Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

My Muses

I wrote a list back in April of 2017 on toyphotographers.com about my 5 favorite figures to photograph. While those 5 will always remain near and dear to my heart, my current muses are much different. 

Here, in brief is my old list:

My current list is comprised of both figures I have and figures I intend to have, and items that aren’t figures at all. The items that have been circling my mind and bringing me photo ideas.

I’ve been inspired so fully by these dollhouses as of late, most specifically my grey one (more details on that house in a future post).

And here they are.

  • Victoria’s Dollhouse painted grey – I got this house over 2 years ago, finally built it last year over the course of a few months, then found and sourced furniture and accessories for it that I painted all the same shade of grey, to match Body Chan’s plastic tone
  • SH Figuarts Body Chan – the 1:12 scale inspiration for my monochrome dollhouse and further photo series
  • TBLeague 1/12 Seamless Body – this one I don’t have just yet, but I have ideas for her circling in my mind. She’ll have a less structured series I think, which I may just need when I finish up my Monochrome/Polychrome work
  • And tiny 1:12 scale clothing I intend to give to the TBLeague doll upon her arrival. These are just examples, not necessarily my final selection.

What are you really into photographing or dreaming about photographing these days?

A Belated Review of The Miniaturist (and a brief history)

The Miniaturist is a novel written by Jessie Burton. It was adapted into a mini series by PBS Masterpiece Theater which was released in 3 parts in September of 2018.

A limited number of spoilers are ahead.

I read the novel around November of last year and finally watched the series in full today. This is a review of the series, but I will inevitably be comparing it to the novel throughout.

We begin in Amsterdam in 1686. A young woman, Petronella, has reluctantly agreed to an arranged marriage to a wealthy man in order to have her family’s debts paid off. When Petronella arrives at her new home, we meet the strict mistress of the house, Nella’s now sister in law, the unmarried Marin, and later in the evening, Nella’s aloof and often absent new husband, Johannes, joins the scene.

As a wedding gift, Johannes gives Petronella a cabinet house. Specifically, a 9 room miniature model of her own new home, built into a cabinet. Marin, the keeper of Johannes’ books, is furious with this frivolous purchase, but reluctantly gives Nella Smits list, a listing of all the craftsmen in town. Nella finds a miniaturist and writes to him (we later find out this person is female) for a lute, marzipan and a bird cage. From this point forward the miniaturist sends Nella unexpected, increasingly daunting miniature gifts – members of her family appear little by little, each showing family secrets before anyone in the family itself know them.

I’ve tried to research whether or not Smits List really existed in history, and haven’t been able to find what I’m looking for. I do imagine however, there would have been similar registers for finding local craftsmen.

The novel ebbs and flows and sucks you in to every thought in Petronella’s mind. I was trapped within the pages and read the whole thing within a few days time. The novel spares no detail, yet still each remains pertinent to the story, to Petronella’s coming of age. For, The Miniaturist plays on miniatures as a mirror to the real world, and thus the story is less about miniatures, and more about Petronella’s changing view of the world around her.

“For every woman is the architect of her own fortune.”

The series moves much more quickly and didn’t truly draw me in to the 3rd and final episode. We don’t see Nella and Johannes’ trust and friendship grow which I feel like is an important part of what leads to Nella’s actions in the 3rd episode. Other details are missed of course, but such is the nature of screen adaptations.

Both the novel and the series, while being historical dramas still grapple with issues that plague our modern culture, specifically racism and homophobia, and handle both topics remarkably well. The novel, holding more details within its pages has more time to flesh out these topics, but the series still does not shy away from them.

In the series we actually get to meet the mysterious miniaturist. She remains a complete mystery, except through the words of her father in the novel, yet in the series she’s a young, pale, hyper observant woman, that also seems to occasionally have visions. I actually liked the addition of her voice within the series. Enough of her still remained a mystery, with room for interpretation, but her life was broadened to that of her own and not completely one of Petronella’s (and the other women of the town’s) world.

Another benefit to the series of course, is seeing the beautifully ornate miniatures.

