Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery

by guest blogger, Chris Verstraete

Thanks, Camille for hosting me!

With miniatures in common, for fun, Camille (Margaret) and I decided to swap questions and appear at each other’s blogs today. Visitors can comment at both our blogs for a chance to win books and neat prizes!

Be sure to stop at Chris’ Candid Canine blog http://candidcanine.blogspot.com for a chance to win a signed copy of Searching For A Starry Night and the chance to win a miniature party table!

“Searching For A Starry Night” is my first published book. It released June 15 and can be ordered on line or through my website: http://cverstraete.com/Starry_Night.html

About the book
“Searching For A Starry Night” is a mystery for ages 10 –15 focusing on the search, by teens Sam and Lita, for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh’s painting, “(The) Starry Night.” A spooky family legend, a friend’s mischievous Dachshund named Petey, a crabby housekeeper and a dog-hating gardener/handyman all help – or hinder – the girls in their search. See details and a sample chapter at http://cverstraete.com/Starry_Night.html.

What's your favorite part of your book?
I think one of my favorite parts, actually a paragraph, involves Sam’s observation of her canine friend, Petey, the mischievous little Dachshund who “helps” solve the mystery of the missing miniature Van Gogh painting (Try saying that fast!).

Sam sprawled on her cot with a pencil, opened the book, and started a puzzle. Lita fell onto her cot and scribbled in her notebook. Next to them, lying on his blankets on the floor, Petey snored and turned over on his back, sticking his legs up in the air. Sam tried not to giggle as he rolled over to his side, reminding her of a Vienna hot dog without a bun. All he needed was relish, she thought.

Tell us about you, the kinds of work you’ve done, and your collection.
I think I’ve been collecting forever, or at least it looks that way! (lol!) I have enough stuff saved and stashed for future projects that I could start my own store. I have many favorite pieces in my collection, but a recent addition is a fantastic miniature oil of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” done by miniaturist Lucie Winsky. (See my blog, http://candidcanine.blogspot.com for more about the artist and the painting.)

I’ve had my share of jobs, too, waitress, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, waitress… notice a trend? Ha. I enjoy writing about all kinds of topics for various newspapers and magazines.

Is your main character someone you'd want to invite over to "play" and why?
I’d love to play with Sam and Lita! Actually I’d love to get a closer look at the housekeeper Mrs. Grace’s dollhouse collection if she’d let me. Well, actually I already know what many of her projects look like since most of her miniatures are based on things in my own collection.

What's in your character’s collection that you wish was yours - and will you make it in real life?
I did give crabby housekeeper Mrs. Drake a few other miniatures that I don’t have. She has a fantastic pink Victorian dollhouse that’s filled to the brim. I used to have a Victorian dollhouse that was painted lavender but it took up a whole wall in the living room. First house, so you know how that goes; we went overboard. We ended up taking it apart. (I hear all the miniaturists’ gasps. ha!)

What's your next mini project?
What isn’t in progress might be a better question, ha! I still have a Christmas tea shop sitting on my kitchen table partially done. Maybe I’ll finish it by next Christmas. I’m working on my witch’s greenhouse and have a witch’s bakery to do next. I never seem to finish on the given holiday, it seems. I want to make a Van Gogh studio, also. And never mind the other ideas that I’ve been saving things for. Photos of my miniatures can be seen by clicking miniatures at http://cverstraete.com.

Describe your dream mini project you hope to do one day.

I’ve love to do a house façade in a Tudor style with Paper Clay like Rik Pierce’s houses, http://www.frogmorton.com/ .I love the look of an exterior courtyard and façade in a roombox. I’d also like to do an elegant Brook Tucker type room http://www.brooketucker.com/ since most of my work is usually of more “everyday” type rooms.

How did you begin writing books? Your degree and education?
I have a journalism degree and write for newspapers and magazines, but fiction always drew me. I started writing short fiction and was having a lot of fun with it. Writing a book was a “to-do” for me, too. I have a couple adult mysteries in the works and a set of mystery stories I’ve been working on featuring Sam and Lita.

