Volume IV Fall, 1975 Number 3
Jan and John Zweifel working on the Treaty Room
NEWS IN THIS NUTSHELL
The White House - in Miniature
A Trio of Miniature White Houses Our cover and featured story about THE White House—in miniature, resulted from a long-distance call from Judy Berman, Ill. ours to Dee Snyder, Fla. whose geographical proximity to John Zweigel, a modest subscriber, made for STOP PRESS copy. From the stupendous to the simple, we offer the restoration of a modest colonial from mildew grey to pristine white, and last and lavishly, "Sans Souci" a gold and white confection created by Paul Rosa, Mass. After all, without our "French Connection" a la Lafayette two centuries ago the coming Bicentennial couldn't happen. Carte Blanche is applicable to the rest of the editorial material and we think our advertisers manifest the ingenuity that made US—the USA. We would like to add that we intended NO WHITE LIE when we said THIS SIDE OF YESTERDAY—in MINIATURE would be published late June—the delay was beyond our control and we
appreciate your faith and patience and hope by now you have found the publication worthy of the wait.
The Hand Carved White House in Miniature
Miniature White House
One man's dream is about to come true. The hand carved White House in miniature, a never-before dimensional record of the presidential residence since 1800, is now to be shared for years to come with all Americans, a reflection of our cultural heritage and an important part of the Bicentennial celebration.
John Zweifel first envisioned the project 25 years ago and in 1961, with the approval of the Kennedy administration, he began researching in association with nationally recognized curators and historians. Since then he has devoted all his spare time, using his own capital, to make the dream come true.
He is assisted by his wife, Jan Zweifel, a well-known interior designer, and a staff of more than 25 wood carvers and artists famous for miniature reproduction. They have dedicated their unique talents and well over 200,000 man hours to the construction of Zweifel's White House.
The completed house is expected to draw over 15 million viewers on its Bicentennial tour of 50 states starting in October. While a tour schedule has not yet been released, we hope to keep our readers informed. It will be
Staff Curator and Exhibition Tour Manager Vernon Walton making a table
Blue Room in planning stage with carpet painted on blue velvet
exhibited at major regional shopping centers, some state fairs, and big industrial shows.
Early last summer some of the rooms were set up in the Cabinet Room at the White House for President and Mrs. Ford to view. Both are enthusiastic about the project. On July 4, 1976, President Ford will document it as authentic as of that day. (Even prisms and tassels will be counted by White House authorities.)
We were privileged to see this miniature masterpiece in the making. Scaled at 1"-1' it is 55' long from the East to West Wing and surely the largest miniature house we have ever seen. Visualizing the completed replica of this home of presidents was not hard to do—Solid white columns, porticos, gleaming facade, glimpses of elegant interiors, landscaped grounds, hundreds of tiny lights, fountains, and music presented with the latest techniques in audio-animatronics. (A Disney term for
The Hand Carved Green Room
sound, animation, motion, and illumination.) It should be an over-whelming visual and emotional experience.
The project will really never be completed. During the three-year tour, an on-going program of new room additions is projected to bring the total "open-for-public-inspec-tion" rooms to over 30. Today's visitors to the real White House, Washington, D.C., are allowed to see only four or five of these rooms.
Seeing the completed interiors is a treat for the miniaturist. We visited one of the preview exhibitions which were displayed at several Florida locations this past summer in connection with Bicentennial festivities. Shown were the Lincoln Bedroom, Red Room, Green Room, Treaty Room and the Blue Room under construction. Also featured were displays of the planning stages and actual craftsmen carving on pieces for the project. Vernon Walton, tour manager, left his work bench to answer our questions and to give us some "how-tos". Walton is a former designer for Disney and Ringling Bros. Working with him was a retired Dis
Carver Rowland Roberts at work on a picture frame for the miniature White House
ney carver, Rowland Roberts. We marveled at the intricate picture frame he was making.
We were especially impressed with the beautiful hand carved furniture —from the ornate Victorian pieces in the Lincoln Room to the Empire pieces with their sphinx, dolphin, and swan ornamentations, all reproduced in the wood of the original piece. Tiny lights glow from exquisitely detailed replicas of chandeliers and lamps. Fresh-appearing flower arrangements abound. The mirrors, paintings, china, wall coverings, draperies, upholstery, and carpets have all been faithfully reproduced.
Mr. Zweifel expressed to us his desire to share methods and sources that he and his staff develop. While not much can be new after 400 years of miniature crafting, old techniques can be rediscovered or popularized and new applications and materials
can emerge. We commend his generosity.
On this particular project, the artistry is sternly disciplined by the need for perfect scale and historic accuracy. Sometimes one must sacrifice an element such as texture to achieve perfection. Some things cannot be reduced to 1"-1' scale without "fool-the-eye" techniques. Zweifel has met the problems wonderfully.
Some of the methods we enjoyed seeing in the completed rooms were wall and carpet treatments. The moss-colored moire walls of the Green Room were rendered in acrylics on paper to scale by an artist. Moire is moire and does not come in 1"-1' scale. This trompe-l'oeil approach looked great. The Red Room English mid-19th century rug and the intricately patterned Turkish Hereke rug in the Green Room were painted on canvas. The designs of the Savonnerie rug for the Blue Room were painted on a rich blue velvet. Some of the rugs will be petit point. The Lincoln Room cream satin tufted uphol-
stery was simulated over carving with applications of pearlized paint.
You may wonder how the rooms, already displayed, can be separated from the house. Mr. Zweifel designed the structure so that the rooms are removable like drawers for maintenance and up-dating. He wants the house to always have a flower-fresh quality.
Another innovation we noted was that the shell of the entire house is covered with a white plastic laminate before painting. This covers unsightly screw heads, seams, imperfections in the wood that usually have to be filled and sanded and will make invisible any paint mars incurred in handling on the road.
John Zweifel is a master craftsman, artist and historian with an infectious enthusiasm for his work. The Chicago native is a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute and a trained mechanical engineer. For 25 years he has been creating exciting displays for leading department stores and shopping centers. He has been Theme Park consultant for Disney and is currently en-
gaged in creative activities for central Florida's Disney World. While living, Walt Disney recognized Zweifel for his talent as a miniaturist. He was commissioned by Mattel's Ringling Bros. Circus to design Circus World in Orlando. To finance his "dream," John continues in his role as president of Zweifel International based in Orlando, Fla.
He must have been a boy wonder, too. At the age of six he started carving pieces for a miniature circus. 36,000 pieces and 22 years later the project was finished. He also made an authentic replica of the show boat Cotton Blossom. Both projects were animated by 160 motors and had music and sound effects. Both were on tour by the time he was 24 years old.
John Zweifel, who prides himself on his Old World craftsmanship, is very articulate about his contribution to the Bicentennial era. He believes that bringing his White House model to reality will be a token of appreciation to his country for giving him the freedom and the climate to succeed in the rather unusual occupation of his choosing.
Once this White House is on tour, we predict that it will exert a great influence on the world of miniature. If the expected 15 million people —mostly non-miniaturists—are ex-posed to this fine art project there will be a greater appreciation and awareness of our craft and probably some "joiners." It will be an inspiration and measuring stick for existing miniaturists all over.