» Minis Magnified
Minis Magnified is a series of articles about select miniatures from the collection of The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. Beginning with issue 5, these articles are written by Museum Services Manager Emily Wolverton. We hope you enjoy learning more about the miniatures in our collection.
The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of preserving and promoting the art of miniatures. Click here to support us in our mission.
Our museum’s galleries are filled with unique and one of a kind creations, each with a notable history that our visitors may never know. All too often these treasures are passed over with only a slight nod, the visitor unaware of the tenderness that was involved in the making. As a culture, we are so deeply inundated with mass produced trinkets that our eyes must be retrained to catch the truly handmade gifts of patience and skill. As a writer for our museum, it is a pleasure to lift such items out of their settings where they blend so easily as to go unnoticed. When standing tall in the spotlight, I find even the smallest pot can have a story worth telling.
The pottery of Eileen and the late Sid Vernon can be found in collections all over the world, and the attentive visitor will spot their wares throughout our galleries. Vernon Pottery is thrown by hand and extremely well made, reflective of an expert partnership spanning decades. Sid’s masterful eye and Eileen’s delicate precision allowed the duo to work harmoniously, sharing ideas and developing new pieces. In her article, “Behind the Wheel At Vernon Pottery,” Sybil Harp describes the Vernon’s home studio – a converted garage – which allowed the couple to share three of their passions: pottery, animals, and classical music. “Almost every day in the Vernons’ studio, classical music plays on the stereo while a menagerie of animals talk, squawk, chatter, munch and whistle over the hum of the pottery wheels,” writes Harp. She describes the happy goings-on of birds, tortoises, a cat, and even a rescued squirrel, all relaxing in the tranquility of that creative space while Sid and Eileen produced their celebrated salt-glazed pieces. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
May 14th, 2015
With regard to dollhouses, the use of a standardized scale is a relatively modern idea. Although the concept of dollhouses have been around for a few centuries, it was not until the 20th century that standardized scales began to slowly take root, due largely to the toy
industry. The popularity of 1/12 scale – now considered the standard scale for dolls’ houses – began to take hold initially thanks to the international fame of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, a monumental feat of the 1920s, which included perfectly scaled and
functional miniaturized replica furnishings from Windsor Castle. However, we can give thanks to adult hobbyists and the resurgence of dollhouse popularity in the 1970s for the ability to find uniformly scaled dollhouse miniatures today, making it easier than at any other time in history to find furnishings that can suit any aficionado’s tastes. From this tidal wave of revived enthusiasm other scales came to find their own devoted following including 1/144 scale, where one inch equals 144 inches in miniature.
Mathematically, this scale is the square root of 1/12 scale and is the ideal scale for a dollhouse within a dollhouse. Masters of this scale are immensely popular, allowing collectors such as our own Museum Founder, Pat Arnell, to display a passion for fine scale miniatures on multiple levels – truly creating worlds within worlds. Continue reading a pdf of this article >>
April 10th, 2015
Although Walter Arnell wasn’t a miniature artisan himself, he encouraged his wife, Pat’s interest and always supported her in her hobby. As Pat’s collection grew he helped design appropriate lighting for viewing the pieces in their home. Walter was very involved with the building of the museum and documented it’s progress as well as miniatures in the collection on film. Pat’s enthusiasm for miniatures even rubbed off on him. This is a guide to several miniatures in our collection that have special relevance to this great man. Continue reading a pdf of this article >>
March 11th, 2015
When visitors come to our museum, they may find themselves astonished by the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans, or swept up in the romance of the love-worn antiques, or simply intrigued by the ancient history of humanity’s fascination with miniatures. But there is something else at play within our walls – an inescapable feeling of nostalgia, a persistent tingle of fond childhood memories that trigger unexpected pleasure. This is a place that can make a person feel like a kid again, that proverbial state of mind of the blissfully young at heart. The world of miniatures by its very design allows us to look at the world through the fresh eyes of wonder. Our Museum Founder, Pat Arnell, is known to tell curious museum-goers that she’s “just a kid who never grew up,” always spoken with a little grin. The Museum is filled with her playful touches, the most beloved of all being our mascot, the fairy Caitlin, who hides throughout the galleries in her many disguises. Pat loves fairies and the rich traditions of fairy lore, making it no surprise that she was drawn to the work of Sue Ann “LadyBug” Thwaite.
