Competitions,  Feature,  News

Umbrellas at the ready.

Laurence & Angela St Leger talk about what is needed to create mini masterpieces – Ladies knickers, Gin & a scrubbing brush (really!)

Joint 1st prize in the PIMA 2020. Working Gents Umbrella.

The Perfection in Miniature Awards have become the highlight of our year at LDF HQ. This year in particular has been super-exciting, as the craftsmen taking part had extra time to spend on their entries, making the standard the best ever. In the 1st of our series looking at how some of these ingenious miniatures were made, we spoke to Laurence & Angela St Leger, about their winning entry – A working Gents Umbrella.

Laurence had won the PIMA before back in 2015, and, in fact, is always one of the craftsmen to beat (The PIMA equivalent to Lewis Hamilton or Roger Federer), with his quirky & complex mechanical & functional miniatures. This year he worked with this wife Angela to create the winning entry.

We chose the umbrella because we tried to think of an everyday object, like the swiss army knife, (Laurence’s entry in the 2015 PIMA) which was instantly recognisable.

It was also something that people had been asking them to make (including me!) and I think the charm of the piece is that it is such an everyday item, something we don’t really think about, even though the mechanics are quite complex, so seeing this in miniature & most importantly, with a mechanism that work so smoothly really makes it something special. (Your heart leaps when the catch clicks in place to hold the umbrella open; this was also the bit that caused them the most problems according to Angela).

As with many makers, they are vague about how long it took to make.

We started during the first lockdown  and worked on it on and off. The prototype must have taken 2-3 weeks. We now think we would need two days each to make our relevant parts.

Finding the right materials to make a miniature is always a problem. You simply cannot make it out of the same things as the original, so you have to be imaginative & think laterally. The 1st problem was the wire they used. It had to be springy. They ended up buying a wire brush from an ironmongers and pulling the bristles out – perfect.

Problem number 2 – the correct fabric. Real umbrellas are made from panels which are sewn together. This was impossible for such a small scale. The fabric had to be fine but allow a sewn hem without separating the warp and weft. They had previous experience of magician’s silk and discovered that it was perfect.. as long as they used really fine thread and needles.

Whilst researching the fabric, our first attempt was with some ladies knickers but they had a little stretch to them and so were not suitable. Of course they couldn’t be worn again with a circle cut out!

We also tried all sorts of things to shrink the fabric to shape from water to gin!

Where did I put the pliers? St Leger’s workstation.

So what has this challenge taught them both? Laurence has had to learn patience and Angela has had to learn how to suffer his impatience! We are are all thankful of that though, as in these dark days, a thing of beauty like this can only make the world a better place.

Watch this space for the ladies umbrella. The red silk is waiting in readiness.