GTPulse: ‘The Items Are Miniature But The People Are Not’

Before there were fairy gardens there were dollhouses. My mom had a real dollhouse when I was a kid. This thing was three feet high and had it been life-size, would have been bigger than our actual home. The outside was plain, but the inside was elaborately decorated. The home was three floors of miniature, Victorian-era beauty. A rose colored tufted couch just big enough to accommodate a couple of Polly Pockets, a tiny dining table covered with a doily converted into a tablecloth and many other mini marvels sparked endless playtime scenarios for me as a child. My mom didn’t make the furniture, she was merely a dollhouse interior designer. She purchased the dollhouse decor from a specialty store, which still didn’t answer my question; where does miniature furniture come from? How is it made? The question had gone unanswered until Rosie Vreeland-Flickinger invited me to Miniature Night at the East Bay Library.

On the second Thursday of each month from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. the Northern Michigan Mini-Makers get together at the East Bay Library to create everyday objects in miniature form. Carolyn Swisher, God rest her soul, started the Northern Michigan Mini-Makers club. She grew up in East Bay Township, attended the Haney School (which is no longer there), and was a regular at the beloved little library.

“When she was divesting herself of some of her miniature things she had a little miniature scene of the Haney School. I didn’t take it and I should have,” Rosie said.

Carolyn had a natural talent for creating miniature scenes, and not just the sweet and innocent. Current Mini-Maker Jody Case remembers a few of the other miniature marvels Carolyn had made.

“She had a really risque boudoir scene. It had a big bathtub full of bubbles and you could just see a little bit of the lady peeking out,” Jody said.

Carolyn wanted to share her miniature making with people in the community and began the club around 10 years ago.

This past Miniature Night the club was working on making mini fish for their already made fishing poles, and butterfly nets. Jody even found a hole punch that makes paper butterflies. Making miniatures is all about getting creative. The objects made are made out of supplies that anyone could find at a craft store. Objects are made from DIY tutorials as well as from personal creativity and ideas.  As long as objects don’t exceed 12 centimeters, anything goes.

The club is currently working on the display they will put up in East Bay Library. Each year they work on a miniature display that will go up in October and will be displayed for viewing throughout the holidays. In year’s past they have done a Halloween scene, a Christmas scene and even a New Year’s Eve scene.

“We had a disco ball and a big screen TV with 2019 on it. It was like a party, there was a table with appetizers on it. That was really cool,” Jody said.

This year’s display is to be determined, but Jody is thinking that the club may go with ‘What’s Your Favorite Season’ and will feature all the Northern Michigan fun from each season. The displays are always encased in plexiglass so they aren’t disturbed by swinging bookbags and various other bumps and nudges.

The Northern Michigan Mini-Makers are a local treasure, and like most local treasures, aren’t always in plain sight. I had heard about the club solely through Rosie. If it weren’t for my visits to East Bay Library, I never would have met the Mini-Makers. Although the club doesn’t heavily advertise, they are always open to new members.

“We get about four to six members each meeting,” Jody said. “We sometimes ask for a dollar donation.”

The money goes towards the projects that the club makes. One person picks a project and leads it, so the dollars will go to reimburse the month’s project leader.

“It’s just a donation. If you forgot your dollar it’s fine.”

People don’t need miniature making experience to join, either. Anyone who is interested in making minis will be warmly welcomed by the club. 

Contrary to what I believed as a child, life is nothing like Alice In Wonderland. There is no Cheshire Cat giving tongue-in-cheek advice and there are no magical Eat Me cookies that can shrink you down to the size of a keyhole, but if you want to pretend for a bit you can head to East Bay Library and check out the shadow box display of past miniature projects, and keep your eyes peeled for this year’s miniature scene sometime in October.


Categories: GTPulse