Daily Mini Interview: ACTÍVA Products Perfect for Miniature Making

Make Your Own Miniatures with ACTÍVA Products

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image9.JPGTell us a bit about how ACTÍVA Products came to be.

ACTÍVA Products, Inc. has been serving the arts and craft and hobby industry with the highest quality products for over 50 years! Our plant in Marshall, Texas prides itself on manufacturing high quality premium North American made craft materials such as our most popular CelluClay® – The Original Paper Mache, Blackjack Clay, Instamold, Permastone, Li-Qua-Che and our eye catching Scenic Sand.

mini donutACTÍVA supplies many other great products such as our Rigid Wrap which is a highly durable premium plaster cloth which is the best in the industry and a full line of clays such as La Doll, Premier, Activ Clay and Plus Clay. ACTÍVA provides products to complement our product line such as the Activ-Wire Mesh, Flower Art Silica Gel and many others. Our products continue to exceed the industry standard and are all ACMI certified as non-toxic.

microbakeryFor the past 50 years we have continually provided the best customer service to ensure customer satisfaction. ACTÍVA’s products are great for all ages and inspire creativity and the use of your imagination to provide endless enjoyment and fun!

What ACTÍVA products are best for beginner artists?

Products we recommend for beginning artists would be our CelluClay and our Hearty Clay (polymer air dry clay), because so many things can be made with it.

image7.JPGWhat ACTÍVA items would you recommend for those with a little more art experience?

All ACTÍVA Products are suitable for a wide range of expertise. The individual artist develops improved techniques as they progress, enabling a higher degree of sophistication from the product user.

Recommended age range of ACTÍVA product users?

The recommended age for most products would probably be 8+, but most of our products can be used by younger children, especially with adult supervision.

hearty clay skull

Is there a best selling product available through ACTÍVA? What about for miniature making?

CelluClay which is an instant papier-mâché clay is one of the most popular products, followed by our wonderful range of polymer air dry clays.

wedding favors3The best clay for miniatures would probably be Lumina, though some miniature artists actually use Li-Qua-Che which is a liquid papier-mâché in molds. Our Hearty Clay is also a great clay used for miniature clay projects.

Any ACTÍVA products work especially well together?

All of the air dry clays, including our clay, mix well together to give a different type or color of clay with different plasticity, texture and final appearance.

Also, our casting products allow you to make a replica of your favorite pieces with InstaMold and then cast. The replica in either Permastone or another casting compound is popular.

image2.JPGWhat do you want artists and creatives to know about your brand?

We have a created a good, high-quality range of basic crafting materials that have been tried and tested for a consistent outcome.

Opportunities and challenges within your industry you’d like to cite?

Although our brand has been around for 56 years and introduced many products to the marketplace, such as CelluClay and Rigid Wrap, we still strive to build brand awareness to those unfamiliar with our wonderful range of products. The good news is that crafts and hobbies are still popular.

Any favorite miniaturists you’d like to cite?

There are a few favorite miniaturists who we would like to mention: Hadyn’s Charms, miniature daisies, ParisMiniatures, This Charming Stuff, Kleineknetwelt, and amazin_crafts are all great artists and Instagram accounts that really stand out.

11174338_1564181043862325_6212085218712109120_oFavorite miniature motto?

“Good things come in small packages.”

What is it about these materials that keeps you coming back? Why do you do what you do?

These materials are fun and easy to work with. I think that as far as crafting is concerned, the miniatures have really taken over the industry in a sense. Think about it: who doesn’t love “mini” things? Whether it be a keychain, a pendant, other jewelry accessories, or even just a decoration topper for a party… mini is in and addicting!

What’s to come from ACTÍVA Products?

sparkle pumpkinsWe are continually creating a variety of new projects that can be accomplished using ACTÍVA products. These include a range of different clay products and other products we offer, available for use by kids and adults. We also include a step-by-step guide on how to replicate these DIY projects.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

We are leaders in new product development and are proud of the quality and innovation of the products we provide. We always pre-test all of our products before they are exposed to the market and all of ACTÍVA Products and non toxic and wheat and gluten free.

Interested in making your own miniatures? Shop a wide selection of items available through the ACTÍVA Products website. You can see what creations have been made using ACTÍVA Products by following along on InstagramFacebook and Twitter




Daily Mini Interview: Ron Stetkewicz Miniatures

Ron Stetkewicz Miniatures

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umbrella stand w canesWhat’s your earliest memory with miniatures?

I’ve been doing this since I was tyke. I can remember falling asleep under a table in Syracuse back in 1980-1, being woke up for snoring too loud. I can remember my brothers covering my hand in resin to try and make a mini hand. That had to be 1979.

I wasn’t formally trained in miniature art until I attended the IGMA Guild School in Castine this year. I also learned through an apprenticeship under my Dad. His shop was always open to do whatever: minis or fill your tire with air or make a sword for a Halloween costume. That’s how I run it today: a place to get it all done. There’s a lot of processes that can be done there.CUTTY-3

Do you have a favorite type of miniature you like to create?

I enjoy making miniatures out of brass. I don’t have favorites, it’s all the same flow. I can only make anything for short spurts and if it’s caste statues or the intricate hour glasses, they are all felt for equally.

Do you have any favorite miniatures?

GneshI don’t collect for myself. My Mom was the big collector, she had everyone’s best stuff from the 1970s through the 2000s. The collection was given away when we split the estate. There were some great pieces in that collection. Originals by Alice Zinn, dolls by Jane Spain and Joan Benzell. Chet Spacher weldings, Bauder Pine works, all gone.