Petronella Oortman and her cabinet house are true pieces of history, however the whole of this story around them is imagined. The real Petronella Oortman was a wealthy widow when she married Johannes Brandt. She commissioned her cabinet house and decorated it from 1686 to 1710. The elaborate dollhouse was passed down to her daughter after her death, it was later bought by the state, and then later the Rijksmuseum, where it remains on display today, in 1875.

Cabinet houses came to exist in the 17th century, precisely when this story is set. Men had cabinets to display pieces from their travels, and women came to show off their wealth with these large display pieces.

The house and its contents you see in PBS’s The Miniaturist were created by Mulvany & Rogers. These 2 are art historians who have been creating the highest quality 1:12 scale miniatures for 30 years. Carol Cook was further commissioned to make some of the tiny details, such as the little cookies. And Ann High created the hand carved wooden cradle. Julie Campbell made the stunning dolls to match the faces of the actors and yet be made in a 17th century style. The costume department actually made tiny outfits for the dolls, which I think is a pretty cool detail.

Overall, I’d recommend both the novel and series. If I had to pick just one I’d choose the novel, but it’s really up to how you prefer to absorb your entertainment.

I truly just wish they used more episodes to further flesh out the story. I wanted to further feel Marin’s pain as she holds her own secrets and those of her brother on her shoulders, see more of Nella’s business dealings as she tries to save her family, see Johannes’ and Nella’s appreciation of each other truly develop, feel more of a heavy loss for Johannes’ because I’d truly gotten to know him and his inner turmoil. Overall, like my review of Welcome to Marwen, I may have been able to further appreciate the series had I not had the book to compare it to. But I liked it all the same, just for different reasons.

If you’d like to watch The Miniaturist, you can pledge a $5 monthly donation to PBS through their website, or get a free monthly trial of PBS Masterpiece through Amazon Prime if you already have a subscription there. You can also of course buy the DVD or a digital copy. Find these options here.

You can also purchase the novel here.

Want to read more? Check out these articles:

Have you seen or read The Miniaturist? What are your thoughts.

Vitamin Deficiency and trying to get medical professionals to listen

This might seem off topic for this space, but it is about me, and does effect my art making and while I realize my health issues are far from the worst, I’m hoping those of you who have gone through something similar can see you’re not alone and I’m also hoping to further the conversation about how medical professionals, and the world as a whole, need to take women seriously (and well, people in general).

In July of 2017 I began to get vibrations up my right leg that would radiate through my spine and right arm. Imagine placing 5 cell phones on vibrate into your right thigh, and that’s roughly the sensation I was experiencing. I was also constantly tired.

I let this go on for 4 months.

I’ve had plenty of medical issues in the past that get brushed off for years until suddenly a doctor realizes I haven’t been exaggerating or stressed. For example, my freshman year of college (2009/10) I got severe nausea and stomach pain every time I ate or drank. I went to a stomach specialist for 2 years, being put through numerous tests. At the end of the 2 years she told me I must just be stressed and stopped scheduling any further testing.

The summer before my freshman year of college I got strep throat for the first time. It obviously wasn’t pleasant. After that time I often got strep like symptoms. This came to truly effect me, when around junior year of college (2011/12) I got strep about once a month.

The summer after college I got a job at a summer camp. I had to have a physical before hand and the nurse made an off hand comment that I had the biggest tonsils he’d ever seen. When I got back from camp I went to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. He didn’t want to remove my tonsils until he had proof that they were truly a problem. I had to go back 4 more times, each when I had strep to prove that this was an issue.

It was in the tonsillectomy that he discovered my tonsils were severely infected. So goes my ongoing strep. Also, every time I ate or drank I was swallowing pus (sorry for the visual) and hence all my stomach issues were solved.

So now back to 2017. I finally went to the doctor for my body vibrations. She sent me for an x-ray to test for arthritis, the neurologist to test for carpel tunnel (he had me come back for a follow up to see how far advanced my carpel tunnel was, after apparently noting on my chart that I definitely didn’t have carpel tunnel…), she encouraged me to go see a therapist, and then sent me for blood work.

December 2017 my B-12 results were 221 pg/mL. Healthy range is considered 232 – 1,245 pg/mL. I began taking 1500mcg of sublingual B-12 daily. In February of 2018 my level was up to 766pg/mL and the doctor also had my iron level checked. It was low as well 10 ng/mL when it should be 15 – 150 ng/mL. I began taking 300mcg of iron every other day. I got pretty bad stomach pains so backed off to 3 times per week, then down to 2. By April by B-12 was 914pg/mL.

