Small Talk / Miniature

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!

A Classroom of Design

Miniature architecture

While many students are excited to be out of school for the summer, we’re going to head back inside to take a closer look at our favorite classrooms: William R. Robertson’s Architect’s Classroom. Crafted over 2,000 hours between 1988 and 1993, the circa 1900 1:12 scale classroom is only 24” x 33” x 19”. Similar to Robertson’s Twin Manors, the Architect’s Classroom is not a copy of one particular room, but a composite of many early classrooms discovered through meticulous research. And much like all of Robertson’s work, everything—and we mean everything—in the classroom works!

All students need a desk, and these desks are top of the line! Fashioned after a model in the Keuffer and Esser Co. catalog, the bases are cast in iron with Robertson’s initials and the date they were made. The large desktops tilt with a gear and rack system, while the smaller ones utilize knurled knobs. Like the matching stools, the desks raise, lower, turn, and roll of steel-wheeled castors. And every supply they would need is fully stocked: T-squares, rulers, protractors, parallels, compasses, watercolors, sloping tiles, glass and pewter bottles, pallets, blotters, erasers, crayons, pens, pencils, brushes, pencil sharpeners, and thumb tack lifters. And after all that, we’re not even close to being done. Stay tuned to learn a lot more!

Making Mathematical Miniatures

Emily Good

According to Newton’s First Law of Motion… OK, we’ll admit we don’t exactly remember everything from physics class! Physicist-turned-miniaturist Emily Good, however, was on top of her game when she created the grouping seen here, which includes a daybed, bureau, bowl, candlestick, and an urn. It’s incredible to see Good’s mastery of a wide variety of materials, especially since she received no artistic training until discovering miniature making.

Just how did she manage to do it? T/m is fortunate to have a seven-volume catalog of Good’s work along with her personal notes and correspondences. Included in her records is a description outlining her very mathematical approach to making miniatures. For example, with the precision of, well, a mathematician, she was able to calculate the shrinkage rate for casting ceramics.

Good’s lifelong love of antiques is also evident in her notes. She meticulously documented the full-scale decorative arts objects that served as inspiration for her works, even citing what issue of Antiques magazine she found them. Perhaps most importantly, Good championed a trial and error methodology. She described in a letter that her method of wax modeling was not the sanctioned way of doing it, and a response from a jeweler who told her, “There is no right or wrong way. There are only different ways.”

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