I do collect music instruments for my son, Ronnie, and little books and mini worldly treasures for my daughter, Kayla. She loves going to miniature shows.

swordWhat material do you find the most challenging to work in?

I’m not looking for a challenge, I work in what I know. I’ve been learning woodwork and at Castine I learned working with polymer clay and oil paints. I learned so many valuable things that I think I might write a book. There was so much learning and meeting new friends that I couldn’t summarize it in one statement.

What advice would you give to an IGMA Scholarship Student?

Soak it all in. As much as you can.

P1020938What inspires you?

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can be a dreamt up idea that makes me want to work until the piece is done, or my inspiration can be because I’m flat and need the cash. Either way, it’s my family that keeps me from chaos. My parents got me into this and I plan on doing the same for my children. The true inspiration was my dad, now the true drive is passing things along to my kids.

What can we expect from Ron Stetkewicz Miniatures in the future?

My door accessories in stores across the country. I will be unveiling my product line at the Philadelphia Miniaturia from November 6-8.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’ve seen a lot of years in this business from my behind-the-scenes vantage point. I want this industry to rebloom. It’s time breathe new life into this mini world.

Ron Stetkewicz Miniatures is located in Cairo, New York. To view more of Ron’s work or to buy a miniature of your own, check out his website, Instagram, Facebook, and Miniatures Site.

Daily Mini Interview: Miniature Characters by Longefellowes Designs

Miniature Sculptures and Accessories by Longefellowes Designs

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koiyama_bk_pngDescribe your background in the arts and your first memories with sculptures.

I’ve been doing something artistic and/or crafty since probably around the age of three. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing something, whether it was painting, drawing, needlework, drafting, sewing, designing, building…the list goes on. I have a lifetime of skillsets and muscle memory built up by now, and though I’m largely self-taught, I’m always looking to learn new skills and apply what I know to new tasks and challenges. I’ve taken classes on a variety of techniques and subjects throughout the years to augment my skill sets. Sculpting didn’t actually begin for me until fall 2006 when I decided (mostly on a lark) to take a polymer clay dollmaking class. Prior to that, I hadn’t sculpted anything (I don’t count the pinch pots ubiquitous to grade school art classes). I discovered that I had a talent for it, and over the course of a year or two, made the switch from cloth dolls to polymer clay sculpting. In winter 2008, I made the switch to 1:12 scale.

Do you remember the first miniatures that made a lasting impression on you?

That’s tough, but I can think of three things that definitely stayed with me through the years and paved the way for a return to miniatures. We had a train set when I was little… I can still smell that rank ozone the transformer puts out. I loved all the tiny details in the cars and engine… itty bitty pistons and wheels, ladders, hatches… the works. I wouldn’t let my parents get rid of it when they downsized, so I have all the cars in a box in storage. I hope to be able to rig up a display track someday.

11057747_749821460270_4375559361798221310_nI was also fascinated with the accessories that went along with Barbie: the tiny shoes, handbags, clothing, all sorts of ephemera. In fact, I was usually more interested in them than the dolls themselves; the dolls were more a means to an end than the actual focus of my machinations.

I also still have some of the very first actual miniatures I can remember from when I was little: tiny pot metal figures (one was a dog, I believe), a couple of turned jugs/vases, and a few other random things. I can recall exactly the fascination I had with how wee the jugs and goblets were, and the realization that “someone made that. How did they make such a tiny thing?” Miniatures still fascinate me to this day, and mostly for the same reasons.

What scale do you enjoy working in the most?

I’m most comfortable working in 1:12 scale and slightly smaller, probably 1:18 or 1:24 at the smallest. Partly because there’s far more accessories and scale-related items that I can use with my sculpts, or use as inspiration. I occasionally do 1:48, but that’s a real bear.

moorish_merch_bk_pngI didn’t have any difficulty transitioning from 1:4 down to 1:12 and smaller – it was a very natural thing for me. Working large is just uncomfortable, physically and mentally. I’m short, and have tiny hands–not kidding, I have to buy children’s gloves–and I just find smaller proportioned things to be more relatable, I suppose.

When I took a sculpting class recently (I took it because it offered a chance to learn to use a new sculpting medium), the bust was worked in near life-size, and it was…difficult, at least at first, because everything just felt ginormous and awkward. I guess you can get used to almost anything, really. Mostly, I’ve found that when switching scales (regardless of how big or small you’re going) keeping things in proportion is probably the thing that requires the most attention; the methods are largely the same regardless of how big/small you’re working.

Daily Mini recently visited the Longefellowes Designs studio — see the photos here!

Do you ever create works of miniature sculpture without the intent to sell them? 

Not generally, no, unless you count gift-giving, and I rarely give my sculpts away. I mean, what would I do with all this stuff? The challenge and fun for me is in the making, not so much the keeping. As to favorites, I have a few that I’ve kept (not including class work, which I keep as a matter of principle). One is called “I Need a Jump,” featuring the Bride of Frankenstein’s Monster as a partially bandaged pinup (of course), holding miniature jumper cables. I didn’t make her with the intent to keep her, but I liked her well enough that I decided that if she hadn’t sold by a specific date, I was retiring her and keeping her. And now she supervises me from my “trophy

What’s your favorite style of fireplace to create and why?12190979_749821355480_5444496937381252009_n

Not sure I have a favorite. Visually I like the ornate ones (think Rococo and Baroque), but those are a pain to paint. The flatter-surfaced types are easier to paint with the faux marbling, but don’t have quite as much “presence.” Eventually, I’ll make one in a hybrid style, but I’m going to have to teach myself how to carve wood first. Oh no! I have to learn something new!

