Frankly Boxed In

It makes sense that the written word would rekindle my relationship with two librarian sisters who inspired me when they worked at the Crestwood Library during my youth. Nancy and Sheila found my blog about a year ago. Since then, Nancy has emailed me regularly about the topics of mine that interest her. I asked Nancy to tell me about some of her favorite things. She sent several excellent blog posts for me to share with you.

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I can still remember the jealousy only a younger sister feels when my older sister (3 and ½ years older) received her first (and only— it bored her) dollhouse in the early 1950s. It was a painted-on-tin dollhouse with individual rooms and a side porch over the garage.

My sister could have cared less. She was a reader, even then, and never met a book she didn’t want to explore. I, on the other hand, gave new meaning to the Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” I coveted with the best of them!

After the novelty wore off for my sister, she no longer minded if I parked myself in front of “her” dollhouse and played. I was born with a very strong maternal streak. I played by the hour placing plastic furniture and rubber people wherever my imagination dictated.

That was the first in a long line of dollhouses for me as well as the beginning of what would become an adult hobby, now termed “miniatures,” and enjoyed by many American women who are my contemporaries and still build, decorate, electrify and thoroughly immerse themselves in what can be a very expensive endeavor. Alas, my favorite shop folded in Fairfield,  Connecticut, so I have to content myself with mail order on the Internet. There is nothing like being there, so I am often disappointed in the results. But I am nothing if not resourceful and determined, so I usually make it work.

My last dollhouse was exhibited in our Village. It was a huge house whose exterior looked like Tara, even to the pillars. I gave it away to a deserving child: the wonder in her eyes made up for any wrench I felt. The years were passing; I was on my own; and space became a factor. Little did I know that I would become a room box fanatic in the next chapter of my life.

Think of a room box as a single room that stands on its own. You can buy one ready-made or, like me, make one from scratch using foam core and a picture frame of any size. A room box is limited only by your own imagination. It can be painted; wallpapered; electrified; carpeted; tiled.

A room box can be a replication of an actual room in miniature down to the last detail, or else a completely imaginary room. For example, I made my nutritionist an exact replica of her office including the same photos of her children that she displays on her desk in real life! But I’ve also made a tea shop that exists only in my imagination.

Room boxes that I make all share one thing in common: respect and love for the recipient with a major dose of my sense of humor thrown in.

As an adult I learned about room boxes from local artist Janet Potter D’Amato. But she credits me with the biographical room box… making one all about one person and giving it to them for college graduation, a birthday, or even a wedding. I once made a room box out of a floral hatbox because it was all about a gardener. However, you can only do justice to a biographical room box when you really know the recipient.

Recently I’ve taken to making vignettes which begin with buying something that resembles a wooden book end. The tall piece of wood fits in the groove of a small square which allows for 2 areas on either side. I purchase the vignette wood from a miniature store. It can be a split room in someone’s life; or show two sides of one person; or the outside/inside of a particular home. I made one for a very sophisticated neighbor with lots of glass and a sleek veneer. But, always,  I am humorous at the recipient’s expense… never cruel, just amusing.

With all of my friend Frank’s interests — he’s like the Renaissance Man — I could never do him justice with a mere vignette. In fact, it would be as hard to box Frank in as it is to harness his boundless energy. God bless him!

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