Why Miniatures

A collection of quotes and links detailing our collective fascination with miniatures.

See the original blog posts on this topic: part 1, part 2, part 3 (coming soon).

  • “I had become fascinated by the ability to create a faux reality using toy figures… I think that the defining idea behind my work is to try and get the viewer to enter the world between fantasy and reality. When you can create something so believable out of toys it starts to call into question what is fantasy and what is reality in our minds.” – David Levinthal 
  • “The scenes I set up, more evident through the photography and the titles I give these scenes, aim to reflect the loneliness and melancholy of living in a big city, almost being lost and overwhelmed.” – Slinkachu 
  • “…properly constructed, miniatures are like stage sets or movie sets that invite the viewer to visit an alternative place and experience a different world.” – Louise Krasniewicz 
  • “I knew what it was like to encounter the miniature and wish to have it for yourself. What you would actually do with it once you got it was unclear. It somehow was both enough, and not nearly enough, simply to possess it.” – A Small Place for Us by Kaitlyn Greenidge, Lenny Letter 
  • “When I arranged tiny brass beds or slid a plastic roast chicken in the oven, I entered another universe. And yet, at the same time, I also ventured more deeply inside myself” – Dollhouses Weren’t Invented for Play by Nicole Cooley, The Atlantic 
  • “What miniaturists are doing is making worlds, not just scaled objects.” – Dollhouses Weren’t Invented for Play by Nicole Cooley, The Atlantic
  • “More importantly though, selling miniatures became an exercise in photography and scenic composition. Both theatrical design and miniature artistry employ illusion in their craft. I’ve always loved that fact, and the greatest fun for me remains sculpting cast-off materials into objects of wonder.” – L. Delaney 
  • “With any means available, [tableau photographers] create photographs intended to convey their philosophic and moral views of the world and themselves – their place in the cosmos, society, and family; their relation to popular and high culture; their emotional and sexual identities.” – Fabrications by Anne H. Hoy

Anything but child’s play, Magical world of Miniatures, CBS News 

  • “It’s that escape into the world of miniatures that seems to make us long for where we can’t go, or lives we can’t live.”
  • “What does it say about us as human beings that we are so captivated with something that we can’t really play with, we can’t really touch, we can just see a tiny little window into this world?…It is that window in the world, it is that longing. I think with these it’s longing for another time and another place…”
  • “It’s an allure that is timeless and ageless, just like the dollhouses…”
  • “And that’s the enduring power of miniatures. Whether it’s dollhouses or on-square-foot dream homes that cap off the exhibit, powerful emotions come out of small spaces — even if your imagination has to go out on a limb.”

Miniature Artists Explain Why They Love Making Tiny Worlds, The Creators Project 

  • “It always seemed to me that the miniature was the most effective solution to experiencing visions of worlds and new perspectives that otherwise could not be achieved in life. As a photographer my dioramas are simply a means to an end. They give me the ultimate ability to control my environments while satisfying a need to simply work with my hands.” – Matthew Albanese
  • “In my experience, working at a small scale invites viewers into a personal, intimate relationship with the piece. At the same time, the very nature of small scales keeps us at a distance, unable to fully ‘enter’ the work.” – Thomas Doyle
  •  “Working in a small scale gives me the opportunity to create something that is both ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ at the same time.” – Thomas Doyle
  • “…the creation of small worlds gives us the illusion of control. In a world that grows ever more faster and chaotic, in a world in which we are bombarded with imagery, artworks in small scales allow us a place of retreat, where time has stopped.” – Thomas Doyle
  • “…by focusing smaller and blocking out the imagined dead weight of the world around us, we can manage to take in even more information, do more, feel bigger, lighter, move faster… even to a pathological degree.” – Dante Brebner
  • “Ironically working in a miniature scale allows me to easily present a large environment. It allows the viewer a God’s eye perspective. There’s the sense of voyeurism or of reality TV, Big Brother, or The Truman Show. Miniatures evoke a feeling of wonder or awe. It’s like Gulliver’s Travels. It suspends reality taking you out of your surroundings and brings you into a new world.” – Joe Fig
  • “We long to explore worlds represented in miniature, but are denied physical access. So we project ourselves into those scenarios, identifying with the personalities of the tiny characters, reading the implied relationships between each of the characters and investing our own desires, into the pleasurable outcomes of the stories being told.” – Kendal Murray
  • “I often choose to work in small scale because it allows me to capture an entire place or location. It lets the viewer become a voyeur, with permission to look into windows and behind doors that normally aren’t acceptable for viewing.” – Tracey Snelling
  • “Working in miniature allows me the freedom to construct a world of my choosing, and tell a story of what might be.” – Lori Nix & Kathleen Gerber

