Japan Miniature Guild Show, November 10-20, 2005
Please click the Sign-Up Forms button to the left for the registration form and other necessary information.

Netherlands, Arnhem Show, Belgium & Bitburg, Germany
April 6-18, 2006 - Pre-tour in Amsterdam April 3-6

Hosted by Trees Beertema of Holland
Private collections ~ museums - Workshop with lunch and dinner at the home of Trees Beertema - Easter in Brussels ~ mini shopping & more! Limited to 25 participants!

Discrepancy of size is a form of distortion, and all forms of distortion shock us into attention. --Steven Millhauser, "The Fascination of the Miniature"

In the beginning, dollhouses were playthings for adults--and only extremely wealthy adults could afford the "baby houses" of the late 17th and the 18th centuries. These early dollhouses were usually elaborately constructed to fit inside a cabinet. The house would look like a regular piece of furniture, but when it was opened up, inside a multi-room dollhouse would be revealed. Inside, furniture of various small scales but lovely craftsmanship could usually be found. The dolls in these early houses were usually crude wood, or wax.

By the 19th century, "baby houses" had become "dolls' houses," and had found their place among the playthings of children, in nurseries. Still only the playthings of the wealthy, the early dolls' houses had elaborate furnishings--needlepoint rugs, furniture upholstered in silks, find wood furniture. The dolls in early 19th century houses were wood, but no longer crudely made. By the end of the century, dolls' house dolls were made of glazed china, and then bisque. The "scale" of 19th century dolls' houses was not set to 1" to 1" scale as most dollhouses are today, and to the eye of the modern collector, these older furnished houses (usually only seen in museums today) look very informal, and somewhat "messy" since the furnishings are so obviously out-of-scale. Another popular type of "miniature' were the elaborate miniature worlds that were created for French fashion dolls, also known as poupees. These dolls often had their own furniture, gloves, purses, games, fans, sewing kits and more! It is a rare modern miniaturist who is not captivated by the amazing detail and quality of the tiny high couture world of the poupees.

By the early 20th century, the development of the scale of dollhouses in our present dollhouse 1" to 1' scale can be seen in Queen Mary's Dollhouse--perfectly scaled--built for Queen Mary in the early 1920s. Also, by the early 20th century, dolls were close to scale (although not quite scale) as can be seen in the pictured dollhouse dolls in original wedding clothing, which are 7" in height.

Surprisingly, the majority of visitors to the doll museum are adults -- some looking to add to their collections, others hoping to rekindle a little childlike wonder.

Everyone loves the Smithsonian Institution. Other museums in Washington find themselves fading into its shadow, waiting patiently for the trickle of visitors to discover their unique collections of American culture.

One such museum is tucked away in the northwest corner of the city, a quaint house with a modest sign announcing its intentions. Inside, a lone clerk graciously dispenses tickets and, for a small fee, visitors can pass through the portal and into the past -- into the Washington Dolls' House and Toy Museum, bursting at the seams with a cornucopia of antique toys and miniature furnishings.

The museum was founded in 1975 by Flora Gil Jacobs when the hundreds of thousands of items she had collected over the years threatened to overwhelm her home. Even so, not all of her collection can be displayed; seasonal exhibits, of which Christmas is a favorite, allow the curators to empty the attic several times a year.

Dolls' houses, says Jacobs, provide scholars and amateurs alike an opportunity to study the architecture, decorative arts and social history. "A very nice American woman who had lived in Mexico wrote me about a wonderful house she had seen in Pueblo and sent me some snapshots," she tells Insight. "There used to be houses that were teaching toys in the Catholic schools in Mexico and we theorize it was from one of those schools, which they did away with in the 1920s."

Famous Doll Houses

One of the most famous and well planned dollhouses is Queen Mary's Dolls' House which was designed in 1924 by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary it is displayed at Windsor Castle.
One of the most opulent dollhouses in North America is Colleen Moore's Fairy castle which has been housed as an exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois since the early 1950s.

Also located in Chicago are the famous Thorne Rooms, 68 miniature period rooms designed by Mrs. James Ward Thorne, who commissioned master craftsmen to create the furnishings for the rooms during the 1930s and '40s. The rooms are housed in the Art Institute of Chicago.

A lesser-known masterpiece is Tara's Palace, housed in Malahide Castle, Dublin. Started by Ron and Doreen McDonnell in 1980, it is based on Sir Neville Wilkinson's celebrated Titania's Palace, which he created in 1908. The house itself is built in 1/12th scale and is influenced by Castletown House, Leinster House, and Carton, the three prominent 18th century mansions in Ireland. The house has 25 rooms and was built to raise money for children's charities.

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