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Master Miniaturist Just Keeps Thinking Smaller and Smaller

August 19, 1989|CHRISTOPHER ANDREAE | The Christian Science Monitor

Among the more obscure objects--things you might find in museums of Victoriana--are a baby's teething ring, in ivory, with a fine silver handle. Strangely, this item is particularly popular in Japan. He makes buttonhooks (irresistible to collectors of full-size buttonhooks), and, according to one of his customers--Jacqueline Farnsworth of Oakland, Calif.--his holly-wood egg rack for 12 ivory eggs is particularly British.

Farnsworth, who buys and sells miniatures from all over the world, can hardly speak highly enough of Edwards' work. "I just don't know anything to equal the quality of his work. No one--in this country--even tries. There is no comparison for his ivory work, for his fine turned wood."

Edwards guards some of his secrets. Ask him how he does certain things, and he says "Aha!" mysteriously, and changes the subject. He won't tell anyone how he does the bristles, or how he saws his diminutive ivory comb so that it has two sizes of teeth, or how he makes his eggs.

He is secretive not, one suspects, because he fears competition (though some people are now beginning to copy him), but, by his own account because he wants to preserve the "magic" of what he is doing. "I mean, a conjurer wouldn't tell you how he does his tricks, would he?"

He generally starts with a real-life prototype, though not always, and he adapts it to his taste, and to be convincing as a miniature. His preliminary drawings are full-size--if he drew the object at one-twelfth scale (now accepted as the standard scale for serious miniatures), the pencil lines would be too thick.

Edwards is not making his miniatures for children. They're too fine, too small--and too expensive. (The toothbrush sells in the United States for $14.95, a spool of thread for $2.50). They are adult collectors' items.

Richard Jennings, publisher of a new magazine in Britain, "The Doll's House World," whose wife collects miniatures, believes that some collectors are principally attracted by the "antiques" aspect of the thing. "You'd have to be incredibly rich to be able to completely furnish a period house in the way you can with miniatures."

And what makes miniature-makers tick? "Some miniaturists are very inward, very introspective," Kilpatrick told me, "not David: David is just David!" With him, it's clearly the challenge to make something minute with the utmost precision that counts.

He can look at miniature-making with a cool objectivity--for a moment or two--but he's probably in the grip of a fascinating preoccupation no less than his collectors, some of whom have everything he has made.

"You should see them," Edwards laughs (he's a stamp-collector himself), "they get completely obsessed. They'd go to any lengths to get a particular miniature."

He adds: "Sometimes they get it out of proportion!"

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