Rainy day activities / Unique things to do

DIY The Art of Miniature Worlds

Written by Stephanie Michelle Scott
with featured hobbyist and “Miniature Worlds” instructor Evelyn Elgie

Miniature Worlds
‘Banana Stand’ 📸 : Artist Tatsuya Tanaka

According to Destination Vancouver, there are around 350 outdoor art works in metro Vancouver’s parks, and the occasional random street corner. These bigger than life murals and sculptures are hard to miss and always bring moments of inspiration.

  • Downtown Waterfront Public Art Walking tour Angel of Victory, 📸 redbugbijoux
  • Burrard Corridor public art walking tour, 📸 Alan Chung Hung
  • Downtown Waterfront Public art walking tour,Digital Orca, 📸: @onesoulthousandmemories
  • Line of Work

Burrard Corridor public Art walking tour 
Downtown Waterfront Public Art walking tour 
Yaletown False Creek Public Art Walking Tour 

Of course, I find that when I come across art in unexpected places, it always takes me off guard and quickly becomes an obsession I want to tell to everyone I know. The idea that I could D.I.Y these discoveries is a joy worth sharing.

Meet Evelyn : Miniature World Artist

Local artist, workshop instructor and maker of tiny things, Evelyn Elgie (they/them) has a way of seeing the world as a place where wonderful stories are waiting to emerge.  Evelyn is a writer, maker and multidisciplinary artist, with a current focus on woodworking, sculpting, and painting. Soon into the pandemic, they were introduced back to a childhood love of miniature making and now share their passion teaching classes at Makerlabs, one of Vancouver’s membership-based workspaces. 

An alumni of Makerlab’s Tools for Women Program, ​Evelyn is ​now a workshop instructors bringing their skills to both men and women. More about this soon but worth bringing attention to the Tools ​For ​Women program that empowers ​self-identified ​women and non-binary to pick up tooling skills for work or ​to ​empower them to use tools as hobbyists.​​ . If this interests you, act fast, and apply for their next intake. I’m sure Evelyn would be happy to tell you about their experience if you reach out. 

Someone else’s trash is another’s “Miniature Worlds” treasure

“What does it look like to create art out of waste? To create joy out of despair? How can we fold the forces that drag us down into the hope that will carry us forward?”

Evelyn Elgie

These are some of the questions Evelyn asks when they are imagining how to convert the world’s trash into delicate and truly magical miniatures. When Evelyn started introducing their Book Nooks, as they call them, to students they actually had to sit down and say, “look, this is how you can go from a pile of garbage and recycling and fake flowers to something that is going to bring you (and others) a lot of joy. Crafting miniatures is a balance of optical illusions and powerful first impressions.” 

Miniature Worlds
📸 : Evelyn Elgie @heliotropedesign

the Art of creating Miniature Worlds

“It’s like an impressionist painting. You’re aiming for a vibe to come out of it more than a completely functional diorama or dollhouse”

Evelyn Elgie

Evelyn encourages participants to bring objects to their classes as a starting framework for the rest. This unique project based workshop not only provides new skill sets that will last a lifetime but an opportunity to indulge in a very personalized product, bound to start a few memorable conversations.

Miniature Worlds
📸 : Artist Tatsuya Tanaka

The art of miniature chairs, tables, and shelves may call back to the 1960s fabricated dollhouses kits or remind us of a time of ships placed in bottles but modern applications are all around. Today twenty first century crafters are seeking out old plastic take out containers, ramen spoons and popsicle sticks as opportunities to create customized fairy gardens, bookshelf dioramas and 3D shadow box decor.

And here’s the true magic – anyone can do it. Making it a perfect hobby for families or individuals that want to honor a moment, an object, or part of their identity.

Immersing oneself into Miniature Worlds

Evelyn recalls how they began, and you’ll be delighted to learn it was as a child.
“So it feels like a cliche to say that I was always into miniatures. I was really a free range kid. I grew up on a really big forested property. So I spent a lot of time out in the woods and just collecting and finding things. I had a much younger sister, so I remember making things for her dollhouse. I’d go out, and there would be grape vines. With the really tiny curly ones, I remember turning them into little chairs and little tables and little bed frames.“

Miniature Worlds
📸 : Artist Tatsuya Tanaka

But what did this Vancouverite have to share about bringing the world to 1:12 scale? For those new to scale, this means 1 inch represents 12 inches. Evelyn recalls It means embracing the idea that miniaturized objects act differently than their real life inspirations.

“Your objects will not move the way you expect them to move. When you’re working in miniature. [Fabric] won’t fall, or [paper books] won’t close the way that it does at full scale.”

Evelyn Elgie

This forces you to make a decision. Does the mini book need to look great on a mini shelf or does it need to be open, to a page, to progress this unique visual expression of storytelling.

📸 : Evelyn Elgie @heliotropedesign

Evelyn goes on to inform that “Patience is key for working with miniatures. This is finicky and time consuming medium, and when you don’t leave things to dry or set for long enough, you often end up having to start over from scratch. I am naturally not a very patient person, so I learned this the hard way! Learning patience through miniatures has been a very meditative practice for me, and has helped me to be more patient and careful in other places in my life.”