Tool, technique or material you could not live without?

That’s tough! I use almost everything! Seriously, that’s the fun of figures; I get to nerd out over the anatomy, and the physics required to get them to balance. And then I get to play with fabric, trims, metal findings, beads, accessories, furniture, or whatever else I decide needs to go with the figure, and all the various tools and techniques that go into all of the above. True multi-media, including sound; I usually wind up swearing at the little buggers at some point.

But back to the question, I’m not sure there’s an answer. Because, other than my eyes and hands (which might be a cheap and possibly pompous sounding answer), I can’t think of anything that I couldn’t figure out how to replace or find another way to make it work. If I think about it, if you take away my favorite knife, I can go find a saw or some other implement of destruction that equally results in bandaged fingers. If you take away my favorite clay, I can go find another clay to use. In fact, I’ve had to do that when manufacturers changed the formulation of their product, so….yeah. Doesn’t mean I’d be happy if you took away my favorite stuff, but I’d learn to cope.

What’s the most challenging aspect of creating a miniature sculpture?

That depends on the scale. The smaller it gets, the trickier it is overall. Half scale figures take almost the same amount of time as a 1:12 scale figure. SONY DSCGlobally though, while getting them to balance on their own is often hard, I’d have to say I have the most difficulty with hands – the clay pieces are so thin and small at that point, the heat from my own hands makes the clay sticky; it’s like trying to sculpt with joint compound (I’ve tried that – it doesn’t work well). So as a result, it’s tricky to get the right proportions and detail level without ruining all my effort due to the tools or my hands melting, sticking, or squashing everything.

What’s the most unexpected material you’ve used in one of your works?

I don’t tend to think of media as anything other than “this fits the purpose, so use it,” so I don’t go out of my way to consider putting something into a piece just for the novelty of having it there. Miniaturists are weird that way; we all just sort of see new purposes for things – a marble might become a crystal ball, jewelry findings become candlesticks, bullet casings get turned into beer steins, wristwatch parts get re-imagined into a variety of steampunk creations. And yes, I’ve done all of those things.

Have a favorite miniaturist you’d like to mention?

Oh, there’s a huge list of people whose work I admire – but if I start listing artists, I’ll inevitably leave someone out accidentally, and I don’t want hurt feelings. But I do have a couple of particularly good friends within the miniatures community. The sort of people who act as a sounding board, give “attaboys” when earned, inspire nefarious ideas, are willing to plot and scheme with me, and most importantly, give a reality check and/or a kick in the ass when I need it, whether or not I’ve asked. You know, the type who stick around even after they find out just how insane you really are. Everyone needs friends like that. So yes, public thanks to both Bill and Deb for the shenanigans and even the occasional boot. You both are awesome.

Advice for beginner artists?

Stop trying to convince yourself that you can’t do something, especially if you’ve never even tried. Just go do it. Everyone starts from ‘zero,’ and it’s not a competition, except against yourself and whatever you just finished. Go try [insert skill here]. And then do it again. And again. I guarantee your second one will be better than the first, and your third better than your second. Take a class, try it out. Heck you might find out you hate [insert thing here], and then you can then take a class in [insert next thing here]. Or you might discover you love doing it. This is why workshops at shows are such great ideas; try before you buy, as it were.julia png

Just go do it. Because you know what? If you wait until you think you’re “ready,” you’ll never do it. Because no one is ever ready for anything. DO IT.

What inspires you?

I get inspiration everywhere. Inside jokes, regular jokes, off-hand remarks during conversations, people watching, even random things I see on the telly, in print, or on the Internet. Doesn’t mean I turn every idea into a sculpted figure, but I keep adding to my list.

Motto that keeps you creating?

I have two that immediately come to mind: “If you don’t ask, the answer is automatically ‘No.’” and “What If…”

In addition, just the desire to continue to learn and improve keeps me moving forward. Every piece I make, the first thing I see once I’m done is where I could have done better—outside of any deliberate exaggerations or makers marks—and, I try to address those issues in the next piece. And the next, and the next. It’s a constant process.

What’s to come from Longefellowes Designs?

I have three upcoming sculpting classes: a full day class at the Philadelphia Miniaturia on Thursday, November 5 (plus I’m also vending at the show), a half-day workshop at D. Thomas Fine Miniatures on Sunday, December 13, and just announced, a half-day workshop at the Sturbridge Miniatures Festival on Saturday, June 4, 2016 (plus I’m also vending at the show). I even occasionally remember to update my website, so as I add shows and classes for 2016, I’ll be listing them.

Stacey pngUpcoming projects include some new original fireplace mantel designs that I’m currently building, and of course new sculpts. I have three dolls in progress right now. I also have some commission projects I’m working on.

Other hobbies and activities you enjoy?

I have more things I like doing than I have time for, both in miniature and in real life. I could probably fill three lifetimes just with the stuff I want to do!! But outside of the impossible (unless someone gives me a TARDIS), I enjoy baking, watching most sports, spoiling the hell out of a few select people, and, not related, cuddling up on the sofa with my weenie dogs. Oh, and the occasional dram of Single Malt Scotch. Purely medicinal, of course.

