Auction win leads to dollhouse miniature passion
Hello friends, and welcome to my miniature obsession podcast. I’m your host, Rachel Karpf. This podcast is about all things miniature, we will explore the world of minis, and all its raw talent, dedication, patience, and the new energy of this art form. Here for miniature hobbyists and professionals from all over the world, we will gain a deeper insight into the creative processes that drive them. We will also explore what their biggest struggles are the most devastating failures and the most uplifting successes. I hope to encourage and inspire you in your miniature hobby. Because even the ordinary become extraordinary. in miniature. Hello, Michael.
First of all, for meeting with me today and chatting miniatures, my favorite conversation about something. And you live?
Ohio. Where are you at?
I’m in Wisconsin. Okay. All right. So the weather is probably similar cold. It’s really? Yeah, it’s cold today.
I think we’re at -2 today. When I get back on it’s snowing there, right.
Well, yeah, well, yeah, it’s kind of flirting right now. We had snow a couple of days ago. But that was really our first snow we really had this winter was a couple of days ago. So we just kind of we’ve had, we just haven’t had any snow. How about you guys?
Not too much. No, not like we usually like I remember, you know, like when our grandparents used to say, or even our parents like, I used to walk in the snow up to my ankle or my waist. I do remember though, as a child, way more so then.
Yeah, more than we have now. Definitely. So, um, but yeah, it’s great to chat. So thank
you. Yeah, you’re welcome. And thank you for coming on. You are a collector of dollhouse miniatures. And you focus mostly on miniature quality artists and made miniatures from around the world. Yes. So cool. So and I have to say you are an amazing interior designer. And when I look at your pictures, or your photos of your creations, I just want to move right in there. So amazing. So my first question is, are you a designer and interior designer in real scale?
No, I’m not. I’m my profession. Full time profession is I worked in public relations for a technology company. So now it’s just a hobby, basically. And I’ve always had a knack for interior design. And I just do it as a hobby. So now I know people are surprised when when these when I say I’m not but
and I’ll share your handle and everything and they can see your Instagram, they can see all your photos. But you got started about five years ago what I thought that was pretty surprising, as well. Because I thought for sure you have been doing this for years and years. We How did you get started in many things? Was it five years ago? Or was it did it? Was it before that?
No, it was about five years ago, I want to lobby dollhouse on an auction. And it had all kinds of artists and furniture with it. And I started researching it. And you know, and that’s really how I got into it, because I noticed that a lot of the furniture was made by artisans. And I just found that very interesting. And as he did more research, you know, I learned about a lot of these artisans. And a lot of them focus on certain things, whether it’s furniture, you know, could be florals, drapery lighting, you know, various things. Most artisans have kind of like an area that they focus on, and that’s what they make. So I really got into it, because I liked interior design, I thought well, this would be a good way to really work with that. So um, that’s how I got into it.
So you saw this house at an auction? You did you know what miniatures were like this house came up on the auction you’re like, Okay, we
know what No, I think I was like everybody else I just thought about, like, you know, doll houses, you know, and things that kids play with. I didn’t really realize that there was this whole world out there of miniature artisans that actually make furniture. It’s not like something that you buy in a store, like a hobby lobby or something like that. Like there are people that actually make this stuff and, you know, for many years, and I just found it fascinating. And then I believe the next year I went to a Chicago for the first international miniature show, then I really learned a lot there about a lot of the artists and things. And then they actually have at the Art Institute there in Chicago, the dorm rooms, I don’t know if you’ve ever been since you’re from Wisconsin, but it’s pretty amazing. You should go. If you ever get to Chicago anytime, it’s like I said, it’s at the Art Institute. And it’s pretty amazing. And they have all these room boxes that are made, and they’re just absolutely beautiful. And they’re in there from different periods from a few decades ago. So but yeah,
like, okay, so what makes you say other than what makes what makes them museum quality? I guess, what do you look for,
because of the detail. So when I look at it, it has to look like something that’s life size. So when you look at it, you can’t tell that it’s a miniature, and that’s one of the reasons why when I do a photo for Instagram, in the beginning, I didn’t do it, because I didn’t realize it. But a lot of people thought were like, No, this is a, this is a real life size scale. So that’s why I started putting my finger or hand in the photo, so people can see the scale. And then they’re amazed to know that like, this is miniature, and it’s not like a life size room. But yeah, it’s mostly like the detail of it, I want to I want it when when I look at it, it has to look like something that would be life size. And, you know, and that’s, you know, there’s so many little details to make it like that from just the way that they carve something like let’s say a table, to the thickness of it, you know, it’s all relative. And that’s kind of how, how I go about it. And, you know, I, I’ll say that, you know, I focus mostly on the I do focus on artists and stuff. But um, you know, it’s not all the most, you know, expensive artists is I find really great artists on Etsy that are up and coming that do beautiful work. And then I use people that, you know, have been in the industry a few decades, you know, that, that, that know it and, you know, have been doing it for a lot of years. So I try to I try to broaden my range when it comes to which ones I use that to me if they do a good job and looks like life scale, then I’ll use it.
