Miniature treehouses, flower arrangements and sculptures, along with impossibly detailed tiny kitchens, filled the Courtyard by Marriott this weekend at a big event for those obsessed with a small scale.
The Society of American Miniaturists has always held its annual conference in a central part of the state. They used to meet in Salado but switched to Killeen this year and plan to maintain the location. About 100 people from across Texas registered for the closed event.
“I think a lot of it is spending the weekend with a bunch of people that have a common interest,” Keely Carson, president of the Society of American Miniaturists, said, regarding the conference’s draw. “Collaboration and sharing of ideas is a big driver. People come to learn new techniques and different ways to approach things.”
Some people like to make the mini items, while others just enjoy collecting them, said Carolyn Denning, vice president and event coordinator.
The hobby extends to a national and international level, as well. A large show in Chicago draws about 300 vendors alone, and a quality desk could sell for $2,000 to $3,000, Denning said in explanation of how seriously into miniatures some people are.
“Some like to do fantasy stuff and some like to make realistic stuff,” she said. “Some just do Christmas, some are into the dolls, and plenty don’t include dolls at all.”
Whatever a person’s interest, the main draw is the creative outlet, according to Charlotte Serold, who has been with the society for 24 years.
“To us, this is an art form to be creative with,” Serold said. “Some people do quilts and painting, and this is what we do. We just love miniatures, it’s our creative passion.”
A vendor room was set up at the conference, as well, which each vendor selling a particular kind of miniature.
“There are many people who specialize in making one or two types of items,” Serold said. “There is a woman who makes tree houses, and one who works with fabric that has to-scale print.”
Serold’s husband does woodworking on a miniature lathe.
“They can sell their items and teach the rest of us,” Serold said of why a specialty is beneficial. “The classes are set up to share that information.”
Workshops are the main activity of the weekend. There were eight options Friday night and more classes running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Some, like the quarter scale house, lasted all day.
“There are different scales in miniatures to choose from,” Denning said. “The most popular is the twelfth scale, where one inch equals one foot. The one-quarter scale is a quarter to a foot. There are many different scales that get smaller and smaller.”
The majority of the workshops were in the twelfth scale, and topics included string and bead plant hangers, trimming a Christmas tree, and a multi class lesson on how to build a tiki bar, including the hut, rum bottles and other accessories.
Saturday evening the society held a banquet, which was followed by a live auction. A variety of projects were displayed throughout the weekend.
Last year participants were given tea cups to build dioramas inside, on a quarter inch scale. This year, the society will vote on the best one — most of them depicted Alice in Wonderland and one was Dr. Seuss themed.
Also on display was a tiki hut Serold built that won a ribbon in the Texas State Fair years ago. Many of the members enter their projects in the State Fair in a variety of categories, including scratch built, kit and diorama.
Miniatures are a hobby for all ages, the members agreed. Member Nancy Welenski said she’s been interested in the mini world most of her life.
“I grew up in a military family,” she said. “When we moved, the rule was that we got one box. I found out really fast that you can get a lot of minis in one box. My brothers could fit one basketball, but I could put in all of my minis and craft supplies and would build the house out of shoe boxes.”
“It’s still addictive and expensive and more fun than I’ve ever had.”