Achieving very small things is a day of work for JoAnne Bouzianis-Sellick.
The cinematographer and craft artist has spent the past 30 years working with Adelaide animation company Anifex, where she is frequently called upon to make or source miniature objects and props for TV commercials and short films.
“I am told that I am paid to go to kindergarten every day”, laughs Bouzianis Sellickwho loves nothing more than making something from scratch and getting crafty with vintage tools.
“I’ve made dressing gowns for a stick of cheese, I’ve made tutus for lollipops, I’ve made sofas and miniature sofas, I’ve made so many curtain sets… I can’t even make large curtains but I’m a miniature curtain professional!
The tutu, in case you were curious, was for an advertisement for Pascals sweets. It was made entirely of lollipop wrappers and carried by a Columbine caramel.
At the other end of this upside-down ladder, Bouzianis-Sellick remembers making a 2m-long pink rubber glove for a Louie the Fly commercial.
“Louie the Fly is about the size of a box of tissues and he was sitting under the kitchen sink in this commercial and all under the sink we had to do as bigatures. So we had a giant bottle of detergent soap and a giant bottle of bleach and a sponge and scouring pad and I had to make a giant pink rubber glove.
“I work every day in a field where everything is not on the right scale.”
All of which leaves her perfectly qualified to co-host, with comedian Jimmy Rees, the new three-part TV series. small ouncea Northern Pictures production that sees the duo travel from Sydney to Broome to Adelaide as they follow teams of talented craftsmen and model makers recreating fascinating moments from Australia’s history – in miniature.
The first episode of small ounce, broadcast on ABC TV on Tuesday, is inspired by the 1916 move of hundreds of animals from a zoo on Sydney’s south side to their new home at Taronga Zoo in Mosman. Since the Sydney Harbor Bridge was not yet built, they had to be escorted on foot through the middle of the city and transported across the water on barges.
Bouzianis-Sellick visits Sydney’s Yippee ki yay workshop, where a team uses 3D printing and laser cutting techniques to reconstruct the streetscape and menagerie of characters in miniature, including a 39mm-tall replica of Taronga Zoo’s first owner, a cast of onlookers in period costume and animals including an elephant, snakes, camels, a lion, a monkey and a myriad of birds.
Other creatives also have a role in the painting which will eventually be displayed at the Museum of Sydney, with miniature artisans using more traditional craft techniques to craft the plants and trees, add details and accessories that bring the characters to life.
“Each episode is interesting because each shows a different style and technique,” explains Bouzianis-Sellick. “You don’t need to have a specific skill to be a miniaturist.”
She explains that for the second episode, which transports viewers to Broome during the pearl’s heyday in the early 1990s, the miniature artist, carpenter and model maker Lachlan Fraser used mostly found objects, household materials and hardware items to create a model that encompasses the Western Australian town and its rich history.
The Adelaide episode draws on the talents of the South Australian Railway Modellers Association (SARMA), whose members were recruited to recreate the balloonist scene Thomas Gale’s Hot Air Balloon Launch in June 1871.
It was reported at the time that a crowd in the thousands had gathered in the Parklands and in every available place to watch Gale’s attempt to climb the ball from the grounds of the exhibition building on North Terrace on June 20. Insufficient gas supply was blamed for its initial launch failure. , but on its second try a few days later, the balloon reached the height of its 60m tether.
“These events have been very well attended,” says Bouzianis-Sellick. “And Thomas Gale met his beloved Lavinia [Balford] as they watched through the cane basket of the balloon rising through the air. They became husband and wife… and both are here in West Terrace Cemetery.
During the search for the episode, the small ounce the team also took note of the Van Tassel SistersGladys and Valérie, “lady trapeze artists” and parachutists whose entertaining escapades were considered rather scandalous in conservative circles.
“Back in the day, they were jumping out of these hot air balloons – quite scantily clad for that time – with nothing more than what I would call a canvas parasol strapped to their backs… they were jumping out of these baskets and doing tricks like they were plummeting to the ground and the crowd was cheering, they had no control over where they landed.
“If they landed anywhere else they were driven back to the crowd where they were cheered on and a marching band played etc, so it was quite an event.”
For their miniature recreation of the Adelaide event, which is on display in the foyer of the State Library of SA, model makers SARMA made hot air balloons that go up and down, with tiny versions of Thomas and Lavinia in a basket and the Tassel sisters hanging around the diorama. In addition to a miniature version of the Palm House, they also worked on two rare old photos to replicate the exhibit building.
The model includes the Botanical Gardens, including picnickers and other spectators, show tents, and a man riding a tightrope bike through the Torrens.
Like all miniature paintings, it is a showcase of imagination and ingenuity: sponge moss, for example, is used to create garden hedges and borders, while a fountain has been fashioned from ‘items found.
“Teabags feature prominently in the Adelaide diorama,” says Bouzianis-Sellick, who had the opportunity to work on elements of the small ounce models itself.
“You wouldn’t know it, but all the [sideshow] tents are made of tea bags…guys [from SARMA] usually use teabags to make the tarps and things on their train carriages and they work great because the material is designed to be in water; it doesn’t collapse.
“I always say look for the little things because those are the things that will surprise you.”
small ounce premieres Tuesday, April 19 on ABC TV and ABC iview. The model of the Adelaide hot air balloon will be on display in the foyer of the State Library of South Australia from April 13 to May 29 (details here).
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