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Shelley Acker of Freedom Miniatures

Shelley Acker is the owner of Freedom Miniatures; one of very few miniature stores in all of Canada, is located in Kentville, NS. The Shop showcases dollhouse accessories, furniture and products as well as supplies. It also features finished works by Shelley.

In addition to being a must see shop for dollhouse enthusiasts, Freedom Miniatures also carries quality supplies such as Vallejo brand paints and pigments, basswood scale lumber, landscaping products and tools sought  after who build model train layouts, dioramas and carry out model making  of all sorts. Freedom Miniatures is a great place to explore creativity and enjoy some time in a small world all your own.

Shelley Can be found at freedomminiatures.com

Camp Mini HA HA! Who's in? 

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Episode Transcript:

Rachel  0:02  

Hello, several of you have asked how I got started with my podcast. If you haven't heard of anchor, it's the easiest way to make a podcast. For one, it's free. Who doesn't love that, too, there's so many creation tools that allow me to record and edit my podcast right from my phone. In girl also distribute my podcasts for me, and can be heard on Spotify, Apple podcasts, and many more. It's everything I need to make a podcast all in one place. To download your free anchor app. Go to anchor.fm to get started. That's anchor.fm to get started.

Rachel  0:47  

Hello, friends, and welcome to my miniture obsession podcast. I'm your host, Rachel Karpf. This podcast is about all things miniature, we will explore the world of minis and all its raw talent, dedication, patience, and the new energy of this art form. hear from miniature hobbyists and professionals from all over the world, we will gain a deeper insight into the creative processes that drive them. We will also explore what their biggest struggles are their most devastating failures, and the most uplifting successes. I hope to encourage and inspire you and your miniature hobby. Because even the ordinary become extraordinary in miniature.

Rachel  1:37 - Hello friends, I'm back for another episode of my miniature obsession podcast. I hope that you are enjoying your summer, I am doing better than my last post. I still miss my dad very much every day. And well probably always will. But I find that keeping myself busy helps. And I think that my dad would want me to do the same. So I've really been, like I said, just keeping myself busy diamond in my work, keeping my mind active. So I've been really busy actually making miniatures for my first subscription box, it's going to be my monthly, I should say, bi monthly subscription box. And I'm so excited to launch this box, which will be July 20. So the deadline is fast approaching, and I'm super excited. So this subscription box will be delivered right to your door every other month. And inside you will find fun and festive miniatures for your dollhouse or rune boxes. They will be seasonal and they will range from DIY projects already made items to decorate the inside and outside of your doll houses and miniature scenes. And then they will also contain creations from featured artists from around the world. So I've been having so much fun connecting with all these people, other managers and bringing these managers to your door. So even though the cart won't open until the 20th, I do have some exciting news that I want to share. I actually launched a giveaway starting today. So I will be giving away the first month's box for free. Yep, that's right. I really excited to give this box to someone for free. So how you get entered in signup is really simple. You just head over to my website, Mike drop miniatures calm. And then the bottom right hand side you'll see a little box a giveaway box. And if you simply click on that, you enter your email and you're entered. There you can also find the giveaway post on my Facebook and my Instagram pages in both of those can be found. The handles are Mic drop miniatures. And if you have any problems with that, please just reach out let me know. But in advance, thank you for signing up and good luck. But in the meantime, just make sure that you get on the waitlist for the subscription box. As you know miniatures take a long time to make. So and because I want all the miniatures in these boxes to be handmade, the quantity quantities will be limited. So it's really really important that you get on the waitlist. Being on the waitlist means that you get first dibs at getting them an insurance delivered right to your door. So it'll be like Christmas every month or I guess every other month. So to get on the waitlist, you simply go to mini subscription box.com. So make sure to get signed up today. Alright, so a little bit about today's episode. I had the privilege of talking with Shelley from freedom miniatures. Shelley is a very talented and very knowledgeable Miniaturist. I couldn't learn a lot from her. And I already have in the short time I've known her. She owns a miniature shop in Canada, where she not only sells other artists creations but also her own. You can find Shelley at freedom, miniatures calm. I hope you enjoy our conversation. And if you did, would you please share it with a friend? Let them know so they can have a listen also. And if you'd be so kind to please leave me a review. I love to hear what you think of this podcast. Because I'm here to bring you the best content and conversation. I can. So your input is really important to me. And oh, don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss out on future episodes. So thank you for being here and take care and I hope to hear from you soon. 

Rachel 5:45- How Are you?

Shelley 5:46- Good? 

