Warning — this kind of hobby could turn you into a hoarder.
Hobby and hoarder aren’t usually found in the same sentence but to the members of the Four Corners Miniatures Club, everyday items could be their next big project. Altoids tins, buttons, sprinkles, peanut cans, silk and ribbon, nothing is spared or thrown away.
“One thing about miniatures, is it can make you look at things differently,” said Sharon Hansen, Cortez club member. “I can use anything to turn into a mini. It drives my husband crazy!”
Miniatures are scaled at 1 inch, 1/2 inch, 1/4 inch and 1/144 of an inch with each inch representing one foot. The smaller they are, the less detail there is, similar to a photo losing resolution.
The club was founded in 2006 by Marilyn White. What began as an online search for people just like her, quickly spread around the area as a circle of camaraderie and friendship. White lives in Durango, but over half of the club members are from Cortez.
“I had just moved here in 2005 and I was in a chat room forum,” White said. “I was trying to find others who were also interested in dollhouses.”
The club now has 11 members, all from the Four Corners area. There are five members from Cortez, three from Durango, one from Mancos and one from Bayfield. They currently have several of their handmade vignettes on display at the Cortez Public Library. They also take part in the annual Denver Dollhouse and Miniatures show where, as a group, they make a themed miniature display. Almost all of the women are retired and although not all of the members are veteran crafters, the newest members have been in the club for at least two years.
White and Karen Severn, of Bayfield, are considered by some of the members to be the go-to gals. They extend much of their expertise to the group by offering up craftier and thriftier ways to recreate everyday items. The most used items are paper, sculpey clay, glue, foam, tweezers, scissors and basically anything else you can find. They do not use magnifying glasses.
“You have to have an imagination to do this,” Severn said. “And then once you use your imagination, and something doesn’t turn out the way you thought, you have to have more imagination to fix it.”
The club invests the majority of their spare time into miniature making. They use dollhouse magazines to purchase items or find ideas to create them. They spend hours on websites searching for accessories or furniture to purchase or for projects they can make at home.
“There are so many projects and kits out there that you can buy or get from a book,” Severn said. “But then you read them and wonder if this person has ever tried to put together a miniature.”
White agreed. “I’ll read through the instructions then think I can do this in a much easier and less expensive way.”
Jan McGrath and Sharon Hansen are two of the newbies. McGrath does not have a dollhouse like most of the other members do. Instead, she said she chooses to make vignettes or displays of miniatures that can be made with any household item and have a theme of the creator’s choosing.
“I’m not good at the construction part,” she said with a laugh. “At my first meeting they said you need to make a booth for our county fair theme (for the annual Denver Dollhouse and Miniatures Show) and I said OK, how!”
McGrath laughed as she recalled cutting foam board to put together her first vignette.
“Karen was great. She told me to put this there and that here and no one will notice.”
The ladies are there to have fun. Mistakes are made but they simply laugh them off. They meet twice a month during the summer and once a month during the winter at a different members’ home each time.
It can take a few hours to complete one small display and years to complete an entire dollhouse. Especially if the pieces are made instead of purchased, which the women prefer to do. Dollhouse kits can cost $400 to $1,000, bare-boned. Siding, windows and doors are separate and a simple piece of furniture could cost $30 or more.
However, you don’t have to have lots of money to be a miniaturist but you do have to love it. The detailed precision on the house and displays are immaculate. Singular items such as food, books and flowers are incredibly lifelike. Books are made by fanning paper in between tiny velvet bindings with gold lettering. Food like loaves of bread are made with clay that has to be baked in a toaster oven before being painted.
Severn recalled a meeting, where Neely suggested trying their talent at creating hollyhocks. The flower petals and leaves had to be glued individually onto the long stem using tweezers and paper punches. Many fingers were glued together.
“Every single hollyhock that we made had a curse word that went with it,” she said. “And there’s a lot of petals on a hollyhock!”
All the ladies have different backgrounds and interests. They each bring something different to the table in order to teach, educate and help new and existing members.
McGrath worked at and is now retired from the Cortez Public Library. Neely is approaching 92 and has been collecting dollhouse pieces since she was a young girl. Items in her existing collection are not sold anymore. Hansen enjoys creating southwestern adobe style minis. Severn has been a collector of dollhouses and miniatures for 18 years. And White has three completed dollhouses and is working on her fourth.
The women all agree space is a big limitation for their collections because once they were hooked, the passion grew and grew. But they aren’t worried about space, limits or time. They do what they can, when they can and enjoy every second. They are more than a club. They are a group of friends who want nothing more than to get together, have fun, make memories and share a small connection.
The club have several of their miniature creations on display at the Cortez Public Library. The display will be up until the end of October. For more information on the club members and their little hobby visit 4cornersminis.com.