So many scenes and single art pieces in the KSB Miniatures Collection are evocative of real life, but perhaps some of the most personal miniatures I have ever seen are those of pets. They have the ability to add life to a scene, to spark emotion in an instance, and to re-create an image in the most realistic way possible. The technical aspects of this art form are indeed admirable, but there is an added dimension that animal artisans must attain that relates to the personality of an animal or pet. And once it is achieved, it is magical.
Just take a look at Kerri Pajutee’s Springer Spaniels pictured here. There are three distinctive personalities. But it’s not only in the expressions of these marvelous furred sculptures, it’s apparent in their posture and pose and in their relation to one another in the scene. Some may call this anthropomorphic, but I call it amazing craftsmanship. If you were to ever witness Kerri carefully and lovingly sculpt a creature, you would see it, too. It’s apparent in the way she holds the sculpture while she carves it and how she looks into the animal’s face while contemplating its character. Perhaps it’s the added element of capturing life.
Even more personal, has to be when an animal artisan takes on a commission to re-create a beloved pet. Kerri did it brilliantly when she made Gentry, our ornery yellow Lab who against all odds lived to be 11. When he was just six months old, the vet told us he would more than likely die of diabetes before his second birthday. He lived more than a decade with constant attention and insulin (our vet said that when he dies, he wants to come back as a Browning pet) and we will forever hold his memory and his miniature near.
For Lucy Francis, who has three dogs of her own, the most difficult part of honoring a pet in miniature is also the most rewarding—that it meets the expectations of the owner to reflect the essence of the pet. Lucy, like many animal artisans, has heartwarming stories to go along with each miniature. Recently she donated a gift certificate to help raise money for a rescue organization. Shortly after receiving the certificate, the recipient found out her dog had terminal cancer. Lucy memorialized the pet using the actual animal’s fur for the piece, making it even more special for the owner.
Alice Zinn, one of the first miniaturists to begin crafting furry animals and feathered birds, has created thousands of animals over her forty years in the craft. One of her earliest pieces was a Newfoundland made for a client who was re-creating a room box based on Renoir’s painting Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children. That piece, says Alice, really got her thinking about her miniatures as an art form. She was a frontrunner in the field of animal artistry in miniature and thanks to her talent, the art continues to add realism and emotion to room boxes and vignettes throughout the world.
One of my all-time favorite scenes in the gallery includes a white Borzoi (above) by Liz McInnis. The room box by Harry Smith is exquisite on its own, but Liz’s piece brings it to life. Regal, yet comfortable, the dog seems to know all the secrets of the Spite House. His very existence in the scene adds a depth to the story of the room that I doubt could otherwise be accomplished. The dog’s magnificent character is no doubt due to the fact that Liz bases much of her Borzoi work on one of her former pets, Kiri, who recognized close to 300 words and commands. Liz currently shares her studio with a young Scottish Deerhound and a 13-year-old Miniature Schnauzer who provide all kinds of “big dog/little dog, young dog/old dog interactions” to inspire her work. Liz also created the Pomeranian on your left.
Animal artisans, of course, bring other species to life with their art (my favorite Alice Zinn piece is a bear), but I could not help but focus on dogs as we just featured our own version of the Westminster Dog Show on the KSB Miniatures Collection Facebook page. We are already planning the 2016 Westminiature Dog Show for next February. Auralea Krieger, editor for both American Miniaturist and Dollhouse Miniatures magazines says she is thrilled to see animal artisans being featured, “Miniature animal artisans have a special place in my heart because they have the ability to put the character and soul of a precious pet in their furry expression and sparkling eyes.” Like Auralea, I cannot wait to see the entries, not only because they represent fine craftsmanship, but because they represent a part of the miniatures world that has the ability to portray an emotional connection in real life.