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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.

Minis Magnified Model Horse and Tack

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Leather Saddle, 1995; Mint O’odham Saddle Blanket, 2014; Stone Model ISH Mare “Carob”, 1999.  Created by Susan Bensema Young

This miniature worked leather Western-style horse saddle with hand embroidered saddle blanket, created by Susan Bensema Young, is an accurate miniature copy in the traditional 1:9 (1.2”) scale. It includes all the straps and metal fittings of a full-size piece. The Mint O’odham Saddle Blanket took Susan nine months to complete in cross stitch. She took some liberties with the cross stitch technique; instead of doing the standard two crossing strands of floss for each square, Susan chose to consider half a square to be a square, that is, two holes were covered with one pass of floss making it easier to complete and give the piece a unique texture.  This blanket was named “Mint” because of the pale green color of the blanket. The pattern on the blanket was based on a Chris Armstrong O’odham design, named after the Southwest Native American tribe.

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Susan Bensema Young has been a model horse tackmaker since 1979 and is the author of Guide to Making Model Horse Tack (1998). She is best known for her Western tack. Susan’s work is in high demand and she is generally working on commissions two years out. She is an active member in North American Model Horse Shows Association (NAMHSA). NAMHSA was established in 1994 by a group of hobbyists online. NAMHSA’s mission is to serve as an inclusive organization to promote the model horse hobby. Its’ aim is to promote all facets of the model horse hobby and to provide support for the future development of model horse showing, customizing, and collecting.

About the Model Horse

Peter Stone worked for Breyer Model Horse Company until 1994 when he formed his own business, Peter Stone Company. Now Stone is headquartered in Shipshewnas, IN. ISH stands for “Ideal Stock Horse”. Carob was sculpted by Carol Williams, considered one of the greatest sculptresses. The ISH was originally a private sculpture released in cold-cast resin (1988-1997).

Find this model horse and tack on display in our Exploring the World Gallery.


Minis Magnified Issue No. 63 Take a Seat! Pt. 3

WRITTEN BY MUSEUM SERVICES MANAGER, EMILY WOLVERTON

Issue No. 63 of Minis Magnified will be broken down into three parts, each magnifying a couple exquisite seats in our collection.

Take a Seat! Exploring Some of the Whimsical and Historical Chairs in our Collection. Pt. 3 of 3 | Read Pt. 2

Some of our most interesting pieces of furniture can be found in our History Gallery, where antique miniatures dating as far back as 1742 tell stories of bygone eras. These well-worn objects of play now serve quietly as time capsules, reverent sentinels of long-forgotten memories. Among the many faded building facades, our collection of Bliss ABC Furniture stands out. Like the Bliss houses in which they would reside, this set of chairs and accompanying couch were the result of some of the very earliest American toy assembly lines, brought about by the Industrial Revolution. The simplicity of their design is what made them so economical to produce: brightly colored lithographed paper over simple wooden shapes. Established in 1832, the craftsmanship of the R. Bliss Manufacturing Co. ensured their durability: all of the furniture is made from seasoned wood, which has prevented warping over the last century, as well as real nails instead of glue (which eventually dries and splits). Even the lithographed paper, although cheaper to produce than painted furniture, lends a hand to the longevity of the pieces, since paint will eventually become brittle and chip away. Only the faded colors hint at their old age; they are still remarkably sturdy.

Bliss ABC Furniture. R. Bliss Manufacturing Co. ca 1910. History Gallery. Photograph by Michael Muscarello.

Bliss ABC Furniture. R. Bliss Manufacturing Co. ca 1910. History Gallery. Photograph by Michael Muscarello.

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Minis Magnified Issue No. 63 Take a Seat! Pt. 2

WRITTEN BY MUSEUM SERVICES MANAGER, EMILY WOLVERTON

Issue No. 63 of Minis Magnified will be broken down into three parts, each magnifying a couple exquisite seats in our collection.

