Small Talk

Keep an Even Tempera-ment

Lee Ann Chellis-Wessel egg tempera

Topping the list of frequently asked questions about our miniature collection is, “how did they make that?!” In the summer of 2012, miniature painter Lee Ann Chellis-Wessel came to Kansas City as the museum’s first artist in residence. During her time with us, she revealed some of the secrets of painting with egg tempera in miniature (after all, like magicians, miniaturists never reveal all of their secrets.)

Surprisingly, many of the techniques involved in miniature egg tempera painting are the same as they are in full-scale. Pigments are mixed with an egg solution and are then dabbed onto a ceramic painter’s palette. Water is added to the tempera to give a range of values to the paint. The real magic happens when Chellis-Wessel uses a very fine paint brush and a steady hand to apply the paint to the board. Cross-hatching and overlaying of different paint colors give the miniature work the rich tones found in the Renaissance originals. The paintings depicted here illustrate Chellis-Wessel’s steps in reaching painted perfection.

Our Skeleton Can Dance

lloyd mccaffery

Miniature artist Lloyd McCaffery began building ship models as a twelve-year-old. And he never stopped! Trained as an artist and sculptor, he uses jeweler’s tweezers, and numerous miniature versions of planes, chisels, and custom made knives to craft his fine-scale ship models.

Like many fine-scale miniature artists, McCaffery found inspiration in a museum, though not a history or art museum but the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. While looking at the suspended skeleton of a dinosaur, McCaffery realized the similarities between the spine and ribs of a skeleton and the keel and frames of a ship. Articulation was one of the first skeletons, human or animal, which McCaffery carved. And this skeleton can dance! Each bone, or set of bones, is crafted separately out of boxwood and joined with bamboo tenons or pegs. The 1:12 scale Articulation is joined in the T/m collection by another McCaffery skeleton, a velociraptor.

Papier Mâché Child’s Play

papier mache dolls

Izannah Walker wasn’t the only 19th century doll maker experimenting with new materials to create lighter, more durable dolls. In Europe, German manufacturers experimented with an abundance of inexpensive leftover materials. Local bookmaking factories made paper pulp an accessible alternative for doll manufacturing. The pulp was recycled and evenly pressed into greased molds to create a papier mâché doll.

With this papier mâché method, German doll makers could create intricately detailed, fashionable hairstyles like the one this doll from T/m’s collection is modeling. Molds were used for many years after their creation, even if the hairstyle went out of fashion. Today, we can actually study a doll’s hairstyle and determine when its mold was created.

Artwork for the Floor

petit point miniature rugs

Every stately New England home needs its share of sumptuous floor coverings. The Boston Beacon Hill House is no exception, even if it does measure 13 x 12 x 9 inches. Seattle needlecraft artist Ethel Forbes Harding designed and stitched the 40 count petit point rugs found gracing the floors of the minuscule mansion. Some of the carpets were even reproduced from designs found in the home of Claire Bagley Hammons, the art patron who owned the quarter scale house.

Like carpets in full-size homes, these creations add warmth and depth to each room. We wonder how long it took Mrs. Harding to complete each of the miniature floorings. That’s a lot of square feet, er, inches to cover!

Happy Birthday to Us!

national museum toys miniatures kansas city mo

Thirty-one was a big year for the museum, and we are confident that thirty-two will be even bigger! Although the museum didn’t get married (that’s just silly talk, institutions can’t get married), we did legally change our name to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. The name change reflects the quality and scope of the collection and the future direction of the museum’s exhibits, programming, and research.

During our thirty-second year, we’ll be re-opening The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures with new exhibits, including a brand new museum introduction and a two-story toy sculpture in the museum lobby. We’re pretty excited and we hope you are too. Stay tuned here, and on Pinterest and Facebook for sneak peeks as the progress continues!

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