Meet the Mill Valley woman behind the 24 miniature freeway signs hidden throughout the Bay Area

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Chelsea Andersson doesn’t have much room.

As, really doesn’t have much room: we chat on Zoom while she sits on the living room floor of her tiny studio in Mill Valley, sandwiched in a small nook between a sofa and a coffee table – essentially the only floor available space in the apartment she shares with her husband.

Unsurprisingly, the Long Island transplant — who moved to the Bay Area seven years ago to become a landscape architect — has a hustled side doing the only thing she actually has room for: miniatures.

Over the past five years, she has handcrafted tiny versions of everyday objects like toilet paper rolls, coffee sets, and camping gear for everything from dollhouses to advertisements to stop motion videos on chelseamakes.com, pocketing a dollar here or there to help offset Mill Valley rents.

I ask him if there was a maker’s version of baking sourdough bread during the pandemic; she laughs, tells me it was tie-dye and then tells me a little secret.

“I surprise people when I tell them I’m a bit introverted,” she says, completely surprising me. “A great day for me is creating and watching TV, so the pandemic has been a little easier for me than it has been for a lot of people. It’s given me a chance to really spend more time doing things. I have a few personal projects that have come out of the pandemic, one of them is Tiny Highways USA.

“Basically, I made miniature road signs, recreated existing signs in miniature, and displayed them next to the actual sign.”

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs…only younger.

Courtesy of Chelsea Andersson

I check his Instagram page as we talk and scroll through it until I find pictures of the panels. For as simple as they are, they consume my attention. I immediately imagine Beverly Cleary’s mouse on a motorcycle flying under these perfect miniatures. They’re a lot of fun, and although they’re smaller than the palm of your hand, they all look like the real thing up close, except for a few fun changes: the small version of the Highway 1 sign reads “Highway . 01” and Bolinas is rather “Not Bolinas” because, according to Andersson, “the people of Bolinas would rather be left out”.

But mostly I have questions.

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs...only younger.

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs…only younger.

Courtesy of Chelsea Andersson

How many have you made? Where are they? Can I go see them?

Andersson tells me she’s placed 24 in the Bay Area, mostly in Marin County (although I’m pretty sure there’s also one in Albany Bulb), and yes, you can go ’em see if you can find them – there’s no map, the only real clue is that they’re located right next to the sign they’re replicating.

Oh and also…

“A couple was robbed,” she laments. “But I replaced them.”

Andersson wears dangling earrings that she designed herself (if her online store is any indication), as well as a way too warm brown sweater. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with her, and throughout the interview, she can’t help but smile.

There’s a reason for that, though.

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs...only younger.

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs…only younger.

Courtesy of Chelsea Andersson

She quit her job as a landscape architect last week to become a full-time designer, a move that will likely be helped by her starring in the third season of NBC’s competitive craft show “Making It.” and contagious. which features longtime “Parks and Rec” stars Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler, who act as the show’s warm hosts.

Andersson will be the very first miniaturist on “Making It” when it debuts on Thursday, June 24, and says she’s probably tied for her hosts’ biggest fan.

“Rising from being a huge ‘Making It’ and Fan of ‘Parks and Rec’, I was completely nervous and freaked out the first few minutes,” she says. “When they were there they were so warm and welcoming, even off camera, just chatting about life, everyday things while we weren’t riding. They were as wonderful as you would want them to be.

The 29-year-old says one of the reasons she took on the show is that she knew it was more about community than competition and points to the show’s intro sequence, where Poehler and Offerman mention the $100,000 prize but then say it’s not about the money, “it’s about a job well done.”

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs...only younger.

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs…only younger.

Courtesy of Chelsea Andersson

It’s the kind of mantra that motivated her to spend hours creating and placing miniature freeway signs all over the Bay Area.

“It was all a way to get me out of my own head. It was something that I thought would be fun and cute, and inspire other people to go out and seek them out.


Consider me inspired.

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs...only younger.

Miniaturist and prop designer Chelsea Andersson recreates California road signs…only younger.

Courtesy of Chelsea Andersson

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