Artist builds doll house from scratch

For five years she had been taking care of her elderly mother, who had suffered brain damage as a result of a fall. She was the sole caregiver, taking care of her mother round the clock.

“Making this dollhouse, and everything in it, was my escape and saved my sanity. I have a lasting memory of my mother coming into the room while I was working on this project and telling me, ‘I wouldn’t say anything if you were getting paid to do this.’ Bless her heart- she never did guess or understand my desperate need to make this happen.”

Wiehe started with a bunch of shoe boxes and a stack of flattened cereal boxes.

“Then, out of my head I began to cut, form and glue the cardboard into pieces of furniture. I did not measure or think about scale. Yet, the more I worked, the more the ideas came. I wanted the pieces to look as realistic as possible and the rooms began to emerge.” She explained that the couch had to be padded and tiny cushions made. There had to be side tables and lamps and, of course, a piano with 88 keys and then a coffee table with books to display on top. “Magazine advertisements for those books provided another realistic touch when I made miniature book shapes upon which to paste them. A recliner was necessary, as well as a card table and chairs for the monopoly game. The bathroom needed a roll of toilet paper on the wall and a tissue box on the sink. Miraculously, my mind and hands molded all this cardboard into reality.” Looking at the photos of the rooms and the items Wiehe built, it’s stunning to think of the meticulous work and time she took in creating such realism. The onlooker has to be reminded it’s crafted from cardboard. Every detail is unique in itself.

“There had to be rugs, so I braided yarn and made the tiny floor coverings. I painted little pictures to hang on the walls and made drapes for the windows,” she said. “Years before when I ran a ceramic business, I had made the silver set for the buffet and all the other ceramics that just happened to now fit the doll house scale. For the breakfast table, I added a plate of bacon and eggs made out of paper.”

The dollhouse was completed in nine months.

“Everything in this dollhouse is handmade, except for the telephone and trashcan in the kitchen, the monopoly set, and the animals. Now, I look at it and wonder, how in the world did I do it?” she said marveling at her commitment and use of such delicate skill in her execution. “Even if I had my dexterity and my eyes back as they were then – I’m now almost 92 and have advanced macular degeneration – I would not begin to know how to make all this furniture and household items again. How I did it, how I got everything to the same scale without any measuring, I still have no idea,” she said. “I do know one thing, however; making this dollhouse and everything in it saved my sanity and had to be done through and by a higher power, divinely-guided.”

When this shoebox dollhouse was taken to the museum for a few months in 1993, it could only be temporarily displayed there.

“For close to a quarter-century, it sat unattended in my Troy home, very rarely seen by anyone except an occasional visitor.” That was until February of 2016, when Wiehe’s dearest and long-time friend Angell Husted invited her to display what she called, “a one-of-a-kind work of art that needs to be preserved” in her new Angell’s School of Dance.

“I had for many years dreamed of a beautiful place where my shoebox dollhouse could be permanently displayed- so this is another miracle. I feel blessed and so grateful that my divinely-guided dollhouse lives on, shared for all to view and enjoy.”

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