Every Christmas I reminisce about Olla Podrida (“broken pot” in Spanish), a small complex of craft and clothing stores in Dallas. Before it closed in 1996, a visit to the amply decorated wooden structure was something I did every holiday season. A store that sold miniatures for collectors and doll houses was one of the most popular spots in the complex. Visitors marveled at tiny furniture and common objects—sofas, rugs, appliances, plates and lamps, pitchers, sewing machines. I’m not a collector and haven’t owned a doll house since I was in elementary school—a cheap one made of metal with sharp edges that sometimes nicked my fingers. Nevertheless, any representation of the ordinary as something small has always fascinated me.
If you read my short stories for children, you know that I have an infatuation with small creatures. From tiny monsters to miniature ghosts, I’ve occasionally brought them into my stories. I like playing with the idea of fearful things that may not be dangerous because of their size. Or at least they’re probably not something to be afraid of.
These days, one of my favorite places to go is the International Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The museum has expanded from its original mission as a showcase for the collection of Florence Dibell Bartlett who gifted more than 2,500 artworks from 34 countries and the building to establish the museum for the State of New Mexico. On a recent visit, I walked through one exhibit featuring the sacred and another displaying the beautiful clothing and other objects associated with flamenco. My favorite part is still the original collection in the huge main room housing folklore from around the world. The items are organized in themes such as food and heaven and hell, and some are found in small but elaborate displays recreating the markets you might find in different countries. Every visit to the museum, I find something new to study with each exhibit containing a small part of a miniature world.
Maybe it’s because I’m a height-challenged 5’1” that I’m drawn to these worlds. Or maybe it’s that many of us believe there’s something just beyond what the eye can see.
What small things fascinate you?