The living room in the “Dog Catcher’s House.” Photo courtesy of Christine Verstraete and used with her permission.
I personally know the following interviewee, Christine Verstraete. We met online several years back, drawn together by our mutual passion for writing. However, Chris has another talent I’ve always admired: making miniatures!
When she posts new pics of her creations online, she always lets me know so I can go ooh and ahh over them. She’s currently working on putting together a book about dogs and dolls and the artists who make them. It got me thinking about a pattern I noticed but didn’t quite fully register in her dollhouses and displays: quite often she has dogs in them.
She graciously agreed to humor me by participating in the following interview. I hope you have as much fun reading it and admiring her work as I do/did!
Courtney Mroch: What got you started on dollhouse miniatures and scale miniatures?
Christine Verstraete: I’ve been collecting over 20 years. Like most kids growing up in the Fifties, I had a metal dollhouse and plastic furniture. I wasn’t that crazy about it, although some of that is highly collectible now.
Years later I saw an inexpensive dollhouse kit at Kmart and though it would be fun to try. Then I learned that there were actual dollhouse shows where you could buy everything you could want, just like for a real house, even real wood baseboards, etc. I was hooked and haven’t looked back. The ideas never end!
I also enjoying writing about my own and other people’s collections for hobby magazines in the field, or for other magazines interested in stories on collectibles or collectors.
CM: Are your dolls and dioramas for sale? (If yes, do you make them to order?)
CV: I have sold a few things like a small shadow box scene and mostly small accessories. You spend so much creative time and planning on a project that I, at least, have a hard time parting with them when they are done. But I am considering making some small scenes to sell. I occasionally sell small items like tea shop displays, some spooky clay foods, medieval books, and am planning to make more dressed miniature theme dogs.
CM: Do you have a certain breed you tend to feature all the time?
CV: I don’t pick a certain breed, but just go by what dog looks “right” in that scene. For instance, my Tudor Tea Shoppe naturally has a small Corgi by the front step as the Queen of England has Corgis.
A tropical room (named for the tropical colors I used, orange, yellow and green) I made in a wood greenhouse from Ikea has a terrier-type dog.
I am now working on a Wizard’s room and decided that he had to have a “magical” assistant, hence the Wizard’s dog. And if you wonder how to tell he’s magical? Simple. Why, by the gold toenails, of course! (See a close up of the wizard’s dog at the end of this interview.)
The wizard and his magical assistant. Photo courtesy of Christine Verstraete and used with her permission.
CM: What are the dogs made of? Do you make them or do you acquire them elsewhere?
CV: The dogs I use mostly are commercially made resin or sometimes are furred. There are much nicer, artisan-made dogs that are sold, but since I use a lot of dogs, I tend to stick to the less expensive varieties.
I used some resin dogs in my “Dogcatcher’s House” but I was fortunate to find some nice plastic/rubber dogs at the time I was planning the project. The dogs had good detail and were being sold in gum packs at the gas station for only $1. A good price considering I have almost 100 dogs in that house. I think I was worse than the kids feeling the bags to see if I could guess on the shape so I didn’t get too many duplicates!
CM: Do you name the dogs in your scenes?
CV: No names.
CM: I guess when you put 100 in one scene, naming them all would be crazy. Well, besides dogs do you feature other animals as well?
CV: The funny thing is all my rooms have dogs or nothing. One room is filled with teddy bears and in that one, I decided to have a cat sitting in the doorway of that room. A cat seemed a better companion to the bears.
CM: Tell us a little about your pet(s).
CV: My house is a menagerie. I have birds, including Zebra and Gouldian Finches, and an Owl Finch. I have several fish tanks with Angelfish, and a mixed Malamute dog named Shania. We lost our 12-year-old German Shepherd Dog, Doc, last year from bloat, which I’d never heard of before until this. Apparently deep-chested dogs can suck air into their belly when they eat and will blow-up like a balloon. I read about it later online and now keep fast-melt Gas-X sheets on hand. It was a shocking, traumatic experience.
Close up of “The Wizard’s Dog.” Photo courtesy of Christine Verstraete and used with her permission.
To see more of Christine’s dollhouse scenes, visit her website and click on miniatures or photos.