Dr. Krasniewicz has built her own diminutive creations, most notably a perfect replica of the set of the Alfred Hitchcock classic film “Rear Window.” It comes complete with windows depicting each apartment and its inhabitants. “The things people are most curious about are other people and their lives,” she said. “We’re all interested in doing fieldwork in other people’s worlds.”
Some may think artisans focused on minis reflect an older demographic. “For a very long time, miniaturists have had this very ‘Grandpa in the basement working on model railroad’ vibe to it, or ‘Grandma with her dollhouse,’” said Thomas Doyle, 39, an artist who works exclusively with contemporary miniatures.
“But the miniature is most certainly a growing trend in contemporary art. I’ve seen a lot recently. We are at a point where contemporary art is becoming so diversified. What I’m interested in coincides with our current society, and especially now that we’re living in this age of anxiety. Every age probably says that, but things that are small remind us of our childhood, a very ordered world.”
It’s no coincidence that the mini movement is having a moment during a time of political uncertainty and international turmoil. While many of the artists are attracted to the creative process, “there’s also a level of control that’s appealing,” said Nicole Cooley, who teaches creative writing at Queens College, City University of New York. Ms. Cooley is writing a book on mini-ism and has 25 dollhouses in her Glen Ridge, N.J., home.
A miniature universe can also provide a psychological respite. A year and a half ago, Ali Alamedy and his family were driven out of Iraq by the Islamic State. Mr. Alamedy, 33, has been making miniature worlds since he first bought a computer at 16. With the help of 3D software, a piece of balsa wood and a hobby knife, he constructed his first miniature farm scene. “I weathered it with coffee, and there I discovered my love to rust and age wood and urban scenes,” said Mr. Alamedy, who lives a few hours outside of Istanbul.
Since then, he has used household items like aluminum foil, plastic rods, paper clips and foam boards to build scenes from places he has never been: a French cafe, an English bookstore, a New York alleyway. (Mr. Scala, the shop proprietor, himself a miniaturist, is planning to introduce Mr. Alamedy and his work to the United States market this year.)
“Reading lots of stories and books in my childhood inspired me to build the scenes from those stories,” Mr. Alamedy said. “Later on, it became an escape from reality to places I would love to travel to, but I can’t.”
There are emotional and therapeutic benefits, too, some of the artists say. Amanda Speva, 30, a Chicago-based filmmaker who is making a documentary on miniatures, recalls her friend having built a diorama depicting a happy time in her life: the early days of her childhood before her parents divorced. “There’s a big theme of fantasy, of living out something you can’t have in real life,” she said. “It’s about capturing a moment in time that you want to remember.”
For Mr. Nuveen, the Chanel-boutique creator, a foray into the world of miniatures grew out of necessity; he had no other way to show off his talents. In college, he studied graphic design, but he dreamed of being an architect. He wanted potential clients to see his work, but he couldn’t reach them in his Bushwick flat, on the fifth floor of a walk-up.
Then it hit him: “I could build something tiny, post it online, and viewers would have no idea the scale,” he said. “I can show an idea for an interior, and I don’t have to do it in a real-life human scale. I can make it miniature, and no one knows the difference.”
Mr. Nuveen also operates a two-foot-tall art gallery to help gain exposure for some of his artist friends. “They’ll send me images of their painting or drawing,” he said. “I’ll print them, frame them, hang them in the model and photograph them. It looks like a real-life exhibition, big art, little gallery.”