When he was laid off from his marketing job in the airline industry, 28-year-old Kieran Wright did what many others do in difficult times; he decided to downsize a bit.
But he didn’t do that by moving into a smaller house to save money or anything like that.
Instead, over time, he began shrinking famous Los Angeles landmarks down to size – like really small sizes – creating meticulous miniature models of well-known places like the hot dog-shaped Tail o’ the Pup stand that was originally located at the corner of Beverly and La Cienega, the Taix restaurant on Sunset and The Apple Pan on the Westside.
“Normally losing your job would be a terrible thing, but I feel like it opened a door, it forced me to do something creative. got taxed somehow,” said the Miracle Mile resident, who now sells his models online starting at $1,000 apiece.
And he quickly becomes a sought-after artist. He’s sold out of models and right now he’s working on commissioned pieces that usually start at a cost of $2,000 each.
While money is important, it’s not Wright’s main reason for creating a mini-town.
“I sort of think of it all as preservation. I love the idea of highlighting and drawing attention to iconic buildings or businesses,” he said.
Wright, who moved to Los Angeles from New Zealand three years ago, said he has always had a passion for architecture and in particular for the landmarks of his new city as well as miniature models.
Shortly after being furloughed due to the pandemic, he visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and marveled at a miniature version of Disneyland that is on display.
“It’s quite a show. I could have watched it for hours looking at the tiny little details of Disneyland. And I love miniatures and that’s when I thought maybe I could try making one,” he said.
Later, while having lunch at Rae’s restaurant in Santa Monica, which opened more than 60 years ago, he decided he wanted to try recreating the famous place in miniature.
But there was a small problem.
“I had never done anything creative before, I never painted or built anything,” he said.
But there was a solution: YouTube.
“There are just tons of tutorials on how to make thumbnails, so YouTube was my school,” Wright said.
Using dense foam that he can sculpt into various shapes, as well as plaster and plastic, Wright has recreated the restaurant down to its weathered details, from its neon sign on the roof to its weathered paint, which he has weathered using several coats of paint and adding the look of rust in some places with the use of steel wool and vinegar. He even recreated graffiti tagged on the restaurant’s awning.
The first model took eight weeks to complete and was a dead replica of the restaurant.
Happy with his first creation, Wright began making miniature models of other landmarks he loved using similar methods, perfectly recreating details like the worn Morgan Camera Shop paint on Sunset and the weathered stone facade of Fugetsu. -Do, a confectionery in Petit Tokyo.
Wright makes all of his models in his apartment, and most are built in 1:24 scale, meaning the miniature building facades are approximately 12 inches wide and 16 inches high.
He is currently working on a commissioned piece recreating Philippe l’Original, the longtime downtown restaurant known for its French Dip sandwiches.
“I never expected that I would start building these things and people would ask for commissions or buy them. I was just doing this as something for myself and now people are asking for commissions and I’m kind of reserved for them. next few months, which is crazy,” he said.