Dollhouse BRAZIL

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DollHouse BRAZIL

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Ana Dalgiza, nicknamed “Anynha” by friends and family, is a versatile artist who found in miniatures a fertile ground to sow all her creativity. She designs and manufactures miniatures using almost all kinds of known materials. She also makes and sells beautifully arranged roomboxes!

Living in Curitiba, capital of the state of Paraná, Anynha reaches out the whole country through the internet — with her online store and in several high-quality crafts trade fairs throughout the country. She’s ready to go international.

I met her during MegaArtesanal, a huge crafts business fair that takes place once a year in São Paulo. She was one of the dealers there.

Ana Dalgiza

See pictures of her work in the end.

I’ve always liked crafts, I’ve always needed it! I’ve been knitting since I was 6, and crocheting since I was 8. Whenever I saw a professional upholstering some furniture, for example, I would watch closely to learn how he did it. I upholstered my own sofa! The truth is I’ve always liked all kinds of hand crafts.

What’s your background, before miniatures?

I’ve already had a store. When I was pregnant of my oldest son – he’ll be 29 soon – I had a store in a cool area in Curitiba, where a crafts fair takes place every Sunday. It’s a very classy fair. There are all kinds of crafts for sale there. I rented an old house, circa 1900 and something and started to sell my own crafts. Back then I used to make things for babies. Sheets, comforters, covers for cradles, etc. The whole shower. And thousands of little boxes.

But I had a major setback with that store. Back then I had a small child, we were still a young couple, no help at home, so I left an employee taking care of the store on Sunday mornings so that I could spend some quality time with my family. Then, one of these Sunday mornings she called me home telling me she had sold everything inside the store, we had run out of stock! She told me 4 buses with tourists had parked nearby; one of the tourists bought some things and spread the word to the others. They bought everything. I was thrilled and rushed there to collect the sales money. Oh, dear! It was a big shock! She had made a terrible mistake! Whatever cost 10, she sold for 1. Unaware, she cut off one unit of the price for every item. As she didn’t realize what she had done, she kept doing it to every sale she made that day. As a result, I didn’t have enough money even to buy supplies to get back on my feet. I had to resign the rent and close down. I got depressed for a while, as I had spent nights crocheting, making all the stuff, while taking care of my 4-month-old baby, cooking, doing the laundry, ironing, cleaning the house, all together, and then that!...

You are one of the few Brazilian miniaturists to have an online store of your own. Do you have any commercial background?

Yeah, but I just couldn’t stand still. When my older son was 3 and went to kindergarten, I had to go to a jersey clothes factory to order a special uniform. When I got there, I just couldn’t help myself and asked them to make a lot of changes in the uniform. It was an awful uniform at first, but turned out beautiful after my changes. The owner of the factory liked me and what I did, so she invited me to become her partner. No money involved, as I didn’t have any. I put in my work, to create and sell. And she didn’t make only uniforms; she was also a supplier for several stores. There I learned how to handle the machines. I used to go to all stores to sell our productions; I even managed to sell to C&A.

The years went by, my husband’s economical situation got better. By that time, my sister became a widow, in a very tragic way. My father decided to open a store for the two of us. No matter what I do, it seems that commerce calls me! (laughs). This time we opened a store in a Mall in Curitiba.

Due to that store, I wasn’t able to keep on doing everything I did for the factory, it was way too much. I still helped there, but only to make things I would sell at my own store – we sold stuff for children, 1 to 18 years old. It lasted 5 ½ years..

I like to do everything myself: I’ve got to make things, I’ve got to make the sales, I’ve got to arrange goods on the shelves, I’ve got to do the shopping, I’ve got to be in charge of the cash register, the credit card machine, everything! I used to complain I had too much on me, but it was all my own fault! When my second child was born, it became much harder to do it all. My sister chose to work with my dad and we closed that store.

OMG! That would have made anyone give up!

In a very cute way. I was pregnant of my youngest children (I had a twin couple), who will soon become 18! I already had two boys, one of 11 and the other 8 (back then). Then, the 8-year-old one used to go to the newsstand every day with his dad. One fine day he saw the first issue of a DIY dollhouse collection, by Del Prado, and bought it. I started to help him build the house. So I decided to buy my own set so as we could build them together. We would then buy two of each issue, one for him and the other one for me. Everything I did, he would do too, together. Every Saturday we worked on the pieces that came with each issue.

After some time (the collection would go on for 100 weeks!) he gave up. He thought his was ugly, poorly done. Back then we didn’t have any tool suitable to miniatures. We used emery board to sand the pieces, everything was improvised. On top of having to deal with the anxiety of waiting a whole week for the next piece to come!

After that, I started to bash the house completely. It was then that I realized I had a knack for it; I had a miniaturist in me. To make a long story short: I finished his dollhouse AND mine. And I never stopped ever since!

And how did miniatures get into your life?

Every time I traveled, I’d take with me addresses of places where I could buy something for the houses. I didn’t buy many accessories, because I had started to make my own. If I decided that a cigar box would be perfect for a room, I’d make three of them (to go in other houses). So, whenever I traveled, I’d buy tools. Saws, pliers, files, everything small, especially for miniatures.

That dollhouse had nothing but a few pieces of furniture – which we were supposed to assemble. Did you make all the accessories or did you buy most of them?

It’s my life. I feel complete when I make miniatures. I no longer want to move furniture around or change curtains at home. When I feel like creating something, I create a room in miniature. Barely have I finished one, I’m already starting another.

So that’s how you found your ‘calling’?

