New & now
Teeny, tiny! My Miniature World is the first of its kind in Malta
We meet the talented woman building dolls houses with her bare hands.

Vanessa Conneely

Once upon a time, on the corner of a quiet street, near a place called Zonqor Point, in the village of Marsascala, there existed a teeny, tiny universe - My Miniature World, the creation of Rebecca Micallef. The mother-of-three has been building dolls houses since she was a teenager and, last year, she reduced her hours at the local council to give more time and attention to her hobby. With the help of her husband, she converted the family garage into a studio, and this now doubles as a showroom for some of the most elaborate dolls houses you could ever imagine.

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A lifetime passion

“I had my first dolls house when I was four,” says Rebecca. “Then I started building my own when I was 17. That first one took me six-years to complete and I still have it in my house today.”

Back when Rebecca started out, dolls houses or miniatures (the tiny pieces you put inside) were not available in Malta. “At that time, I had to make everything with my hands. Then the internet came along, and I decided to search online. I remember typing the words ‘dolls houses’ into the search engine and a new world opening up. I found a whole community of people like me. It was life changing. It was then that I started creating more and more.”

dolls house

One of Rebecca's detailed creations

Streets ahead

The detail in Rebecca’s work must be seen to be believed. In her showroom, she has completed an entire miniature replica of Regents’ Street in London. It contains a pub, an art gallery and a lady’s boutique filled with beautifully stitched clothing on the tiny people she has given life to. “Each doll has a name and their own character,” she adds. “Sometimes I even give them a backstory.”

Rebecca’s personal touch is everywhere in her work. From ‘Miss Leah’s Boutique’, named after her youngest daughter, to a hand-painted portrait of her father hanging over the fireplace in the Victorian pub. He’s even wearing Victorian clothing! “Each dolls house contains a lot of memories. I remember building one when I was fully pregnant. Another time, I got a phone call with some bad news while I was working on a house, so that memory is attached to that particular house.

dolls house

The tiny details in Rebecca's houses can take months to complete

Devil in the detail

“If I had to say I had a signature style I would describe it as busy. I would never leave a nook empty. Since the hobby is self-taught, there is a lot of trial and error and I can see an improvement. I wasn’t always good at making curtains for example. I use polymer clay for the bowls and crockery. There are some of the items I buy online, but for most of the furnishings I hand-make them."

“I work on one project at a time. Before I even start, I must do a lot of research to make sure everything is historically correct. For my Victorian dolls houses I make sure I stick to the Victorian period. The furniture, the clothing, food, walls, flooring, colours - all must be accurate. It’s the same for the Medieval and Tudor periods, although these are more difficult for me because they were all about dark colours and I like brighter tones.”

But if by-gone eras are not your thing, Rebecca can also make a more modern house. One of her creations is a four-storey Scandinavian-style house with glass walls, a herringbone floor, a telescope in the attic and a BBQ on the decked terrace.

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Price tag

So, who eventually buys these works of art? Rebecca says most of her customers are online because dolls houses are not very popular in Malta. But now that she has her own studio, she has been getting some enquiries from people living here too.

“If people are willing to pay the amount that is listed, I am ready to sell it. For example, I have one house called The Master Swordsman, which is named after my father who was himself a master swordsman. A woman came into the shop and asked if she could buy it for 900. I told her I would barely sell it for 10,000 since it took me nine months to make and it’s one-of-a-kind.”

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Build it yourself  

But don’t be put off. Rebecca also makes a more kid-friendly version which starts at around 200 for the basic wooden structure. She also encourages people to build their own houses by hosting workshops.

“I have some people who’ve come to me saying they have a dolls house, but they don’t know what to do with it. They’ve asked me to furnish it with miniatures for them, but I tell them it’s better if they do it themselves. This way they get to add their own character to it. They can choose their own wallpaper, their own furniture and their own dolls. It’s all part of the fun!”

As well as hosting workshops, Rebecca offers a one-hour tour of her studio in Marsascala. For details you can contact her on: 77761860 or email [email protected]

 

6th May 2019


Vanessa Conneely
Written by
Vanessa Conneely
Vanessa is an Irish writer whose travel lust has led her to Malta. She loves running, reading and finding new restaurants, as well as trawling Malta for vintage furniture and home décor.

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