Today I am showing a little sofa. It is one of the larger miniatures and a copy of a real one we bought at Robert Massey’s in 1964. After making the John Townsend secretary, I scaled everything to that size. When I first made it, I kept it in my living room with copies of each piece of furniture, even the bay window with draperies and swags. It took up a lot of space so now the different pieces are sitting in other places around the house. The sofa is on my dresser and I see it every time I walk in the room. There is something magical about little things. Your eye is fooled and you can put yourself right in the middle of it. The sofa is one hand high and two feet long.
Today’s blog is one I originally posted January of last year. I would like to post it again since at that time I had just started my texasmornings and had very few people looking. I was feeling pretty good when I was up to 9 lookers until someone told me that by the information on the my stat counter, 5 of those were me. So after a couple of weeks, I was up to 4 real people looking. One more thing that confused me was the time, instead of regular time, it used Military time so it ended up going on in the middle of the afternoon instead of early morning. Someone told me Military time ran from 12:00 midnight to 24 hours later and then started over at 1:00 AM. I would throw that system out but maybe we would have lost a war or something if we had done it my way.
This is a John Townsend secretary I copied from a real one I have in my living room. It is 23″ tall and made of mahogany. I found a place that made skis from thin strips of wood and they gave me enough scraps for years of projects. Unlike the smaller miniature furniture, the drawers and doors need work on the larger pieces. It took a while to make it, all the drawer pulls were made from copper wire that I hammered flat, then cut into shape with a scroll saw, probably something like making jewelry. Dowel pins are great for carving figurines, vases and all the pretty things we like. I found a jewelry place in Bryan going out of business and bought a box full of stuff. I took the stones out of the earrings and used the bezels to frame tiny photographs. Crystal beads and chains made great chandeliers. It was always fun making the furniture pieces but the best part was making all fancy things to fill the shelves. There are envelopes the size of a fingernail, addressed and stamped, inside each one is a two page letter. It only takes simple tools to build and carve these things. I used a coping saw, Diamond Deb fingernail file, emery boards and carpet knife. Later I bought a small scroll saw, it has a round sanding disc to shape the turned pieces. Finding good glue was always a problem, it had to be sticky to start with and then be really strong when it dried. This was always happy work.
This is the guest bedroom. The bed is about 18″ long. The posters are made from dowel pins and the solid pieces are mahogany. It sits in the corner of my bedroom. Once when Elizabeth Ann was two years old I was reading and heard her say “my bed’. When I looked up, she was sitting in the middle of it, patting the pillows and saying, ‘bed, my bed’. I was sure it going to come cashing down~ but it held her. When she got up and went to get something, I put some books under the mattress to prop it up so there would be no weight on the legs. It always made me happy when she liked the little things. All of my dogs have been on the that bed, they recognize what it is. Missy would take naps there and hang off on three sides. I like little things. We all have that child side in us forever.
Dan had made it out of special ordered redwood that had no knots or flaws. He hand carved it with a hammer and a chisel, (not a router), every letter was perfect. Then he carved the beautiful pineapple for the top.
I was overwhelmed. I never owned anything so nice, not ever~ There were also 4 X 4 redwood posts with hand carved gold leaf finials on top. It was painted in hunter green marine paint and the lettering was 18 ct gold leaf. They meant for me to put it in the orchard by the flag pole. I wouldn’t even consider that, it was too fine to be put out in the weather. I hung it over the bar in the den and I enjoy it every day. I made another sign for the road, no pineapple on it but people can find my house. ZZ carved a sign for their house and also made a CAMP ROCK sign for the river). We all had so much fun carving. This was my nicest surprise gift ever, it is a beautiful work of art. Proud Mama~
My boys like to carve and whittle. Here are a few of the things they have made. The wooden chain is carved from a single straight board, the egg started as a square block of wood, then there is a box with open center and a carved ball inside. Each of these started with a solid piece of wood.
My favorite is this spade, made from walnut with a maple handle. The shovel part is carved thin and is as smooth as silk. It is a contrast between a tool used for hard digging and an exquisite piece of art.
I was invited to exhibit and demonstrate oil painting at the ASU Folk Festival in February of 1973. I met a lot of people and also saw many familiar faces. I liked the demonstrations, everyone was happy and full of chatter, they enjoyed watching and many of them were also painters. I had my miniature covered wagon and all the little rooms on display so if anyone wasn’t interested in painting, they liked to look at the little things. The famous wood carver, Gene Zesch was also exhibiting his wonderful carvings, he carves old cowboys and anything to do with ranch life, with much skill and unbelievable humor. I was in good company that day, it is a sweet memory for me~
When I bought Miss Piggy and Kermit in 1977, she was a hand puppet. She had a big vinyl hollow head, (no body) and the famous elbow length lavender gloves with matching dress. I had planned from the start to make her into a doll. I made her a soft body, she felt cuddly and nice to hold.
I carved some platform wedge sandals and added satin straps. (They are in style now) Then I made her a long formal satin evening jacket.
Kermit was just a green frog so I made him a Tuxedo with a pleated shirt, pearl buttons and a cummerbund. I knew it would be what Miss Piggy would want. These two characters have lived at my house, and lived in Sonora, then San Angelo and finally are back with me. (They were Christmas presents that we passed back and forth). They are both in perfect shape, even after 35 years. We watched the Muppet Shows on TV for several years~ Miss Piggy and Kermit were our favorite characters. I loved those shows. Jim Henson, the famous puppeteer who created the Muppets died in 1990 at age 53.
I showed you this little den before it had been restored. Now I have changed out the carpet, carved a new coffee table, and cleaned the clutter up. All of the little stuff has to be dusted so I am making it easier to keep clean.