Rachel 5:47- How are things in Nova Scotia? Are you still locked down?

Shelley  6:01- Right now we're just having a little bit of a blip. We've got some community spread that we haven't had in a while. So things are just starting to be locked down a little bit in the ways that they haven't before Nova Scotia where I am, has done quite well. But we've just had a bit of an outbreak with some of the new variants. I think so.

Rachel  6:23- I've always had one place on my bucket list to get to that. Yeah, over in that area. I was heard. It's really beautiful. Especially in like fall time. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's always nice here. Sunday. So when I found out that you have a store friend there, I was like, oh, even a better reason to exactly. But before we get into that, can you just tell us a little bit more about yourself and how how you came to love miniatures?

Shelley  6:50- Well, I've probably been more than 20 years that I've been interested in managers. Somewhere along the line one day, I just kind of figured out that I liked small things. I was playing with polymer clay, and just listen young kids around. And you know, they're making their animals and whatever they're, they're usually some sort of creature. And here I am making a little tiny teapot and cup and saucer didn't really know anything about miniatures at that point. But I look back on it a few years later, and realize that here was this very small teapot was actually pretty much 1/12 scale. I didn't know what I was doing. But it's so small things. And not long after I discovered a pattern for making a dollhouse and started with that went from a dollhouse to diagramas to firm furniture just kept shortening the time period it would take to finish something. And I was lucky enough about two and a half years ago to be able to make my living my from my passion. So now maybe not my living yet. But Solomon two and a half years, but we're getting there.

Rachel  8:04- How long have you had your storefront? So what I guess how did that process happen? where you're like, well, I guess I should start Canada is how is miniatures there? Do you have like lots of shops Is there a lot to groups like?

Shelley 8:10- We do not have lots of shops. As far as I know, right now, there are two in Canada, online, and one in Toronto, that's a long standing shop has been there for a number of years. One other that I know of in Ontario, didn't survive the shutdown last year. And others have just gone online instead of having a physical shop. So I'm definitely going against the trend. But I'm seeing I'm seeing the benefits of that because I'm seeing that there are more and more people showing up that are working in miniatures that didn't know each other existed. But now there's this sort of Central calling point that creates a bit of a thread for people. And, you know, face group group has popped up for miniature enthusiasts in Nova Scotia. And I keep finding new people pop into the shop or order things online. And so it's it's bigger than I knew whether it was growing or not, I don't know. But it certainly has grown over the past year. There's much more interest in making miniatures and doing small things, doing things at home and doing things with their hands, has certainly evolved a lot in the last year. Do you think it's because of COVID? Yeah. Because people are our home more wanting to be entertained, whether it's with your kids or yourself as a kid. This is for me, this is all about playing. So it's all about coming and having a good time and using your imagination, finding ways to be creative.

Rachel  9:58- So how do you feel Your business will grow as like people are getting back to work and like, you know, back to the way it used to be, do you think miniatures will still be as popular as they are now?

Shelley  10:10- I hope so I hope that this is the start, you know, not everybody who maybe tried it for the first time is going to continue. But I think enough will. And like I say, they the number of existing miniaturists It keeps going up. So as they discover one another, and, you know, you develop a bit of a support system that wasn't there before terms of how do I do this? How did you do that? What color should I use? Here are all the typical questions you get. And the manager world, they're starting to find local solutions for that. So you can say, Well, you know, I found it at this store, which everybody could get to, as opposed to, I found, you know, another manager group might say, well, I got it at Hobby Lobby, we don't have Hobby Lobby. So all local sources, for materials, and all those wonderful things out there that, you know, aren't miniature per se, but we are your freedoms to throw away and we find ways to make it into a manager. So you know, the sources for those types of treasures are local. And that makes a big difference for people.

Rachel  11:17- Yeah, for sure. I mean, and I often think like, what did we do before like me? And you were talking to me on zoom? It's like, what are zoom? connections that you can make is so amazing now with people. So is your you mostly focused on 12? skill?

Shelley  11:33- Yeah, mostly, I've dabbled a bit in half scale myself. But the store is almost exclusively at this time, 112 scale, although I do have a collection that I just purchased recently, which has a lot of quarter scale items in it. So it's quite a large estate. So I'm looking forward to getting that out and catalogued and online and in the store as well, I think would be so cool on a storefront for managers. It's a lot of fun. I, I haven't gone to work a single day in the last two and a half years I've

Rachel  12:09- gotten to play. So do you find people visit your store from all over just to like, come to your area for your store? 

