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The World of Miniature

When I was growing up, I loved The Littles, by John Peterson. I loved their adventures within the walls of the Biggs’ home. Match boxes for drawers, spools of thread, pencils and clothes pins used for their furniture. The story was important, but as important as the story itself, was the story as a vehicle and medium for what items to borrow from the Biggs' world into The Littles' world. That was so fascinating to me.

Illustration by Roberta Carter Clark via

For Mary and me, creating Ava’s miniature world was such a delightful adventure. We’d seen the breath-taking work of craftspeople creating train sets, doll houses, and miniature replicas of Victorians: the glorious Kensington House by Tim Hartnell; the exquisite handmade objects by Yuyi Morales in her ethereal dreamscape, Viva Frida; and in Benjamin Bumper to the Rescue, author-illustrator Molly Coxe, creates her world with textiles, trinkets and treasures like wooden alphabet blocks, lace and brass antique scale weights, as well as matches, just like The Littles. Their creations, works of art and labors of love, are inspirations for us.

What would we put in Ava's world? How would we create it? Would we borrow from the real world re-purposing objects for Ava’s use? Would Mary create custom hand-made pieces?


Something Borrowed

To create Ava’s world, we relied on Mary's artisanry, resourcefulness, and creativity. In our previous post, we shared with you how Mary custom-designed Ava's paints, brushes and ladder. It is true that Mary chose to create most of Ava's world by hand, but there were also times when it was amusing and easy to borrow objects from the real world and re-purpose them for Ava's world. Did you notice any items?

Above, from left to right: 1. The soccer goal net was made from the mesh of a sac of clementines. 2. The baguette was cut from Italian breadsticks. A stroke of genius by Mary. Mary put the breadstick in the microwave for a few seconds to soften them just enough to slice. Ava's little cup was the cap of a pen, and her clear acrylic side table was a trimmed disposable cup turned upside-down. Bottle caps (Izzy's) were used upside-down as paint palettes, or upholstered right-side up to become floor seating. And spools of thread, of which Mary had in every color, stood in for chair, stool, side-table and planter holder. 3. Our soccer balls were necklace pendants, but we turned the loop away from the camera.


More Experimentation

Sometimes our ideas about borrowing from the real world didn't work out as well as we had envisioned. I have some beautiful sake cups and thought they would be perfect with the Japanese aesthetic we had in the room, but no matter how we filled them or how we photographed them, they just didn't work.

Throughout the creation of Ava's world, we tried to be as authentic as possible. We didn't photoshop out mistakes, or photoshop in anything. This led us to trying real flowers and real ladybugs. After some brave attempts, we gave up. Working with living objects that move is impossibly difficult. Cut flowers wilt very fast, and ladybugs move even faster! The lichen, though, was a keeper!


The Inspiration Wall Scene

There are many things we love about the inspiration wall scene, not just the lichen! Ava's inspiration wall has a picture drawn by Linda's daughter when she was little. Can you guess which one? Yes, the unicorn! She also drew the peacock to the right of the lamp. The original peacock was much larger, but we reduced it down, tore the edges by hand, and then placed it on the miniature easel. It's a joy to look at this scene - the images by Linda's daughter are forever preserved!


The Hallway Scene with my Mousepad

One of my favorite scenes is in the hallway of Ava's home. The Persian rug on the floor was my mousepad! This scene came about serendipitously. Initially there was no hallway, not even a wall on this side of Ava's house. We were between shoots with supplies and cardboard randomly propped up against the set. Somehow I noticed a view of Ava's studio from this angle and was caught by its beauty. I don't remember all the details, but I remember Mary's face when I exclaimed, "Oh, I wish Ava had a door!" Mary grinned, and sure enough, on my next visit, there were the beginnings of a door.

The four different iterations above, resulted in our final image below. Mary and I had in mind a narrow corridor with framed works of art lining the walls much like many of the Victorian homes in San Francisco. How lovely that we were able to use the works of some of our favorite artists, Steven Fama and J.John Priola on our walls!

Ava's world in miniature was a delight to create and photograph. Much like a doll house or a real house, Mary and I wanted to fill it with items that sparked joy, items that brought in color or function, pieces borrowed, or made by friends -- it was always a work in progress. We wanted to take photos from different angles, light, or lenses, wide-angle or close-up. Were we to have another couple of iterations of Ava's Triumph, we would have liked to expand upon this hallway scene and shown you more works of art by our favorite artists!



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