Irish Blessing


It was in the mid-nineties when I first met Michael Walton and, I must say, my life has been touched with a little bit of Irish magic ever since. Was I charmed by the Irish brogue and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes? Definitely. But we shared an unbridled affection for history and how it translated through furniture—big and small. Our connection and friendship through the years has been an absolute gift to me so, to celebrate this wonderful man and miniaturist, I bring him to you in his words. To hear that fabulous Irish brogue for yourself, click the interview link at the end.


How did you get started in miniatures?

After technical school in Dublin, I started working as a furniture restorer for a prestigious shop, McDonnell Antiques. I spent 8 years working there, crafting my trade as a restorer of 18th century furniture and as a maker of fine furniture of the same period. It was during this time that I was asked to create miniature furniture for Tara’s Palace, which was being made for display in Dublin. The first pieces I made were two kitchen dressers and a table which were inspired by items from Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House in Windsor Castle. I then worked on the side perfecting my miniature techniques. I took my first inlaid piece to a much beloved, but now defunct, London store called The Singing Tree and that’s when my miniature career took off.

Where do you get your inspiration?

One place that has been truly inspiring is Tara’s Palace Museum of Childhood, which is now housed in Powerscourt Garden Estate in Wicklow, Ireland. Seeing such an intriguing blend of great art and architecture in such a romantic setting fuels my mind as to how people lived within their walls, how they furnished their living space, and how they shared personal treasures from their travels to create a sense of home unique to their experiences. By visiting castles, English country homes, and the great homes of dignitaries, I see that each piece of furniture has a role and a history, that it’s made with the highest quality of construction, and that it is a beautiful form of art. A perfect example is the 19th century Georgian Mahogany rent table: a farmer tenant would pay the estate owner by putting the rent in the appropriate drop hole which goes down to a lock box at the base of the table.


What has been your most challenging piece?

The rent table as a full-size piece was very complicated and even more challenging to replicate in one-inch scale (pictured right). On the surface, it looks like a library leather top drum table, but by pushing down the center of the table it creates a locking system. Also, the table is designed with eight working frieze drawers with an inlaid alphabet index per drawer. The base of the table also features a door that conceals three working drawers.

What is it about the art that you enjoy the most?

I enjoy researching pieces and perfecting new techniques. I also spend a lot of time on my finishing skills of traditional French polishing using hand-rubbed shellac and alcohol.

Aside from miniatures, what do you enjoy?

I am a strong pet advocate and I love to garden, but I don’t have a yard so I try to liven up my workshop front by growing perennials in containers. And whenever I get a free Sunday, I visit local flea markets and rescue handmade tools. I have a wall of planes in my workshop quite noteworthy for a craftsman.

Describe your workshop.


Michael made both of these sunburst chairs. The full-size is in the gallery–the 1:12-scale sits in the foyer of Spencer House.

I moved into my present location in Chicago about six years ago. It is an old 1920’s storefront with a big bay window which brings in a lot of natural light. I think it started out as a bakery. It’s in an older neighborhood in the largest Polish community outside of Poland. I use the storefront, which is only about 330 square feet, as my workshop and my Boxer, Bronagh, is always beside me looking out the door watching the world pass by. I live in the back where my parakeet spends the day flying around the living room entertaining the fish in my 90-gallon aquarium.

What is in your head to create that you have not yet started?

There are many fine Irish carved tables I would like to re-create. I never really worked at carving, so sometime I will get to practice and hopefully produce a few pieces.

What will you be doing on St. Patricks Day?

I’ll be volunteering at the Irish American Heritage Center for the St. Patrick’s Festival and, of course, enjoying an occasional Guinness. Coincidentally, I also discovered on my last trip home, an Irish gin from Kerry, called Dingle—the best I’ve tasted! 

Listen to Michael in this short interview on Chicago Public Radio and view his amazing craftsmanship at May the luck of the Irish be with you all this March and always!



Posted on March 1, 2016 in Collecting Miniatures