Small Talk Tag: Miniature

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!

The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination

miniature Disneyland

As we know from an earlier blog post, Walt Disney was a huge fan of miniatures. Disney dreamed of creating little vignettes of America, placing them on a train, and touring them around the U.S. Although “Disneylandia” eventually grew to be a much bigger project, Disneyland, his “lands” were miniaturized and put on public view at The Walt Disney Family Museum. “The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination” represents the park with attractions that existed or were in development during Disney’s lifetime. Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and her family worked with Kerner Optical for nine months before premiering the model at the museum in September of 2009.

As with any other miniature, no detail was overlooked. The Rivers of America were crafted out of blue-painted shower door Plexiglas on a green base to create the illusion of depth. And all the hand sculpture flags fly in an eastern direction just as they would in Disneyland due to the western ocean breeze. Anyone familiar with the park may wonder if the model includes any hidden Mickeys. It doesn’t, but don’t be disappointed! Two hidden Walts can be found walking with his daughter behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle and riding in a red Autopia car.
Photo: Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Design for Eternity

Design for Eternity

The phrase “you can’t take it with you” certainly hasn’t been around forever. As The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas shows, ancient Mesoamerican and Andean cultures may have believed quite the opposite. From 100 B.C. until European contact in the sixteenth century, artists in the ancient Americas created small-scale models to be placed in the tombs of important individuals.

Although there is very little documentation on how these objects were used, Maya hieroglyphs refer to the miniature structures as “god houses” or “sleeping places for the gods.” The exhibit includes examples of these models in a variety of materials including ceramic, wood, stone, and metal that replicate historic palaces, temples, and everyday living spaces. Even though their original intentions may be lost, it’s fascinating to see evidence of humankind’s long-standing interest in miniature art.
Photo: House Model, 100 B.C.-A.D. 200, Nayarit, Mexico. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org.

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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