Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

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.

The Incredible Strangeness of Welcome to Marwen

I really really wanted to like this movie. I wanted to be able to write an unpopular opinion post, stating all the good in the movie that reviewers are overlooking, and trust me I’ve read the reviews looking for a similar take to what I had hoped to write. But sadly, that imagined post is not what this is going to be. I had hoped, being a toy photographer myself, and finding the story of Mark Hogancamp very intriguing, I’d see the movie through a different lens, and maybe I did, but that lens was cloudy all the same.

I did not like Welcome to Marwen.

Spoilers for both the Marwencol documentary and Welcome to Marwen ahead.

For those of you who don’t know, Mark Hogancamp is a hate crime survivor. He made mention at a bar that he likes wearing women’s shoes, and in return got jumped from behind by 5 guys. They beat him nearly to death. He was in a coma for 9 days. When he awoke he had no memory of his prior life. He had to relearn to write, speak and walk. His state funding for medical care ran out after a short time, and he turned to a miniature world for his own version of therapy. His hands were too shaky for smaller scale models, so at the suggestion of the local hobby shop owners, he settled on 1:6 (Barbie) scale and created the fake Belgian town of Marwencol, set within WWII. Previously an alcoholic, he never drank again after the attack. I say this as a precursor, but yes, his views on women are odd. He adores them, but almost from a distance. They are different than people, better, held on a pedestal, and yet more empty. I could chalk this up to simply poor social skills relearned after the coma, but who really knows.

A man with an interest in women’s shoes, a non-remembered past, PTSD, Nazis, strange views on women, and art as therapy, and you have an incredibly interesting documentary. Add up the same, add in CGI animation, a more forward main character, and an opioid addiction, and you have a very strange plot for a feature film.

So, let’s start from the beginning. Today I went to Regal theater down the road on my own. I’m loyal to Regal because they got me to sign up for a rewards card at the mall in middle school, and for some reason that makes me like them. I went on my own because no one else wanted to go. I could have easily dragged my boyfriend along this evening, but I decided to spare him and have popcorn for lunch while he was at work.

The man at the ticket counter had to have me repeat the name of the movie.

I got into the theater at 1:17, 7 minutes past showtime. The previews were rolling and I was the only one in the room. The movie started at 1:29 and it was still just me.

Contrary to what you’ll read, Hoagie, the CGI/action figure Steve Carell, does not climb out of his crash landed plane in heels. His military issued boots burn off, he finds a woman’s luggage and thus her patent leather heels and places them on his bare feet. Practical.

You’ll also read about terrible animation, but I personally think it worked. They’re plactic GI Joes, Barbies and the like, made to look like their voice actors. Some reviewers found it creepy, I honestly think it was well done.

An employee walked in a few minutes after the movie began and I thought for a moment I’d have company, but alas, my private viewing continued.

One thing is for sure, I can completely relate to having trouble getting plastic figures to stay standing.

There are some immaculately built miniatures in this movie. The bar in itself would have cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, custom 1:6 scale figures with articulation are expensive enough. Real life Mark makes all of his scenery with plywood and the like.

Also, Nicol and her douchy ex do not exist in real life. Nicol works as a stand in for other woman in Mark’s real life, however I thought Kurt was pretty unnecessary as a dramatic plot point, as Mark already has plenty to overcome without an angry man occasionally popping in across the street and speaking in German at him.

Welcome to Marwen also fails to mention Mark’s mom, but it does include a Russian care taker, that I assume is filling that role.

Okay, so enough about the differences for the moment. My main concern with these is whether or not I would have known what was going on, had I not been familiar with the documentary to fill in the gaps. And while yes, I could have watched and followed the movie, I would have been even more confused as to why Mark and the dolls of Marwen were the way they were. The dialogue is so stunted. Mark is a broken character that I have so much sympathy for one second, and a chipper almost condescending one the next. While I don’t think they meant him as condescending, the tone of voice in which he says “Cool! Espadrille wedges. Thank you.” bothered me so much. And yet, when he’s experiencing PTSD in the hobby shop I wanted to cry for him. Steve Carell did speak with the real Mark Hogancamp as to how his disabilities effect his movement and such, but I didn’t actually get the vibe that Carell was trying to be a similar character to Mark, more his own version of someone in this situation.

So anyway, then come the jokes about tiets and sausages surrounding the story of the milk maid Hoagie rescued. The milk maid dies about 5 seconds later and thus was only there for these jokes that don’t even land. Granted I only have my own sense of humor to weigh these against, but they were, in my opinion, just super cringy.