What do you want miniature enthusiasts to know about you?

Maybe to correct a common misconception, since everyone seems to assume my business name is named after the poet. The truth is, it’s named for my weenie dogs: they are the Longefellowes! As an aside, and not that anyone will really care, but I do not generally like poetry. Longfellow’s or anyone else’s.

Longefellowes Designs was created by Bev Gelfand. You can see many more of her miniature characters and fireplace mantel designs on the Longefellowes Designs website! Have a little look inside Bev’s studio here.

Daily Mini Interview: Miniatures by Polyclayart

Miniatures by Polyclayart

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tacobar1How did you first get started in miniatures? 

I first got interested in miniatures when I started buying some of the Re-ment items at the local Japanese supermarket. My Etsy shop at the time carried refrigerator magnets and jewelry, and I was finding out that sushi-related items were the most popular. I was buying the Re-ment items to get inspiration and ideas for my projects.

week30It was fascinating to see how realistic things could look done on a miniature scale. I decided to focus on miniature food after having made some for my nephew after seeing him play with pots and pans and making cooking noises. It was fun figuring out how to make certain things using clay sculpting techniques I’ve learned. Anything that I could not figure out, I turned to online tutorials. Soon, I began to also offer dollhouse miniatures in my Etsy shop. At first it was just 1:12 scale items, but since a couple of years ago, I began to offer some playscale items after someone made a request .

shishkebab2Advice for beginner miniaturists?

Make use of tutorials online on YouTube and Pinterest. They’ve been very helpful to me. Also make frequent use of Google Image search to see real-world examples of what you are trying to craft. Offline, I recommend reading the book Making Doll’s House Miniatures with Polymer Clay by Sue Heaser.

Favorite mini you own?

I would say anything my niece Alyssa makes. She is now 12 years old and almost as good as her aunt. She often goes to my worktable to make something when she comes to visit my home. scones1I used to get angry at the mess she and her brother Ethan would make whenever they came to work at my table, but when I saw what they made, I changed my mind and saw how precious their creations were. I bake them and store them in a container after they go home.

Most memorable miniature you’ve seen?

My nephew Ethan once made a donut that reminded me of the donut that is atop the Randy’s Donuts building in the Los Angeles area, even though the color scheme was different.

minutechicken3Anything else you would like to add? 

I may be setting up a separate shop in the future just for miniature items, and perhaps a website to sell my goods.

Polyclayart was created by Gale Lew of Rancho Palos Verdes in California. Recently , you can shop the collection on Etsy or have a look at Pinterest for more of her work in miniature!



Daily Mini Interview: Miniatures by FatalPotato

Miniatures by FatalPotato

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image1How did you first get started in miniatures? Where does the interest stem from?

When I was younger, I went through an elimination diet to identify any food allergies I might have had. I wasn’t allowed to eat most delicious things in the meantime. For a kid who could scarf down eight large dumplings as a baby, this was quite the bummer! My mom suggested that I express my appetite through a different medium. Being from an artsy family, she handed me a block of white Sculpey and out popped a miniature marshmallow! My dad later helped me sculpt a hamburger, effectively forging my love for little faux food. I was never interested in dolls or dollhouses… in fact, I took Barbies apart and made them into race cars. So, I just kept on making miniature foodstuffs because I thought they were just so darn cute.

Where did the name “FatalPotato” come from?

FatalPotato is the product of a silly middle school obsession with spuds. I wanted my shop name to be humorous yet slightly dark… the alternative was “AgitatoPotato.”

How long have you been creating minis?

On and off again since I was around five, so about 13 years now.


What types of miniatures do you make and how has your work evolved?

I make realistic-style miniature food. I’ve always centered my art around food, so I’d say my work has evolved more in terms of technique rather than content. When I first started, I sculpted everything from memory; the only reference images of whatever food I wanted to make were in my head. My burgers and donuts were very basic in texture, color, and shape, almost cartoonish. I coated every mini in a thick layer of shiny glaze… I thought the plasticky look was *fabulous.* I later scoured cookbooks and Google images for more ideas and eventually replaced my supremely-glossy style with a realistic one.

image3Do you create and sell miniatures full-time?

Oh, I wish! Being a full-time student, I don’t have as much time for sculpting as I used to. I still try to keep a few minis available in my shop whenever I’m home from college (December and June-September).

What types of different materials do you use to make miniatures?

I use polymer clay as a base medium, followed by chalk pastels and/or acrylic paint for extra coloring, and sealed with matte or glossy glaze. I also use liquid clay for viscous foods and air dry clay for other textures. Organic material, like moss and wood, are handy as well.

Advice for beginner miniaturists?

Hmm… I would say the most important tip, as cheesy as it sounds, is to have patience! Progress will inevitably follow as long as you persevere and keep practicing your craft. Always keep an eye out for inspiration, but cherish and cultivate your own style, let it blossom. As a miniaturist, I find it super helpful to pay meticulous attention to the real version of whatever I’m making. Notice the shapes, the special textures, the particular gradients of color. That’s why I tend to peer at my food like an archaeologist examining an alien fossil… I like to observe all of the itsy-bitsy details that make it unique.

image2Tool or material you can’t live without?

Besides polymer clay, I couldn’t live without my trusty broken toothpick. It’s spiky on the broken end while the pointy end has accumulated years of paint and glue, making both ends excellent for food textures. Kinda gross, but so versatile!

Other activities you enjoy?

