April 2009
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Meet Artisan
Deb Roberts
Deb's Minis
CDHM artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts

Deb's Minis
by Deb Roberts
By Alice Bell
Images by Deb Roberts
March 01, 2009


CDHM artisan Deb Roberts who  creates dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts in 1/12 scale and 144 scale If you can imagine a mixture of June Cleaver and Morticia Addams, two very different iconic television women, you have a good picture of miniature artist Deb Roberts of Deb's Minis, based in Denver, Colorado, USA. June, the pearl-wearing 50's housewife and Morticia, the black silhouette dress-clad matriarch of the droll Gothic Addams Family couldn't be further apart. But in Deb, the two combine to create a unique artistic view.

A very eclectic personality, Deb made the switch to full-time miniature artist two years ago after an 18-year teaching career and a second vocation as a computer geek. This type of versatile career choices spawned an equally diverse creativity in miniatures.

"I love to build dollhouses. I spend time "listening" to each house before I start to build to find its form, much as a sculptor listens to a block of stone to find the shape hidden inside," said Deb.

Her structures include a formal Second Empire social salon, a Japanese house from the Edo period, modern geek chic, classic Victorian, a ghost town stage stop, fantasy houses for fairies, witches and wizards (and their very own supply shoppe), a monochromatic white house with crystal and mirrors, and even a humorous party boat for the Grim Reaper titled, "Death Takes a Holiday". On the worktable now are a French Café and an over-the-top Art Deco house.

Nor does she neglect the outside settings for her creations.

"I love landscaping and find that sometimes the yard can take longer to complete than the house it surrounds. For example the fairy's yard was the most complex landscaping I've done so far but it was so much fun to do! It includes a little fenced in garden patch where she grows precious stones to hide underground for the gnomes and dwarves to mine," she said.

This garden sprouts orderly rows of genuine peridot, citrine and emerald chips as well as a full wheelbarrow of 'harvest'. A whimsical touch is guard rat Spike who keeps a close eye on it all from his hollow tree stump.

CDHM artisan Deb Roberts dolls house miniature dressed nursery set

"My other miniatures are just as diverse and random in 1:12 to 1:24 scale. Most of them have been created to fit into a specific décor or as tutorials for a specific theme for the Greenleaf Gazette so I find myself constantly challenged to do something new and different," she said.

Her dressed beds are created in as many different styles and colors as possible from modern to Victorian gothic to sensual silks and feminine frills, the only constant is that they must be affordable for the average collector.

"I'm truly dedicated to keeping miniatures affordable so my price range is around $35-$50 for a dressed bed, a little more for a custom bed. My goal for 2009 is to create a line of higher-end beds, draperies and upholstered furniture to reach a different type of collector and add a lot more textile arts including more embroidery and beadwork. But I'll still keep making beds that fit into almost anyone's budget.

"Miniatures are a delight to collectors and I want to keep my handmade miniatures affordable to everyone," she stressed.

Her dressed beds combined her first love of textile art with her newer love of minis.

"I learned to embroider as soon as I was old enough to pick up a needle. In the '90s, I started creating art quilts using fabric, embroidery (all mediums), hand dyed silk ribbons and beading. Several of my pieces have won first place in shows. But when I discovered miniatures, my needles were put aside in favor of sandpaper and a Dremel. Then I discovered the wonderful marriage of textiles to miniatures and the two have lived together happily in my dressed beds ever since."

And although June would heartily approve of the dressed beds, the distressed bed Deb created "as a custom order for a very disturbed doll" had a very decided Morticia flair.

"One of the things I like about making the dressed beds is that there is no end to the possibilities in styles," explained Deb.

So how did a teacher/geek/textile artist ever discover the miniature world?

CDHM artisan Deb Roberts dolls house miniature dressed nursery set Blame her husband, who is her biggest fan as well as her creative consultant.

"A few years ago I was playing "furniture-go-round," which requires help from my husband. As he regained his breath from moving the couch, he panted, 'You know, if you had a dollhouse, it would be a lot easier to rearrange the furniture.' Since I've always had a fascination with anything miniature and had toyed with the idea of getting a dollhouse, it seemed like a good idea," she said.

Like most would-be miniaturists Deb discovered the dollhouse choices to be vast. But her search of pre-made houses quickly shifted to include the wonderful world of kits.

"The more I researched, the more I noticed that dollhouse kits offered more of the style I was looking for," she said.

So she selected the six-room, two-story Greenleaf Pierce kit complete with attic, tower and secret room. Then changed her mind and decided Corona's The Orchid, a charming four-room cottage, was a better beginning project. By the time she was halfway through she was hooked and had ordered three more kits.

"I've built almost 30 houses since then and the joy of building is just as exciting now as it was when I first started," said Deb. Her husband is also excited at the thought he never has to play "furniture-go-round" again.

She hopes to try 1:48 scale soon - as long as she can keep her trademark sense of June/Morticia whimsy, as well as humor. After all, it's not everyone who can create a thatched roof from fake fur and decide it's a toupee.CDHM artisan Deb Roberts created vignette in 1:12 scale made in a book

"The most fun I've ever had with a miniature was the first time I thatched a roof with fake fur. By the time I had the fur glued onto the roof, I was consumed by a fit of giggles because it looked so much like a bad toupee. As I began to shape the thatch by combing varnish into it, it occurred to me that I was giving my house a comb-over. My silly side took over and I found myself talking to the house just as a hairdresser talks with a customer to pass the time. By the time I was done, I was covered in sticky bits of fake fur, had aching sides from laughing so much, and a really nice thatched roof.

"I find that same kind of joy in almost every piece I create. When I'm creating, I'm in "the Zone" and it's the happiest place I've ever been," she said.

She is a member of the Greenleaf Building Team and built the prototype of the Greenleaf 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Arthur as well as wrote the instructions for the kit. She is the Editor-in-Chief/writer for the Greenleaf Gazette (Greenleaf Dollhouses monthly newsletter/e-zine) and offers her pieces on her own website, her CDHM gallery and Etsy.

"What it all comes down to is that I find art to be a journey. Sometimes I have a map and sometimes I just randomly wander here and there, but the journey is always full of delights along the way. When I get to the destination, sometimes I'm shocked at where I've ended up and sometimes I gaze in satisfaction at the goal that I'd seen in my mind's eye before I started. Either way, I'm happy with where I've been and how I got there. Life is all about journeys. Destinations are just the happy surprises at the end."

Here dreams can be fulfilled as you stroll into the realm of Deb Roberts CDHM gallery.

CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts customizing Greenleaf dollhouse kits, dressed beds, and textile arts
CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts
CDHM artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts
CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds in fine silks, cottons and antique lace
CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and handmade books
CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts
CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts
CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts
CDHM Artisan Deb Roberts creating dollhouses, dressed beds, and textile arts

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