Hi, I’m Fiona and I make tiny things!
Earlier on this blog I showed you how to make a tiny armadillo. In this entry, I’m going to share about one of my favourite tiny things to do: customising miniature diorama kits.
The kit I’ll be using is the “Roaming Around In Paris” box theatre kit: a 1:144 scale model that fits inside a metal box roughly the size of a tobacco tin. The kit sells under a variety of trade names (in this case, CuteBee) and on many sales platforms. In this post, I will show you how I customised the kit into a steampunk version of Paris with references to nineteenth-century fantasy authors and artists, difference engines, and maybe a pterodactyl or two!
Before we begin, I’d like to gratefully acknowledge the help of Bridget Bradshaw, who gave me the kit, and Graham Head, who suggested the steampunk customisation.
For reference, this is a photo of how the manufacturer thinks the finished kit should look:
I love the moment of unboxing! Here’s the box:
And here’s what’s in the box:
Pay attention to these paper cutouts. I’m going to be playing around with them . . .
. . . as you can see! A little work with GIMP and the patisserie becomes a computer shop selling “machines differentiales” (difference engines, apparently), the boring Café de Paris—strangely with a sign saying “Welcome”—becomes an exciting Café de Robida (the sign now a much more appropriate “Bienvenue”), and the Hotel de la Madine becomes, of course, the Hotel de la Machine. Finally, the Rue Shakespeare becomes, in a homage to William Gibson as well as a certain French author, the Rue Jules Verne.
Here’s more of my customisation work. It’ll be hard to see in the finished version, but I’m replacing the pictures on the walls of the houses with tiny reproductions of nineteenth-century anthropomorphic animal prints by Grandville. Also, note the little section for “Dinosaurs and Zeppelins”. Yes, I know they’re pterodactyls and ichthyosaurs, not dinosaurs, but I needed to call the section something.
Here I’ve glued the background into the box, though I haven’t done anything fun with it yet.
And here I’ve added some pterodactyls and zeppelins! Look at them flying around the Eiffel Tower.
Here, for reference, are the pictures I’m using, blown up for visibility. (Yes, the Glasgow 2024 logo is indeed the circular one.)
Here are some shots of me assembling the little street of shops. You can just see the new pictures on the wall.
This is the computer shop sign drying.
Here’s some tiny furniture!
The computer shop needs some steampunky computer gear in the window. I’ve made this using leftover cardboard and beads from other kits, plus some LED bulbs (I have way too many spare LED bulbs).
Putting the lighting rig in the box and testing it. The lighting rig is a fairly simple one, but two of the bulbs have to be carefully placed so they give the impression of lights in the hotel and shops.
Finalising the shops and putting in furniture.
The finished box!
Let’s go for a small tour!
If you’d like to see more photos and videos of me making tiny things, usually customised and with an SFF design, follow me on Instagram: @dr_fiona_moore.
Fiona Moore (she/her) is an anthropologist who wandered into a business school twenty years ago, and stays balanced by writing SFF fiction and criticism, and making tiny things. Find her blog at www.adoctorofmanythings.com
The 82nd Worldcon will take place in Glasgow, August 8–12, 2024. We can’t wait to welcome you to Glasgow and the SEC/Armadillo for a Worldcon for Our Futures.