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A miniaturist is someone who loves all things in miniature -- from tiny books and teddy bears to sets of army figures and entire wood villages complete with mini furniture.

A miniaturist's art is collecting and creating a tiny version of the world around us.

People have been fascinated with miniature crafts for centuries. Miniaturists aim for exact detail in their tiny replicas. The illusion for the audience is that they are looking into a small frozen version of their own world.

Possibly, some of the world's first miniaturists were painters. Think of the ancient texts where the first letter on each page is decorated with ink or paint. If you look closely, many of these letters are surrounded with a tiny scene illustrating part of the story. As with most miniatures, you might need a magnifying glass to appreciate the tiny detail.

Miniature books have a long history as well. And the popularity of miniature books is growing. Today, the Miniature Book Society, based in Ohio, has over 400 international members. Writer and publisher Frank Anderson has been creating miniature books since 1965. "I enjoy creating books that are unique," he says.

"Miniature books are difficult to make. It can take up to six months to create one copy by hand. So it is rare for a miniature book publisher to create more than 50 copies of the same book. Because they aren't mass-produced, miniature books increase in value as time goes on."

Another expression of miniature art is the military diorama. What is a diorama? Collectors and makers of military miniatures use this word to describe scenes in which models or figures are seen against a realistic background.

A diorama is a moment frozen in time, a 3D photograph. Military modelers use figurines, horses and military equipment to create these in a miniature landscape.

Most military modeling is built to tell a story from the past. And dioramas are made to recreate actual moments in history. Historical accuracy is important in many types of miniature art, as is the depiction of future events. "One of our most popular exhibits is a miniature trip to Jupiter and back," says George Devlin, the owner and operator of Miniature World.

Perhaps the most common miniaturist is the dollhouse craftsperson or enthusiast. Dollhouses have been collected for over 300 years.

Many of the first doll homes were built as simple children's toys. But as the years passed, adults took interest. Nowadays, miniaturists specializing in dollhouses make detailed homes complete with wood furnishings.

Obviously, these are not for children at all. They take years of work to create and are often very expensive masterpieces selling for thousands of dollars.

Many who choose to collect dollhouse items first purchase a home created by an artisan. Then they get straight to the fun of decorating.

When buying your first dollhouse, remember that the cost of decorating and furnishing it will go up with the number of rooms in the home. So think small if you are just starting out. Most houses come with an open back or a front that opens for easy display.

Then it's time to add the finishing touches -- wallpaper, curtains, quilts, furniture, dishes and food. There are specialized craftspeople in all of these categories.

You can purchase ready-made pieces or use your imagination and create your own. Many of the books listed in this article have helpful hints and building plans. You can then choose to adorn your dollhouse with ceramic or wood figures and pets.

Model makers and miniaturists usually work from home. Here, in their shops, you will find a large variety of tools. A table saw, glue, magnifying glass, craft knives, paintbrushes, scale rulers, compasses, sandpaper and small pliers are used to mold wood, plaster, foam and anything else that will give the desired look.

Getting Started

Interested in trying it out? The National Association of Miniature Enthusiast's Web site features a map. Click on your state for a list of miniature shops near you.

All of these miniature hobbies come with a specific set of rules. The law of scale or size is one of the most important. In other words, if you are a miniaturist building furniture for dollhouse collectors, you need to be sure that your furniture fits correctly.

For example, the universal size for dollhouse miniature making is a one-12th scale. This means that one foot is converted into one inch to create a miniature. Check out the National Association of Miniature Enthusiast's Web site for a complete conversion chart to standard miniature scale.

Anderson notes that when it comes to miniature books, "they have to be readable and no larger than three inches tall or wide." Miniature books cover a wide range of topics. Look out for the millennium miniature edition of the Bible set to come out this year.

"There are several career opportunities in the field -- everything from museum management to making miniatures for a living," says Janet Wilhite. She is the director of the American Museum of Miniature Arts.

"Some people make miniatures from their home and travel, entering their pieces in shows where they are sold to collectors. There is always a business opportunity."

Join a club or read a book on the topic. There is no telling where the small things in life will lead you.


Cottage Industry Miniaturists Trade Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 42849
Evergreen Park , IL   60805

International Guild of Miniature Artisans
P.O. Box 629
Freedom , CA   95019-0629

Miniature Book Society
620 Clinton Springs Ave.
Cincinnati , OH   45229

National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts
P.O. Box 69
Carmel , IN   46082


History of Miniature Arts
Learn more about the history of this craft

Miniature World
The site features three virtual tours of their most popular exhibits

Tom Bishop Miniature Shows
For a schedule of international miniature shows

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