And how do you put a price tag on a miniature So I recently inquire this huge estate, and my plan is to sell most of it and put money towards this fun that she had her teacher’s fund. So I’m gonna Oh, nice. Yes. And when I make miniatures, I can kind of get the sense of a price because of my time.
And honestly, it doesn’t, I mean, the time that you usually put into them, you really don’t get the money out just because, you know, I know a lot of people do it as their passion. But I know a lot of people say like, even if they sell a piece for let’s say, three or $400, probably just the time that they put into it is well over that. When you think of it, you know, I’m sure in your case, too. What is it that you actually make? Do you focus on one thing or?
No, I have a subscription box and I really want it to be all handmade. So I’ve been doing you know, clay, wood, everything. And then I also bring in featured artists that then share their work in the box. So yeah, it’s all I’m all over the board with all materials. Oh, good. I’m selling someone else’s things like this estate that I just got. Yeah, I it’s very hard for me to put a price on it. When I do
so. Well, I you know, I guess it all depends what avenue Are you selling them? Are you going to do like E bay? Or are you don’t know yet? Or do you have your own website? Or how are you planning to sell because I think that makes a lot of difference. Because I was the same way. But then you kind of learn after research to see similar, you know, the same thing that might have sold, you know, to see what it sold for. Or, you know, I have found that like with eBay, because I’ll sell stuff on eBay to the miniatures, and I usually start the bids. I just start a seven day auction and I start them like at $9.99. And then just to whatever, you know, people are willing to pay that’s what it’s worth. So if it’s a good artist and miniature I mean, I’ve seen I’ve seen E bay auctions where they’ll start out at $9.99 and people pay a couple $1,000 for a miniature if it’s like really, you know somebody that is no longer around or not making them or it was a limited edition or it’s just something that it’s very, like you’re not gonna find it anywhere else. Um, you’ll see that and then there was an option actually, a few weeks ago It was a, it was an online auction. It wasn’t a nice day one and someone paid for for miniature Santas. They were, you know, one in scale for a wanting scale doll house. I believe they pay $24,000 for four, which is crazy. You know, that was definitely a bidding war between somebody.
And what was special about the Santas.
You know what, I don’t know, because they didn’t even have the artists name on them. But maybe they didn’t know who who made them. But I mean, the quality of them were beautiful. And they were very detailed, but so he Bay is one of them. A lot of them are done through live auctioneers, and invaluable which are just auctions that that companies do. And then Ron Rhodes in Pennsylvania, they’re a big auctioneer that does dollhouse auctions, been around a long time, and then Karen’s dollhouse shop which is in New Jersey, she does auctions as well sometimes. So those are usually the avenues either online or through the different auction companies and then through eBay, or usually where mostly you can do an auction or sell your stuff or you can do it you know, individually on your own. If you have a following it just depends on you know, where you’re following and I think with Instagram, that’s been a great avenue because you have followers that are following you that have an interest in doll houses. So I’ve been able to promote when I have a little options through that, you know, along with when I you know, just post my design work. I’ve learned that it’s a great avenue to sell as well.
So can you name drop a few like if you see something like this name on an auction your your bidding? Do you have names like that, that you
like people like like artists? Yeah, like, um, Roger God Hill, William Murphy. They they are both deceased, but they made furniture actual wood furniture, Peter Cousteau, Eugene cook jocks are known for their sterling silver, things like that.
