Small Talk Tag: Miniature

A Cabinet of Curiosity

Antwerp Cabinet

The bold and ornate details on the outside of the 1:12 scale Antwerp cabinet really make a statement. Created by artist Pierre Mourey in 1999, the leggy cabinet was inspired by 17th-century Dutch cabinets of curiosities. Traditionally, these cabinets were adorned with exotic materials like tortoise shell, ebony, and mother of pearl.

Mourey, however, had to figure out a way to emulate in miniature not only the style of the cabinet, but also the fine embellishments. Reverse-painted red acetate (the kind of material eyeglass frames are made of) was used to resemble tortoise shell. Although it’s made of walnut, the cabinet has been ebonized, or treated with a special chemical mixture to give it the look of dark ebony wood. Stay tuned; we’ll reveal the cabinet’s equally stunning interior soon!

Building a Fine-Scale Collection

fine-scale miniature

What started as a souvenir in the 1950s, became a serious collection by the 1970s, a museum by 1982, and is today the world’s largest and finest collection. Museum co-founder Barbara Marshall combined her love for small things with an eye for detail refined throughout her professional career in Hallmark’s art department and volunteer service at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The combination resulted in a patron that desired only the highest quality work from artists that could meet her standards.

Marshall encouraged artists to create their dream fine-scale works, allowing many artists to explore the boundaries of the art form. The outcomes can be seen throughout T/m’s miniature galleries, including Emperor Charles V of Spain and Queen Isabella of Portugal.

Inspiring a Fine-Scale Collection

fine-scale miniature

On Small Talk, we’ve already looked at three miniature commissions in the early 20th century that helped spark the fine-scale miniature movement: Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, and the Thorne Rooms. All three commissions employed full-scale craftsmen to create miniature versions of their work for public exhibition. But how did the museum’s collection come to be?

Museum founder Barbara Marshall loved small things. Contrary to most children, she always looked forward to getting the “smallest” present. In the 1950s, she discovered the shop of Eric Pearson, one of the craftsman hired to furnish the Thorne Rooms. A 1:12 scale Pearson rocking chair began her collection that is now the largest in the world. Stay tuned for more about Marshall and the gigantic, miniature collection she built.

Details Wright to Scale

William Martin Breakfast Room

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s belief in gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art” meant that all the components of his designs matched each other, as seen in the art glass cabinetry, windows, and furniture in the William Martin Breakfast Room. In order to get the sharp geometric details just right in miniature, artists Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd had to rely on some pretty clever techniques to emulate the look of leaded glass. First, Jedd fabricated the art glass panes out of strip styrene glued to 1/8 inch glass. Ashby then applied several layers of acrylic paint, bronzing powder, and gel medium to emulate the texture of leading.

Prairie Style accessories in the room include works by a variety of other artists. Ceramics by Jane Mellick and Carol Mann sit on a matching table in the window. Delicate glassware by Jacqueline Kerr Dieber is kept in the built-in cabinets. And of course you can’t get much more “prairie style” than the floral arrangement of grasses and black-eyed Susans on the table by Nancy Van DeLoo.

Furniture Wright to Scale

Martin House

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed his buildings and homes in their entirety, often right down to the furniture. Wright believed that architecture should be suited to its environment, and similarly the components of a home should match the architecture. As a result, the art glass windows, built-in cabinetry, and dining set in the William E. Martin House all tie in with the home’s Prairie style aesthetic.

Taking Wright’s principles into account, artists Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd built the Martin House dining table and chairs to match the original design. Just like in the room’s trim, they substituted quarter sawn oak for cherry for its small grain and workability. The top of the chairs also contain mother of pearl inlay to mirror the art glass design in the window. Other handcrafted, Prairie style accessories in the room include works by a variety of artists, which we’ll look at next time!

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