A Ganglion Gone Awry
A confession is a statement – made by a person acknowledging some personal fact that the person would ostensibly prefer to keep hidden.
When visiting Belgium in 2019, I was guided around Tourinnes-la-Grosse by my friends Bart, Sofie and Frederic. We made a stop at the church of St Martin, its oldest part goes back to the 10th century. In this church there was the most beautiful Confessional. I had been wanting to make a miniature Confessional scene for some time, and now, I got the inspiration I needed to get started..
I was able to take good reference photos of it, using my friends as models, posing the way I’d want the mice to pose, and used those images as a guideline when starting to create the scene.
I looked at beautiful old Confession paintings to study clothes, poses and expressions. There is a lot of intensity and emotions in these artworks, something that inspired me a lot when making the characters. In particular the sinner.
I have used vintage wooden boxes for my dioramas up until now.
This time I wanted something special. Something that could add a sacral touch to the finished piece, something that would bring your mind to a church.
It took me quite a while to find something perfect.
When an old relative died, I inherited this lovely little chest, in which she used to keep designs and pattern for clothes. Turned out it was exactly what I needed.
Building the inside
I started out with builing the wooden plateu, then I arranged the stones in a suiting pattern around it, attaching them with a small-grained acrylic paste. I wanted a floor for this church that looked very old, very used, but clean and serene, so I polished the stones to give them a nice shine.
The walls are actually wood, painted and stained to look like marble stones.
I always sculpt the mice using Supersculpey, a very fine polymer clay which allows you to make very detailed sculptures. The whiskers for both characters in A Ganglion Gone Awry, are all from my cat. He looses the every now and then.
I use various kind of acrylic paint, many many layers, to get a fur-like finish.
The fabric for her skirt was very important. I knew exactly what kind of colour and silky yet faded look I wanted, and after testing many different ones I found the perfect one among the fabric sample catalogues I got from Owing Møbeltapetserer in Oslo.
I owe a big thanks to Owing Møbeltapetserverksted, an upholsterer who has been very helpful, throwing large amount of unique fabric samples at me.
I decided to use bordeaux coloured eyes for the Priest. Give him a little touch of evil…
One of the images I used as inspiration for the priest.
Since I am a costume designer by profession, this is one of my favorite things. Researching historical clothes, and selecting the perfect fabrics for a miniature version..
The construction and building of the Confessional was by far the hardest and most time consuming part of this diorama.
To carve the decoration on the wood, I used a corded Dremel, combined with sculpting tiny rats heads that I painted and attached.
To demonstrate how all things may be useful when making miniatures… I have saved this keychain for maybe 20-30 years. Some time, on a trip somewhere, I have stayed in cabin #100 and run off with the key.
Now it has been turned into a stool for the priest.
The secret in the attic
I built an almost invisible door at the top of The Confessional.
I couldn’t resist the idea of adding a sad, dark twist to the scene.
I sculpted this little one, that someone, for some reason we can only imagine, hid up there a long time ago.
The teeth used to belong to my friends’ cat, she needed to have a few removed, and generously donated them to me.
The stained glass window
This was a new challenge. I wanted to create a stained glass window as realistic as possible. Now I had to learn how to work with Crystal Resin.
I decided to take inspiration from the Belgian St Gertrude of Nivelles as my Saint. Born at Landen, Belgium in 626, I thought it was perfect, as the church I was inspired by is located in Belgium as well.
According to catholictradition.org she was the Patron of Cats, the Recently Diseased, Gardeners, Travelers, Those with Mental Illness, and Those with a Morbid Fear of Mice and Rats.
Saint Gertrude of Nivelles has a special symbol, that of the mouse on her staff. I made a sketch, turning her into a mouse herself, still with the tiny mice on her staff.
Making of the silver frame
For this part of the stained glass project, I needed someone who was specialized in working with silver, and ho had the tools and special training in this complicated thing. I turned to jewelery artist Lisa Falch, @lisafalchdesign , and she was up for the task of making the little Mouse St.Gertrude frame.
It is the first time I have collaborated with an other artist, and I think was really inspiring.
She has provided me with behind the scenes images from her proccess:
Making of the stained glass
I used Gedeo Crystal Resin for the glass.
I had never worked with this product before, and I ran into all sorts of trouble, with a steep learning proccess.
It’s a wonderful material, but you have to be 100 % focused.
Figuring out how to make everything balanced. So that part 2, The stained glass window that is built into the lid of the box, looks like it belongs to the part 1, the Confessional itself.
Behind the scenes