A few weeks ago, I attended a wonderful poetry and art reception at the Norwalk Public Library. On my way out of the library, I was drawn to an enchanting display of miniature rooms created by miniaturist Vance Alexander. I was amazed at the detail and craftsmanship presented in each distinctive scene.
One of my favorites was a 17th century Venetian Style Apothecary which displayed rows of tiny clear bottles on wooden shelves and a miniature mortar and pestle on a wooden counter. I learned that the tiny bottles are made out of resin and filled with dried herbs and spices. Another of my favorite rooms was the Venetian Music Room complete with a decoratively painted miniature harpsichord, cello, violin, French horn, and tiny music stand.
After a long career in architectural and interior design, Vance began crafting miniature rooms less than two years ago. A self-described “fanatic for correct detail and scale,” the first room he created is called The Artist’s Studio. The attention to detail includes tiny framed paintings on the walls, a miniature easel with a sketched figure waiting to be finished, an artist’s tiny smock waiting to be worn and even splotches of paint on the floor. The overall effect feels like the artist has just left the studio and will return shortly.
Vance does research for the different time periods and applies meticulous detail in bringing each room to life. In the room entitled Grandpa’s Barn, the decorative accents include a basket of eggs, a replica of a tiny cast iron stove, tiny broom and rake, and a selection of itty bitty gourds.
A few of the other imaginative rooms on display included a French Style Home Library, English Cottage Livingroom, Italian Style Grotto, American Empire Style Room and a Monk’s Cell. The Tudor Style Dining Hall included a long wooden trestle table with delectable looking cakes, pies, breads and rolls on a platter. Vance makes the teeny tiny baked goods using special craft clay that is shaped, baked and painted.
Vance is currently working on a full scale model of the historic Norwalk Public Library which was built in 1902 with a grant from industrialist Andrew Carnegie. A replica of the furnishings in the historic Carnegie Room (the conference room where I teach my adult creative writing classes!) was included in the miniatures exhibit. The leaded glass windows, long antique conference table and even a portrait of Mr. Carnegie are on view in miniature.
While Vance Alexander’s miniatures are not made for children to play with, I was reminded of my childhood dollhouse. My maternal grandmother worked as a nurse in New York City hospitals. A grateful patient returned with a beautiful hand-made wooden dollhouse to give to his nurse’s daughter (my mother) as a Christmas gift in 1944. My ten-year old mother declared that she was too old to play with dolls and never used it. Fortunately, this large wooden dollhouse was saved and I became the lucky child who got to play with it.
Painted with red-brick walls and a pitched dark green roof, this dollhouse has real glass windows. Two of the four walls easily unhook for access to the five rooms inside. This fantastic example of folk art craftsmanship even includes the man’s name and the date written in around the edges of the faux stone foundation. I remember cutting out pictures from TV Guide to tape up on the walls as family portraits. I used one of Mom’s dangling costume jewelry earrings as a chandelier. I bought miniature furniture for my dollhouse including a grand piano and grandfather clock. Some of my earliest memories of creating adventures and drama for multiple characters originated in playing with the dollhouse family inside this very special dollhouse.
Kim Kovach still has her childhood dollhouse. Lots of good memories! www.kimkovachwrites.com