Updated: Sep 26, 2019
It was a whirlwind of seemingly endless project deadlines, visits to museums and galleries, interviews for full-time post graduation jobs, and I was also working two part-time jobs... so, yes, the side of my room that is visible in this miniature really did look like this for the last two months of my final year at Parsons. You may not believe it but the other side of the room was pristine and orderly, containing only a twin-size futon, a small dresser, a refurbished walnut $22 phone stand I picked up at a flea market, my old-school corded land line telephone, and my now iconic 1982 Parsons poster by Cipe Pineles and Janet Amendola. (I have pre-digital camera photos of this room packed away somewhere, and if I ever find them I promise I will share them here.)
What I most remember about my room during that extraordinary time, is that as I sat surrounded by a little too much stuff, listening to the rattle, thump and hum of an ancient window-propped air conditioner, I felt incredibly excited, optimistic and ready to take on the world. My free time, which was very little, found me listening to 80's rock on my Walkman, (or Vivaldi if I was trying to think through one of Henry Wolf's projects), and making plans to meet up with friends in the west village, or if I could convince someone to come "all the way uptown", swinging by the TCBY Yogurt on the upper east side before heading over to the bandshell in Central Park.
As I sat on the floor packing up my art books and catalogs, (hoping to make a little cash by selling many of them to the Strand Bookstore), in the final weeks before I handed in my senior portfolio, I began to take in the gravity of what it all meant. I had worked my but off and I was about to graduate from an amazing school. I was becoming a real grown-up, and since I knew I wasn't planning to pursue my masters degree, for now, this would mark the end of my formal education. I would no longer spend hours and hours with my nose in Art History books, or night after night attending gallery openings and art shows, or even visiting the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), the Guggenheim, the Whitney or the Morgan, unless it was of my own fruition. I wouldn't be staking out the perfect vantage point from which to sketch the clock tower at Grand Central Station, and I certainly wouldn't be spending late Saturday afternoons down at Pearl Paint on Canal Street combing through the bargain art supply bins. Wow. Well, now what? What was life after 16 years of being a student even going to look like, and was I ready?
To no surprise, it turns out the Met, John Singer Sargent and Jackson Pollock in particular, had no intention of fading into obscurity. It had become as much a part of my consciousness as the smell of the air with the approach of autumn. I would continue my weekly, (sometimes even twice a week) meditative visits to the Met until I no longer called New York City home. I belonged there, and I felt a deep and personal connection, one that I am unable to put into words.
Between an extended visit and hands-on tour of a highly-respected graphic design shop (during my last year at Parsons) and a failed internship at a Madison Avenue ad agency, it became clear to me that working in-house as a fresh out of school designer just wasn't my cup of tea. I was still naive enough to believe that it wouldn't be that difficult to start my own thing... so that's what I set my sites on. I would continue working at the dollhouse shop while I slowly built my graphic design clientele. I had already designed a few business cards, invitations and brochures, and I had pitched a menu design to 'Tavern on the Green'. It would just be a matter of time before I could support myself as a graphic artist. I will admit that I wasn't wildly passionate about graphic design, but I was pretty good at it, I enjoyed it, and I knew I would be able to make a living doing it. But over the next six months, as I continued to work at Dollhouse Antics, I realized that it wasn't graphic design that truly sparked my creativity and enthusiasm, it was creating miniatures. As we worked on some really intricate dollhouses and unique projects for affluent clients and the occasional celebrity, I grew more and more in love with miniature work.
And just like that, I had a plan. Custom miniatures would be the core offering of my design business. Inspired by an arts & craft show I attended in Toronto a year earlier, I began creating miniature dollhouses that were tissue box covers, made entirely of wood. They were highly-detailed, well constructed and very unique. A deluxe version of my miniature dollhouse tissue box was even purchased and used for a 'Bon Appetit' magazine Thanksgiving photo shoot, and another miniature house was part of a feature about toys and collectibles that ran in a Japanese magazine called, 'Pronto'. The little houses were a hit, and within the first month I sold a few dozen. I soon began selling them at art shows in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I even found the confidence to return to 'Tavern on the Green' to take another shot at pitching my 3D menus. The restaurant manager that I had previously met with still wasn't ready to embrace the idea of a menu that he feared would be irresistible as a "free" souvenir, but the feedback I received was invaluable, and I continued to evolve the design with the intention of presenting the new menus later that month.
Life does indeed have a way of happening while we're busy making other plans, and a major change in my personal life inspired a trip to San Francisco that would alter the course of my world. To the surprise of everyone I knew, within a very short period, I decided that the time had come to leave New York. With a somewhat heavy heart and no small amount of fear, I said goodbye to my family, life-long friends, and the city that defined me; the one I never imagined moving away from. It felt utterly surreal... but I was ready.
I arrived in the Bay Area with a newly found determination to make it as a freelance graphic designer while continuing my miniature work. With limited experience and a portfolio of work that was very good, (but not amazing), freelance design work didn't come easily. Still, I experienced San Francisco in the early 90's as a beautiful, magical and poetic land of opportunity... and I felt like it just kept getting better. I soon found a job that would support me while I continued to do my creative thing, and within a few months I had a small client base for my graphic design work. I did a few birth announcements, I designed a logo, and I worked on a business card here and there, but whenever I could, I would work on a miniature project. In fact, I usually had at least two going at any given time.
Shortly after I began settling into my new life in San Francisco, I unexpectedly found the love of my life. He encouraged and supported my passion for miniatures even as he watched that passion shift into a quiet obsession. As we built our lives together and I went from having a closet full of bankers boxes with miniatures, to having a small off-site storage locker, to taking over 1/4 of a two-car garage, and then finally to filling an outside free-standing storage shed, from time to time he would gently put his hand on my shoulder and say, "I think you probably have enough miniatures now, Sweetie..." to which I would reply, "Never!" The man is a saint.
Most of the projects I created were for close friends, and I would occasionally create a small vignette or a miniature scene under a glass dome for the friend or relative of a friend that was celebrating something special. I just couldn't get enough. I made personalized miniature scenes for birthdays, anniversaries, wedding showers, and of course, to welcome new babies. I was never as happy as when I was working on a miniature project late at night. And well before the internet made it possible to purchase miniature items online, I would attend the highly celebrated annual 'Good Sam Miniature Show' in San Jose, or I would make the trek to my favorite dollhouse and miniature shop, 'Shellie's Miniature Mania' located in San Carlos. Shellie shared my over the top passion for miniatures, and I would spend hours and hours in her shop, talking miniatures with Shellie and her other customers, and taking in all the magnificent little treasures. I was in my happy place.
Three decades later, I have solely created over 3 dozen 1:12 scale dollhouses and hundreds of miniature projects; a body of work that I am very proud of, and I have over 200 bankers boxes that are filled to the brim with miniatures. (Yes, I really do.) To anyone looking in from the outside, the amount of miniatures I own probably seems like a little too much. Never.