And if he says like, if their name isn’t on the auction listing, if you look at it, will you see like, okay, that is definitely their piece.
Yeah, definitely. I mean, once you, the longer that you’re in miniatures, you come to realize like that like, and sometimes I’ll even contact them on eBay and tell them like, This is who the artist is, you know, and I’ll help them out if I know who it is. Because sometimes they just have no idea because maybe they’re selling you know, maybe they’re selling somebody else’s stuff, their family member who have no clue, like what stuff is, and then they don’t know who the artist is. That’s why it’s really important to keep a book with like, everything you have, how much you paid for it, who the artist says just because so if ever, you know you had to sell out or someone had to sell before you, for you on your behalf if you were deceased or something they know. They have good records to know what to sell because some of these things are very expensive. I mean you pay more for them then you would pay an actual life size piece of furniture. And like I said, some of the other ones that I like are Alan Barnes and they’re in the UK they do furniture to learn of terbium miniatures, some of the floral artisans I like our Michelle Carter and Lara crane. So they make a lot of florals love their furniture would be Gail Steffi. So she does a lot of like, tufted leather furniture. Those are some of my, you know, my favorite ones. As far as room boxes, Tony Jones, he builds a lot of my room boxes. And then I do the interior design of them. So he actually builds the structure
that was gonna, kind of leads me to my next question. So you have to like kind of create, in a way like, are you doing the electricity? Are you doing the flooring in the walls? Because
it’s almost, it’s almost like a row, Your Honor. So you know, Tony builds them. So what I usually do is I kind of just think about like what I want to do. So I’ll sketch it out. I’ll find pictures of similar things either life size or other dollhouse ones that that are similar and be like, oh, I want this so then I send it to him. And then he tells me what he can and can’t do. And sometimes I have some of the stuff that he can use. Like, I may have the lighting or particular door that I found that I want to use in it than I usually send the stuff to him and then he builds it so he does all the electrical in it. The painting the wallpaper the floor. So it’s basically just been piece when it comes to me, and then I do all the interior design as far as like, thing the furniture in and flowers. And, you know, and things like that. I mean, I have done in the past, I know how to do the electrical, and I have redone. But room boxes that I found that broad sales are online. So I’ve done it, I know how to do it, but
to me, you get to do if he asked me like I
think yeah, right, yeah, because, um, Tony, like he, he’s really good about the electoral school. And I usually use the little pins, which aren’t the best sometimes because sometimes they fall off and you lose the connection. He actually like hard wires, these are in boxes, which is better. So you know, he has an expertise in that, which is good, I don’t. So that’s why I kind of like if I have one that I really like, have some nice pieces. And when I showcase uh, you know, I work with Tony. So and you have to learn with miniatures to it take, I mean, they work on their own time. So it can take up from the beginning to the end, you know, through the whole planning process and getting everything you need, it can take a year to do a rubex, sometimes sometimes less, but they’re time consuming. Would you say
like, when they take that long, it’s so hard to put a price tag on that to
write it, you would think it would be like, oh my god a lot. But I mean, it’s not like they’re working on their 24/7. But sometimes, like they’re waiting on something that he finishes, so or they just have other they have other work too. I mean, you know, sometimes not just working on your thing. So there’s a lot of things that that you have to take into consideration. But sometimes they do go fast. And like I said, sometimes it can be six months to a year just depends on how detailed you are with the room box. And there’s a lot of factors into it. But otherwise, you know, it’s fun once you receive it. And then to me, the decorating part is pretty fast, because I kind of know already how I’m going to do it. And I even have like the drink pre made prior. So like it’s all there. I have pretty much all the stuff for when when I get it.
