Small Talk

Filigree Finery

Filigree Finery

You just never know where or when inspiration will hit you. Unless, of course, you’re artist William R. Robertson, who seeks out his inspiration in the rare and refined decorative arts collections of some of the world’s best museums. This 1:12 scale chest was inspired by a trip to the Musée le Secq des Tournelles (The Wrought Iron Museum) in Rouen, France.

While noble houses of 17th century Europe would use boxes like these to store valuables like jewelry, although this miniature version might only hold a couple of gemstones. Robertson constructed the chest with ebony and 18 karat gold filigree panels, each with a crisp beaded edge. The box lid is hinged and features a functional lock and key. As a special touch, the artist microscopically signed his name beneath the handle, but don’t strain your eyes trying to read it!

Eleanor’s Fashionable Friend

Eleanor’s Fashionable Friend

In addition to teaching children necessary grown-up skills, dolls and toys have imagination-fueled stories all their own. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to hear toys’ playtime stories and special adventures toys had from the grown-ups who loved them. Other times, we have to do a little digging. This bisque fashion doll, for example, came to T/m with a few clues from her Victorian past.

With the help of previous her owners’ records, we know that this circa-1860 doll was owned by a girl in Buffalo, New York, named Eleanor Crocker. Nicknamed “Nellie,” the doll was passed down through several generations of Eleanor’s descendants before she became part of the museum’s collection. According to family lore, Nellie was brought back from France by Eleanor’s uncle Dexter as a gift. Through the magic of modern technology, we’ve been able to track down the family’s historical records including Dexter’s passport applications dating to the 1860s! While we may never know the exact playtime parties Nellie attended, we do know that Eleanor took excellent care of her.

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.”

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