Print this page
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 10:06

Miniatures As Therapy

Josephine ParnellLittle Things Making a Big Difference

One of the undeniable benefits of any hobby is the ability to focus on just one thing and leave the world behind. When I asked for stories about miniatures as therapy I expected to hear about escapes from everyday stresses, finding a peaceful moment in a life of responsibilities, and that’s definitely the case for a lot of people. What I also received were some stories that were about far more than everyday events.

Most of us need something other than work to get through life, something deeply personal where we get to call all the shots, where we are in control. Miniatures is a hobby where you literally have to concentrate on the little details so hard that you can’t help but turn away from the big wide world full of noise and distractions.

Once you find these moments of peace it’s hard to give them up. Josephine Parnell of Doll’s House Bears says that making her miniatures is very therapeutic. “When I go on holiday I take some of my work with me otherwise I get withdrawal symptoms! You kind of zone out when you are doing these things, you block everything else out. I can only describe it as ‘zen’. You breathe in and you relax. It takes my mind off the day to day worries. I encourage people all the time to give it a go.”

Many craftspeople develop the ability to find that calmness in other walks of life and that, in turn, can lead to new ideas and inspiration. The thought process behind thinking up miniature designs is what Sue Perkins of The Wee Property Centre finds most therapeutic. Sue lives close to Inverness, on the Moray Firth coast and when walking her three dogs along the sandy beaches, she says that sometimes she has reached the harbour before realising she should have turned off way before. “It clears your mind and things come to you. I also think up some of my best ideas just relaxing. I have twenty three chipmunks and three aviaries in the garden. There are some large logs in there, where I can sit and think up ideas for miniatures with the chipmunks playing around me.”

It’s also a pastime that gives us something to hold onto, something tangible and dependable when times get difficult. Bob Vincent of Country Contrast believes making miniatures is the best form of therapy. He said: “Many years ago I was going through a very bad period of my life and I was under the care of the doctor for a while. Then I met someone who did miniatures who suggested I give it a go. Well, I started doing them and I loved it. Making miniatures really got me looking forward again. I’d suggest anyone takes this hobby up if they need some form of relaxation. Just get yourself some Fimo and have a go. Your first success fires your imagination and you come up with more really good ideas. You get better and better at it, and off you go on your merry way. It’s very therapeutic.”

Annette Jorgensen PubWhen Annette Jorgenson from Denmark suffered an apoplexy in the left brain and subsequent paralysis in her right side, especially in her arm, she started work on a 1/12th scale dolls house. She found this to be an effective and enjoyable way to get better and be able to use her arm again. “I love these small things, and it leaves one without thoughts of anything else. So it is a very good therapy physical and mental. I enjoy it very much. “ Pictured is Annette’s English pub collected over time at shows throughout the UK.

The focus of a hobby can be the thing that sees us through the hardest of times. The loss of a loved one affects us all differently and grief is a deeply personal experience. Finding something to help you get through the process of coming to terms with loss is not an easy task, but a hobby can be the focus that makes it just a little more bearable.  Annette of Pan Miniatures says that making miniatures has given her and husband Paul a purpose. When one of her sons was seriously injured in a car crash eleven years ago, and she had to give up her florist’s shop to care for him at home, she began making miniature flower arrangements and furniture. This love of miniatures progressed, and Pan Miniatures took off. However, tragedy struck a second time. Five years ago, her son, recovered and mobile once again, was killed by a speeding motorist as he got out of a taxi.  “Making miniatures was a Godsend.  It gave us a purpose,” says Annette.  “And it’s ironic really, that I started making miniatures when my son was first injured, and now this has helped us to cope with his death. There are good days and bad days, but when you sit down to work on your miniatures it gets you back on an even keel.”

Penny Sampson wrote in to us with this touching story of how miniatures saved her when the unthinkable happened to her family. “Some years ago, I lost my son, my only child, in a traffic accident. To deal with my grief, I decided to build a doll house, something I had always dreamed of doing. As a keen crafter and needlewoman, I could always ‘lose’ myself in my current project. I bought ‘Cadogan Gardens’, a sadly discontinued dollhouse from Dollhouse Emporium, and had it shipped out here to my home in Bermuda. A somewhat ambitious task, as it was their largest house!Penny Sampson House

It has taken me many years to complete, finally building the basement last year, but what a labour of love. However, when I bought it, I had no idea what this would lead to and what joy all of this would ultimately bring me. I had been buying the doll house dolls for some time, when the thought occurred ‘what if I could make these’? I investigated online, and soon found the Doll Artisan Guild, an international organisation for teaching and promoting dollmaking.

Nothing can mitigate the loss of a child, but I can honestly say, with no exaggeration, that dollmaking and miniatures have saved my life.” Penny has since won three of the top international doll making awards, and has the highest Doll Artisan Guild title, the Triple Crown of Dollmaking. In August she spent three weeks in South Africa making a school room box and doll house dolls with a friend and fellow dollmaker, and next year, for the first time, one of her competition dolls is going to be a dollhouse doll.

Over the years that I have been involved in miniatures I have often heard stories like these and I have always felt that the dolls’ house hobby, and crafting in general, is a force for good. I am also well aware that people who have experienced tragedy and crisis have discovered miniatures out of necessity. Old age and disability may well get in the way of craftspeople being able access full size tools and materials. What used to be done in a workshop with large machinery can still be done on a kitchen table if you miniaturise the whole process. I am proud to work in an industry that prolongs the working life and productivity of some of the most amazing craftspeople. If you support that hobby you should be proud too, whether it is as a craftsperson or as a customer.


This article was written by Andy Hopwood of Miniatura with special thanks to everyone who shared their amazing stories.
Pictures from Josephine Parnell, Annette Jorgenson and Penny Sampson.

Jane Laverick has also written about what Miniatura means to her in another article – Miniatura Is Good For You – “I had an inkling that Miniatura was going to be good for me about thirty years ago when I realised that if I turned from a visitor into an exhibitor, I’d be there both days of the weekend….”