Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tawhiti: behind the scenes

By this time word had spread that there was a miniaturist visiting the museum, and The Parental Units came to find me in order to tell me that the owner would like to meet me.
A man poses in front of a diorama of 19th-century soldiers marching in the New Zealand bush.
Nigel Ogle (a former art teacher) bought the old Tawhiti Dairy Factory in 1975, not realising at the time that he would end up turning it into a museum, let alone an award-winning museum.
A man poses in front of a diorama of an encampment of 19th-century soldiers by the sea.
Since 1988, the museum has been open regular hours, and he's been working on the exhibits full time.
Man standing thinking in front of a diorama of 19th-century soldiers in the bush.
When we visited, Nigel was working on a new room containing a diorama of a Taranaki battle, based on watercolour images created by an artist of the time (he told us the name, but alas I neglected to write it down and have since forgotten it...)
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers moving supplies from the beach up to an encampment.
The detail was perhaps even more amazing than the scenes I'd already been admiring,
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers fetching water from a stream.
and Nigel pointed out his use of forced perspective to draw your eye to the very back of the scene.
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers at an encampment.
Two men in front of a diorama of 19th-century soldiers marching through the bush.
He also explained how his approach to creating the bush has changed over the years.
Two men in a workshop area, in front of a diorama in progress.
Earlier scenes had plants made of paper, but now he uses a combination of materials such as etched copper leaves, cheap dusters from The Warehouse (alas, I forgot to hunt any down while I was in the country),
Man holding a piece of a duster as an example of how to make bush from unexpected objects.
and railway modelling material.
Two people looking at a piece of railroad modelling greenery, as a man explains how it's used.
While we were talking, his daughter arrived with a supply of toetoe grasses that she had just finished painting,
WOman at an open door, giving a man a box. The man is picking up one of the objects inside.
and Nigel demonstrated how they would be placed into the bush
Man holding a bunch of miniature toetoe grass, with a box of it in his other hand.
Man placing a piece of miniature toetoe grass into a diorama bush scene.
(another example of drawing the viewer's eye into the back of the scene).
Man straightening a piece of miniature toetoe grass in a diorama bush scene.
Clump of miniature toetoe grass in place next to a stream in a diorama.
He also pointed out the takahÄ“ down by the water: a little 'easter egg' for those with sharp eyes.
Two miniature takahē at the edge of a stream in a bush diorama.
As I said before, I really loved the realism he's achieved with his representation of the New Zealand bush.
Miniature New Zealand flax plants in a diorama.
Man pointing a stick at miniature flax plants in a diorama.
Man pointing a stick at miniature cabbage trees  in a diorama.
Fingers next to a cabbage tree in a diorama, showing scale..
And the coast. I was particularly impressed by the way be merged the painted backdrop with the modelled parts of the diorama.
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers crossing a creek by the sea.
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers crossing a creek and mounting a track by the sea.
And presented a new story everywhere I looked...
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers walking along a track near the sea.
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers fixing a landslide on a track.
(while drawing the eye ever onward through the diorama).
Diorama of 19th-century soldiers fixing a landslide on a track. In the foreground is a large cabbage tree.
Woman standing next to a diorama of 19th-century soldiers in an encampment in the bush.
If you're ever in New Zealand, I highly recommend making the time to visit Tawhiti Museum in Hawera.
Diorama of bush by the sea.
I know I have to go back for another visit as I missed a whole section, which I believe contains some more awesome 1/12-scale miniature scenes. And to think I almost missed it...
Diorama of bush by the sea.
Finally, if you need to be convinced (or perhaps live too far away for an in-person visit to be realistic), you might enjoy this video:

4 comments :

Tina said...

Well this is an exciting turn of events. Meeting Nigel Ogel and picking up some trade secrets from a real master. Gosh I nearly cried at the poignecy of the detail in his work. This is a real highlight in the road trip.

otterine said...

Wow -- just wow! It's all breathtaking! :D Thanks so much for sharing.

Sheila said...

Absolutely amazing... could study this for hours.

The Shopping Sherpa said...

Tina: It was pretty special, and The Parentals and I have already been talking about the fact that we need to do a return visit (especially as there were some 'rides' that weren't running the day we were there...)

otterine: My pleasure. I only wish you could have been there to ask more advanced questions (I thought of you when I saw the sheet of grasses!)

Sheila: Me too. I only wish I'd been able to concentrate more on what Nigel was saying rather that trying to make sure I captured all the details for you lot ;-D