At this point the B-12 shots and follow up appointments stopped. I was no longer experiencing body vibrations but my fatigue had exponentially increased. I would wake up, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed and then wake up for work again the next morning. The internet told me this is what happens when recovering from vitamin deficiency. I was sleeping roughly 12 hours per night. I would try to force myself to stay awake, but was unable.

6 or so months later I felt like a human again.

January 31, 2018 my right arm from my elbow down became numb. The right side of my neck aches and itches. But if I scratch it it hurts. I have sharp joint pain in my elbow and knuckles. Often the entirety of the right side of my body is numb. I can’t gear my grip strength and have found myself having to adjust how I hold a pencil or fork. I’m having balance issues and sometimes become dizzy. My resting heart rate is about 100bpm. It’s difficult to write and type (this blog post is taking way too long to type out) and I’ve been dropping things all too often.

I went to the doctor 2 weeks after this all began to happen. She asked me about abuse, stroke symptoms, etc. and referred me again to the neurologist. I told her about the pain, about the numbness through my right side and she continually said back “well since there’s no pain,” “well since it’s just in your hand…” She assured me not to worry, it was probably all just stress. And then also ordered a full course of blood work.

My B-12 level is now way higher than it should be at 1801 pg/mL. I’ve been told to stop taking B-12 immediately, which I completely understand but also deeply worries me. I don’t want to slip into deficiency again. You might say this can be solved with more blood work in time, but as of now no one is suggesting that.

And now, I’m also vitamin D deficient with a level of 13.2 ng/mL, when healthy range is considered 30.0 – 100.0 ng/mL. So now begins once weekly vitamin D2 pills.

I asked for a referral for a Dietitian, but was instead just asked why I would want to see one. Don’t worry, I’ll find one on my own.

If I’m consistently vitamin deficient, either something larger is going on in my body, or I really need to iron out with a professional what I eat and drink. Instead I feel very little support from doctors, and am tired of having to wait until my symptoms are severe for anyone to be willing to listen.

Peers have told me to just go outside, just drink some orange juice, just take some iron. But this is bigger than one tiny little fix, and I’m so so tired of not being taken seriously.

Connecting through Toys

I always wonder why I do what I do. Not in a negative or judgmental sense, but just because I like knowing myself.

As far as toys, miniatures and toy photography I’ve written and spoken about their draw numerous times. Here’s a few:

But the first 2 are generalized lists, for the world as a whole, and while the last talks about my coming into the photography of toys, I think my relationship with toys goes farther back in my history.

You may say this is obvious. Toys are a very important part of childhood. Through them we learn and role play the outside world, they help us develop our gender identities, spatial awareness, problem solving, etc. So, in this, my childhood was little different than that of other children in a similar economic class in America at the time. I lined up my beanie babies, and dressed and re-dressed my barbies, just like anyone else.

Although some of my friends did have vastly different opinions than me on what Barbie should be doing with her life. Some shocking at a young age, but maybe this speaks to what we each saw in our personal lives. I always wanted someone to have a broken leg, a phenomenon I had never experienced, but I wanted to nurture said figure back to health. I don’t remember ever having Barbie date, my tiny self couldn’t care less about such things. My cul-de-sac neighbor however, who had a teenaged older sister, wanted Barbie to go on dates, make out with Ken, and give birth. There was a crucial step missing there, but we didn’t know that at the time. Another neighbor’s Barbie was quite depressed, but that’s a story for another time.

I’m sure child psychologists analyze how children play as a clue into their inner workings all the time. I know they use drawings to analyze the same.

And while I’m not a psychologist, and have not spoken to one about my use of toys in my artistic work, I’ve been thinking about my ongoing relationship with toys and tiny things.

For this past Christmas, I got my boyfriend’s mom a 40th anniversary Lonely Doll set that included a mini color reprint of the first book and a replica doll and teddy bear. The original book by Dar Wright came out in 1957, therefore this set was released in 1997, considered an antique itself now. I learned about the photography and writings of Dare Wright through Tracy (my boyfriend’s mom). They were her favorite books as a child and she opened my eyes to this very early toy photography, that seems to be missing from the toy photography conversation, even though the books themselves were so highly recognized at the time. A toy and book set I now feel a connection to Tracy through.

