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Artisan & Collector
The roast in Mary Eccher's kitchen always turns to a golden brown, the meringue rises flawlessly, the layer cake never falls and the stews are a perfect consistancy. True, her kitchen resembles a chemistry lab and research library, the lasagna is a bit sandy and the coffee a bit thick. But Mary is proud of these culinary anomalies.
As a pioneer in the use of resins with polymer clay, Mary has been experimenting with them for the last eighteen years. A long time crafter Mary had been using resins in large size decorations. "I made bunches of grapes, and foxes and daisies. It was a wonderful medium for me."
Always interested in miniatures, but never giving in to her passion, Mary's love for scale was rekindled about twenty years ago, while visiting several museums. It troubled her that museum dioramas and tableaux were devoid of food. "Kitchens were largely empty. Maybe some fruit and cheese appeared. 'A kitchen has to have food,' I thought. I remembered that old German mini kitchens had ceramic and plaster food. My mother had a dollhouse and a kitchen and a store that she brought from Germany."
ABOVE: A produce market by Bob Bernhard of Dolphin Originals became a "must have" for Mary Eccher as soon as she saw it. The roombox is styled after prints by Anton Pieck, and Mary had a set of the prints along her stairway. All dolls in the Pieck miniature scenes are by Sandy McKelvey.
"The boxes and the people are so accurate," Mary said, "I loved the scenes from the first day I saw them, even before I knew about miniatures."
Remembering her Mother's miniatures, which Mary now owns, she was inspired to use bread dough compound to create landscaping and food preparation for the museum dioramas. "I made too much of it. Then I combined it with herbs in making wreaths and gardens. It was fun. "I made a little herbary in miniature, but I had no idea there was a hobby out there. I started experimenting with more food. My goal was to make food that would not be cutesy. It would be part of a scene like a Williamsburg Thanksgiving scene."
Mary wanted to make not only finished foods but foods in preparation and ingredients laid out on a table that would add reality to a scene. She found, however, that bread dough compounds deteriorated. In looking for a new sculpting material, she came across a book by Barbara Meyers describing mini food made from a then-new material called Fimo. "Her book got me started. I went to the store and bought a couple of colors of Fimo. I also had my cookbooks. I loved using the modeling compound and researching the dishes that would go into someone's collection and roombox."
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