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.
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Last month, The Mini Time Machine Museum joyfully welcomed the entries for our 3rd Annual Kitbashing Contest, a competition designed to challenge our community with a creative miniature project, while raising funds to support our education and outreach programs. This year’s contest featured a corner cabinet with three shelves in the standard dollhouse scale, 1:12. Contestants would be judged based upon their creative use of scale, additional materials used and originality of concept or theme. As an added incentive, the winner would receive a $100 gift card to Lowe’s. The votes are in, and we are pleased to both announce the winners and celebrate the diverse and clever concepts of our participants!
Our First Place prize goes to Ant Invasion! by Jackie Volpe. In her artist statement, Jackie tells us that this contest marked her first attempt at creating miniatures, which inspired her to push the envelope. “Being the first miniature I have ever built, I wanted to take the piece provided and really add some extra creativity to it by making it unrecognizable – after all, it is a kitbashing contest.” Jackie followed her own advice and really wowed the judges with her lush foliage, mix of textures and colors, and delightful attention to detail. It was a treat to note all of the little edibles hidden in the leaves, the gnomes tucked into the greenery, and the handmade elements such as her twig fire pit and enormous mushrooms. Her oversized ants give the whole scene a playful appeal. Jackie declared that it was The Mini Time Machine Museum itself that inspired her creation, no doubt in part by our Enchanted Realm Tree. Congratulations, Jackie! Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
The galleries of The Mini Time Machine Museum are filled with stunning dollhouses and roomboxes. To walk through our galleries is akin to Gulliver’s Travels, giving each visitor a sense of omnipotent satisfaction as he peers into the strange and wonderful worlds of Lilliputian lives. Stomping about as would-be giants, our understanding of size quickly becomes relative, as each single house dissolves into a dazzling microcosm: the small house is filled with smaller rooms, these rooms are filled with delicate furniture, the diminutive desk is filled with tiny books, and there, beside the books, are the most miniscule of pencils. Our gaze goes ever deeper, from the garden to the flower to the perfectly curled petal. Appreciating the works here becomes a detailed study, an orchestration of miniature notes. It is on this plane that the attentive viewer is rewarded – many of the most beautiful miniature objects in our collection can be missed by a careless gaze. So many gems are quietly sparkling, patiently waiting for that gasp of appreciation. The miniature silver masterpieces of Peter Acquisto are precisely the sort of treasure that a patient eye will find, humbly sitting atop a tiny bookshelf or adorning the dining room table. Though each of his pieces is objet d’art worthy of a spotlight, instead they find themselves tucked into the scenery, so marvelous in their realism that they blend effortlessly into their surroundings. If his works were out of proportion or shoddily made, we would take notice immediately, just as the eye notices the smudge on an otherwise spotless rug. Acquisto’s silver is camouflaged in perfection. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
March is National Reading Month in the United States, a tribute made by the National Education Association in honor of Dr. Seuss, whose birthday fell on March 2nd (he would’ve have been 109 this year). Here in Tucson, Arizona, we will celebrate the love of reading on March 9 – 10, 2013, with our annual Tucson Festival of Books, hosted by the University of Arizona. The Festival will promote literacy in Southern Arizona and bring authors, illustrators and booksellers to a family-friendly setting that Dr. Seuss would have endorsed whole-heartedly! With the applause of books ringing loudly in the air, it seems fitting to shine our mini-light on literature. After all, as any good miniature enthusiast will tell you, miniatures and storytelling go hand-in-hand. The process of scaling down one’s environment gives way to a careful process of elimination – the judicious selection of details to reveal a singular moment in time. Like an author with a pen, the miniaturist sets a scene: the disheveled bookcase, the dress laid across the bed, soup bubbling on the stove. Each small note is but a piece of the grand tune, telling a story of the particular character dwelling in this smaller, parallel world. Every miniaturist develops personal histories for his or her small figures and rooms – the secret tales of an omnipotent creator. Conversely, a miniaturist can also choose to recreate the stories of others, bringing the written word into the third dimension. Such is the case with our Miss Havisham Dome, created by our museum founder, Pat Arnell in 2002. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
It’s a simple fact that people love heroes. In every culture, in any society, we just love a tale of victory. The Mini Time Machine Museum’s newest temporary exhibit, Small Scale Skirmishes (January 22 – April 7, 2013) has been a tremendous success for this very reason, bringing our visitors into a realm of miniature-making that can be as educational as it is recreational; parading the historical artistry of toy soldiers alongside the gritty realism of replica war models. This exhibit stands out from our permanent collection in vivid contrast, underlining humankind’s ever-present struggle with heroism and defeat. The fight for triumph over one’s foes has been a dominating cultural force ever since the first man threw a rock, generating objects in its wake as iconic as the game of chess and as deadly as the armored tank. In the 1920’s, America’s fascination with war and heroism ushered in something new: the adoration of fighter pilots. While the horror of WWI was slowly receding, famous pilots were being glorified and commercialized through pulp magazines like Flying Aces, and romantic thrillers of the silver screen such as the classic film Wings (1927), starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers. Flight itself was brand new, and for the modern American living in the uninhibited texture of the 1920s, pilots represented a sense of liberation and daring. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
The Mini Time Machine Museum had a lovely December, filled with musical performances, family craft activities and special holiday décor featuring various time periods from around the world. With children out of school and folks bringing their out-of-town guests to see our museum, we were truly bustling! Perhaps the most popular place to be was our Enchanted Realm Gallery – which is filled to the brim year-round with scenes of magic and delight – but when the frost nips the air this time of year, the gallery really seems to sparkle. We like to tell visitors that our resident fairy, Caitlin, has a hand in the magic around here, but perhaps this time we ought to give credit where credit is due: to the elves!
