Last year, amid a hellstorm of unemployment and an impending global pandemic, my husband Tony started making miniatures from scratch. I wrote about it for Discourse Blog at the time, and forecasted a few of his future works. It’s now nearly a year later and he’s still building. Meanwhile, my embroidery project, loom project, foray into botanical sketches, Spanish practice, and unstrung violin are literally and figuratively sitting in the closet. My sourdough starter is still alive though, thank you.
Soon after I initially blogged about his builds, Tony set to work on a pair of lifeguard towers. The first is called “Precambrian Lifeguard Tower” and the second is called “Fossian Lifeguard Tower.”
Then he made a pair of spooky doors: “Precambrian Gateway” (yes it’s a running theme) and “Receiving Gateway.”
Then he made “Seed Pod.” I don’t ask questions.
The he returned to our old friend, Taco Bell. But this time it isn’t simply dilapidated, it’s oozing lava and called “T A C B E L.” This man’s mind…
Here is “T A C B E L” in process in Tony’s new workspace: the garage!!! A big development for us.
Perhaps the most exciting development of all though, is that Tony did his first semi-professional builds for Alive From Whispering Pines—a streaming show from the band Lord Huron that’s part concert series, part tall tale, and a few other parts I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) begin to explain. (Full disclosure: Lord Huron’s frontman, Ben Schneider, is my brother!) First, Tony made WBUB, a mythical broadcast station in the woods…
Then he made The Broken Bottle—a desert dive bar with a storied history and an interesting cast of regulars. He also created a (life-size) interior of The Broken Bottle (as well as a window display set), which you can see in part in the band’s new video (which Tony also made, phew!).
Tony’s miniatures are a hobby, a creative passion project, a conscious effort to get away from screens and into the real (“real”) world, and an attempt to throw himself at the wall and see what sticks—an effort that has felt more valuable than ever during the last year.
A few weeks ago he asked me if I’d read the great Mads Mikkelsen interview in Vulture, or if I’d at least read “the quote.” It’s this one:
Is there a life philosophy that you feel has carried you through your career?
My approach to what I do in my job — and it might even be the approach to my life — is that everything I do is the most important thing I do. Whether it’s a play or the next film. It is the most important thing. I know it’s not going to be the most important thing, and it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career. That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something — a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important.
On the afternoon that he asked me if I’d read this, Tony was toiling away and worrying about a project, wondering if it would be any good. I told him I had indeed read the Mads interview, and that it reminded me of him. He smiled the smallest, barely detectable smile and nodded, still staring at his work. We’ve talked since then about hanging a portrait of Mads on the gallery wall we’re slowly compiling in front of the desk where he works. I’m partial to this one because Mads looks like an Arctic explorer who either didn’t return or lost his entire crew, and resorted to cannibalism or perhaps developed a debilitating drinking problem.
We’ve spent a lot of time this last year talking about the future, and being hyper-aware of all the ways that we’ve been forced to delay joy, and concurrently, how doing that can rob you of time and happiness. The pandemic has robbed us of so many things as we’ve waited for life to begin again. Still, we’ve tried and failed and tried again during the last 14 months to think about and focus on the present, and make things the “most important” where we can. We’ll keep trying as the world changes again. Even if those things are very tiny.
See more of Tony’s work at https://www.instagram.com/friendsofthemuseum/