Creating Other Worlds: Miniatures, Steampunk and Retro Renovation

minibookOnce upon a time, about ten years ago, I visited a dollhouse museum. 

I was utterly fascinated.  I had grown up with dollhouses and Barbies, and it always seemed like the coolest bits were the details, the miniature bits that were “just like the real thing.” The more realistic, the better.  This dollhouse museum had all that on a scale I had never seen before.  Instead of an orange generic plastic soda bottle, here were tiny cans of Pepsi.  Tiny boxes of diapers, brand names.  I bought a copy of The Vampire Lestat that was less than an inch tall – and you could open it to individual pages.

These tiny houses with real electrical wiring – it was an immersive world.  And soon, depsite my fascination, I began to feel a little claustrophobic.  I wasn’t quite sure what, exactly, was the problem – I just had this feeling that it was a path to an obsession that had no limit.  I was somewhat relieved to leave the little museum, and live in the real world, not one that was a painstakingly recreated ersatz.

Since then, I’ve encountered a couple of other movements that seem really interesting, but that I’ve held at bay due to that same claustrophobic feeling.  One is the steampunk aesthetic: gorgeous stuff, fascinating to think about, almost like a fantasy world that you can actually create.  And I just know that if I were to tread a little deeper, I’d have an endless stream of projects, forever hunting for this or that object.

The other is retro renovation.  I love the mid-century aesthetic; when I was little I wanted to have the kitchen from the 1940s segment of the Carousel of Progress.  With antique and junk stores, it’s not as difficult as you might think to bring your kitchen, your bathroom, your entire life back to 1950s glory.

But it’s easy for me to get carried away.  Do I want this blender because it’s superior, or because it’s vintage?  Wouldn’t I rather want to find a modern blender with the design elements I like?  One that, you know, works?

Movements like these are sort of like losing yourself in a novel with a richly created world.  Maybe because I’ve always been looking forward to The Future, and loving the era I’m in, I’m wary of immersing myself too much into something else – the past, or a world that’s altogether fiction.

Am I the only one who gets that claustrophobic feeling from time to time?  What other immersive pastimes and movements can you think of?

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