting! Miniature artist Teresa Layman is well-known for her intricately sweet houses—she’s even written a couple books on how to make them yourself.

Several years back, Layman asked her local postmaster about how postage stamp designs were chosen. The process begins with the submission of ideas to the Citizen’s Advisory Stamp Committee, and then a lot of waiting. Luckily, Layman’s postmaster put her in contact with a Postal Service stamps photographer who just happened to live a mile away. The photographer, Sally Andersen-Bruce, worked with Layman and USPS art director Derry Noyes over the course of a couple years to create a winning combination of four perfectly delectable gingerbread houses for the 2013 holiday season. How sweet is that!?
Photo: USPS.com

A Bitty Belter Parlor

A Bitty Belter Parlor

In 1982, Thomas Warner completed the Belter Parlor, so named for the style of furniture by John Henry Belter that adorns the room. Warner’s work was also inspired by many of his fellow miniature artists, including Harry Cooke, John Davenport, Arlyn Coad, and Hermania Anslinger.

The Belter Parlor features hand carved, detailed reproductions of Belter’s circa 1850 designs. In June 1987, Warner told Nutshell News that the Belter Parlor holds the best pieces he had ever created.

Warner became a miniature-making team with his wife Gloria Warner. If one didn’t like to or couldn’t do one aspect of a miniature, the other one could. Gloria often upholstered the furniture that Thomas carved. In the Belter Parlor, Gloria also made the drapes, while Henry Whalon made the rugs.

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