“Tissues and Aquadhere,” says Bouzianis-Sellick with a laugh. “The paper towels had a bit more stiffness but they didn’t have the same flexibility.”
Ingenuity is everything. When she needed hedges and fields for an English countryside, she went to a Greek supermarket and bought bags of dried oregano and tore the dried leaves from the stems. (It made the room smell like pizza.) She then covered sponge moss with glue and rolled it in crumbled oregano to create a meadow that she dotted with tiny specks of blue and pink moss to look like to wildflowers. The stems have become trees.
For the scary forest of Gargoyle, she snatched some dried marshmallows near her home and painted them white on the back so they look subdued. The castle was conjured up from a Gladwrap tube, lace doilies, more fabrics and plaster. “Most of our movies are made on the principle of ‘if you can’t do it, you can’t have it’ because we don’t have a budget for most of them,” she says. “You learn to think outside the box.”
The miniaturists set to work, using all the ingenuity that Bouzianis-Sellick knew of them. The Taronga Park episode was the easiest to access, as the diorama was ancillary to the Museum of Sydney. How to move a zoo project. The project celebrated the successful relocation in 1916, partly by ferry or barge, of 228 mammals, 552 birds and 64 reptiles from Sydney’s cramped and gloomy first zoo at Moore Park to a much more humane open-air bush environment at Taronga Park.
This one fascinated Bouzianis-Sellick because the model makers used the new miracle tools of the miniaturists: 3D printing and precision laser cutting. “It’s a new world, a dream come true,” she says. “How many times would we say, ‘why isn’t there a box where you can just go ‘bzzz’ and make a pair of little kitchen tongs?” And now you can.
The sad phrase “it was a hobby gone wrong” comes back among the modelers whose work drives this show. For some, their favorite thing is making exquisite little flowers, or throwing tiny pots on a wheel, or creating trees out of wire and chopped moss. To experiment with the texture of elephant skin, talcum powder was mixed with gray paint. For the Adelaide Botanical Gardens circus tents, teabags were just the ticket.
“The tea bags are great – they don’t fall apart in water but they become soft and malleable to let the tea through, so you can stuff them with glue and manipulate them for texture,” Bouzianis-Sellick says. . “The railroad guys use them to sheet train loads because as they dry they tighten up, which gives tension.”
To create a forest, all you need to do is strip the wire from an electrical cable, twist it by hand, artistically arrange its top into branches, and add a canopy of spray-painted chopped foam leaves in a nice shade of green. Then repeat this a hundred times. “When you start creating forests of trees, you never look at trees the same way when you drive to work because you think ‘this is an interesting shape,'” she says. “You give it a pull and a tug and you can create a whole new tree.”
The episode set in Broome was special because it was more handcrafted, with piers and buildings made from found objects. Most of it was the work of local miniaturist Lachie Fraser, who loves the old town and sees great beauty in its structures. He also designed probably the most inventive and gorgeous miniature in the series; a small diver’s helmet made from a repurposed washer bent to bend, with a ball bearing welded to the top and tiny rubber O-rings used to create the port. Spray painted copper gold, it was a mini masterpiece.
Broome’s visit also brought Bouzianis-Sellick into contact with people connected to his story, including a diver who nearly drowned when someone mistakenly cut his air. Every day when he went diving for pearls, he wondered if he would see his family again. “It was an amazing story, to be by his side and listen to him. It brings me to tears now,” she said. “He had such a lovely smile and personality and you think ‘it could have been lost due to the negligence of someone who thought he was up and turned off the pump.'”
TAKE 7: RESPONSES ACCORDING TO JOANNE Bouzianis-Sellick
- Worst habit? Couldn’t walk past an operating store, yard sale, or hard junk, or resist that vintage outfit.
- Biggest fear? I’m running out of time before realizing all the fantastic ideas in my head.
- The line that stayed with you? Better to look at it than to look for it.
- Biggest regret? Shave my sisters and my eyebrows… I was only six years old.
- Favorite room? A room filled with family, friends and lots of laughter.
- The artwork/song you wish was yours? Rundle Mall’s famous Ball’s Balls sculpture, but in miniature, of course.
- If you could solve one thing? Poverty. The world is missing too many amazing individuals who don’t get the chance to share their skills and talents because they are just struggling to survive.
Bouzianis-Sellick, whose father is Greek and mother English, grew up with the idea of becoming a chef and running a small Adelaide cafe. But she was strongly influenced by learning how to make things at home and remembers her father pointing out tiny insects and grubs in their garden. a slater on a leaf, or a small spider. Once she had a camera, her interest in the visual arts took off and she majored in film photography and animation at the University of Adelaide, which led to an internship at Anifex and soon after, a job.
Her colleague Greg Sweeney, in whose workshop we met, has nothing but admiration for the way she handles her electric saw. She keeps a thrift box handy in her studio just in case, which currently includes a small gold clock, a stationery packet with mini paper clips and a stapler, a small hymnal and a crocheted starfish. “Some people say you’re an artist; I see myself more as an artisan,” says Bouzianis-Sellick. “I have the impression of seeing things and transforming them into other things. I like to reuse and recycle and I make jewelry and things from old toys and clocks, found objects.
Her screen presence is so warm and easy that it’s not hard to imagine her being invited back, and to be clear, she wouldn’t mind. “I had the best time of my life. It was really fun and I really appreciate having the chance to come and play, so to speak,” she says. “I really hope there’s something else for me – or it could just be a tiny little moment in my life.”
The last episode of small ounce is on ABC, Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m., and all episodes are available on ABC iview.
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