Big tools in Nancy Gale's basement workshop in Northborough are offset by the tiny tools in her miniature garage shop replica. Northborough – After four sons, Nancy Gale had a girl – and, at last – a dollhouse. Her daughter played with it, outgrew it and then it sat in the basement for years until dampness got it. It was 1988, and Gale decided she wanted a dollhouse of her own. The man who built the one she bought came to her house and installed electricity in it. That was the domino that led to Gale's longtime love of collecting and building miniatures.
Her Northborough home is full of thousands of little things. A dollhouse she's currently building includes a replica of the rooms her kids lived in when they were growing up. So far, it even has the boys” football trophies. Shrunken versions of them, that is. She's also got a half-made Jimmy Buffet tiki bar with itsy bitsy neon lights around it. She's in the midst of a dozen projects.
Part of what takes Gale's time away from completing some of the projects is her involvement as the co-coordinator for the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (NAME) M-2 (New England) region. She is also a former EMT, president of the Nor thborough Wome n's Club and works as a “standardized patient.” ( Standardized patients are individuals trained to portray the roles of patients or family members to allow medical students to practice physical exam, history taking and communication skills.)
Gale was introduced to NAME by someone she met at a miniature building club meeting. She went to a NAME event and joined in 1997. She's traveled around to different states learning details of how to construct objects. Lately she's been soaking up know-how closer to home by attending monthly meetings of Friends Thru Miniatures, NAME's local affiliate that meets at the Greendale People's Church in Worcester.
“They'se the most sharing people I'se ever met,” Gale said of those involved in the miniature world. She enjoys the camaraderie of others who share her passion and appreciates how willing everyone is to teach a skill.
Some techniques Gale has learned include making bunches of grapes by gluing mustard seeds together and making blossoms by shaping paper hole-punch remnants with a stylus. She's made a pot-belly stove out of ping-pong balls and stitched thousands of little stitches to make a little oriental rug. The carpet took her six years.
“You learn to make things out of nothing,” she said as she showed off a plaid jacket she made out of her daughter's old skirt scraps. The transformed garment was then draped loosely over a three-inch tall chair to give that lived-in look to a cabin-like room box she created.
Gale picked up so many skills over the years that she became proficient in creating things all her own. She's led classes, demonstrating how to make small tree houses. One she crafted herself has her son's and his wife's initials carved in the fake bark.
Her smile was huge when she talked about a palm tree she made out of a gauze bandage with Gesso “glopped” on.
At 77, Gale was as giddy as a little girl over her collection.
“It's just fun,” she said.
For more information about NAME, visit www.miniatures.org. To learn a “tiny bit” more about local club meetings, call Gale at 508-393-0330.