“During the day, I work with some of the largest things you can buy, like combines and tractors,” said Pippin, 59, an employee of Duluth-based farm equipment manufacturing giant AGCO. “And at night, I work with miniatures.”
"Work with" sells short what she does. In fact, the delicate pottery that Pippin "throws" on a miniature wheel and then fires in a similarly scaled-down kiln stands 1 inch tall at most. All of which means it will fit in perfectly with the other showpieces at the 34th Annual Miniature Show and Sale, which kicks off Friday night at the Holiday Inn Perimeter.
The two-day event is put on by the Atlanta Miniature Society (AMS), a 35-year-old organization that's growing in size — its 56 members range from three preteen girls up to people in their 70s — while hewing to one big notion:
“Anything you can find in the real world,” said AMS President JP Sligh, “you can find in the miniature world.”
Well, maybe he can. But he may be the only person not named James Cameron who possesses authentic-down-to-the-last-porthole miniature replicas of cabins on the Titanic. Done in 1-inch scale — meaning that something that measures 1 foot in the real world translates to 1 inch in the miniature one — they're the handiwork of Sligh, 49, who consulted actual floor plans for the second- and third-class cabins on the doomed ocean liner.
These so-called "room boxes" will be displayed alongside others made by AMS members in a gallery that also will showcase dollhouses, rooms under glass domes — even a village of miniature thatched roof cottages. There's also a sales area featuring vendors with names like Tiny Threads and the wee wares of club members proficient in making everything from miniature braided rugs to curtains and chandeliers; silent auctions on Saturday will help raise money for the Women's Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, which is based in Decatur and provides services to the entire metro Atlanta area.
"Mini people" come in many forms, from artistic types who make their own pieces and/or room boxes to collectors who love filling rooms or entire dollhouses with others' exquisite or whimsical work. The National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (NAME) has about 5,000 members, primarily adults, and some 170 chapters, including AMS and four others in Georgia.
But those numbers may just be the tip of the tiny iceberg.
“A lot of people don’t even realize they’re doing miniatures,” NAME’s Kim Ash said of the people who may not know that there’s a name given to the scaled-down furniture, book jackets or flower arrangements they enjoy making. “For a lot of our members, this is their livelihood, selling and teaching miniatures to others.”
Like AMS member Wilson Santiago of Winder, whose exquisitely sewn miniature bed dressings (spreads, pillows) and curtains are highly sought after by dollhouse collectors and others. A former Air Force weapons mechanic (he loaded bombs on jets) and professional chef, Santiago, 58, got bitten by the bug about 15 years ago when his sister and brother-in-law needed help in their store.
That store, Miniature Designs in Lawrenceville, is one of the largest dollhouse and miniatures stores in the country now, with some 4,000 square feet of showroom space devoted to dollhouses and dollhouse kits, room boxes, furniture, lighting, building supplies and more.
Meanwhile, two metro Atlantans recently launched Smallisimo.com, a one-stop website for instruction, discussion forums, event listings and resources for buying and selling miniatures.
“It aims to be the global resource for all things mini and marvelous,” said Gwendolyn Edwards of Atlanta, who was already working as a business coach with Leanne Heintz of Cumming when they had their big idea. A fan of harder-to-find modern miniature furniture, Edwards was spending lots of time online tracking down information and resources. “We said, ‘We’ve got to make this easier.’”
Still, nothing beats seeing miniatures in person. Last week, AMS secretary Clarice Elder contemplated a half-completed room box she was racing to finish in time for the show. She’d already wallpapered and “tiled” the floor of the miniature china shop she was creating; she’d probably spend between $500 and $800 on it by the time it was done, said Elder, whose sunny, art-filled Dunwoody home holds other room boxes with clever themes like “1940s kitchen” and personal touches like her tiny handmade rugs.
Sligh, meanwhile, can only estimate that he spent “several months” making his exact replica miniature Titanic cabins — which included reproducing the red-and-white blankets that were on the bunk beds (which he also made) in third class.
“I find I don’t keep track of how much time or money I spend,” Sligh laughed, “or else I probably wouldn’t do it.”