If you have been introduced to the joys of collecting in miniature and the premier show at which to do that, through this column, you might be wondering how to get there and get in.
Miniatura is held at the NEC which is the National Exhibition Centre just outside of Birmingham UK. The Centre is directly connected to air, rail and road terminals on its own site, with hotels onsite too. Huge car parks all have circulating free shuttle buses to take visitors to the halls. Halls are self contained with rest rooms and refreshments so there’s everything you need to enjoy a lovely day out indoors, perfect for British weather, you may think. If you visit the NEC website at www.necgroup.co.uk you can find out which other shows are on during the Miniatura weekend, which is the 27th and 28th of March. It’s worth knowing that Miniatura tickets include free car parking worth £8, for which you’ll be given a voucher as you leave the hall.
Stop Press BREAKING NEWS! There are still just a few weekend and Collector’s Day tickets left, though there probably won’t be for very long after I’ve posted this. On Saturday Miniatura visitor numbers are restricted and by pre-purchased ticket entry only. If you love a show but hate a crowd, this is the one for you, tickets are £11 please ring the ticket hotline 0121 767 4100 or Miniatura 0121 783 9922. The weekend ticket is a bargain at £14-50. When I was a visitor myself it was always my (unfulfilled) ambition to visit on both days. The show is regularly 250 exhibitors, all working in miniature, which takes just as much looking as 250 full sized shops would. However if one day on the spur of the moment is your preference, the Sunday is £5-50 paid in advance (ring the ticket line) or £7 for adults, £6 for seniors if you choose to pay at the door.
It should be said that if you visit the show with limited time you can still get your money’s worth of looking. Bob Hopwood spends many weeks lost in the floor plan, ensuring that if you only managed a quarter of the hall you would still see a representative sampling of what is on offer.
Whether flitting through or staying until they prise your hands off the door at closing time, the Miniatura brochure is a good investment. Exhibitors are listed alphabetically with a brief description of what they’re selling and their contact details. If you mark the brochure floor plan as you go round, you can ring exhibitors after the show (ideally during the week, straight after the show they’ll be driving or flying home or lying flat and doing breathing) to see if they have any left, any on their website, or one for you, now you have the money you ran out of at the show. It’s worth taking real money (there are cash points by the halls,) because many of the craftspeople are small traders. I could never afford to accept payment by plastic cards as my bank charged me £1000 a year for each one, for one card I’d be working for the bank and for five, for free. A cheque book from a British bank would be an acceptable back-up for most stand holders. Some do take plastic but they are mainly retailers.
Some disciplined shoppers see the craftspeople first and the retailers later. Some work their way methodically round the hall by floor plan. Some, amazingly, have a shopping list. The glory of the hobby is undoubtedly the ‘one craftsman one artefact’ aspect of the hobby and you should be aware that other shoppers know this. If you fall in love with something, do ask if there’s another. Don’t expect the stand holder to put it by until you come back, many shoppers with every intention of returning get lost in the hall. If you see it and you love it and it’s the only one there is, you’d be crackers to let it go. The majority of art items for sale in the hall are made by human hands, many by people who spent entire careers first making the same things in full size; this is not a hobby with thousands of mass produced kits, or largely consisting of plastic factory made ‘collectables’ which is why it is so popular with collectors. However, the show organisers do strive for something in every price bracket from junior pocket money to museum acquisitions director, which is why the show is so popular with everyone.
The brochure precedes each description with a letter C, R, or S. These stand for Craftsman, someone who wholly or partially makes what they are selling, therefore the most likely to have the ‘one off’ items, a Retailer, who is selling as a shop does or a Supplier/Support service, who is not selling miniature art but the stuff needed to produce it, for example the tool stalls which always have a terrific selection of specialist items that are hard to find otherwise. There’s nothing quite like getting your mitts on the actual saw you fancy or hefting tweezers to see if they’re fine enough for what you have in mind. Oh I do love the tool stands. And the wood stands. And the haberdashery. And the fabrics.
Also in the brochure this time there is a list of new exhibitors. If you can find the time to see them and give encouragement that would be a good deed indeed. I remember my first show and recall standing like a lemon while visitors dashed past in search of their old favourites. Taking time to have a look at who is new and hot does you a favour too, if you like what you see. There have been instances of rapid rises to fame having to be dealt with by a rise in prices at subsequent shows.
Also in the brochure will be a list of exclusive exhibitors. These are always worth a look, because Miniatura is the only place you can do so. I’m one of them, you can only get my stuff here on my site or at the Min. That’s it until someone invents the 50 hour day. There are a few others like me, all listed in the brochure; a document, which, being updated twice a year for the show, is also your most recent listing of the premier artisans in the world to date and their contact details. Many of the exhibitors accept commissions or will ‘make a similar one for you’ if you weren’t fast enough to bag the one you fancied. Some shoppers order items at one show to collect at the next.
If you have any questions about the show or getting there please do contact me or the organisers and have a look on the website www.miniatura.co.uk.
After all that information I hardly have time to tell you what the artisans are up to (mainly because I’ve just spent a straight 9 hours standing in my kitchen pouring porcelain.) But I can show you a sweet little selection from new exhibitor Sindy Stanley, who is clearly feeling that Spring is in the air.
From Germany Bettina Kaminski reports that she has finished her dogs. Now, apparently, her real dog, Herzi, is looking after the miniatures, while Bettina begins on the cats.
Do stop by to read more about Miniatura next week, I’m off to have the experience most experienced exhibitors want most of all – concentrated sleep!