TRAVEL | Just Imagine…IGMA Guild School, Castine, Maine

Reprinted by Permission from The Cube Magazine, Volume XXXIV, Number 2, by the International Guild of Miniature Artisans.

By Jamie Carrington

Just imagine this for luxury: a rather eccentric village in Maine, and nearly three hundred miniaturists who don’t have to explain why they’re there. Castine is the village on the edge of the Atlantic coast dominated by the Marine Maritime Academy, which is empty of students during the summer months while they study on their ship, and for the last thirty-two years, home to The International Guild of Miniature Artisans summer Guild School. And the residents of the village? To them we’re known as ‘The Little People,’ and we’re made welcome as part of the community.


Early every year Artisan and Fellow members of The Guild are invited to submit a proposal for classes and are then surveyed by the students of the current school. Over thirty international teachers are selected, and over fifty classes are offered, with all skill levels from beginners to advanced, with a length from twelve hours to forty-eight for the following six-day week.  Some students want to concentrate on one class, staying with the same teacher for forty-eight hours, while others may wish to go the opposite direction and study four twelve hour classes a day, with four different teachers and four different mediums. The choice is yours, and the selection of classes is staggering.


The setting is just perfect, and the academy does everything possible to make our stay the very best. Most of us sleep in student dormitories, sharing a bedroom. To many, this sounds a bit off-putting, but it’s just a place to crash out at the end of the day, and it’ll be with another miniaturist, so there’s no problem. Alternative accommodation is available for the not-so-brave, but it’s much more fun being together in Curtis, the dormitory block.


We all remember our first year at school, wondering if we’ve done the right thing, worried that we’ll not fit in. Because of that, we’ll make sure that you feel part of it all and have fun. Don’t worry, your name badge will help us spot you. We all know how bewildering the names of the buildings at the Academy can be, so we’ll be there to guide you in the right direction. In fact, you only have to experience breakfast the first day to see how it all works. You select from the vast range of food on offer, take your tray into the dining hall and sit wherever there’s a seat. Your badge not only tells us that you’re a first-timer, but where you come from and the first question you’ll be asked is, “Whose class are you taking?” You may find yourself talking to a multi-millionaire or someone who saves for years to come; that’s the last thing anyone is interested in, and the oddest lifetime friendships can start over the first coffee.

There are a couple of ways of registering for classes, which are detailed on the IGMA website, along with the email address for Guild School Director, Barbara, who will answer any questions you have. The catalogue for school will come out in November for the following year, and you can view it on the website or request a copy to be sent to you. Members get $25 discount on their payment to school, but you don’t have to be a member; just as long as you’re over eighteen, you’re fine.


If you think that it’s just about classes, think again. Barbara Davis, our brilliant school director, makes sure that there’s something to do from the start of the day to the very end. Sunday and Monday nights offer evening seminars, Tuesday night is The Lobster Cook In–you don’t have to eat lobster; there is choice–followed by the live auction, with items ranging from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Wednesday night is meant to be relaxing time, but there’s kayak sailing in the harbour, a chance to go out and eat with new friends, or sit around and do nothing in preparation for Thursday night–known as Minis, Munchies and More, the sales night where the teachers sell their work. Then the week ends with the exhibition of the students’ work, followed by the banquet. I do warn my students, specially new ones to the school, that it’s a good idea to make sure you’re well-rested for the week before you set off, but I never take my own advice, so I don’t expect them to either. And, I know that the moment I arrive, the energy is up and running.


For those students traveling long distances, it’s not a bad idea to arrive on Friday, booking an extra night. Then you’ll have had a chance to walk around the village, find out where your workshops will be held, and meet some of the teachers and staff for the Guild School. Since catering in the academy does not start until the opening banquet on Saturday night, you’ll become well known at Bah’s (now Merkel’s), our favourite coffee shop cum restaurant, where we all gather just down the hill in the village. Very friendly, it offers splendid home-cooked meals that, on good weather days, you can take outside onto the balcony to enjoy the views.  If you need just a snack, there’s The Breeze, a lobster shack on the harbour that also does the most fabulous ice creams; try the sour cherry one–it’s delicious. Well, you do need a bit of energy boost to take you back up the hill, don’t you?


All in all, IGMA’s Guild School is one of the most wonderful experiences a miniaturist can have, and well worth a visit to indulge yourself.

NOTE:  Fancy the idea, but don’t think you’re ready for traveling to find out? Here’s the latest news! IGMA had decided to offer a taster in conjunction with The Kensington London Dollhouse Festival preceding the Summer Show in 2014. Bill Robertson, Annelle Ferguson, Pat Richards, Geoff Wonnacott, and I will be holding classes in a whole range of differing subjects. Follow the IGMA website for all the details.

Pre-register for the 2014 IGMA Guild School by November 1st to be sure to get your favorite classes!

Jamie Carrington is a miniature figure artist and IGMA fellow.


Travel is a LIVE Section series of articles featuring mini travel destinations.

One thought on “TRAVEL | Just Imagine…IGMA Guild School, Castine, Maine

  1. Wow! What a dream come true this would be! Thanks for the photos! At least I can see what a wonderful experience it is! I always thought it was only for master artisans! I’ve made miniatures for years, and now I know I could handle several of the classes. This article is excellent!

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