Small Talk Tag: James Hastrich

The Magic of Color and Finish… On The Walls?

Hastrich Chest and Faux Paint Samples

While we may have gotten a time out for coloring on the walls and furniture, James Hastrich pays homage to his early-American predecessors by doing just that with each of his miniature creations. He modeled his artist’s sample box after one owned by 19th century stenciling master Moses Eaton.

These traveling artists, known as itinerant painters, journeyed from town to town with their sample box, showcasing their skills to potential patrons. In return for food and lodging, these artists painted furniture (such as this chest in the style of Rufus Porter’s folk art landscapes), walls, and even floors with stenciled patterns inspired by wallpaper—which was too expensive for many families before the Industrial Revolution standardized mass production and reduced costs.

Today, some lucky New England homeowners are still discovering original stenciled patterns beneath layers of wallpaper. Maybe someday we’ll find hidden designs in one of our miniature room settings.

“The Finish and Color… is the Magic For Me”

Faux Paint Samples

Originally a maker of full-sized furniture (do you see another theme here?!), James Hastrich became engrossed in miniature making after constructing a 1/12th scale desk for a client. So much so that in 1977 he sold his furniture shop and fully devoted his time to the art of producing Early American painted furniture in fine-scale. Hastrich hand paints all of his pieces using traditional methods and materials.

The artist’s sample box is based on one owned by Moses Eaton, a traveling painter specializing in faux graining and stenciling. Unlike the DIYers with their plastic grocery bag techniques today, the decorative painters of the 18th and 19th century were highly skilled. Eaton’s work adorned the walls of homes along the East Coast between 1800 and 1830. Hastrich replicated Eaton’s wood paint samples using historical methods such as vinegar grainingsmoke graining, and brush stroke graining.

Love Chest Revisited

Hadley Chest Behind-the-Scenes

We always feel very fortunate here at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures when artists give us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of their masterpieces like this Hadley Chest by James Hastrich and Linda LaRoche. In order to accurately reproduce historical pieces such as the Hadley Chest at Historic Deerfield, museums grant artists access to collection objects so they can take detailed measurements and photographs.

In service to scale, miniature artists substitute woods like plum, pear, cherry and boxwood for the smaller grain. The smaller, tighter grain creates the same effect as the soft maple, chestnut, oak and white pine used on the full scale Hadley Chest.

Love Chest

HadleyChest

The full-scale version of this Hadley Chest belonged to Hepzibah Dickinson. Carved with her initials in the inner panel, she received it as a wedding gift when she married Jonathan Belding of Northfield, Massachusetts in 1720. A traditional gift for the time, it would have been on every bride’s Target Wedding Registry (kidding!). Hadley chests are heavy, wide-board, mortise-and-tenoned chests painted and elaborately carved with leaves and flat flowers (tulips were the most popular). The chest’s name derives from its place and time period of origin: western Massachusetts between 1680 and 1740.

We doubt our version would store all of Hepzibah’s clothes and linens! The 1/12-inch scale chest by Linda LaRoche and James Hastrich is a replica of the full-scale version in the furniture collection of Historic Deerfield. The miniature Hadley chest was also the result of a happy union: it is the first collaborative piece of the artists. In 2011, LaRoche and Hastrich visited T/m to talk about their labor of love.