Style Snapshot: Miniatures

Design Idea F94P Home Décor
by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Creating miniatures of food, furniture, clothing, critters and more is a growing trend--although not a new one.

"People have been making miniatures for as long as we have been civilized,” miniaturist Lauren Delaney George says. The artifacts prove her right: tiny carved women made of mammoth ivory by European cave dwellers, Egyptian pharaohs buried with small versions of their boats and servants, medieval miniature "books of hours" created for the wealthy to mark religious observances while traveling--and more.

In modern times, miniature crafts and collectibles have been all the rage for decades in Japan. Meanwhile, the University of Iowa hosts a collection of over 4,000 miniature books--one so small, it fits inside a walnut shell. And, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., Faith Bradford's dollhouse has been on continuous display since 1967. It's one of the museum's most-visited exhibits.

The on-going trend for ''barely there'' jewelry indicates that the hunger for miniature masterpieces has a lot of buying power. Tiny has always been big--and never more than now.

Why Create in Miniature?

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Miniaturists like Delaney George give multiple reasons for their huge interest in creating small things:
  • Portability
    Miniaturism lets creative folks take their hobby on the road. Projects that don't involve kilns or other space-intensive, high-mass tools or workspace can go on the road in an increasingly mobile society. When you need to travel light, miniatures let you stay creative.
  • Space Saving
    Miniatures don't take up as much storage or workspace in ever-shrinking living spaces--yet they give artists the challenge of learning the skills they want.
  • Fashion
    Miniature creations are showing up as jewelry items, phone dangles, purse charms and other accessories. One of the most popular earring patterns--the Swarovski stacked marguerite Christmas tree--is a seasonal miniature.
Style Snapshot: Miniatures Style Snapshot: Miniatures Style Snapshot: Miniatures
  • Money Saving
    Miniaturism uses less resources to create, per piece, as well. When you're making tiny teapots from metal clay, you can really stretch your resources.
  • Variety
    Miniaturists love how their craft requires them to explore and learn a wide range of techniques and apply those techniques to a variety of media: clays, metalworking, carpentry, textile work and more.
  • Power
    Miniaturist Kim Clough loves miniatures because it gives her "a sense of being able to control a large part of the world in a small, contained space." Turning elements of a vast and complicated world into something you can balance on your finger makes life feel more manageable.
  • Indulgence
    Miniature foods look realistic, but don't have a single calorie (they also make adorable earrings). Miniature houses are luxuriously decorated, but don't have property taxes. Miniature ballgowns sparkle with the tiniest of Swarovski crystal beads and gleam with itty-bitty pearls, but never have to be dry cleaned. Miniatures offer the style of a fabulous lifestyle blog, shrunk down to manageable size.
  • Adorability
    And honestly? Miniatures are just cute.
Style Snapshot: Miniatures
Style Snapshot: Miniatures Style Snapshot: Miniatures

Materials and Techniques of Miniaturists (or, How Do They Do That?)

What do miniaturists like Delaney George and Clough create? Anything they want to! Furniture is popular, as are tiny animals, home décor items (lamps, goldfish bowls, books, etc.) and food, of course. Miniature food items, with realistic colors and textures, are one of the most popular items made by modern miniaturists. Those tiny items can be made and collected as they are--or turned into jewelry!

Wanna wear a miniature burger and fries set of earrings? Make 'em yourself! No need to super-size them, either.

Style Snapshot: Miniatures Style Snapshot: Miniatures

What materials do miniaturists use?
  • Clays
    Some of the most popular and commonly used materials for making miniatures (especially food and dollhouse décor items) are clays. Polymer clays, air dry clays (such as Vitrium® and Apoxie® Sculpt) and metal clays are all practical media for making in the micro.
  • Jewelry Resin
    Clear resins such as ICE Resin® and EnviroTex® Jewelry Resin are ideal for creating the look of liquids in miniatures (think of goldfish bowls or a pitcher of iced tea). Filling using multiple layers makes suspending items easier, too.
  • My Style Deco Art™
    Ideal for making miniature mosaics, My Style Deco Art™ sheets come in premade patterns or solid colors, ideal for re-creating the look of a mosaic-topped patio table or tiled entryway.
  • Wire
    Whether used for armatures underneath sculptures or woven into tiny birdcages and teensy jewelry, a variety of natural metal and enameled or dyed wire-wrapping wires offer creative flexibility to miniaturists.
The craft involved is one of miniaturism's biggest appeals. "I think that miniatures capture a whole range of skills that anyone can enjoy, from handmade sculpted food items to miniature needlework, wood work, even glass blowing," miniaturist Sue Kirkham says. "The range of skills is endless."

Art on the small scale is what jewelry-making is--just like miniaturism! Explore the world of miniatures, then enter your creations into our next Creative Clays or Seed Beads Contests. Makers around the world want to see what you've made--no matter how small.

Style Snapshot: Miniatures
Style Snapshot: Miniatures Style Snapshot: Miniatures

Miniatures as Jewelry

The ongoing trend for minimalist jewelry styles offers miniature creators creative options--miniatures made of polymer clays or air-dry resins allow for fresh and up-to-date accessories that are fun, light-hearted, clever and whimsical.

One popular style? Earrings with miniatures! Tiny replicas of seasonal hat designs for marking or celebrating holidays, whether it's Santa hats for Christmas, Pilgrim hats for American Thanksgiving, witches' hats for Halloween, egg baskets for Easter and more! Other common ways to turn miniatures into jewelry and fashion accessories include necklaces, jewelry sets, cufflinks, brooches, hair clips, etc.

Style Snapshot: Miniatures Style Snapshot: Miniatures Style Snapshot: Miniatures

While polymer clays and air-dry resins are the most commonly used materials for miniatures, other options include shrinkable plastic, bead caps, metal clays, seed beads, tiny Swarovski crystal beads and flat backs, seed pearls and other tiny components.

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