ULTIMATE REALISM IN 1:12 FOOD - HOW IT ALL BEGAN

I fell in love with my first dollhouse at the age of 4.  It was a metal hand-me-down from my sister with plastic furniture and I played with it every day until my parents gave me a lovely wood dollhouse for my 5th birthday.  I remember the enchantment of playing with my make believe family in the little rooms.  The walls were bare but the tiny house came alive every afternoon after I raced home from kindergarten to serve mini tea and cake for my tiny dolls.  That dollhouse was my favorite toy until it broke beyond repair.  I cried for days even though I was 13 and though I didn't realize it at the time, my fascination with the world of lilliput had just begun and has remained with me ever since.  In 1981 a dear friend gave me a dollhouse kit, the Tennyson by Greenleaf.  Imagine my delight when I discovered there were adult collectors out there, people like me who loved everything tiny!  

Bitten by the miniature bug, I built and sold several other dollhouses including the Cambridge by Dura-Craft and several shops by Real Good Toys.  Then I started 'kit-bashing', which is the art of altering kits to make them unique.  I 'bashed' a second Cambridge and joined it with the first, creating a fabulously large dollhouse like the large homes I read about in romance novels, but I still wasn't satisfied.  It needed to look more like a mansion than a house.

During a lucky trip into my local dollhouse shop, Dollhouses Plus, I began chatting with the owner, Millie Smith, and she was so impressed with my enthusiasm, she hired me as a consultant for dollhouse interior design!  Millie taught me all the ways to transform my dollhouse into the mansion of my dreams and I'm forever grateful for her generous nature in sharing skills and advice.  Before I knew it I was helping customers coordinate wallpaper, tiles, molding, wood, wainscoting, lighting, textiles and other various architectural elements to achieve their miniature dreams!

When the owner of a local hair salon (John L. DiMenna) came in one day to ask if we were interested in selling his fabulous handmade bird houses I could not have imagined he would, eventually, offer to build my dream dollhouse- a custom design from scratch!  Armed with only a few photographs of The Elms in Newport, RI, John was commissioned to build Crown Jewel Manor.  The only dollhouses he had built until then were a few kits for Millie but you can see the wonderful job he did here: Crown Jewel Manor!

I loved my job and Millie and I went to all the trade shows to scout out tiny treasures but meeting fellow miniaturists was the most rewarding experience of all.  Random people would pop into the shop bringing in their handmade minis, sharing techniques, asking for advice and selling some of the most incredible miniature creations!  Barbara Par brought in her amazing Victorian gazing balls, Cheryl Riello shared her magnificent character dolls and the parade of talent went on and on!

When Millie retired and closed the shop we both cried.  It was a sad time but I still cherish the people I met, the places I visited and the knowledge I gained.  One by one I watched in sadness as most of the brick and mortar dollhouse shops in New England, and then across the country, closed due to their inability to compete with online stores with no overhead and giant craft store chains.  Energized with an "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" spirit, I decided to open my own online business. 

In late March of 2010 I created an Etsy shop, registered with eBay, built a website and joined various social media sites- and Crown Jewel Miniatures was born.  I began making anything I could- jewelry, furniture (from scratch and kits), accessories and I even made a Crown Jewel Miniatures Market shopping cart!  I was all over the board until folks started asking me to make more miniature food!  With a pile of polymer clay and a fierce determination to do my best I whipped up enough bread and cheese to fill almost every dollhouse in New England and that's where it all began.   

I am a self-taught miniaturist but I gratefully acknowledge Angie Scarr who pioneered a disciplined approach to 1:12th food making.  Her invaluable books were my inspiration as I began crafting miniature food and I honor her and several other pros each day by doing my best to create lifelike 1:12th scale foods for collectors worldwide.

Realistic miniature food has been my goal since Day 1.  Food is not 'perfect' and neither are my creations. I don't like 'cookie cutter' miniatures or food that looks as if it came from a mold.  I strive for realism- this has always been the cornerstone of my art- and when others exclaim "It looks good enough to eat" I'm truly inspired.  That is is the very best feedback a miniature food artist can possibly receive and I'm grateful.

Over the years I've been encouraged to apply for the distinction of Artisan status from the International Guild of Miniature Artisans.  I'd been an IGMA member, on and off, for several years and attended many Guild shows, but I never believed my food art was good enough to submit for evaluation as Artisan.  My husband did though, and at his urging I applied and was recognized as an IGMA Artisan in May 2014 in the category of Food.  It's an incredible achievement on my journey as a miniature food artist and I do my best to honor the distinction with each new piece I create. 

I owe my husband so much, more than words can say.  He's my hero, the love of my life and his belief in me as a person and a miniaturist never fails- it's a daily example of the power of true love.  His support and encouragement of my art enabled me to reach one of my dreams.  With a champion like him beside me the journey ahead seems much less of an uphill climb.  As I said on my Blog when I announced my Artisan status- when my hand isn't making miniatures, it's in his.

With support, love and mutual encouragement we can all achieve our dreams if we try.  Dream big, make it small and never give up mini friends! 

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E-mail me with your story!  I would love to know how you became interested in miniatures!

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Robin Brady-Boxwell, IGMA Artisan

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Still have questions? Please contact me at anytime! I look forward to hearing from you and I'm here to help!


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