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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 Issue no. 52 18th Century Violin Maker’s Shop

18th Century Violin Makers ShopW. 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 >>

Minis Magnified Issue no. 51 Fairy Caitlin

Fairy CaitlinThe 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 >>

Minis Magnified Issue no. 50 Three Bears’ Cottage

Three Bears Cottage Bluette MaloneyOne walk through our Enchanted Realm Gallery can bring out the child in anyone. The gallery is fueled by imagination, a colorful neighborhood of fantastical beasts and storybook creatures. There are wizards and dragons, fairies and elves, mischief-makers and wandering souls. Our Enchanted Tree, filled with the burrows of precocious city mice, greets visitors with a crinkly smile – encouraging them onward into the wonderland. Children naturally feel quite at home in this gallery, happily hopping back and forth among the displays, pausing only to catch a glimpse of Fairy Caitlin in her knothole. Adults are struck with the warm familiarity of the characters, the waves of nostalgia inviting fond childhood memories.

One piece in particular has tremendous appeal for young and old, alike: Bluette Meloney’s Three Bears’ Cottage (2000), a true fairytale feast for the eyes. Created at one of Rik Pierce’s highly sought-after workshops, Bluette fashioned her cottage to be the home of the fabled bear family, made famous by that notorious blonde intruder, Goldilocks. The scene perfectly captures the pivotal moment when Goldilocks awakens, finding herself face-to-face with the grizzly inhabitants of the home which she has so rudely invaded. She appears either frozen mid-yawn or mid-shriek, while Baby Bear points at her, accusingly. Papa Bear is growling ferociously, dressed in what appears to be some unfortunate woodman’s shirt; only Mama Bear seems calm. It is no surprise that our museum docents love to use Bluette’s piece in their School Tours, inciting the children to re-tell the story using the miniature clues throughout the house. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>

Minis Magnified Issue no. 49 Legoland Acquisitions

German Dollhouse with Rooftop Garden detailOur museum’s History Gallery is filled with remarkable historical miniatures, dating as far back as 1742. While many of our visitors are caught whispering excitedly to one another as they wind through the gallery’s walls, others remain silent, reflective and humble. The faded paint, peeling wallpapers, and well-worn fabrics of these pieces resonate within one’s deepest memories, at once familiar and unfamiliar. Objects are worn smooth by now long forgotten hands; the old wood is cracked by time’s unforgiving march. Although the origins of each piece are varied, together these cabinet houses, dollhouses and roomboxes capture elements of our shared childhood experience: the playful imitation of the adult world. Stories of how life once was can be read in these tiny rooms, the everyday objects of normal life – made smaller for smaller hands – now rest here as objects of great beauty.

All of these historical pieces were acquired by our Museum Founders, Patricia and Walter Arnell, collected over the years through various dealers, auctions, and fellow enthusiasts. There are a handful of pieces, however, that came from another museum entirely: The Legoland Museum of Antique Dolls, Toys, and Dollhouses. Located in Billund, Denmark, the Legoland Museum was part of the larger Legoland Park, which opened in 1967. The Legoland Park and Museum were the realized dream of the Christiansen family, the creators of the internationally famous plastic building blocks, Legos. It is a significant testament to the Christiansen family’s vision for childhood creativity that the Danish word lego translates to “play well.” It was this love of play which inspired their antique collection, the heart of which was built around the acquired private collections of Estrid Faurholt and Helge Hess. Although the Park still remains, the Museum closed its doors in 2005. The prestigious auction house, Theriault’s, held a three-day auction in Las Vegas, Nevada, from May 19 – 21 in 2006, comprised of nearly 1,300 lots from the Lego Foundation collection. Collectors from all over the world were in attendance, including the Arnells. Our museum has nine pieces on display in our History Gallery acquired at this auction: The Sparrowe’s House of Ipswich (F. Tibbenham, ca. 1930); Tin Kitchen With Built-In Oven (ca. 1865); Danish Antique Shop (ca. 1900); German Dollhouse (ca. 1885); German Dollhouse With Roof Garden (ca. 1890); Clevendon Court (ca.1800s); Koppel House (ca. 1878); 19th Century Cabinet House (ca. 1885); and Tordis Hus (ca. 1875). Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>

