William R Robertson - BIO
Wm. R. Robertson was born in 1956 in Ohio. In 1962 his parents moved the family to Washington, D.C. because they felt there was a much bigger world out there than what they would experience in the midwest. Being in the crowd to witness JFK’s funeral and the tumultuous times of 1960s and 70s helped to expand Robertson’s worldview. Saturdays spent roaming the exhibits of the Smithsonian, later the back offices, peaked his curiosity and sparked his love of obscure objects and museums. Indeed, Washington was the perfect place to nurture a life long interest in history and art.
As a child Robertson was fascinated by the models in the Smithsonian and was constantly building replicas of the things that fascinated him. He grew up in a “craft culture”, a time when kids built their own toys. A photo taken on his 11th birthday shows a wall of hand-built car, ship and airplane models. As he grew he began taking things apart to see how they worked and discovered a high degree of mechanical talent. Getting his first car at 16 he taught himself how to work on it. Within years he was completely rebuilding and restoring cars. At 21 he discovered the decorative arts world of miniatures, which brought together all of his interests; those of small size, the challenge of making functional and complex items, tools, history and research. With the completion of his first miniature recreation, his reputation for attention to detail and excellence was recognized, and Robertson decided to make miniatures his profession.
For the past 43 years since he has worked as a full time craft artist and educator in this field. The subject matter Robertson finds the most interesting are decorative art pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries of American, English and French origins. His work can be found in many public and private collections around the world. He has been featured in countless books, magazines and television worldwide. Some of the characteristics of his work are the use of mixed materials such as woods, metals, shargreen and bone rendered in microscopically perfect details with functioning mechanisms such as working locks.
Robertson’s expertise has also made him uniquely qualified to help design spaces in which miniatures are displayed. In this capacity, he has worked as a consultant for The Smithsonian as well as a guest curator for exhibitions at The National Geographic Society. He has also designed four miniature museum interiors including the Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City and The KSB Collection in Maysville, KY.
Robertson considers his most valuable education that of observation. Robertson constantly strives to improve upon what he has created by doing extensive amounts of research, often traveling to museums and libraries in Europe for the opportunity to spend time behind the scenes examining the pieces he hopes to recreate along with original source designs and writings of the time. His techniques combine ancient shop practices and period tools as well as his own unique techniques required for the the precision craftsmanship demanded by doing work in miniature.
He feels very lucky to have been able to pursue his life long interest all these years and often feels he is just getting started. Always eager to move on to his next project, Robertson rarely repeats the same thing twice. When asked to reflect on what his favorite piece is, his answer is usually "the next one."