From violins and chaise lounges to a teeny drafting table that’s 1:24 to scale — everything Boutard made was architecturally accurate (and adorable).
We caught up with Emily to ask all about her Little Architecture creations, and to see just what this talented Melburnian has in store for us next.
You were a lawyer and now you teach law as well as create incredible mini furnishings and houses. Talk to us about this passion! Do you have a background in furniture making?
“I have been collecting miniatures and dollhouses since I was a child. I was always in love with tiny things. At first it was just a bit of fun, but over the years it evolved into more of an obsession, and now I do it almost full time. I began building architectural models and dollhouses when I was in my teens, but it was not until I was in university (law school) that I began making them seriously. I never really considered it a legitimate career path however, not until recently.
“When I finished university I worked as a lawyer in a corporate firm in Melbourne for a few years in tax and property law. I loved being a lawyer because it is intellectually challenging and interesting. However, I worked long hours and never had enough time to do anything productive outside of work. Most of all, I was always too tired to make miniatures. So I decided to quit my job as a lawyer and I have been studying architecture for two years. I now have enough spare time and energy to make my tiny furniture.
“To make money I teach at a law school in Melbourne and work part time for a legal start-up company called LawAdvisor. In this way, I keep one foot in the legal world, and keep my job prospects broad. Because of my legal training I can make enough money working part time to support myself, so I am really lucky in that respect. It’s this that frees me to do what I really want. I am now a much happier and less stressed person. It’s working well so far!”
Where do you get your inspiration from when creating a new piece?
“I try to achieve accuracy in my miniatures, so many times I use historical pattern books a lot of the time, or copy pieces of furniture I see in real life. That’s really where I get my inspiration. I am particularly interested in architecture history and my architecture studies assist me in creating historically correct interiors and furniture.
“I usually create miniatures from whatever historical period I am studying at the time (at architecture school or for my own interest). This year I have been creating an exact miniature replica of a pre-fabricated colonial cottage produced in 1833 for settlers who came to Australia from Britain in the early 19th century. I found details and plans of the cottage in an historic book published in 1833 (Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Cottage Farm and Villa Architecture, Vol. 1). I am half way through the project and you can follow my progress on Instagram #1833houseproject.
“It has been a great way for me to learn more about colonial architecture in Australia, as well as the framing and structure of the buildings. I always try to learn something new every time I make a miniature.
“I also tend to immerse myself in experiencing and/or looking at real images of the objects I want to recreate in Miniature. Too ofter poor-quality work is produced because the maker does not have a good visual understanding of the real object. When I want to make something, I study it obsessively. I will borrow books and scour the internet for reference material. I visit antique shops and study the shapes, sizes and materials. This is because I always strive for realism in my miniatures, and this can never be achieved without observing life very closely.”
Talk us through the process of creating a single piece. Say, for instance, the tiny violin and bow – what challenges did you run into (if any)?
“When I make something I have never made before I spend a lot of time studying the real life object, in order to get a good understanding of its proportions and physical properties (materials it is made from etc). Then I choose materials which are appropriate.
“With the violin, I shopped around to find wood which was of the finest possible grain. I then decide (in my head) how the pieces will look and fit together. Some people make physical drawings and plans, but I never do, I just do that mentally. The I just make them! You can see the specific steps I took on my website under “Small Tutorials” tab. I keep track of the steps there for people to see how it can be done from scratch.”
Is there a favourite piece you’ve created?
“If I were to choose I would say that the miniature architectural drafting board I made last year is my favourite, probably because it typifies what I am doing right now in my life. Also, I’m pretty pleased with that violin right now.
“Each new piece I make is my new favourite generally though! I dote on it for a while, photograph it, study it, then after some time, I begin to see its flaws. I always strive to improve my work with every single piece, so each new piece is better quality than the last. Sometimes I can’t even look at furniture I made just a month ago without feeling annoyed that I didn’t iron out some little flaw better.”
Can we buy your pieces? Are you available for commission?
“I do sell my furniture on my website. I also do commissions too. For me, making tiny furniture and interiors is my way of relaxing and not so much as a money-making exercise. I find it meditative and stress relieving. I don’t think about anything other than the tiny thing I am concentrating on when I’m making them; it’s my yoga!
“Having said that, I am working on a range of tiny kit furniture specifically to sell online. It can be bought inexpensively and made by a person of any skill level for fun. I am also working on a range of architecturally correct dollhouse kits. I think there is a hole in the market there, and as an architecture student I’m really excited to design a range covering several different styles from different countries (Australia, Britain, Scandinavia, France etc) and from different time periods. My dollhouses will be historically accurate buildings in the regional vernacular.”
What are you working on now we can expect to see on your Instagram account soon?
“I am currently working on a range of tiny architectural drafting boards because I really love these, I’m going to do a few styles (modern and old etc). Beyond that I will be finishing up the 1833 House Project, and then was thinking of moving into some modern furniture. Perhaps I will do some Scandinavian mid-century stuff! I’m pretty open to requests from my followers on Instagram though!”