Barbara Brear is a South African book binder who makes exquisite miniature books in 1:12 scale. She is a member of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA). Barbara kindly agreed to answer my questions about her work.W. What inspired you to take the leap from making ‘real size’ books to 1:12 scale ones?
B. I was already “into” miniatures when I started doing my full sized book binding courses and my teacher said “You must look on the internet – there is lots of stuff on miniature books” (the internet was quite new then!!). And I just started experimenting on my own. The books I made then I thought were fantastic, but if I look at them now – bleurgh! But gradually, gradually one aspect after another improves and gets finer.
W. Of your open books, which one/ones are the most popular?
B. By far the most popular book is Mrs Beeton’s cookbook. I mean everyone has a kitchen table that needs a cook book open, don’t they? I used to keep track of total number of orders so I had stats. Now I don’t anymore but I know that book was WAY ahead. Then the Nativity’s are the next most popular.
W. Where do you source the paper, leather and marbled paper? They are so fine!
B. All from different places. We have a lovely paper shop called the Deckle Edge where I get my paper and boards. The leather – I have to buy a whole skin and then it is skived with a sharp blade to get it super thin. There is a lot of waste but without the thin leather the book is not in scale and the corners are clumsy. The marbled paper comes from a specialist marbler in England. Her business is Jemma Marbling and she specialises in fine papers for miniatures. Expensive, but worth it.
W. How long does it take to make a book from start to finish?
B. It takes just under or over an hour depending on the finish. I am an obsessive timer. I know how long it takes me to do EVERYTHING from making a white sauce to washing up to making tea!! And I keep timing myself with my books and it is nearly always 58 minutes!
W. How did you get involved in the miniatures world?
B. Like all miniaturists (and how often do you hear this EXACT phrase?) “I have been fascinated with tiny things FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER!!” I remember making little tiny books as a child and I can remember a holiday where I spent every free moment with my nose pressed against the window of a dollshouse shop in Heysham, England. On the last day of my holiday I took all my pocket money and went into the shop. I DESPERATELY wanted the little writing desk with the drop down shelf and the green felt writing surface but all I could afford was a toaster and three flying ducks!!! (You will be pleased to know I now own the most EXQUISITE writing desk!!!!)
And then I found the book on Making Miniatures by Venus and Martin Dodge. I started on my own and still I thought I was the only adult in the world who wanted to play with dollshouses. Then someone at school brought along a newspaper article about a Miniatures Club in Cape Town. AMAZING! I joined and that was when my second life started.
W. I imagine you have a dolls house yourself –can you tell us about it?
B. I went on a Dollshouse Holiday in England and made my house there. I did not glue it together but flat packed it and couriered it back to South Africa. It is still a work in progress but you can see it all on my web site along with lots of “How did I do it” tips.
|A 1:12 scale open book|
|The Nativity in miniature|
Here are photos of the three books of Barbara's I own - the Nativity is on the prie-dieu in my Tudor dolls house chapel, the Victorian Botanical is in the library of my miniature museum and Mrs Beeton's cookbook is in my Edwardian dolls house kitchen,
Barbara has a website where you can see more of her beautiful work. Many thanks, Barbara!
Mrs Beeton's Cookbook in 1:12 scale