Penny Thomson Works
Miniatures, Art & Curiosities
We are a micro family business, a Mother and Daughter team who make intricate, original and magical creations! Our ethos is sustainable, imaginative and innovative design with a deep passion for nature and the protection of our beautiful planet. We work from a home-based workshop with our two pups and kitty (Concrete The Cat) who often make appearances in our social media publicity...
Penny has been working for over 40 years as an artist and designer, inspiring her three wonderful children to pursue their passions and, in the process, employing Briony, her youngest daughter, to handle the more tedious side of computers, finance and logistics. With her time free to experiment with new materials and methods, Penny’s work is flourishing into a frenzy of mechanical magic.
Briony has worked in freelance marketing and management for several years, starting with our very own website nearly 10 years ago! Now eager to bring her own vision and structure to the business, Briony and Penny work together to create wondrous artworks for customers worldwide!
In June we had a staggering change when a video of one of our automata went viral and we suddenly gained more customers and followers than ever! Ever since then we’ve been working on turning out our stunning works as fast as possible, without losing the signature flare of Penny’s own hand. Everything we sell, from start to finish, is handmade and completely unique. We are dedicated to using recycled, reused and repurposed materials - you wouldn’t believe how our treasures started out! (as trash...)
We look forward to creating some new, fantastic works this year. Subscribe to our Newsletter to keep updated.
Read on for more about Penny and Briony or see our FAQ’s.
Founder, Creative Director & Artist
Born in 1959 in Sheffield, I lived outside Bakewell in Derbyshire for my first few years and spent the latter part of my childhood living in the historic village of Selborne in Hampshire, a time and place that has had a profound effect throughout my life.
I studied painting and sculpture at The West Surrey College of Art & Design and enjoyed my first art history lessons there and access to a wonderful art and craft library. Then working as a freelance illustrator and designer in publishing, advertising and design, also writing and illustrating two books for children which were published in 1989 by Campbell Blackie.
I started experimenting again with paper maché when my children were young, and through play with them, reignited my interest in the medium. Using pulp, laminated and household waste paper and cardboard, I made a 7 foot giraffe and conducted a workshop in my son’s school which involved all the pupils in making a 14 foot Diplodocus from heavy duty cardboard tubes, corrugated card and newspaper.
Because of my work in book illustration, I had developed an interest in industrial and vernacular architecture. Britain has an amazingly varied architectural heritage, stemming from the diversity of its geology and therefore building materials. I started making buildings using card and paper pulp which is so able to impersonate materials from wood to stone, and because it can be carved when dry I realised it can be used also to sculpt human and animal forms in great detail. Due to my discovering the world of miniatures, I found these techniques had endless potential for sculpture in miniature.
In 1995 I attended the London Dollshouse Festival for the first time and continued to exhibit there every year finishing in 2019. I have also exhibited with Miniatura at the NEC and Glasgow, The British Toymakers Guild annual show: The Art of Play, Tom Bishop's fairs in the UK and Chicago, with IGMA in the USA, The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers at the Mall Galleries in London, and also Philadelphia Miniaturia. In 2010, one of my sculptures of William Shakespeare was included in an exhibition of miniature designer bindings, from the collection of Neale M Albert at The Headley-Whitney Museum in Kentucky, entitled Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
As a member of The British Toymakers Guild, I was winner of The Doll House Award in 1997 and 1999, the BTG Cup, the Bryntor Award in 1998 and Miniaturist of the Year in 1999. More recently, I received the Kensington Dollshouse Festival Cup in 2006.
I also collaborated in the mid 2000’s with the celebrated Illusionist, Simon Drake, to make an automated diorama for his venue in South London, The House of Magic. This subsequently led to my happy collaboration with Laurence St.Leger in the making of my first automata.
From there I started making my own mechanisms and developing techniques to create fluid movement and characteristics of birds, bats and sea life. This came together with my refined skills and knowledge of anatomy, painting and using paper mache.
I have enjoyed teaching the techniques that I have learned and developed, in workshops and schools in the UK, USA and The Netherlands over many years.
I was born right here in Derbyshire, where we live now. However I’m not often here as I travel while I work, so you could be chatting to me from anywhere in the world! My interests vary from Art, History, Music and Film to Writing, Social Justice and Politics. While I currently work full-time at Penny Thomson Works, I am pursuing a career in Human Rights Law and International Relations.
I’ve been at my mother’s side while she works, long before I could contribute, making my exhibition debut as a baby in a basket under our stand at Kensington Dollshouse Festival 1999. Having grown up within the company, the daily buzz of inspiration in our house has been a constant companion and has driven me to work hard. I love our works and customers, but more than that I am consistently stunned by Penny’s mind. While I work hard to convey the pieces through film, photography and text, they really have to be seen to be believed.
I’m so pleased to be a part of this incredible business and help push my mother’s uncompromisingly vivid and original vision to the forefront. She has so much to offer and if I am honoured to facilitate that in any way I can. At the end of the day, it’s just the two of us in our attic making and selling tiny, bizarre and magical miniatures. We may be mad - but we love it!
My job consists of admin and logistics: correspondence, marketing, packaging, finances, tidying, filing, planning and most importantly - supporting the Artist. So if you get in touch, order some work or even just like a post online - that’s all me!