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dollhouse porch house playhouse toy detail intricate erica watts

Dollhouse Detail — Magic in Miniature by Erica Watts

dollhouse porch house playhouse toy detail intricate erica watts

It’s all in the details. A tiny dollhouse sports all the trimmings of the real things, on a 1:12 scale. By Erica Watts of Spokane, WA.

It’s hard to resist the heartfelt request of a five-year-old.

And when that child is your daughter, and you’re an artist, and her request piques your creative interest, well, then, you’re on what Erica Watts calls a mini-adventure into unknown, but delightful, territory.

“My youngest daughter was the inspiration that started me on the path I’m on,” the Spokane, WA, artist, who creates miniature dollhouses and furniture, says.

closet miniature scaled dollhouse erica watts

No closet ever feels big enough, does it? But even in miniature, this closet manages to hold many fascinating items. Dollhouse art by Erica Watts.

“We were at a birthday party, and her friend got a custom dollhouse for a gift. My daughter asked if I could make her one and with that request, my love of minis began. I converted a shelving unit into a custom dollhouse for Mia, using found objects and making custom furniture and textiles along the way.”

Well, she couldn’t stop there. A lifelong artist who has completed art courses at Michigan Tech University and the Art Institute of Chicago, Watts found miniature work to be the perfect way to create across a broad spectrum of mediums. She works with textiles, wood, plastic, metal, paint, paper, and more, and beyond that, she integrates sustainability into the mix.

Sustainability

“I noticed that this happened organically,” Watts says. “From the beginning, I started out trying to use everyday things in a different way, then realized I can upcycle and recycle so much more.

“I try to live my everyday life that way, too, so it was only natural it would flow into my creative spaces.”

bathroom miniature sink mirror home decor erica watts

A double sink vanity is a luxury item for the bathroom, in a regular-sized home or dollhouse.

Caught capturing a cap or two from the garbage can, she has discovered ways to repurpose old toys, parts of plastic packaging, a hair curler, doll parts, egg cartons, and miscellaneous nuts and bolts.

“You really start to look at everyday items differently when you realize a little glass jar can be a plant pot, or an oversized bead can be a lamp base.”

Of course, you also have a tendency to keep just about everything, because you never know when you’ll need it. That’s not a problem when your studio is inside a warehouse, but when it is tucked into an 8 x 9 foot room in the basement of the house, you have to get creative with your organizational skills as well. Watts fits everything into three walls of pegboard and a fourth of shelving.

“When I build, I am messy.

“I don’t like to put anything away until I’m completely done with what I am building. For some reason, it just throws my creative groove when I have to pull things out every time I’m ready to work. Instead, I like it all to be out and visible. With having such a small space, that means I have to do regular deep cleans and organization days.”

One Inch Equals One Foot

dresser furniture drawers miniature dollhouse art erica watts

No matter the size of house, you just can’t have too many dressers. Dollhouse art by Erica Watts of Spokane, WA.

Working on a 1:12 scale (one inch equals one foot), Watts creates entire furnished dollhouses, as well as individual mini-pieces — pillows, tables, beds, lamps with those confiscated caps, even surfboards — on a custom and retail basis. It’s become a family affair, with her youngest daughter — the one who inspired her to start on the mini-adventure — suggesting new items and “test playing” with each piece before shipment. Watts’ teenage son, who “kind of laughs” at his mom for playing with doll stuff, nevertheless is drawn to the mechanics and technical skill required to recreate items in miniature. And her oldest daughter offers suggestions on coordinating paint colors and fabrics.

“She loves looking at the end result because EVERYTHING is cuter in miniature form.”

Not only cuter, but also detailed, intricate, and challenging. Watts has learned, and continues to learn, that miniature creation is a craft demanding copious amounts of patience, a virtue she progresses upon finessing.

“There is so much planning and waiting in miniature work. The glue has to dry; the paint has to dry; there’s multiple sandings, painting, sewing, ironing, gluing, sanding again, painting again, only to wait again.”

Reminders of Childhood

But oh, how it’s worth it, especially when she gets feedback from happy clients. Her most poignant sale involved a complete dollhouse shipped clear across the country to a woman who purchased it for her daughter’s birthday. Both girls are named Mia; they share eerily similar middle names, are the same age and have birthdays around the same time.

It was meant to be.

“My goal is to bring joy and wonder in each piece that I make,” Watts says.

