Creating a miniature Hollywood story

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01 February 2023
Terri Davis and Raphael Truffi Bortholuzzi bring us a touch of Hollywood with this fascinating look into their miniatures celebrating famous American landmarks!

The sign of the times

A symbol of destiny for those seeking fame and fortune, the Hollywood Sign celebrates its centenary in 2023. That’s quite the achievement for something that was deemed would be around for just eighteen months back in the 1920s! It may surprise many to learn that, as one of the most famous landmarks anywhere in the world, the sign was actually first constructed in 1923 to promote a housing development. 

Its appearance was also little different to today, with four additional letters needed to advertise ‘HOLLYWOODLAND’. After dark, it also lit up the night sky and presumably an electricity bill or two along the way, with somewhere in the region of four thousand light bulbs. The sign went on to become simply ‘HOLLYWOOD’ in 1949 and the huge 45-foot-high letters we know and love today date back to the late 1970s after their predecessors lost their sparkle and succumbed to the ravages of decay. Indeed, one of those original letters, aptly a letter ‘O’ for those sitting there open mouthed at the revelation, fell to the laws of gravity when it descended down the hillside.

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Creating a miniature Hollywood sign

Even if you’ve never seen the Hollywood Sign in person, miniatures can take us anywhere and proving that we can all have our very own slice of the Hollywood dream is top miniaturist, Raphael Truffi Bortholuzzi. His stellar miniature replica of the iconic sign stemmed from a desire to create a piece which held its roots firmly in reality, rather than those borne entirely from imagination. It is also 1/150th scale, eye wateringly small when you consider that the real sign is a massive four hundred and fifty feet from end to end. 

Miniature hollywood sign

As a talented photographer with a knack for achieving great images, Raphael brings the miniature setting to life against a wonderfully atmospheric backdrop of blue skies and bright sunshine casting its light over the scene. His carefully planned and intricately crafted recreation of the sign itself along with its home on the slopes of Mount Lee, rising above the sprawl of Hollywood below, features all the intricacy he excels at. It’s also what his exquisitely crafted dioramas are widely known for.

Why not add some celebrities to your Hollywood scene? Be inspired by Tanja Jensen's lifelike miniature dolls of famous actors including Maggie Smith and Tom Hanks.

The level of detail waiting to be discovered on the reverse of each high-quality 3D printed letter make this an intriguing miniature when viewed from any angle. In fact, it would be a shame to place the diorama anywhere where it couldn’t be viewed to its full advantage. Achieving that true to life appearance was something Raphael describes as his biggest challenge when creating the letters in such a small scale. 

Miniature Hollywood sign  

With a base built using foam and polystyrene, the final diorama perfectly captures the natural flow of the undulating landscape of the sloping hillside and is a testament to Raphael’s skill. His use of real soil, along with static grass and various artists favourites such as pastels and acrylic paint only serves to add to the overall sense of authenticity of what is an incredibly engaging scene. As is the case with much of Raphael’s work, his Hollywood Sign diorama is a piece which holds appeal for both the avid collector and someone with no prior connection to small scale but who is looking for that single impressive artwork to display in the home. 

Miniature Hollywood sign diorama

Glamorous costume

The 4th of July is marked down in red, white and blue in many a miniaturists’ calendars, just like Christmas, Easter, Halloween and St Patrick’s Day, which makes them an exciting time of year set aside for the creation of the most delightful celebratory miniatures. There’s so much fun to be had and food lends itself to being a popular choice when it comes to holiday miniatures, the Stars and Stripes providing inspiration for an ever-ingenious range of treats in 1/12th scale. For example, who can forget the golden Statue of Liberty cupcake from Paris Miniatures and which featured in the July 2020 issue of Dolls House & Miniature Scene. It may be one of the scant occasions during the year when the idea of bright blue cake actually seems like a tempting prospect! 

Lady Liberty miniature doll

However, the miniature costume designer also has an important role to play in the celebrations. Looking less like her namesake statue in New York City and more like a character bursting with the glitz and glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood is ‘Liberty’, a commission designed by the imaginative doll and costume artisan, Terri Davis. You could just as easily see this stunning doll stepping off one of the grand liners in the days of the transatlantic sea voyage as you could the set of one of the classic Hollywood movies. Beautifully designed and created with the aid of a Doreen Sinnett mould, ‘Liberty’ wears a cotton dress which has been trimmed with delicate white lace and silk ribbon bows. 

The swish of the dress is delightful and the very tiny pearl ‘buttons’ at the back are an absolute joy. Her costume is inspired by the style of the late Victorian period and Terri really has thought of everything, the look completed with a range of accessories. Not only a stylish parasol and bag, but a lavishly decorated hat adorned with more of the same deep red ribbon and oodles of red, white and blue feathers. ‘Liberty’ is also holding a US flag, which again makes you think of her stood waving on the quayside, the bright feathers in her hat blowing in the summer breeze as that big ship sets sail.

Lady Liberty miniature doll

Raphael and Terri’s work are united by the same diligent attention paid to honing those fabulous fine details. They have both created wonderful pieces of art which help us to celebrate the sheer brilliance of the talent firmly at the beating heart of today’s miniature scene. Follow the links to see more from Terri Davis and Raphael Truffi Bortholuzzi.

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