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World Art Day is celebrated annually on April 15, according to UNESCO, to celebrate “the links between artistic creations and society, encourage greater awareness of the diversity of artistic expressions and highlight the contribution of artists to sustainable development”. Senior writer Lara Pickford-Gordon spoke with a unique, local artist.

As a boy Treymayne Frauenfelder admits he did not see toys the way other children did. Toys were a source of enjoyment, but they also sparked a fascination with miniatures; how could a toy car that could fit into the palm of his hand look like the “life-size” version.

His interest was formalised after seeing the movie Beetlejuice (1988) and the diorama of the town where the Beetlejuice character lived.

“When I saw it, I said to myself ‘I want to do that!’ That’s where it all began, seeing toys, a scaled version of the real things and that particular movie, that made me aware of miniatures,” Frauenfelder said.

He began creating cars and trucks from matchboxes. “I would go around the area and collect empty matchboxes and get home and make the cars. They were very basic.…I would use ten cent coins for the tyres.” He moved on to using 25 cents pieces then 50 cents for the wheels, joking his cars were “always jacked up”.

He grew up in a home where creativity was expressed. His parents created Carnival costumes when he attended Mt Lambert RC. His five older siblings were also into art.

Frauenfelder made houses out of cornflakes boxes. “Over the years I advanced regarding the materials, came away from matchboxes and cornflakes boxes. I would go to Deltex [Art Shop] and other art stores to purchase paper to use; that was also an experimental phase because I did not know what I was doing in terms of my choice of paper, so a lot of trial and error during that time”.

Frauenfelder became a painter “by trade” saying he fell in love with painting as a boy. He started his own company in 2008. Apart from this he said, “When I left school in 1997, I went into learning how to do signage. I became a sign artist after a while, but mainly painting. I did sign art for roughly for about 12 years.” He explained that he fell away from doing fine art and focused on painting. He began sculpting but stopped until about 2010.

“2010, I started back after years of not doing it. I decided to never stop again; as I built pieces, I would carry to show this person and they would give me some sort of encouragement because they liked what they saw; that continued”. He was advised on materials to use and informative videos online. “I never knew it would actually turn out to be a career,” Frauenfelder said.

His first piece was a house 9-10” across, 13” in height and 10” width. It was designed based on the features he liked about several houses and “what I saw in my head,” he said. It was made of paper and took six months to create. Frauenfelder works in several different scales and his pieces have gotten much smaller. “I can build a house that can measure an inch and a quarter squared by two inches or less tall and that’s with full details”.

His first exhibit was in 2013 at the auditorium of the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), Stanmore Avenue. An artist friend was having an exhibit and asked him to participate. He was exhilarated after selling his first two pieces. More people began seeing his work and his decision to get into miniatures as a business was influenced by feedback and encouragement.

What skills does it take to become a miniature artist besides very good eyesight and a grasp for measurements? “A sense of imagination, an eye for detail, other basic skills like learning to weather, understanding how moss grows”. By weathering he is referring to the physical changes that occur from exposure to the atmospheric conditions. He learned about this from painting walls for his commercial painting business.

Pigments and other weathered effects are sold “in a bottle” that assist the artist to create the look they want. He said his figurines are created with metal, oven baked clay and painted, while the houses are made using paper, joint compound, metal if needed and weathering pigments.

Frauenfelder’s skill to do fretwork on his houses came from his years as a fine artist. “We did not have a plotter, a plotter is what you use to cut vinyl…It took me like three years to master using an X-Acto knife properly to cut vinyl very small, that’s why I am able to cut little details, very small details, yet accurate,” he said.

Looking at his Instagram page, it is clear Frauenfelder has a preference for old houses. Making old houses with their decorative fretwork came about after a mistake on the awning of the first house made in 2010. “From there I started focusing more on local culture, history, then eventually I would say the public placed a responsibility on me.”

His most challenging piece was of traditional characters parading down a street. It was his largest creation, 31 inches long and 19 inches wide and took seven weeks.

Frauenfelder said, “It required me to make multiple trips to that area of the savannah. I had to do a lot of counting, a lot of on-the-spot techniques, I had to make up to be able to accurately size to fit on that piece of landscape.”

He enjoys the challenging pieces the most and said he turns down work that is too easy.  His studio is in East Dry River, Port of Spain.

Frauenfelder, a member of the SDA church, says his “downtime” is sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. He loves creating miniatures and says his mood is joyful while working. He gives thanks to God for his ability.

“I am just a steward of this amazing gift. So I treat with it as such; so I don’t care, this is where a lot of people don’t understand about me; I don’t care for attention or for fame and popularity and so on.”

He agreed to be interviewed but declined to be photographed this time. He wants the focus on his miniatures.