Side note, if you don’t want to be visited by a creepy witch while you sleep, don’t put her next to your bed. Symbolism I know, but come on. If you haven’t seen the movie and that makes no sense, Deja, the witch of Marwen is a symbol for Mark’s addiction. Her hair and glove are the same color as his pills, she tells him she is the only thing that understands him. We later learn that Deja is also a Nazi spy and she is banned from Marwen. So she also seems to symbolize Mark learning to recover from his PTSD, because without Deja the Nazis stop coming back to life. Mark does not have an addiction in real life, but Deja is one of his dolls, and she is jealous. Hoagie marries her, and ends up with 2 wives, to keep the peace of Marwencol.

By 2:06 I was bored. And just after, the Barbie stand in for the hobby shop owner that has a crush on Mark gets her shirt ripped open by the Nazis. Yay doll boobs. At 2:10 the employee came back through.

Mark inevitably shows off his shoe collection to his new neighbor Nicol. Her character is odd. Again, I imagine we know her only through Mark, and thus her existence seems empty. Shes an overtly female stereotype with heels, sundresses and a teapot collection, and she gets much too distressed about a minor amount of fake blood. Mark tells her that he does not have a shoe fetish, but that he is collecting women’s essences. And I have nothing against shoe fetishes if that’s your thing, but I sure have something against the phrase “collecting women’s essence.”

At 2:28 two teenagers snuck in. They peered around at me, giggled, then quickly receded back into the hall and continued to snicker. They came back up the hall at 2:31 and ducked into side seats near the front. I wonder if the immediate gunshots, Mark watching creepy porn and PTSD screaming confused them.

At 2:50, just after Mark proposes to Nicol (so cringe, please stop), an old couple snuck in. Like I get the whole movie hopping thing, but what are you hoping to get from a movie an hour and a half after it’s started?

More doll boob humor. But I must admit, I thought Hoagie’s head spinning all the way around in the church, and then the SS soldier taking off his arm in the next scene to reach his gun were kinda funny.

The old couple left at 3:08. They only lasted 28 minutes. The teenagers stayed until the end.

Roberta, the hobby shop owner is not a person in Mark’s real life. Instead, his local hobby shop is run by a nice old couple. Roberta however, was a refreshing woman in the movie. She is real and sympathetic and not so empty like the other featured women. She clearly has a thing for Mark, and we have some hope at the end of the movie that maybe they’ll get together. At the same time Mark also gives us hope that he’s learning to separate his real life from his imagined world, as he showed us wasn’t so separate earlier in the movie.

The documentary also gives a similar hope in the final scene of Mark at his gallery show, as he has the bravery to put on his shoes of choice. Mark in Welcome to Marwen is less shy altogether about his shoes, so they had to offer him another type of growth moment.

While we aren’t told what the sentences for Mark’s attackers, seemingly Nazis, but not so in real life, are in Welcome to Marwen, I’ve read only 3 of the 5 got prison time – 1 with 9 years and 2 with 5 years each. By the time the documentary was filmed in 2010, 10 years after the attack, all the men are out of prison and out and about in the same town with Mark.

With the violent animation, PG-13 rating, dolls in lingerie/ sexual attraction to dolls, and multiple uses of boob and penis jokes, I’ve come to the conclusion that this movie was never intended for families or children. That’s all well and good, but honestly it only seems that a few select instagram toy brotographers would laugh at the oddly placed jokes and what a niche group that is to make a movie for.

This and the documentary of the same story are intimate looks at the inner workings of a broken man. And I give the film makers credit for taking on such a task. So overall, sure, still see the movie. But, go into it to see what a stunning confusing mess it is, not to learn about Mark Hogancamp’s true, inspiring story. You can instead rent the documentary on itunes here.

What a weird movie.

Have you seen either Welcome to Marwen or Marwencol? What are your thoughts?

A Delightfully Cute Dollhouse Line

I’ve found just about the cutest dollhouse line. I have no interest in it photography wise, but my goodness it’s cute.

HABA is a German company that’s been in business for 80 years. Their US operation is based in New York and their toys are manufactured in Germany and Asia.

Little Friends is one of HABA’s toy lines. The dolls are a bendable plastic, and their environments and accessories are made of wood and fabric.

Their buildings are simplistic but whimsical, and because of their simplicity, run much less expensive than the typical dollhouse.

This Homestead Farm for example is $29.99.

I really have nothing of depth to say here, just wanted you all to join in on the cuteness. Also, wouldn’t this make a great wedding cake topper?

Learn more, or buy some stuff here. This is not a sponsored post, I’m just enamored.Β