The artist takes his small world to a big platform with enormous pressure

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When Susan Mattinson discovered the art of miniatures, her world became much smaller.

In 2018, the native of Truro, Nova Scotia came across miniature items for sale at a craft store. They piqued her interest and after doing some research, she discovered a whole subculture of miniature hobbyists and crafters around the world.

She dove in headfirst and now makes everything from tiny Christmas sweaters to small bookstores and little dumpsters full of trash.

“It was really awesome to finally find an art form that takes all of these skills that I kind of touched on and brings them all together,” Mattinson said in an interview on Wednesday.

Today, three years after discovering this art form, Mattinson is participating in an international miniature competition. She was chosen to participate in the new CBC television show The best in miniature, a challenge where each competitor has only a few hours to build a house by hand, in 1:12th scale.

Among Mattinson’s creations is a small desk. (Submitted by Susan Mattinson)

Of 11 artists from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, she is the only one from the Atlantic provinces.

“I feel like being on the show kind of legitimized what I do,” Mattinson said. “It’s not just me, you know, playing with sticks.

The series has 10 episodes, each with a different theme, from cakes and meals to paintings and office work. After each challenge, the contestants are judged and some are eliminated. The top contestant on the show will win a prize worth $15,000.

The show will air on CBC Gem on February 11.

Mattinson said she learned a lot from the show’s technically skilled performers, but competing was a steep learning curve.

“I’ve never entered a competition like this before. I hadn’t even built a dollhouse before,” Mattinson said. “I trained for this when I realized I was going to be in it because I’m so new to miniatures.”

Mattinson specializes in textiles, like this miniature Christmas sweater. (Submitted by Susan Mattinson)

She specializes in miniature textiles, such as small knitting and crochet.

“These are small, bespoke pieces, but also very time consuming,” she said. “They can take days and weeks, sometimes, to slowly wind down such a small project.”

So when she had to build an entire house in 10 hours on the show’s first episode, the stress set in.

“It will take some people years to put together a dollhouse.”

Mattinson learned the techniques involved in miniatures from workshops and tutorials held by artists across North America.

Now she wants to teach others the skills involved in her craft.

She’s built an online presence under her Nasus Miniatures page and makes YouTube videos to give people the resources they need to get started in the hobby.

“I wish people knew that most of the time making miniatures isn’t as hard as it looks,” she said. “Try it. Just find something easy or grab some clay and see how small you can make it.”

Mattinson wants to teach others his craft. (Radio-Canada Gem)

She said her work that has become the most popular on social media is a miniature scene of The Chronicles of Narna.

“I think it was that connection to their childhood, to stories they loved growing up and stories they still love and that magic…that really drew people in.”

Mattinson said she enjoys using her work to elicit emotions. She currently has a shop on the Etsy marketplace where she sells her miniatures, and she hopes to start making personal commissions.

“I would like to recreate scenes from photographs that are meaningful to people…and be able to recreate…Grandma’s living room.”

Mattinson said The best in miniature helped her to know herself and to become a better artist.

“I realized that history is really important to me, and doing things that have meaning is really important to me,” she said. “For me, it’s not just about making something pretty, or feeling like it should be in a home decor magazine.

“I realized that I am a storyteller at heart.”

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