Maria Regina Quadrini, or ‘Chu’, as she is best known, is an accomplished and unique artist. Her work doesn't follow standard scales, but the harmony and personality in each small component of her sets are unquestionable!
Her work is in approximate scales ranging from 1:24, 1:48, 1:87 (HO), 1:120, and even 1:144 or smaller! The perfection in her delicate work is extraordinary!
Living in the peaceful Embu, in skirts of the Sao Paulo, she’s oblivious of technology gadgets, and doesn’t have a website or a blog. Nonetheless, she generously welcomes and shows her work to those genuinely interested.
Pictures in the end.
I’m my parents’ third child, but my mom was absolutely sure I was going to be a boy when she was pregnant with me. The whole layette was for a boy, she had even picked a boy’s name. And when I was born – it happened at home, with the help of a midwife – I didn’t cry and immediately started sucking my thumb. When my older brother saw me, he said “oh, what a cutie!” My mom only came up with a name for me three days after I was born! But by then everybody was already calling me “Chuchu” (Portuguese for ‘cute’ back then), and it caught on. I only found out that my name is Maria Eunice when I went to school for the first time. Until then everyone called me just “Chuchu”. I came back home from school crying a lot, because I did not know who that “person” was. So, I decided to keep it! Besides, ‘Chu’ fits better on my miniatures... When I went to Europe, they called me Quadrini (my last name, after marriage), but it didn’t work for me, I really like 'Chu' better!
How did you get this nickname 'Chu' (short for ‘Cute’)?
Yes, if you look closely, all my pieces have, somewhere, a specific flower painting - that’s my “signature”.
Speaking of signature, your work has a ‘brand’ of its own, doesn’t it?
Both my husband and I are self-taught artists. I did work for some time at a china factory, hand-painting their glasses and crystals. Back then each piece was hand-painted on a potter’s wheel. I’d paint things like monograms on glasses. I worked there for 5 years. Then I met my ‘husband-to-be’, and he didn’t want me to work anymore.
What’s your background in arts?
My husband and I loved to talk to each other; we talked all the time, about everything. During one of those times at the table, I would fiddle with the bread crumb ‘left’ on the table, kneading the small pieces, and ended up molding some little flowers. He loved what I had done. I didn’t care much for those, but he insisted that I painted them and even provided me with the paint [he already was a known painter by then], I did it and than arranged them on a small piece of wood. A friend of mine saw it, fell in love with the little flowers and just had to have them. I thought it was really weird that she liked those little flowers so much and wanted them so badly.
But then I had an idea. I started to make small flowers using ‘durepox’, arranged them on the top of glass jars lids, put some colored sugar cubes that I had made myself inside the jars and then I would give them as gifts to friends.
One day my son got an airplane kit, those DIY kits, and there were some wood scraps left after the airplane was assembled. So I took the scraps and build a few little things, like some small pieces of furniture, and arranged them in a small mini room. My hubby took it to show to his friends and ended up selling it. I couldn’t understand how that happened, but he just got back home empty handed and told me to build some more, as commissioned work! I didn’t even have a clue on where I could possibly find more of that wood to make more pieces! We searched around and we found the model airplanes store Aerobrás. I bought some wood, some tools and started making them.
And I never stopped. I started making miniatures in 1990; they wrote an article about me in a magazine in 92/93 (not sure), and then people came to me to have classes, I got some invitations to exhibit my work at the mall, and people just kept popping up to see the pieces.
I continued to teach until 8 years ago, when my mother got sick and I had to stop everything to take care of her. After she died, it was my husband who got really sick and I had to take care of him too. Until he died...
Only now I’m beginning to feel like creating again, doing things...
How did you start making miniatures?
I have my own pace... My husband was “run, almost flying”, I’m more like “slow, almost stopping”... We complemented each other. When he was gone, I lost this reference. We lived 43 happy years together; it’s really hard to adjust to this new reality. I saw myself as ‘Tavinho’s wife’ (as I called him). HE was the grand artist. But he always said to anyone that the real artist was me... I still don’t see myself that way.
I’m also concerned about commissioned work. I was once asked to make about 50 identical pieces. I took that order it but that tormented me! I just can’t make mass production pieces. What I really like is to make singular rooms, rooms that will match the client’s tastes and personality. Something very personal, harmonious.
I like to make OOAK pieces. I have even made miniatures of my own miniature rooms. I like to challenge myself!
Another issue I have is how to put a price on my work. How do you put a price on something that takes you 3 months to finish? As it’s a small piece of work, many people think it should be inexpensive, but they forget to take into account the amount of work it took to have it finished!
Even without any publicity, people find out about you even nowadays... Are you going to answer to this ‘call’ and go back to the miniature world?
My best work happens in the middle of the night. That's when no one interrupts me, so I can work as I please. Sometimes, I went to bed trying to figure out the best way to make a specific piece. After a while I would get up with a great solution and went to my studio to work. When I would get back to bed it would already be early morning.
How do you create those rooms?
I want that too, but for now what I really enjoy is to see people awed by my work, to see the look on their faces... like the one on your face when you saw my pieces. This is feels really good!
I sure hope you’ll go back to creating many miniatures, to having many exhibits for your work again, and to teaching!
first published on 06/20/2009