Daily Mini Interview: Call of the Small by Christine Ferrara

Call of the Small

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What’s your earliest memory with miniatures?

My earliest memory with miniatures is coming down on Christmas morning as a five year old to a pink and white dollhouse. I was totally surprised and thrilled to have my first house.

How did you first start collecting miniatures? 

I first collected as a child, but then my collecting faded as I became a teenager. My interest in miniatures was reignited as an adult, when I was searching for a dollhouse for my then eight-year-old daughter. I found a very modern house (Villa Sibi), and my husband bought it for me as a surprise for Christmas. That definitely started my obsession.

How did Call of the Small come about in 2009?

Once I had the Villa Sibi, I realized that there was a whole fascinating community of modern miniature collectors all over the world. Some of them, such as Mini Modern, had blogs, and I loved reading about collections and the art of collecting. So, I decided to start my own blog, Call of the Small, in January 2009. I came up with the name in a very immediate manner – it just popped into my head and I liked the idea of heeding the “call” of the small. It just made sense to me.

What services do you offer through Call of the Small?

I do miniature photography and styling for a range of projects, including book covers and magazine articles. Interestingly, my work has been used to illustrate “life-size” design and concepts. I help bring ideas to life! I also source and rent out my houses and furnishings for prop stylists, editors, etc.

What aspect of your work with Call of the Small do you enjoy most? 

Generally, I love working on challenging projects that require creative solutions, and being able to achieve them through miniatures is pretty awesome! I also enjoy the creative freedom that comes from such projects, and I’ve been fortunate to work with book designers, art directors, prop stylists, and others on articulating their respective visions. I’ve found that miniatures tend to open people up – seeing everyday objects realistically small usually makes most people smile.

Tell us a bit about your 19 dollhouses. 

I have a variety of houses in my collection, and they date from the 1960s through the present day. The majority of them are 1:12 scale, but some are slightly smaller (1:18) and larger (1:10). There’s definitely a soft spot in my heart for the Villa Sibi, since it was my first house. I also love the Citadel, a house that I bought on eBay, but drove from NJ to Chicago to pick up! My Kaleidoscope House is also very special to me.

What advice would you give to new collectors and redecorators? 

  • Focus your collecting; otherwise you will go bankrupt!
  • Pace your collecting, to ensure that you have adequate storage and space to properly house your treasures!
  • Don’t be hasty to renovate a house; live with it for a bit.
  • If you truly love something, don’t hesitate to get it. Trust your instincts.
  • Encourage those whose work you admire, especially miniature artisans and other makers – share their work on social media, give them some free PR! This will help ensure their ongoing success.
  • Share expertise and tips with others to help keep the collecting community lively, informed, and strong.
  • Take creative risks. For me, this means being bold with pattern, color, and design.
  • Revel in different cultures and perspectives in the collecting community; there is much to be gained from others, and miniature collecting is a great equalizer.
  • Become more hands-on (literally), even if you think you’re not naturally gifted to do so. I’ve learned a lot just by trial and error and lots of experimenting.
  • See the world through “mini eyes.” Try to think of creative ways to re-purpose everyday items for use in miniature environments.

Favorite miniature you own by another artist?

This is a tough question! One of my favorite pieces is a midcentury-style shelving unit by Paris Renfroe, a trained architect who has been doing miniatures for the past decade. You can see the shelf here. It is so beautifully made and is so fine in its detail.

What inspires you?

  • Great design and architecture
  • Unexpected and beautiful patterns
  • Pops of color and interesting shapes
  • Midcentury and classic modern lines

What is the most memorable miniature you have ever seen by another artist?

I love work by Slinkachu, who is an artist based in the UK. He uses extremely small-scale figurines traditionally used in train layouts and photographs them in public spaces. The result is very compelling, unexpected, and humorous site-specific miniature artwork. So clever! I also admire the photography of the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corinne May Botz. The Nutshell Studies are models of crime scenes from the 1940s and 50s created by Frances Glessner Lee, and are completely fascinating!

What is your hope for the field of miniatures? 

I’m intrigued by the intersection of art and miniatures, so it would be great if there were more dialogue among mini collectors, artisans, visual artists whose work intersects with miniatures, and museum curators/gallery owners.

I could envision collaborations/projects, events, panel discussions, or other opportunities to share ideas, inspirations, etc. This would also be an opportunity to engage editors, art directors, prop stylists, book publishers, and others who are always looking for creative solutions for their projects. Miniatures might be the answer!

Favorite mini accounts?

I greatly admire the work of mini-makers Paris Renfroe; Doris Nathanson of minimodernistas; and Phillip Nuveen, just to name a few. There are also many gorgeous feeds on Instagram under #dollhouse.

Dream house (in mini) you’d like to work on?

I’d love it if someone would create and make commercially available a 1:12 scale version of Phillip Johnson’s Glass House. That would be a dream to play with!!

Why miniatures? What appeals to you most about what you do?

The greatest appeal for me with miniatures is being able to completely control your environment. I can take creative risks with huge reward. I also love beautifully composed spaces that look life-like even though they are miniature – it’s playful trickery!

What’s to come from Call of the Small?

In addition to further developing my creative services offerings, I would like to complete my Contemporary Dollhouse by Doll Domiciles, which needs lots work, since it’s a scratch build!

Words you live by?

Call of the Small… where small modern lives large!

What’s something (most) people don’t know about you?

I wouldn’t call it an “exclusive” by any means, but most people who follow me as Call of the Small probably have no idea that I’m a fiercely competitive tennis player. I play with a wonderful group of women in a range of USTA women’s and mixed doubles leagues. It’s great exercise and a terrific stress-reducer!

Call of the Small was founded in 2009 by Christine Ferrara who’s based in Princeton, NJ. She offers a range of miniature design and photography services. See what she’s been up to lately on the Call of the Small website or blog. You can also follow along on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Flickr.

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