Recreating architectural landmarks – Interview with Chisel & Mouse

Based in the UK, Chisel & Mouse is a design studio that turns cities and building into miniature models.

Chisel & Mouse was founded in 2011 by brothers Robert and Gavin Paisley, who gave up software development to craft miniature versions of cityscapes and individual buildings. Their models go from recreating well-known architectural landmarks to building custom maquettes of one’s home or favorite buildings. The miniatures are designed as stand-alone sculptures, frame-mounted maquettes or bookends.

The “chisel” and the “mouse” refer to the combination of traditional plaster casting techniques with digital design. The Paisley brothers ensure life-like accuracy through satellite data, architect’s drawings, blueprints, photos and sketches.

Architectural sculptures of the Freemasons’ Hall, the Arsenal Stadium, the Battersea Power Station, the Buckingham Palace, the Hoover Building and the Broadcasting House

Who are Robert and Gavin Paisley? How did the journey for Chisel & Mouse begin?

Chisel & Mouse: “We are brothers, we used to work in software development. We had a small company which was quite successful but we tired of the corporate world and were desperate to make something.

We have always had a passion for architecture and model making so we looked around for a new opportunity. Neither of us are artists but our strong IT skills and the birth of 3d printing enabled us to develop our model making skills and hopefully create some lovely and accurate representations of iconic buildings.”

Chisel and Mouse - London Cityscape
A 3D model of the city of London
Chisel and Mouse - London Cityscape
Life-like accuracy is ensured through satellite data, architect’s drawings, blueprints, photos and sketches.

Why Chisel & Mouse? Why focus on scale modeling of our industrialised world?

Chisel & Mouse: “We love architecture and model making. We pay homage to the masterful creations of the architect. We hope that our models go some way to reflect the beauty they created.

We want to bring the appreciation of buildings into the home. Seeing a beautiful building makes us happy – we hope that seeing one of our models of a beautiful building makes our collectors happy.”

Chisel and Mouse - Bauhaus Dessau
A miniature model of the Bauhaus Dessau, an example of modernist architecture

Creating miniatures and scale models of buildings and cityscapes, which architects and architectural movements are you most inspired or influenced by?

Chisel & Mouse: From classics like the Pantheon all the way to Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower we are in awe of  many of the creations in the built environment.” 

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Chisel and Mouse - Trellick Tower and Hill House as bookends
The Trellick Tower and Hill House models used as bookends

What are the biggest challenges and struggles of the design and handicraft process?

Chisel & Mouse: “Definitely fragility. You think you’ve nailed a piece to work out that there is no way you can transport it and it arrives in one piece.”

Chisel and Mouse - Trellick Tower
A model of the Trellick Tower

Besides your own creations, you also provide the possibility to request “Bespoke projects”. What kind of reaction do you receive when people see their ideas materialised into a model?

Chisel & Mouse: “Recipients are very happy. We’ve had tears and hugs on a number of occasions. Many of our bespoke projects have been commissioned to commemorate a memory or life. These are extra special.”

Chisel and Mouse - Blue River Series
Maquettes of London, Chicago and New York as part of the Blue River Series

What is the most important piece of advice for anyone who wants to take on a career combining craftsmanship and innovation?

Chisel & Mouse: Only do it if you are passionate, there will be many testing times when your craft just isn’t as appreciated as you would like it to be. Stick at it. Don’t chase the big stores and chains: very few treat you well and many seem to want to put you out of business with dodgy returns and payment terms.”

Chisel and Mouse - Selection of Buildings
Sculptures of the Trellick Tower, the Hill House, the Glasgow school of art, the Bauhaus Dessau and the Battersea Power Station

What is the next step for Chisel & Mouse?

Chisel & Mouse: “Hoping that 2021 is better all round! We have a number of projects in the pipeline. Along with extending our building and cityscape collections, we are hoping to produce supersized models of the Forbidden City and Wren’s London.

Find out how design is reaching a whole new level with 3D printing: At the forefront of 3D printing – Interview with Lior Elgali of Stratasys.

Chisel and Mouse - London Cityscape
A maquette of the city of London