Our museum Founder, Pat Arnell, is positively an expert on magical miniatures, and her taste in elves is no exception. Quite a few of the elves in our collection were hand-crafted by the same artisan, Cynthia Baron. A well-known contributor to Miniature Collector for years, Baron’s skills are first rate with a style distinctly her own. Each figure is rich with personality, eyes merry with mischief and curiosity, and an appearance of illustrated whimsy as though each sprung right from the pages of children’s literature. In her article, “A Wonderland of Fictional Figures,” author Stormy Williams explains the aesthetic inspiration that gives Baron’s pieces such charm.1 “She attributes a great deal of her present interest and inspiration on the subject of fantasy creatures to her particular fondness for the artistic styles of turn-of-the-century illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Milo Winter, whose works are conceptually similar in that they create auras of peculiarity which come from surrealistic figures and settings.”2 This love of the peculiar has seen Cynthia Baron tackle subjects such as Alice in Wonderland, witches and goblins, and even unique film personalities like Charlie Chapman. But it is her elves which continue to bring her fans back, time and time again. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
It is generally agreed upon that most miniature artisans prefer to work independently, being perfectionists by nature who can easily become lost in their own little worlds. Collaboration is often made all the more difficult by the miniscule size of the artwork itself. However, when one does find a partnership among miniaturists, the result is always stunning; after all, two minds are better than one. One such winning combination is the husband and wife duo, Brian and Kathy Tepper, otherwise known by their business moniker, Rainbow Hand. Their fresh and often whimsical takes on wee designer furnishings have taken the miniature world by storm since they began collaborating in 1980, and The Mini Time Machine Museum is proud to house several of their one-of-a-kind designs.
The Teppers are known for putting out unique lines of furnishings, each one containing all of the accessories one would need to complete a roombox or vignette, from the furniture itself to the pottery on the shelves- even the paintings on the walls match the décor. In her article, “A Bit Bohemian, A Lot Imagination,” Martha Puff writes, “They put together their new pieces in original and compelling ways. With a vision of how the end result will look, the Teppers do not replicate existing items. Rather, they create a „feeling‟ with which collectors can identify.”1 These magnificent designer lines speak to their rich imagination and love for a good challenge, including The Kaleidoscope Collection, Worldly Sea Captain, Shell Chic, and Extravagant Castle. These lines are enriched by the odds and ends that the Teppers collect on their treasure hunts, prowling the antique malls for tiny adornments to add to the shelves of their furniture. These unique finds add to the charm of each piece, guaranteeing that no two Tepper pieces are ever alike. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
The miniature art world is a vast sea, spanning the course of human civilization and reaching into the measureless depth of creative expression. Carved miniature sculptures were buried within Egyptian tombs some 4,000 years ago, yet here in the modern world the miniature scene is still alive and well. Virtually anything imaginable has been recreated in miniature form, using nearly every means of artistic materials, from glass to textile, painting to sculpture. Many miniatures are not reproductions of larger objects at all, but rather masterful objets d’arts, stand-alone works by their own right. Additionally, the techniques of miniature-making and scale reproduction have been used in fields as diverse as space exploration and theater design, allowing humans to examine their surroundings with more accuracy and understanding. Truly, for those who discover the love of miniatures, skimming the surface of this vibrant, culturally rich art form can quickly get one swept up in the tide. One miniature artist in particular, Natasha Beshenkovsky, has been riding the miniature tide for nearly 30 years, exemplifying the far-reaching appeal of miniatures through a wide range of media and inventive design concepts. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article>>
Halloween is almost here, bringing giggling ghouls and merry monsters to town. The crisp chill of fall ushers in the warm glow of anticipation for the winter holidays ahead and, here at The Mini Time Machine Museum, we take a running start, celebrating the month of October with true enthusiasm. Between our spooky décor, haunting visitor guides and chilling flashlight tours, there’s a little something for everyone. But perhaps the most wonderful part of Halloween at the museum is in the rediscovery of our fantastical, eerie miniature scenes – giving them a well-deserved spotlight during this spine-tingling time of year.
One such piece is The Hatchling Apprentice (1998), a wizard’s library created by museum founder, Pat Arnell. Housed within a beautiful glass conservatory made by the remarkable Lady Jane1, the scene emanates a sense of otherworldly wisdom. The wizard himself sits contentedly on the floor’s large rug while overseeing his small menagerie of creatures, gathered around him as though awaiting instruction. Ignoring these lessons is a large dragon who is reading off by himself in the corner, munching away on the wizard’s vittles. The scene is calm, in spite of the inevitable squawk and squeak, and altogether inviting to a would-be wizard’s apprentice. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
Another terrifically hot Tucson summer is coming to a close, and restless residents already whisper eagerly of the gorgeous Fall weather on the horizon. We are all keen for a change and fresh perspective in our Sonoran desert home. Perhaps it is with this enthused viewpoint that we turn our gaze to the museum’s collection, seeing the diversity of our miniatures with new eyes. With so much detail to saturate the visitor, the change of seasons is a perfect time to take note of the forest, rather than the trees. Standing back from the exquisite miniature rooms, filled with their tapestries, feasts, shelves of books and fine furnishings, we see the beauty and ingenuity of the structures that contain them. Some of these, such as our Greene & Greene (1989), based on the famed Pasadena Gamble House, or Madelyn Cook’s Yu Yuan (ca. 1980s), a replica of the 400 year old Dragon Pavilion in Shanghai, are arguably more impressive for their fine-scale architecture than for their luscious interiors.
We have many miniature scenes in our collection which go even further to stretch the imagination by drawing upon unique and innovative containers. Visitors delight in our Hares & Bears: Scene in a Walnut (Acq. 2000), in which artist Debra Lowe painstakingly created four miniature hares and another four tiny bears, arranged on impossibly small shelves within the shell of a walnut. Similar in scope is Anna Derksin’s Dutch Scene Decorated Egg (Acq. 1990), which comfortably fits both husband and wife slumbering peacefully in their alcove bed – all nestled within a hollowed chicken egg. The artists of these pieces push the limits of both scale and fragility, impressing upon the viewer the patience required to complete such delicate work. Other unique containers add to the subject matter in more literal ways, such as Pat Arnell’s Crow’s Nest Bird House Shop (1997), a 1:12 scale shop featuring a vast assortment of bird houses – and the shop itself is, of course, a full-scale bird house. The choice to use an actual bird house breaks “the fourth wall,” a phrase often used by theatrical and literary circles to describe the removal of the imagined boundary between the characters and the audience. In this case, Arnell addresses her audience directly by choosing the bird house as her container; it is an object of our own world, not that of the miniature inhabitants, and its success as a container directly relies upon the relationship between subject matter and viewer. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>
Miniatures delight people for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they trigger a sense of nostalgia for one‟s childhood. Or, maybe the craftsmanship and artistry of the builder becomes the most intriguing aspect. But for many visitors at our museum, the miniatures within the collection act together as a global express ticket, providing a veritable world tour on the small scale. This capacity to capture the very large within a small dimension becomes a precious learning tool, allowing the viewer to study any number of cultural and historical aspects from architecture, to fashion to food. Those interested in human history can revel in the miniature‟s ability to create a time capsule; a well-made roombox or dollhouse can convey not only period furniture and accessories, but also the social hierarchy and customs of a group of people.
Pam Throop‟s Load of Mischief Pub (1987-88), located in our Exploring the World Gallery, is exactly such a piece: a delicious slice of history frozen in time. The pub‟s structure is based upon the framework of an inn named Sign of the Angel¨, a 15th century building which has gone through a few changes of operation over the centuries although never has it actually been a pub. This lovely inn can be found in the picturesque village of Lacock, located in the Cotswold region of England and, like a few of the other buildings there, it reflects the Tudor style of architecture. Admiring this miniature pub quickly becomes a lesson in history: easily recognized by its black and white, half-timbered look, the Tudor style is a direct result of the medieval misuse of timber. According to Doreen Yarwood, author of English Houses, “Timber was becoming more costly as a result of centuries of felling without replanting. A number of houses were built in a combination,” using wood, stone and brick.1 Other significant Tudor changes included a decline in defensive needs: “The moat, defensive gatehouse, battlements and machicolations disappeared.”2 Windows also became more plentiful and larger in size, reflecting the same societal shift. Very little of the Angel‟s structure has changed over the last 532 years, although a once-grand horse passage leading from the street to the interior courtyard was eventually boarded-up to provide more interior space – once the threat of horse thievery was no longer a significant traveler concern. Fortunately for all of us, Sign of the Angel, along with nearly the entire village of Lacock, was protected by a National Trust in 1944. Click here to continue reading a pdf of this article >>