The Sarasota Fun in the Sun festival was held Jan. 14-16.
Kimberly Scher has admired the purity of a dollhouse since she was a little girl.
She grew up watching her mother, Patricia, design dollhouses and half-inch-high miniatures for pleasure and eventually for business. Her mother started hosting her own miniature show in Philadelphia.
Scher quickly realized every enthusiast and craftsperson had their own reasons for loving the trade. For her mom, it was a way to be transported back to her own childhood.
As for Scher, she found that passion for miniatures again when raising three children — she jokes the inherent messiness of raising kids had her needing a sense of control.
“In my 20s and 30s, I was a single mom with four kids — my house was a disaster,” Scher said. “(Working on miniatures) was having this little space that was perfect, having this little house where everything was in place and everything was pretty.”
She’s seen the same love of miniatures she has in others time and time again at her Sarasota Fun In The Sun miniature festival each year.
The annual gathering brings dozens of crafters and designers who create inch-high figurines and recreations of homes and living spaces to be sold to interested parties. Those designs include human figures, animals, fantasy creations, furniture and are all made delicately and carefully over hours of work.
The show was led by creator Molly Cromwell before Scher took the reins a few years ago. She also organized a much larger show in Philadelphia but sold it a few years ago, leaving her focus on the Florida shows she puts on.
The 2022 show, which was recently held at the Holiday Inn on 15th Street East, was a first step towards normalcy for the niche hobby. Last year’s event was canceled along with so many others across the country.
This year’s had around 10 vendors on site showing off their detailed creations.
One of those was Jacqueline Eubanks, a dollhouse craftsperson for the past 45 years. Her interest in the form started as a hobby with her young son but eventually became something greater.
She decided to make a go of it as a vendor and bring a number of dollhouses to the show from her “Jacqueline’s Magical Dollhouses and Miniatures” business.
Jacqueline’s niche is restoring dollhouses and filling them with era-appropriate furniture and stylings rather than updating them with a modern look. She brought several of her pieces — including a comprehensive Montana log cabin — to the show. She modeled the getaway space to have an open space that's reminiscent of the existing log cabins.
On the other hand, she brought a dollhouse that's zoned into several walled off colorful rooms full of details and pets that add personality to the greater structure. Eubanks sands several of the wooden pieces and then varnishes and paints them, every little detail needs to be accounted for. That particular house took her six months to complete.
"There are beautiful modern homes but it isn't my thing," Eubanks said. "Mine are more traditional, it's an art we need to keep alive. There's a lot of kids out there who don't even know what a dollhouse is."
Eubanks is drawn to the craft because of how soothing it is, she finds working on the homes to be a therapeutic outlet in times of high stress like the pandemic.
"It's a great way to calm yourself," Eubanks said. "You paint and wallpaper and be in that project for two or three hours. It's a form of meditation."
Scher admits she didn’t have massive expectations for this year’s show but felt it went well. There’s another show coming up in Orlando she’s overseeing and she hopes she’ll be able to have a greater number of vendors in 2023.
“People were coming (to the show) and they were buying,” Scher said. “Next year hopefully we’ll be able to ramp it back up.”
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