Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tiny Art----A Look into the World of an Artist of Miniatures

If you happened to have read my previous post regarding Christmas in the Mansion for 2015, you might have seen that I did not work alone this past holiday.  I had the honor and privilege of meeting and collaborating with a well known artist of miniatures, Ms. Kay Felde.  Kay's miniature room boxes which decorated the Doll Room at the Rahr Art Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin for the Christmas holiday totally made the room a step into a world of storybook fantasies.   Click here:  (A Sneak Peek into The Christmas in the Mansion Exhibit) to see her Christmas miniature room boxes from the exhibit.  Since then, I thought it would be very interesting to friends and fellow readers of my blog to feature some of her other work and tell you a bit about her as an artist and good friend.

My Talented Friend, Kay Felde
Kay was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin and grew up enjoying her high school art classes.  After marrying and settling down in Lansing, Illinois where she lived for 30 years, Kay had two boys which kept her very busy.   When the boys were in the forth and fifth grade, (about 35-40 years ago), Kay began taking her children to the monthly train shows which her husband, as a collector, belonged and participated.  Along with her sons, Kay helped her husband put together some of the houses, buildings and landscape that you see among train villages.

With her many contacts among the numerous dealers for trains and dollhouses,  Kay came across the opportunity to purchase some of the dollhouse supplies that were being sold from a dealer who was no longer going to stay in the business.  This decision was the beginning of her very successful career in the art of miniatures.  Her excitement over creating dollhouses grew, having designed and created about 12 houses in 2 years which were either sold or donated to be raffled off for as much as $600 a piece.

Although Kay loved creating the beautiful dollhouses, transporting these large items for exhibits became more difficult.  That is when Kay decided to transform her love for dollhouses into room boxes which she described as taking a room from the dollhouse and making it into a small scale, detailed work of art sometimes ranging from a large size of 10 in. x 10 in. x12 in. to the smallest size of 1 in. x 1 in. x 2 in.  Or to understand just what size we are talking about, the pieces can be in a 1/12, 1/25, or 1/44 scale.  Or, for example, 1/12 of an inch.

A small scale Raggety Ann and Andy House and Toy Box
As time went on, Kay became more involved in her art, learning new techniques and principles and expanding on her work.  Of course, with any growing hobby, the expense of maintaining and growing a hobby soon increased.  To offset some of the costs, Kay began to teach to support her hobby.  Her involvement included local clubs, such as the Mini Moos Club, and her participation in the association entitled, NAME, which is abbreviated for National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts, which offer national conventions and workshops for the art of miniatures.

Whether it is a national or regional organization for miniatures, Kay attends as many as she can.  Such shows have allowed her to travel and teach all over the United States to such places as Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and will take her to this year's national convention for miniatures in Seattle, Washington.    With every show and convention, Kay has met some incredible artists who she says, "helps her be challenged and grow" in her art.    Surround yourself with others who are more experienced than yourself so that you always have a chance to grow, learn more and improve is something she lives by.

The world of miniature making has change through the years.  Where once much of what was used in creating a room was either handmade or already made by others to sell, she now sees that there is more items that are manufactured.  Also with the new technology and computerized equipment such as laser cutters, items can be done with better precision and to the correct size.

There can be different reasons to be in the art of miniatures.  Some people who are among the miniature enthusiasts are those who are collectors and buy pieces already made by others for the pure enjoyment of having a collection to display.  Then there are others who are in the art for the pleasure and joy of making the pieces.  Of this group of designers, there are some artists who specialize and create, for example, the very detailed miniature "needlepoint" rugs which are sold and used in the room boxes on exhibit.   And last, there are those who have a passion to be a dealer and express their great gratification in bringing a huge assortment of items to those who buy and use miniature items.  For whichever of the above reasons to be in miniatures, it generates a great opportunity to meet so many people from all over the US who share the same love for the art and who are happy to share in their passion.

The many years of attending and learning at the show's workshops associated with the conventions has provided Kay with the techniques and methods that resulted in her fine, exquisite work.  Something this detailed and realistic could not come from just a few workshops, but from the many years of practice and her exposure to others who might have paved the way to something new and challenged her to do more.  Kay believes that sharing your talent is what the art is all about and that people who are in miniature art are some of the most caring and giving people.  Artists who are willing to teach other visiting artists something of interest in miniatures even at a time when convention workshops get filled to capacity during the scheduled time.  When the daily convention workshops are over for the day, hotel rooms become mini learning sessions that continue on well into the evening and night.

When asked who are the people doing miniature art and why, Kay began by saying that she believes all people have a fascination for little things, but she finds that the average age of people first starting out in miniature art is between the age of 35-40 years old.  She states further that people in that age range get hooked on miniatures because they may have more time, patience and money needed to get into this form of art.  Miniatures require such detailed work that often very young children would find it too difficult to do.  Some of the adult students of Kay's classes have been art and theater art teachers who learn and create miniatures as a mock up for their own theater stage and movie sets.

At this point of the interview, I was extremely interested in asking how she created some of the miniature items.  She was very patient and gracious to explain it to someone like me who had no knowledge of art materials and supplies.  One of Kay's favorite mediums is Fimo Polymer Clay, which is made in Germany.   It comes in a large assortment of colors and when baked turns very hard and can be painted.  When she designed her Dunkin' Donuts Miniature Shop, she created a replica of the store's counter and shelves which hold the donuts for purchase.  With great patience and a steady hand, Kay shaped, baked and painted (or frosted) over 500 miniature donuts of various kinds for her miniature trays that occupied her little store's shelves.  There were frosted cake donuts, long johns, honeymooners and crullers.  The donuts were so true to life that one exhibitor gave what Kay considered the "highest compliment" by saying that he could "smell the donuts" as he viewed her work.