Can you talk about your collection? I mean, do you have like, a whole room a whole house dedicated to
I do so my basement. So I have about 24 room boxes, and they’re all different things from just living rooms to like, I have a little boutique store, I have a like a little conservatory, I have a bakery, I had a Christmas toy shop that I couldn’t change out over the holidays. I have some primitive rooms. So it really it’s a whole range of things and a hole in from a hole. It’s not like I like one certain design. I love primitive. I also love just traditional, you know, style. So I try to like, you know, do different things because not everybody likes primitive. So, you know, I’ve learned with late especially with my Instagrams to be kind of, you know, open to my design style, which is very, you know, like I said everybody has different tastes. I try to mix it up a little bit. And then I have I have the lobby dollhouse, which I said was my first one that I won. And I still haven’t finished it yet. Of course. And then I have a beautiful dollhouse. It was made by pm through which is like a cape cod doll house and it’s absolutely beautiful. I want that on an auction. And Pam was pretty much like the architect endorses. I mean, her work is absolutely amazing. She’s deceased too now, but um, you could you can imagine, like the detail that she puts that she put in her her dollhouse is really amazing. So I was I was very lucky to win an auction. And when that all house, what was her name again? Him Throop Okay, yeah, um, so she did a lot of like, like period doll houses. So like a lot of Cape Cod, you know, homes. And everything from the outside to the inside is very detailed. That’s kind of like a house that I have and then like I said in supposedly room boxes, I think more people like room boxes today than doll houses because first of all, they take up less room. You can they’re more mobile where you know, dollhouse takes up a lot of room and they’re heavy and unless you have something that’s really really like a one of a kind. You know, you could sometimes pay more for a room boxing you do a dollhouse
and how big how many rooms are here doll houses, are they pretty big?
You know, they’re usually like typical living room dining room kitchen study. Three bedrooms, two bedrooms, you know, it all depends, but that’s mostly what they are. You know, and like I said in this dollhouse, the Pam 31. Like I said, it’s very, like when you look at it, you wouldn’t even know really, that it’s a dollhouse, because it’s so detailed, from the shingles to the doors to the window panes, I mean, everything is just to scale and realistic.
I’m gonna have to go where your Instagram again and see ya sure you have a lot on there. So how do you? How do you determine what your next project is? You just find like a magazine, a picture of an intimate love, and you gotta create that?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s kind of like what I do, I’ll see a picture of something, I mean, oh, this would be a cool room. And then what I’ll do is I’ll kind of do just research and Google things. And then I’ll ask, like, like, so I have an artist in Spain that he makes most of my metal coffee tables, like the glass coffee table, so I’ll see something. And I sent him the the link to like, some like to a furniture site. And then it gives him all the, like, how big it is in life size, that he knows how to size it in doll house, you know, one inch scale. And then sometimes they’re like, I can’t make it or you know, it’s too difficult. Or sometimes they’re like, yes, we can. That’s the same thing with like, my furniture, like the guy that makes an upholstered the furniture that I use, same thing, you know, I’ll send him a picture of something, and he’ll tell me if he can do it or not. And then we go from there. So you’re working with various different artisans to in this process. But I usually First I start with the room box. Because if the room box can be made, or, you know, there’s no use of doing the other things, and then once that’s in place, and then that kind of start the design process. And then you know, so it’s very much like an interior designer, in real life, I mean, it’s pretty much the same thing that you’re doing, you’re working with different, you know, people to make it all come together.
I’m so happy that you said in your Instagram, you know, and you get to share these beautiful creations with everyone. So thank you for that.
Yeah, and that’s a great thing about Instagram, because I’ve had interest from your, you know, I’ve thought about Oh, that’d be cool to put some of my room boxes into like a local museum, or somewhere where people can actually see them. But that’s a lot of work. Plus, you have to make sure that they’re short. And you know, that their safety of them that they’re all closed to no one can, you know, get tomb. So there’s a lot of things involved in that. So with Instagram, at least you can, you know, it’s all right there, and people still can enjoy them.
