Whiling away this past winter in Kew Gardens, NY, Deborah Grumet and her daughters made a 1:24 scale version of the Edward Gorey House. It is not an exact replica, but the attention to little details—including found objects, photos, bowls of pebbles, Red Rose Tea figurines, posters, and the last waffle of the millennium—make it an authentic artist’s representation of our museum, and a Gorey fan’s true labor of love. We thought we would share it with you.
For research, the Grumets took a lot of pictures when they visited the Edward Gorey House during the 2016 Artifacts from the Archives exhibit (the Grumets were also sponsors of our animal artifacts case in that exhibit—which they rightfully included in their model). Other images were found on the internet. The Gorey House is painstakenly documented by many visitors and one can find a dozen walkthroughs of the House without ever setting foot in North America. For the house itself, the Grumets used a 1:24 Real Good Toys bungalow kit (which determined the scale rather than the more standard 1:12 that miniaturists generally work in). Based on that, the Grumets got to work.
By day, Deborah is a budget director, which requires enormous attention to detail. Likewise, the art projects she most enjoys are ones where getting the details right are an important part of the process—and end result. Miniature projects are a natural outlet for Deborah, and while this is the first artist’s house she has recreated, she has completed, among others, a 1:12 bakery filled with antique cakes, and a 1:12 poster gallery with real Victorian trade cards. She also created with her daughters an alphabet poster where each letter of the alphabet is in the style of an artist whose last name begins with the corresponding letter — i.e. L is for Lichtenstein, W is for Warhol, and G is, of course, for Gorey. Deborah’s painting, Studies in Digestion, was recently sold by the prestigious Museum of Bad Art in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Strolling through the Miniature House images reminded us of the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death — the 1:12 models of crime investigation scenes created by Frances Glessner Lee for forensic training through the 1940s and 50s. Our Gorey miniature does not contain any foul play (at least discernable from the photos) however it parallels the Nutshell Models in its loving attention to its own Gorey details. Finding the 1:24 scale cheese graters proved to be the most difficult item. “ I chose the 1:24 scale because we live in an apartment” Deborah writes, “And we are running out of room to display our projects … and it was a challenge to find the smaller scale accessories. I considered the cheese graters an essential detail to the project. We were all relieved when I finally found them.” Indeed the graters (both lesser and greater graters) are an important component of the 2017 exhibit as well.
The distribution of tasks between Deborah and her daughters followed thus: Deborah’s older daughter, Megan, is a builder so she helped with the house construction. She also scored the wood floors with an exacto knife, and built the dragon and Figbash sculptures. Deborah’s younger daughter, Devon, likes internet research and so helped with finding the Gorey images. She also helped with the painting, and decorated the Gashlycrumb Tinies display case. That left Deborah to the meticulous task of creating the miniature contents of a very content-filled House. We appreciate all of their efforts, and we’re glad that winters are as long as they are in New York State in order to have such creations brought to completion. We will be very proud if Deborah allows us to display the miniature in the Gorey House next year — but only if it includes a Miniature Gorey House within the miniature Gorey House (containing among other things, a Miniature Gorey House, and so on…).