Meet the maker – an American miniature furniture designer, Kathleen Hancock

I’m super excited to announce my new collaboration with an amazing upholstered furniture maker, Kathleen Hancock. Her beautifully styled miniature furniture and fantastic quality will no doubt complement your art dolls.

So, without further ado let me present, Kathleen Hancock.

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Kathleen’s selfie doll with the Bendt Side Chair in blue corduroy with coral stitched red piping (left) and Harris Swoop Arm Chair (right)

Could you tell us a little more about you and how you came to do this? Do you have background in designing?

I have always been a maker of things. Some of my happiest memories from childhood were all those afternoons spent at the kitchen table occupying myself by building things with construction paper, scissors, paste and tempera paint.

My mom also taught me how to sew and make things with fabric. We were quite the crafting family! I remember sewing together tiny squares of fabric to make a quilt for my dolls. I must have been about 5 or 6 years old at the time.

I took a lot of art classes in high school and decided that I would go to college and study art. It was there that I discovered how much I really enjoyed process-rich art forms such as printmaking, paper-making, and book-arts. These were, obviously, an expansion of my interests in making things with paper.

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Jasper, one-armed side chair

I came to miniature furniture making quite by accident, though. My work has always had an autobiographical quality to it and, over the years, I have made pieces that, in some conceptual or abstract way, reflect my journey as a woman. My sensibilities have also been shaped by my love of Trompe l’oeil and my interests in notions of things like public vs private, story-telling and memory.

Often my earlier work would be embellished with symbols, objects, and references to things that are both personal to me and universal to the human condition.

The Chair Project came from my interest in developing a stop-motion animation project. I realized that I needed to furnish my tiny environments and decided to try to build some chairs and sofas and coffee tables, etc. In 2014, I made about two dozen chairs. I was amazed and delighted at the responses I received from my social media platforms when I would post a new chair, but I also was living in a studio apartment then and ran out of room to store them. I ended up shelving (literally) the project for 2 years.

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The Gondola Sofa 1:6 Scale

In February 2016, I decided to pick up the project again. This time, I focussed on American and European midcentury design and with the idea of designing a series of chairs that would be sold exclusively through Etsy. I made 6 chairs, set up my shop and waited. Then one day, a  customer bought 5 of them at once and I knew I was on my way.

I have worked in arts education for many years and have been the director of Grimshaw Gudewich Art Gallery since its inception. I wear many hats in this position: curator, educator, installer, writer, designer. It is a very creative and rewarding position, but also very intense and demanding. In some ways, my chair project has become the antidote, a balm to soothe and rejuvenate me.

As an artist, I love the challenge of problem solving and always enjoy working out a new design. I also enjoy working with a client to make the perfect item for their small scale environments.

Some images of earlier pre-chair work can be seen HERE

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Kathleen’s cabinet of curiosities. 1:6 scale

Can you describe the process of creating?

I continually look for inspiration. Online resources are abundant and I have a growing library of chair designs and styles. When I start to develop the design, it makes the process so much easier if I have access to the full scale measurements of a chair I would like to reimagine. It also helps to have several views of a chair to work with. 

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inspiration and in process of creating

In most cases, I am not reproducing an existing design, but reinterpreting, redesigning, and reimagining. I choose fabrics that work well at a small scale and hand carve and finish hard wood legs for each chair or sofa I make. It is my goal that the chair feel and look as “real” as possible.

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Finished miniature

Where do you look for inspiration?

I love looking at vintage photographs of interior design, fashion design, and popular culture from the post war era through the early 1970s.

Where do you get your supplies from?

I try to shop local. My neighborhood fabric store often has remnants and one-of-a-kind specialty fabrics. I have also ordered fabric occasionally from fabric.com. Threads, glue, and sewing needles come from a variety of local and online sources. I also use specialty items such as linen bookbinding threads and would not be able to do what I do without a source for curved needles. 😉

What’s your favourite material?

I am especially fond of linen fabrics. They have a wonderful resilience and drape. They stretch and glue very well to other surfaces. The weave is often robust enough to convey a full sized feel to the small form factor of the furniture I make.

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What’s your favourite piece?

Below are three of my favourite projects.

The biggest challenge so far…

The biggest challenge comes usually from a one-of-kind request from a client, or working with complex design and an unruly fabric.  I recently completed a 3 piece living room ensemble in white linen. I had to keep a super clean studio and handle everything with incredible care.

To make covered buttons, I cut tiny dots out of heavyweight paper with a small diameter hole-punch. Then I cover each dot with fabric and glue. A time consuming process, especially with this project, but totally worth it. This project required 42 tiny fabric covered buttons!

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Milo Ensemble, 1:6 scale

Where do you work from?

I currently live on the first floor of an early 20th century Queen Anne Style Cottage. The first floor of this residence was designed to be the public and formal living space of the house and I decided right away that I would convert the dining room into my studio. It is bright and airy with both north and west facing windows.

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Kathleen’s studio

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What is a perfect day in Kathleen Hancock Studios?

Time flies when I am in my studio, and a perfect day would be one without other commitments to take me away from my work. Studio time, for me, is a form of meditation. Finding the balance between challenge and pleasure of making something work is powerfully rejuvenating.

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Cutting out tiny buttons

What does craft mean to you?

I have always been an artist who crafts objects. I used to feel that, as an artist, I had to defend my love of craft, of process, of using modest, or humble, materials such as fabric and glue. The process is as important as the idea – and they work in concert with each other. I used to think this notion was something in need of justification. But I am past that now. I enjoy the dynamic interplay between craft and design and fine art.

If you weren’t a miniature furniture maker, what would you be?

Making miniature furniture project is the current manifestation of my studio life. I can’t say that I will always be creating small furniture – I know at some point I may find inspiration in another creative endeavor. But I love what I am doing and want to pursue it for a while.

Where would you like to be in ten years’ time?

I hope to continue to make things for a very long time. My secret wish is that I could become a full-time maker of small furniture.

Would you offer any discounts for the readers?

I do offer discounts from time to time.

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How to order a perfect seat for your custom doll?

Kathleen can be found on Etsy. Just drop her a message via her SHOP .

Other useful links:

Kathleen’s Instagram Gallery

Kathleen Hancock Projects

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Once Removed and commented:
    Felted

    Like

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