Do you glue everything down? Or how the Oh,
no, I don’t. So there are some artisans that would build room boxes for people and they would actually intact everything I don’t because I like to change things out. So I never glue anything. And to me, it ruins the furniture. I mean, when I use just a what tacky wax, it’s just like this tack wax that you put on like the for pictures and things like that, but as far as and then things that maybe sit on the table that might fall over that I just put a little piece of that wax in the bottom of it, but that’s pretty much what I use to keep things in place. Of course, things fall down and fall over all the time just because you know, the weather changes. So the humidity might, you know, make some involved but for the most part, you know, everything stays where it’s
in, do we use glass or some type of covering for especially like your room back
home? I do. Some of them I don’t all of them had plexiglass to cover them because it does protect them in you know, dust and stuff. But it’s really some of them do have the protection and some of them I don’t have C class on them just don’t have a piece of it or it just wasn’t made for him. But if if I had the choice, I would definitely have plexiglass because it does. You know, protect them. And the dust too. So
and you do I notice have some dowels in? Yes, your photos but just some Can you talk? Yeah, your MO Martha Stewart doll you have to
Oh my god. Yeah, she’s great. So the the person person that that does and she’s in California and she is just like, Absolutely. Earnings. Sharon, Carrie Hola. And it’s Sharon Sha Sha rln Carrie Hola, CA ri o la and share These life like people, you know, sometimes, you know you’ll I’ve asked her to do some others and she can’t. She can make pretty much anyone in there. They are amazing. And then some of them are made by a gentleman. He’s in England. Some of the the dolls. So those are the two main that I have. I don’t have a lot, but
I’m why Martha Stewart, are you just a fan of her? Oh, yeah, I like her. Okay,
yeah, I’m a fan. And then I thought she would go good. And some of my scenes, you know, like, my kitchen scene?
Who else would you get? If you could? Cuz you said the other artists. Um,
you know what I wanted to get? Um, I was thinking about getting Jane Fonda. You know, really just thought about that, um, maybe, maybe a character from The Wizard of Oz? I don’t know. I mean, I know, those don’t really fit in my scene that I guess like, for, like, Halloween time or something like that. But otherwise? Yeah. Amazing how they make those two. I mean, the process? I mean, it’s pretty. It’s pretty hands on and takes a lot of time. So
I tried one once for my parents for Christmas. I tried to sculpt them. Yeah. Put it in a shadow box. I mean, it wasn’t to scale at all. It was big. And it was still hard for me. So yes, it’s,
I mean, I think you really have to, like, you know, you have to mold. You know, they’re and they’re basically looking at a picture photo, when they’re making these I mean, are very various photos of the character. So that’s, I just think that’s such a skill mean, to be an artist, and that makes these dolls? Like, I mean, yeah. Brilliant. Yep.
So before COVID, I guess pre COVID? Did you travel to find all your miniatures? Or is it mostly like online? You go to show
it’s mostly online, eBay. And then there have been a few times I went to the international show in Chicago. You should do that, too.
I’m going this April.
I’m really Yeah, definitely. You will love it. I mean, because it really brings everybody and you really get to see just the depth of this whole miniature road and what these people do, I mean, make, it’s amazing. I mean, there’s some things I don’t even know, I mean, about some artisans, just because it’s so big that sometimes you just don’t have the time to even see everybody. But yeah, you will. I’d like to because of COVID I haven’t been I’ve been able to go for like, two years now. So yeah, I would like to go this year just to see some of these people because I haven’t seen them, you know, since COVID. And some of them don’t sell online. So the only time you can buy is the show.
Is there an artist in that year? Like I just want their work, but I just can’t quite get it yet. Is there anyone out there?
Well, yeah, there’s a there’s a an artist that paints and his name is Joe Hahn. But his stuff is really expensive.
So like, can you tell? Oh, like his pains
could be like a couple $1,000. But they’re beautiful details of them. And I mean, he’s probably I mean, I think he is considered the best. When it comes to miniature artists who paint I want to mean scenes. Let me tell you what his name is because it is. Well, his name is Joe Han’s Landman so his first name is Gay oh eight, AES to the land. La en de la and the man.
I just thought when you were because you’re so knowledgeable. And I’d love to give credit to all these artisans. Do an article like a blog, and we’ll put everyone’s name and with like their, you know if they have a website or how to contact them. And then I can put that in the show notes. So people can just click and see all these amazing.
