Jane Newman - A Profile
by Rosemary Myers
I first met Jane when she took a stall in the mid 1980s on the craft market in Cambridge where I used to sell my work. I was so pleased to find someone selling miniatures - my passion - so I used to haunt her stall every month to view her latest products and talk about miniatures. At that time she was working as a technical draftsman, so this precise work showed in her tiny and exquisite pieces of furniture The craft market wasn't really the right place for her to be, although both Neil Carter and Ken Ketteridge also started their trading from there. Because I read International Dolls House News which had all the advertisements for specialist fairs, I could point them all in the right direction so that dolls' house addicts would know where to find them, rather than by a chance encounter.
Dresser, refectory table and chairs with woven seats.
Jane finally gave up her job and started working full-time on the pieces that she designed - scaling them down from real pieces. She made especially for me a refectory table, dresser and chairs - copies of real 17th century pieces that my parents owned - and I treasure them still. The rush seats of the chairs were woven with thread.
Dresser with small metal plates made by Jane.
Her tiny workshop was set in the pretty garden behind picturesque Linco Cottage, the house that she and her husband Colin, a very talented wild life artist, inhabited at that time. Unfortunately at that time, she was a very heavy smoker and when I visited her I was often hardly able to see across the small space due to the heavy blue fog which shrouded everything!. She did manage to give up this habit some time later.
The miniature Linco Cottage
One month when she appeared at the craft market, she brought with her the most exquisite tiny dolls' house, with completely concealed electric wiring, and based on her real home. The battery for the lights was cleverly concealed in a built-in kitchen cupboard.
Small scale interior of Linco Cottage - kitchen showing the built-in cupboard that houses battery and lights switch.
Linco cottage, bedroom.
16th scale bedroom furniture.
There were perfect wooden framed casement windows that opened, tiny fireplace and cottage style stairs. It had a tiled mansard roof and little chimney stack. It was so neat, small and utterly desirable! She had actually built it to use as a display case for the smaller scale of furniture that she made alongside the 1/12th pieces. After some while, I persuaded her to sell it to me - I got it after some while since I was paying by instalments every month! It didn't cost a fortune by any means but everyone seemed to be a bit short of extra money in those days. It is so tiny that no-one in my family could object to it joining the collection of Lines and Triang houses. It really takes up very little space.
Inside of Linco Cottage, upstairs and downstairs - small scale 1/16th.
Group of furniture showing two stools in the two scales together.
Each month Jane would produce new designs in both light and dark pine. They were mostly Victorian cottage style furniture which was very popular in real scale at that time. I could never decide if I wanted light pine or dark oak so often ended up with two almost identical items. Now it is so sought after, I am really glad that I just bought duplicates due to my indecision.
Victorian chest of drawers.
Another chest of drawers and a side table.
Wardrobe that was made in several finishes.
She had some of the most beautiful tiny pieces on display in her real life cottage, the tiny dresser filled with Stokesay ware which goes together with her work so well. She just got better and better as she grew more well known and was to be seen at the Kensington Dolls' House Festival every year. She also made metal miniatures but apart from having some metal plates that fit my tiny dresser (see above), I missed out on these to my regret. I think I just didn't have any spare cash at that time in my life.
Glass fronted kitchen dresser.
Dressing table with adjustable swing mirror, and silk covered stool.
Jane signed and dated most of her pieces - possibly all as she became well-known, although Linco Cottage has no markings.
My favourite piece of all her work is the cream painted Lutyens dresser copied from the Queen's Dolls' House at Windsor, made especially to sell in the shop there - made in a limited number.. I keep some of my best china and glass pieces on mine, since it deserves nothing less.
Larger scale 1/12th kitchen with limited edition Lutyens dresser, plate rack, chairs, tables.
Ironing board and dryer. Note excellent detail on ironing board.
Jane was a bright star amongst those artisans of the late 1980's, - there was such talent being discovered at that time and the work was being made to an incredible standard. The Kensington Festival was truly amazing to visit, all that talent under one roof! The dismal days of when there was virtually nothing to buy were certainly over! We were so lucky to have had that cornucopia of tiny and exquisite things from the late 1980s - golden days for collectors - until now, and we must hope that there are yet more artisans to come to replace those who have reached retirement age. Jane had retired at a quite young age, to begin a new life, and it was a tragedy it was cut short so quickly by her death from bowel cancer in spring last year.
Hall stand with metal base inset (for wet umbrellas).
Pine chest - apologies for the poor pictures but it is a lovely item.