Small Talk Tag: Miniature

How Do They Do It?

how miniatures are made

We get this question at T/m a LOT when people visit the fine-scale miniature galleries. We stay awake at night contemplating it ourselves. So, when we started talking about what we wanted to add to the miniature galleries, a look into fine-scale miniature artists’ studios was at the top of our list.

In T/m’s new exhibit, In The Artist’s Studio, visitors can watch four videos that take them into the studios of William R. Robertson and Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel. Not only did the artists let us invade their studios for multiple days of filming, which included shoving cameras inches from their faces (everything is really small!), but they also donated all of the tools they used and created multiple pieces that illustrate the steps in the process towards the final product. Robertson turned a metal candlestick on a lathe and carved a dovetail drawer. Chellis Wessel painted an egg tempera canvas and turned a ceramic plate on a wheel. While the exhibit provides some answers, it will still leave you in awe of their work!

Bitty Belter Furniture

belter furniture

Thomas Warner once explained his attraction to the Belter style: “I have to be able to capture the ‘feel’ that the original had. I think that’s why I enjoy the Belter designs so much. Its quality is massive—yet the intricate carvings make it ‘feel’ so delicate. It’s capturing the delicateness in such a heavy piece that is the true art—and the source of my genuine feeling of accomplishment.”

The center table in the Belter Parlor took about 40 hours to complete! Warner mainly used rosewood for the elaborate pierced carvings of the Belter style. John Belter himself favored rosewood and its ability to be bent and shaped without splitting or cracking like a more solid wood. In 1856, Belter patented a lamination process that allowed layers of wood to be more easily steamed into curves and carved.

Warner pieces’ replicate the intricate carvings of Belter furniture: multitude of grapes, vines, scrolls, and not a straight line in sight! If you are lucky enough to find a piece of Warner’s fine-scale miniature furniture (he produced limited quantities), it’ll be easy to tell it’s his: Warner signed all of his pieces.

First-Class Miniatures

Gingerbread House Stamps

Every December, we get pretty excited to see the latest gingerbread house creations that pop up on social media. After all, they are miniature structures, and they’re covered in candy and frosting! Miniature artist Teresa Layman is well-known for her intricately sweet houses—she’s even written a couple books on how to make them yourself.

Several years back, Layman asked her local postmaster about how postage stamp designs were chosen. The process begins with the submission of ideas to the Citizen’s Advisory Stamp Committee, and then a lot of waiting. Luckily, Layman’s postmaster put her in contact with a Postal Service stamps photographer who just happened to live a mile away. The photographer, Sally Andersen-Bruce, worked with Layman and USPS art director Derry Noyes over the course of a couple years to create a winning combination of four perfectly delectable gingerbread houses for the 2013 holiday season. How sweet is that!?
Photo: USPS.com

A Bitty Belter Parlor

Belter style

In 1982, Thomas Warner completed the Belter Parlor, so named for the style of furniture by John Henry Belter that adorns the room. Warner’s work was also inspired by many of his fellow miniature artists, including Harry Cooke, John Davenport, Arlyn Coad, and Hermania Anslinger.

The Belter Parlor features hand carved, detailed reproductions of Belter’s circa 1850 designs. In June 1987, Warner told Nutshell News that the Belter Parlor holds the best pieces he had ever created.

Warner became a miniature-making team with his wife Gloria Warner. If one didn’t like to or couldn’t do one aspect of a miniature, the other one could. Gloria often upholstered the furniture that Thomas carved. In the Belter Parlor, Gloria also made the drapes, while Henry Whalon made the rugs.

Raise a Glass

miniature cranberry glass

Thanksgiving is upon us, which means lots of turkey, pumpkin pie, and of course cranberry everything: sauce, stuffing, desserts, and even glassware. That’s right, this rose-colored type of glass is named after the holiday fruit, but it actually dates back to the Roman Empire. Surprisingly, the art of making the glass is rather expensive because gold is added to the molten glass to achieve the cranberry color before it is molded or blown into its final shape.

The photograph above pairs a full-size Victorian-style cranberry glass goblet with a variety of fine-scale miniature cranberry glass works by Francis Whittemore. The pieces include diminutive stemware, decanters with functional stoppers, and a punch bowl with cut details that is just big enough to fit an actual cranberry.

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