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Traveling for My Passion: Dollhouse Miniatures

Miniature BirdsI have always been fascinated by miniatures. When I was seven, my parents gave me a dollhouse that they built from a kit. In high school, my parents helped me start to remodel that house, which now sits near me as I write this article. San Jose, California, has an annual dollhouse show. At the show last year I was introduced to the International Guild of Miniature Artisans and the Guild School held every year in Castine, Maine. I always wondered how I could learn to finish my house and its furnishing, so I selected some classes (“Dogrose Courtship” designed and taught by Beth Freeman-Kane and a slipper chair design class taught by Annelle Furguson) and went.

I loved my first Guild School experience. I learned so much and met so many people who love miniatures even more than me! The 2015 Guild School was a fabulous week of courses on woodworking, ceramics and sculpting, metalwork, basketry, weaving, handwork, and painting. I made a 1:144 scale tester bed designed by Nell Corkin in a 2-hour evening seminar in addition to my day class projects. Yes, the bed is sitting on a quarter!

Miniature-Tester Bed

Who goes to the Guild School?

All kinds of people from all over the world attend the Guild School in Castine. The instructors came from all over the USA, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, Great Britain, and South Africa. Many students and instructors return every year. Many of the students make miniatures their career, others do it for fun, and still others do it for a mix of reasons including social reasons.
The approximately 250 students traveled from all over the world to be there, and the average age of the students was late 50s.

How people get there and other miniature shows

Several of the older students mentioned that as they age air travel has become harder for them on their own and that they wished to travel with others. Some of them said they drive together cross country or meet up and fly together. If you are a miniature lover you might want to search for a travel companion that share the same hobby or purpose for travel. The TripCompanion app is where you can tailor your profile to find a travel companion. Or you can become a travel companion for others and earn some money to offset your travel costs for your own hobby.
There is a healthy miniature community and shows all over the USA. Many of these same people will be at the Arizona show in August, the San Jose show in October and the Philadelphia show in November. Some people even travel together to the international shows in London and Paris.

Travel tips for attending a miniature making course

Miniature shows often have one or more days of courses where you can learn how to make miniatures of your own. These courses require some materials and tools that you must bring to class.

  • Carefully check the security allowances when you plan to take your miniature tools in your carry-on bag. I packed all of my tools for cutting and drilling and glues in my checked luggage. I double bagged the glues. I also do handwork. Although small scissors can be put in a carry-on, I packed them in my checked luggage. I don’t recommend doing petit point on an airplane because I don’t want my work soiled and the dry air and poor lighting is really bad for quality work.
    Note: I kept my ink pens and magnification with me in my carry-on bag. Sketching and drawing are fun activities to pass the time on a long flight.
  • If you have to carry bottled inks or paints in tubes, I would recommend putting them in strong leak-proof containers, such as Tupperware or other plastic ware, and packing them in your checked baggage.
  • If you have to carry fragile wooden miniatures or room boxes and if the overhead bins fill up and the item has to be checked, I’d strongly recommend using a Pelican case to ensure that your work makes it to its destination intact. Pelican cases are pricey but practically indestructible.
  • Bag everything separately in your checked luggage! This was the first time my checked luggage was searched by TSA security personnel.
    Note: I know this because in the USA the TSA security personnel leave a little note in your suitcase.
    They opened my shampoo and did not close the bottle well when they repacked my suitcase. As a result, the shampoo spilled everywhere inside the liquids bag, but my miniatures, books, and tools were fine because everything was in a separate plastic or silicone bags.

Planning the next “passion” trip

Use the proper size luggage for what you need to take (and return with). This last trip I wanted to try using a smallish piece of luggage and could barely get my clothes in after packing the miniature tools, and I did not correctly anticipate how much space I would need after I made my projects. Next time, I will practice loading the suitcase before committing to a particular size case. Sometimes one or two inches can make a big difference for a trip!

Fly Confident!