“Miniatures?” you ask! “What are miniatures?”
Well, miniatures are items that are models of the real thing, smaller than in real life, and are made to scale. There are many scales for miniatures. The scale that I work in is 1:12th scale. 1:12th scale is the equivalent of 1 inch equals 1 foot. Therefore an item that is 1 foot in real life is 1 inch or 2.54cm is equal to 30.48cm in miniature.
Making a scene in miniature that is successful is one where everything in the scene looks like it would be in real life. So a teacup in a miniature scene would not be bigger than let’s say a book, etc. The scenes that are most successful are those that when a picture is taken you are not sure if the scene in the picture is in real life or in miniature.
The first project I did in 1994 was a huge miniature Muskoka boat house that I made totally from scratch to my own design and electrified too!…two stories with a bunkie (small room for guests to stay) on the top floor and a dock and a miniature of a wooden paddle boat inside the first floor. No one could have been more surprised than me at when I entered it in the Miniature Enthusiasts of Toronto Juried Show and I had won a red ribbon, a first prize in it’s category. Such an honour being displayed upon me, it gave me the enthusiasm to enter the hobby of making miniatures in earnest.
I recently found out that my 1″ scale Rainbow Bridge, which was a commissioned piece made for Sandy Dawson, won 1st Prize at the Miniatures show in NYC. I used #11031 Plain Patio Brick sheeting from Aiii – Precision Products http://www.aiii.info/precision_products/pictures.html
Today I need to dig into my memory bank to remember which projects won ribbons – because there were several. My last big project was the Trappers Log Cabin, another two-storey, electrified building with two lit fireplaces, the Indian trapper, the trader, and the trader’s wife and baby upstairs in the loft. The exterior is made of strips of wood, which I have whittled on the edges to create a real log look, with several coats of Polyfilla to represent the chinking between the logs to keep out the wind and cold in real life. I finished that in 2004 and it also won a first prize in Toronto that year. After the Juried Show, I wrote a two-part how-to article that was published in Dollhouse Miniatures Magazine with many pictures of the process and detailed directions for anyone who wants to make a trapper’s cabin of their own.
Sadly, that was the last major project I finished and since then my miniatures, my projects, and all my tools, equipment and supplies are neatly packed away in my storage locker in Toronto, just waiting for me to take up the hobby again one day because of my move to Beijing, China in 2005.
The second part of the how to article featured a picture of the trapper’s cabin with the red first prize ribbon…
The fireplace on the first floor of the trapper’s cabin has a rip-roaring fire going with a huge cauldron of beef soup boiling away.
When my daughter Jennifer got married in 1997 I made this window box in a glass dome which stood on the place card table. Mickey and Minnie wedding cake topper has Minnie in a veil and they’re dancing:
I can’t be very sure of the date, however I believe it was in the mid 90’s when I became President of the Miniature Enthusiasts of Toronto Club and spearheaded the completion of the fully-furnished and electrified house that the club then donated to the Starlight Foundation for a charity auction to raise money to make sick kids’ wishes come true.
This is the article that was published in one of the Beach newspapers about the house that the MET Club donated to the Starlight Foundation.
When I moved out of North York (Toronto City proper) and lived in Aurora, a sleepy suburb of Toronto, I started a Miniature Club there with two other founding members Mary de Mercado and Jackie Cappiello called Miniature Enthusiasts of Central Ontario and we met in a Senior Centre in Newmarket, Ontario.
There in Newmarket, we blossomed into a little club of 12 members, many of whom I still get together with on my regular visits back to Toronto for a chat and a meal, such as Mary, Herb Mays and Joan Sadler. And though the club has dwindled in members, it still meets on the first Monday evening of every month.
One of our club projects that I taught and we had all worked together on to make the final design was the Toolbox House Case with a miniature scene in the window. Made out of wood and designed to open up to carry your tools with you to your club meeting or workshop where you might make some miniature project, it looks just like a mini house! Mary, Herb and I, the founding members of the club, along with Jackie who wasn’t there for this photo op, were happy with our finished projects, roof shingles and all!
My dear friend Leslie and I met in an online forum for miniatures in 1999. When we found out how close we were to one another – my in Toronto and Leslie living in Buffalo, NY we immediately struck up a miniature friendship, getting together for weekends at my house, working and designing projects together. She says I mentored her into the hobby but she is a very talented miniaturist in her own right, very creative and artistic and some of her projects are simply amazing.
In the beginning of my foray into the hobby of miniatures, I made this little vignette in a small Kleenex box holder to give Leslie as a gift. The miniature picture hanging on the wall is of her son, Geoff at his graduation. Even way back then, I was fascinated with things oriental…the chair, the vase, the Chinese doll in a dome, and the wallpaper inside and outside. Inside wallpaper is a bamboo design and the outer covering is fabric with an Asian fan design.
