Saturday, March 21, 2020

Miniature Miscellany - Thorne Rooms, Doll Houses, Small Worlds, Lonely Deaths, Urban Grime, Gritty Architecture

Thorne Miniature Rooms
Art Institute of Chicago

"The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications."

The Doll Houses of Instagram
Ronda Kaysen
New York Times

"A growing community of artisans have turned the craft of dollhouse making into an exercise in aspirational home design on an itty-bitty scale, with their tiny rooms and furnishings displayed on well-curated Instagram accounts with glossy photographs and videos set to music reminiscent of HGTV. 

Scroll too quickly, or miss the photograph with a human-scale hand surreally poking into the scene, and a viewer might confuse the image for a real-life one, the type of image that leaves you feeling equally amazed by and envious of the enormous kitchen island with a soapstone countertop.

Social media has turned what was once a niche hobby into a decidedly trendy and increasingly profitable business, making it easier for artisans to find each other and potential customers online. Before, miniatures were only publicized through miniature magazines. Social media put it in everybody’s face."

Miniacs Live in a Small, Small World
Abby Ellin
New York Times

"So many 'miniacs' came to the modern mini movement by way of a childhood love of dollhouses. For some, there is a voyeuristic appeal commingled with the universal desire to inhabit and experience multiple environments at the same time. It’s a way to explore worlds you can’t explore, and tiny fake worlds are easier to make, and less destructive, than secret real ones. We spend a tremendous amount of time in fantasy worlds: watching TV, reading books, playing videos. Miniatures provide a way to practice things that we can’t practice in reality.

For a very long time, miniaturists have had this very 'Grandpa in the basement working on model railroad' vibe to it, or 'Grandma with her dollhouse.' But the miniature is most certainly a growing trend in contemporary art."

Rooms Where Time Stops: Miyu Kojima’s Miniature Replicas of Lonely Deaths
Spoon & Tamago

"Miyu Kojima works for a company that cleans up afterlonely deaths: a Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. Part art therapy and part public service campaign, Kojima spends a large portion of her free time creating detailed, miniature replicas of the rooms she has cleaned.

Kojima has been working for the clean-up company for about 5 years and explains that she cleans on average 300 rooms per year. The replicas are meant to capture the sadness of these lonely deaths. One point that Kojima emphasizes is that it’s not the dying alone that is the issue but rather the duration of time that elapses before the bodies are discovered. These individuals were so cut-off from friends, family and society that weeks or sometimes months had elapsed before they were found."

Artist Creates Miniature Worlds Mimicking the Grit and Grime of Urban Architecture
Jessica Stewart
My Modern Met

"Artist Joshua Smith is a former stencil artist and gallerist turned miniaturist. For the past two years, Smith has focused his attention on creating miniature urban landscapes replete with detail. From graffitied walls to discarded cigarette butts, he uses everyday materials to bring his scale models to life.

Smith primarily uses MDF, cardboard, and plastic for the framing and base. Layers of paint and chalk pastels give the architecture its realistic feel prior to wiring and lighting. The artist’s newest work is a four-storey replica of a building in Kowloon."

Sculptor Creates Detailed Miniatures of Philadelphia and New Orleans’ Gritty Architecture
Jessica Stewart
My Modern Met

"Philadelphia-based rtist Drew Leshko is creating a sculptural archive of the city’s most at-risk architecture with his detailed scale models. Leshko produces these miniatures in order to preserve the history of Philadelphia’s grittiest neighborhoods. From local dive bars to pawn shops and convenience stores, each commercial space is transformed into an artistic sculpture that is filled with nostalgia.

Leshko prefers to prioritize his attention and skill on rapidly changing, or gentrifying, neighborhoods. He selects the most vulnerable pieces of architecture as his focus, as these historic storefronts will soon transition over to slick corporations that push out the individual merchants who had once defined the area. In this way, Leshko’s work is a push to ponder the history of buildings and how they inform our lives."


  1. Yeah, I love these. There's surprise/not-surprise huge magical potential resting in miniature world-building. S. sent you the link already, but I was totally all set to point you to the Nutshell Studies. Thanks for all these wonderful rabbit-holes.

    1. I've already gotten enough tips to be halfway to a follow-up post!

      I wonder if anyone has seriously explored using dollhouse items or model railroad pieces for wargaming? Surely somebody has, right?

      I mean, it's not going to be me (at least not anytime soon) since I know virtually nothing about wargames, and the only minifigures I own are from Lego, but still, it seems like a cool project for someone with the relevant knowhow.