A conversation about miniatures with Susan Hatler leaves you with a sense of wonder. It will remind you that designing a life true to your passions and making a living are not mutually exclusive. You really can do what you love and love what you do. Susan has taken her fascination with history, fashion, and small things and made art. A 22-year old business is just a by-product of sharing her innate sense of how textures and shapes and color should flow. Her work has been featured in all of the major dollhouse magazines in the United States, England, and Spain. She has a Facebook page, an Etsy shop, and a website, and she is even a Smallisimo Featured Artisan. However, you will be hard-pressed to get her to talk about herself. Susan’s focus is on creating historical pieces in miniature scale. Period. For her, it is all about the creative process and how history inspires her work.
As she has travelled the country working the show circuit, she has observed one, consistent theme. We are all just children at heart. She notes the intensity of each visitor to her table–that connection to childhood, whatever memories it brings, puts them in a zone. Though many of them are not apparently wealthy, often they will sacrifice their lunch and other essentials and spend hundreds of dollars as if they have found hidden treasure.
When it comes to antiquing, friends and family know to let her go it alone. She is on a solitary quest for “everything”–metal, links, chains, vintage paper, fabric, lace, and findings.
What’s beautiful is that Susan brings that same intensity to her work. She speaks of her favorite time periods with precision–1810s, end of the 1700s, 1820s and 1830s, art deco of the 1920s and 1930s; skip Victorian to Edwardian. Susan relishes creating vignettes. She calls them “sections of life”, art pieces in themselves. Drawn to the French flea market and exclusive shops along the ocean beach near her home, she has been inspired by shells, sea glass, and the challenge of replicating what she sees. At other times, she will comb through her volumes of books on costuming from every era, then figure out how to make their contents in miniature. You may also find her at an antique store. When it comes to antiquing, friends and family know to let her go it alone. She is on a solitary quest for “everything”–metal, links, chains, vintage paper, fabric, lace, and findings. She does not discount anything. Adrenaline fuels the search, and she takes notes. Her soul cries out, “Last one out of the antique mall!” Once home, she is so filled with ideas that she has to commit them to a notebook that she will use as a reference later. She’s too exhausted now.
When “later” comes, she will retreat to her studio of sorts that is shared between two rooms in her home. Her best work is done early in the morning, but she can easily work all day on eight things at once. She describes it as “organized chaos” by day’s end because she works in a mess. Susan confesses that she is not a carpenter because she is “terrible with measurements”. She counts on her husband for craftsmanship when she needs a custom piece, while she may deconstruct a Bespaq product and add special panels, finishes or tightly sheared fabric. When she is not working at one of her tables, she is manipulating images and graphics on her computer to produce her line of affordable kits or spectacular hat boxes.
After more than two decades, Susan has definitely learned what sells and what collectors are looking for, but thankfully, she has not allowed her need for profit to overpower her passion for creating. In addition to collections, she will design auxiliary pieces that coordinate together. She will work in schemes, producing up to five of a particular item–each one with its own unique twist. Her next chapter will include bringing a notebook full of room box designs to life with the help of her husband.
When Susan started making miniatures, she was afraid that she would run out of ideas. Fortunately, for us, there are no signs of that happening any time soon. Sometimes she fears that her ideas may not translate, but she still just wants to go crazy creating what she imagines. We say, “Let ‘er rip!”
Susan’s Smallisimo Community Profile – Add her as a Friend!
The MODEL LIFE Section feature profiles of mini fans in five categories: Admirer, Creator, Collector, Sharer, and Preserver.