BIG THINGS, SMALL PACKAGES
Texas Artists Explore the World of Miniatures Where Bigger Isn’t Always Better
By Susie Tommaney
Scale models are important tools in architecture, filmmaking, engineering, fine art and military strategy. Hobbyists enjoy a roller coaster ride of emotions — from creative serenity to frustrating anguish and eventual joy — when building miniatures for trains, gaming, dollhouses and dioramas.
This month we’re taking a look at two Texas artists who have relied on their backgrounds in architecture to create miniature furniture, gardens and houses.
While the rest of us were hunkering down and sheltering in place or swimming for higher ground during Tropical Storm Harvey, Katy’s Karen McLucas took advantage of the downtime to embark on an ambitious project during the storm. There wasn’t an umbrella large enough to save us from Harvey’s 33 trillion gallons of rain so Lucas went the other direction: she created a tiny outdoor patio and chair set with fully functional umbrella and dedicated her YouTube video to local charities.
McLucas says her father was a carpenter and she always enjoyed seeing his end result. “[As a child] I really liked making things, putting things together for my animals and hamsters.” She’s currently going to school for architecture and credits drafting for her success in the world of minis.
Ara Bentley now lives in Arlington but the A&M grad has lived here and still has family in Houston. Her artistic style is to create aged, decayed and even spooky furnishings and dwellings. She’s in the home stretch of a ten-year project that will make its debut in 2019 and features one of our favorite macabre families from television’s yesteryear.
Bentley’s undergraduate degree is in environmental design, a stepping-stone toward a degree in architecture. She says she worked in the field of architecture for about four years but now teaches art to elementary-aged children and draws from that experience — breaking down the steps — to teach others who are interested in miniatures.
Because a full-scale project requires skills in a variety of disciplines, including sewing, polymers, sculpting, metalworking and faux painting, readers interested in creating a thoughtful gift for the holidays should start with a more basic starter project: something with straight lines like a book, box, crate or chessboard.
Then expand on that idea to build a small scene inside a glass dome so that ceiling and walls don’t have to be tackled. “An architect’s desk or the desk of a mechanic or something you would find in a garage,” suggests Bentley. “Pencils, rulers, paper are super easy to make. It’s a process but it’s not overwhelming.”
Bentley prefers to work with mat board (the same stuff used to frame pictures) and works in 1:12 scale, which means one inch equals one foot. McLucas’ medium of choice is wood and she works in half scale, called 1:24, which translates to half an inch equals one foot.
Intermediate projects can include replicating a scene from a favorite movie or introducing mechanics, like a porch swing with chains.
“I always find that people are scared to start these projects,” says McLucas. What worked for her was to prepare all of her materials and equipment in advance. “Put [their supplies] in a place where they can start immediately and not have to set up.”
Aleene’s Tacky Glue
Crescent decorative mat board
Drafting pencil - 0.03 mm
Midwest Products Basswood Architectural Scale Lumber
Paint brushes, varying sizes
Scissors (one for paper, one for fabric)
SE Diamond files
Tool kit or tackle box
X-Acto knife and blades
C & D Hardware
314 E 11th
Clark’s Hardwood Lumber Co.
700 E 5 ½
Hien Lam Upholstery (fabrics)
819 West Drew
Texas Art Supply
2237 South Voss
1507 Baybrook Mall Drive, Friendswood