Feb 02, 2024, 06:27AM

Obsessing over Dollhouse Miniatures

When life is too much, you have to do it in small pieces sometimes.

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I’m not sure when I started obsessing over tiny things, but it’s been in the background my whole life. Randomly, my mother purchased a dollhouse for me when I was child that had been made in Pennsylvania by a prisoner. This seems like a decent thing for prisoners to be doing; perhaps my childhood dollhouse was made by a serial killer or arsonist who torched his entire family.

I don’t have a lot of childhood memories, but do recall playing with this dollhouse. I remember thinking how incredible the tiny vanity items were—the mirror and hairbrush—and treated the tiny plastic fake cans of food as though they were really feeding the terrifying plastic family. We didn’t have a lot of money in our house or the tiny one, so my mom would make little things for the house, and she described a trip with my grandmother to a miniatures shop to purchase some of the real furniture for the house—now-famous Lundby dollhouse items; several of which remain.

In 1994 when my daughter was born, I decided to fix up the house for her, and spent about a year before she was old enough to play with it renovating it. I made a terrible decision to paint over the hand-painted gray and “fake stone” appearance of the exterior of the house because it looked “dingy.” It did, but I saw a viral video of a young woman who made a similar choice in a social media video and she got slaughtered in the comments for “ruining the original folk art.” She hadn’t known better, I didn’t then either, and I’m just glad there wasn’t social media in the early-90s to make me feel like shit.

Recently, I’d been obsessively watching miniaturist videos on TikTok and Instagram, amazed at the work, realism and creativity of these artisans, many of whom create their art from scratch. As a candlemaker and beachcomber, I’ve created a private collection of miniature candles for myself over the years, poured in beach-found children’s teacups.

One day, I walked out to the garage and saw the sad state of my childhood dollhouse; that kid I renovated it for turns 30 in a few months and lives across the country. I renovated one room of the dollhouse. When life is too much, you have to do it in small pieces sometimes. One room, I thought. Wouldn’t it be fun to pour some more miniature candles I could add to my candle shop, and create a miniature candlemaking studio to display them?

Renovating an old dollhouse is hard—sanding, painting, trim, furniture, accessories, wall décor—the same things you do in a regular size house, just in 1:12 scale, with tweezers and just about as much money. So I worked on both renovating the house’s old bathroom (one thing I noticed as a kid is that the dolls never used that tiny toilet paper roll) into a candlemaking studio, and also poured real scented soy wax miniature candles—with an eyedropper. Pouring these tiny candles takes as much time in miniature as it does in real size because of the detail in applying labels with tweezers, making the tiny wicks, etc. and who knew I’d ever be making pillar candles in fast food restaurant straw molds. It’s a cool new challenge.

I’ve already started working on the second room of the dollhouse—a beachcomber’s hippie hangout—next to the studio, and have plans for the remaining rooms; one at a time. I’m having fun posting “Tiny Tuesday” progress videos to Instagram and TikTok. I never thought I’d be cross-stitching a dollhouse rug or pouring candles with an eyedropper before, but guess I’m a little insane.

Follow Mary McCarthy on Instagram and TikTok; her new miniature “Tiny Tidings” candle line premieres this week at tidingscandle.com.


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