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Our good friend Rebecca Micallef, who is a fantastic miniaturist and dolls’ house collector, recently finished a very special project, her J.R Art Gallery.
We’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Rebecca where she gives us some insight into her work and what went into the creation of this beautiful miniature. Enjoy!
Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for agreeing to sit down with us for a chat. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I am pleased to be here. My name is Rebecca Micallef. I am from the Maltese Islands. I guess I am a dolls’ house miniaturist. I am a very busy lady I would say. I’m a mum of 3 young kids. I work as an Assistant Principal within the Local Government and I run my own miniature business through Etsy. I enjoy making my own miniatures especially for my dolls houses. It gives me a great satisfaction to be able to create something so small in detail.
How did you first become interested in dolls’ houses?
That is quite a difficult question, because as far as my memory goes, I always loved dolls’ houses. I had my first dolls’ house at the age of four which I still have and it’s still in an immaculate condition. It’s been over 20 years now since I started building my collection of dolls’ houses.
I remember I was only 17 when I started building my first dolls house. It wasn’t easy, due to the fact that the term “Dolls’ Houses” in Malta is a complete taboo. You won’t find any dolls’ house or miniature shops anywhere. The internet was still pretty new at the time and I remember when I actually had access to the internet through my home computer that I went through a search engine and typed the word “dolls’ houses” and from there a whole new world opened its doors to me. I guess from that day forth, I never looked back.
We love your J.R. Art Gallery, the attention to detail is incredible! Congratulations on such a stunning result. What was the inspiration for the project?
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so happy that you liked it. I have this street of dolls’ house shops called Regent Street and I wanted to add the Dolls’ House Emporium Corner Shops to it. Very honestly I had many ideas for it but they didn’t really stick. A few weeks before I started working on it, a dear friend of mine and fellow miniaturist artist José Pereira Torrejón sent me gifts of two miniature paintings on canvas which he had painted himself for me. I was blown away with the detail of the paintings especially on such a small scale. At first, I thought of adding them to one of my dolls houses, but it didn’t feel right. I thought the paintings deserved to be in a more prominent place. Finally, inspiration hit and I kept picturing these paintings in an art gallery which it would have suited them better. Then I guess J.R. Art Gallery was created.
How did you go about creating the gallery?
As the gallery was going to be part of my Regent Street which is set up in the Victorian period, I had to make it fit with the other buildings. The first thing that I always do is study the kit, the building and take notes, sometime even sketch. I tend to adapt the kits to suit my purposes better, which in this case I did. Then I researched about the period, how an art gallery would have looked at the time. I researched for the tools and paints that would have been used. I have a tendency of keeping to the period to make it look more realistic.
I always start from the outside of a dolls’ house, for some reason it helps me more to picture the inside. In the mean time I get to have a rough idea what I want to add to the rooms. Once the outside décor is done I start working on the inside, starting with wall paper, floorings, ceilings and lightning. I enjoy trying furniture pieces in the rooms until I find the right ones that suit the room. Sometimes the least expected to fit are the ideal. I had so many ideas for the gallery that I knew exactly what I wanted. Inspiration was overflowing for this project.
No gallery is complete without paintings and you’ve included a great collection in yours. How did you go about creating these?
True, a gallery is not complete without paintings. The first impulse to get for a gallery was frames in different shapes, sizes and colors. The gallery alone holds 55 different paintings. There are four original paintings, three of them are in the gallery and one of the four is in the artist’s private quarters. These have all been painted by my friend José. The rest are all prints of my favorite paintings from various artists which match the period or even earlier. Some of them have a sentimental meaning to me.
Obviously having original paintings in the gallery, I couldn’t just print the paintings on paper and frame them. I actually printed them on canvas and sealed them to make them look more realistic just like a real painting. Sometimes galleries have sculptures which I have also added. The busts have all been hand painted by me and I guess they give that little extra to the gallery.
What are some of the other projects that you’ve worked on? Which is your favourite?
There are quite a lot of projects I would say. There are over 26 dolls’ house projects in my collection that come in different styles and periods. Every project holds a special place in my heart. I can’t imagine myself parting from them. They hold sweet memories of when they were being created.
Some of my latest projects were Miss Leah’s Boutique, The Coffee Corner which both are part of Regent Street. Then there is Kate’s Cottage which is built in the Tudor period. Lately I have also renovated two dolls’ house projects which were The Toll House and the Summer House called Sea Shells. I also have a very special dolls house which goes way back from 1979 called The Tudor Manor. This one was kept with its original décor and I have turned it into a 1930’s style house.
As for my favorite dolls’ house, this is a very tricky question, for I love them all…..but if I had to choose my favorite it’s definitely J.R. Art Gallery. I have poured my heart in that one.
What is it, do you think, that makes dolls’ houses so appealing? What is the magic behind them?
I think dolls’ houses are so appealing for their size and for their detail. A dolls’ house is practically a miniature of a real house and the more detail you add to it the more realistic it gets. When building a dolls house I tend to create a story to go with it. It helps me to picture it better. I actually name the dolls that will be residing in it and give them character.
At the end my favorite part is turning on the lights of the dolls’ house and admiring it. I peep from windows and doors, just to see it from different angles. I think that’s the magic behind it at least to me… That I, as an adult, can create such artistic projects, helps brings out the little girl within me.
What’s next for you?