I enjoy dabbling in other artsy things, like drawing, painting, and photography. I love drawing skulls and creepy things especially, which is so in tune with my main hobby of cutesy, little food!

Anything else you would like to add? 

Thank you to everyone who has supported my miniature foods. I’m very grateful to be included in such a wonderful online art community!

Leah is based in Oregon and will soon be relocating to Rhode Island. To enjoy more of her FatalPotato creations, check out the FatalPotato website and FatalPotato Etsy shop. You can follow along daily on Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and DeviantArt!


Daily Mini Interview: FriendChips Miniature Photography by Christie Pierce

FriendChips Miniature Photography Series by Christie Pierce

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Fish n
“The boat, Fish n’ Chips, was made by my husband when he was a teenager. It’s going in a future calendar, and already available in a card. It has been a good seller thus far!”

How did you decide on this unique photography project? 

It all started back in 2012. We always had chipmunks and since we don’t own a dog or a cat, these chipmunks got a bit braver and began coming closer to our house. One of the first chipmunks we photographed – we called him Mr. Stubbs, Founder and Squeak-EO of FriendChips – used to eat out of our hands. I attended an event where teeny, tiny playing cards were used as drink tickets. Well, I brought these cards home and put some food for the chipmunks on them, and the photo looked like he was playing cards with my husband Paul’s hand in the photo! After taking lots of photos in 2012, I finally started to perfect the art of capturing these chipmunks at just the right moment in time. I soon discovered what people would buy, and soon enough, the public fell in love with FriendChips photography.

I use low-tech everything. There’s no retouching these photos. I mean, I don’t even have the Internet at home! I will do a little bit of contrasting with the light in the photo and I will remove small bits of seeds — but that’s it! The entire time I’m photographing, I’m about 18 inches away, with a pocket full of seeds and an extra battery for my camera! Frequently I’ll tape things down on the set and you don’t really know whether the scale will work until you’re out there shooting and the chipmunks have entered the scene.

Mechanic Watermarked
“Here is the Monte Carlo car that Paul made out of a piece of sheet metal. It’s the same car that is featured in the ‘Perfect Tree’ card. I’m planning to use it again. Folks do like when there is a hand in the photo, believe it or not. Kind of helps show how tiny the chipmunk is.”

How has your photography evolved?

In time, I learned to get more intimate with the photos. I use better lighting and have an improved camera now. I write down ideas before shooting the work. I try to make the circuit during the holidays now, whether attending a local holiday craft fair at schools around the area or other shows in the neighborhood. There’s usually a good audience interested in buying the photographs during that season.

Miniature made by Paul Pierce.

Nowadays when it comes to the selling of the works, I’d saying 50% of the appeal is the chipmunk(s) and 50% is the miniature props. My husband used to build miniatures when he was younger, before we knew each other. He once made an airplane so small it fit on the tip of his finger, and inside of it was a miniature jeep! Seeing his patience building miniatures made me fall in love with him when we were dating.

A lot of my miniature props have found their way into my possession accidentally. Or, I’ll see something that looks like something else in small scale. The chipmunks are 100% interested in food, not in the props themselves. So, when I put out a new set, they will walk around and sniff everything until they find where the food’s been hidden.

It took a long time for me to figure out the right shots and the appropriate scale to make scenes more intimate. I try not to make my sets too big or too busy, because you need the shot of the chipmunk to stand out and be larger. So it’s really only about a 6 inch space that ends up in the photo.

How do you get the FriendChips stars to pose in your photography?

Sweethearts Watermarked
“He has his back foot up on the table!”

People frequently ask how I bait my photoshoots and what kind of bait I use. I use buckwheat and sunflower seeds. I love sunflower seeds as bait because the ’munks will hold a seed and sit up a bit more to eat it. The magic moment in my photography comes when they’ve taken their last bite. It’s all in that last shot before he or she moves again! The only way that you’d know when to get that perfect shot is to spend the hours that I spend with these animals.  My relationship with them has evolved and now they expect certain things of me (food!) and I expect certain things of them (great poses!)

Whenever I’m shooting, I can talk, but I can’t move. Often times, I’ll have to tape down miniature props because they will jump on a set and often times, there’s more than one of them in the mix. And yes, they can fight when there’s more than one chipmunk on the set. For my yard sale photo, I baited the set to include two chipmunks on purpose. And then, at the perfect time, a magpie made a bunch of noise and the ’munk near the pots and pans looked up. It was 100% magic to get that photograph, so you can only strategize to a certain extent. It’s all a happy accident.

Approximately how many chipmunks do you have on your property?

There are a dozen chipmunks around our patio at any given moment. I’d speculate there are around 40 on the hill nearby, and they all come and go and change places rapidly. We’ll see the same couple of guys for a month (we can recognize them because of an injury or nick in their fur), but then the next year, it might be a different group out there. This summer, it’s been about two dozen on the property that I filmed.

To clarify, they are wild chipmunks. Tolerant of me, but wild. And I don’t touch them. And I would never feed them human food. Any of the food props in the photos are either ceramic or plastic. I would never expose them to human food. The chocolate bunny in the Easter photo is ceramic and the bundt cake in another photo is made out of rubber.

Miniature made by Paul Pierce.

Do you have any favorite miniatures?

Anything my husband has built – whether miniature props or set – has ended up being in the top five selling cards on my site. Often times, these photos will include some props he built as a teenager.

As for my favorite set I’ve worked on, I loved the background of purple flowers you can see in a lot of the spring shots. Photos are taken in my rock garden or in my patio.