Now after all this time our friendship is ever strong though I am living half way around the world. We don’t do miniatures anymore together but each time I go back home, I spend a few days with her in Buffalo, and in between trips home, we communicate daily by email and Skype. This picture shows us working in my workshop in my basement in 1999. We are working on our spell-books together!
Another one of my special scenes that one a second prize ribbon was the Sorcerer’s Spell-book, a fantasy scene of a sorcerer’s cave or dungeon inside a book called “The Sorcerer’s Spell-book”. The scene features a wizard sitting holding his crystal ball in front of a large table filled with all of his potions and lotions, with his large spell-book on a lectern ready at his side. Set in Mediaeval times, the walls are covered with paper filled with Latin Script.
I made lots of Kleenex Tissue boxes with a variety of themes, another one of which I gave to my brother. In it are all of the things my brother likes to do, read books, write computer software, etc, so it’s an office with all his stuff – a desk and computer, a backpack for hiking, a world map for his love and skill in mapping.
Many of my projects were made as gifts for a friend. Another one of these presents, a potting shed in a bird-themed gift bag was given to an old neighbour and friend Judy for her birthday. A gardener at heart, she has everything she needs to tend to her flowers at her home in her back and front yard.
Gardening is a favourite miniature theme of mine, as well as it is in real life. Here is a potting table I made in an antiqued piece of miniature furniture.
Here is a little project called “The Cake Stand”. I made all of the cakes and delicious baked goods and the stall would have been selling goods at a carnival or exhibition or during the summer months at a fair.
“The Gazebo in a Vineyard” features a romantic lunch set inside a gazebo beside a pond in a vineyard and took a second prize at the MET Juried Show. There are geese and swans floating on the water of the pond with bull rushes and water lilies everywhere. The grape vines have yielded their fruit; the grapes are in the grape flats ready to make into wine. The copper roof of the gazebo lends an air of romance with the sheer curtains blowing in the breeze.
I struck up a friendship with John from Precision Plastics who sold supplies, mainly plastic sheeting for use in model railroading and miniatures. One of his products was siding that could be used for an East Coast lighthouse. John had written the instructions for a Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse and I worked on making the model and editing the instructions to produce this lovely project, and 1/2 scale model with a working light in the top. It turned out to be about 24 inches in miniature, in real life would have been 48 feet tall.
Although I love to work with wood, and plastics and fabric and paint and paper and cardboard, my favourite material is leather. It is so soft and supple and moulds to any shape you want. This is my collection of miniature luggage that I designed and made. I later wrote another magazine article of all these items – another how to article with instructions for making each piece of luggage, the carpet bag, the computer case, and ladies lingerie accessories, nylons, corset, slippers, etc. This turned into a kit that I started to sell, for making all these items with instructions and all the materials required included.
I produced a variety of other kits for sale. They included a trio of trellises, a single bed with bed linens and a headboard, a terrarium with plants inside, and a birthday scene in a gift bag. These kits sold under the trade name of ” ‘From the Heart’ Miniatures by Roz” and if I hadn’t moved to China they would still be sold through my online business under that name..
Once I came to China, by chance I found a miniaturist who made the most perfectly real-looking Hutong doorways, or gates as their called in Beijing. His business is making these models for museums and collectors. They are one of a kind models and exceptional down to the smallest details of realism. I went into business with Jake and another Chinese partner to try to find customers for these buildings through face-to-face meetings and from our website.
I produced an article for Dollhouse Miniatures Magazine about the miniaturist, Yangyi, but this didn’t create any interest due to the decline of hobby miniaturists because of economic factors in the US, the US being considered the largest miniature market.
Unfortunately, we were also unable to connect with the right people who might be collectors or curators. With a lack of proper supplies it was difficult for the artisans to create lightweight samples. Also because of the cultural differences in attitude where here in China, if it’s lightweight, it’s considered not valuable, whereas in the West that is not a factor. It became impossible for us to carry around the ’10-ton’ samples to show prospective clients. After 2 years we gave up the business.
So you must be asking “Why do miniatures?” The short answer is that it’s fun and rewarding. The long answer is a little deeper. When I create a new and beautiful project, I focus on the small, fine details, I must innovate techniques, I must design and implement my vision in 3D, I must find just the right material in real life to create the ‘illusion’, I must let my creative spirit whirl, and I get lost in the work and the research involved, leaving the stresses of the real world behind.
Needless to say from my many trips around China, I have lots of ideas for making miniatures of Chinese architecture, one being the gardens in Xian, China in the Concubine’s Bath House Park (Hua Qing Shi) with the koi fish pond, the multi-leveled terraces and the moon gate. Ah, so many projects, so little time!!