Small Talk Tag: Miniature

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!

The Wonderful World Of Miniatures

Courtesy Walt Disney Family Foundation, ©Disney

T/m founder Barbara Marshall wasn’t the only one inspired by the Thorne Rooms. Before settling at the Art Institute of Chicago and other art museums, the miniature rooms traveled the United States including an appearance at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. There, they captured the imagination of former Kansas City resident Walt Disney. Disney began collecting miniatures on his European travels, bringing home minuscule works in wood, glass, china, and metal.

He also tried his hand at the craft creating 100 5 ½” inch pot-bellied stoves that he gave to friends and sold for $25 each. To his delight, Thorne purchased two to add to her collection. In the 1950s, Disney began working with Disney Studio animators to create an entire miniature world that he coined “Disneylandia.” He envisioned placing the miniature settings on a special 21-car train; the animated scenes would tour the country and come to life when a quarter was deposited. Although the project never happened, some believe it was the forerunner for Disneyland.

Disney continued to use models and miniatures in dreaming and scheming for his big projects. Check out some of these miniatures from the Walt Disney Archives. And learn more about The Miniature Worlds of Walt at The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Photo: Courtesy Walt Disney Family Foundation, ©Disney

Art Nouveau Spring Sketches

Jardinere 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!

Mini Mirror on the Wall

Needlepoint Mirror

Constructed with rich materials in fine detail, this miniature needlepoint mirror looks like it could play a part in a tiny version of Snow White. The mirror’s stitched frame by miniaturist Annelle Ferguson is based on traditional 17th century design and depicts a king and queen, flowers, vines, and a fawn. The tortoiseshell and boxwood outer frame was painstakingly constructed by William R. Robertson. We personally think this mirror is definitely in the running for “fairest of them all.”

How can miniature artists like Ferguson achieve such tiny needlepoint? Well, it’s simple mathematics (ok, plus a lot of talent). Miniature needlepoint or petit point takes the art form to a smaller level by using finer canvases with higher thread counts and by using specialized needles made for working on a fine scale. Sounds easy enough to start your own needlepoint project, right? Whatever you do, just be sure to finish it! Then again, maybe we should leave the stitchery up to the pros for now.

Inspiring A Collection

The exterior of Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle prior to the conservation. [J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry]

One of the major inspirations for the modern fine-scale miniature movement is Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. The miniature, yet grand structure was completed in 1935 by artists and craftsmen of the day, and is similar to Queen Mary’s Dollhouse at Windsor Castle. It includes not only stunning miniature architectural details, but also tiny fine art pieces ranging from ancient antiquities to modern murals. Inspired by different fairy tales and folk tales such as The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Gulliver’s Travels, each room tells a different story!

Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle has been on display at the Museum of Science and Industry since 1949. Just like many older houses, the Fairy Castle’s electrical and plumbing systems (yes, miniature plumbing!) were in need of an upgrade in order to prevent damage to the structure and its contents. Earlier this year, a team of conservators revamped the castle, preserving it for generations to come.

Photo: The exterior of Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle prior to conservation. [J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry]

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