Shelley  12:16- you finding that and all you tend to they tend to marry it up with another trip? Careful weight room where I live where my store is, is also a health zone, sort of with a major hospital. So people come to the area for specialist appointments and that sort of thing. And it's interesting how often those trips will get married up someone three hours away might not come just for the manager store. But knowing that I'm here, and they've got a medical appointment or an eye appointment or something else or a family birthday or anniversary though they'll they'll pair the two things up and make a make a concerted effort to spend some time in the store. That's awesome. And

Rachel  13:03- I can't believe you know, you probably meet some amazing people that Oh, it's fun. Yeah, I don't know how much you can tell us. But can you tell us why your store is currently closed for one month?

Shelley  13:15- Yes, it's a quite an unusual thing to close your eyes. But it's a essentially a large commission. I'm working with Pete media, which is a nova scotia film production company. And I'd worked with him before and in 2017 18 making sets so the first work with them was to make sets for a documentary called Bernie Lanza wants to know who killed Bernie Lando. Now, it's an intriguing title. And it's an intriguing story. And so the story was told in the doc using miniature sets, and an interview with with one of the Bernie lentils. And it was really an interesting way to tell a story. The the locations that were needed existed in the 1960s. And so they don't exist today. So they were recreated in miniatures so that the story could be told. And so now we're working with the same company on a larger project. This is a feature film. So all told me about, you know, more than 15 sets that are being built. And it's done by myself and a friend friend and fellow Miniaturist, who lives about 15 minutes for me, Iris Sutherland, so she and I have worked together and created these sets and this month long closure is to be in the studio while the filming is being done with the sets so that we can be there. make adjustments to manage and maneuver the sets in the right way. And we can, we're continuing to build items to while we're there. So it where I'm a sole proprietor, I don't have any staff. It just while it's it's odd to shut down, it was what made the most sense. And the less the least amount of stress, and the least confusion, I think for customers, you know, rather than saying, well, for these three or four weeks, I might be open this day, and it might be open that day. Just keep it clean, clear cut. opportunity for you, though, that it's amazing. It truly is amazing. And it's so educational, and learning so much just by doing. Having the first experience of making sets to be filmed. We learned a lot about what you can and can't do. Well, you know, for example, if you're making a living room, all of the rooms, all of the walls in the room need to be removable. So any one wall may need to be removed for filming from a different angle. So imagine trying to build a room that's strong and stable, with every wall needing to be removable. Yeah, that's tough. So So we've learned a lot about what works and what, what, what can work better the second time, and it's just in technical items like that, as well as just how to make interesting miniatures and how to recreate something, you know, from from a different era, for example. So what era what era? is this? Is this also the 60s? There's some in the 60s and some in the 80s? I'll find some in the current day. Okay, so how long did you get to make 15 sets, the first work began probably close to a year and a half ago now, with just some of the things that they knew for sure they would want. But it's through the past year and a half the development of the story and the script. And so the shot list has been ongoing wasn't until fall, last year that we really got the close to the final list of what we needed. So it's been a lot of Hurry up and work in the last six, seven months.

Rachel  17:24- So is it like animated? Or is it like, real people are gonna be like, in the scenes, you know, like, type thing? Like, I guess?

Shelley  17:35- Neither really, it's not an animated film. And they do use dolls represent the characters in the story. But there are some interactions with real life. elements of the story as well. So when are we going to be able to see my words carefully? Um, when are we gonna be able to see it? Do you think? When will it be they're not not certain at this point, they're hoping that it will be able to go on a film festival circuits next year. So it will either be 2022 or 2023. And that's as specific as I've got right now. Hopefully, that you know us in the US can see it. I hope so. Yeah. Yeah, that'd be so cool. I have a lot of friends all over North America who are anxious to see it 

Rachel  18:36- I was kind of looking at a map where you are and do you get good deals on shipping? Because it come on? You're like right next to the border, or are you paying doesn't make any difference? Like she's so close though. Maybe her store she'll get discounts on shipping?

Shelley  18:52- Unfortunately, shipping is is a bit of a contentious issue in candidates. It's not inexpensive. So it is a challenge.

