Keeping it in the Family

Sue Hodgson talks about her husband John & his incredible 45 years of miniatures & where their buisness is heading now.

John busy at work

Forty -five years is a life- time but this is the number of years John has spent working on miniature furniture. He always loved antiques, especially chairs (of which we have many). When I met him, the house had swords on the walls, suits of armour and very old and very heavy oak furniture – too heavy to lift. I did wonder if he had come from a different period -in -time!

On the arrival of our first daughter, John decided to buy a small lathe and make some furniture for her for a dolls house. They were made from mahogany and in the Chippendale style (not the usual children’s dolls house furniture). He exhibited them in a local woodworking show where they won the first prize. He was contacted by a lady, who admired them and wanted to buy the furniture for her grand-daughter. John had not anticipated selling the pieces, but was persuaded to part with a very basic dining room setting for £100. John was rather disappointed that now he would have to make them all again! Little did he know that this situation would lead to a life -time in miniature furniture with his work being exhibited around the world in Faberge stores, museums and private collections.

Originally, every piece was hand-carved from antique wood, mainly mahogany from old dining tables where the grain was very fine. He also worked in walnut. The fine detail of cross-banding, mirrored sections of veneer on the desktops of secretaire cabinets, were a beautiful feature of his work.
In 1984 John was awarded an ARMS – to be an Associate of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers. His speciality was miniature portraiture, and his love for the old master style of painting.

Mingling with theatrical royalty at Hever Castle

His exhibition at Hever Castle in Kent, a nine year commission, enabled him to develop ideas in casting and moulding. Making rubber moulds from his own hand-carved masters, he was able to build the large houses and so many pieces of the furniture, some in wood, others in pewter and resin. This was a giant project for one man, but with my help (collating makers of carpets, porcelain items, silverware, figures and other required items which we did not make) he completed the huge display.

Our three daughters are now grown up and John retired three years ago, but with help from the girls, we are continuing with the business which we have loved for so many years. November 2019 was a special Kensington Show, as I exhibited together with Ruthie, our middle daughter. We were not sure if I could continue with John’s wonderful work, but Ruthie has always wanted to join the business. She is a primary school teacher but now also upholsters the furniture, and she does a very difficult, job beautifully.

2020 was the lockdown year, a very difficult time. I took the decision to be positive. With help from the girls we could continue the work. What else was there to do staying home all day and not going out?

We developed a new website, and with help from Charlotte and her virtual shows, we were inundated with orders.
Jess our third daughter, offered to help with the hand-painting. She had worked as a paediatric nurse at Great Ormond Street and the Chelsea Westminster hospitals, but is now a full time wife and mum to her two daughters.
Anna, our eldest daughter, also a mum, has a PA background and is helping with the website design and other technical issues.

As they are all spread around the country, this does not make things so easy, but we are building the business once more. We have introduced new colours, real and faux marbles and fabrics to our existing range, all in accordance with the ethos and style that John and I set out to create.

We have been fortunate to have met so many lovely people in this business. Meeting different exhibitors and customers from all over the world has been an inspiration to us all and a lot of fun. As John has already retired and there will come a time when I will also, I hope that the girls will enjoy doing the business as much as we have.

John Hodgson & Sue Hodgson Designs will be exhibiting at the KDF Summer Show on May 13th & 14th 2022.