Take a Seat! Exploring Some of the Whimsical and Historical Chairs in our Collection. Pt. 2 of 3 | Read Pt. 1

While we’re at it, let’s look at another table with a hidden seating agenda. Known either as a chairtable or a tilt-top table, this unique piece of furniture is another example of 18th century innovation, based on utilitarian principles. Although featured in our Shaker Kitchen, the chairtable was a common piece of furniture for many groups of American colonists and continued to be a staple for pioneers headed West. The chairtable’s primary function was to act as a chair, with the table-top folded back so that the chair could be against a wall, thus saving precious space in small homes which often consisted of just one large shared area. When a table was needed, the chairtable transformed. Most chairtables included one more practical purpose: additional storage space, typically in the form of a small lidded chest (like the examples shown here) or as a cabinet with a pull-out drawer. Since the chairtable in our Shaker Kitchen is on display in table-form, it is a pleasure to point out that sometimes there is more to a piece than meets the eye.

(Above, Left) The chairtable located in Shaker Kitchen (A Houseparty Helper from a N.A.M.E. National Convention, ca. 1990s). Located in our Exploring the World Gallery. (Above, Center) An example of a chairtable from our museum’s Touch Tours Tactile Collection, demonstrating the transformation from table into chair. (Above, Right) The lid of the seat is opened, revealing the additional storage capacity. Photographs by Emily Wolverton.

(Above, Left) The chairtable located in Shaker Kitchen (A Houseparty Helper from a N.A.M.E. National Convention, ca. 1990s). Located in our Exploring the World Gallery. (Above, Center) An example of a chairtable from our museum’s Touch Tours Tactile Collection, demonstrating the transformation from table into chair. (Above, Right) The lid of the seat is opened, revealing the additional storage capacity. Photographs by Emily Wolverton.

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Minis Magnified Issue No. 63 Take a Seat! Pt. 1

Written by Museum Services Manager, Emily Wolverton

Issue No. 63 of Minis Magnified will be broken down into three parts, each magnifying a couple exquisite seats in our collection.

Take a Seat! Exploring Some of the Whimsical and Historical Chairs in our Collection. Pt. 1 of 3

Ah yes, the Chair. How can it be that something so utterly mundane can likewise speak volumes about a time period, a culture, or an artistic movement? Throughout history seating has evolved in a class of its own, highlighting human ingenuity and addressing a gamut of personal concerns from the aesthetic to the practical. Chairs can and have been made from a staggering variety of materials, including concrete, wood, bone, plastic, natural fibers, and metal. They are made for comfort, allowing a person to sink into their cushions like an embrace; they are lightweight and compact, durable enough to take a tumble down a hillside. We even have chairs that encourage us not to sit, addressing our new era of prolonged inactivity. Miniaturists are acutely aware of the role that a chair can play in a setting: furniture is a tell-tale indicator of not just the recreated time period but also the social status and personality of the inhabitant. The right chair tells the right story. Throughout our galleries you will find hundreds of miniature chairs, each deserving of appreciation; today, over the next few months we will take a look at just a handful of these small scale seats, those whose historical significance, craftsmanship, and novelty have begged the spotlight.

Shoo Fly Chair The Mini Time Machine

The “Shoo-Fly Chair.” Located in Lagniappe (Madelyn Cook, 1977-78, Acquired 2010). Museum Lobby. Photograph by Amy Haskell.

The Shoo-Fly Chair

Much can be said about brilliant miniaturist, Madelyn Cook. The pieces which she has donated to our collection over the years have become crowd favorites, standing out as stellar examples of dexterity and imagination. Above all else, Cook is a die-hard perfectionist – she does extensive research throughout her planning and building process, capturing concepts and ambience in a way that both educates and delights. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Cook seeks out the unusual and rare, designing palm-sized objects of curiosity which are truly one of a kind. Her “Shoo-Fly Chair” is a shining example of a challenge accepted: it is a replica of one found in the Governor’s Palace Kitchen in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Cook has placed it in her monumental work Lagniappe, an 18th century Virginia Tidelands mansion modeled after George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. The Colonial-era Shoo-Fly Chair is evidence of the resourcefulness of the 18th century, as the spirit of innovation and self-reliance crept into all facets of everyday life. In a time when air conditioning was non-existent, kitchens were stiflingly hot places indeed, with the only relief coming in from open windows. These open windows would create a secondary nuisance: the onslaught of flies. A person sitting in the aptly named Shoo-Fly Chair could press down upon the attached foot pedal, which activated a fringe above the sitter’s head, effectively shooing flies away from the person’s face. Understandably, this chair is a favorite among our museum docents when discussing Lagniappe with our visitors, especially school children.

