Debra Prinzing

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Sheds in miniature

November 11th, 2010

Shedista Kathy Fries, wearing her amazing necklace.

When we wrote about and photographed the multiple sheds at Kathy and Ed Fries’s garden outside Seattle, we titled the chapter “Suburban Follies.” I mean “follies” in a good way because their landscape is dotted with a colony of amazing, fanciful structures.

Just when I think Kathy has exhausted all of her creative brainstorms, she surprises me. Last evening I saw a work of art around her neck that blew my mind. Actually, it is a collection of five works of art, suspended from an elegant gold chain.

These canvases are tiny. Miniature. Diminutive.

A little fairy must have painted the garden and shed still-lifes that range from a pinkie fingernail to a nickel in size.

Kathy is one of the most inspiring, big-idea persons I know, especially when it comes to garden-making and shed design. She recently commissioned this breathtakingly-beautiful piece of jewelry that celebrates all that she loves about her garden.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of her dazzling necklace at our dinner last evening. Thankfully, she allowed me to take photos and write about the art and the artist:

Kathy's one-of-a-kind necklace by artist and painter Christina Goodman

The allure of this art is that Christina Goodman didn’t just shrink down photos of Kathy’s architectural follies and other garden ornamentation to fit inside the Old-World-style gold-leaf cases. No. She painted each of these tiny canvases using a minuscule brush.

According to her web site, this California artist uses “very fine brushes, good lighting and a magnifier . . . and acrylic paint as it dries quickly and allows me to work on a small scale” to create her miniatures.

As for the lovely Renaissance-inspired frames, Christina says she designs and builds them “with wood using miniature moldings and a centuries old water gilding technique. The result is well worth the labor-intensive process. In the end, I hope to capture the luminosity of Renaissance painting in miniature.”

Kathy met Christina last year when the artist exhibited at the Bellevue Arts Festival. Kathy loved her miniature pendants, pins and earrings that featured trees, birds and other scenes from nature.

And she started thinking about the possibilities of having a one-of-a-kind necklace to celebrate her garden and its “sheds.”

One of the pendants was inspired by a vintage cast-iron chicken that is mounted on the Dutch door to the boys’ playhouse (see photo, above left). Kathy requested that Christina render it in miniature for her necklace.

The huge urn (in miniature) that dangles from the right side of her necklace is in reality about 4 feet tall and made of cast iron. I believe it was one of Ed’s “finds” that became a garden gift for Kathy. She jokes that its provenance was as a hotel ash tray. The last time I saw the piece, it was planted with a huge hosta and standing in the shade garden.

The three central gems on Kathy’s necklace include her Viewing Tower, her Doges Palace and Palais de Poulets, her chicken coop. Each was handcrafted by John Akers, a Seattle builder and salvager of architectural artifacts who collaborates with Kathy on many of her garden projects. Just in case you haven’t actually seen these structures before, here is how they look as real-life pieces of architecture. Bill Wright photographed them for our book Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways:

Kathy's tower overlooks her Medieval-inspired knot garden. The octagonal structure rests on a 12-foot-tall platform with steps and an iron railing.

The Doges Palace was once an unsightly 20-by-20 foot aluminum shed. Now a fanciful garden house, it is embellished with verdigris copper sheeting and a clock tower.

The Palais de Poulets, also known as "Clucking Hen Palace," was transformed from a decrepit shed into a functional and decorative coop inhabited by a flock of heirloom chickens.

Can you imagine what I’m fantasizing about? What special piece of art or architecture do I now dream to own in miniature by Christina Goodman? I’ll be on the lookout for just the right precious object.

18 Responses to “Sheds in miniature”

  1. Lorene Says:

    Oh Debra, you’ve beautifully captured Kathy and her passion for the garden, as did this gifted artist. Kathy is a valuable patron of so many horticultural arts. What a lovely evening together.
    oxoxo L

  2. Lisa Says:

    A delightful necklace…and a great momento of this awe-inspiring, heart-stopping, just plain fun garden!

  3. suzanne st pierre Says:

    That necklace is amazing!
    What a great story. I can’t decide what is more amazing, that she has 3 John Akers sheds or that necklace.

  4. Sunni Rudd Says:

    Debra, oh my goodness…when I saw that neckless and those charms, I KNEW right away it was from the incredible place we had the book release party for your amazing “Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways” book. What a day that was! A day I hold very special in my heart and memory. I would LOVE to have a necklace made with my shed and my garden art in miniature too…what a unique piece…something I would definitely wear and cherish. Thank you Cathy for letting Debra photograph and write about it and Debra, thank you for again sharing something so very special with us garden and shed lovers. Those “sheds” and that property are something I think of often and am still so honored I got to be able to personally see and be a part of that day. I tell people about it all the time. I am a very lucky lady to have shared in that experience. Thanks to you. <3

  5. compostinmyshoe Says:

    Amazing sheds. The artist has patience and plenty of it to create those beautiful pieces.

  6. Lydia Plunk Says:

    Absolutely. The inspiration. The replication- the steady hand.

  7. Jack Says:

    like the sheds, still trying to find out where these sheds are, the pacific northwest?

  8. Robyn Hofland Says:

    Your photos are absolutely delightful…our gardens are a reflection of those of us who tend them and yours is divine. But, I must say, I love the necklace even more.

  9. Beautiful Garden Sheds | DIY Small Garden Landscape Design Says:

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  10. Buy Sheds Direct Says:

    Lovely necklace you have there, and some great photos 🙂

  11. Sheds DIrect Says:

    we love the transformation of the decrepit shed to the The Palais de Poulets it is stunning thanks for sharing with us

  12. The Palais de Poulets Says:

    […] lovely hen house, named the “Palais de Poulets” and featured on Debra Prinzing’s website, is a fabulous example of what one can do with an old shed. She […]

  13. 20 Adorable Chicken Coops | Off Grid World Says:

    […] Chicken coops don’t get much more rustic than this one, built into an old tree trunk, with aged wood door, roof, and windows.  This sits in the corner of an industrial park in New York.  Image via Flickr An old garden shed was transformed into this “Palais de Poulets” with a vine-covered tower and living roof.  Beautiful!  Via Debra Prinzing […]

  14. Sheds Direct Says:

    I have to say I love the little shed at the end.

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