What inspires you?

The whole process behind FriendChips inspires me – not just one thing. I’m drawn to the chipmunks picking up cups. It’s hard not to be inspired.

Favorite time of day to shoot FriendChips photos?

When it’s warm, so usually between 6:30 and 9 AM. The shots I’ve been getting have been great during that time of the day, so I must be doing something right. Later in the day there are usually too many shadows to get a great shot. And the chipmunks are hungriest in the morning, too.

laundry day blooper
“I love this ‘Laundry Day’ blooper. It tells the story of how close I am when I do this.”

What have you learned about photography through this project and your work with miniature props?

I don’t consider myself a photographer at all. I just use a point and shoot, which is a little faster than my old camera. It gets me what I need to get. However, me knowing the chipmunks’ behavior is how I get the shot. You can’t be even one movement behind them. It’s all about patience with a wild animal. Think about those National Geographic photographers who live in a ditch for about a month all for 30 seconds of a perfect shot.

Why FriendChips miniature photography? What keeps you coming back for more?

I love the creative process. I love building the set, and building the story that I’m going to capture. Secondarily, I love people’s reactions to my photographs. I’m addicted to show and tell. I love when they exclaim, “how did you get that!?” and to see fans enamored with the little sets, it makes it all worth it. People keep coming back for more! So, I’m truly addicted to people’s reactions and the joy that all of this spreads.

Plus, the chipmunks are easier than having a pet. They live outside and do their own thing. They are absolutely the perfect candidate for this type of photography. They pick things up. They can stand up. They do human things and animal things. They have opposable thumbs! They make amazing poses just by being themselves! That’s what makes it so fun.

I’m standing up the entire time of a shoot, eye level with them. So it’s a gift to be this involved. And it’s evolved to be so much fun. I will build the set and place all the props into a bucket. I’ll work through the winter on strategizing what to rebuild the next season.

slide show 7 chocolate bunny card calendar
“Paul made the step ladder just for the bunny shot. It turned out just the way I had envisioned. I love this one.”

What’s to come from FriendChips in the future?

The season is done, so there will be no more photos this year. I usually get most of my shots sometime between May and June when all the purple flowers are blooming. The hotter it is outside, the less likely the chipmunks will be running about.

Creatively, it’s hard to get to a done point per se. You have a vision of what you want to accomplish. And when your juices are done, they are done. At any time, I have a storyboard of about 25 ideas written to do and I have lots of projects I’m looking to tackle next year. A lot of these projects will require time from me to strategize on the set. I want to do a little snowmobile set with sledders on a hill. I’ll use felt to make it look like snow.

What are your favorite FriendChips photos you’ve taken?

I don’t have one favorite because I love so many of them. I love “Laundry Day” and the chocolate bunny Easter photo. I got exactly what I wanted to get with both photos.

Laundry Day Watermarked
“This is in the 2016 calendar. One of my favorites. I love everything about it. They kept picking up that ladybug to see if it was food! This is one I envisioned, and had it come out the way I wanted!”

Paul made the step ladder just for that bunny shoot. The photo happened as I had envisioned, which only occurs about 60% of the time. It’s magic when it happens so perfectly amidst all these wild chipmunks.

Another shot I love is the one that features a little house that my husband made when he was five years old. He also made the saw and the toolbox for the photo. People are absolutely enchanted with the lunch bag and the coffee cup in the background. I even sprinkled a little sawdust in the photo so it looks like the chipmunk is sawing in the photo. It took a great deal of strategy and about all day to get the set ready. And then, I got the shot within 20 minutes!

I love looking at the calendars – it’s as if I’m viewing them for the first time. There’s a joy about what the image does to you.

One other memorable shoot was when the flowers on the property had begun to bloom. There were these columbines and the weather turned bad. Finally, I was able to get this shot of the columbine as a lamp on a desk. The day after I got the shot was the last day that particular flower was even around!

Mr Carpenter Watermarked
“Mr. Carpenter is working on the house my husband Paul built when he was 5 years old! This was the cover of the 2015 FriendChips calendar.”

Advice for photographers?

Know your subject. That applies to anyone working in nature photography. That, and luck. For every shot I get and sell, there’s about 50-80 deleted photos from trying to get the right one. Chipmunks run around like a blur. That’s what they’re supposed to do. They have to because of the hawks around. So they run around for about 5 minutes before moving on to the next location. This type of photography involves a great deal of baiting and waiting.

What’s to come from FriendChips?

I’m knee-deep in the selling season right now. I’m working on building the next calendar. I’m always shooting very far in advance, so I have 2017 and 2018 calendars already complete. The 2019 FriendChips calendar is almost complete, too! And the 2016 calendar is available for purchase online.

slide show 18 sweethearts blooper
“After the ‘Sweethearts’ photo, he stole the cup and took it up the hill to finish his ‘coffee’ in private!”

I’d love to put together a coffee table or a children’s book of these photos. Couple the images with sweet messages and what have you. I just love that the joyfulness of all of this transcends all age groups.

Anything else you would like to add?

I obtained my business license in 2013, so I’m just now nearing completion of my second selling season. FriendChips work is available through 37 retailers already.

Christie Pierce is the photographer behind FriendChips. You can view many more of her works on the Forming FriendChips website and shop the collection online!

