Small Talk Tag: Linda LaRoche

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!”

Concluding An Art Nouveau Spring

jardiniere miniature

Spring turned into summer in the blink of an eye, so it’s time to wrap up our behind-the-scenes look at Linda LaRoche’s jardinière! After researching, sketching, carving, and assembling the pieces, LaRoche was almost finished with her jardinière. She faced one last challenge: it is a planter after all, and the full-scale jardinière has a watertight liner. How could LaRoche create a miniature liner?

The ingenious solution? Old paint tubes! LaRoche cut apart some of her used paint tubes and removed their inner lead liners. She flattened the liners, fitted them to the interior of the jardiniere’s basin, and voila! Every detail of the jardinière, from the precise carvings to the basin’s liner, matched the full-scale piece. After fourteen years of work, the jardinière was finally complete and ready for its place in the Masterpiece Gallery at T/m! We hope you enjoyed this journey through LaRoche’s creative process and are as inspired as we are by her ingenuity and dedication!

Assembling an Art Nouveau Spring

miniature marquetry

After researching the full-scale jardinière, sketching the designs, and carving the base for the miniature jardinière, 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… now that’s some miniature marquetry!

Carving An Art Nouveau Spring

jardiniere miniature 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!

Art Nouveau Spring Sketches

Jardiniere Sketch

We’re the first to admit that we wouldn’t even know where to begin creating something so beautifully intricate in such a small scale. Lucky for us (and for you), Linda LaRoche provided T/m with a behind the scenes look at the creation of Flora Marina, Flora Exotica.

We’ll be sharing insight into her process over the next couple of weeks, starting with this intricate sketch of the piece. First, LaRoche created a rough sketch of the object with the carvings and marquetry designs loosely drawn. Looking at all of her scaled measurements for the jardinière makes our heads spin!

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