Minis Magnified Issue no. 48 William Robertson

Paintbox by William RobertsonThe art of miniatures triggers profound fascination and curiosity, felt by children and adults in cultures around the world. Throughout all of human history we have been manipulating scale, cutting our world down to size for artistic, spiritual and playful purposes. At The Mini Time Machine Museum our visitors keenly feel this intrinsic allure. Here, we are colossal – our panoramic, omnipotent viewpoint of history and lifestyles progressively dissolves into a dazzling microcosm, our gaze going ever deeper from the small house to the smaller rooms, and from there the tiny furnishings and the miniscule décor. At this level, treasures of immense beauty and skill lie waiting for the attentive viewer. This is where we find the work of William R. Robertson, a man whose miniature works are so meticulously fashioned that they defy belief. Each one of his creations is worthy of a museum spotlight, though here they are more frequently tucked into a larger scene. Although unquestionably raising the accompanying work’s level of excellence by sheer proximity, this unfortunately deceives the untrained eye which, following human nature, is more apt to notice the flaw than the flawless. Robertson’s work can therefore seem camouflaged by perfection, patiently waiting for that gasp of appreciation. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>

Minis Magnified Issue no. 47 Just Suits

Just Suits collection of The Mini Time Machine Museum of MiniaturesA dollhouse, like our own homes, acquires a personality. Those which were hand-built have been gifted with the tenderness of the builder, who’s loving attention to detail speaks directly to the recipient. A store bought house is no less special, as each added splash of color and delicate trim makes the house unique and irreplaceable. For those lucky few who are fortunate enough to have inherited a dollhouse from a grandmother or a great aunt, the dollhouse becomes a repository of dreams spanning generations, often with a mix of love-worn furnishings to be cherished alongside the new. These dollhouses are by far the most delightful to the eye – no pristine and glossy décor can compare with the palpable affection of childhood’s frayed playthings. The antique dollhouses in our museum’s collection each manifest a certain glow, their wood worn to a shine from decades – in some cases, centuries – of perpetual loving hands. Although their age and craftsmanship lend them remarkable value, it is the residual warmth of bygone youth that draws our visitors in. Truly, our History Gallery seems at times to quietly whisper – unsung stories from glory days, when bones were new and alive with play.

One piece which whispers louder than most is Just Suits, a three-story Victorian created circa 1900 by an unknown craftsman in Malden, Massachusetts. Constructed entirely of cigar boxes, Just Suits reflects the ingenuity of the period. The popularity of cigars, packed in wooden boxes, created an abundant supply of diverse craft wood including mahogany, elm, and rosewood; our Just Suits is comprised of dozens of walnut cigar boxes. The stamped logos of the Buchanan & Lyall tobacco company can be seen on the interior of the house, but it was the discovery of an unused Just Suits brand box lid laying discarded in the attic which gave the piece its name. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>

Minis Magnified Issue no. 46 John Anthony Miller

John Anthony Miller etchingEach miniature room in our collection is a still life portrait, a snapshot of a moment in time. From the inlaid floors to the light fixtures, the furniture to the décor – every detail is a testament to accuracy, that tenuous ideal that pushes miniaturists closer and closer to small-scale perfection. Visitors walking through our galleries are awestruck by the vast and intricate details, each working in unison to create satisfying, rich historical scenes and modern day marvels. The majority of these pieces are the collaborative efforts of numerous miniature artisans, extraordinary specialists dedicated to their craft. One such artisan is John Anthony Miller, whose outstanding miniature etchings are direct evidence of this relentless pursuit.


The beauty of John Anthony Miller’s etchings cannot be overstated. His impeccable, miniscule lines – finer than a human hair – and breathtakingly delicate layers of scenery give his images a depth that can only truly be appreciated upon intimate inspection. They are produced entirely by hand, with no photo enlargement processes, using traditional intaglio methods. In her article, “The Etchings of John Anthony Miller,” Dana Gearhart details Miller’s procedure, beginning with a small piece of 16 gauge copperplate. “The plate is coated with wax grounds, and John draws upon his wax with various dental tools. When the drawing is complete, he dips the plate into an acid bath until it etches the appropriate grooves in the copper.”  The plate can then be inked and sent to press, creating limited edition runs with each print as beautiful as the first. Miller then numbers, titles and signs each print by hand, producing exquisite and highly collectible pieces of art. Our own Museum Founder, Patricia Arnell, loved one of Miller’s etchings well enough to place prints of it in three locations within our collection: Around the World can be found on the walls of our Cheshire Regency (George & Sally Hoffman, 1981), Country Store (Ron & April Gill, 1985), and San Francisco Victorian (Michael Lewis, 1979). This lovely scene of hot air balloons in flight highlights Miller’s remarkable skill, with many details being little larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>

