Susan Mattison’s Miniature Art

Story by Michelle McChristie, Photos by Susan Mattinson

Susan Mattinson’s relationship with miniatures was love at first sight. Two years ago, she was wandering through a Michaels craft store when the miniature items in the diorama section caught her attention. “When I got home, I searched ‘dollhouse miniatures’ online and found so many incredible miniature artists on Etsy, Pinterest, and Instagram,” she says. “I fell in love with the hobby instantly!”

Mattinson creates 1:12 scale miniatures—a popular scale for collectable dollhouses. The ratio means that 12 units on the original is represented by one unit on the model (for imperial thinkers, this means one foot is represented by one inch). Her first project was a bookstore room box. “I purchased the box itself as a kit, but I had to create the rest,” she says. The picture of Blue Door Books on her Instagram page shows a bookstore with herringbone flooring (made from coffee stir sticks), tiny art hung on the walls, functioning light fixtures, furniture, bookshelves with books, and a magazine stand complete with replicas of popular magazines. It looks amazing and one can only imagine the patience involved in assembling or creating each item with such precision. Mattison is modest and says, “It’s technically not completed. I still need to finish the rest of the books for the shelves.”

Mattison works in a variety of mediums, such as thread (knitting) and polymer clay—her knitted purses and replica box of Persian Man persians are perfect, not to mention adorable. Recently, she has been experimenting with polymer clay and making a wide range of miniature food, such as croissant and cinnamon bun earrings—a different take on the pandemic baking that is dominating Instagram. “What some people might not realize is that a lot of the colour shading of clay food is done with soft pastels,” she explains. 

Mattison considers herself a mediocre knitter at full scale, “but in miniature I look like a pro!” She uses the same knitting techniques and admits there is a bit of a learning curve to scale knitting down so small. One of her goals is to have official artisan status in miniature knitting with the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA), which she joined in 2018. “Becoming an IGMA artisan requires an adjudication process, so I need to add more unique knitting patterns to my repertoire and hone my skills more before I would attempt to apply,” she says.

Last year, Mattison attended the Ontario Miniature Gathering that attracted approximately 75 participants from across Canada. “Many of the participants have been making miniatures for 20+ years…a surprising amount of people are working in 1:24 (quarter scale), which is half the size of what I make!” The artists showcased everything from men’s suits and women’s shoes to faux stained glass and wicker furniture.

Like any artist, Mattison has experienced some failures along the way and is not shy about sharing them with her Instagram followers. Her first dollhouse was basically a scaled-down home improvement project with problems that would rival one of Chip and Joanna’s projects on HGTV’s Fixer Upper. The drywall compound she used to fill gaps in the walls cracked a few weeks after she applied a fresh coat of paint, so she consulted someone with construction experience and will scale down their advice for her second attempt. “Thankfully, that was only the ground floor,” she says. We look forward to seeing the finished house, complete with a box of persians on the kitchen counter and a portrait of the Sleeping Giant over the couch.

Check out Nasus Miniatures on Instagram @nasus_miniatures and on Etsy.