Laura Tarrish | Collections

Laura Tarrish’s Collection of Miniature Chairs

The little green chair that started it all

I bought my first small chair in 1986, just after my initial East coast portfolio review as an illustrator. (Although I’m certain he won’t remember, it was an appointment with Alex Isley at the then-newly-launched SPY Magazine). I was gearing myself up for the next appointment, when I spotted a little green metal chair in the window of an antiques store.

I’m not sure what compelled me to purchase it exactly, but that chair — which still figures among my favorites — launched a collection that has since grown to roughly 200 examples.

I don’t claim to be a serious collector, able to recite the origin and provenance of each piece I acquire; rather, I buy these small chairs for their visual appeal: it’s all about the installation. Will this item round out a grouping of hand-made wooden seats? Or add something to my set of 1940’s cantilevered kitchen chairs? Does it appeal because it reminds me of my own printed tin ranch-style dollhouse from the early 1960’s? (I briefly collected those, too, but they took up way too much room.) I think of the chair as historically iconic, but perhaps more specifically — and personally, for me — as a symbol of home.

At first I found miniature chairs at flea markets and tag sales. Then my friends began to send me chairs found on their travels to exotic places like Greece and Cuba and Italy. Soon, I began receiving furniture-themed items —chair-shaped buttons and frames, cards and artists’ books, even jewelry.

But the reduced-scale chair itself has remained the core of the collection. Overall, the chairs that have a slightly unbalanced, homespun quality probably charm me the most. A two-year stay in London yielded some of my favorite chairs, including a metal chaise longue, and another, made by our then-8-year old daughter from twigs found outside our London flat. Conversely, I often find myself drawn to the VITRA reproductions — but so far, I’ve only given in to the iconic Eames chair and another enchanting specimen by Josef Hoffmann. Although I secretly wish I had more of these, I tell myself that anyone can buy those: after all, where’s the joy of the hunt? But the truth is, I’ve never felt I could justify the cost of these small reproductions until I had all the full-size chairs my home needed. And given my ongoing tiny furniture addiction, that has yet to happen.

Posted in: Arts + Culture

Comments [15]

What a delightful history of a collection!
kathy rosen

Part of the fun of having a collection is photographing it!
lisa marie tsering

a collection to chair-ish
keith baker

beyond cool collection and genius styling!!!!
betsy everitt

Loved this story and slideshow!
Juliette Borda

Fantastic collection, Laura!
Pam Williams

So Fabulous. is that your collage chair?!
lisa yank

Yes, not sure how that collaged chair at the end got in there (Jessica?!) since it is FULL-SIZED! (created for a Portland chair-ity auction). Kind of wish I'd bought it back since it is such a great shape...
Laura Tarrish

This is so much fun! Great little article!
Cynthia Rogers

Laura, I always knew something big would become of these little chairs. Nice post.
Clif Stoltze

such a charming collection.

Laura, I love these so much — I can't even choose a favourite among them! Where do you find them? I have tried toy shops (in Paris), but to no avail (too clunky)... haven't been to the Musée de la Poupée yet, but otherwise I'm stumped!
Maral Sassouni

I, too, have collected miniature chairs for about 15 years! It's great to know there are other people out there doing the same thing! I also have picture frame chairs, pin cushion chairs, candle holder chairs, place card holder chairs along with doll house furniture, hinged boxes chairs. There are metal, wood, ceramic chairs! About half of my 150 chairs are currently on display at our local library for the second time! There is even a collection of chairs made by the same company that does the miniature shoes! Collecting is fun for all-keep collecting!!!
Peggy Coleman

I have a collection of about 100 miniature chairs all decorating a spare bedroom. A lot of the collection is pictures I've framed. I hang the chairs on the walls too. It's the thrill of the hunt for me. If I find one I get so excited and can't wait to fit it into my room. My sister has probably contributed half of them and she has a real knack for treasure hunting at flea markets and thrift stores. She is the one who passed me your info. By the way, I will be printing your photos and hanging them. Love them!
Janine Kosek

Hi Laura,
My name is Laura and it is obviously a strange paralell as i too suddenly find myself trawling through ebay looking for vintage chairs, I am an illustrator and pattern designer and have just launched my first set of cushions (real life size!) couldnt get over the idea of how great some minture replicas of the cushions would look on the vintage minture chairs especially as most of my work is influenced by the old and spend many a weekend rumaging in car boot sales and jumble sales.... If you have any other thoughts on the best way to aquire such chairs I would be so grateful for the pointer.
Your collection is truely beautiful... and i am inspired.
My website is : lauraoakes.co.uk
email:[email protected]
hope to hear from you and conect on chairs!
Laura x:)

Laura Tarrish Laura Tarrish is a collage illustrator and a compulsive ephemera collector currently based in Portland, Oregon. Her editorial clients have included Apple Computer, Chronicle Books, The Washington Post, and United Airlines.  As the founder of Bridgetown Papers, Laura has created custom work for individuals including Isabel Allende, Tom Brokaw and Bob & Lee Woodruff.  She has been a contributor to Uppercase Magazine and Felt & Wire.

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