Sue Ann Thwaite, known professionally as LadyBug, is regarded as a kind and fanciful spirit in the miniature world. Her miniature scenes and creatures are born from the realms of imagination, deeply rooted in a love for nature and the joyous mischief of fairy folk. In her article, “The Lady Bug Spell,” Marta Bender writes of how Thwaite works primarily with found objects from her environment, assembling buildings just as she did as a young girl during her summers in the Appalachian mountains.1 Thwaite tells Bender of how her “Pap didn’t believe in store-bought toys…he believed that you lived off the land. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, he’d give us a box of toothpicks that we’d use to make log cabins. We would walk along a path and pick up sticks and leaves. When our hands got too full, we’d stop and build little fairy houses.”2 This sort of creative process comes very easily to children, which is why Thwaite has such a wonderful rapport with the children who stop by her booth or attend one of her workshops. Continue reading a pdf of this article >>
February 13th, 2015
February always ushers in a sentimental air, and visitors may find their gaze lingering on the softer details of our collection. Wandering the galleries with an appreciation for an artist’s hints of tenderness leads to countless joyful surprises: the capricious sweetness of children’s bedrooms, the feminine warmth of delicately stitched gowns, or the fragile petals of flowers lighter than a blade of grass. These singular elements contribute to the overall atmosphere of a finished piece and enhance the visitor’s understanding of the artist’s intentions. In this sense, even the smallest details of a work can become critically influential, no matter how subtle they might appear. The painted miniature bronzes of Robert Olszewski have been subtly shaping our visitor’s experience like a silent army, a multitude of diminutive works tucked into all corners of our collection. More than 60 of
Olszewski’s works can be found in our galleries, housed in just under 20 roomboxes and dollhouses.
The great quantity of his work can be traced to our Museum Founder, Pat Arnell. A collector at heart, it is no surprise that Pat has created a miniature world of fellow enthusiasts – her love affair with Olszewski’s small-scale pieces has produced small homes run by his would-be collectors. His statuary adorn bookshelves and fireplace mantles, bedside tables, desks, and credenzas. Once you have learned to recognize his work, you can readily spot them. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
January 23rd, 2015
Our Museum’s History Gallery is filled with artifacts that seem to breathe; their wooden frames and faded paper skins are saturated with untold memories of touch, sounds, and smells. These small houses and miniature rooms are repositories of the past, acting as three-dimensional studies of cultural trends and human ingenuity. Many of the pieces have rich and colorful backstories. For others, their provenance remains largely silent, slowly revealing their chronicles to historians through patient victories. The Daneway House (ca.1775) has divulged some of the most curious stories, thanks largely to the investigative work of Museum conservationist, Casey Rice.
The Daneway House is a George III style Baby House built in England, circa 1775. It was acquired by Museum Founder Pat Arnell in 1988, and restored by Casey Rice that same year. The term “Baby House” refers to a common practice of the wealthy of 17th and 18th century Europe to collect miniatures and display them as a novel curiosity; therefore, Baby Houses resemble stylized cabinets rather than small houses, and are intended to merely show off a collection of miniature pieces rather than be an object of play. At well over 200 years old (older than the United States, itself), the Daneway House has unsurprisingly had multiple owners. Consequently, the piece was altered and in some cases damaged due to the careless actions of these alleged caretakers. For example, the original façade of the Daneway House was lost at some time during its long history. Rice designed a replacement façade based on historical research into the period architecture, which replicates the front wall of the home. This façade would have been attached with hinges to both sides of the cabinet front, opening as two doors that join in the center. For our exhibit purposes the museum keeps the façade on display in a glass cabinet on the wall to the right of the piece. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
December 12th, 2014
It’s hard not to feel the warm glow of nostalgia during the holiday season, when traditions which have been passed down through generations are once again celebrated with loved ones and friends. For those who celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, this time of year also brings swells of generosity, manifesting in kind deeds, thoughtful words, and considerate gifts to warm the heart and home. For children, the anticipation surrounding these holidays fosters joyous life-long memories of hopes and wishes made true. The “Dream Toy” for children changes as they grow and has evolved with each new generation – but one toy has managed to remain as popular now, as ever: the dollhouse.
