In Miniature

I’ve just finished reading Simon Garfield’s excellent book, ‘In Miniature’. It is an investigation into the fascination so many share for small worlds, models and the miniscule.

Often when I tell people that I make models I have to overcome a strange feeling of being misunderstood, or more accurately, mis-labelled. Modelmaking is a very broad field, encompassing small children’s forlorn attempts at precise handling of paint and glue, through to an adult fascination to infantilise and return to childhood through dolls’ house collection.

I try to explain that I am neither a maker of model railways, nor doll’s houses. As a child I did build kits, but far more time was spent making things out of the leftovers in the box, or using found objects such as cardboard packaging and polystyrene to build with.

What I loved about Simon Garfield’s book was summed up very neatly on page one. He says ‘..this book is about scale. It is specifically concerned with how the miniature world informs the world at large. At its heart this book is about looking, and about seeing; and with this may come elucidation. We bring thigs down to size to understand them and appreciate them. Something too big to visualise at full scale … may be rendered comprehensible.’

This book distilled so many of my thoughts and put them so well. Why do people want models, especially in an age of computer generated renders and 3D visualisation? The purpose is important. It is not, in my opinion, a craft that I practice, creating decorative ornaments. I believe that modelmaking can express a vision of the world which inspires us to look more closely and cherish the detail which ordinarily may pass unnoticed. When constructing my model house fronts, mostly of Victorian or Georgian properties I am able to find forgotten rhythms in the architecture; the alignment of windows or the proportions of the building of which the owners may be unaware. When the building is displayed in isolation, mounted in a frame people see the beauty of the house as a whole. 

Simon Garfield’s book really is a great little read ─ in every sense! His many descriptions of notable artists in the field illuminates the sometimes eccentric world of model making with wit, insight and understanding.