Friday, June 18, 2021

What I did during the Covid pandemic: Built a miniature Venetia palazzo

Photograph by Jenna Bascom

Sian Ballen and Jeff Hirsh, The Fisher Dollhouse: A Venetian Palazzo in Miniature, New York Social Diary, June 17, 2021.

We were completely mesmerized by the dollhouse created by art collector and patron, Joanna Fisher. Stuck in bed and unable to move during the height of Covid, Joanna discovered the dollhouse, a replica of a Venetian Palazzo, online. Immediately she knew she just “had to have it” but sadly it was sold. She sought out the designer of the original dollhouse, set designer, Holly Jo Beck, and commissioned a replica of the one made forty years ago. Joanna then proceeded to furnish the house with original artworks by artists and artisans all over the world. “The project was my savior, it cost me more than furnishing one of my own homes, but it was worth every penny.”

Fortunately we can experience this extraordinary palazzo in miniature first hand by visiting the exhibition, The Fisher Dollhouse: A Venetian Palazzo in Miniature, on display at The Museum of Arts and Design, through September 26th, 2021.

From the interview:

It’s an obtainable fantasy. Can you walk me through the process? How and when did you come up with the idea?

Well, I’ve loved miniatures since I was about three years old. My mother had a friend in Westchester, where I grew up. And on each wall in her octagonal dining room — instead of art or mirrors — she had a beautiful miniature — like a picture box — of a different room each in a different style. And they were back-lit. I was totally fascinated by them. My mother’s friend had four boys, so they never looked at the picture boxes. They didn’t care. I insisted on going every day after nursery school and she was so thrilled to have me come over. And I would stare at these things and obsess over them. And you know, the minute I was old enough to have my own dollhouse, I had one. My mother and I made one together in my room when I was little.

Did you actually make your first dollhouse?

We made it together with my dad. We made the furniture and the curtains and everything. My mother made paintings and even needle pointed rugs for it. And then when my daughter was born, the first thing I did was set about making her dollhouse, which I still have. It’s in her room in Chappaqua and it’s a beautiful one. Then I became an interior designer for about 30 years doing projects for mostly people that I knew. I did it for fun and enjoyment and I did it while my kids were at school. But Kips Bay asked me to make a miniature one time for their showhouse.

Oh, did they really? When was that?

It had to be about 30 years ago. And I still have it. It’s in my daughter’s room and it’s built into the wall. Fast forward 30 years — not only was I home-bound because of COVID, but suddenly I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t take a step and I couldn’t get any medical attention for it. Everything was being turned over to COVID. It was the height of it.

That’s scary.

I was hobbled, you know, I could not walk. So one night I was searching the internet and I came across this beautiful, old vintage replica of the Gritti Palace in a dollhouse form. And with the help of my friend Amy Kristy — she’s a miniature expert – we tracked it down. And I started to cry. Because it was very expensive and I thought, you know, “I’m not going to buy that. That’s crazy.” And then as time wore on, and the weeks passed, I still couldn’t walk and I still couldn’t do anything. I finally decided I had to have this thing. I said I don’t need any jewelry. I don’t need any clothing. I can’t even buy a pair of shoes. I’m buying this thing! We found the woman (Holly Jo Beck), who’s a set designer in England. She had used it at the Hyde Park Dollhouse Fair, like 40 years ago, as the opening thing for her booth. And then she said to me, “I sold that one, but I can make you a new one.”

Much later:

I know you don’t want to name prices or anything, but give me an example of one thing and how much it costs.

Well, the green chandelier that hangs in the center was $17,000.

There's more, photos and interview, at the link.

1 comment:

  1. I'm fascinated by miniatures though I haven't really explored the miniature world. I think it is why I was drawn to the silly Facebook hidden object game "June's Journey". The graphics are well done -- and designing the island is sort of like working in miniature. Also, on Instagram "Tiny Chef" fascinates me for the same reason. Miniature foods and kitchen utensils -- the whole shebang. How can you resist this scene?