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Dolls Houses & Miniatures - Features

Lori Ann Potts "Artistry in Miniature" - Dolls House Millinery & Accessories

Martha Puff

Posted on 01 Sep 2009

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WITH a large dose of imagination and an extraordinary talent for details, Lori Ann Potts creates exceptional ladies' finery and accoutrements. Her one-of-a-kind 1/12th scale period hats, jewellery, and other accessories quite take one's breath away. She skillfully fills one-of-a-kind furniture pieces with all manner of vintage women's and men's accessories.

A multi-media craftswoman

Lori Ann lives in North Vancouver on the lower mainland of British Columbia. Educated in Ottawa, Ontario in business administration, her crafting and art is self-taught. She has no formal art training. “My learning and exposure came from fourteen years of working in the most prestigious Architectural Model Building shop on the West Coast,” Lori Ann says. “I was surrounded by cutting edge materials, resources, and professional model builders. Truly a case of watch and learn.”

Always interested in “little things,” Lori Ann began creating 1/12th scale miniatures in the mid 1970s. By the early 1980s, she was selling at shows as Mustard Seed Miniatures. A multi-media craftswoman, she has done “Fimo” polymer clay characters, crocheting, needlework and weaving. Lori Ann has made miniature food, teapots, landscaping, articulated toys, wooden kits, as well as designed and finished room boxes. She does upholstery, sculpting, mould-making and resin work/casting. She paints, embellishes furniture, and designs a great deal of jewellery. Today, she is mostly known for her Victorian period “lifestyle representation” work.

Forever learning and forever challenged, Lori Ann gets inspiration from her large collection of vintage catalogues, photos, and resource books on different period antiques. The internet, movies, magazines, greeting cards, contemporary illustrators, and day-to-day life are great resources.

Victorian Life

lori ann potts hat imageAt the moment, “Victorian Life” is Lori Ann's favourite period in which to work. “I am absorbed in the clothing, hats, shoes, purses, perfumes, and linens a woman of that time would encounter in her day,” Lori Ann says. “The workmanship, detail, and ornamentation I put in these everyday items reflect my romantic vision of what Victorian Life was like for women.”
With a quest toward authenticity in clothing, Lori Ann used turn of the century instruction manuals to learn the art of cutting and tailoring. She has a large collection of printed reproduction patterns that she has scaled down to 1/12th scale to make men and women's clothing.

Over the years Lori Ann has amassed a huge and varied collection of vintage lace and fabrics, much of which was acquired in trips to England. She finds natural fibers essential to capture the essence of period garments. “I prefer vintage handkerchiefs, linens, and antique laces. Synthetics are too difficult to work with, especially when trying to achieve the necessary draping.”
The flamboyance of ladies' hats from the latter part of the 1800s through the early 1900s very much inspire Lori Ann. “Hats played an integral part in the fashions of the day,” she says.

“Knowledge of millinery processes is a must to create proper hats in miniature.” To get an understanding of the milliner's art, she found Denise Dreher's book ‘From the Neck Up’ (1981) to be most useful.

To make authentic looking period shoes, Lori Ann acquired a selection of books to study the art, history, construction methods, tools, and language of shoes. The talented Georgia Matuschak sculpted some basic forms for both men and women’s shoes which Lori Ann had cast in resin. After she finishes developing and working out the patterns, Lori Ann hopes to release simple shoe kits that can be used as “shelf fillers.” The kits are not intended to replace handcrafted miniature shoes.

Collaborative efforts

lori ann pottssecond hat imageFor furniture, Lori Ann always chooses genuine Bespaq pieces for their quality, detailing, diversity of styles, availability, and reasonable pricing. Georgia Matuschak restyles and refinishes the pieces. Then Lori Ann takes over and finishes and fills the interiors. Their collaborative efforts create imaginative, magical, one-of-a-kind pieces.

“My two-bedroom apartment is my studio, every square inch, except for the small second bedroom in which I sleep,” Lori Ann laughingly says. Since she does not cook on a regular basis, she installed a large desk under the south-facing dining room window which provides great natural light. She had a drafting board made that spans the distance between the two kitchen counters.

"Fortunately, I am very organised and generally I am able to find whatever I am looking for."

The tools she works with are nothing more than one would find in a miniaturist’s basic tool kit. These include tweezers, knife, cutting board, ruler, scissors, toothpicks, and glue. “My biggest headache is when a favourite material has become scarce, cost prohibitive, or is no longer available.”

Prices begin at $5.00 for small kits and handcrafted pieces sell from $15.00 and upwards. She accepts commissions. “It is an awesome compliment when somebody puts their trust in me to create something that will bring to life their vision and ideas,” Lori Ann says. “It definitely takes me out of my comfort zone but in a really good way.”

Her work is on display in permanent museum collections in the U.S. and around the world. She has taught miniature workshops, written tutorials, and been featured in international miniature magazines. Lori Ann has done collaborative scenes with fellow miniaturists Whitledge & Burgess, Bluette Meloney, and Brooke Tucker in the U.S.A. Most recently, she filled the interior of a Georgian shop by Mulvany & Rogers, Holt, Wiltshire, as a jewellery store.

She finds the most rewarding aspect of her miniature work is the fascinating people she meets and the wonderful places she has travelled. “These experiences broaden my horizons and enrich my life.” Over the years she has received notes from collectors thanking her for something she has made which brought a measure of joy to their lives. “Without the support of these ‘patrons of the art’ collectors, I would not be able to create the work I do as an artist.”

Her good friend Larrianne Hilditch of Larrianne's Small Wonders in Ventura has played a pivotal mentoring role in Lori Ann's career. “She always encourages me as an artist to keep striving forward. I would not be where I am today without Larrianne's supportive friendship.”

“Hopefully, my work will continue to evolve,” Lori Ann says. “As an artist, I want to learn and perfect more skills and techniques to aid in that process. I would like to be remembered for being innovative and doing good, quality work that is an inspiration to others.”

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