This blog started out as a way to document the process of creating a Miniature Setting for the Philadelphia Flower Show. It has developed into a blog about miniatures in general and a consideration of why miniatures are so prevalent in our culture. It takes the stance that, properly constructed, miniatures are like stage sets or movie sets that invite the viewer to visit an alternative place.
IF I had been in the 2020 Philadelphia Flower show, my exhibit would have been the last moments of Pompeii before Mt Vesuvius devastated the region.
Pompeii met all the criteria for the 2020 exhibits: it was a “vacation destination” in the region of the Mediterranean know as the Riviera. Wealthy Romans, especially from Naples, had second homes there as well as fields, vineyards, and access to debauchery in the form of brothels.
First the visual inspirations. The scene will be an interior looking out at a courtyard, a typical Roman design. Plants will be both inside and out. The wall are painted with elaborate murals in bright colors. Here are some examples.
Painted wall in Pompeii city destroyed in 79BC by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius
Yes, it sounds like a funny title for a bad sitcom but I have, indeed, earned a lifetime ban from ever exhibiting in the Philadelphia Flower Show. If you are interested in the story you can go to this separate page.
But if you are here for the wonder of miniatures, the way to make and appreciate miniatures in all their forms, don’t bother reading that unpleasant story. Instead, enjoy the pictures and stories that make up this blog dedicated not only to five years of Miniature Settings exhibits at past Flower Shows, but highlighting the work of contemporary miniature artists and activities.
And I will be documenting the exhibit I was going to create for the 2020 Flower Show before I got booted out. It will be ancient Pompeii, right before Mt Vesuvius explodes. Appropriate, I think.
My entry in the 2020 Flower Show Miniature Settings would have been ancient Pompeii just as Mt. Vesuvius was erupting.
I don’t see too many miniature things on Twitter although master miniaturist Tatsuya Tanaka still posts his daily creations (https://twitter.com/tanaka_tatsuya). So I was pleased when I came across a tweet by Aline Roberts with this image:
She explains it is a tea set made from used bullets during World War I. Here is her explanation (in response to a thread on interesting family stories): “My French grand-father spent 4 years fighting during WWI, and he got really bored. He took the used bullets and shells and moulded it, and we still have a tiny tea set for dolls from war trenches.” Thanks, Aline, for permission to use the image here. A lot of miniatures have interesting backstories.
I finally got to go back to the Chicago International miniature event and this happened:
Yes snow, Chicago, April. But at least I was able at the last minute to get a room in the event hotel so I didn’t have to leave. Unfortunately I was only able to visit one of the three shows going on simultaneously but that was actually enough to cover in the time I had.
As with the other miniature events I cover, I usually choose some artists I have never seen before or ones whose work impresses me. Here they are for Chicago 2019.
Kate Esme Ünver (of the website The Daily Mini) has a new book, “The Book of Mini: Inside the Big World of Tiny Things,”and it is fabulous. As a documentation and celebration of all the different ways people all over the world create small things, Kate’s book is a must for any miniaturist. Mini artifacts, mini foods, mini scenes, all get covered in a beautifully designed and photographed book. Kate usually has a scale in her miniature blog photos and the book thankfully continues that tradition which makes the images even more impressive.
Kate was in Chicago for the 2019 Chicago International miniature show and the book sold out the first day there.
For a few more days (until May 18th, 2019) an exhibit in New York at the Grolier Club features the miniature book collection of Patricia J. Pistner. I visited the exhibit, “A Matter of Size: Miniature Texts & Bindings,” with Darren Scala (of D. Thomas Fine Miniatures) and we were both impressed by the range of sizes considered “miniature” when it came to books. Here are some of the highlights of the exhibit. Unfortunately there was no uniform scale on display with each book so it is difficult to show the actual size of each but you can get a sense of the scales by looking at the images of the display cases.
I am the Art Director for an exhibit at the Belmar Arts Center (NJ) titled, “The Goddess Show.” We had a great turnout with more than 50 artists exhibiting 70 works. The show continues until the end of March.
My own entry was a 3D printed miniature scene of nearly 50 goddesses from around the world and through time. I researched each goddess and downloaded 3D files that I used to create one inch scale figures. Many of the 3D files were found in a wonderful project called “Scan the World” which makes available scans of objects from many museums around the world.
