No. 85 About Our Miniatures
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Catalogue No.78

OUR MINIATURES

The miniatures are castings made in moulds taken from very accurate original hand carved master patterns made by Martin and Oliver Webb, working from scaled down photographs and measurements of the original carvings; they are not simply casts taken from the originals (whose sizes vary from a few inches to several feet). Neither are they created using computer technology – just good old-fashioned craftsmanship. The tool marks on the miniatures are those of real tools and are faithful to the original carving; they are not merely added as an effect. We have had to make miniature chisels from engraving tools and silver-smiths’ rifflers in order to accurately recreate authentic chisel marks of the correct scale. Often a clay "mannequin" will be made as a mock-up to check proportions, scale and setting-out. A lot of hand finishing goes into each piece. Making a new miniature isn't a quick job, and a great deal of coffee and tea (and chocolate biscuits) are required!

Nearly all of the miniatures made in Martin’s and Oliver’s workshops between 1983 and 2013 contained stone removed from the relevant cathedral during restoration work and an explanatory label accompanied each such miniature. However, to clarify some confusion that appears to have been misused recently by one or two people selling second hand examples online, the original stone is a constituent part of the reconstituted stone of which the miniature is cast – the production miniatures are not carved from a solid lump of it. When I handed over all production to History Craft Ltd the decision was taken to discontinue using the original stones, when existing supplies ran out, as a constituent – it required holding significant quantities of scrap stone from a number of cathedrals and the logistics of replenishing and storing these supplies was expensive and complicated – and instead use a single material-base across the range. This in no way alters or diminishes the quality or finish of the pieces now being made. The other improvements that have been made to the miniatures include a drilled fixing hole in the back of the hung pieces (replacing the earlier nylon braid loops) and the baize backing is now black, not green.

We have been very privileged to work with the cathedrals whose carvings we have miniaturised, indeed in most cases we have made the miniatures at their request. We are extremely grateful for their faith in our work and assistance given in taking detailed photographs of the carvings. The majority of our pieces are roof bosses and corbels found in cathedrals throughout Britain.

A roof boss is the carved, usually protruding, underside of the key-stone that forms the meeting point of several converging vaulting ribs, which, in turn, are the load bearing arches supporting the vaulting itself. See the diagram on the right, showing the boss' position in relation to a vault.

Because of their protected position high up in the vaulted ceilings roof bosses, in particular, have survived the ravages of weather, iconoclasm and "restorers" that claimed so many medieval carvings more accessible at ground level. Thus it is that today some of the finest surviving medieval stone carvings are on roof bosses. The roof boss itself, though extensively decorated, fulfills an extremely important structural role in architecture - it is not merely a carved stone trinket. The boss stone is considerably bigger than the part visible to the eye, with a lot of its bulk performing the structural role of anchoring the various ribs together; its weight and shape act as a solid unifying anchor to the converging vaulting ribs beneath it.

A corbel is a load bearing stone that protrudes from the face of a wall. The load is carried upon the portion of the stone that is cantilevered out from the wall, whilst the greater mass of the corbel is built into the wall to stabilise it and provide its necessary strength. Corbels can often be found supporting such elements of a building as floor joists, or a parapet which projects proud of the wall below. Like the roof bosses, corbels frequently are sited high up and safely out of harm's way.

In addition to roof bosses and corbels our range of miniatures also includes other carvings such as a set of three different "voussoirs" (arch stones) that can be built up to form an arch. Some of our more diverse work encompasses "ball-flowers" (a decorative stonemasonry motif found extensively in Herefordshire), the carved Neolithic dolmen of the famous "Ile de Gavrinis" in Brittany and a unique set of miniatures historic bells, including the only miniatures of Big Ben.

 

Diagram showing position of bosses within the structure of the vaulting.

Diagram showing position of bosses (marked in pink) within the structure of the vaulting.

Photographing Virgin Mary bell.

The process of making a new miniature begins with taking reams of photographs and, where possible, measurements. This is the Virgin Mary bell (No.69). The marks on this picture are from a workshop coffee spill!

Working photographs.

Then, armed with sheaves of pictures (the Green Man of Gloucester Cathedral No.88 shown), the miniature can be set out........

The workshop. Another view!
.....and the painstaking process of carving the miniature begins. Two views of the master for the Green Man of Tewkesbury Abbey (No.102) in preparation above........
The workshop. The real Green Lion in Canterbury Cathedral. Our miniature, No. 74.

.......and the Devil devouring Judas Iscariot, from Southwark Cathedral (No. 79).............

............resulting (we hope!!) in a miniature that is a perfect copy of the original masterpiece (No. 74 shown).

Every miniature has a green baize backing to protect any polished surface upon which it might be placed.

Where appropriate, each piece has a nylon loop by which it can be hung for display (these might look delicate, but are in fact extremely strong having a breaking strain many times in excess of the miniature's weight).

Every piece has accompanying information about the original carving, both in the form of a label on the back of the miniature and an information card in the box (only No. 41 and the bells have no labels). They are supplied in red presentation boxes (except the Neolithic dolmen and Truro pieces which have brown boxes).

View of the rear of one of our miniatures.

This photograph shows the hanging loop attached to the top of most of the miniatures, the green baize backing and the information label giving details of the particular piece. (No.78 shown)

Information cards.

As well as the label on the reverse of the miniature, nearly all our pieces come with an information card.

Packaging.

Each piece comes packaged in a red presentation box and wrapped in blue tissue. The Neolithic Dolmen and Truro miniatures have brown boxes. (No. 26 shown).

In a slightly different vein, we have also made a series of miniature Cathedral bells, including the only authentic miniature of Big Ben, made in conjunction with Whitechapel Bell Foundry. These miniature bells are set on a discreetly recessed plinth and, like our stone miniatures, are exact in every detail with faithfully reproduced inscriptions. Each miniature bell comes with an individually numbered card detailing the bell’s history, where known, and individual features. Like the stones, each bell comes wrapped in tissue inside a smart red presentation box.  

Catalogue No. 77G.

A gold finished version of our miniature Big Ben, No.77G

We sincerely hope you enjoy our miniatures as much as we have enjoyed making them.

 

 Cathedral shop display board.

A typical display of our miniatures in a cathedral shop.

Our Senior Sales Executive.


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Martin and Oliver Webb Fine Stone Miniatures. Museum quality handmade miniatures of stone carvings for the collector and connoisseur.