Also, for Christmas, I got my dad a 50th anniversary Hot Wheels set. 7 black and gold mini cars, models of the original toys released by the brand. My sister and I grew up playing with some of my dad’s old Hot Wheels, I brought home a decent selection of mini cars I photographed at work as a gift for my boyfriend’s nephew, and my dad wanted to look through them, he still talks about his larger collection he had as a kid that his mom got rid of, and was excited when we found a few of his cars in a box in the attic from my parent’s recent move. Toys, again, that I connect with him through.

My photography isn’t about nostalgia, it’s about telling stories, although it is nostalgia for some toy photographers. I see toys as a way of forming connections, because I think, most of us, if presented with toys of our childhood, would feel that nostalgia, that wonder. And no matter if you still choose to bring toys into your adult life, they will always hold a special place in your heart because of how they formed you through childhood. Because of this, you connect with them too, the icons of plastic and miniaturized worlds speak to you, maybe even in a deeper way than photos of real, full sized people ever could. But I’ll leave that last little bit up to your own opinion.

Tiny Interior Design

Tastemade has truly found itself in the world of miniatures. We’ve talked about their mini cooking and constuction, and recently they’ve posted a mini interior design video.

While the mini moment seems to have settled a little, Tastemade knows that the internet is very much in love with miniatures, and they’re basking in the views.

I can’t say as much here as in my last posts as to how you can do the same. If you’re looking to, it’s simply a matter of shopping for dollhouse scale accessories online, or in store if you’re lucky enough to have a dollhouse shop near by. You can find individual makers at places like Etsy and Ebay, or mass produced items over on miniatures.com and Dollhouse Heaven, and even Amazon.

I can however, offer you the video for your amusement.

The Dolls of Welcome to Marwen

Some of you lovely people found my blog searching for what kind of figures were used in the movie Welcome to Marwen. But to yours, and my disappointment, I didn’t have any info about that topic here at all. So, today I’m fixing that!

The Mark Hogancamp in the fictional framework of Welcome to Marwen collects female Glaminista dolls and articulated, collectible military figures.

Glaminista is a fake brand created for the movie, however, there are very similar brands in real life.

If you’re looking to get your hands on an articulated 1:6 scale female doll, your cheapest and most similar to Glaminista option is a Made to Move Barbie. They’re easiest to find their sports uniforms and yoga gear, but you can re-paint and redress them as Mark does to fit your needs. The real Mark Hogancamp uses Barbies and off brand fashion dolls for his photography.

Want something on more of a collectible level? Check out Integrity fashion dolls. Much more expensive, but quite beautiful and fully articulated.

As for soldiers, Monkey Kingdom has some super high quality, and by their nature, pricey 1:6 WWII military figures. For the same, also check out Modeller’s Loft and War Toys.

There’s even a figure when you search “Kurt SS.” In searching this, I learned that Kurt Meyer was a real, high ranking, SS official. Forgive my WWII knowledge or lack thereof.

If you’re looking for figures less than $100, GI Joe is a good bet, however their figures are much less detailed and their joints aren’t made for much movement.

Hope this bit of info helps. Good luck searching and collecting!

Know of even better options? Let me know in a comment below.

2018, A Reflection

What a year 2018 has been. I thought about not posting a reflection this year, for the first time ever, but I think it’s been a good practice to truly focus on how I’ve grown in my art, online presence, etc.

This year I’ve learned to take my creative process in stride. I can be very hard on myself for not creating. But life gets in the way. Weather you’re busy, or just physically or mentally unable, take care of yourself first and the art will come when it needs to.

I’ve switched my focuses between making photos, creating videos, writing blog posts and just relaxing. And while I probably haven’t made as many photos this year, or written as many blog posts, as I did last year, I’m happier with what I have made.

I’ve focused on making art this year rather than showing it. While I do intend to get my pieces published or in gallery shows, I want to make sure the work is full and complete first. That said, my in progress series – Monochrome, was featured on Exclu Collective’s site back in September. A still from my series Headlights will be shown in Rome this coming January thanks to LoosenArt. And the whole of my 5 part series, Survival was on view in Yonkers, NY, and now for sale online through D. Thomas Fine Miniatures.

