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Miniatures Gain Popularity Among Baby Boomers

  • June Soh

Mary Paris has captured the famous Washington Tidal Basin cherry trees in a teacup.

On a recent Saturday, members of Mount Vernon Miniatures Club got together in a library near Washington. Paris brought her remarkably tiny miniature that has a cherry blossom motif on a china tea cup and saucer.

“I re-created the Washington, D.C., Tidal Basin at cherry blossom time. There are photographers taking pictures, there are families walking along, and in the front it is President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama,” Paris said of her smaller than quarter-inch-scale miniature.

Paris started creating miniatures about 15 years ago when she retired from her publishing and communications management job.

“You can create a little world out of your imagination to be whatever you want it to be. I guess that's probably what interests me,” she said.

Unique pieces

Miniatures are unique creations. And the scale model replicas can be people, animals, furniture, buildings or anything else that you can think of or imagine.

Miniature dollhouses have mainly been known as a children’s toy. But many adults also collect and craft them as a hobby. And the hobby is increasingly popular among baby boomers and seniors.

The National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts has 4,500 members in clubs throughout the country. Most club members get together once a month for individual or group projects.

Mount Vernon Miniatures Club President Laurie Sisson says most of the members are over 50.

“And there are people all over the world who have these interests. We meet online. I have friends in Turkey and in Australia. There are people in England that I send emails back and forth to. We are all friends, we all enjoy miniatures,” Sisson said.

In Olney, Maryland, Ruth Dubois has been working on a five-story dollhouse that has two rooms on each floor. When she bought the dollhouse 12 years ago, it was an empty shell.

“I've been working on it ever since. I put on all of the bricking. My husband put in the lighting for me. And I've been doing the wallpaper and the flooring. I’ve been working on putting the contents of each room together,” Dubois said.

Dollhouses as full-time business

Creating dollhouses, which started as a hobby, has grown to a full-time business for the Duboises after their retirement from government jobs. Their shop called Forever Friends is in their house. Part of the first floor and the entire basement and garage are stocked with miniature furniture, accessories and building materials.

“My husband does the building of houses,” Dubois said. “He puts in all of the electrical items so that a house can have hanging lamps. I work with the customers to help pick out the kinds of flooring they want, the type of furniture that they want to put in. It's a lot of fun for me, working with the customers.”

Dubois said her customers range from 3-year-olds who come with their parents to people in their 80s. “We find a lot of people who are retired now have the time and the money to be able to do a dollhouse, something that they've always dreamed of.”

Baby boomers

Sisson sees the miniatures popularity among baby boomers as a natural development.

“I would say that a lot of the baby boomers grew up with hobbies, with some of these fiber [building material] hobbies," she said. “They don't have room for those anymore, but they have a challenge to make things smaller. And they enjoy having a hobby that they can share with other people.”

Sisson believes that by creating and sharing the beauty of miniatures, they also share each other’s lives.