Not just one, but THREE miniature shows take place the same week in Chicago, US, every spring! From April 16th to 18th in 2010, miniaturists from all over the workd, IGMA, publishers, internet groups, collectors, enthusiasts, professionals and amateurs alike had something in common:
A miniaturist dream come true!!!!
For the very first time in my life I was finally able to experience a miniature show. And I started big already! I went to the famous Chicago International, organized by Tom Bishop and his wife Leni. This show is often referred to by miniaturists as a "one in a lifetime experience". To my surprise and delight, two other great shows took place in the same city on the same weekend: IMA (Independent Miniature Artisan), organized by Thelma Lewis DeVitt; and 3 Blind Mice, organized by Linda Frye.
The short video above shows a general view of the Ballroom where IMA was held, seen from the entrance. followed by the same show, seen from the back of the room. Next snapshots of some miniatures for sale there.
In the second part, a very short panoramic view of ONE of the ballrooms where Bishop's show was held.
The 3 shows were held at hotels. Each one at a different hotel. There was a free shuttle bus transporting visitors to the shows.
Despite my best intentions, I almost completely failed as a 'reporter'. I took VERY few pictures and videos... For two basic reasons:
1) Permission had to be granted both by the organizers (ok) and by each dealer... And often forgot to ask for their permission.
2) I ended up immersed, hypnotized, mesmerized, fascinated by everything arround me. So deeply into the moment that I often forgot my camera behind me and had to go back to get it! Using it completely eluded me... :)
I'll try harder next show.... ;)
This was actually the first miniature show I've ever been to! The ballroom is pretty big, and there are all kinds of miniatures for all budgets and dreams.
Thelma welcomes us herself, when she's not walking around making sure everything is working fine both for dealers and customers. When she's not near the entrance, either her husband or her daughter will be there to welcome you. That's a show made by a family for the larger family of miniaturists. And they are really nice.
There I met Susan Karatjas, , who designs and sells kits or ready-made miniatures, including plants, in practically every scale. My favorite ones are 1:144. But I also got some 1:48. And I bought a very exquisite 1:48 bed kit from Teresa's Miniatures. I also bought loads of doll dressing stash from JoAnne Roberts and I almost went bananas at Jar-Jaf, with their hand picked findings. I also bought the book they sell that teaches how to make light fixtures using findings. The dealers at IMA can be found here.
Only way later it came to me that 'our' Alice Gegers (who owns Brazilian group Minimalizando)
This show is organized by Tom and Leni Bishop. It's the largest one: 230 dealers divided into 2 HUGE ballrooms and a fairly large room just for dolls. Plus dealers along the halls between the ballrooms. The dealers came from 36 different US States and 19 countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands, Turkey).
The rate of IGMA Artisans and Fellows by square feet was unbelievable. The standards this organization demands to grant such a title are very high indeed, but there you understand why: PERFECTION!!! Not always affordable to the middle class Brazilian (or American, if you will...) but their flawless pieces are coveted by collectors who intend to create their ideal room in miniature.
The main reason for the higher prices is beyond a title: perfection takes time and effort! And talent, of course... They work many hours on each single piece, from design to finishing. And this time and dedication must reflect on the final price.
But there were pieces for all pocket depths. And for all purposes as well. There are more simple ones; supplies for DIY hobbists; hand picked fabrics perfect for scale; pieces of leather as thin as paper, but soft and pliable; kits for everything: furniture, plants, embroidery...; tiny buttons and buckles; color printed plant leaves and laser cut ones; molds to make it easier to make shingles or bricks... you name it, you'll find it there!
And at all shows, there was a generous offer in all scales, to suit everyone's preferences and space avaliability: 1:12 - gradually sharing more and more space with other scales, it seemed; 1:24, 1:48 - the new "apple of the eye"; and 1:144, which seems to be winning more and more adepts.
Something that really struck me was to find out how friendly and easy to talk to the vast majority of these true masters are. They'll answer your questions, pose for pictures - when asked :o) - and even offer some generous tips!
For example, I had the opportunity to hold in my hands a chair made by the own and very Ferd Sobol, made with the canning that's currently the main aim of a challenge going on in a miniature grupo in Brazil (MegaMini). Absolutely perfect! Just to see the masters' work so close is a wonderful lesson on its own!
In this show two publications were also present: Miniature Collector (Scott Publications) and the Spanish Miniatura. They're both awesome! If either fits your budget, go for their subscription.
Was also there as a dealer. There was sooo much to see and take in and the time was seemed so short!... I'm really sorry, Alice!
