Minis weren’t supposed to turn into anything. I started crafting for fun around the holidays, as a way to kill time after school, once the cold weather set in and playing outdoors was no longer an appealing option. In high school, friends began exchanging gifts for the holidays. Trying to buy gifts for seven girls is difficult when you have no money in your wallet and have exhausted the variety of candle/lotion/soap gifts we typically exchanged, so I looked for alternative gift idea. Since middle school I’d been subscribing to American Girl Magazine and my favorite section was the craft section, even though I rarely tried making any of the crafts. Giving gifts gave me an excuse to try one of the craft section ideas. The idea I chose was to wrap embroidery floss around pens, much like you would do a hair wrap, but using different colors of thread to make the pens look like people. I was soon engrossed in making a pen to look like each of my friends. I dressed the pen in my friend’s favorite color, did its hair like my friend, and finished it off with a piece of tiny jewelry. I made my seven friends in embroidery floss pens and handed these out as gifts that year for Christmas.
I had so much fun the first year, the following year I planned ahead for my Christmas craft gift. I saw a craft idea in one issue of the magazine that I immediately wanted to make. It was a miniature book made out of a one-inch door hinge. I went shopping at Home Depot to find the right size hinges then I looked through my Mary Engelbreit day calendar to find quotes to fill the tiny books. I made a special cover for each tiny book and filled the books with pages of 8-point typed quotes. To pair with the books I bought small wooden five-sided “gift boxes” with twine tied to their open ends – meant to be ornaments you could decorate and hang on your tree. I elaborately decorated each box, personalizing it for each friend with tiny paintings of winter and holiday scenes, glitter, and painted wooden shapes. I packaged the tiny book inside the tiny box and handed these out with candy to each of my friends. I still have the box I made for myself. It’s hung on the Christmas tree with care every year.
The year after that I strayed from the magazine and focused solely on miniature things. I loved the variety of tiny wooden boxes sold at A.C. Moore, so I stared my search in the wood isle. I bought thin-walled oval boxes with lids and decorated each lid with my friends’ names in puffy paint. Using polymer clay, I sculpted tiny items that reminded me of each person and filled the box with these tiny items. I remember I made mini guitars for a few friends who had recently taken up guitar. There were a few Harry Potter items for the Harry-obsessed friends. A lot of cats. I tried so hard to think of fun things to fill each box and was so ecstatic about how well the tiny things came out, that I didn’t even care whether or not any part of this gift was practical. I loved making each gift, devoting time to thinking about my friend and what she liked. It was a challenge each time I started a new tiny thing to see if my hands would be able to work the clay into the shape I wanted.
Our senior year in high school we had a professional photo taken of our group of friends – very cheesy, but we were prompted to do it when one friend ordered a senior photo package that included a free wallet-sized group photo. Thinking back on this now, I bet there was a mother involved in choosing that specific photo package. Perhaps a mother who thought we were a group of friends worth remembering. Whoever that mother was, I thank her – because to this day I still have that photo displayed. With that group shot in mind, I bought miniature frames and again decorated the frames specifically for each one of my friends. My favorite of the eight frames was the one I made for my friend who was a huge Weezer fan. I printed out the lyrics of a Weezer song I knew she liked and put a rainbow of paint colors on my palate. Then I took the tiniest brush I owned and proceeded to paint the lyrics of the song in a spiral around the square frame, trying to fill every inch with lyrics. I dotted my brush into a new color ever few letters and created a beautiful rainbow of words in a neat spiral around the frame. I loved it so much I ended up making myself one in the same pattern, except with the lyrics of a Dashboard Confessional song. This frame resides on my minis table where I work, holding the senior year photo of my friends. I often wonder where these random trinket gifts ended up over the years. I’m sure for many friends, understandably, it was the trash. But I’d like to think there are one or two gifts that were just cool enough to keep around.