In the Netherlands the feast St. Nicholas is an important part of life. Unlike in most countries where gifts are exchanged at Christmas, the Dutch exchange gifts on the fifth of December. Part of the tradition is making your own gifts and writing a poem to accompany the gift. You can read a good description of the Dutch celebrations and customs of the feast of St. Nicholas here.

One of the Dutch miniatures websites is holding its annual St. Nicholas Swap. Each participant draws a name and has to make a miniature gift for that person. The recipient will not know who made the gift, so part of the fun is in trying to decipher the clues and find out who your secret St. Nicholas is. Of course I have made a miniature gift for someone too and have sent it off already. Nooo, I can't show you a picture here for fear of discovery! However, I can show you the beautiful gift I received last year from Jody:

With a view to St. Nicholas I bought a pair of cowboy boots at the Philadelphia Miniaturia a few weeks ago. I thought they were very cute as they're a bit old and used already, but also a wonderful souvenir from my trip! But really, they are perfect for St. Nicholas Eve, just think how many gifts a pair of boots will hold!

Next week, on the fifth of December, we celebrate St. Nicholas Eve in Holland. The feast of St. Nicholas (or 'Sinterklaas') is an age old tradition in Holland, dating back to at least the 13th century. The Dutch painter Jan Steen painted this wonderful picture 'Saint Nicholas Feast' approximately 1665-1668 (below). The painting hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
The description on the site of the Rijksmuseum reads: "A family celebrating St Nicholas Day. The children have just received their presents. The little girl is rather spoilt: she has a doll and a bucket full of sweets and toys. The boy crying, left, found the cane in his shoe. The older girl holds the shoe up triumphantly and another youngster points to it and laughs at the boy. But in the background, Grandma nods reassuringly to the unfortunate lad. Perhaps she has a present for him, hidden behind the curtain." (For a full description of the painting, visit the site of the Rijksmuseum here)

Jan Steen 'Het Sint Nicolaasfeest'

The original St. Nicholas was Nicholas, bishop of Myra (now in Turkey) who lived in the third and fourth century. He became known and revered for his kindness, fearlessness and religious beliefs. Over time, the story of St. Nicholas has been added to changed into the one we know today. The modern day St. Nicholas is a benevolent figure, living in Spain, caring for children, giving gifts and candy to those who have been good.
The feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated throughout the country (and Belgium too!) by both children and adults. The celebrations start about three weeks before the fifth of December, when St. Nicholas arrives from Spain on his steamboat, bringing his helpers ('Zwarte Piet' or Black Peter, whose origins are most likely Moorish) and lots of gifts with him. The arrival of St. Nicholas and his 'Pieten' is televised and broadcast live every year.

Arrival of St. Nicholas in the Netherlands

Two years ago I made St. Nicholas in miniature. I started with a porcelain figure I had bought several years ago. He was far too young looking so I used paint to age him and then wigged him and gave him a beard just like the 'real' St. Nicholas.

His clothing, miter and staff were quite a challenge to make, but turned out OK I think. Here he is on his visit to my house last year:

It has been a week and a half since I returned from the USA, but since other things have kept me busy, I didn't have time to write a post yet!

I have had a wonderful trip of which I spent five days in Philadelphia before and during the Philadelphia Miniaturia. I took two woodworking classes which were a lot of fun and where I have learned a lot. I got to meet and spend time with some miniaturists and ended up having a great time with some of the English miniaturists after the show.

View from my hotel room in Philadelphia

It was my first time visiting an American miniatures show and I loved seeing everything I had read about and seen pictures of. The two American miniaturists who really stood out for me were Elle Piccolo (even though I am not a doll person) and June Clinkscales. I had seen pictures of dolls made by Elle before and always thought they were fun, but seeing the real ones made me realize they are far better than the pictures do them justice. The expressions on their faces and detail in their clothing makes you think you're looking at a little person frozen in time. Wonderful work.
The miniatures by June Clinkscales were my absolute favourites though. I have stood drooling over her work a couple of times during my visits to the show. Her treatment and eye for fabrics, texture and colour is fantastic! Her work has a lively and artistic touch which I often find lacking in miniatures. Here too, the pictures I had previously seen of her work showed me it was good, but the real thing is so much better! I hope one day to be able to buy one of her pieces. Do check out June's fabulous work on her beautiful website!

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the miniatures mentioned. In fact, I didn't take many pictures at all. The few I did take I will show below. All of these were taken at the booth of Le Chateau Interiors from Louisiana. Their booth had a wonderful collection of antique and unique miniatures and these beautiful roomboxes below. I absolutely adore both roomboxes. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that my major in art college was textiles and fashion design. I apologize for the quality of the photographs, they were taken with flash and rather hurriedly. All photo's open to a bigger size when clicked on.

The Painting in the background suggests the scene represents Madame de Pompadour:

The figures in this roombox are old wax dolls, dressed by Le Chateau Interiors:

Check out the red coat on the wall, beautiful!