My studio is really small, a ‘dollhouse’ in the attic. I had it painted in white and pink, it’s a princess’ place. It’s where I create stuff, where I make the preliminary pieces. I have all my machines there, my computer, the inventory, the shelves. But my husband complains I’m ‘taking over’ the whole house (laughs). I had a shed built in the back of the house, kind of out of sight, where I installed the woodshop. I ‘stole’ my children’s playhouse – they are no longer kids – to make the resin and metal casting shop. And I ‘borrowed’ hubby’s gym to put the display shelves with the stock. It looks like a store there now. Not to mention the scrap parts! I just can’t throw anything away. I used several pieces to make my DJ room... lipstick covers became sound boxes. A square shampoo cap became the DJ’s table. I keep everything!

I keep everything because when I have an idea, I have to have the material at hand, or I’ll lose the enthusiasm. I want everything ‘now’, when I want something, I have to make it. I like to have everything in store. If I decide to start working with ceramic clay, I have to have all the colors available. Beads, pens, everything! That’s why I won’t even look around this (crafts) fair (Mega Artesanal), or I’ll spend more than I sell! (laughs)

What’s your studio like?

Two or three years after that beginning, I was searching on the internet and came across Ciça Braga’s online store. You cannot imagine how happy I was! I thought: ‘Finally! Now I can buy some stuff too. I won’t have to kill myself making everything”. I was a big consumer at her store. A little after I discovered Gisele’s online store (Armazém da Miniatura). And I started to buy more and more. Every month I would buy something, either from one store or the other. And I made dollhouse after dollhouse.

Then one day Ciça called me and asked me what I did with all those miniatures. I told her I made dollhouses, but that I also made my own miniatures, as when I decided to make one item, I’d go ahead and make three of it, for I already had plans to use them in other rooms. She asked to see some of my own work. I made a lot of things and sent them all to her. This was some 6, 7 years ago. I also offered Gisele some things, which she bought. With Ciça it was on consignment. She still has some of my minis. Back then I thought that having your items sold by someone else’s store was kind of confusing...

How did this hobby become a professional activity?

My husband suggested that I opened my own store. I resisted to this idea for a while, as my inventory was with Ciça. What I had in mind before was to be purely a manufacturer. But there is a very serious problem to that: copies. If your miniature is for sale at third parties shops, they sell them without credit to the miniaturist. Someone thinks it’s nice and copies it. It’s never the same, but they copy your creation, and that’s a serious matter! So, I ended up calling her and asked for my miniatures back. We made a deal, she kept part of them and sent me the rest. Then, from supplying stores, now I sell directly to consumers. I only sell miniatures made by me.

One way I devised to try to keep copies under control is my ‘certificate of authenticity’. Whoever buys one of my miniatures will also get that certificate, numbered and signed, to be sure it’s my creation. I’ve been through a lot because of copies, but I’ve learned my lesson. The best I can do is to stay cool, and work hard.

Is that why you decided to open up your own online store?

I’ve been thinking about making some DIY kits too. There are people who are more hands-on and would like to make something themselves, but they are not willing to buy all the material (supplies, tools) just to make one piece.

Your aim is to sell only ready-made miniatures?

I’ll start teaching in Curitiba, and for that I’ll have to write the booklets for them. Many people have been asking for classes. The classes I have in mind are the customized kind. Students will be able to choose among 20 different items and will learn how to make the one they chose. The classes will be held in groups, but each individual student will make whatever they chose at their own pace.

What about classes, have you considered that?

Now I’m investing heavily in metal casting. If you want to ‘get there’ you’ve got to invest. I really missed architectural ornaments, couldn’t find them anywhere (in Brazil): molding, floor trimmings, columns, doors, knobs, etc. So I invested on them.

What about your items, anything new in the horizon?

There still are a lot of things that we have to develop – miniature-wise – here in Brazil. Brazilians do not have the habit of having this hobby; it’s not their first choice of hobby. It’s not the second, I think it’s not even the tenth! Our country is still ‘poor’ in this aspect; many people do not have spare money to buy a miniature basket. That’s superfluous to them.

In other countries, children get a dollhouse from their grandparents as soon as they are born. It’s a cultural thing. All countries that were colonized by the British have inherited this culture – USA, Canada, Australia… My husband usually teases me saying “you should live in England!”. And I reply ‘How come? This is my reality! Do you want me to leave you?’ (laughs)

Why aren’t miniatures a popular hobby in Brazil?

I’d like to have many more items than I have now. I offer 1,200 different items of my own creation. As I said, I’d like to offer many more, but I’m only one! So, I’m finally delegating. The furniture is made by Abraão, part of my staff. But I’m the one who creates them. I come up with the design, adjust to scale, and I make the prototype.

How many items do you offer on your online store?

published on 09/14/2009

No, I haven’t stepped into that market yet. As I said before, when I started to make miniatures, I wanted to become a worldwide supplier. Back then I even got in contact with a large worldwide distributor. But it didn’t work as I didn’t have an official company. I would have to have a website, and everything else I have now. But now there’s no time left for that! I can barely manage to supply my own store, how would I find time to make enough to supply a large distributor?

And do you sell abroad?

What I intend to do is to take part of more shows and fairs, in Brazil and abroad. I believe that’s good for business. I’m translating my website to English, and a friend of mine who lives in San Francisco is helping with the ‘publicity’. On my online store I take many methods of payment – like credit cards, PagSeguro, and I’ll soon be taking Paypal too, which is largely accepted and used abroad.

Do you have any plans to go international, to expand your market range?

I’ve been contacted by people interested in representing my miniatures. So, I’ll soon have a virtual catalogue and also a printed one – for procurators. It has to be made in such a way that I can easily insert new items – as I just can’t stay too long before I create some.

What’s next?