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Our good friend Rebecca Micallef, who is a fantastic miniaturist and dolls’ house collector, recently finished a very special project, her J.R Art Gallery.
We’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Rebecca where she gives us some insight into her work and what went into the creation of this beautiful miniature. Enjoy!
Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for agreeing to sit down with us for a chat. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I am pleased to be here. My name is Rebecca Micallef. I am from the Maltese Islands. I guess I am a dolls’ house miniaturist. I am a very busy lady I would say. I’m a mum of 3 young kids. I work as an Assistant Principal within the Local Government and I run my own miniature business through Etsy. I enjoy making my own miniatures especially for my dolls houses. It gives me a great satisfaction to be able to create something so small in detail.
How did you first become interested in dolls’ houses?
That is quite a difficult question, because as far as my memory goes, I always loved dolls’ houses. I had my first dolls’ house at the age of four which I still have and it’s still in an immaculate condition. It’s been over 20 years now since I started building my collection of dolls’ houses.
I remember I was only 17 when I started building my first dolls house. It wasn’t easy, due to the fact that the term “Dolls’ Houses” in Malta is a complete taboo. You won’t find any dolls’ house or miniature shops anywhere. The internet was still pretty new at the time and I remember when I actually had access to the internet through my home computer that I went through a search engine and typed the word “dolls’ houses” and from there a whole new world opened its doors to me. I guess from that day forth, I never looked back.
We love your J.R. Art Gallery, the attention to detail is incredible! Congratulations on such a stunning result. What was the inspiration for the project?
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so happy that you liked it. I have this street of dolls’ house shops called Regent Street and I wanted to add the Dolls’ House Emporium Corner Shops to it. Very honestly I had many ideas for it but they didn’t really stick. A few weeks before I started working on it, a dear friend of mine and fellow miniaturist artist José Pereira Torrejón sent me gifts of two miniature paintings on canvas which he had painted himself for me. I was blown away with the detail of the paintings especially on such a small scale. At first, I thought of adding them to one of my dolls houses, but it didn’t feel right. I thought the paintings deserved to be in a more prominent place. Finally, inspiration hit and I kept picturing these paintings in an art gallery which it would have suited them better. Then I guess J.R. Art Gallery was created.
How did you go about creating the gallery?
As the gallery was going to be part of my Regent Street which is set up in the Victorian period, I had to make it fit with the other buildings. The first thing that I always do is study the kit, the building and take notes, sometime even sketch. I tend to adapt the kits to suit my purposes better, which in this case I did. Then I researched about the period, how an art gallery would have looked at the time. I researched for the tools and paints that would have been used. I have a tendency of keeping to the period to make it look more realistic.
I always start from the outside of a dolls’ house, for some reason it helps me more to picture the inside. In the mean time I get to have a rough idea what I want to add to the rooms. Once the outside décor is done I start working on the inside, starting with wall paper, floorings, ceilings and lightning. I enjoy trying furniture pieces in the rooms until I find the right ones that suit the room. Sometimes the least expected to fit are the ideal. I had so many ideas for the gallery that I knew exactly what I wanted. Inspiration was overflowing for this project.
No gallery is complete without paintings and you’ve included a great collection in yours. How did you go about creating these?
True, a gallery is not complete without paintings. The first impulse to get for a gallery was frames in different shapes, sizes and colors. The gallery alone holds 55 different paintings. There are four original paintings, three of them are in the gallery and one of the four is in the artist’s private quarters. These have all been painted by my friend José. The rest are all prints of my favorite paintings from various artists which match the period or even earlier. Some of them have a sentimental meaning to me.
Obviously having original paintings in the gallery, I couldn’t just print the paintings on paper and frame them. I actually printed them on canvas and sealed them to make them look more realistic just like a real painting. Sometimes galleries have sculptures which I have also added. The busts have all been hand painted by me and I guess they give that little extra to the gallery.
What are some of the other projects that you’ve worked on? Which is your favourite?
There are quite a lot of projects I would say. There are over 26 dolls’ house projects in my collection that come in different styles and periods. Every project holds a special place in my heart. I can’t imagine myself parting from them. They hold sweet memories of when they were being created.
Some of my latest projects were Miss Leah’s Boutique, The Coffee Corner which both are part of Regent Street. Then there is Kate’s Cottage which is built in the Tudor period. Lately I have also renovated two dolls’ house projects which were The Toll House and the Summer House called Sea Shells. I also have a very special dolls house which goes way back from 1979 called The Tudor Manor. This one was kept with its original décor and I have turned it into a 1930’s style house.
As for my favorite dolls’ house, this is a very tricky question, for I love them all…..but if I had to choose my favorite it’s definitely J.R. Art Gallery. I have poured my heart in that one.
What is it, do you think, that makes dolls’ houses so appealing? What is the magic behind them?
I think dolls’ houses are so appealing for their size and for their detail. A dolls’ house is practically a miniature of a real house and the more detail you add to it the more realistic it gets. When building a dolls house I tend to create a story to go with it. It helps me to picture it better. I actually name the dolls that will be residing in it and give them character.
At the end my favorite part is turning on the lights of the dolls’ house and admiring it. I peep from windows and doors, just to see it from different angles. I think that’s the magic behind it at least to me… That I, as an adult, can create such artistic projects, helps brings out the little girl within me.
What’s next for you?
There are quite a few dolls’ houses in the pipeline waiting for their turn to be built. I try to plan a year ahead and sometimes I’m quite successful in achieving my goal.
My next project will be part of Regent Street as well. It’s going to be called The Master Swordsman Pub and Inn. It’s quite a big building and I’m looking forward to really start working on it.
I’m also working on a bigger project that involves my dolls’ houses. Hopefully in the beginning of next year I will be opening the doors to my dolls’ house collection for the public, so maybe I can start introducing the hobby to the island.
And finally, where can people go to see more of your builds?
For the time being you can all visit My Miniature World Blog which I have had for the past six years. You can see all my dolls house projects and most of them being built step by step. Obviously once my dolls’ house collection is opened for the public, then visitors can see the real buildings.
Thank you again, Rebecca!
Thank you so much for inviting me for this interview. It is my pleasure to share my creations.
Once again, a massive thank you to Rebecca for agreeing to chat and for sharing her fantastic work with us. You can see more of Rebecca’s lovely miniatures on her blog, My Miniature World.
All images © Rebecca Micallef 2017, used with permission
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