by Màiri Norris
I love life. There are many things that help me stay young in heart and mind, from the love of husband, family and friends (not to mention kitties) to research and writing. Today, the focus is on my hobby, dollhouse miniatures. Miniatures come in many scales, from matchbox scenes to model railroads and Barbie houses. I work mostly with twelfth-scale, or 1” = 1’. I.e., a six foot tall real life Christmas tree would be only six inches tall in this miniature scale.
Miniatures have been an important part of my life for nearly 30 years. I have, on occasion, been asked why a grown woman would “play with dolls”. I don’t, actually, lol. Only one of my mini room boxes has a doll inside. Rather, it is the fascination with the recreation of real life in a scale so small. I also find it an incredibly relaxing hobby. It can be time-consuming and expensive, but over the years much of the enjoyment has come from keeping it affordable through DIY.
I make many of the miniatures “from scratch”. I do buy some of what I use, but a much of what I want for projects can’t be found in miniature (or else the price is too steep). I’ve built small vignettes and large room boxes, and have “kit-bashed” small commercial dollhouse kits into grand Victorian mansions. I’ve made almost everything that one might find in a real room – including pillbox toilets from deodorant bases and balsa wood, spiral staircases from plastic filigree hand fans, “glass” objects d’art from polymer clay, and ceiling fans from paper and bits and pieces.
There is true satisfaction in the challenge of using the imagination to figure out how to put fiddly bits and scrounged pieces together to make a realistic, correctly scaled tiny object. If it exists in real life, or in the imagination, it can usually be created in miniature.
One would think, by definition, miniatures would take up little room, but at the height of the hobby, two full rooms of our house were given over to miniatures. They had begun to expand into other areas. A few years ago I started to downsize – and yes, one can downsize miniature houses the same as one’s real house, lol. My current project, which will take some years to complete, is a six-story, upscale antique mall I have named Bygone Elegance. It is a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling project that will house most of my remaining miniatures.
The stores within the mall have names like Blanc d’Ivoire (they sell only white-shaded antiques) and Absinthe (art deco). The Cocky Peacock Tea Room serves lunch to patrons and The Snuffbox provides a relaxing Victorian club atmosphere for the men waiting for their wives to finish shopping. The store has four old-era bathrooms and the owner lives in a four-room penthouse apartment.
All in all, dollhouse miniatures has proved a wonderful hobby that has provided decades of relaxation, challenge and just plain old fun. I hope to continue it for many years to come.