Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Germany is a Miniaturist's Paradise

A miniature scene in a picture frame
I arrived home last week after two months in Europe. Much of my time was spent in Bavaria, Germany, where my daughter lives. I went over there to meet a real life mini - my brand new granddaughter! But of course, as well as gazing adoringly at the baby, I was also on the hunt for miniatures.
   Germany, or at least Bavaria, is a treasure trove of miniatures. You can find them in all sorts of places. At souvenir shops you will see a range of Reuter Porzellen items, either singly or in little scenes such as kitchen tables with cakes on them or study sets with an ink well, quill pen, spectacles and folded newspaper, just ready to be popped straight into your dolls house.
   Souvenir shops also sell fridge magnets which can be used in 1:12 scale houses. I particularly admired the
cuckoo clock magnets and the ones like miniature houses where a man came out of one door if it was going to rain and a lady came out of the other door if it was going to be sunny. We had a real one of those when I was a child and it always fascinated me.
  Some areas of the country had miniatures specific to them such as handmade and hand-painted tin minis I wrote about elsewhere on this blog.

A variety of miniature scenes from Germany
  I was very interested to see these miniature scenes in picture frames. They sloped inwards towards the back to give a longer perspective view. Domestic interiors, workshops, stables and shops all featured in them. I thought they would be relatively easy to make and especially could be good for a club project.
   Germany is famous for wooden toys and in some specialty toy or souvenir shops you can see a range of wooden miniatures, and especially Christmas trees, ornaments, and nativity scenes in several scales. I bought the tiniest nativity scene in a walnut shell.
  And in some towns there are Christmas shops with a very varied range of ornaments which could be used for dolls house miniatures.
  If you are travelling to Bavaria or further afield in Germany, keep your eyes open for minis. I'm sure you'll be delighted with what you find.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Visiting Munich's Museum of Childhood

Munich's Museum of Childhood

At one end of the Marianplatz in central Munich, Germany, there is a building that looks like a tower straight out of a fairytale. As you climb the narrow, stone spiral staircase, you feel as if you might meet Rapunzel! In this tower is the Museum of Childhood and Toys.
  I went there to see some antique playthings and dolls houses. Part of the charm of older miniatures is that they rarely were made to a specific scale. This was well illustrated in the museum displays of 19th century miniatures.
Dolls house miniatures from 1875
There was a two-room house, a drawing room and bedroom, from 1875 that featured tin furniture and elaborate gold window pelmets. The furniture and furnishings were a mixture of scales, as were the dolls.
  Another display showed a haberdashery shop with bolts of material on the simple shelves and a little sewing machine nearby.
  The Nuremberg Kitchen caught my attention. There was so much to look at in this display that would have been used as a teaching aid for young girls, readying them for the time they grew up and had their own households to run.
A Nuremberg Kitchen
  The kitchen was bursting with rows of jelly moulds, pewter plates, woven baskets, porcelain canisters, scales, scoops and sieves. In the middle stood a doll wearing a red skirt and checked apron, a little kitten at her feet.
  I spent a happy hour browsing the other displays in the museum that ranged from Donald Duck and Barbie, to clockwork windup toys, singing mechanical birds and dancing bears.
Wind up tin toys