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, 1958

  • “…the tiny things we imagine simply take us back to childhood, to familiarity with toys and the reality of the toys…But the imagination deserves better than that. In point of fact, imagination in miniature is natural imagination which appears at all ages in the day dreams of born dreamers. Indeed the element of amusement must be removed, if we are to find true psychological roots.”
  • “Representation becomes nothing but a body of expressions with which to communicate our own images to others.”
  • “The cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it. But in doing this, it must be understood that values become condensed and enriched in miniature.”
  • “But he entered into a miniature world and right away images began to abound, then grow, then escape.”
  • “The botanist’s magnifying glass is youth recaptured.”
  • “…the miniscule, a narrow gate, opens up an entire world. The details of a thing can be the sign of a new world which, like all worlds, contains the attributes of greatness.
  • “Is there any reason, either, why these ‘extreme’ images, which we should be unable to form ourselves, but which readers can receive sinccerely from poets, should not be virtual ‘drugs’…”
  • “Also one must love space to descibe it as minutely…”
  • “… I feel more at home in miniature worlds, which for me, are dominated worlds…Here the imagination is both vigilant and content.”
  • “A bit of moss may well be a pine, but a pine will never be a bit of moss.”
  • “He lay down behind the blade of grass to englarge the sky.” – Noel Bureau
  • “Distance, too, creates miniatures at all points on the horizon, and the dreamer faced with these spectacles of distant nature, picks out these miniatures as so many nests of solitude in which he dreams of living.”
  • “I plunge into the tiny dimensions that distance confers, for I am anxious to measure the immobility in whihc I am confined with the reduction.” – Joe Bousquet
  • “Everything is small because he is so high. And since he is high, he is great, the height of his situation is proof of his own greatness.”
  • “But the causality of smallness stirs all our senses…”

On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection by Susan Stewart, 1984

  • “…the remarkableness of minute writing depends upon the contrast between the physical and abstract.”
  • “The miniature here became the realm not of fact but of reverie.”
  • “A reduction in dimensions does not produce a corresponding reduction in significance; indeed, the gemlike properties of the miniature book and the feats of micrographia make these forms especially suitable ‘containers’ of aphoristic and didactic thought.”
  • “…a world whose anteriority is always absolute, and whose profound inferiority is therefore always unrecoverable.”
  • “To be a display of the world not necessarily known through the senses, or live experience.”
  • “The miniature has the capacity to make its context remarkable; its fantastic qualities are related to what lies outside it in such a way as to transform the total context.”
  • :…the exaggeration of the miniature must continually assert a principle of balance and equivalence.”
  • “In The Poetics of Space Bachelard writes that ‘because these descriptions tell things in tiny detail, they are automatically verbose.’ We might add that in this verboseness is also a matter of multiplying significance.”
  • “The miniature offers a world clearly limited in space but frozen and thereby both particularized and generalized in time – particularized in that the miniature concentrates upon the single instance and not upon the abstract rule, but generalized in that that instance comes to transcend, to stand for, a spectrum of other instances.”
  • “The profundity of things here arises from those dimensions which come about only through scrutiny.”
  • “The miniature assumes an anthropocentric universe for its absolute sense of scale.”
  • “The toy is the physical embodiment of the fiction: it is a device for fantasy, a point of beginning for narrative. The toy opens an interior world, lending itself to fantasy and privacy in a way that the abstract space, the playground, of social play does not.”
  • “The inanimate toy repeats the still life’s theme of arrested life, the life of the tableau. But once the toy becomes animated, it initiates another world, the world of the daydream.”
  • “The toy world presents a projection of the world of everyday life; this real world is miniaturized or giganticized in such a way as to test the relation between materiality and meaning. We are thrilled and frightened by the mechanical toy because it presents the possibility of self-invoking fiction, a fiction which exists independent of human signifying process.”
  • “…serves as a representation, an image, of a reality which does not exist.”
  • “A house within a house, the dollhouse not only presents the house’s articulation of the tension between inner and outer spheres, of exteriority and interiority – it also represents the tension between two modes of interiority.”
  • “The dollhouse has two dominant motifs: wealth and nostalgia.”
  • “…the dollhouse erases all but the frontal view; its appearance is the realization of the self as property, the body as container of objects, perpetual and incontaminable.”
  • “Unlike the single miniature object, the miniature universe of the dollhouse cannot be known sensually; it is inaccessible to the languages of the body and thus is the most abstract of all miniature forms.”
  • “The reduction in scale which the miniature presents skews the time and space relations of the everyday lifeworld, and as an object consumed the miniature finds its ‘use value’ transformed into the infinite time of reverie.”
  • “…and their detachability presents even more possibilities for manipulation. In this rather remarkable phenomenon we thus find the object at least three degrees of removal from everyday life: the distance between the work of art and what it signifies (itself not necessarily ‘representation’), the decontectualization of the work of art within the museum context, and the removal of the museum from the constraints of its physical setting into an almost infinite set of possible arrangements and recontextualizations.”
  • “The miniature’s fixed form is manipulated by individual fantasy rather than by physical circumstances.”
  • “In its tableaulike from, the miniature is a world of arrested time; its stillness emphasizes the activity that is outside its borders. And the effect is reciprocal, for once we attend to the miniature world, the outside world stops and is lost to us.”
  • “The miniature world remains perfect and uncontaminated by the grotesque so long as its absolute boundaries are maintained.”
  • “The miniature, linked to nostalgic versions of childhood and history, presents a diminutive, and thereby manipulate, version of experience, a version which is domesticated and protected from contamination.”
  • “…fairies represent minute perfection of detail and cultured form of nature.”
  • “Like other miniature worlds, the world of fairies presents a hallucination of detail.”
  • “The souvenir both offers a measurement for the normal and authenticates the experience of the viewer.”
  • “The souvenir speaks to a context of origin through a language of longing…”
  • “Because the world of the souvenir offers transcendence to the viewer, it may be seen as a miniaturized one, as a reduction in physical dimensions corresponding to an increase in significance, and as an interiorization of an exterior.” But while the miniature object often speaks to the past, it encapsulates the time of production. Miniature objects are most often exaggerations of the attention to detail, precision, and balance that is characteristic of artisanal culture – a culture which, with the possible exception of microtechnology (the major contemporary producer of miniatures), is considered to have been lost at the dawn of industrial production.”
  • “Thus such objects satisfy the nostalgic desire for use value at the same time that they provide an exoticism of the self.”