Small Talk Tag: William R. Robertson

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!

Filigree Finery

filigree box

You just never know where or when inspiration will hit you. Unless, of course, you’re artist William R. Robertson, who seeks out his inspiration in the rare and refined decorative arts collections of some of the world’s best museums. This 1:12 scale chest was inspired by a trip to the Musée le Secq des Tournelles (The Wrought Iron Museum) in Rouen, France.

While noble houses of 17th century Europe would use boxes like these to store valuables like jewelry, although this miniature version might only hold a couple of gemstones. Robertson constructed the chest with ebony and 18 karat gold filigree panels, each with a crisp beaded edge. The box lid is hinged and features a functional lock and key. As a special touch, the artist microscopically signed his name beneath the handle, but don’t strain your eyes trying to read it!

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!

From Whittling to Wood Carving: Tudor Furniture

Tudor Furniture

In addition to the beautiful wood carvings 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.

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