Once one of the most coveted objects of play, the dollhouse came gloriously marching into the homes of the middle class thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Mass-production made toys affordable, and children all across Europe and America would soon be found gazing longingly at the dog-eared pages of toy catalogs. In America, one of the most successful toy companies of its day was the R. Bliss Manufacturing Co., established in 1832, whose iconic dollhouses and toys have now become cherished pieces of museums and private collectors from all over the world. Here at The Mini Time Machine Museum, we are fortunate enough to have eight Bliss buildings in our collection – six houses, one stable, and one cabin – as well as two sets of Bliss ABC Furniture. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
November 13th, 2014
Peter Westcott’s Great Hall (1983) captures the immense, airy space of early Tudor halls in a way almost inconceivable on the small scale. He magnificently recreates the high, arch-braced hammerbeam ceiling, drawing the eye upwards to the heavens in architectural wonder. The long, dark timber of the floor draws the gaze inward, just as the heavy paneling on the walls wrap the space in a dark warmth that is both daunting and profound. This is a space for intimidating rivals and impressing guests, a hall that demands whispered voices and respectful passage. There is no fire burning in the hearth, but the ghost of past roaring flames can be felt in imagined red flickering along the walls, casting somber shadows – without the heat of these flames the room is drafty and cold. Three suits of armor stand vigil, hollow men trapped in duty, unsullied reminders of past oaths and great victories. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
October 20th, 2014
W. Foster Tracy, known as Tracy to his friends, was a well-known American miniaturist who specialized in making miniature instruments, primarily string instruments. This piece is titled 18th Century Violin Maker’s Shop, and it is registered as number 2 of 6 identical works which he constructed in 1979. The subject of this piece is a literal, one-inch scale reproduction of what a violin maker’s studio might look like in the 18th century, and it is made all the more compelling because the scene itself is encased within an actual full-scale violin. To achieve this, the majority of the front face of the violin has been removed, leaving the hollow interior as the space in which to re-create the studio. Due to the narrow depth of the full-scale violin, what is shown here is merely a slice of the workshop, only representing one wall of what would be a larger space, extending past the boundaries of the violin vessel. The piece is resting on a four inch piece of grey marble, into which Tracy carved his name, the title of the piece, and the abbreviation for South Montrose, Pennsylvania, where he lived and worked. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
September 1st, 2014
The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is bustling with visitors as we celebrate our 5th anniversary. The staff have been reminiscing over many joyous memories, the creative solutions to new challenges and pride in our continuing development of educational and inspirational programming. It is the perfect time to reflect upon the original dreams of our founders Patricia and Walter Arnell, whose vision and dedication have brought so much joy to so many. Their mission to preserve and advance the art of miniatures, showcasing the fine-scale masterpieces of the international miniature community, has been met by our staff and board with ambitious goals and innovative projects such as Sizing Up My World mini grants for field trips and outreach and our Touch Tours for the visually impaired. And yet, there is an element here that cannot be measured, that fundamental breath of life to our visitor experience that is felt by young and old alike. There is magic here, a jolly twinkle that springs from the young-at-heart, fostered by our Founders and stitched into the very fabric of our museum. And there can be no better example of this playful tenet than our resident fairy, Caitlin.
Caitlin stems from the imagination of Patricia Arnell, the charming embodiment of her lifelong love of storytelling (and her spirited sense of humor). Caitlin exists in many forms: as 1:12 scale figures in her many disguises; as a beam of sparkling light; as the tinkling of chimes overhead; and as an elusive spirit in our Enchanted Tree, who appears and then vanishes into the ether. Designed to be the museum’s ambassador, Caitlin’s influence is felt from the first moment. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
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- YOUTH (AGE 4-17): $6
- CHILDREN 3 AND UNDER: FREE
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4455 E. Camp Lowell Drive
Tucson, AZ 85712