Pocket Worlds

The Art of Making Miniatures

By: Zeinner

         Any kid who’s ever come in contact with modeling clay can relate to the feeling of seeing, and especially making, diminutive versions of everyday objects and creatures. There is a sense of awe in having a lion that can perch on your hand, or a train track that can run around in your living room, or a person no larger than the tip of your finger. Miniatures carry with them a sort of magic, the ability not only to tell their own stories but also to allow you to tell stories through them. The appeal of creating a whole world that can fit inside a shoebox is something that captivated me long before I could form proper sentences. As a small kid, I made tiny clay animals and loved every part of doing it. I found a special interest in making shrunken-down versions of dinosaurs, and before I realized, I had a plethora of them sitting on my shelf. I don’t exactly know where this ardent interest came from, or why it has stuck with me for so long, but rest assured, it definitely has some kind of magic to it.

An Odd Hobby

         Making miniatures is a niched hobby and quite an oddball one, being akin to clockmaking, until the last few years. Through Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and other media, this hobby has grown considerably, not just in demographics but in diversity. With the advent of new tools and the wonder that is 3D printing, the methods of making them are also expanding. Whereas before the hobby was narrowed to the military and architectural niches, now it has an abundance of different applications, from fully working machines to board game characters, and in my case, prehistoric animals. It is a great hobby for someone who enjoys working with their hands, as, depending on what you decide to do, you might take a dive into almost every hand-building technique from woodworking to framing, and maybe even wiring. Making miniatures requires you to be able to plan and organize yourself, and to have a good understanding of the subject you are replicating. Attention to detail is key, each element needs its own special treatment. It is no swift process, just researching your subject can take hours to months depending on the complexity, and making it will require a good amount of time as well. But the end result, when people look at that dime-sized replica perching on the tip of your finger and say “Oh my, that’s so tiny!” is truly satisfying.

Miniatures and Me

         Aside from the occasional modeling clay dinosaurs, I had never done much with this hobby. That was until 10th grade when I started my personal project. This time I decided to make something (ironically) big out of many tiny things. I made three dioramas, which are models representing a scene of what a prehistoric landscape would look like in 3D. I did my research, which took a whole 6 months, as I investigated every detail from climate to plants, and finally, the animals that lived at a specific place and time. Making the three dioramas took around 2 months.

         The dioramas were made on a minuscule scale of 1:200 - that is, with each centimeter representing 2 meters in real life - so that I could fit all of the behemoth-sized animals. The larger animals weren’t that hard to make, the small ones though, they were quite a challenge. The smallest I made was no larger than 2 millimeters.

         People would ask me “How do you make them so small?!” and I would jokingly answer “Witchcraft.” Though I worked mostly with my hands, using the very tip of my fingers to model out the shapes and volumes of each animal, plant, and terrain, I would also resort to some tools to get those really fine details. These tools included - but were not limited to - dentist’s tools, wires, “churrasco” sticks, many varieties of tweezers, and some random scraps of wood or metal I’d find thrown away in the street. The animals were sculpted with biscuit dough, the terrain was made from plaster, the plants were a combination of cotton, sawdust, ground paper, and whatever else I could think of, and the water was made by the expensive but awesome-looking epoxy resin.
         After doing my research, watching some YouTube videos, and getting my materials, I started getting my hands dirty, quite literally. Since last year, I started expanding my tools and materials. Now I alternate between using the air-drying biscuit dough and the oven-baked Super Sculpey polymer clay. I have a few more tools as well, some were bought and some I made myself with wood, wire, needles, and razors (Careful, they are sharp! I found out the hard way)

Current WIPs

         In April, I went back to making more miniatures. I’m planning on making three mini dioramas inside small glass and acrylic jars. They are currently a work-in-progress, but you can see updates on them (as well as some of my previous miniatures and artwork) on my Instagram account @zeinnner.paula. The dioramas are a giveaway from when I reached 1200 followers, each representing a different prehistoric animal/place. I’m currently working on the first of them, a scene where two dinosaurs named Bravoceratops walk across a riverbank, surprising a ray that was swimming by. Miniature fish are also in the scene, and though not yet my smallest miniatures, they are certainly one of the most detailed in terms of size, having fins, interesting colors and everything (I even managed to put eyes on one of them). They are so small I had to paint them with needles.
         It is not a hobby you see being talked about a lot, and I hope you found it an interesting new thing, and perhaps you might also give it a try yourself. I am always happy to answer any questions on social media, and I am planning on opening up for commissions some time next month in case any of you want to have a tiny behemoth on your shelf.

Miniatures and Me

         Aside from the occasional modeling clay dinosaurs, I had never done much with this hobby. That was until 10th grade when I started my personal project. This time I decided to make something (ironically) big out of many tiny things. I made three dioramas, which are models representing a scene of what a prehistoric landscape would look like in 3D. I did my research, which took a whole 6 months, as I investigated every detail from climate to plants, and finally, the animals that lived at a specific place and time. Making the three dioramas took around 2 months.

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