Small Talk / Miniature

Wright to Scale

William E. Martin House

With their dramatic horizontal lines, open floor plans, and cantilevered roofs, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes are some of the most iconic in American history. Wright’s famous Prairie Style of domestic architecture took inspiration from the Midwestern landscape. The William E. Martin House is a beautiful example of one of these homes, coincidentally only a few blocks away from Wright’s own home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois. Today, the home is still a private residence, so your best chance to see it up close is here at T/m!

Built in 1902, the William E. Martin House was the inspiration for Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd’s 1:12 scale breakfast room. All of the room’s architectural details are accounted for in miniature. As with other works, Ashby and Jedd have substituted woods in order to mimic the full-size solid oak grain in miniature. The individually laid floor boards are made of basswood and the trim is made of cherry. In order to give the appearance of stucco, the miniature room’s walls were covered with muslin and faux-finished using layers of transparent acrylic glazes.

Have a Seat

Cadwalader side chair

These three chairs might look like they’re auditioning for a part in Goldilocks and the Three Bears; however, they’re actually miniature replicas of historical full-scale chairs. With green silk upholstery and an urn motif splat, the New York Sheraton side chair on the left was inspired by a c.1800 chair from the Kaufman Collection at the National Gallery of Art. The Shield Back Hepplewhite side chair on the right also takes its full-scale inspiration from that same collection. The claw-footed Cadwalader side chair in the center is based off a 1770 design by Thomas Affleck and features a canary yellow jacquard cushion.

Artist Linda LaRoche received a commission from T/m co-founder Barbara Marshall to create a series of works showcasing her skills. Specializing in hand-carved wooden furniture, LaRoche researched measurements documented in the Kaufman Collection catalog. For the Cadwalader chair, she was granted special access by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to photograph and measure the full-scale chair. Using that research, LaRoche was able to precisely scale down the designs and determine the best approach to carving the delicate details. Unlike Goldilocks, we think all three of these chairs are “just right!”

Maiolica in Miniature

Traditional Maiolica

During the Renaissance in Europe, owning colorful glazed pottery pieces known as maiolica (or majolica) was considered a sign of good taste and affluence. Named for the Spanish city of Majorca, this ceramic process made its way to Italy, France, and Mexico over the centuries. Maiolica’s intricate multicolored designs are created by applying a variety of metallic oxide glazes on top of a base layer of white glaze.

This miniature charger by Le Chateau Interiors was based on a full-scale 15th century charger at the J. Paul Getty Museum. In making the miniature, artist Jeffrey Guéno diverged from the traditional maiolica glazing process and applied both the white base glaze and colorful top glaze directly to the bisque pottery. Combining the layers allowed for the charger to retain the sharp details of the peacock feather pattern. Fine details are, after all, what make miniatures so spectacular!

A Miniature Stairway to Heaven

Miniature Les Paul

Unfortunately, there’s no Stairway to Heaven being played on this fine-scale miniature Les Paul (or maybe that’s fortunately, depending on what camp you fall in!). A favorite of visitors to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, this solid body electric guitar with white trim, brass tuning pegs and finger markings, and six strings is the work of fine-scale miniature artist Ken Manning.

Manning, who played the guitar, mouth organ, and accordion, combined his love for woodworking and music into a retirement “profession;” he made his first miniature at the age of 61. An IGMA Fellow, Manning was an internationally renowned craftsman of historic and contemporary fine-scale miniature stringed instruments: a variety of guitars, violins, banjos, mandolins, cellos, harps, lutes, double bass, ukulele, Japanese biwa, potbelly mandolin, and an Italian mandora. Think it’s hard enough to string a full-size guitar? Manning could string a miniature guitar in 1½ to 2 hours. An entire piece took him 40-50 hours to create, including a custom case.

A Classroom of Design: Sun and Sprinklers

William R. Robertson

While we’ve examined some of the furnishings in William R. Robertson’s Architecture Classroom, we have yet to focus in on the architectural elements… imagine that!

Chain-operated shades allow students to control the amount of sunlight coming through the skylight. And the amount of light is super important for the blueprint maker. The blueprint maker, copied from Oscar Perrigo’s 1906 Modern Machine Shop Construction, Equipment, and Management, is equipped with photo-sensitive paper mounted in glass frames. The paper can be easily exposed to sunlight by rolling it out in front of the windows. Voila blueprint!

Last but not least, in case of an emergency, Robertson researched Grinnell sprinkler head patents to ensure that the ones installed in the classroom were just right; those above the students’ heads are from an 1892 patent. Now that’s some starchitect-level attention to detail!

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