I know, you want me to you want me to send you some of them. Yeah, for sure. After
this podcast, we’ll get together and maybe just write up a little article and so people can at least so I just have a few more questions. Sorry. I have so many questions. Your phone? Yeah, you just you have such an amazing collection. So you were featured in the house. Beautiful magazine. Can you tell us a little bit about that magazine? Because I’ve never
Oh, yeah, it’s just a decorating magazine. That’s called House Beautiful. It’s a hearse magazine. Um, yeah, it’s just a um, a decorating magazine and I I had a one of their editors follow me on Instagram. And I think either she reached out or I reached out and said, Would you be interested in doing some kind of article, so it was online. And then I’ve also had a dollhouse trade magazine. They’ve done something on me. So um, you know, it’s just I get that Russian recognition,
for sure. So it’s House Beautiful. It’s just a magazine that you would find in recreates type things. Like recreate a room box.
You mean the actual magazine? Who does it target?
Yeah, like you said, you use magazines to get inspiration for your next room back?
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yes. Yeah, that would be one of the magazines. And they don’t, I mean, they do Interior Design of rowhomes. But, um, I think the editor like that thing, like, this whole thing of miniature interior design, and that’s why they did a story on me because they thought it was interesting.
But it means that you like traditional home
I like, like I said, traditional home House Beautiful. Some of the HGTV magazine magazines. So those are usually the ones varanda ones like that.
Okay, after looking at some of these, because I always, I shared it a little while ago in one of my podcasts, like, I used to love Barbies, but not so much for the dowels, just like knocking the dream house over setting it back up. And then okay, knocking over again. And then you know, setting it all back up. So I loved into your part of it also. So yeah, Nick, it seems like that would be awesome. Yeah. So where do you think the future of miniatures is? You have any like, to go around? Do you think?
You know, I mean, I think it’s one of those hobbies that it has, like, I think it’s really become very popular, especially since COVID. A lot of people, a lot of younger people getting into miniatures is great, because I think there was a time when, you know, a lot of these artisans that have been around have either retired or they’re deceased, or they just no longer in the business. And so now I think with Etsy, and things like that, you’re seeing a lot of like, artists out there that are becoming interested in so
yeah, and you think there’s enough miniatures to go around? Like you’ve been a collector? And
I mean, yeah, I think there are a lot of miniatures, but I mean, there’s definitely ones that if you have something you pretty much know if you have something that’s very collectible, and maybe there’s a lot of people out there that have like a piece, but I mean, I guess it just depends on what it is. Some of them would make mass quantities of things, you know, when they would make them and so there’s a lot out there, but I mean, I would say for the artisans that are no longer doing it, those are probably harder to come by. You know, compared to maybe today, you know, ones that you know, they try to sell more on a mass quantity, or they make things you know more things because, you know, a lot of them that’s their livelihood. So you know, they’re not just doing it as a hobby and then so on.
To in where I guess if one wants to get started like they love miniatures, where do you have any advice on how one can get started with collecting miniatures?
Well, I mean with collecting I would say I mean, there’s I definitely would think that you would want to follow a lot of them the Facebook pages which I do if you find a lot of information there and just about artisans and then just you know it’s a good resource if you have questions the some of the ones that I follow it’s called dock dollhouse miniature marketplace dollhouse miniatures including made from trash to treasure 112 dollhouse miniatures for sale miniature master pieces for sale. dollhouse brain designs igma miniature community, the cat’s meow miniature society side of a lot of groups I belong to.
We can maybe include that in I live.
Oh, include those two.
Okay, so, can you give us a little glimpse in what you’re working on next and maybe what we might see on your Instagrams?
Um, I mean, right now I’m I just finished taking all the Christmas stuff out of them. So I’ll get ready for like Valentine’s Easter St. Patrick’s Valentine’s St. Patrick’s Easter. Spring just changing them up you know with I want to also do a lot with the outside because you know with spring and summer because they have a pool with it so I’ll be working on that as far as room boxes I’m not really I’m working on a one right now that I’ve found out a an auction I’m just kind of repayment and stuff but as far as other projects No, I kind of I haven’t been collecting as much or I’m trying to you know, I only have so much room so I don’t have really much room for me. Yeah,
not a miniature room. Yeah. Well, I can’t wait to see and thank you so much again for joining me and chatty minis. Okay, and like I said, handle and everything so people can
we you send me the Will you send me your email? So I can send you that document with us and stuff?
Check. Okay, well, thanks again.
Alright, and I’ll send you mine. I’ll give you my email and Instagram message. Okay, all right. Thank you.
You have a wonderful day. Are you do Okay, bye