Interview with Pipi Turner by Moi Ali from Dolls House & Miniature Scene July
2022 (Published January 2023)
Cologne-based miniature artist Pipi Turner makes the kind of furniture and accessories I adore full-sized, and they‘re even more adorable in 12th scale! Influenced by 18th and 19th century Scandinavian Gustavian style, and Danish antiques, she finds images of real pieces on the internet – chairs, tables, desks, cabinets... – and then masterfully recreates them in miniature using basswood and walnut. “This era was probably the most wonderful time in terms of architecture and design,” said Pipi.
Gustavian furniture is a great choice, as it fits so well in a period interior, but sits equally comfortably in a modern room set. It really is a timeless style that can be both elegant and casual and informal, despening on how the rest of the room is dressed.
Pipi’s tools of the trade include a table saw, decoupage saw, a small drill and a cutter. While laser cutters and 3D printers are rapidly finding a place in the miniature world, they’re not for Pipi, who works entirely by hand – somehow producing exquisite pieces that have all of the detail of a full-sized piece, without resorting to modern technology. I think that adds a real charm and authenticity to her work.
“Producing pieces by hand is very important to me,” she explained. “My grandfather was a carpenter and interior designer, and he built my first dolls house when I was a child. Sadly, it has long since gone. But I retained secret passion for miniatures, which started with that dolls house.”
Pipi continued: “I have happy memories as a child in my grandfather‘s carpentry workshop. I dreamed of sitting at the carpenter's bench making furniture, doors and windows. I loved the smell of wood and wood glue wafting through the workshop. I was fascinated by how a tree trunk could be magically transformed into a table, chair or sofa!”
She would have loved to have followed in his footsteps, but, as she explained: “My generation was brought up for academic study. We were not encouraged to value handwork. Being a carpenter was not seen as a fitting career. We had to choose our profession based not on what interested us, but on what was regarded as a reputable calling. Artistic ambitions were ridiculed and seen as a guarantee for social decline. So I went the academic way and became a psychologist and later a piano teacher. These were not what made me tick, but it took many years for me to discover this.”
I must say, what Pipi said really resonated with me, as I was of that generation that was pushed down an academic route when my real passion lay in making things and following creative pursuits. I wanted art college, not university, but the choice was never mine!
Ten years ago,Pipi decided to build herself a miniature house despite having no knowledge of how to achieve this. “I taught myself the skills of miniature-making. It was a case of learning by doing, trial and error. And so, step by step, a new passion began. And so it was that I returned to my grandfather’s carpenter’s bench – not his actual bench, but one in a quite similar location. My little atelier, my workshop.”
Passion in her voice, she told me: “Finally, I returned to the dreams of my childhood and have become a miniature artist.” At first it was just a hobby, but her skills rapidly advanced and soon she was creating very fine quality work – chests with drawers that open on little runners, and carved cabinets with beautiful glazed doors. So superb are her creations that since 2018 she has been selling them to collectors worldwide. People are very proud to own a piece from the atelier of Pipi Turner.
I love how her painted pieces have a patina of age, which she carefully and accurately reproduces at small scale. It is this attention to detail that makes her work so realistic.
I asked Pipi typically how long it takes to make a piece of furniture. There is no definitive answer: “The time it takes depends on the item, but it can take up to four weeks. I'm a perfectionist and will keep working on a miniature until it looks perfect to me. That can be a hindrance, and sometimes an object doesn't go on sale because I don't think it's good enough!”
If you would like one of Pipi’s perfect pieces, check out her website: www.miniatures-atelier-pipiturner.de. On her Instagram page you can see her furniture as it takes shape – drawings, cut pieces, items in various stages of assembly, and also the exquisite finished pieces fit to grace the most special miniature homes. Take a peek for yourself at Pipi’s perfect pieces!