Small Talk / Miniature

Assembling an Art Nouveau Spring

Jardinere PiecingTogether

After researching the full-scale jardinière, sketching the designs, and carving the base for the fine-scale miniature, artist Linda LaRoche created the basin of the jardinière by hollowing and carving blocks of plum wood to shape the sides. The next challenge was creating the delicate animals, people, and foliage that decorate the curved walls of the container.

Using a method known as marquetry, LaRoche sketched the design onto the basin’s wooden surface and then traced a copy of the design onto paper. LaRoche placed the paper copy over thin pieces of wood called veneer in order to carve an outline of the design into the wood. This process left LaRoche with hundreds of tiny pieces of carved wood that perfectly matched the original sketch. Now for the fun part! LaRoche had an intricate jigsaw puzzle to complete; she assembled the tiny veneer pieces over the sketched design on the basin’s surface. One side of the basin’s design consists of over 150 tiny pieces of wood; each was individually laid and glued on the surface, taking LaRoche two and a half years (out of the fourteen needed for the entire piece) to complete.

Happy or Haunted?

Versailles_MulvaneyRogers

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived from 535-475 BC got it right: the only thing constant is change. Whether bustling with people or sparsely populated (or even abandoned), places change: Paris  looks much different than it did 100 years ago; Colorado isn’t the same place it was in 1870. Although they are recreating an existing piece, when miniature artists begin a new project they get to determine the atmosphere: is it 1472 with the original occupants in residence or is it the present day? Is the sun shining at high noon or preparing to set for the evening?

Harry Smith, and Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers have two very different interpretations of the Palace of Versailles. Smith’s Louis XV study appears as though King Louis XV just stepped out for an afternoon stroll in the delightful gardens. Mulvany and Rogers’s deserted garden pavilion in a long-ago abandoned Versailles is filled with clouded glass, tattered remnants of history, and a foreboding sense of better days gone by. The artists used artistic details to convey two very different, but very wonderful, atmospheres! The artists used artistic details to convey two very different, but very wonderful, atmospheres!

Photo courtesy of Mulvany and Rogers.

The Ghosts of Versailles

Ghosts of Versailles

Miniature artists are in the business of re-creation. Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers re-create historically significant European and North American buildings and their interiors. But they aren’t just in the business of re-creating walls, moldings, and mortise and tenon joints; they aim to recreate atmosphere. And when you’re talking about buildings and interiors that are hundreds of years old, the atmosphere choices are endless. Mulvany and Rogers design their interiors to feel as though someone—or some  ghost—has just left the room.

With the help of young filmmakers Max Mulvany and Sam Vincent of Surrealist Studios, the miniature artists brought to life their deserted Versailles garden pavilion to explore the effects of the slow, relentless passage of time on a once grand building. Check out The Ghosts of Versailles.

A Miniature Trip to Versailles

Versailles_Smith

We like to bring back mementos from our travels: a postcard from the Grand Canyon, a souvenir spoon from Washington, D.C., a miniature Eiffel Tower from Paris. When miniature artists travel, they bring home inspiration and meticulous notes for their next project; Harry Smith’s mementos helped him craft this room in his beautiful Maine studio (with a little help from his cat).

Smith spent 6,000 hours on Louis XV’s “cabinet intérieur du Roi,” the king’s study or corner room, in the Palace of Versailles. As far as studies of the rich and famous go, Louis XV’s is one of the most luxurious. To create the room, Smith worked with many different mediums and processes. He hand-laid 2,200 individual pieces of wood for the parquet flooring. He hand-carved 3,300 gilded moldings to adorn the walls. He dressed the thirty-arm chandelier with 304 crystals. Each candle in the chandelier and throughout the room is wired to an electronic circuit board, enabling them to flicker at different speeds and intensities. And as if that wasn’t enough, Smith furnished the room with a replica of Louis’s cylinder top desk, which is inlaid with 36 different types of wood. He even carved a tiny key that sits in the desk’s keyhole!

Carving An Art Nouveau Spring

Jardiniere Carving

Earlier, we examined Linda LaRoche’s sketches for the jardinière, which were just the first part of the process! Using the detailed drawings, LaRoche sculpted a clay model of the jardinière’s base. Sculpting the model at approximately five times the size of the final product helped her learn the design so she could more easily replicate it in 1/12th scale.

Using the knowledge she gained while working on the clay model, LaRoche carved the base out of plumwood with tools she made by hand. Each side of the base features a different animal. One side has two crabs walking toward each other; the other has a coiled sea serpent or dolphin. The delicate cabriole legs feature tiny dolphin heads. With all of these incredible details, we think planting miniature flowers in this jardinière would only be a distraction!

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