Why are we so attracted by small things? At one point in our marriage, my wife somewhat wistfully told me that when she was a little girl she never had a doll house. Well, this would not do, so I built her a doll house, complete with furniture and electric lights, and she crocheted tiny blankets and painted oriental rugs. I even had my mother, a water colorist, paint a few pictures at the proper scale (1 inch = I foot), and she loved doing that. Of course, I had a great time with the project and my wife loved it, so it was a win all around.. The doll house still lives in an honored position in our house (see photo), and now all of our woman friends, who tend to be in their 70’s, love it.
What is the attraction of small things. My wife collects folk art, and the next photo shows some tiny examples. But we have full size pots and such things. Why does she like little ones so much?
Gender thing? Not at all. I am writing this in my office at home surrounded by models I have built. The next photo is a British warship, made from plans available from the Admirably Museum in Greenwich, England – hand planked, rigged, and outfitted by me—no plastic. I do not even like oceans and ships that much, but I became entranced with the history of the British navy, decided to build a model of one of their historic ships, and was hooked. I finally had to force myself to quit (after I built six or eight of them) because they take an unreal amount of time and I was getting behind in life. My insight came from meeting a model builder who was building wonderful model ships in a glassed-in shop on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. His story was that he was a physician who had a large successful practice, but was ruining his health by staying up all night building ship models. His wife finally told him that if he didn’t quit building models he would have to give up the practice of medicine. To her amazement (and I guess unhappiness) he quit his practice.
I have made models of many other things,. The following photograph is of a shelf in my office and maybe in the middle you can see a small figure of a welder, which I carved years ago when I was working in an oil field. Why? I was surrounded by real welders!
As an extreme example of miniaturization, there are a large number of mostly men in the world making working models of engines, equipment, etc. The photo below shows a friend of mine who has been terminally bitten by model railroading. His train is a perfect replica, down to the stove in the caboose. If you look on the internet for "miniature running engines", you will see more of the tip of the iceberg.
I have a working full size antique steam tractor dating from approximately 1900. A working model would be worth more than my real one, as well it should be, because it would be rarer and require an absurd amount of time to make. And yes, there are many people out there either owning or building one.
And this love of small things extends well beyond models. For a long time, I could not figure out why I didn’t get better at typing on my iphone. But I finally did a study and realized that my thumb overlapped six keys. I am good at typing with a full size keyboard, okay on a large pad, but still pathetic on my iPhone. Also its screen size is ridiculously small, so it cannot deliver nearly as much as my desk top. But I like it because it is capable of doing so much for its size Also, it fits in my pocket, so I can break its glass protector with my keys. And flashlights, now that they sport LEDs and ion batteries, are shrinking so that they are easier to lose.
Maybe we like small things because they make us feel big and powerful. I used to love watching little girls reprimanding their dolls. Instant adulthood. And if I become really annoyed at my iphone I can throw it very far away.