The Miniature Enthusiasts of Edmonton (MEE) are hosting their annual show and sale in person on Sept. 18 after two years of running the event digitally.
It will be a relief to return to a live set-up, welcoming devoted miniaturists from across the region to mingle and show off their creations, said MEE workshop coordinator Tina MacDonald. The club's adaptation to online meetups and workshops is here to stay, however.
"The pandemic has actually been quite good for our club," said MacDonald. "We had a very smooth transition from face-to-face into Zoom. And we've never looked back."
Being something of a tech geek, MacDonald said she quickly transitioned her local Edmonton group's meetings and workshops online. Before long, the group was picking up new members in Calgary, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and other far-off places.
"We've expanded to include all these new people," MacDonald said of the members choosing to keep the online format going. "If we go back to in-person, they all end up dropping out of the club."
Dawn Rogal is one of those far-flung members. Her interest in miniatures grew out of her art practice of stitching three-dimensional pieces from felt, fabric, and found objects. One custom order required her to make an owl and a handful of accompanying tiny books and records. With the commission completed, Rogal kept working on making the books smaller, until her micro-library was large enough to require a shelf and eventually a doll house to store it all.
"As luck would have it, I was visiting a local hobby shop here in Saskatoon and spied a dollhouse that the proprietor was wiring for a local miniaturist. A few phone calls later, and I was on weekly Zoom meetings with several like-minded individuals across Western Canada," Rogal said.
"The pandemic caused such isolation, but Zoom and my new friends in the world of miniatures give me a chance to chat with people every week. As things begin to change, and we learn to live in our new normal, I hope to begin meeting many of them in real life."
The miniatures community saw a surge in interest during the pandemic, with curious people looking for a new creative outlet and hobbyists finally freed of the obligations that might normally keep them from their projects.
"People were really struggling. I mean, I don't know what I would have done when the lockdown hit if I didn't have something to do," MacDonald said. "And this is how people ended up online looking for things to do. And that's where they found miniatures."
This swell of interest was experienced by every conceivable hobby during COVID, but a list of reasons to join the MEE on its website gives some clues as to what made miniatures uniquely appealing in a time of constant uncertainty. There's the friendship mentioned by Rogal, the opportunity to "live in other times," a chance to flex your creativity, and the rare opportunity to be "in total control of your mini environment."
The upcoming show and sale will feature about 100 displays. Among them are the dollhouses that have traditionally attracted people to miniatures, as well as an expanding array of niche subjects crafted by miniaturists who may shy away from that title.
"I've noticed there is a huge number of miniaturists out there, but they don't call themselves miniaturists," said MacDonald, who was the subject of a StoryHive documentary on her craft. "They are doing things like diorama, as they call it. Or they call it book nooks."
Pieces related to table-top games or fantasy worlds like the Lord of the Rings are popular with younger groups, she explained. But, she asserted, "it's all miniatures."
The show and sale runs from 10am to 4pm on Sept. 18 at the Royal Hotel West Edmonton at 10010 178 St.