Get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” and “shut the door, how does she do that?” Our February Teafluencer, Caroline Elenowitz-Hess, creates the most unbelievable works of art-- some of them smaller than your fingernail! We are big fans of these miniatures, and we think you’ll be just as blown away by the world’s tiniest macarons as we are.
So sit down with a life-size confection of your choice, your favorite cup of Harney tea and prepare to be amazed.
Harney: Tell us a little about you. Where are you from, educational background, where you live, family, etc.
Caroline: I live in New York City with my wife Alex and my two cats. I went to Yale for undergrad and then did an associate's degree at FIT in fashion design and worked as a fashion designer for several years.
Harney: Before we get to your miniatures, what do you do for a living?
Caroline: I am currently a graduate student at Parsons, getting an MA in Fashion Studies. My thesis is about floral themes in haute couture in the 1920s. I want to become a curator of fashion exhibitions!
Harney: Tell us if you’ve heard this one before: So, you’re a miniature artist! How tall are you?
Caroline: Ha! I'm 5' 3", so I'm short enough that I do need people to help me get things down from high shelves.
Harney: But seriously… when did your interest in miniatures begin? How long have you been doing this? What inspired you to start?
Caroline: I used to make miniatures as a kid, but I only started doing it again as an adult about two years ago. I wanted to find something creative to do after I decided to stop being a fashion designer; I saw a dollhouse kit on Etsy, and it became my new obsession.
Harney: The piece you showcase on your website, Tiny New World, is inspired by a French patisserie, Ladurée. Why did you choose this as your miniaturized replica?
Caroline: I am a big fan of the patisserie (my wedding cake was actually from there!). The kit I fell in love with was a French shop front, so I thought it was a perfect match. Plus, I love making tiny cakes and tarts!
Harney: Reading through your blog, it sounded like the dressings for the canopy bed were surprisingly painstaking-- they look so straightforward-- but those macarons!! What took the longest? And does someone massage your neck on a regular basis?
Caroline: The thing that takes the longest is the planning that goes into everything. I make mockups on Photoshop of everything I am planning to do, which takes a lot of time. Also, 50% of the time if I try something new, I have to do it all over again, which can be frustrating. Making hundreds of tiny macaron shells can be quite meditative though!
Harney: You also do a lot of research to make sure your replica is accurate with the period. Why not just make it the way you want to? Why is that accuracy important to you?
Caroline: I think that research helps give the scene a sense of "realness" that's hard to do without careful planning. Color and proportion are the most important pieces to make something feel right and can even mean that small mistakes or inaccuracies won't be noticed.
Harney: It appears you hand-painted a teeny tiny replica of a portrait that is hanging in the tea room. Do you paint?
Josephine: Yes, I do paint! Although not that much nowadays. It was the main type of art I did in high school and college.
Harney: People are most familiar with miniature doll houses, which are primarily created on a 1:12 (one foot to one inch) scale. But you chose to work in 1:24 scale, which is half that size (and probably twice as hard). Why?
Caroline: Honestly, I had lots of ambition for the size of project I wanted to work on and the number of rooms, but I realized there was no way I could fit one three-story dollhouse in 1:12 scale in my apartment, let alone three of them. It turns out to be a good thing because my cats can't fit inside them either, which keeps them relatively safe from damage by feline intruders.
Harney: What other miniature projects are you working on? How do you choose your subjects?
Caroline: I have an antique shop, and I'm working on a brownstone right now. I usually get inspired by the kits because I think about how I could transform it to make it my own.
Harney: Are your miniatures strictly a hobby, or are they for sale? Do you exhibit your pieces or lead any classes?
Caroline: Right now they are just a hobby! One day it might be nice to exhibit them.
Harney: What are your cats names, and how do you keep them from playing with everything?
Caroline: Arthur Pendragon and Morgana le Fay are brother and sister, and they are very curious. Happily, they mostly like to lie on top of the dollhouses and watch me while I work! So far they haven't eaten any of my miniatures yet.
Harney: What do you love most about this kind of art? Are you the most patient person in the world?
Caroline: My favorite thing is that it really transports you to another world! And even though it requires patience, it's very absorbing. Plus, it's super weird and quirky, I always have something to talk to strangers about!
Harney: Are you a tea fan? What role does tea play in your life?
Caroline: I am a big tea drinker! I always have at least one pot of tea a day, sometimes two. I also have a significant collection of teapots and other tea paraphernalia. I don't drink coffee, so it's pretty essential!
Harney: Do you have any favorite flavors or types of Harney & Sons tea (or anything on your list to try?)
Caroline: Earl Grey is usually my morning drink of choice. I'm a big fan of the Earl Grey Supreme, and I definitely want to try the Victorian London Fog and the Earl Grey Imperial. I love a Verveine tisane in the evenings.
Can’t get enough of Caroline’s miniatures? Need more pics of cats that are bigger than houses? We get it. Check out her work on her website or Instagram. We are in awe of her talents and patience and thank her for sharing her art and story with us. All photography has been provided by Caroline.