ARE CHEAP THRILLS?
I buy Michaels wares and Take A Seat Chairs
And love using bunka's unwindings.
I dismantle phones
And make egg carton stones
And buy rolling carts for my findings.
My adrenaline's pumping when others go dumping
And I love to sift through debris
If they would just ask I'd spare them the task
And take all their garbage for free.
How did I get this way?
a miniaturist teaches us to view the world with new
eyes. For instance, if we can't find this; don't have
that on hand; can't afford what others make; well, we
improvise, and train ourselves to look for things to
therein come the Cheap Thrills which give such pleasure.
in NY wrote me once, "I really want to know how all
of you 'find' great things that I'm missing. How do
you know something can work in a mini scene if you're
not looking for it?"
is not easy to explain what I call junk-snuffing, but
from math, "The whole is equal to the sum of its parts?" This is particularly true for us as crafters. We need
to be able to break a real-life object down into its
component parts, and then look for their equivalents
in miniature. For example, think about a lamp. It consists
of a base, some kind of stem or stand, the light/bulb
element, and some form of shade or cover. A compote
or footed bowl also consists of a base, a stem or stand,
a bowl. When I am prowling, I mentally break apart jewelry
at Goodwill or the dollar store and analyze what each
part might be used for, such as that lamp or compote,
am also always taking apart artificial flowers.
see food! Grapes, berries, lettuce, cabbage! (You can
see the berries in the Anachronon the Wizard's Cart pages;
the lettuces show up in (Grand) Children Projects, Rabbit Gardens, or Lettuce
Have Lunch.) I have also been known to use one of those
frills on a woman's hat!
thing with something made of small pieces of wood, like
a picture frame that could become ceiling molding or
a doorframe, or an import store placemat whose wood
slats or strips could become floor boards or half timbers
in a Tudor room, etc.
making a tent, for example, we need poles, canvas, lacings
or fasteners. It is unlikely that most of us could go
to any store and say, "I need the parts for making a
miniature tent," and find a kit easily. So we have to
ask, "What in the real world could be used for those
skewers or small dowels; a linen handkerchief painted
beige or green, etc. However, with a little roughing
up one can also use those same skewers or dowels to
make tree trunks, and that linen handkerchief could
become a bed sheet or a tablecloth or a dress on a doll.
most miniaturists I know have stocks of things like
skewers and dowels, various weights of fabrics, stores
of jewelry findings and beads, wood pieces of all sizes
and configurations, paper and cardboard of all types
and weights, etc. And, of course, those ubiquitous toothpicks
that can become everything from a stair spindle to a
toy soldier (as well as a pusher tool and glue or paint applier).
eyes become trained to look for things that fit into
our various "stocks." In other words, we need the parts
in order to be able to make the whole. Then when we
want to make something, we go through our stocks and
if a part is missing we can go buy it or track it down.
mother used to tell family stories (I get that trait
from her), and I always knew when she was going into
storytelling mode. She got that inward-turning, not-quite-focused-on-anything
look in her eyes that meant the story was taking over
to tell itself. I
do that when I'm working on my so-called serious writing.
It's almost a trancelike state; the story somehow taking
over to write itself. And even though at that particular
moment I may not know how that piece of writing may
eventually fit into the whole of my story, I trust my
instincts that it will.
I have a feeling that those of us who glean for mini
possibilities probably shift into some kind of similar
state, so that our antennas are always out there waving
when we go junk-snuffing. We don't always know exactly
how we'll use an item, but we can tell if it is a component
part of something.
what most of my Cheap Thrills are; a "Maybe I'll use
this for this," or "Maybe I'll use it for that" kind
think junk-snuffing is a matter of training ourselves
to let go any preconceived notions about what real life
objects are, then trusting our instincts that we will
find what we may not even be consciously looking for,
and will be able to use it later when the Aha! moment
BREAKING THINGS DOWN INTO SMALLER PARTS, as discussed
above. What shape does each part form? Then: Where
can I find a similar shape, or how could I make it?
