Miniatures tell the tale | October 31, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - October 31, 2008

Miniatures tell the tale

Museum shop selling little replicas of historic buildings

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Danville's historic charm is being captured in miniature - and the little buildings, plus the oak tree, are for sale in the gift shop at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley.

Artist Gary Winter replicated Danville historic buildings in miniature years ago and sold them at a shop in town.

"They were at Father Nature's Shed for a couple of years," he recalled. "They always did well with them."

So far he has created miniatures of the train depot, which houses the museum; the former Danville Hotel Restaurant and Saloon; the Danville Oak Tree; the old Tassajara School House; and the San Ramon General Store.

"The Veterans Hall is the next one coming out," he said. "I'm planning to do the Geldermann home in San Ramon, the Glass house, the Vecki house and the feed and grain in Alamo."

For the last 10 years or so, Winter has focused on Pleasanton, where he lives, creating diminutive versions of its historic buildings and Victorian houses. He's done about 70 different miniatures, including buildings in Danville, Pleasanton, Livermore, San Francisco and Mission Ranch in Carmel, which is owned by Clint Eastwood.

Winter began experimenting with miniatures in the mid-1990s, creating buildings with great attention to detail. One couple commissioned him to create a three-dimensional miniature of their house to celebrate the final payment on their mortgage. Such replicas are labor-intensive and start at $400.

"I was having a ball being creative but I was also trying to figure out how to make it affordable to everybody," Winter said. "I worked on it for like a year, making these little buildings and fiddling around. Finally it dawned on me: What if I just made the front of the building?"

He began to experiment with large drawings of building fronts, putting in a lot of detail and shadowing them for a three-dimensional look, then reducing the drawings and adhering them to wood. He uses an electric saw to cut out the shape.

"The drawing takes the time, about 20 to 30 hours," he said. "I love detail."

"I try to do them all straight on," he added. "With the Veterans Hall, I will cut the trees back."

Winter stopped into the Museum of the San Ramon Valley during the Antiques and Art Faire in late August and happened to meet Eloise McTigue, chairwoman of the museum's store committee. They agreed the miniature historic buildings might be a good addition to the museum store.

"I did paintings for Joel Geldermann and donated the paintings to the museum," said Winter. "His family owned a good portion of the western ridge. I did three paintings and lined them all up and it's the whole ridge."

The paintings are on display at the museum and show the ridge before any houses were built on it.

The miniatures at the museum sell for $30; the oak tree is $27; and the smaller Tassajara School House is $23.

McTigue said museum patrons buy books and other items at the shop in the old depot.

"Our best selling items are children's toys that cost less than $10," she said. "Less than $5 is even better."

The bonnets are always popular, especially when third-graders dress in 1890s garb for their visit to the old Tassajara School House.

"In summer when we have our train exhibits, we sell the train things," said McTigue.

Coincidentally the Pioneer Art Gallery's current exhibit features "150 Years of Historic Buildings in Danville."

"Over 20 artists have gone around town and painted over 20 of the historic buildings in town," said artist Bill Carmel, director of the Alamo Danville Artists' Society gallery.

The art exhibit runs through Nov. 16 at the gallery, 522 Hartz Ave.

"It's weird how they came together," said Winter.

His miniatures will remain as a permanent part of the inventory at the museum, at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Prospect in Danville.


There are no comments yet for this post