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Minis Magnified Issue No. 62 An Interview with Facility Manager Jesse Wiley

Written by Museum Services Manager, Emily Wolverton

 

No Problem Too Big or Too Small: Behind the Scenes with our Museum Facility Manager, Jesse Wiley

Being the Facility Manager of any museum would be a daunting task, but here at The Mini Time Machine Museum the role is something unlike anywhere else. Aside from overseeing the maintenance of our building and museum grounds, our Facility Manager handles the upkeep of many aspects of the collection, itself: most of our contemporary miniature rooms and houses have repair issues similar to their full size equivalent, from the occasional loose shingle to the never-ending need of light bulb replacement. While museum conservators handle the restorative work for our historic pieces, our Facility Manager is the on-call handyman for virtually an entire city of contemporary electrified artifacts. In addition to troubleshooting the electrical aspects of complex exhibits down to the nuts and bolts of the building itself, our Facility Manager is able to take on a wide range of repair and maintenance challenges – on all scales. Jesse Wiley took over the position of Facility Manager in August of 2013, and now two years later, I sat down with him to find out more about how his role here has kept him on his toes.

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Jesse Wiley, Facility Manager at The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. Photo by Amy Haskell.

 

EW: You’ve been our Facility Manager for two years, now. Do you feel as though you knew two years ago what you were really getting into?

JW: [laughter] Yes, I had a pretty good idea. I knew what to expect from the electrical aspect, but the miniature side of it, not as much – at least in respect to the repairing of the miniatures, themselves. I understood what to expect as far as the museum was concerned. My specialty is in electronics, but my background in model-making has definitely been very useful.

EW: You manage such an impressive range of maintenance issues, from floor to ceiling. What are some examples of the things you might have to fix in a given day?

JW: [laughs, again] You name it. Re-wiring a miniature room, fix a projector, replace a leaky faucet, repair a circuit board… Any kind of repair, really. If I can’t resolve it, I find the person who can.

EW: What has been your most challenging issue, so far?

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Minis Magnified Issue No. 61 The Whimsical Charm of Claudon Cats

Tucson, Arizona– July  10, 2015 | written by Museum Services Manager Emily Wolverton
Claudon Cats

The variety of colorful characters in the Kitty Kitsch line was mind boggling – and hard to resist for a collector like Pat Arnell. Claudon Cats (Charles and Ferbie Claudon, ca. 1980 – 1998). Enchanted Realm Gallery. Photograph by Michael Muscarello.

Strolling through our galleries, visitors will quickly realize that our Museum Founder loves animals. Furry friends can be found in many pieces which Pat Arnell acquired, and were almost always incorporated into the pieces which she herself created. She often develops amusing backstories for the pets in her settings and frequently features them in scenes of merry mischief. While the range of critters to be found is varied – from poodles to dragons to mice – there is arguably no animal which can be found in more abundance than the common tabby cat. As a proud cat owner herself, she has bestowed countless feline companions upon the residents of her nutshell neighborhoods, ensuring happy homes for pet and owner, alike. It is no surprise that she fell in love with the miniature cats and feline figures of David Claudon,1 whose theatrical eye enabled him to create cats with robust personalities.

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Minis Magnified Issue No. 60 Vernon Pottery

Vernon Pottery Crocks on Shelf

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 >>

 


Minis Magnified Issue No. 59 The 1/144 Scale Buildings of Pat Russo

Pat Russo 144 Scale House

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 >>


Minis Magnified Issue No. 58 A Gallery Tribute to Walter Arnell

Minis Magnified Tribute to Walter Arnell

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 >>

 

 

 


Minis Magnified Issue no. 57 Sue Ann “LadyBug” Thwaite

Fairy by Sue Thwaite

Fairy by Sue Thwaite, photo by Amy Haskell

 

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 >>