Jane Queal uses everyday items to create tiny villages and Christmas art scenes.
Jane Queal of Pratt just celebrated a birthday, but the number of years she celebrated were not important to her. Neither is doing what others expect her to be able to do, or not do. Queal is a self-taught artist, and though her gifts center around thinking small, her outlook on life encompasses a much-larger point of view.
"I've made miniature villages and miniature houses for many years," Queal said. "For the Christmas exhibit at the Vernon Filley Art Museum I just added in some miniature Christmas trees and a little nativity set. I made little wreaths for the homes and it makes the whole village more Christmasy."
Queal, who is also known in art-circles for making exquisite decorative eggs with tiny scenes inside, said anything was possible, as long as one could learn to think small.
"I'm always saving small parts of things, like an ink pen that fell apart. I can use the spring and the small tubing for something," Queal said. "When I'm shopping I look for very small patterns in fabric or paper, or wood. Small things are everywhere if you just learn where to look."
Queal used tiny sheds from her outdoor limestone posts to create authentic siding for the schoolhouse in her recent Christmas village, on display as part of the Festival of Trees at the art museum. She used tiny scraps and slivers of wood to create the nativity shelter in the center of her arrangement.
"The nativity figures came from Hobby Lobby," she said. "They might have been army men or something, but I reshaped and repainted them to fit."
A small church in the center of her Christmas village is complete, including rows of pew fitted with tiny velvet cushions for parishioners.
"It's just a matter of thinking," she said. "The shapes, the colors, it's fun to find and make them fit together."
Queal said she started with pre-cut plywood punch outs for the building frames. They had windows and doors already stamped out. But all of the details and exteriors pieces, as well as any dividers and room decorations inside, were creations that came from her mind into being.
"I do get items and ideas from miniature railroad kits," she said. "The trees come from those companies and some of the figurines I get and remake."
Queal said she never had much encouragement to be creative as a child. It was something she developed as an adult.
"One of the first things I did was to take a cigar box and make musical instruments," she said. "I made a tiny banjo, dulcimer and a mandolin."
After that experience, Queal said she just found making things smaller seemed like fun. She went through a phase where she frequented craft shows with a friend and together they built an active business.
"You can never really justify the time with the monetary value you get back," she said. "I finally quit going to shows and sales because it just made more sense to give away my gifts to friends and family. I just wanted to be able to enjoy making what I wanted to make, not because I had to make something that would sell."
Queal said she recently discovered the joy of using a wood burner and a magnifying glass to make miniature outdoor scenes.
"I take tiny slabs of wood and make lakes, mountains and forests, all very, very small," she said.
Even though making tiny is getting harder as age and arthritis kick in, Queal said using a tweezer in just about everything she does makes her continued exploration into the world of tiny art possible.
"I don't ever want people to judge what I can and can't do by my age," she said. "I want them to judge me by what I do. When you are a crafty person, there is always something more to make."
Queal's miniature Christmas exhibit will be on display at the art museum through December. There will be a special reception there on December 15 to award a Best in Show designation, chosen by visitor votes, and a turkey raffle winner will also be announced at the time. Admission to the Vernon Filley Art Museum is free until January 5, 2017.