As often as possible I painted the printed figures with colors confirmed by historical research on the actual appearances of ancient sculptures and objects (except I doubt the Venus of Willendorf was wearing a crocheted pink hat!). I have studied ancient goddesses for nearly 40 years so it was fun to materialize this history of powerful (and often vengeful) females.
I put the printed figures in a scene called “The Great Goddess Bar and Grill” and imagined that the goddesses would joyously be partying with their sister deities. Below are some of the images from the exhibit and also the info pages that were in a binder near the scene.
The description as well as the attribution (the source of the 3D file) for each goddess is below. I have citations for the text if anyone needs to see that. In addition to the 3D models there are a few 2D images printed on fabric and hung as miniature banners or tapestries.
It looks like it still falls to me to document the miniature settings exhibits at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Since I couldn’t find online any comprehensive list, I present the exhibits and their info and awards here.
After visiting his spectacular train layout recently, I invited Ron Hoess to write a guest blog describing his project. After his text and images, I’ll add a few images of my own showing some of the wonderful small-scale details he has added to his project. Ron’s project is an example of the value of a deep dive into historical research and also an attention to provocative details.
In 2014 I decided to tear down my old train layout, by then a couple of decades old, and start over again. What I envisioned for my new layout was to construct something referred to as a prototype layout, meaning the depiction of not only a particular railroad but also a specific time and place. Hopefully for the viewer it should be like taking a time machine back to some destination point, albeit in miniature.
For the layout I chose a short stretch of the Pennsylvania Railroad in North Philadelphia circa 1958. The location symbolizes much of what Philadelphia once was, a great industrial metropolis that had certainly earned the label “workshop of the world.” A notable feature was the integration of factories within neighborhoods, undoubtedly a remnant of when workers lived within walking distance to their jobs. While the deindustrialization of the city was well underway by 1958, much of industrial infrastructure was still intact.
To develop an accurate picture for the viewer two components are required. First, a detailed knowledge of the area is necessary. For instance, where were the factories located and what did the buildings that housed them look like? What did the adjoining neighborhoods look like? All of this takes detective work and visiting various archival repositories. Second, the accurate depiction requires all the buildings be scratchbuilt. Commercial kits are too often generic and unlikely to represent an exact building in a specific location, thus failing to meet the accuracy required for the project. Scratchbuilding also allows one to more readily capture the architectural elements unique to Philadelphia. Obviously this is a time consuming process and, as the 5 year mark approaches, probably about half the structures have been constructed.
When I visited Ron’s layout, I noticed these wonderful details that added both interest and realism to the scene.
Philadelphia Miniaturia (which is actually held in Cherry Hill, NJ) is one of the larger miniature shows. But this year, while it had many interesting vendors and artisans, it definitely seems to be shrinking with less vendors overall and now only one room of tables instead of two. So I will celebrate the vendors who caught my eye this time but I do worry about its future. Nevertheless, their were quite a few new vendors, especially those from Europe, and many of my favorite returnees.
Vendors at Philadelphia Miniaturia
I like to pick out vendors that I haven’t noticed before and this year I found a few. First up was Graffialuna (Valeria Bonomi, an IGMA artisan) who makes exquisite and perfectly scaled shoes, purses, and other accessories. She also mentioned to me that she will be teaching at an international miniature workshop in Denmark in July 2019 See more fashion accessories at the Graffialuna website.
The flowers are metal.
Next up we have some newcomers (based near Philadelphia) who made delightful boats out of natural materials, including walnut shells. Their simple display highlighted their boat work perfectly with foam sheets simulating waves. Etsy.com/shop/NutBoatNavy
Kits were very popular again this year and some very good quality laser cut ones that were reasonably priced could be found at the ArtofMini booth. The furniture kits utilized a nice thin wood material and their accessory kits and other accessories were wide-ranging and unique. Their ArtofMini webshop has a wide range of 1:12th scale materials, kits, and accessories as well as smaller scales.
A one inch scale kit
prd miniatures displayed excellent versions of mid-century modernist furniture created by artisan Paris Renfroe. Some of the pieces were 3D printed and the details and finishing of the surfaces were finely done. Website for prd miniatures