TAKING APART SOMETHING THAT ALREADY EXISTS AND SEEING
WHAT IT "COULD BE." Disassembling and analyzing
each of the elements in a necklace or bracelet or pair
of earrings, for example, acquaints us with many basic
shapes that can become lots of things in mini. I love
looking through old jewelry, junk drawers and button
COLLECTING THINGS FOR POSSIBLE USE LATER. It can take
a long time to accumulate everything we need for a specific
scene that we might have in mind, but eventually, those
bits often come together for some of our purposes.
saw a beautiful very elaborate brass Russian-type samovar
in a real-life sandwich shop once and mentioned to the
proprietor that I would love to duplicate it in mini
for my own little coffee shop. She found a catalog that
showed pictures of various coffee pots/dispensers, including
that one, and gave it to me.
have been accumulating parts for that samovar for years.
I forget about it for a while, then come across the
plastic drawer with the bits representing the catalog
picture, and start looking through my stashes again.
One of these days I'll finally get it together - and
it will be the star of whatever scene it is in.
4. WILLINGLY PAWING THROUGH JUNK AND LOOKING FOR BARGAINS
EVERYWHERE. Gotta get down and dirty sometimes! Who
knows what treasures lie in that box, basket or bin?
MAKING MULTIPLES. When I finally learned to make silk
roses (I have to turn them in the opposite direction
from most people I know) I was so happy that I obsessively
made silk roses for weeks. I am still using roses from
that prolific period (although I admit I've gotten to
the odd-colored ones). I also did the same thing when
I learned a simple bow-tying technique; made bows and
streamers for weeks!
you make up a lot of plain iced cakes, for example,
you have the basis for settings and gifts and swaps
in the future. You can always add the trims and/or message
later, and if one seems a bit worn, then put a fresh
coat of paint on. Right now I have about 40 bundt cakes
waiting for finishing touches. I got carried away pressing
clay into a little candy mold found at the dollar store
and figured, Oh, heck, I'll see how far this clay mixture
goes. Now, if I need a little gift or small table favor,
I have something for backup if I'm pressed for time.
TEACHING NON-MINIATURISTS HOW TO LOOK AT THINGS. My
neighbor came over for coffee one day and asked what
I'd been doing. "I've been making cookies!" I said, laughing, knowing that she'd laugh too because
I've hardly baked a real-life cookie since my children
left home! I had just concluded a miniature bakery swap,
however, and showed her my prototype and mentioned that
I used buttons as the serving platters for my cookies. The
next day she brought me a bag full of buttons, but looked a bit doubtful.
"I'm not sure if any of these would work ...." she said, her voice trailing off.
poured them out on my kitchen table and looked at them,
one by one, saying things like:
look, this is a platter!
"Picture this one painted: it's a pie with whipped
cream on top.
"Wouldn't that make a perfect bundt cake?"
"This clear one can serve as part of a cake stand.
"This silk fabric covered button could become a
that double handful of buttons I found all kinds of
possibilities, and she was so pleased that she had given
me something I could use. Some
time later she brought over a bag full of baby shower
and wedding corsages she had saved over a long period
of time. "Maybe you can do something with these?"
she asked hopefully. "I never knew exactly why
I saved them."
emptied the bag's contents onto the table and started
stork will work great in a fairytale scene I am working
on. It's just what I need to go with my fairy babies."
"This little baby carriage can be repainted to
be used as a planter in a gift shop, or of course it
could be a toy in a child's room." (NOTE: You can
see one of these made into a planter in the Tutorials pages)
large diaper pin could be hung on the wall in a baby's
room and used as a quilt rack or for hanging baby items
"This rattle could become the base for a lamp,
perhaps, with repainting and the addition of a shade."
"These bells from the wedding corsage painted silver
or bronze and given an aged look could be used in a
church or school house, or they could be abandoned on
a vacant lot ...."
She was so excited: "I knew there was a good reason
I've been saving these," she cried. I have a feeling
from now on she will be looking at lots of things with
SUM UP, Cheap Thrills come from asking:
do I want?
do I have to make it out of?
could I make it out of?
on the clearance table, in the bargain bin, at the dollar
don't I make several of these?
can I show my non-miniaturist friends how much fun I
have ... so they'll bring me some more Cheap Thrills!
lastly, Cheap Thrills come from trusting ourselves enough
to go into that zenlike junk-snuffer mode that will
take us to them.