“I want people to be reminded of their childhood or think of their grandchildren.

“And I want people to be amazed at how real something looks.”

That’s big. That’s big indeed.

Wenaha GalleryErica Watts is the featured Art Event artists from May 18 to June 14.

Contact Wenaha Gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

 

 

Birds and Antlers and Frogs — Oh My! The Sculpture Art of Ralph Trethewey

miniature pecan antlers by wenaha gallery artist Ralph Trethewey

Though these antlers are much, much smaller than the original from which they are inspired, they retain the accuracy and attention to detail of full size. Pecan Shell Moose by Ralph Trethewey.

Most people think of pecan shells as something to throw away after eating the nut within. For sculptor Ralph Trethewey, however, the material on the outside is far more valuable, and he has carved, quite literally, a career out of those pecan shells. Credited with discovering a form of sculpture unique in the world, the Walla Walla artist creates miniature masterpieces by carving, with rotary power tools and small knives, Lilliputian antlers, which he mounts to small-scale walnut plaques.

“My grandpa raised pecans in Phoenix, AZ,” Trethewey explains. “We would visit there in the winter, and one time when I picked up the shells I noticed the curvature, which is similar to the outer curvature of a mule deer’s antlers. I made a mental connection, and the next step was making the carving.

“It’s kind of nuts, isn’t it?”

Crazy or not, the resulting original and precision works are in the hands of collectors as unique and distinguished as the artworks themselves: Ripley’s Believe it or Not owns a set, as does contemporary Western artist Bev Doolittle.

“I was antler crazy at a young age,” Trethewey says. Raised in the Mojave Desert of California and near the Wasaatch Mountains of Utah, Trethewey grew up listening to the hunting stories of his father, John Trethewey, who once shot a buck with an eight-point rack on one side and twenty on the other.

“Every time I asked him where those antlers were, he simply said, ‘I just left them out in the cedars because we only needed the meat.'”

Trethewey recalls regularly embarrassing his father by asking total strangers where he could find antlers, and while he received some funny looks, he also picked up good tips, following up on them by looking in gas stations, on garages and fence posts, even straining to peek into bars to see antlers.

“It was a healthy addiction for which no support groups existed.”

Perhaps it’s a good thing no support group existed, because the result was that Trethewey directed his energy, and his passion for antlers, to art, cultivating what he considers a God-given talent for woodcarving into a career as a professional artist which he has been pursuing since 1973.

hand carved wood goldfinch sculpture by wenaha gallery artist Ralph Trethewey

Hand carved from wood and hand painted, Goldfinch by Ralph Trethewey meets the strict standards of approval by experts like the wildlife biologists of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“I began carving as a boy and got affirmation for my first efforts,” Trethewey remembers. “I turned to Utah’s aspen trees and would carve deer from these which sold for $25.”

In addition to miniature antlers made from pecan shells, Trethewey carves full sized antlers in wood, which he reproduces in limited edition cast polymer. He also creates original wood carvings of birds and other wildlife, as well as limited edition bronze sculptures. The next time you’re in downtown Walla Walla, walk to the southeast corner of Main and Third Streets to enjoy The Thinker, a whimsical frog based upon the iconic work of Auguste Rodin.

The various homes for Trethewey’s works are as varied and eclectic as the works themselves, and along with municipal public art and a presence at Ripley’s, Trethewey’s creations — from his realistic carved birds to his signature “Wyoming Wonder” World Record Antler sculptures —  have been purchased by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, musician Hank Williams Jr., and former governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts.

Trethewey has received numerous First Place, Best in Show, and People’s Choice awards in various group exhibitions, and he garnered Best of Show at the 17th Annual American National Miniature Show in 1992. His Thinker sculpture received the Walla Walla Architectural Award. To this point, he has produced 47 limited edition sculptures, many of which are sold out.

“The statements I make (with my art) are basically a love of nature and an attempt to duplicate/interpret realistically its beauty,” Trethewey says.

“Life is all about learning. It postpones the onset of Alzheimer’s.

“In summary, I love what I get to do!”

Trethewey’s many and varied artworks are on display at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event  in his honor, which runs from April 28 – May 17 at the downtown historic gallery, 219 East Main, Dayton, WA. Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery Website: www.wenaha.com

Read more about Art Event, our celebration of Pacific Northwest Artists,  here.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.