Organize Watermarked
“I left the desk put together, as I might use it at my shows to show the scale. The drawing propped up by the desk was from a previous shot (Construction). The garbage is a hairspray lid. The little calculator was from previous shots, Paul made that for me. The other stuff is just odds and ends, new and from other photos.”

Daily Mini Interview: Red Dragon Pottery

Miniatures by Red Dragon Pottery

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DSCN4230How did you transition from ceramics to small scale works of pottery? 

I’ve always been interested in small detailed things; before I became a potter I worked in stone as a lapidary and made jewelry. After learning to form clay on a potter’s wheel I started making smaller and smaller pottery challenging myself to see how small a vessel I could make. In 1993, I saw an article about Andrea Fabrega and her miniature porcelain and that showed me that anything was possible and my more intense pursuits began at that time. While selling my small pottery in a Santa Barbara gift shop in 1994 a local dollhouse miniaturist started collecting my work and suggested I focus on 1:12 scale. I started selling at miniature shows the following year. Today I make both 1:12 scale miniatures and life-size functional pottery.DSCN4067

What types of pottery do you find especially challenging? 

Forming miniatures on a potter’s wheel requires much more concentration and focus than forming ‘life-size’ pottery. I move slowly and precisely in a cubic inch of space allowing my fingertips and a wooden dowel to stretch and expand clay from a solid wet spinning mound. The process of throwing miniatures on a potter’s wheel however is the easiest part of the process. After they are thrown, I trim the foot-ring, add handles and spouts, carve decorations, etc. These things are all more difficult than the throwing process itself.


But the most difficult thing for me is the glazing. Glazes are dipped, poured and brushed on the vessels and then portions are scrapped off to thin the glaze layer before firing in a kiln. If the glaze is too thick the glaze might run off the pot destroying it. If the glaze is too thin, the colors will be bland and uninteresting. After all the work that precedes the firing – this last step results in a number of losses. Making compound forms such as teapots are the most challenging due to the increased number of steps. Making a teapot means throwing the vessel, throwing the spout, making a well fitting lid and adding a handle – it is like making several simple vases. Teapots spouts are the smallest thing I throw and If the spouts aren’t thin enough they will look too ‘chunky’ and out of proportion.

11150859_810398522381672_5384841887315025756_nDo you have a favorite firing method?

I love high-fired porcelain fired in reduction. I fire most of my porcelain creations to about 2350˚F in a natural gas-fueled kiln. I first load it with life-size pottery and then place my miniatures around the larger pots.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve made?

The most recent pieces to come out of the kiln are always my favorites. It is always a joyous thing to unload a warm kiln and see how each unique piece comes out. Not all of them survive but those that do make the whole process worthwhile.

What inspires you?DSCN4040

I am most inspired by antiques that I see in museums, books, and peoples’ collections.

Advice for beginner artists?

Experiment! Try everything even if it doesn’t work as intended, use the process to gain experience. Never stop playing, trying new things and pushing the limits.

Red Dragon Pottery was created by potter Troy Schmidt from Goleta, California. Check out more of his creations (mini and full scale) by visiting the Red Dragon Pottery website. You can also follow along on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest!


Daily Mini Interview: Characters in Miniature by Colvin Dolls

Characters in Miniature by Colvin Dolls

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Colonial SoldierWhat’s your earliest memory with miniatures and dolls?

My earliest memories of dolls was the Ideal Toys Crissy doll whose hair grew when you gave it a tug and retracted when you pushed a button in the back. She was all dressed in orange! And Mattel‘s Dancerina Ballerina all dressed in pink with a plastic crown that you pushed to make her spin! Not miniatures of course.

My earliest memories of miniatures were dollhouses from that same era and the occasional clothespin dolls we made in Girl Scouts.

When I was studying figurative sculpture, I was always drawn to maquettes, (small scale studies for larger works). I believe that is where my interest in smaller scale representation may have been peaked. They seemed magical to me. In my late twenties, I saw some of Bernini’s and Camille Claudel’s maquettes on a trip to Europe and they made a lasting impression on me.

How did you first get started making lifelike dolls?

CowboyI needed occupants for a dollhouse I was making for my nieces. In 2005, my sister-in-law asked me to make a dollhouse for my two young nieces. I have a background in architecture so that intrigued me. I custom designed it, made the cabinetry and even custom crafted Georgian fireplaces with over mantles. The house became very elaborate, in fact too elaborate for the girls who were then 2 and 5. I built it in my father’s workshop frequented by his retired friends. They were actually very interested in the construction the dollhouse. One day, one of them asked, “where are the people?” That was when I started making 1:12 scale figures for the house.

What was the first doll you created?

The first miniature doll I created was a papier-mâché 18th century lady with a Marie Antoinette-style wig totally from my imagination… face, costume, and all. I still have her in my workroom staring down at me from the doll case.

How has your work evolved over the years?

The first doll I made is nothing like the dolls I make now. Today, I work in polymer clays and artist’s resins and almost never make a face or costume without some sort of real life reference.

Miss MarpleWhat keeps you creating?

The desire to improve keeps me creating. I am motivated more by the process than the end product but the two are intricately linked. I am always looking for ways to better my technique and I experiment a lot.

Do you have a favorite character that you create?

I suppose I am partial to sleuths like Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes but I don’t have a favorite character that I create. I often do re-make doll characters. Sometimes because customers ask me to and sometimes because I want to see how my eye has developed over time and I will compare them to the previous ones that I’ve made.

Any favorite characters that you have yet to make but are on your t0-make list?

