Friday 28 March 2014

Size Matters

When people see my work as a miniaturist or discover that I recreate / design worlds in scale miniature for a living, the assumption is often that I "must love tiny things". That's not strictly true. For me it's an interest in scale - seeing ordinary things in a size you wouldn't expect to see it (large or small) and perhaps above all, I work in miniature in order to have complete control over an environment I create.

I haven't blogged for a bit as I've been preoccupied (celebrating my birthday on a Vegas - Sedona - Grand Canyon road-trip) and completing a miniature viennoiserie / bakery project. So I thought I'd say a few words now about scale...

An artist I admire who likes to play with size to make an impact is Ron Mueck. He creates 'hyperreal' sculptures of people in different scales, sometimes 2/3 life-size and often giant-sized.

In this interview here, he explains that he doesn't make life-size figures because it doesn't interest him, as "we meet life-size people every day" and that seeing an irregular sized representation of a person "makes you take notice in a way you wouldn't do with something that's just normal".

Once you discover his work you won't be able to take your eyes off these sculptures - they're completely captivating. Of course, I already knew and loved him from his work on 'The Labyrinth'...

But what about miniatures? What's the appeal?
And what's the point in using them today in filmmaking?

From the moment Georges Méliès created a miniature capsule to be propelled into the eye of the moon in 'Le Voyage dans la Lune', the possibilities of what could be accomplished on film using miniatures were endless.
How else could you have a spaceship soar through space, King Kong climb a building or vast fantastical castles on screen? You've all seen miniatures in film without knowing that was what you were looking at. (There's a fun list of popular films which used miniature fabrications here).
The 1990s saw a turning point when computer effects become good enough to replace miniatures for the most part. Since then miniatures are sometimes still used - often in instances requiring physical interaction with fire, explosions and water.

So today there isn't really a huge need to use miniatures in film. But I think that might be part of the appeal. When you look at the painstaking work that has gone into hand-making every character, set, prop and scenery in films such as Tim Burton's 'Frankenweenie', 'Corpse Bride', 'Nightmare Before Christmas', Nick Park's 'Wallace and Gromit' films, Laika's 'Paranorman' and now the eagerly awaited 'Boxtrolls'; it's these miniature hand-crafted worlds that the audience wants to be immersed in.

This image shows a hand place a miniature prop in place for a scene in 'Boxtrolls' (2014). The scale is 1:9.

The very nature of the 'Boxtrolls' theatrical trailer confirms that appeal, as we watch human hands sketch, sculpt and arrange the miniatures that make up the film.
Another example of the mass appeal of hands-on miniature storytelling, was the John Lewis Christmas 2013 advert, which had people Googling the 'making of' and watching the behind the scenes process (here).

These are photos of my recent project mentioned above. The scale is 1:12.
Boy, I can't wait to stop working on projects like this and begin working full-time on my own miniature short!

Since we're talking about scale, I'll leave you with a photo taken on my recent birthday trip of me on a giant chess set looking like a miniature!


Stephanie Kilgast said...

yup, I agree, that's the most interesting thing there is when working on miniatures, the illusion you give and the surprise when you see the actual size.

Caroline McFarlane-Watts said...

Yeah! Sometimes I really want to sculpt something crazy huge. If only I had the space. ;)

Lisa Neault said...

This was my dilemna when I started working with miniatures as my living/business as well. I started working exclusively with 1:12 and smaller, but soon got bored and ventured into larger scales 1:6 being my favorite. Like you, it is replicating something small that really is the appeal to me. I love your work but this blog is one of my favorites because of the scope of how miniatures as an art form in other the pic of you on the chess set! I use a picture of myself in front of Tasha Tudor's dollhouse as my profile pic -the dollhouse is no longer on display at the museum near me- but it was built in 1:4 scale and simply huge. My first encounter with scale was when I was three and there was an awesome playhouse across from my great grandmother's home in North Carolina. I still have the picture my dad snapped of me in front of it- but it was furnished to child scale- fireplace, table chairs, cabinets , beds. It is wonderful for me to see a post like this because many times I have felt like the odd duck! Did not mean to write a biography but wanted you to know how much your work is such an inspiration!Thank you for blogging this!

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