Frosting the donuts

A Dunkin Donut Shop
How can that be you ask?  A bit of a trick that Kay has passed on to me is that the miniature room will have a greater impact if you put more realism into the pieces.  She pointed out that real life is not perfect, so the pieces that go into the room should reflect those imperfections in real life.  For example, when working with a room that includes stairs. Kay always uses a bit of sandpaper to the stairs to make them look worn in the middle where people might have walked.

In her classes, Kay teaches some techniques used to make various effects and realistic details to some of the small pieces in miniatures.  She has helped her students create  an"oil cloth tablecloth" for their miniature tables in their rooms by showing them how to take accurate measurements of paper for their table, using Modge Podge to cover the heavy stock paper and make it pliable for shaping into graceful folds and ruffles that lay nicely over the table and to give it the shine like that of the real oil cloth tablecloth.

Another example of her creativeness is her resourcefulness in finding material to make a miniature Weber grill for her Backyard Picnic room box.  Instead of purchasing a grill that was mass produced, she took apart a round, red and white fishing bobber and painted it black.  Using metal tubing for the legs and window screen for the grill, she also added brown floral taped staples to the side for handles.  Red glitter covered train landscape pebbles made the perfect "hot coals" for the Weber grill.  What would a grill be without the tasty hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill?  She made those too out of her Fimo Polymer Clay.  Her students learn to use their imagination and creativity when looking for materials to use in their miniature making.  She teaches them a lot about the technique, method and products used to make some of the tiniest and most intricate pieces in miniatures.

A Backyard Picnic Miniature Room Box
Hot Dogs and Hamburgers--Yum!
Whats a backyard party without watermelon?
A charcoal Weber grill hot and ready for the hot dogs and hamburgers.
Such attention that goes into how the littlest pieces of miniatures look in a room is what helps Kay achieve her objective when displaying these lovely little works of art in an exhibit.  To stimulate a viewer's interest, the room must contain pieces which possess great realistic detail and must contain enough pieces of various kinds in order for someone to see something different each time the room is viewed and studied.  That to me is quite an undertaking considering what items must be thought up that are used in the room, how many varied items that are used and how detailed everything must be to achieve the total effect.

This leads me to a question I was waiting for her to answer all evening which was what is it about miniatures that she liked the most or find most rewarding.  Her answer was that of a true artist.  She happily stated that designing and making most, if not all of her pieces, was the most satisfying part of working in this form of art.  Unlike some people, Kay chooses to create her own pieces rather than purchasing them already made.  It is a true sign of someone very talented and creative.  For example, if the room would happen to include a bowl filled with potato chips, such tiny detail she tells me could be achieved by using the top of an acorn cap with the stem removed as the bowl and dehydrated green pepper seeds as the potato chips.  In addition, she emphasizes that the art of creating miniatures also includes a combination of various art forms such as painting, woodworking, interior design, etc. which is very gratifying.

A Woodworking/Fix It Miniature Room Box

Hard at work in the shop--so many projects to finish.

What man wouldn't want this workshop and tools?

Just a few more boards and it is time for staining.

It is time to clean up.  It is almost dinner time.
Where does one see some of Kay's work?  After moving here to the Manitowoc area in 1995, Kay's work has been on exhibit at various times at the Rahr West Art Museum (Manitowoc, Wisconsin), Sheboygan and Manitowoc Public Libraries, the John Kohler Art Center (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) and many local artists shows throughout Wisconsin and Illinois.   In addition, two of her room boxes (one which pertained to Fourth of July Fireworks and the other a Farmer's Market) were given as continuity gifts to the Mayor of Kamogawa, Japan through an exchange project between the two cities of Manitowoc, Wisconsin and the farm community of Kamogawa, Japan.

Her 25 years of teaching classes have given others the chance to experience her joy and passion for the art.  Her classes are held at the various local artist shows as well at the NAME convention and the regional convention which includes those enthusiasts from such states as Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois.  Kay's friendliness, openness, valuable knowledge, experiences and commitment giving others genuine support and encouragement are what truly makes her a great teacher and mentor.  I feel truly blessed to have met her and worked with her at the Rahr.  I wish her continued happiness and success in all that she does, including the world of miniatures and that her many years of teaching and passion for her art has truly touched the lives and ambitions of many people.  Her unlimited talent is truly appreciated by all.

Below are just some of the room boxes Kay has done through the years.  Sit back, make yourself comfy and enjoy a trip through some of the most realistic room boxes and miniature art pieces ever.  You just won't believe it is a miniature.  


  1. Wow - this is seriously amazing Americana art! Kay Felde is truly an amazing artist and it appears she is generous enough to be able to teach her art as well.

    Was just blown away by all these pieces and hope these inspire others to learn the art form as well. Thank you for sharing with your readers.

  2. Thank you Margaret. I am so glad you enjoyed the article. Seeing her work in person is even more amazing.

  3. This looks like so much fun! I am inspired by all you do...thanks for sharing with us on the Thursday Blog HOp!

  4. Kay is a true artist, and very generous with her talents it seems.

    A friend of mine is very much into miniatures and I'm going to send her this link.

    1. Thank you Doreen. Please do send her the article. My friend, Kay, is thrilled to share her passion. She would be happy to make a new friend too. All the best to you. Many hugs.....

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  6. Wow these are amazing! I love the workshop! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

    1. Thank you. I think that one is my favorite room box as well. I hope others have enjoyed this piece as well. Thank you for visiting The Little Yellow Corner Store and taking the time to comment.


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