There are quite a few dolls’ houses in the pipeline waiting for their turn to be built. I try to plan a year ahead and sometimes I’m quite successful in achieving my goal.
My next project will be part of Regent Street as well. It’s going to be called The Master Swordsman Pub and Inn. It’s quite a big building and I’m looking forward to really start working on it.
I’m also working on a bigger project that involves my dolls’ houses. Hopefully in the beginning of next year I will be opening the doors to my dolls’ house collection for the public, so maybe I can start introducing the hobby to the island.
And finally, where can people go to see more of your builds?
For the time being you can all visit My Miniature World Blog which I have had for the past six years. You can see all my dolls house projects and most of them being built step by step. Obviously once my dolls’ house collection is opened for the public, then visitors can see the real buildings.
Thank you again, Rebecca!
Thank you so much for inviting me for this interview. It is my pleasure to share my creations.
Once again, a massive thank you to Rebecca for agreeing to chat and for sharing her fantastic work with us. You can see more of Rebecca’s lovely miniatures on her blog, My Miniature World.
All images © Rebecca Micallef 2017, used with permission
We recently discovered the beautiful miniatures of Lynn Allingham. Lynn creates stunningly realistic looking miniatures from polymer clay. When we discovered that she is about to have her very first book published, we jumped at the chance to catch up with her for a chat. Read the full interview below.
Hi Lynn. Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed and for giving us your time. Would you mind please telling us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
Firstly “Hello” my name is Lynn Allingham and I’m not quite sure what I am, I guess I’m a mixture of miniaturist, model maker and craft writer. I have made things ever since I can remember. I did my degree in ‘Illustration for children’s publishing’, of which I pursued for many years with little success, until I decided to go back to what made me happiest, making things with my hands. For the last 9 years I have been working with polymer clay developing my skills in miniature model making and craft writing.
How did you get started with miniatures?
My big sister Steff first got me interested in making miniatures, we used to play with polymer clay as children and she re-introduced me to it 9 years ago. She handed me a big bag full of packets of Fimo and said, “There you go, see what you can do with that” so I did and I have been hooked ever since.
I began by making simple miniatures that I turned into jewellery, and then sold in my own online Etsy shop by the name of Tuckshop, go check it out. My sister sadly passed away shortly after I began selling my jewellery, this gave me the determination to constantly improve my work to make her more proud.
I contacted Making Jewellery magazine and started working with them producing step-by-step projects for readers to learn and make. I later became a monthly project writer for Dolls House magazine of which I worked on for the past three years. Dolls House magazine has recently closed and I am now working with another fantastic magazine called, Dolls House and Miniature Scene, so keep your eyes peeled for some of my projects coming out soon.
The opportunities I had with Dolls House magazine meant that I was able to spend more time learning and developing my miniature making skills to achieve a more professional finish.
Without my sister Steff I wouldn’t be doing any of this, she was and continues to remain my biggest source of inspiration and drive. I wish she was here to see what incredible opportunities that big bag of clay she handed me 9 years ago has led on to!
We think that your miniature food creations are absolutely beautiful. What is it, do you think, that makes miniature food so appealing?
Aw thank you, that is very kind. The answer is I’m not entirely sure! I guess everyone has a deeply ingrained affinity with food, we literally can’t live without it and when you ask people, they always have a favorite, mine is Chocolate and Thai (not together though!). When you miniaturize something I think it just takes on that cute factor that people can identify with, plus it’s just fun.
What’s been your most challenging miniature to date?
I think my most challenging miniatures to date were all the GBBO Showstoppers I made. The last 2 series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ I decided to set myself the challenge of making the winning showstopper from each episode, I named it ‘The Great British Miniature Make Off’. I watched the show every week and then would make the miniature showstopper over the course of 4 days and release it via social media. To my utter surprise every baker fully embraced what I was doing and they wanted to buy their miniatures from me at the end of the series as a memento of their time in the tent. It was a strange thing to have done but it led onto so many fun things and forced me to develop my miniature making as the weeks went by.
We’re very excited to see that you have a book coming out soon (congratulations!), how did this come about?
Thanks I’m stupidly excited for its release. Writing a book is something I have always wanted to do but thought it would never happen. After I had been writing for Dolls House magazine for 3 years I decided to ask them if it would be a fun idea to make a book of all the step-by-step projects I had produced for them. They got back to me and told me that their book publisher was looking to make a craft book on how to create miniature model food and so I was asked if I would like to create it with them. Of course I bit their hand off at the chance to have my own book and that’s how it all came about. My publishers have been an absolute joy to work with and I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands.
When is the book available?
Oh, thank you for asking, the official release date is November 7th but it is also available to pre-order right NOW!
It’s called ‘Making mini food’ By Lynn Allingham and its available to buy on Amazon, or ideally from my publisher here: www.gmcbooks.com
What’s next for you?
Ooooohhhhh maybe a second book, I have also worked a little in props for children’s TV, so maybe more of that, its all good fun, so watch this space!
Thank you very much for your time, Lynn, and best of luck with the book!
A massive thank you once again to Lynn for her time and for agreeing to talk to us. We think that you’ll agree that her miniatures are absolutely gorgeous.
You can see more of Lynn’s work on her wonderful Instagram page Tuck_Shop and on her website.
All images © Lynn Allingham 2017, used with permission
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