These tiny pencils, miniature baguettes and eensy-weensie rows of knitting fascinated me when they began to appear in my Instagram feed. I couldn’t resist inviting Janet to be interviewed as part of my Meeting Makers series.
Keep reading to find out how you model a pencil from a toothpick!
Could you tell us a little about your background as an illustrator and coder?
Thanks so much for interviewing me. I used to work in the tech industry but went back to school for picture book illustration. Since then, I’ve been working as a colourist on the Laser Moose graphic novel series from Andrews McMeel and working on my own illustration and writing. I still enjoy coding which now includes data analysis and programming electronics. This has opened up many creative possibilities like this desktop cloud I made.
At some point I hope to make a miniature table lamp that works!
What drew you to working in miniature? What is it that appeals?
Do you remember the tiny sticky buns and sandwiches in Paddington Bear? I’ve always loved the tiny sets and props of stop-action animators like Ivor Wood, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, and of course Aardman Animations.
I also collect objects as part of my writing process so making models for illustration is a natural progression. To me, realistic miniatures are just ridiculously hilarious especially when something like a giant hand interrupts and reminds you of their actual scale.
Please talk us through the making of those miniature pencils – how on earth did you do it?
The secret of the miniature pencils is that they don’t actually write! I’m so sorry! I did try to make them look as real as possible. They’re made from toothpicks shaped with an X-Acto knife and sandpaper, which are then painted with brush pens, Sharpie markers, and nail varnish.
What are the mistakes you’ve made and learnt from?
When colour mixing clay, you can easily end up with a lot of dull colours! Using good primary and secondary colours and following colour mixing theory has been really important. There are also loads of clay colour recipes on the web. I also recommend the book Making Doll’s House Miniatures with Polymer Clay by Sue Heaser. Her food tutorials are amazing.
Working with clay around cats is challenging. They love stealing miniatures or getting hair in the clay. You have to keep everything wrapped up. Even then, sometimes things just get hairy. I’ve learned to embrace the texture.
I’m trying to learn more, experiment more, have fun, and just put more of my work out there. Right now I’m working my way through some children’s illustration courses at the School for Visual Storytelling.
Do you have any plans for your miniature work?
I plan to make more miniatures and possibly combine them with 2D drawings or build dioramas for editorial illustration and children’s book projects.
What’s next on the horizon?
I’m looking for an agent for illustration and book projects. I’m also working on a children’s book about what happens when you accidentally swap carts at a rather dangerous supermarket. I need to make a realistic miniature cauliflower and a human brain. It’ll all make sense eventually, I promise.
Wasn’t that fascinating? I cannot wait to see what Janet does next and I’m sure we’ll see her name again and again. Let’s keep our eyes peeled! Thank you, Janet.
For more from the Meeting Makers series: