Friday, October 3, 2014


"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how"  Friedrich Nietzsche

I'm in a bad mood today so I'm really glad I have miniatures.  Mention just about anything and it will piss me off.  Right now I am thinking about those dismissive people who think miniatures are toys for little girls.  And right now I can see their eyes glaze over. Or roll. And right now I'd like to see their eyes rolling under my desk.

Simon Sinek says, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

I make miniatures (and sell them) because I get up in the morning and can't wait to get into my studio and create something. I love the creative process. I love designing a miniature and going bit by bit through the process taking the twists and turns until something that pleases me comes out.  And thankfully my customers are pleased as well. I love taking a blah piece and transforming it into something beautiful and unique.  I consider what I do making art. And miniatures are my medium.

Right now Halloween is on the way. So right now I am transforming my stash of commercial, yes, commercial, 1:12 scale chairs into something spooky in honor of the season. Which is by the way, one of my favorites.

So inspired by my favorite holiday and my love of creepy things I express myself through my art. How is that any different than any other more 'lofty' art?  No different.

I am also discovering new abilities and improving on old ones in trying to wrangle fabrics to lay believably on the tiny chairs, unearthing new mediums for sculpting, improving my sculpting, and maneuvering images in my photo software into images that will work in 1:12 scale and give the impression of 'eerie'.  I have yet to tackle Photoshop but its on my bucket list. 

Am I expert at any of this?  I am not. There are far better sculptors, far, far better upholstery geniuses and far better digital artists.  Will you see my original one of a kind pieces coming and going? You will not.
  Am I having fun? You bet your ass.

This is art. It is MY art. And only one aspect of it. It is miniature and you can put it in a doll house. And you don't have to like it. But don't you dare turn your nose up.

So, what do you do and why do you do it?  Do you think miniatures can be considered ART?  Put your thoughts below.

And oh, by the way, if you like this blog, please share it.
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Adventure in the Search for Miniature Treasure

"I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure." Virginia Woolf

I have recently been ransacking myself.  Not in a library, but rather at the IGMA Show held annually in August in Teaneck NJ.  And not in a search for books but in my constant quest for the best miniatures.  And lo and behold they there were.

But I am not talking about the show exactly - which is in fact a treasure trove of exceptional miniatures crafted by the very best artisans. I am talking about the silent auction that has been held at the show for years and years. The problem was I always ignored it because I could not allow myself to miss the treasures in the show room.  

It was only at last years show that I meandered around the silent auction table and put down a few bids. The thrill of discovering the riches lying there got my heart fluttering. And winning, well, even more thrilling.  And more fluttering. So back I went this year and here are some my fabulous finds.

Dont be jealous. You could have been there too.

Wonderful Wash Tub, obviously artisan make, maker unknown.

Copper cooking pot with stand for fireplace cooking with copper and brass spoon.

Lovely and delicate turned wooden bowl, beautiful

Hand Carved wooden Utensils

Brass moveable Colonial candle stand

Leather covered canteen. Well done!

Look! the cap comes off.
Backgammon Game.

Comes in a beautiful wooden case.
Gorgeous  multi-leveled  sewing box

Sewing box opened. And partially filled with some sewing supplies.

These are all original artisan pieces can't you tell? Totally amazing and gotten for a song. I am perfectly thrilled with myself. The worst part is I missed so many opportunities in the past. I'll just have to console myself with my treasures here and now.  One other thing, the only signed piece here was the cooper cooking pot, signed with an S. So I have no idea who might have made any of this. Such a shame because the makers are lost to history now. (Sign your work!!)

How about you? Find anything awesome unexpectedly? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Flora Gill Jacobs, Serendipity and A Prepared Mind

Serendipity: Accidentally finding something wonderful while not looking for it.  Adriana Law

One of my first encounters with an expert in collectible dolls' houses and miniatures was Flora Gill Jacobs. I purchased her first book early on in my miniature collecting days, back in the early 80's.  And although her books focus on antique dolls' houses, skimming the book was certainly an education in the history of miniatures.

In fact, I was delighted to discover the existence of a primitive doll house made in the 1700's right here in the Bronx via Flora's book. The house was adorable in the photo so I made my way to the  Van Cortlandt Mansion Museum where the doll house was stored in the house's attic at that time. The guard let me behind the rope to measure the house and see all sides and I recreated the house in miniature. That would never happen today. The house has been moved into the children's room since the trust spruced up the place some time since I saw it. The day I went the place was empty and no one seemed to care much, probably because NYC was in financial trouble. Come to think of it, back then most museums were empty because the city was considered a dangerous one. Now they are mobbed, so I guess I miss those dangerous days.
This is a shot of the house taken from the museum's website video. 
So that was my relationship with Flora. I knew she owned a museum, The Washington Dolls' House and Toy Museum,  dedicated to antique toys, dolls and dolls' houses and unfortunately I never went to visit.  I was not really interested in antique miniatures and had seen plenty here and in the UK.  But of course, I met Flora at miniature shows and purchased one of her children's books for my daughter.

I managed to purchase several lots from the Adell Venus Estate auction (which btw, had one of the van Cortlandt miniature doll houses of mine) and in among the lots I wanted were quite a few antique pieces which I did not want, so on eBay they went. Clueless as to what they were I was shocked at the prices the pieces garnered. Shocked. And happy.

So while everyone was in Chicago at the big miniature show in April this year, I was sitting at my computer or on an iPad watching the Flora Gill Jacobs Auction of her personal collection presented by Noel Barrett. The stuff I recognized as desirable went for out of my budget  prices as I was buying for resale so did not want to overspend.  I knew that those who know were watching that auction and buying. And some affordable lots slipped way because my internet bid did not go through.

Nevertheless, I managed to secure a few lots and will certainly keep a few things since they came out of such an historic collection. Below are some photos of my wins.

Early Kitchen with ceramic and pewter accessories - late 19th early 20th Century
Early German Bathroom Set

Cleaning Brush Holder

This is a bin for onions, so says the lettering in German
The above items are from a German tin kitchen possibly made by the Marklin company.
These are much larger than the usual 1:12 scale items we are used to today and I think the kitchens came in a variety of sizes. After awhile the charm of these very old miniatures, made to be playthings start to grow on you. While I will resist with all my might, I would not mind having an antique doll house filled with these captivating miniatures.  I do love antiques because there is so much wonder in imagining who used them and what their lives were like and that certainly applies to dolls' houses.

"In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur.

While luck was not always with me I was aware of those pieces I discovered to be desirable by collectors and did catch a few. While not hysterically profitable, those early porcelain pieces do fairly well possibly because they got lost over time. They are kind of clunky and crude but again, charming.

Below is an actual working oil lamp. Imagine giving that to a child today? You'd be arrested for child endangerment. (And I'll bet not a few doll houses caught on fire.)

Ernst Plank Painted Tin Wash Stand C. 1890

Tobacco Rug - Cigarette Premium c. 1900
 I know those tobacco rugs are very easy to come by but the several I got are the first I have ever handled. They are actually quite nice.

My favorite lot of all is the desk set below. This one is definitely 1:12 scale and reminds me of the set found in Queen Mary's Doll House in Windsor Castle. I know nothing about it except its wonderful and hopefully from that time period. The calendar is not part of the set, but at one time lived its life as a key chain. It works, too.

I would appreciate any information about these items. While Flora wrote extensively about the antique dolls' houses she discovered she left very little information regarding the furnishings and accessories.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Elephant in The Room

"Nature's great masterpiece, an Elephant; the only harmless great thing." John Donne

I can't begin to tell you how much I love elephants and I can't begin to tell you how often I have loved seeing art made out of ivory. And I'll bet I'm not the only one.

One of my favorite museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, has incredible things carved in the most intricate detail out of ivory. Certainly there are collections worldwide. I don't believe any of them have any inclination to rid themselves of their ivory masterpieces. Even though the killing of elephants for ivory is a travesty.  Something that is more in our consciousness now, when in the fairly recent past I think it fair to say we all took ivory for granted and never questioned how it came to be the artifact we so admire.

Ivory Memento Mori  Rosary Circa 1500 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
So what does one do when one loves elephants and owns beautiful things made of ivory?
I don't have an answer. Ivory miniatures and ivory used in making miniatures are centuries old.  And we love them. But the very sad fact remains that today love for ivory is not helping elephants. 

This piece is about ivory miniatures that I want to share here. I wish I could say they were made from the tusks of my pet elephant who passed away in sleep after a very long and happy life. Who lived out on the African plain with family and who came to visit me once a day to be petted. But I can say that the magnificent miniature pipes below came from ivory scraps used in restorations and subsequently sold on eBay. Where the selling of ivory is now banned. 

Enjoy the photos and think about the elephants who gave it.

All these meerschaum pipes are carved by Cliff Feltrope. They came out of the Adell Venus auction and they are breathtaking. Hard to believe they were made by human hands. With help from elephants of course.

Hand Carved Meerschaum Pipe by Cliff Feltrope



This meerschaum pipe by Cliff Feltrope has a gold helmet that opens.

The following photos are some other ivory miniatures in my collection. I was told that the tiny netsuke came from mammoth ivory so thought they were OK to buy.  The tiny animals are antiques. The snuff bottles, which have removable tops, were done by Ligia Durstenfeld.

I'd love to hear your thoughts regarding this touchy subject. Please comment below.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Once more for the Gipper.

"My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry 'til a more convenient season."  Mary Todd Lincoln

Well, lets just say I won't be winning any blogger awards since I am so bad at it.  It's spring cleaning time again and my plan was to highlight my only dollhouse and contents once I pulled them out for cleaning LAST YEAR.

I decided to just put up the rest of the house to share with you and get it over with.  Like a band aid - just grab it and rip.

  So lets see, where was I ?

Attic Storage Room
This is the attic and it has a separate closure so I don't even see it much. Still an attic is fun.
The crazy doll trying on her wedding gown is by Lyn Trenary. Alligator suitcases are by the Dolls Cobbler. I got the darling mouse eating a book from Franzy at a show, probably Chicago.
Doll house attic detail of items, doll by Lyn Trenary, suitcases by Doll's Cobbler

The ship captain's trunk came from eBay done by a lady in the UK and the dress form came from the John and Ellen Blauer collection and it is tagged made by Frank Matter - but according to experts its not, although its pretty clever as it moves up and down.  One of these days I'm going to blog about Frank, but I digress...

Second Floor Hallway

  • Artisan miniatures, Kerri Pajutee, Classic Carpets, Hiroyuki & Kyoko, Linda Master Paul Saltareli
    Second Floor Hallway Miniatures Victorian House

 This is the second floor hallway between the 2  BedroomsThe rug is by Classic Carpets, Schnauzer by Kerri Pajutee, chair by Betty Valentine, Plant by Hiroyuko Kimura, Mounted Game by Linda Master, Painting by Paul Saltarelli, Photo Album by Terre Fernandez.

And here is the first floor hallway and the entrance to the house between the kitchen and living room.

First floor Hallway Items
Nicely done stairs, don't you think? Those dolls are by Amanda Skinner. The one in front looks just like my daughter when she was little. Plant by Hiroyuko and Kyoko. Umbrella stand by the late Joan Westphal. Rug by Classic Carpets. I think I'll change out that table... And the fruit plates are by Dominique Levy, as well as the painted plates and artichoke plate. I got those in Chicago once when Dominique came to the US and her prices were so very reasonable which is why I have so many.  Can't remember who did the painting but if you have to know, shout out.
"I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done" Susan Orlean
For years I have debated whether to make the kitchen a kitchen or a dining room. I really don't like to cook, had a fabulous kitchen in my other doll house,   and thought a dining room would be different.  Kitchens are much more interesting.

Here's what I have so far:
A painted Chrysonbon Stove. Could use some aging, I think.

And this gorgeous Irish Dresser made for me by Susan Plevan.  Its full of exceptional artisan stuff collected at shows, eBay, Etsy and websites. The bottom cabinets are for keeping chickens which hopefully will come later but I'll just let them wander around the kitchen. If procrastination doesn't kill me I'll show you the finished kitchen one of these days.

Please make me feel better about myself and leave a comment below. Thanks for your patience. XO