Minis Magnified Issue no. 45 Kewpie Collection

???????????????????????????????Valentine’s Day is a lovely tradition, no longer designated simply for lovers but for good friends and treasured relationships from all walks of life. Receiving some small, unexpected token of warmth brightens hearts and brings a little cheer to us all. Unfortunately, the holiday brings in its wake a tidal wave of confections and amorous offerings to shop shelves, drowning consumers in a flood of sentimental drivel. Cheaply-made stuffed bears holding sequined hearts stare out at us with unblinking eyes, a dismal army of red and pink. This deluge of mass-produced fluff could make any of us feel a bit worn out and cynical. How refreshing it is then, to look at the cherubic work of Rose O’Neill, whose Kewpies, though mass-produced, continue to illicit a sense of nostalgia and sweetness more than 100 years since their first appearance. How can such simple figures, with their roly-poly bodies, starfish hands and turnip-shaped heads, remain iconic darlings recognizable worldwide after more than a century? It can be argued that the enduring love for Kewpies is carried along by the legacy of Rose O’Neill, herself: an artist, writer and sculptor who threw herself entirely into all that she created. O’Neill loved her Kewpies and those who loved them, inviting viewers into her infectious world of merriment and well-intended mischief – not as a bystander but as a citizen, in a land that taught the value of friendship and kindness. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>


Minis Magnified Issue no. 44 Reflections

ReflectionsThe New Year is off to a wonderful start here at The Mini Time Machine Museum. We are eager to tackle new program goals, excited to bring new exhibits, and anticipate a joyous spring season in our desert home. The coming of a new year is also a time to reflect on where we have been, pondering our journey with the astute lens of hindsight. The Museum itself caters to rumination, as our name suggests; the march of human progress can be heard throughout our galleries, recreated in three-dimensional still-life portraits of the ages. Art imitates Life, and our dollhouses and roomboxes seize the trappings of culture and innovation like time capsules, conveying entire lifestyles though the appliances, architecture, fashion, food and décor. Miniaturists like Madelyn Cook are historians at heart, rediscovering where we have been and offering up our past like exquisite gift-wrapped parcels – easier to digest in their bite-sized form. In honor of the New Year, we present Cook’s Reflections (ca. 1980s), which undergoes an annual New Year’s Eve transformation during our Wee Winter Wonderland festivities. We keep this temporary alteration on par with Madelyn’s dedication to accuracy, mimicking the vibrancy of an American New Year’s Eve in 1933. While locked in the devastating throws of the Great Depression, this year would mark the first New Year’s Eve after the eradication of Prohibition; as the scene suggests, the would-be miniature revelers have been enthusiastically toasting a changing tide.

Reflections is – quite literally – a shining example of Madelyn’s work. The roombox is a sleek departure from the all-too-common Victorian lace that has come to typify the preconceived notions of the miniature craft. Made almost entirely from black Lucite and mirrors, this Art Deco suite stands out from the crowd in brazen originality. The Art Deco movement – a celebration of clean lines, symmetry, and the progress of Industry – is resurrected here with a provocative elegance, each pristine surface made beguiling by the light. The material for the carpeting is crushed black velvet, the upholstery is black silk; the atmosphere has the silent depth of a cave, fractured by the smart glare of chrome and glass. This strict palette of black, white and silver establishes a tone of wealth almost icy to the touch, broken by minimalistic key notes of red: a bright splash in a Japanese print; the ruby swizzle sticks of the martini tray. Unexpectedly, the coat of one of the Scotties—originally coal black—has faded over the years, appearing now with auburn fur. Although disappointing to Madelyn, I find this display of brash singularity amusing. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>

Minis Magnified Issue no 43 Bewitching Spa

???????????????????????????????One look at the newspaper will tell you that winter’s icy blast has been hitting hard across the nation. Even here in Tucson, where winters are agreeably mild, we’ve all had to rummage through the garage to discover where we put our ice scrapers. Freezing rains, piles of snow, bitter winds – admittedly, it’s hard to stay jolly when your mistletoes are frozen! Here at The Mini Time Machine Museum, we keep our visitors warm with cheer, celebrating with miniature displays of holiday traditions from throughout history and around the world. Learning about Shogatsu, the Japanese New Year, or the Christkindlmarkts of Germany, or seeing the beautiful details of a traditional Edwardian Christmas keeps everyone feeling merry and bright. Well… not everyone. This time of year, it’s easy to forget our mischievous collection of witches, who celebrate Halloween year-round in our Enchanted Realm Gallery. Dreadfully cold? Calamitous storms? Sounds like ideal conditions for our grinchy witches of Bewitching Spa! Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>