Q&A: Annelle Ferguson, co-redecorator of one of the KMA's Thorne Miniature Rooms

With fellow East Tennessee miniature artisan Jolie Gaston, Annelle Ferguson (pictured with Gaston, at left) designed and decorated one of the Knoxville Museum of Art's nine Thorne Miniature Rooms with a holiday theme. The KMA is one of just five museums that owns Thorne rooms, and the holiday decor will be on display through New Year's.

Did you have a doll house growing up?

I did not. I had a tin one, not a handcrafted one, and I played with it, but it wasn't the same.

Are the decorations in the room related to East Tennessee?

No, they're an exhibit from the collections of myself and Jolie Gaston. We didn't have enough time to plan something more thorough, but we wanted to show the public the mediums available on a one-twelfth scale.

What mediums are available?

Furniture making, paintings, quilting, weaving, needlework—all the items are handcrafted, none of them are commercial. We even made the Christmas ornaments and toys you see.

Do any of the decorations duplicate things from your house?

No! We're just frustrated decorators and architects. It's kind of a joke of mine about most miniature artisans.

How did the exhibit come about?

The KMA has nine Thorne rooms. We got the idea from Mican Morgan, who is the curator of the Thorne rooms at the Chicago Art Institute, which has 68 rooms. Mican joined our organization [the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts]. The rooms had not been touched other than cleaning except when they were created in the 1930s by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago. Mican had a lecture in Knoxville in August, and Jolie and I attended. She had the idea of decorating the rooms for Christmas, and Chicago did six rooms. We were able to decorate just one of the KMA's rooms, the Victorian parlor.

What's your favorite of the decorations?

Probably the Christmas tree. Both of those included are handmade by Jolie and myself. Mine is decorated more with red, the one Jolie decorated was more in gold and silver. Those were our favorites.

Do you have another career?

I've been a stay-at-home mom all these years. I got involved with miniatures building a doll house for my 3-year-old daughter, who's now 30-something. I learned it is an adult hobby.

Do you have really good eyesight?

I use a lot of magnification. My specialty is needlework.

How long did it take to decorate that one room?

We spent the day at the museum, and collected items from our own collections—and borrowed special things from other artisans.

Did you have any decorating disagreements?

Oh no, we seemed to be very in tune with each other and what our idea was. Our intention is to do more research on the period of the other eight Thorne rooms at the KMA and perhaps decorate them more next year when we have more time to collect the proper accessories.

For more information, including museum hours: knoxart.org