As for books, I created the design and layout for, and had a featured spread within the Toy Photographers 2017 book which was released this past January! The 2018 book should be released soon. I pulled back from their blog throughout this past year to focus on my own work, but did publish a post on Aphantasia and believe I will have a blurb in the upcoming book. Speaking of, I also learned I have Aphantasia this year. If you’re interested in learning more, click the link to read about it. I have another, possibly more detailed, post coming up, but I’m waiting on a bit of info for it.

Jacob Makaya also released his book 100 Dreams and their Biblical Interpretations in both English and Swahili versions this past year, with my image and design work on the covers!

It’s been just over a year now since I began posting on YouTube semi-regularly. My style of videos has changed a bit over the year as I find a balance between what I enjoy creating and what people like to watch.

And last, but certainly not least, I was featured on an episode of the Toy Photographer’s podcast!

In 2019 I hope to complete my Monochrome/Polychrome series and publish it in a process driven hard cover book. I also want to push myself to spread my art farther online – although I’m still brain storming exactly how I’m going to go about this. I also have plans for images involving a new 1:12 scale figure, as well as some wisps of ideas for other images. The best place to see those right as they’re produced is on instagram, but I’ll post them here as I have multiple images to share together. And my list of video ideas keeps growing as well, but those are slower moving. I may be traveling a lot for work, so I also hope to figure out how to incorporate new locations/travel into my photo process. As for the rest of 2019 we’ll just have to see what it brings.

What have your 2018 accomplishments been? Large or small, it doesn’t matter, share them in a comment below. And what do you hope 2019 will bring?

Real Mini Food for Mini Cooking

I got a comment on one of my mini cooking posts recently on where to get the food necessary for doing your own mini cooking. Once I also discovered a similar question in my blog searches a few times I thought it was time to do a formal post on the matter.

If you haven’t yet, also be sure to check out:

Now, I haven’t discussed real mini food previously, because the fact of the matter is that mini chefs use real full size food for the post part. A pinch of flour and sugar for cake, milk carefully dripped into a smaller container, a tiny pinch of ground beef for meatballs, etc. Before filming their videos, they simply pair off tiny portions of exactly what would go into a full size recipe.

via https://www.hidden58.farm/blogs/post/Chicken-Eggs-Vs-Quail-Eggs/

There are a few items however you can buy smaller varieties of – say a cherry or grape tomato. Or lesser known, a quail egg, rather than one from a chicken, a shallot in place of a red onion.

For things like peppers, chicken breast, and the majority of other meats and vegetables, cut off slivers and shaped pieces before you begin filming, rather than including the whole large item.

The tiny food containers you see mini chefs using, they’ve likely made themselves, printing and cutting out labels from the internet, and creating the containers out of thin cardboard or cardstock.

Just a quick warning that I’ve included in my previous posts – As with any cooking, in any scale, you need to use supplies that are safe to cook with. Dollhouse miniature kitchen supplies you buy from the miniature sections of shops have a coating that will bubble and release fumes if exposed to heat. Be sure to use cookware that is uncoated metal, safe to use ceramic cookware, or uncoated cast iron. If you mini cook with the incense or antique variety that can be found in the first post listed above, the cast iron and metal accessories that come with them are made to be exposed to heat and therefore will be safe for your mini cooking.

via https://www.asweetpeachef.com/whats-the-difference-between-onions/

Here’s a chart that may help you find your small food alternatives.

Recipe Calls forSmall Alternative
Dry Baking IngredientsUse small pinches of standard items
EggQuail Egg
FishAnchovy, Sardine, and any other small, sometimes canned variety
LiquidsUse a medicine dropper to fill a small container
Meat, Cheese, Fruit & VegetablesPinch or cut off bits of full size items
MushroomsEnoki or White Beach (Shimeji)
OnionShallot (Baby or Pearl), or the tiny core of a red onion
PastaPastina, Orzo, or broken Angel Hair or rice noodles
ShrimpExtra small shrimp
TomatoGrape Tomato

Anything else you’d like added to the chart above? Let me know in a comment below and I’ll do my best to get it on the list.