Tiny Treasures – Museum of Miniature Houses
Though I’ve lived in Carmel for many years, I had no idea that something so big was going on downtown, and I don’t mean the obvious changes we encounter every day. What I recently discovered are the Museum of Miniature Houses and NAME, both of which are located in the Carmel Arts & Design District and enjoy national recognition. Stephanie Marshall, special events coordinator for the District, moved here in part because of them. She has been collecting and building miniatures since she was a child in London and relished the opportunity to live next door to ‘minis’ of this caliber. It is her enthusiasm which initiated this story.
To learn more about them, I first had a conversation with Suzie Moffett, one of three Indiana artisans who founded the Museum in 1991 with the “goals of preserving and displaying scale miniatures and antique dollhouses and introducing this art form to others.” “Things are changing,” Suzie said. “It used to be stay at home moms who were miniaturists. Now a lot of men, retired from shops where they had room to make things big, have graduated to crafting items that are small.” And what is the definition of small anyway?
According to Suzie, it all has to do with scale. “A dollhouse, for instance, is a toy meant for play, whereas a miniature is an adult hobby that reflects painstaking attention to detail and accuracy to scale.” There is the one inch to one foot model to create a three foot cube, a one half inch to one foot model for an 18” cube and then the one fourth inch to one foot scale “for crazy people.” The Museum of Miniature Houses displays all three sizes, so that these ‘small’ differences can be appreciated.
Another reason that miniatures attract so many followers is that it requires expertise in multiple art forms. Look into any display and you’ll see tiny throws and pillows made from needlepoint, blown glass, porcelain dishes, pottery, and furniture crafted with all the precision found in real life. There are even those who specialize in miniature upholstery, a craft that Suzie defines as “insane.” “This hobby is still cheaper than psychiatry,” she states. “It’s the best way to rest your brain while creating something for the ages.”
Over seventy thousand visitors have toured the museum to date. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Hamilton County on Main Street, it shares its attractions with another miniature society around the corner. NAME stands for National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts and coincidentally relocated here from Carmel, California to one of the original farmhouses on Range Line Road in 1991.
Formed in 1972 and dedicated to the miniature builder and collector, NAME will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. Office Manager Kim Ash is enthusiastic about members who will come from all over the country to a spectacular National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina this July. “It’s through national and regional meetings like this that like-minded miniaturists exchange their ideas, view spectacular exhibits and learn new techniques from world-renowned artisans.” NAME also has a museum on the first floor that showcases collections and in fact they share many of their displays with the Museum. “Only through sharing can we really enjoy our treasures,” is the motto that unites so many miniature craftsmen across the world. Both the Museum of Miniature Houses and NAME hope that more of us here will come to appreciate the captivating art of miniature making.