By Emily Bell | Photography by Phil Fabrizio
Imagine an enchanted world, one full of storybook beauty and
wonder where childhood dreams seem to come to life. Crossing the doorstep into
F & B Small World, this fantasy suddenly becomes reality… just on a
slightly smaller scale.
Frank Bruno, known to most as Kit, is the founder of F & B Small World.
He is also the artist responsible for creating all of the studio’s magnificent
artwork and breathtaking displays. Miniature Christmas villages and winter
wonderlands line the walls of the studio, filling every corner with the warmth
of the holiday spirit. Kit’s passion for his work and painstaking attention to
detail is evident as he talks about his pieces. His eyes begin to sparkle and his
inner child comes to life when he says, “I get to play with toys all day.”
And this sparkle carries over into his work. Kit crafts and
paints all of his pieces by hand. Tiny figurines of children, Santa, holiday
ornaments and gifts, even one that is a likeness of him— all are given his
individual care and attention. No feature, regardless of size, is overlooked;
no element of the piece is neglected. Many of the individual characters are
crafted by hand out of clay, while others require a mold or other materials
like wood and slate. For one piece, which includes a cascading waterfall, Kit
heated glue to a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit and spread it before it
had a chance to cool. Once painted, the illusion of water was unmistakable.
The Story Behind the Man
After high school, Kit decided to become a religious monk and joined The
Brothers of Holy Cross in Indiana. During this time, he was trained in
teaching. When after 14 years, he found the monastic life too confining, he went
on to teach philosophy and psychology, and he remained a teacher for 25 years.
In his last few years of teaching, Kit started creating his artwork. He finally
decided to stop teaching and focus on his art fulltime.
Kit has a zest for life to match his passion for art, and much of his inspiration comes
from places he has seen in his travels. He has visited 17 countries and keeps his mind
open to any and all experiences. And his talents are not limited to his miniatures. He
also dabbles in painting, furniture design, motivational speaking and is a certified
“I am truly a jack of all trades,” he says with a grin.
In fact, he obtained the nickname Kit while training to become a swordsman.
One of the other men in the group called him “Kitsune,” which is Japanese for
“white fox” and a name given to magical creatures with long lives and superior
intelligence. Laughing, he says, “Well I always wanted to be a white fox.”
During his time as a teacher, Kit had a student who later joined the United
States Secret Service and was an active agent during the Reagan administration.
Kit was commissioned through the Secret Service to create a Christmas gift for
President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. For their gift, he made a
Christmas tree. It was crafted branch by branch with glue, and decorated with
400 handmade, hand-painted ornaments. “To make a Christmas gift for the
president and the first lady… wow! It was just such an experience and an honor,”
Kit has also done work for the late George Michael,
sportscaster for WRC-TV News 4 and “The George Michael Sports Machine,” and his
wife Pat. A photo of one of the pieces he made for them, entitled “The Night
Before Christmas,” can be found on Kit’s website at http://fbsmallworld.com.
Although much of his attention is focused on Christmas this
time of year, his work is not limited to all-things Noël. One of his most
enjoyable clients is a 7-year-old boy whose father brings him to Kit each year
to pick out his Christmas gift. This year, the boy said he wanted his face on a
replica of Redskins player Chris Cooley.
“I do work for many people, but I get excited about the little 7-year-old boy
who says, ‘I want to be Chris Cooley’ and I can say back, ‘I can make you that.’”
Keeping Mind and Body in Sync
Kit, 75, does not look a day over 60. He maintains his peak health and physical
condition by running and swimming every day, while incorporating weight training
a few days a week. And when he is not working or exercising, he spends time
relaxing in his backyard oasis.
“That’s what I do for fun!” he says of his botanical sanctuary hidden amidst the
buildings and homes of the surrounding neighborhood.
Seven years in the making, this cleverly laid out garden of wonder instantly calms
the soul. Outfitted with two secluded sitting areas, a fountain carved from a large
lava rock, magnificent stone features surrounding a crystal clear pond, and a wonderful
array of trees that include white dogwoods and feather maples, stress does not stand a
chance against such tranquility.
With four open houses in the near future and the Maryland Christmas show
scheduled for the end of November, Kit is likely to be as busy as Santa
throughout the holiday season. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I bore very quickly. I usually have at least 20 different projects going at one time,”
And that is often not enough to calm his restless spirit. When asked what his
next adventure will be and what new projects he has on the horizon, he pauses
for a moment, leans back in his chair and says, “I think I’ll write a book.”