While big box retailers churn out cheap knock-offs of Eames rockers and Saarinen tulip chairs to meet consumers’ growing demands, Chicago collector and craftsman Michael Yurkovic has his eyes on a smaller market: mid-century modern miniatures.
Making tiny furniture is a relatively new pursuit for Yurkovic. After studying industrial design at the Cleveland Institute of Art, he spent 10 years as an independent toy inventor. “Toy design involved a ton of prototyping and making proof of concept models for different toy manufacturers,” he says, so learning to create miniatures came easily.
Yurkovic stumbled upon a miniatures show in Chicago a few years back. “I met some great people and saw the niche for mid-century furniture,” he says. "It was one of those experiences that I just walked out of the show and knew what I wanted to do.” He joined the International Guild of Miniature Artisans and attended the Guild School in Maine—a week-long crash-course in the craft of miniatures.
Since then, the Yurkovic has made some 150 pieces of mid-century modern furniture at a one-twelfth scale.
“The starting point of all this is research,” says Yurkovic. “What are the real dimensions, what thicknesses are the materials?” To create a miniature Eames chair, he measures an original, then carves a palm-sized mold for the seat from high density foam. Using a vacuum-forming technique to shape the shell, he heats a thin sheet of plastic in the oven of his home studio and drapes it over the foam mold. He carves tiny runners from wood for rockers and hand forms soldered wire into wee Eiffel bases for side chairs. “I’ve learned through trial and error,” he says. “Materials don’t always work the same in small scale as they do in real life.”
Yurkovic will be exhibiting his creations—which sell for around $250 and up—April 16 and 17 at Tom Bishop’s Chicago International Miniature Show, and through May 1 at D. Thomas Fine Miniatures in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.