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The Beauty of Small Things

This is a legacy story from an earlier version of our website. It may contain some formatting issues and broken links.

In May, 33 prop-making students from Brighton Metropolitan College (part of the Northbrook College Campus) spent a day in Brighton Museum drawing inspiration from the eclectic collection of furniture in the 20th Century gallery.

Students and their workbooks outside Brighton Museum

The students’ task was to choose an object that resonated with them. The outcome was to construct a small scale 1:6 replica model, informed by independent research.

Three different scale 1.6 interpretations of the Bugatti chair, shown below. Model-makers: Charles Watkinson Stack, Victoria Lowe and Ben May.

da300157, Chair, c1890-1900, by Carlo Bugatti, Italy

Many students explored the historical context of their chosen piece, looking at its particular narrative or its maker etc. Investigations into the making methods of the original furniture influenced construction of the models. A broad range of materials was used – including everyday household items.

The green tacks, included for comparison in some of the images, show just how small the models are.

Marta Rodrigues, Nicola Gunne and Ed Leader made versions of A Trapped Star/ Irawo Ta De Mole chair, 2015, by Yinka Ilori (photograph by Veerle Evens), UK; the Garden Egg chair, c1968, by Peter Ghyczy, Germany; and the Max Le Verrier lamp, 1925, France.

This was an opportunity for students to develop their model-making skills and learn new making techniques through experimentation. Each piece was made with different methods informed by technical drawing and keen attention to detail.

Students working on their models. 

Staff at Brighton Museum were truly impressed with the students’ results. The pieces are perfect small replicas of familiar furniture in the Decorative Art collection, imaginatively constructed and minutely observed.

Elizabeth Johnson, Raj Dutta and Luke Hemming made versions of the Mae West’s Lips sofa, c1938, by Salvador Dali and Edward James, UK; the Mercier Freres chair, 1920-25, France; and the Clair de Lune screen, c1928, by Jean Dunand, France.

This project was the last of a busy learning year, in which students engaged in projects that focused on sculpting, moulding and casting, fabrication, metal and wood work.

Aaron Kealy, Ed Sole, Katie Merrit and Rebecca Cran made versions of the Fontane cabinet, c1925, by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, France; a chair and desk, c1905, by E A Taylor, UK, and a Louis Majorelle writing desk, c1900, France.

Lecturers on the course, Rowena Boshier and Caroline Testa, said this:

The fantastically varied collection of 20th century furniture at Brighton Museum acted as a wonderful stimulus for students to hone their skills and demonstrate their abilities in these well-crafted models. RB

When “learners are given responsibility…and opportunities” they begin “thinking for themselves”. (p137 Bowkett 2007). As lecturers, we believe trips like this strengthen responsibility, engagement and self-confidence. CT

Sophie Simpson, Oli Vaughn, Jacob Huxford and Will Foreman made models of the Contour chair, 1968, by David Colwel, UK; the Long Chair, 1935-6, by Marcel Breuer, UK; and the Prince of Wales chair, 1969, by Snowdon and Toms, UK.

The students’ course is a Foundation Degree in Prop Making and Special Effects.

More information and other examples of the students’ work can be found by clicking these links: 

All photographs of the models are by Stephanie Farmer.