I want to make Queen Elizabeth I and her court. Then Henry the VIII, all those great Tudors. My dream would be to collaborate with someone to make the environments! And to have the leisure of taking all the time I need to get to every last detail.

Elizabethan GentHow did you first become involved with IGMA and the annual Guild Show?

I was asked to be in the show by one of their members from my home state who I knew from other miniature events. I knew of IGMA‘s excellent reputation early on from forums online and then when I started selling dolls at shows from talking to other doll makers and miniaturists.

Advice for beginner dollmakers and artists?

My studio professors taught me valuable lessons about hard work and persistence. I used to believe artists were somehow divinely gifted and great work was magically produced by their hand any time they picked up the tools. I had no idea the amount of hard work and study that went into art to make magic happen.

Work at it often. The more you do it the better trained your eye becomes. Creating art is no different from any other task, you need to do it on a regular basis in order to improve. Great work comes from hard work.

Mr. CarsonWhat is the most memorable doll or miniature you have ever seen by another artist?

A maquette by Bernini in the Vatican. It was in a glass case in a hallway, so not a prominently displayed piece of art, more artifact from the work room of the sculptor. I can remember seeing the straw like fibers mixed in the red clay to create an armature or perhaps to strengthen the figure. It was extraordinary how a small study for a larger work could have so much intensity and power of expression.

What do you want doll and miniature fans to know about you?

I love running, kayaking, and boating. I would love to learn how to sail.

Colvin Dolls is based in Wilmington, NC and headed up by Sherri Colvin. To shop the collection or view more dolls, visit the Colvin Dolls website or follow along on Facebook.

The Dowager Countess

Daily Mini Interview: Tiny Art Miniatures

Tiny Art Miniatures

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4What’s your earliest memory with miniatures?

When I was a child, I liked to watch stop motion puppet cartoons. Featured on the show were toy houses, food, and more. Everything was realistic, but a little bit smaller and cute. It was a magic little world.

How did you first get started making your own miniatures? How has your work evolved?

I like art and I tried different kinds of handmade art. I then came across amazing food miniatures by Shay Aaron. I was so impressed that I decided to make miniatures myself.

хлеб2My first miniature was a tiny loaf of bread. It was not perfect, of course. I had to work a great deal in order to achieve good results. I posted pictures of my minis on social networks and soon I received my first custom orders. So, I had the opportunity and drive to improve my skills.

What are your favorite miniatures to create and why?

The main theme of my miniatures is food. I like to create dishes which satiate the appetite even though they’re made out of plastic. I have many custom orders for doll’s food, and I joke that my job is to feed all dolls in the world!

What are the most challenging miniatures for you to create?

I like to make miniatures that I have never made before. It is always interesting to tackle new challenges. Usually, I work in 1:12 and 1:6 scales. Maybe in the future, I will make 1:144 scale miniature houses.3

What inspires you?

When my work brings joy to people, that inspires me so much. Also, beautiful photos of real food inspire me to recreate them in miniature. Miniatures by talented artists motivate me to work harder and to become a better miniaturist.

What is the most memorable miniature you have ever seen?

It is the most beautifully made dollhouse in the world: Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. I read all about it and was very impressed. I would like to see it with my own eyes very much.

8Who are your favorite miniaturists?

I am delighted with miniatures by Tomo Tanaka of Nunu’s House. He creates very delicate and amazing artwork.

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

Making miniatures is like magic. It’s like you have a magic wand and turn big things into small works of art.

тортикиOther hobbies you enjoy? 

I like oil painting, drawing, different kinds of art, and more — it all depends on my mood. I recently created a mosaic outside my country house.

Advice for beginner artists and miniaturists?

My favorite proverb is: “where there is a will there is the way.” So if you like what you do, keep doing it in spite of everything. Do not stop learning. Evolve your skills and you will reach success.

Tiny Art Miniatures is made possible by Oksana Baranova, who is currently based in Ukraine, in the beautiful city of Kamianets-Podilskyi. Shop her Tiny Art Miniatures creations on Etsy and make sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram!


Daily Mini Feature: Miniature Brick Campaign by Tiny Doors ATL

Tiny Doors ATL Miniature Brick Campaign

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Tiny Doors ATL is a public art installation brought to you by Karen Anderson, Sarah Meng, and the enthusiasm of the good people of Atlanta. This artist cooperative brings big wonder to tiny spaces through the installation of small doors in public spaces.

Tiny Door #8 will debut this December and now you can be a part of this permanent art installation. The soon-to-be-revealed door will be surrounded by bricks and paver stones personalized by miniature fans from around the country. Want your name on a miniature brick? Pledge $25 before October 31 and leave your mark on the Atlanta art scene for years to come. Your miniature brick can have up to 10 characters on it, so choose wisely!

Miniature Brick Campaign Update:
The Daily Miniature will match your donation to Tiny Doors ATL’s campaign!
Contact dailymini@thedailymini.com for more information.

The constantly evolving Tiny Doors ATL installation pieces are an interactive part of the Atlanta community. With the installation of a Tiny Door, what was once a wall or the column of a bridge becomes an entrance to collective creativity and an invitation to whimsy. Tiny Doors ATL is dedicated to free and accessible art and aims to inspire curiosity and exploration in people of all ages.

For more information on Tiny Doors ATL and the current Miniature Brick Campaign, visit the Tiny Doors ATL website. For new updates, head on over to InstagramFacebook or YouTube. Check out the latest mini brick pledges on c4atlanta.org.