It’s A Small World

Darren Scala of D. Thomas Fine Miniatures offers insight into the fascinating world of small-scale art.

Darren Scala knows a great miniature when he sees one. As owner and founder of D. Thomas Fine Miniatures, a unique gallery, retail store, and exhibition space in Hastings-on-Hudson, Scala is intimately involved in this underappreciated art form. Today, D. Thomas Fine Miniatures displays some of the world’s most exceptional dollhouses and miniature collectibles and offers workshops and classes as well as special exhibitions of nationally recognized artisans.

The space’s current show, a miniature reproduction of the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal film Rear Window, is perhaps one of its most notable. Artist Louise Krasniewicz’s piece reveals the very best of what miniature art has to offer: its ability to reimagine, rejuvenate, and breathe new life into everyday items. From a piece of furniture to a celebrated film, the world of miniatures reveals its subjects from a fresh perspective and presents them in a form that encourages deeper appreciation. Scala, who was recently appointed to the International
Guild of Miniature Artisans’ Board of Trustees, has been both appreciating and producing his own miniatures for nearly as long as he can remember. The story of his involvement in the form is suffused with equal parts passion and hard work. 

When did you first become interested in miniatures?

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Since I was a very young boy. My father was a skilled cabinetmaker and craftsman, and I was always around him while he was in his workshop. As a child, I had seen a catalogue as a child featuring a dollhouse, and I knew I had to have one. So, I asked my father to build it for me for my birthday.  He was this burly, staunchly conservative, Brooklyn-born Italian guy. I knew I was taking a risk by even asking. Thankfully, after some prodding and pushing from my highly supportive mom, he agreed. 

What compelled you to follow your passion?

It was the late 2000s, and, as the economy was falling apart, I was laid off from a long career with a prominent cosmetics company. I knew things would get rough emotionally and I needed to find a way to keep myself busy, so I started making miniatures again. I built myself a workbench in the lower level of my home in Yonkers and began taking classes to learn new skills. The employment situation didn’t improve for me, and I realized that I would never be returning to a career in the beauty world. So I decided to combine the skills and talents I had acquired in my years in marketing and brand management, along with the passion I had around miniatures, to create D. Thomas Fine Miniatures.  

How did the idea to open a physical shop and exhibition space first come about?

When I started writing my business plan, I knew I needed to do things differently to have folks really think differently about miniatures. I needed people to see, feel, and touch these objects. I wanted to reshape the perception that miniatures are cute toys for children to play with, and I needed a physical space in order to achieve that.

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How do you go about selecting the artists for exhibitions?

I look for artists who create work that tells a larger story than just the piece’s size and content. It’s important that folks with varied interests identify with the work, draw a connection to their own lives, and walk away feeling like they’ve had an experience. 

 Scala at a workbench in his shop

What attracted you to the work of Louise Krasniewicz?

I was introduced to Louise Krasniewicz at the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show, where she was showing Rear Window as part of their popular Miniature Settings exhibit. Her piece won best in show in the drama category, and I was awestruck from the moment I saw it. It tells a larger story around art, culture, and how we look at miniatures. It appeals to a wide range of people, whether you enjoy miniatures, art, film, or great stories.

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What do you like most about Krasniewicz’s Hitchcock piece?

My absolute favorite part is the lighting. To make the film, Hitchcock built an elaborate set inside a sound studio, several stories high, and lit it with hundreds of lights to help represent certain times of the day. Louise did an amazing job of recreating that. It actually makes you feel like you are a visitor on set during the day of filming.

Why do you feel miniatures are timeless?

There is something quite seductive about miniatures. They have the ability to transport the viewer to a place of wonder. They challenge the senses, especially when something is made so beautifully and intricately that you don’t quite know how. It’s an illusion. But no matter who you are and from what perspective you come, miniatures delight, excite, and provide an enjoyable experience. 

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