What inspired this mystery? Why’d you pick miniatures as a subject?
Family would say I eat, breathe and sleep miniatures. Ha! For the book, I thought a theft seemed the ideal crime to focus on.

Did you have a dollhouse (or other minis) in childhood - what did you have? What do you remember of it? What did you like about it?
Like most kids growing up in the 1950s, I had a metal dollhouse with plastic furniture. I don’t remember too much about it, though I do recall later not liking the house much. I think I was more of a “doll” person growing up. We always had stuffed animals. The Thumbelina doll was (and still is) my favorite. Now, I love to add dolls to my miniature rooms.

If a cyclone/fire/tsunami, etc were coming, what one miniature would you take with you when you evacuated and why? What is special about it?
I can’t pick one. I’d have to take all three: I loved planning my Tudor Tea Shoppe and my Teapot Shoppe. (Tiny teapots are addicting!) I also enjoyed planning the Raggedy Ann roombox. My Dogcatcher’s House was also fun to do. I like doing themed projects. I’d have to leave ahead as I’d have to bring other stuff like the miniature dolls, genealogy papers, and the real-life dog, too.

What have you made? What's in your collection?
Since you have a mortuary, I guess my haunted house is my comparable project. I’m a Stephen King fan and love scary movies, so it was great fun getting gory and coming up with strange ideas. And once I found a certain doll set on eBay, I knew I had to make an extra room for it. (Click photos on my website, http://cverstraete.com to see the haunted house. Warning: The back room is NOT for the touchy or squeamish!)

How'd you research your book?
I did do some reading on miniature art and Van Gogh, but didn’t want to get super technical in the book as I wanted it to be more of a light-hearted “fun” mystery.

What’s your craft background?
I’ve always been pretty artistic and crafty. I used to draw, too, and used to enjoy sitting on the radiator by the front window to sketch the houses across the street. I tried a lot of crafts. I think that’s why I enjoy dollhouses as you can do all kinds of different things for a project.

What’s next in your series is: name, release dates.
I don’t have a next –yet. I am working on a series of short mystery stories with Sam and Lita.

Have any funny moments doing miniatures?
I’m with you; I try to avoid the Super Glue. And as careful as I try to be, I always end up getting paint on a good shirt. I think my bad projects were so bad, they were best forgotten because I can’t think of one. Ha!

Describe your craftroom - where do you work on minis? Want to share a pic of your craftroom? C'mon show us!
I don’t have a specific room though I sure wish I did. I work at the kitchen table and am trying to keep things orderly (which never lasts!) I have things all over in my office and everywhere else.

This was fun! Thank you sooo much for hosting me!


Camille Minichino said...

Wow, those are tiny paint tubes, Chris! Did you make those??

parlance said...

A picture of a craftroom - now that would be a scary thing if I showed you mine. It's such a mess that we can't get into it now so I also work on the kitchen table.

Anonymous said...

Great for youngsters to have both a love for miniatures and a novel to read! A favorite cousin....

Anonymous said...

Do you display your minis around the house? Or do you keep them in the craft room?

Camille Minichino said...

I don't know what Chris does ...?
I give most away to charity auctions, school raffles, or as presents.
I do have my museum and mortuary in the living room, and several "scenes" here and there.

My husband would say, "They're everywhere!"

Betty Hechtman said...

The mention of the metal dollhouse brought back memories. Have you ever seen the Colleen Moore Doll house at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.\

I grew up a few blocks from the museum and have spent hours gazing at the fabulous detail. There is just something so appealing about little things.

Camille Minichino said...

I don't know that one, Betty.
I do know the immense house at the Art Institute of course. I'll have to check out the other one!

Yes there is something about tiny replicas ...

Carol M said...

I had both a metal dollhouse and a metal ferris wheel when I was a child. I wish my mom hadn't thrown them out! lol

I also enjoy looking at the miniature furniture when I visit the Carnegie Museum.

Anonymous said...

The miniature scenes are the best I have ever seen. I loved dollhouse miniatures as a child & later I made a few mini rugs for my daughter's dollhouse.

SinlessTouch said...

awww... those are cute and cuddly love dolls you have there on the pics. Anyway, it was a great read for me!