When I took the book case down, I got a good look at the sailing ship on top and had almost forgotten even making it. I had copied it from a larger one the boys had so that made it easy. I remember painting the sails with Elmer’s Glue to make them stiff so I could make them ‘billow out in the wind’. The shelves are loaded with books, photographs of the boys and a black & white TV set. Nice storage cabinet underneath it too.
The world globe was one of the more realistic pieces. The wood turnings were made from sanded down tooth picks, the ‘globe’ was a small ‘roll on’ deodorant ball, and as always, paint did the magic on any carving.
I like putting a door in the little rooms, it keeps you from feeling trapped. The only thing I ever lost out of one of the rooms was a Life Magazine from the magazine rack in the den. I didn’t mind, I was so happy when someone liked the little things. Back when I made it, there weren’t computers with printers to reduce the size of a cover and make a realistic copy, that one was hand painted. Usually these little rooms and the covered wagon have been in my exhibits~most times displayed in the open so people could get close and see things~
It is hard for me to write about this, it was either an accident or just plain luck. I was completely humbled by the whole experience. By 1971, I was painting every day and had started making miniatures (while waiting for the paint to dry) That year I painted 52 pictures~ Jerroll Sanders let me hang many of them in his restaurant in town, and he had a cabinet built to hold the miniature rooms. One evening in July 1972, he came out and brought a nice young man from Dallas who had been passing through and saw all my stuff. His name was Forbes Woods. He bought a small picture and then asked me if I might consider an exhibit at the Texas State Fair in October. (Of course, I was excited but doubted it would happen). A week later, Mrs. Elizabeth Peabody called and asked for some photographs of my work, she was the Director of the Women’s Department for the fair. Things moved fast, she liked what I sent and said I would be the Artist in Residence at the Texas State Fair. One thing she made very clear, if I agreed to do it, I HAD to show up and be committed to 15 days of painting and demonstrating. She called several times in the next few weeks to be sure I would be there. (the only downside was leaving our two boys at home, Uncle Bob and Aunt Lucille offered to keep them so that was settled). In October, Dan and I left in our little Airstream trailer, it was packed from floor to ceiling with paintings, the six miniature rooms, plus a covered wagon I had carved, with over 100 pieces of tiny things that went with it. We got to Dallas in the middle the day and had to move all the things into my space in the Women’s Division Building. What a surprise! There were special cases set up to hold the miniatures and people there to unload and hang the paintings. Everyone was nice and helpful, Dan and I kept looking at each other in awe, this was nothing we had expected. Each day I could hear Big Tex out on the fair grounds, announcing the different attractions, the Dallas Civic Ballet, a man who could pop his eyeballs out of their sockets, Rita McWhorter’s little miniatures and painting demonstrations, etc~) Then for 15 days I painted for wonderful crowds of people, many came back every day to watch and ask questions. ‘How do you paint a cactus or rocks, or water, or a mesquite tree’, I would paint on my pallet or sketch pad and give it to them, it was fast and I did many of those. They would come and bring me gifts, like a small hand painted piece of china they had done, or chocolate éclairs or cookies they had made. They asked about my boys, and told me about theirs. (painters are nice people). There were hundreds who came through each day and ‘looked and liked’, especially the miniatures. They enjoyed Dan, he was an asset when it came to visiting and talking about the art work. Two days before the fair ended, Mother and my sister Tricia brought our boys to Dallas and when I saw them, I wasn’t the only one crying, I had missed them terribly and some of those around were shedding a few tears with me. This was the biggest thrill of all. The boys took off and went to see everything at the fair and had a wonderful time. After we got back home, I had lots of nice letters and notes from people who had come to watch. (even a beautiful poem from Dan Hill which he had written for me). It was hard to get my feet back on the ground again, I was feeling good! A few days later I went to a small get together and someone asked me what I had been doing lately. When I said, ‘painting’, she said, “I am getting my kitchen painted right now, I don’t do these things myself like you younger girls do”~ so in that instant I was back to normal.
This miniature kitchen has a lot going on. It was easy enough to restore and re-decorate, but I left several things out that were in the original kitchen. With all the rooms, I had too much stuff. I now have a cigar box full of left-overs. This was my next to last room to fix up and I was ready to get crazy~not from the work but from the mess. All finished, all clean again and I feel like celebrating. On the counter there is a block of Velveeta cheese, a cheese grater and the start of Chicken Enchiladas.
The kitty is now “Buttermilk” instead of the 40 year old Miss Lilla. The fruit on the counter only needed cleaning, it was carved from a dowel pin, then painted. I wish I could get some creative souls out there to try this carving thing, it is so easy and terribly fun. You only need a dowel pin, carpet knife, and a fingernail file. The new ‘granite’ counter top is made from a black floor tile, it was easy to cut with the carpet knife. The canisters are from different size dowel pins, the pots are metal perfume lids that I cut around the center, leaving one little piece in tact and then bending it down to make a handle.
I have carved several telephones, they are the old kind by today’s standards. I like the kitchen, maybe because I like my real one so much. Cooking is a great pleasure, we are nesters and feeders~ and also eaters~
Off to Oregon and their new life together~
The story goes that Thomas McCann met Blossom Blue at a social affair in Boston and had to act fast, he was on his way to Oregon to stake his claim on the new frontier. He didn’t have a real commitment from Miss Blossom but would woo her with letters until he could return for her later. He loaded up his wagon with trunks, bedding, tools, cooking utensils, and everything he could carry to set up housekeeping.
He would be packing his six shooters and a muzzle loader. The gun powder is in the powder horn, or in this case, a rooster spur.
Next he gathered up all the tools for building a place to live once he got there.
A crate and gardening tools, they would be stored in a tool shed when he gets one built. The lantern is one of the most important things he owns
Some treasures are packed too, the telephone was ahead of it’s time but will be handy in the future