English-style architecture is constantly on the mind of Princeton artist Brian Dolman as he painstakingly creates tiny intricate castles, manors, shops and cathedrals.
He uses thousand of pieces of hand-cut wood for each building – a process that takes at least 150 hours for the simplest house.
Despite developing arthritis in his hands, the self-taught artist designs miniature doors, windows, chimneys and even signs.
“Each building is unique, I don’t have anything mapped out. I just start building from memory,” Dolman says.
“But the buildings are still quite precise.”
One-eighth of an inch of the tiny houses equals a foot in real life.
He has created around 60 miniatures since he began 12 years ago, storing most at home in a large display.
He currently has a window display at Image Emporium with a few of his favourites mounted.
“Some of the buildings are finished inside. There are small doorways – you really need to examine all the detail,” says Dolan, who would rather give away his miniatures to friends than sell them.
Each piece is worth thousands of dollars, even if Dolman just billed his time as minimum wage, he says.
He plans to eventually donate most to the museum or art gallery.
Dolman moved to Princeton in 1993 after suffering a work-related injury to his leg.
With more time on his hands, he dove right into the world of English miniatures.
He doesn’t paint the outside of most buildings, opting to keep the wood its natural colour. But he has several white manors, and uses accents of bright colours to paint doors and window frames.
A small row boat, mini trees and chain-link signs adorn one building on display.
Dolman’s largest achievement – a section of a city encompassing five city blocks – is made of more than 400,000 pieces.
It took his a whole year to make, at eight hours a day, five days a week, with a two-week holiday.
It’s a replica of a commercial area, row houses, cathedral and giant manor in Chester, a bustling town in England.
Dolman, who used to work in construction, was married in an old cathedral in England.
His tools are simple – an Exacto knife, knife, ruler, paint, glue and wood veneers.
“Some friends have suggested I put small lights inside them so they light-up at night, but I haven’t yet because I want to create everything in them myself,” he explains.
Because of his arthritis, Dolman is breaking away from the precision-straight lines and making older houses that still require just as much detail but can have slightly different sized shingles for added affect.
“I’m a great daydreamer. I have some books with English-style architecture, but I don’t use them when I’m building one,” Dolman says.
“I’m in my own little world while I create [the miniatures].”
What’s next for Dolman?
For the first time ever he’s working on modern houses – the kind you would see in Princeton or any other Canadian town.
“I’m going to try something different just to change things up and give my skills a test,” he says.