Rachel  19:01- Yeah, some just something very little to Canada not too long ago when it was like $13 here and so yeah. I feel your pain there. Yeah, you do ship to the US though for your car. Okay. Yeah. All right. Well, I can't wait to see your film. That is so awesome. And that's in what scale? Primarily 112. Okay. Yeah, we used to get to still work in your same scale. Exactly. Yeah. So cool. So in your story, can you tell us maybe you have a best seller like what do people

Shelley  19:37- you know, it's interesting. I actually asked that more than once and there really isn't any one thing because everybody has a different vision and everybody has a different interest. You know, it can be generic and say what the furniture maybe isn't is the best seller but that doesn't tell you very much. You know, a bathroom, sad is is likely to say Is the bedroom set or kitchen set or living room set? It just depends on what rooms people are working on at the current time. What they're what they're trying to store they're trying to tell,

Rachel   20:10- do you feel like modern miniatures are more becoming more popular? 

Shelley  20:14- Not not totally modern, but you know, I'd say, people are looking for 40s and 50s. You know, 1940s 1950s? A little bit more current than that, but I don't have people you know, looking for, you know, furniture you'd find in the furniture store today. Yeah.

Rachel  20:41- So what do you personally create, then? Is there any Do you have your own personal creations in your store?

Shelley  20:46- I do. I have an area where I have pieces that I've created on display. And my preferred approach is basically a room box or diorama. And, and they're all different. So everything from a fairy house to a new orleans Voodoo shop. carpenter shop. What else do I got there? Draw the blank, a cafe and bookstore. They're all different. It's just whatever piques my interest at the time. My next one will probably be an English pub.

Speaker  21:22- So where do you get all your inspiration? say like, for these sets? If you? How do I make this or you know, technically like a question about a tour? Where do you go for help?

Speaker  21:33- Mr. Google? I mean, it's one of the wonders of this age that you can find so much information online, and whether it's on Pinterest or images on Google or any number of resources, but the internet is the source for especially when you're doing some historical research. If you want we needed to know what was going on what particular building would have been like, or military base was one it was that one element of that what it looked like in the 1960s you had to the internet. And then if that doesn't do it, then you try and find a local museum or resource or library resources that will send you that way. But more and more and more what what you need is is online. 

 Speaker  22:23- I said what would we do right without the internet? Yeah. And so what was so what would you say like clay? Or do you like working more in like woodwork,

 Speaker  22:34- wood? What is my preferred medium? I love to work with woods. And it doesn't matter whether it's to make a building or to make a table. That's just where I'm comfortable. I I've done everything from create a, I had a commission couple years ago, where I made it was probably about a 1/3 scale replica of a bicycle for a play. And the, the the writer for the for the bicycle. And most not the rider but most of the bicycle was was wood in some form or another. And so if it's not the right shape, or make it the right shape.

 Speaker  23:20 - So is it fast. What are you working with or what type of wood? Yeah, mostly basswood? Yep. Okay. Yeah. And you cut it all by hand? Or do you have some specialty? 

 Speaker  23:28- no, I have table saws. I have the miniatures, scaled table saws. My favorite is not available anymore. It was a preact pr, e AC. And I purchased it through a smaller than life in New Hampshire. And so now instead of the preact, they sell the proxxon, which is also a nice Ah,

 Speaker  23:54- thanks, because I'm actually looking for one so out. Right? Yeah. So why don't they make the first one you mentioned? The fellow who made them passed away? Yeah, I have to look into that. And what was the company that you said that makes them yeah,

 Speaker  24:09- smaller than life? He, he sells them? He doesn't he's not the maker of them, but he's a supplier of them. Okay. Well, you seem very knowledgeable and miniatures. For sure. Well, you know, 20 years you add up a little bit of knowledge all over the place here and there. And I've got you know, the benefit of something that's kind of unique here in Nova Scotia. We have an annual event called Camp mini haha. I just want to ask if you do any classes, it's not like it's a five day five night retreat, really to do miniatures and there is a a set project for each camp. One year we did book rooms, the type where you take real books and Help them to make a room. So everybody was given the same volumes, free cot, and they decided what kind of a room it was going to be. Mine turned into a cafe bookstore, others turned into, you know, sitting rooms, studies, libraries, that sort of thing, or reproduction of their family bedroom, or you know, childhood bedroom or whatever. So it's a really nice combination, because where most conventions you know, are house parties and things like that, you have a workshop, and it's like, here, here's the thing we're going to make in this workshop. And you're going to follow me step by step. And you'll all end up with the same picnic basket. And that's a good thing. Don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing. But sometimes you need a bit more of a creative outlet. And so we start with a basic premise. And there are sort of many workshops within the five days where you learn different skills. But at the end of it, what you take home, finished or unfinished is up to you, depending on how much detail you want to put in it. But it's uniquely yours, because you get to express your own creative ideas and skills and wishes in your project. So 3030 Plus, managers will get together for five days, and there will be no two projects alike when you go home. So this is your store putting in on or is it like a group? You said no, this it's been ongoing for over 20 years? Okay. And it's basically self runs. So two or three or four? campers, this camp many haha. We all volunteer to coordinate and run the event for the next year. Are you doing it this year? I did it three years, a few years ago. So not will be for a while before I do it again. Okay. It's a lot of work and, and with the store. It's a different situation. 

