Rachel’s Little Things
What’s your first memory with miniatures?
I was very young. Maybe 6 or 7. My mom was a collector. We had a little shelf on our wall as well as a glass case with some of her favorite pieces on display. During my childhood in Maryland, my parents used to take my brother and me to miniature train shows. The tiny scenery surrounding the model trains always intrigued me. These shows also had dollhouse displays and, each time we went, I was allowed to pick out something for myself. Little cakes and pies were my favorite. I was an artistic child by this point already, but these train show visits really inspired me. I soon after asked for some fimo clay and got started crafting. Most of all I enjoyed making miniature animals and Barbie shoes. I had a huge doll collection at the time. I was more interested in studying my dolls’ accessories and how they were made, than actually playing with the toys. All of the plastic Barbie accessories had a noticeable seam and I asked my mom about it. She explained to me that these pieces were each made from a mold. From that point on, I started to make negative and positive molds.
Do you create and sell miniatures full-time?
I am a makeup artist, jewelry maker, and cake decorator as well as a miniature sculptor.
What types of miniatures do you make these days? How has your work evolved?
I started sculpting again when I was 20 years old, and wasn’t so good at it at first. I diligently made the same pieces over and over again until I was happy with them. I’m amazed at how pieces I made only 3-4 years ago are subpar to what I’m creating now. Every project I learn something new and apply it to my next piece.
These days, I like making realistic miniatures. Especially food, such as beautifully stacked cakes. I’ve been gluing cakes onto rings and earring posts as of late. It’s very satisfying.
What materials do you use to make miniatures?
Polymer clay is my most used material. I also use a lot of items from the hardware store and craft stores, as well. Metalware like screws, nuts, bolts, balsa wood. It’s good to look there for nice sturdy bases. I just made a multi tired tiny cake using the tiniest screws available at True Value. Then I painted them white and it turned out just wonderful. I’m mostly happy with the strength and longevity the piece will have. I also, hair acrylic paint, glass beads, metallic powder, chain, gold leaf, etc… whatever I need to complete the piece.
Advice for new miniaturists?
Craft every single day. Even if only for a little bit. Fully immerse yourself and pour your heart into it. Don’t craft with half of your heart. Learn to evaluate your work. Remember to ask yourself, “is this the best I can do?” with every piece you make. Make your work amazing and take your time.
Tool or equipment you can’t live without?
I absolutely love my pasta machine. It’s best for rolling out perfectly flat pieces of clay in uniform shapes. It’s completely necessary for making the tiers of my cakes look so perfect and cleanly executed. I previously used to mash a single piece of clay for a cake tier and then would attempt to shape it. The clay was always too puffy, round or uneven. Once I started using the pasta machine layers and wrapping the edges, it was a complete game changer.
What’s proved to be the most rewarding miniature you’ve ever made?
My favorite and most rewarding miniature I have created is the Royal Wedding Cake. It was a rather large miniature piece, and I created it out of two parts, first baking them, then gluing them together. Once I placed the top piece onto the bottom base, I started to tear up. I worked for more than 40 hours on this cake, and seeing it come together so beautifully was emotional. I look at it still and can’t believe I made it. I hope Kate Middleton sees it!
What artist inspires you?
Tarina Tarantino is hands down my biggest inspiration. I’ve followed her career since I was a kid. I once read an interview with her when I was 20 and that’s what inspired me to start crafting again. I wasn’t happy working retail at the time, and I went out and purchased about $100 worth of materials (clay, tools, paint, and brushes), and just started going for it.
Could you describe your background in the arts?
I am formally trained in Special Effects Makeup. I was trained at Make-up Designory in Los Angeles. I’ve worked on countless photoshoots, music videos, national commercials, and indie films. I’ve also done a great deal of wedding makeup on brides. Earning my own IMDb page was another really great moment for me.
What is the most memorable miniature you’ve seen by another artist?
I think it would have to be this little Gentleman’s Club I saw at the Philadelphia Miniaturia in New Jersey. It had a stripper pole and everything!
Why miniatures? What appeals to you most about what you do?
I like working tiny. I do makeup and the human face is about the largest scale in which I enjoy working. Eye makeup is particularly fun for me. It’s so intricate—just like painting a miniature.
What other activities do you enjoy?
I’m a curious wanderer. I walk around my neighborhood in Silver Lake almost daily. There are so many encouraging, inspiring, and artistic people out here. There’s so much to do and see. It’s truly a paradise.
Words of wisdom to share?
Be smart, be happy, be kind, and be mindful.
For more of California-based Rachel’s miniature feats, check out Instagram, Tumblr or shop her store.