Making reproductions of American
Colonial pieces in one-inch scale posed many challenges. Here are some photos
and stories from Studio B's past.
always had a woodworking shop, something to work on and a new tool on his wish
list. While miniatures are tiny, his experience turning a full size spinning
wheel for daughter Wendy was invaluable when he started doing his miniature
turnings. Of course the tools changed. Added were Unimat lathes, Foredom
handpieces, jeweler saws and tiny dovetail machines. Magnifying lights and
headpieces became invaluable. Millie Birkemeier did the finishing (in the spray
booth photo below) and provided quality control. Every chair and table recieved
her once over, and didn't leave the basement "factory" until it sat straight
Studio B "burst" on the miniature scene
when Bob and Millie entered a craft show in Connecticut with a number of early
Windsor chairs and Boston Rockers at $25 a piece. After the show, another
miniature craftsperson complemented them on the work, but suggested that they
weren't charging enough for their work. Of course that was not the intent
at that time, they had no idea what others charged for similar work.
However, a Studio B trademark was a wonderful product at a reasonable price
(typically what Millie would pay if she was buying!).
Bill and Peggy Birkemeier produced a wide variety of tinware
pieces. Bill's first piece was the punched tin lantern (shown far right) with
no bottom, no door, no candle, and the top was punched in instead of out.
Pretty rough. Fortunately the Miniature Shop in Hingham, MA raved about it
anyway. With some proper tools and practice the pieces improved to the point
that they looked correct in photographs blown up to be full size (right),
complete with tiny hinges on the door.
classic tole patterns to trays, mugs, creamers, coffee and tea pots, and
adapted patterns to make matching sets of toleware that were custom ordered.
Note the tiny tray far left and magnified left.
A batch of
chandeliers ready for packaging (below).
Candleholders need candles and Studio B's
first candles were threads glued to toothpicks that were repeatedly dipped,
just as the colonists did. Needless to say, this was a slow process that did
not create uniform, nor particularly nice candles. We still made and sold a
lot. Imagine our surprise when we heard that one of our customers wanted to
light them. Our nylon threads wouldn't even burn. We switched to cotton, but
have never thought it wise to light them around valuable miniatures - and the
flame isn't in scale. Our candlemaking process changed for good when we
received an order for 450 sets of candles from the Metropolitan Museum of Art!
That was too many to dip so Bill developed a mold and perfectly shaped candles
(white, bayberry, and beeswax) could be made 24 at a time.
Millie and Peggy team up to make several Christmas trees for
family and friends. Trees were added to Peggy's line of Beechkin Collectibles
and each tree was custom made and decorated in different themes and colors.
Some trees included many tiny shells and starfish found on the Outer