At this show I also met Kelly Rud, editor for American Miniaturist magazine, which now is part of British Ashdown. At her table one could subscribe to one, two or their tree magazines. Or to DollhouseTV. Or their iMags, the online versions of the magazines. Or buy one (or many) of their tutorial CDs or DVDs, and most came with a complimentary kit. Needless to say I didn't even try to resist temptation and subscribed to all three iMags. This way I can save the long waiting for their arrival and the higher international shipping costs. :)
I was so absorbed in shopping and by the magical moment that I did not hear Thelma announcing that the last bus was about to leave. IMA and 3 Blind Mice are held in hotels right next to each other, but they're both VERY far from Bishop's show (and hotel)! There are no direct buses or train to get there and if I took a taxi I'd have to spend at least $30 I was not willing or prepared to... Thelma was absolutely wonderful!!! She wouldn't rest until she a found way for me to get back 'home'. And lucky me! A hotel employee - a very nice woman who is an accountant there - just happened to live near my destination AND was about to leave. To my gratitude and happy surprise, she did give me a ride. I had a great time as we talked all the time during the ride, about South America and the US. Thank you!!! (I'm awful with names, if I don't write them down I forget them... But I'm almost sure it's Maria)
Here I must say something a little bit 'OT' (off-topic). I had always heard that Americans were cold, formal and distant, from friends or relatives who had been there before me. Nothing could be FARTHER from the truth!!! Throughout my trip, EVERYBODY was really helpful, nice, friendly, generous, warm, welcoming. Everyone I met walked an extra mile to help me whenever I needed most - and there were quite a few of those moments (from feeling a little lost as any tourist would, to packages that never came, or a mixup with my passport...) Miniaturists were like a big and welcoming family. But they were not the only nice ones: flight attendants, airport security agents (seriously!), train station agents, police officers, hotel receptionist (ALL of them!), bus driver, hotel van driver, cashiers, museum workers and volunteers, stores salespeople - even the ones where I didn't buy anything and just asked for info! - absolutely EVERYONE offered me a broad and generous smile and a helping hand. I was completely moved by this! And absolutely grateful!!! I want to thank you all for being so nice to me and helping this trip become not only a dream come true, but something I'll cherish for as long as I shall live!! THANK YOU!!!
Organized by Linda Frye, who welcomes visitors herself, is considered the 'smaller' one of the trio, but it does have its 'addicted' fans! :)
Linda sells the tickets at the entrance, making sure the show is affordable to everyone. There are a number of discounts avaliable: if you brought your program from the previous day, if you buy a ticket for the three days, if you are a member of some clubs or groups, and so on. Also, there is a complimentary miniature per visitor and a number for some lucky prizes.
Honestly, 'smaller' is a very relative term... The ballroom is pretty big and there are 34 dealers selling all kinds of miniatures and supplies. And their prices are usually quite affordable, considering that there are high quality miniatures all around the room.
My favorite minis were some machine-made carpets, absolutely perfect, for just $8 (Tucker's Tiny Treasures); pewter miniatures from $0.50 (MESH Miniatures), ; knitting, crochet, tatting supplies and 1:144 miniatures by Gibson Girl - Judy
Gibson; and every miniaturist dream: a glue that promises to glue ANYTHING and never let go, by Simbad Glue. But these were my favorites. There are miniatures to please all tastes there. It's impossible to leave the show without one or several treasures!. Also worth mentioning Creative Reproductions 2 Scale, who developed and sell working dorbells, ceiling fans, garages and a Flickering Fireplace Log. Amazing!
As a matter of fact, I got so carried on shopping that I completely forgot to take pictures!!! Except the one of Linda and her husband, the pictures shown below were taken by Wanna's daugther, Dana Newman McCartney. Wanna, better known as "Wanna in El Paso". kindly granted permission to show them here. But if I were you I would visit her website and read her side of Chicago 2010. It's delightful! Grab a cup of tea and get ready to spend some time reading, you'll feel as if you were there with her! !
It's amazing how just IMPOSSIBLE it is to grab EVERYTHING that goes on at the shows. You can only grasp a small part of the whole thing. On top of that, the thrill of being there among true friends from all over the world, who not only share but actually understand your passion for miniatures, makes it very difficult to keep a detached perspective and register everything as a 'reporter' would prpobably do... :)
When it comes to Chicago shows, once is never enough!
IGMA was omnipresent everywhere. Besides all Artisans and Fellows who were dealers at the shows, many at Bishop's, the institution held a special presentation on Saturday afternoon, after the show. There I learned not only about their aims and work, how to become a member and its benefits, but specially about the GUILD School.
Now I know what my next dream is! :)
Try to imagine yourself spending a whole week totally devoted to learning how to make perfect miniatures. You can choose between one 36-hour class, one 24-hour plus one 12-hour class, or three 12-hour classes. Try to imagine learning from IGMA Artisans themselves, true MASTERS of miniature making! And they have classes for all levels: beginners, intermediate and advanced. You can choose among all kinds of techniques and materials: wood - furniture, turning, carving, macheting, etc; metalwork and silversmithing, embroidery, needlework, upholstering, costuming, sculpting, paper plant making, clay plant making, clay food making, bookbinding, wickering, oil painting, structure building and finishing...
The classes take place once a year, always in June, in Castine, Maine. The price ($1.325 this year) includes 36 hours of instruction, a shared room and meals. There are other arrangement possibilities too. If you want to go to Guild School, you better check out their website from August on for next year's ones, as most classes for 2010 are already 'sold out'. For larger, color pictures of class offerings and more info on them, check the International Guild of Miniature Artisan's website. Click on Guild School.
Yes, IGMA's standards are very high, and they are very strict before granting an Artisan title. But such a title makes it practially sure that you'll not only find perfectly made miniatures, buy that you'll often have the feeling they were real life objects that were magically shrunk to scale. Yes, its far more than just perfectionism, it's pure magic!!!
Now that I've 'tasted' it, I really wish I can go to many other shows, in the US and in other countries, whenever possible. Nothing like having a goal in your life!!! ;)