In 2020 odd undecided at this point, it didn't take place last year. Due to COVID is it since September. So at this point, they're waiting to see they hope to be able to make a decision in June sometime. Whether or not be going on?

 Speaker  27:36- Oh, it's a blast. It really is because you're there like I say five days five nights. And it's about working in miniatures sharing ideas. You get it it's it's relaxed so you can get up and go see what other people are doing. have conversations you need a tool you need a supply you need some help. Someone will will have any of those things. There's there's you know, social events in the evening, nothing formal. But we have a gift exchange and table favor exchanges every day at lunchtime. So there's a lot happens within that. I'm there No, it's camp many haha calm. All right.

 Speaker  28:22- Yeah, I used to scrapbook back in the day. And we used to do like a weekend me and the girlfriends wing thing. And we'd all scrapbook a map. And so that's kind of what it reminds me of, but very much. Yeah, even better to make miniatures. I haven't done one yet. But I would love to. Yeah, you get down here at all to come to any other shows, like the trade shows or anything like that.

 Speaker  28:43- Oh, I had flights booked to go to Chicago. Which time now? That would have been I guess just last year 2020. Okay, it could be it's been rescheduled now twice I think this year. Yeah. So it's now off to 2022. But I've been three times I think to that show to those shows. Either vendor or no as a shopper. Okay, so the last time I was there was prior to my store being open. Okay. So I was really looking forward to going as, as a buyer for my store. Yeah, I suppose to a buyer for myself. Yeah, that's always sort of one of the same, but not quite.

 Speaker  29:28- So do you does your store do online events or online classes or anything? Or do you do Oh, I

 Speaker  29:30- haven't gotten into online classes, partly because this past year has been busy with this Film Commission. But also, I did workshops in my store prior to COVID. And they were really successful and popular. That's when I did at least one a month, if not more. And I really liked that ability to you know, interact and Don't say well, that your pieces of wood go together like a tea not like an E. And, you know, and you have to actually demonstrate the kinds of things that I like to teach don't necessarily translate well into online. So I've struggled with sort of figuring out what I could do. So if this camera here camera there, and I would turn away, look around, and yeah, it can and it's not so much even what what am I doing is what are the students doing? And how can I help them in what they're doing. And if I can't see what they're doing, I can't be any help. So I'd like to share a skill as opposed to just put a to b to c to DD and you got something that's finished, I like that I like people to go away with something that they can then implement in another project. So whether it's skills in aging, a front door, so ways to make paint local, or whether it's how to do simple wiring with LED lights, or how to do how to work with bricks and mortar, and the number of things that you can do. So it's more about taking a skill and making it transferable to other projects, then then putting together a piece of furniture. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah.

 Speaker  31:21- because it's freedom to play. It's just freedom to be creative. To to, you know, if you're not currently classed as a child, you still have a child inside you. And it's that freedom to come out and play. And let your imagination go and let that creativity flow. You know, we're so tied down with so many things that this is about. I foster creative play. And so that gives people the freedom to have fun.

 Speaker  33:29- Yeah, I love that. Freedom to I say be stress free. Because whenever I get into miniatures, it's like, oh, my worries disappear. It's great.

 Speaker  33:39- I love it. Time. Time disappears. I gotta make supper. Oh, yeah. Well, peanut butter jam sandwiches maybe tonight, but I don't need to eat tonight. Today now. They yesterday. That's enough. So it's really it's just about finding ways to help people have fun.

 Speaker  33:58-Yes, I love that. Well, thank you for your conversation. Anything else you want to leave? No, this has been fun. It's been good. Yeah, thank you so much. And I like I said, I hope to get up there that way. So you think fall is the best time to come to Nova Scotia area

 Speaker  34:14- falls awesome. September and into October is when you're going to see the leaves that fall foliage that people come for. But really just about any time is good to come. I mean, winter is never a good time to travel in a northern climate. But our climate wouldn't be dissimilar from what you'd find in in Maine, maybe even milder than what you'd find in Maine.

All right. Well, thank you, Shelly. You have a wonderful day. And thanks again for joining me. 

Well, thanks, Rachel. Thanks for the invite. You're welcome. Bye

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