October 01, 2009

Featured Guest: Miniaturist Alice Zinn and her Amazing Miniature Dogs!

Today, I welcome guest Alice Zinn, who creates an array of realistic dogs and other miniature animals.

(Don't forget to check the blog special and contest at the end of her interview!)

Pictured: Amore del Puppy, patterned after The Lady and the Tramp

Even as a child, Florida miniaturist Alice Zinn knew the difference between real and collectible. Eight-year-old Alice was sick with chicken pox when her grandmother gave her a china replica of her collie, Lady. She loved it, but never thought the dog should go in her dollhouse. “To me, it was a statue, not a ‘real’ dog,” she says.

Old English Sheepdogs

Red Hat dog

In her 20's she began what many would consider a "dream job" - making miniatures professionally. Now 30 years later, she continues to provide collectors with a range of quality miniatures, including realistic dogs, cats, birds, and other animals that they can’t wait to add to their dollhouses and miniature scenes.

Why does she do it? For two reasons: she loves it and she loves to create.

“I love the process of working in a way which I think of as ‘inside out’,” she says. “I design pieces and THEN figure out how to achieve them.”

Chinese Crested Dogs

Of course, as much as she loves creating in miniature, there is one drawback…

“Designing is my passion, re-creating the same piece dozens of times is my curse!” she notes. “I enjoy learning, and developing new techniques and finding new media to make the pieces I design.”

Custom dog
One of her favorite aspects of designing is working with a theme. It's like potato chips... you can't have just one.

"When I am inspired to make something new, I usually work in themes, or categories," she says. "For example, a few years ago I got interested in making some Art Deco stuff, so I made everything from furniture to knickknacks for that period. The same with my line of Egyptian minis, wedding themed items and many other themes."

Even better is when that theme comes as a special order, like the amazing miniature circus she began working on in 2001.

In This Ring…

The circus, housed at the Miniature Memories Museum and Dollhouse Shop in Charleston, South Carolina, includes more than 100 animals and figures.

Then there are props and accessories such as tents, the bandstand, souvenir cart, signs, etc. It’s still a work-in-progress, with the audience members as yet to be completed.

(Note: Photos of the circus are not on the museum site and can be viewed at Alice’s webshots pages, see circus album. You may have to create an account and sign in to view the photos.)

Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My!

Another large-scale project, “Disembarking,” was shown at the spring 2006 Bishop’s Chicago International Show. It took her three months to make the room, which features a backdrop of an original pastel painting by her mother, Julie Pantages. It shows 108 animals Alice made that have left the Ark after the flood waters receded.

That's just a fragment of the incredible assortment of miniatures that Alice has made over the years. For her and her customers that's the best part - seeing what new creation she comes up with next.

Alice agrees that she is lucky - she has a job that's fun, creative, and that she doesn't mind doing every day. She jokes, "needing to eat and pay bills keeps me going. And...this is probably the best job I can get at my age! LOL. But seriously, what I enjoy about it is the creative process, and the freedom of being my own boss. I'm a night owl so making my own time schedule suits me."

Notable achievements:

* Making an 8-foot-long miniature circus with more than 100 pieces.

* Making 108 animals for an original Noah’s Ark scene.

Worst moment?

* "It had to be the very first show I ever did, an outside craft show, where it began raining in the middle of the day, or the first Ann Weiner Miniature Show in NJ where I sold one piece to another dealer during set up and nothing else for the rest of the show."

Of course there was that tree in the Noah's Ark scene, which, she admits, "took several days alone" to glue over 1,000 leaves.

Most miniaturists might pause at that thought, or even give up; not Alice, who calls it, "sort of a Zen couple of days."

Blog Special:

** Get Alice’s fun how-to book, A DOG FOR ALL SEASONS with instructions to make more than 15 holiday dog outfits. (The outfits can also be adjusted to fit other animals.)

The A DOG FOR ALL SEASONS set, which includes the book, plus a kit with fabric and accessories to make 15 of the outfits, is available for $25. (Dogs not included.) Seven sets are available. The book is available individually for $10.

See details at her webshots link above or here.

Blog Contest:

* Share your favorite dog story, or a story about one of Alice’s mini dogs or other animals, in the comments section and you can win your own book/kit set of A DOG FOR ALL SEASONS. (Dog not included). Contest ends 10/15/09.

NOTE: If you have one of Alice’s dogs or animals, send me a photo of it alone or in a scene with description (to chrisATcverstraeteDOTcom) and I’ll post it for you. This is for photos with descriptions ONLY.

Comments without photos must be posted on the blog to be entered. Emailed comments will not be considered. **Be sure to include an email, blog address, or name of miniatures list you’re on so we know where to find you if you’re the winner.** (Note: Comments are manually approved so will not show up on blog immediately.)


  1. These are absolutely incredible. Thanks so much for sharing them with us!

  2. Those miniatures are awesome! I love the detail and they've really captured each breed's traditional look and feel. I'm impressed.

    Love those little mini-dog costumes, too! With Halloween coming up, I've got to find a new costume for my little black terrier. Last year was easy - I went as Dorothy, and my dog went as Toto. He didn't even need a costume!

  3. I met Alice about 5 years ago after helping with an auction to benifit Alice after she hurt her back. I got to meet her in person at a CIMTA show soon after and we started talkng like we had known each other all out lives. She gave me a miniature golden retriever as a gift and he was a beauty with flowing fur and a great personality face! After I brought it home, I was at one end of a long table showing off the dog one evening. My little girl cat, Katy, jumped up on the table at the other end, saw the dog and immediately HISSSSSED and raised her back. I later told Alice I could think of no greater praise for one of her miniature dogs than getting a reaction like that from a real live cat!

  4. Your animals are amazing, they look so real. I would love to be able to make these. I see another new project just around the corner for me to try. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I love her Chinese Cresteds. I met Alice at the Tom Bishop Chicago Show in 2008 & she is a wonderfully nice person!

    Her talent is unsurpassed. Wish I could have her recreate my son's first dog Bullet (beagle) & his second dog Hercules (lab), both of who passed away a long time ago. Would you believe he STILL remembers these dogs? He was THREE when Bullet died!

    Keep up the great work Alice and I hope to see you again in Chicago one year!

    Marilyn H.

  6. Alice Zinn is truly gifted. I am so happy to see her fabulous dogs on exhibit in Chris's blog. (What a great interview, too!) Alice and I have been friends for seven years or more and I am continually amazed at her ability to come up with new and exciting themes for each show. Besides her obvious talents in creating minis, Alice shares freely, with tips and hints and free how-to's, sites that she has checked out, bargains that she finds on her trips, and also contributes prizes for contests on the CAMP mini list. Her travelogues allow all of us to go along vicariously, and when she actually comes through El Paso after CIMTA in Las Vegas, it is always the highlight of my year. Alice is also the first to send a card when someone needs cheering and support, and I treasure our friendship. Love ya, Alice! Wanna in El Paso


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