These choices make the art of creating miniature worlds a hobby that grows with new-found skills and will keep your mind active and engaged, be it for 4 hours or 25 hours of work play.

To DIY Miniature Worlds, You’ll Need:

Required ; An idea.
An eye for seeing the form, texture, shape to match your Idea Materials (this can be anything)
Nice to have ; A Drill. A Sander Scissors. Glue. Miter Shears.
For the dedicated Hobbyist ; Lee Valley Miniature Tools may provide support with various types of speciality tools

“Having a drill is really helpful, because that lets you connect things in different shapes. I started out with a drill, a jigsaw and a sandpaper, and that was about it. Oh, and a pair of scissors.” – Evelyn Elgie, Makerlabs Instructor

6 Steps to create your Miniature Worlds

📸 : Evelyn Elgie @heliotropedesign
Step 1. Form the idea

Take inspiration from found items in your home or yard and look for places where once discovered this miniature world will strike excitement.

TIP: Ideas include, enhancing gardens or the base of plants or trees, bird houses and feeders, bookshelves, inside tea cups, Around picture frames, anywhere small objects can hide. 

Step 2. Collect your materials 

Train yourself to see materials for their shape and texture over function. Evelyn suggests taking egg cartons as an example. The molded cardboard can be repurposed into rocks, brick and so much more.

TIP: Choose one object as the main focus and let that guide your scale instead of locking into the 1:12.

“A great material for beginners interested in working with miniatures is Sculpey or other forms of polymer clay. There are tons of online tutorials for making most any shape you can imagine, and it’s a very forgiving medium. You can buy coloured or translucent clay, which makes for interesting visual textures, or you can paint on top of the dried clay. The one downside to polymer clay is that it can be quite expensive. Getting creative with other recycled materials instead is a way to potentially save money and make ultimately more unique projects!”

Step 3. Start with an item as the focus

What story enhances the object? Think of it as a snapshot in time you can recreate with 3D objects. The details will make the end product great, so keep adding until you are transformed into your tiny world.

TIP: Explore all the things that tell the story or fully develop a scene. What can you use to surround your main focus item? Ask the 5 W’s. What objects would be in this environment if it were real? Where in this world or a magical one is the scene set? When is it happening and how does this effect the light? Why is did you choose that focus item? Who will be discovering it?

Step 4. Start building

Unlike social hobbies, miniatures is an inward hobby. Taking one day or many. You can build anything, with a little imagination, a little sculpting and a little paint.  

TIP: Try including photographs from your travels if painting backdrops is not your thing.

Step 5. Learn new techniques

Use it as an opportunity to learn new skills, like at makerlabs, where tools like laser cutting, sculpting, perspective painting can bring your design to a new level.

TIP: Learn dry brushing.

“My absolute number one technique is dry brushing. This is where you use a dry brush or sponge with a very small amount of paint on it to emphasize the natural texture of a material. Realistic weathering and texture is really something that can make or break a miniature, and that people often forget about. This technique makes it easy to make tiny stone, wood, or tiles look worn out and real, really bringing your sculptures to life. Dry brushing is always a technique that I coach participants through in my workshop.”- Evelyn

Step 6. Share your designs

To the delight of your friends, these miniature worlds, discovered in your garden, bookcase or proudly displayed in your insta feed are a treasure to see.

TIP: An instagram account is free, try these tags to find a community for inspiration :
#miniature #miniaturemaking #booknookshelfinsert #fairygarden #miniature #shadowbox And add #BIVcrafts #DIYwithSteph so we can see what you’ve come up with.

“Inspiration is all around you if you look for it, and anything can become art. Building Miniature Worlds to tuck into nooks and crannies of my home invites me to think about space and material differently, finding ways to use tiny spaces to inspire huge amounts of wonder. You don’t need a lot of money or a lot of fancy craft supplies to create 3D art- all you need is a tiny space, and a willingness to get creative with the things you already have.”

Evelyn Elgie

Learn more on ;

Book Nook Diora Workshop

Evelyn Elgie (they/them) is a writer, maker and multidisciplinary artist making one of a kind home goods from reclaimed materials. Woodworker, sculptor, painter, maker of tiny things they are currently sharing these skills as part of the workshops available at Makerlabs.


MakerLabs has been operating since 2013, and is an independent organization.
As a DIY space, they offer safety and orientation classes to teach people how to use the tools, which they can continue using after the classes on their own independent making journey.
Such features include Metal Lab, Laser Cutters, CNC machines, Electronics Lab, and Textile Lab and Metal Machining Lab, and Ceramics Lab.

MakerLabs is a great place to check out if you’re looking to learn new skills and meet like minded individuals.

📸 : MakerLabs

DIY with Steph

Stephanie is a contributing writer to Bored In Vancouver always on the hunt for niche communities and people with hobbies and activities to share. She is currently looking for people to include in a book that celebrates hobbies, for the love of it. Submit yourself for an interview