Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Call of the Small exhibition, Craft ACT, 12 August - 25 September 2010 by Anna-Maria C Sviatko

I have always been entranced by small things and, in recent years, have immersed myself in the world of modern dolls houses and miniatures.


My first exhibition was as part of Knit 1 Blog 1 at Craft ACT in 2007, where I contributed a hand knitted 1/12th scale jumper and cushions. Then, in 2008-2009, I had a solo exhibition of my collection of modern (purchased) dolls houses at Canberra Museum and Gallery as part of their Cabinets of Curiosities series (Playing House: Contemporary Dolls’ Houses 1957-2007)


It was at that time that I first approached the Director of Craft ACT to discuss the idea of combining both the handmade and the miniature into an exhibition within a 1/12th scale craft gallery: an idea I felt would highlight miniature work for a new audience of artisans and also provide more modern pieces for the insatiable appetites of modern miniaturists around the world. I envisaged the exhibition would be called M’Art (short for Miniature Art and a play on the word mart, meaning a place to sell things) and become a regular event.


In mid 2009 I began a one year internship with Craft ACT and the idea I had for a group miniature exhibition because a reality. It was locked in to the calendar for August 2010, with a couple of changes, including the name (thanks for the real Call of the Small for allowing us to borrow her name!) I liked the irony that dolls’ house were originally used  to teach girls how run households, and I would be using a dolls’ house sized craft gallery to learn how to be a Curator.



I invited ten artisans, two with previous experience with working in miniature and eight who were exploring the area for the first time, to "shrink to the challenge" and create 1/12th scale works for the exhibition.


The aim of the exhibition was to highlight the variety of mediums and

techniques that can be employed in small scale, and I hoped to use the opportunity to introduce the concept of working in miniature to full sized artisans and introduce miniature works to a wider audience.


As part of the journey towards the actual exhibition I chose to visit as many of the artisans as I could and document their journey. I did this for two reasons: firstly to share what they were creating with the readers of my blog (and get an idea of where they were at) but also to provide support, information and encouragement for artisans who were probably going to be working well outside of their comfort zones.

The exhibition opened on August 12 and was very well received.


The Artistans:

Peter Bollington (Furniture maker)

Peter was one of Craft ACT’s interns in 2009 and, as a student of the Furniture Workshop at ANU School of Art, I knew he had experience in maquette making. Peter was very keen when I mentioned the concept to him and I was interested in seeing what he would produce in miniature (and hopefully convince him to continue working in the field!)

The two items Peter produced for the show were Tomo swatch #2 (shown above in Gallery 1: White Knight), based on his full sized work for the earlier Craft ACT Epidemic show, and Tension/ Balance (displayed in Gallery 2: Red Hots)

Robert Boot (Miniature turner)

Robert Boot is a member of the ACT Miniature Enthusiasts Association and has been producing miniature turned items for some time, both in wood and in acrylic. One of his bowls was used for the publicity shot for the exhibition, and his work was included in each of the gallery spaces within the exhibition.

(See here for photos from my studio visit with Robert where I documented the making of the bowl above)

Sharon Cornthwaite (Mixed media)

Sharon already worked in miniature, with her mixed media jewellery pieces for sale in the Craft ACT shop. I was interested to see how she would approach even smaller scale pieces.


Because Sharon lived in Bega (a couple of hours away by car) I originally sent Wendy (who lives in my Kaleidoscope House) down to help her get an idea of scale, driving down to rescue her a couple of months later.

Sharon's pieces are usually made from vintage pieces combined in often startling or uneasy ways. Her work for Call of the Small was no exception and her work made up most of Gallery 3: Curiously Strong.

Jodie Cunningham (Painting)

Jodie was one of my tutors at CIT in 2009 and, with the immenent birth of her second child was packing up her studio to make room for a nursery. I suggested she could work in miniature, which would take up less room that full sized pieces. She was excited to have the opportunity to create her works on three dimentional pieces and explore the use of perspex.

I visited Jodie's studio here, where she explained the rational behind her works, which were displayed in Gallery 4: Allsorts.

Linda Davy (Ceramics)

I mentioned the exhibition to Linda one day when she was in the Craft ACT shop. She has always wanted to try miniature work and so was a very early addition to the list of exhibitors.

Linda created a range of serving platters and some large bird themed candleabras for the exhibition, which were displayed in Gallery 1: White Knight and Gallery 3: Curiously Strong. I visited her studio here.

Caren Florence/ Ampersand Duck (Bookmaker/ Printer)

Ampersand Duck is a blog buddy who had been itching for the chance to work with some of the smaller bits of type she has amassed over the years.


I had originally hoped she’d take up the challenge to create 1/12th scale books but she has decided to work on a range of limited edition letterpress posters instead.


Some of her work was incuded in Gallery 2: Red Hots and you can see the full range here (and her early plans for the pieces here).

David Hodges (Bookmaker)

I was still looking for someone to tackle 1/12th scale books and was chatting with David at an opening. He said he’d been wanting to try miniature books for years and so he was added to the list of contributors there and then!

Creating a 1/12th scale book was a major challenge for David, who is used to working much bigger but after a false start, he did it (and is now very keen to keep working in this scale. Or smaller!)

David's book was exhibited in Gallery 2: Red Hots.

Jennifer Howlett (Miniature knitter)

Jennifer is another blog buddy of mine. She is member of the Australian Miniature Enthusiasts Association and produces the most amazing 1/12th scale knitted pieces.

For the exhibition Jennifer chose to create a range of shawls, bags and baskets with the theme of The Seasons, referencing her memories of living in Canberra and the fact we have four distinct seasons, as opposed to Sydney, where she now lives.

Jennifer's work was included in each of the galleries.

Joanne Searle (Ceramics)

I expected Jo to supply me with some small ceramic pieces, especially as we discussed the fact she was going to Clay Energy 2010 and planned to study their exhibition Up in Smoke (an exhibition of ceramic art works that will fit inside a standard sized Redheads matchbox) for inspiration.

But she went in a completely different direction and submitted a body of mixed media collage works based on laminate samples, which were displayed in sets of three in Gallery 1: White Knight and Gallery 4: Allsorts.

Olivia Sherwood (Felter/ knitter)


Olivia is a neighbour, a fellow exhibitor at Knit 1 Blog 1 and a member of the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group I used to attend. She produces felted pods and pears for the Craft ACT shop and I knew she’d experimented with bead sized felted pears. I was sure she’d be keen to try going smaller, and she did a beautiful job.


Her pears were included in Gallery 1: White Knight and her pods in Gallery 2: Red Hots.

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