Sometimes I still catch myself reciting one of my favorite nursery rhymes. The gentle lilt of the words is still mysteriously soothing and has the power to transport my mind to a time when I believed you could sail the seas in a shoe. It was, perhaps, the first poem I was able to recite on my own and I confess, the lullaby still has the power to put me in a dream state.
Throughout the years I came to admire other nuances of Eugene Field’s poem and in 2005 while at the IGMA show, I was inspired to create a children’s area at the gallery. I was at Hanna Kahl-Hyland’s booth and she had a wonderful rendition of Princess and the Pea. The feeling I got from that piece filled me with such warm memories of my childhood that I decided to re-create some of my favorite nursery rhymes and fairy tales in 1:12 scale. Hanna and Jane Davies were already creating miniatures of the subject matter so they were the perfect artisans to bring the beloved classics to life.
One of the things that has always drawn me to children’s stories has been the illustrations. The colors and textures and creative freedom that the artists employ add layer upon layer to the whimsical tales. I knew that Hanna and Jane’s artistic vision would do the same and more. Jane is an English artisan who uses the most delicate fabrics with which to make costumes for her dolls—and her stitching of the fine fabrics is an art in itself. Just as superb are the IGMA Fellow’s thoughtful settings. In Hey Diddle Diddle, she incorporated rhinestones into the wood around the moon to simulate stars. And her interpretation of the cat is priceless—a pixie-faced doll with whiskers and oversized ears playing a fiddle. I could never have imagined it, but Jane did and it is extraordinary.
Hanna, also an IGMA Fellow and quite well known for her Hitty dolls, created vignettes for a variety of fairy tales including Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel. Last spring I was able to relive my excitement over the pieces when she attended the opening of the Russell Theatre interior in miniature. We reminisced about the creation of the fairy tales and stood in wonder together as we gazed at her work. There’s a great picture of her in the August 2014 blog standing in front of Rumpelstiltskin. It is so very difficult to re-create expression and structural details accurately on a doll and Jane and Hanna, as well as artisans like Maria Santos, do it beautifully.
All in all, the exhibits took one year to complete. The 24 fairy tales and nursery rhymes are displayed in a circular area with carpeting extending up the wall to meet a child-size railing—perfect for small children to hang on to while putting their feet on the walls! There is also a mural over the nursery rhyme area that was painted by my daughter, Carey.
You will just have to visit the gallery to see the children’s section in person. I err in calling in a “children’s section” since adults are just as awed (if not more) once they realize the artistic commitment of the pieces. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be because of the nursery rhyme, not the interpretation. I am so enthralled with Wynken, Blynken, and Nod that Lou and I named a boat Wynken. We put Blynken on our car license plate and Nod over our bed. I am getting sleepy just thinking about it. I guess it’s just another way of surrounding ourselves with memories we love, whether it be in miniature or in real life.