Hoarding, or, a Miniature Builder’s Suggested Inventory:

Mini driftwood broken sorted by size, mini stones, gravel and pebbles, beach sand, bird gravel, mini bricks and seashells, 1 coffee tin beer pull tabs, rusty metal, rust dust, real-world-sized rusted wood–splitting wedge, railroad spikes and flatirons, baby bird head-feathers (don’t ask), cigarette ashes, dental drill bits, horseshoe nails, dried creeping thyme, 4 lbs. of brass pins a millimeter too thick for sewing, and copper screen sections too small to be useful.

In a burst of energy the other day I emptied 8 boxes of mini supplies into, 1: the wastebasket, 2: the Find Someone to Send These To pile, and 3: the I Can’t Decide box. It’s a system I developed a few years ago while dealing with family bric-a-brac after my parents died. My project has been to go through at least one box a week, family or mini. Long ago our mini supplies outgrew the studio and workshop shelves and drawers, and spilled into coffee cans, pickle jars, and baggies to be shoved under worktables or stacked in the garage. Twelve years ago when we left Seaview, WA, I packed this overflow into small, tidy boxes, labeled them, then unpacked them in Astoria onto the shelves of what would have been our pantry. Many of them remain unsealed today.

This inventory shouldn’t surprise any of you who know us as miniaturists, because we’ve been handing out this essential stuff  in our workshops for years. Hoarding is an affliction passed on to me by Noel. Back in 1971 when he took me camping in So. California at the then-remote Kern River, he began carting home the rusted tools and unidentifiable iron chunks we found in the rattle-snake-infested hills. These chunks moved with us, the cats and the plants, from Los Angeles, along with an old and particularly stinky bag of vacuum cleaner dust (because it had the right odor for old attics). Noel discovered the treasured vacuum bag one night en route from LA to Seaview when we were cleaning up kitty litter from a motel carpet.  One day a year or so later, Noel arrived home from the dump—in those days we still had open dumps–with two blue-and-white speckled washing machine tubs—“Here,”  he crowed, “strawberry planters!” I made him take them back. He came home with a pair of rubber boots and a rusted-out coke machine he traded right off the back of some other guy’s truck.

In an attempt to exonerate ourselves from accusations of blatant hoarding (we like to think of ourselves as Collectors), the aluminum beer can tabs were cut down for various appliance handles (imagine oven doors), the feathers were glued to our birdhouses, the cigarette ashes rubbed into Johnson’s Paste Wax to age flooring, the horseshoe nails used to anchor tiny pieces of glass for soldering stained-glass windows, the flat-irons and spikes to weigh things down while glue dried, and the bird gravel was glued over emery cloth to make a white roof for the Whittier, a So. Calif. bungalow. I never did find a use for the brass pins—they caught my eye in one of those surplus catalogs, and cost practically nothing…

Bug Juice Bucket

Fact: The big rust became the basis of our Bug Juice brewing business, and we had to gather more when that was eaten away by the vinegar.

Fact: Noel  used the boots for washing the van, and cleaned up the coke machine for our front porch.

Fact: When we left Seaview we filled two big Dempsey Dumpsters to overflowing*.

Fact: I moved some of the stuff I threw away the other day from the wastebasket to the I Don’t Know box.

* Bob, the guy who built our miniature kits, took our dead couch out of the Dumpster and moved it into his living room. Yes, he lives alone.

About smallhousepress

In 1974, my husband Noel and I began building aged miniature houses for collectors and museums. We were 70's dropouts. We quit our careers in advertising--art director and writer, respectively--and escaped Los Angeles in a VW camper and a Bug for a simpler life on the coast of Washington State. From a tiny studio in our home, we built 64 houses and buildings. Our specialty was aging--making a structure that reflected the scars and wrinkles of time, the elements, and human habitation. In the 80s we began teaching our techniques in workshops around the country, and I began to write our how-to's in Nutshell News and Miniature Collector. In 2000 we migrated across the Columbia to Astoria, OR, where , in 2011, we retired from miniatures. We are Fellows of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans and taught at their annual school in Castine, ME. By avocation I am a writer and poet. The blog is my way of working back into a writing routine, as well as recording what we did, and what we learned along the way.
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13 Responses to Hoarding, or, a Miniature Builder’s Suggested Inventory:

  1. KC says:

    And you didn’t even need a 12 step program for Noel to let go of it all? Or does he have to head to the studio on clean out days and leave all the work to you?

  2. Dawn Weaver says:

    Just the other day, outside an Ace Hardware store, there were several boxes with different types of mulch they had on sale. Not having any containers with me, I used up all by tissues to take samples to bring home. Reason: sort of planning on doing a Three Little Pigs vignette.

  3. Corky Anderson says:

    Oh be still my heart!!! All of this is music to a miniaturists ear. I am currently living with very little stuff in two rooms of a construction site…. all the other stuff is stored safely in an air conditioned storage unit that bills me monthly. As the reno project continues, I’ve made a small collection of flotsam and jetsam from the daily activities around here and added it to my very limited space living quarters. (Just in case…) There are indicators that I might one day move into some of this expanded space that is being created and I’ve begun to wonder how to discriminate between what should stay and what should go…. and could it be sold at a yard sale or do I need to wait for a gathering of miniaturists to disperse it???? Pat, are you willing to travel to other locations to help with um ‘collections’?

    • Corky, We are willing to travel and disseminate our expertise, especially if it is March and there is sun.

      • Corky Anderson says:

        It is March and there is mostly sun (though we’ve just had a two day storm that has included amazing cloud displays, what passes for rain here, hail and snow on the mountains that overlook us). I’m thinking I’ll need your help along about July… I promise there will be sun!

  4. Just out of curiosity, what are you going to do, when you stop building and teaching?…Sit on your porch and rock?

  5. Naomi Losch says:

    Oh, a woman after my own heart. Like you I am a collector of supplies. You just never know when you’ll need something. I just brought down a plastic under the bed container full of wood stuff and found things that I’d forgotten I had, like a screen door which I will need for a soon to do project. You can come to Hawaii anytime, it’s usually sunny although we were hit with hail in what is normally a very warm area. Met you and Noel several years ago when you visited. I retired at the end of 2010 and seem even more busy than ever. Aloha.

  6. Carol Girgis says:

    Reading this makes me feel SO much better about my box (30″ x 30″ x 40″ ) labeled “What Can I Make With This?” Said box is now far too heavy for me to lift, and the contents at the bottom will likely remain a mystery for another decade…

  7. Florence McCullough says:

    Such a relief to know I’m not alone. Been trying to reorganize my minis and ‘collectors stuff’ for months, often finding myself it an overwhelmed state standing in a sea of mayhem and have to walk away for a bit, if you can call gingerly stepping through piles on the floor walking. Keep running into the same wall …literally. Not enough space no matter how many storage cabinets, bins or shelves I add, how many times or ways I shift things about or yet another room sacrificed for the cause. Probably 90% of what goes into the trash gets retrieved. Goodhearted DH brings home found ‘treasures’ too, dollhouses from yard sales, etc., and then inexplicably complains about the daunting clutter lol. But I feel better now. Thank you! Bye the bye, allow me to add to that of countless others my admiration of your work.

  8. Judy Keefe says:

    Oh nooo! Not the #1 The trash! Do you know how many miniaturists would love to have some of the hoarding bits you have saved! Egads! ok, I admit it I hoard supplies. I’m also a mixed media artist and use all kinds of strange supplies. ; )

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