By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography.
Did you have a doll’s house when you were a child? If so, you probably remember clumpy plastic furniture and stiff, lifeless plastic dolls. But how times have changed! Today makers of dolls’ houses, scaled furniture and miniature dolls produce beautiful works of art which have to be seen to be believed.
You’ll also find that today’s dolls’ house and miniature enthusiasts aren’t children, but adults – and very discerning adults too. And the incredible array of miniatures available are hand crafted by the very top artisans who painstakingly create just about everything you’d find in a real full sized house perfectly scaled down to 1/12th which is one-inch-to-the-foot scale, 1/24 (half scale), 1/48th (quarter scale) and even 1/144th scale which allows a furnished doll’s house to fit inside a dolls’ house.
Discovering this magical world of miniatures will amaze you, and talking to the men and women who design and make their own particular brand of items will astound you as you learn the intricate detail that goes into every single item. Because it’s not just the height of an item that is scaled down, but the thickness of the item, the grain of the wood, the width of the porcelain, the threads in the weave of a carpet or strands of wool in a knitted garment.
We recently chatted to Bel Ayala of Spain, who only began making miniatures about 18 months ago. Bel who now lives in Sutton Coldfield went along to a Miniatura Show, and was inspired to buy some Polymer Clay and give it a go. She said that she’d always wanted to do something creative, and admits to making lots of mistakes to start with. But she has amazed her husband, Juan Carlos, family and friends when she discovered that she was very good at making 1/12th scale food along with dishes, platters and cutlery to go with it.
Bel has the knack of creating the right textures and colours, for example the shiny scales of the fish, the dimpled textures of oranges, lemons and strawberries, the crusty texture of a baguette. She said: “If Juan Carlos says it looks good enough to eat, then I know it is okay!”
“First, I analyse how to do it. I’ll have a real piece of food in front of me, or a picture from a cookery book. The first time I try to make it, it may take me a whole day to get the shape, texture and colour right, but then the next one won’t take me so long.”
Bel is fastidious with everything she makes. For example when making a pineapple or corn on the cob, she makes hundreds of little pieces which are each stuck on individually, so as to give the right look and the right feel. “Each corn on the cob has 360 little pieces of corn, which are put on separately!” Bel said with a smile.
Bel will be exhibiting her tasty miniatures at the Spring Miniatura Show which takes place later this month. There are always between 150 and 200 other artisans and stands displaying their wonderful miniatures, and you’ll discover everything from minute paintings, books, clocks, furniture, carpets, curtains, electric lights and candelabras and a whole lot more.
There’s lots of fantasy and quirky items too; along with furniture for just about any style of house whether it’s a stately home or a tiny cottage, a medieval timber house or a castle. And if you haven’t the space for a doll’s house, you can find ‘rooms’ such as ‘granddad’s shed and the ‘clockmaker’s workroom’ such as those made by Kastlekelm Miniatures.
You’ll also discover dolls dressed in silks and satins with all the elegant accessories a fine lady would have, such as you’ll see on Katty Korner’s stand. In fact you will be spoiled for choice, and lost in wonderment at such exquisite miniatures.
For anyone wanting to experience a show with the very best craftspeople and miniatures, then heading along to a Miniatura Show is the perfect place to go. Miniatura is held twice a year – Spring and Autumn at the Birmingham NEC, and the next show takes place on 25th and 26th March. Ticket prices range from £5.50 to £13.00. Also check out their website for the opportunity to win prizes. Details: http://www.miniatura.co.uk/