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Miniature Camp Chronicles

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There are 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms in the Art Institute's collection (including the French Dining Room pictured above), but we presently have 69 on view with the addition of our German Rococo loan room. It is my pleasure to take care of these rooms, as well as research their history and construction. This has led me to take up making miniatures of my own as a means of practice and to further my knowledge and appreciation of the art of fine miniatures. One of my great opportunities to practice comes once a year in a tiny coastal town in Maine called Castine. A group of miniature artists descends upon this town for Guild School, which is part of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans.  I just got back from this weeklong study trip and thought it might be interesting to share some of the things I learned.

But first a view of the town. It’s beautiful here but the trip is all about miniatures…

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All kinds of skills are taught, from creating miniature furniture to silver- and other metal-smithing to making plants and even miniature gold fish.

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We have the opportunity to work with many amazing miniatures teachers and students from around the world. While I was there, I ran into fellow Chicagoan and artist Mary Grady O’Brian.

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Some of you might remember her work as a part of our annual holiday decorations for the Thorne Rooms. She created the little Victorian doll and a bulto (or saint figure) for our New Mexico room.

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Here I am studying how to make a miniature basket in a class led by Francine Coyon.

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and at the end of the week a hinged lidded basket!

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And now learning miniature painting techniques with South African artist Beth Freeman-Kane.

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Here is my finished painted bird and landscape from her workshop.

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My new skills will be put to the test later this year as we bedeck a new Thorne Miniature Room this year for the holidays. Which will we pick? You'll have to wait and see, but feel free to leave your guesses in the comments!

—Lindsay Mican Morgan, Department Technician, Thorne Rooms

Image Credit: Mrs. James Ward Thorne. French Dining Room of the Periods of Louis XV and Louis XIV, c. 1937. Gift of Mrs. James Ward Thorne.