People who are not miniaturists, but have found the hobby accidentally, sometimes look at a scale model house and pose the question: Who lives in a house like this?
The obvious answer here is that I do and have done for quarter of a century. You can find out why by clicking on the top item of the column to the right but I’m not alone. People enjoy miniaturising reality, history, architecture and life in general all over the world. Why?
Although, in the last century and this, we have been bombarded with flickering images of perfection; stories of rags to riches and marrying the handsome prince are as old as humanity. They are so old you can see cave paintings of the larger dinner someone was going to catch next time by the sympathetic magic of painting the desired outcome. We all want what we don’t have, because if we had it, we wouldn’t need to want it. We all imagine, even in these times where people in the developed world usually have warm, safe, dry places to sleep and enough to eat every day that we would be happier if we had more.
Yet our joy in material comforts can be fleeting if something untoward happens, which it also does every day. Each day, somewhere in the world, a previous walker becomes a wheelchair user, a previously healthy person learns they have a terminal disease, a person living off invested money learns it has all disappeared, a family member dies, a disaster removes everything including the ground we stand on and the safe familiar landscape of our lives is changed forever.
Ordinary people can be subject to extraordinary stresses as they learn to fend off the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, bravely and with a smile. How do they do it?
They can do it by retreating sometimes into a smaller, better world, where they are all powerful. In this Microcosm of reality they call the shots. Nothing exists unless they summon it into being and everything that exists is as they will it to be. Here they can make the perfect family home at any time in history and any location including outer space or the inside of their head. They can people it with beautiful children who never get dirty, an army of servants to do the non existent work, an ever smiling mother, a strong father and all the kindly uncles, grandparents and others they may wish. No one ever gets sick, or divorced, or angry, or sad, or tired in the miniature world of your own creation.
They can summon up the golden age of their own life, crystallise a time they loved and make a three dimensional memory album to show to the future. They can make the world as they wish it to be, as they’d prefer that it was, or even as it never will be. They can make it in any size and they can make it a bit at a time as they can afford it, so that someone who lives in a caravan can have a perfect palace they can keep in a box, if they wish to do so. Conversely, someone who lives in a series of palaces and is always on show and aware of the constant need to be formal and correct, can dream of a smaller house with no prying servants at all, or indeed, any troublesome people. This was Queen Mary’s dream, which now resides at Windsor Castle.
People who wish to find respite in a smaller world of their own design, will find, upon entering the hobby, that there is much help so that they can realise their dream. There are magazines, in paper and online, there are books, to buy and in libraries, there are clubs to join with like-minded individuals, there are shops, all over the world and online, and there is a show where you can shop indoors the equivalent of a giant shopping centre with hundreds of shops but all in one hall with restaurants, toilets, seating, a one-level floor and no rain.
In this smaller world there are also those who appreciate art when it is the mastery of technique and acquisition of skills coupled with knowledge and perception, all used to say something meaningful about the world. In the full size increasingly mass-produced, machine-made plastic world it becomes harder to find beautiful things made by artists which ordinary people can afford to possess. Yet the miniature world is jam packed full of superlative artistry from all over the globe.
What makes Miniatura so special is that it was founded to give artists somewhere to exhibit in the Midlands, and, despite pleas from the commercially-minded to enlarge the show, it has retained a carefully tailored size, showcasing the best in the world. Once into the hobby it is easy to see that it is the natural home of considerable talent. In full size life if you want hand-built antique furniture, mostly you’ll need to be rich, lucky or both. In miniature, you can commission the builder, buy a kit, go to a class, or get the miniature tools and a book and have a go yourself. Every discipline of art and architecture is represented in the hobby, in ways that are now largely absent from full size life. Many of the silversmiths, metal workers, wood workers, needle artists, painters, sculptors, ceramicists, couturiers and other artists have already had full size careers before they started miniaturising their output. Some of the Miniatura artisans are world famous, all are drawn to the show because of its reputation for quality, which has been built show by show, over the years, never losing sight of the original intention. The show is about art but it’s not the kind of art that you need a degree in being clever to understand, neither is it the kind of art that makes you want to shout out that the Emperor isn’t wearing any new clothes, at all.
At the show you will find pretty pictures of things you can identify, you will find enticingly minute versions of everyday objects made the same but smaller, you will find pocket money collectables, you will find museum quality artefacts and museums, buying them. You will find miniature books you can read, miniature tapestries you can sew………………..well, what can I tell you? You will find the world, cut down to size with all the problems removed and all the beautiful art to collect, to keep, to make, to learn about.
At this Spring show there will, as always, be support for charities. If you have been reading for some time you’ll be aware that Barbara’s Mouldings, who appear in the hall looking something like this
also donate a house kit, which you can win, which will be displayed on the Cancer Research UK stand run by Pat Cutforth. Pat’s entire stand is donations for the charity; if you are an experienced miniaturist, refreshing your house, you too could make donations. Pat has some long time donators who bring a little something every show, wrapped, priced and ready to sell. Pat’s stand is also a good place to look for occasional antique houses.
Show organisers, the Hopwood family, have produced a perpetual calendar, on sale on the information stand.
Calendars like this, popular in the Netherlands, are on strong board and frequently found there hanging on the back of the toilet door as a reminder of the unchanging dates in the big world such as family birthdays. The calendar costs £6-50 at the show, £2 of which goes to Cancer Research. The calendar, drawing on Miniatura exhibitors over the years and photographed by Stewart Writtle, contains some brilliant pictures.
It will be on sale on the Miniatura website, if there are any left, after the show but there will be postage and packing to add.
The show is at the national Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, UK this weekend, limited entry tickets for Saturday, pre-book or pay at the door on Sunday. The venue is easily reachable by plane, train and automobile. Shuttle buses, some with drop down platforms for wheelchairs, constantly circle the car parks. Inside, the hall is one level and has adapted wheelchair toilets. It has sit down restaurants, fast food facilities, and tables and chairs for the picnicking or the weary. The Information stand, at the entrance, has all the knowledge you might need about the show, the calendars and the show brochures (with which you can win a prize).
It’s Miniatura! The bigger, better outburst of the smaller better world with which some of us have chosen to refresh our lives, inform our art and make a little bit of every day as happy as it can be.
Why not join us?
JaneLaverick.com – small but perfectly formed.