Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Good, better, best

Most of the time, I think of myself as a miniaturist. I've been decorating dollhouses and making room boxes all my adult life (except for that stint in the convent, where hobbies were frowned upon — they require too much clutter and too many material possessions).

But yesterday at The Elegant Dollhouse in Sacramento, California, where I did a signing, I met a woman who should get the Nobel in Miniatures.

I had considered taking along a small scene I made to use as show and tell as I signed. At the last minute I left it behind, thinking it would look shabby in an environment that showcased the best of the hobby. I was right!

The photos show arrangements by Jan Kimbro who makes one of a kind, miniature flower arrangements. Her fans think she uses a brush with one bristle to paint the tiny bits of paper she assembles into an iris or a rose, green leaves or baby's breath. There's nothing to show scale, but let me tell you that the rose buds are less than one-quarter inch around. Jan declined an invitation to have her own picture taken, but she did give me permission to use these photos and invite you to call her if you have a special request. (916) 349-1340.

I had a wonderful day. Miniaturists are great mystery readers; some of the reasons for this were put forth nicely by our recent guest blogger, literary agent Jessica Faust. The Elegant Dollhouse staff, especially Barbara, Anna, and Ethel, and all their customers were very welcoming and are very talented.

When I got home I was tempted to sweep everything on my crafts tables into the trash. If I can't be as good as Jan, or Anna, who put together the amazing bookstore in the photo, why bother? The books in Anna's store are about one inch high. There's a coffee shop and a loft with tables and more books. Every detail is perfect.

My lesser self prevailed, however, and I decided to continue with my imperfect works. Maybe I could be as good, I rationalized, if I had only one hobby, no job, no classes to teach, and no writing deadlines. Also no family or friends. I doubt it!

But I wonder, how "good" do you have to be to claim a hobby as your own?


ellen said...

I don't know how good you must be to claim a hobby - but if you want to write about it, being a beginner helps. If you are too good, you can't relate to the average duffer. If you try teaching a kid to tie their shoes, you'll understand the floundering of the excellent.

Terri Thayer said...

Oh perfection, the dream killer! I too am awed by the exceptional quilts I see. Masterpieces that I could never, never, achieve. That is not modesty. It's a fact.

I try now to just accept their awesomeness and respect the maker's talents. Because if I get too caught up in how pitiful my work is, I miss the beauty in theirs. We have to have an open heart to take it in.

By the way, Camille, quilters make miniature quilts, achieving tiny little stars and flowers. Talk about perfection!

Camille Minichino said...

Terri, I tried a miniature (3-inch square) quilt once -- not stitching, but gluing down 1/4-inch pieces of fabric.
The result: HA!
I keep it around and use it as a coaster in my office, to remind me never to try that again.

And Ellen, thanks for giving me one reason to stay an amateur!

Anonymous said...

Terri's comment is right on, but I would take the word pitiful out of her comment regarding her work. How many people have loved what she has done - always in a personel, meaninful and loving way. I just completed my very first miniature scene - very imperfect - but very meaningful and special to the one receiving it...and I haven't stopped hearing about it. Fun and inspiring for future work, imperfections and all.
And, Camille, take the word shabby out of your comment! xoxoxox

Terri Thayer said...

I will say, anonymous, that that is the point. While my work might not be completely up to snuff - with points that don't match and crooked seams, pitiful is not really a bad description- you're right, the people I make quilts for love them. And I love making them. Until I got that, I didn't have as much fun as I do now.

You've hit a hot button with me. Perfectionism! Before I get on my soapbox, I'll invite you to continue this discussion on Saturday with my blog post on the subject.

For now all I'll say is: Shabby and pitiful! Own it!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


This makes me sad. It reminds me of what people say..."I don't pay the piano well enough to buy a Steinway." You never hear people say, "I don't DRIVE well enough to own a Porsche"! We have these horrible expectations that sap the joy out of life.

Personally, I think imperfection is proof that things are handmade. And, only God is perfect. I was told that rugmakers always include an imperfection in their work as homage, as a nod to the fact that they are only human, not divine.

Camille Minichino said...

Anna at The Elegant Dollhouse reminds me that her wonderful bookstore is being auctioned for diabetes research. Go to http://www.brendanovak.com/auction_index.php to learn more about it.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Your pieces are beautiful, and the most important thing is to enjoy what you do. No matter what we do in life, we can always compare ourselves to someone else. That includes writing. I tell aspiring writers that we're all someplace on a continuum between paper scrap writers and Shakespeare. Doesn't help us to look down on the less advanced, nor think we're worthless because we're not Shakespeare (which, by the way, someone at a book signing once said to me. She said, "Well, it's not Shakespeare..." And I have no idea why I stood there and let her insult me without giving a snappy comeback. Guess it was because she had bought the book, and claimed to like it, anyway! Sigh! So what if I'm not the Bard? Who is?)

Joanna said...

Kathryn, I wonder if that person has even read Shakespeare. I think lovers of Shakespeare are nicer people!

Camille Minichino said...

Strange ... I posted that comment and it was attributed to Joanna. Something is mixed up in google land!

Joanna said...


I understand what you must have gone through...someone just mentioned in an online bookclub some disparaging words about "hooky/gimmicky books" and she was talking about hobby cozies.

Harrumph. People seem to forget that Shakespeare wrote popular fiction of his times.


Kathryn Lilley said...

Exactly, Joanna (or Camille, not sure who posted the second comment, lol)! Shakespeare was the master of sex, violence and comedy, all to entertain the public.

Monique B said...

My comments on Margaret Grace's book are:
I bought the book
I read the book
I couldn't put down the book
I loved the book
And now I have to wait for August to start all over again with the new book.

Camille Minichino said...

Did I say I love you Monique?