Small Talk Tag: William R. Robertson

From Whittling to Wood Carving: Tudor Furniture

Tudor Furniture

In addition to the beautiful wood carvings (link to previous blog post) adorning this Tudor bedroom’s walls and ceiling, Thomas Warner crafted the furniture. The chairs with crossed legs and the four-poster bed’s ornate details are carved out of walnut. The bible stand, or prie-dieu, is also intricately carved with a cross and features a slanted and hinged top.

Additional miniature artists lent their skills to furnish the room with rich textiles: needlework from Annelle Ferguson, upholstery by Frank Hanley and Jeffery Gueno (of Le Chateau Interiors), and an embroidery frame and gold jewel box by William R. Robertson.

From Whittling to Wood Carving: A Tudor Bedroom

tudor style woodwork

Thomas Warner received a pocketknife when he was just four years old, or so the story goes. From that moment on, Warner was a wood carver. Later in life, he would say that he “stumbled into” miniatures by adapting his life-long fondness for whittling into the more sophisticated crafting of miniatures.

In high school shop class, Warner gathered skills to make many of his own tools, including router beds, chisels, and finishing tools. And years of work as a mechanical engineer and draftsman trained him for precise scale workmanship. Warner’s English Tudor style bedroom at T/m has a carved white ceiling and dark wood walls. Unfortunately, Warner became too ill to finish the room, and fellow miniature artist William R. Robertson stepped in to add the finishing touches.

Seeing Double: The Devil’s in the Details

william r. robertson

And details there are! We’ve never tried it ourselves, but given a steady hand and a pair of tweezers, each microscopic door latch in Twin Manors can be locked with a sliver of a key. Every window glides open in its frame except for two fake windows on each side of the façade. These provide symmetry to the home, which was a very important aspect of Georgian-era design. And artist William R. Robertson even painted the brickwork with pigment made from the dust of 18th century brick!

Next time you visit T/m look closely and you can see a sampler in the back hallway by Robertson’s mom Esther Robertson. The sampler commemorates the completion of the two houses; the one in T/m’s home is dated 1989 for the first year the manor was on display. Come see it for yourself August 1, 2015 when the museum reopens!

Seeing Double: Dining in a Manor

Miniature dining room furniture

Like the rest of Twin Manors, the dining room took inspiration from 18th century homes: Wilton-on-the-James (c. 1753 in Virginia) and Wentworth-Gardner House (c. 1760 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire). The paneling on the back wall contains approximately 250 pieces of wood. Look closely and you can see the hidden doorway leading to the pantry in the back hallway on the left wall.

Not to be outdone for the holidays, Twin Manors has historically accurate Christmas decorations. Every holiday season the T/m staff decks the manor’s halls with swags and fruit arrangements (well, not real fruit… that wouldn’t be great for the art). The dining room chandelier is replaced with a Christmas chandelier and a festive bonbon centerpiece adorns the table along with a Williamsburg pineapple centerpiece.

Seeing Double: Furnishings Fit for a Georgian Colonial

Bill Robertson miniature woodworking

William R. Robertson furnished Twin Manors with historically accurate, 1:12 scale period furniture, accessories, and textiles produced by over 100 craftspeople, including some of his miniature artist friends and even his mother! At less than a foot tall, the master bedroom contains every eighteenth-century luxury (or at least what they considered luxury) imaginable: an embroidered bed canopy and spread, a brass bed warmer, and hand-worked rugs. All the textiles are either original designs by contemporary American artists inspired by historical pieces, or copies of objects in museum collections.

The center hallway combines elements from Tulip Hill (c. 1756 in Maryland) and The Lindens (c. 1754 in Danvers, Massachusetts). The stairway is composed of more than 1,000 pieces and the railing cap alone took 50 hours to make. The hand-painted wallpaper depicts 18th century houses. Heather Stewart Diaz spent more than a year on the watercolor scenes. The landing holds a tall case clock and the corner cupboard in the entryway holds a matched set of Imari bowls made especially for the house. No corner was left untouched!

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