Small is beautiful for Brits in 2012
This article looks at the British fascination for the smaller things in life. We love miniature pets, portraits, trains and dolls’ houses.
We seem to like small hotels, restaurants and holiday resorts. Even the world’s most famous small car, the made-in-Britain Mini, is breaking sales records.
Miniature animals including ponies, cats and dogs have always held a great appeal for us Brits and we love to showcase our pampered pets by dressing them up and entering them for shows.
It is not just our pets we like small, novelties abound in the shops with everything from tiny Champagne bottles to gem encrusted mobile phones on sale. Diamonds, of course, are an exception to the rule and have to be big and brash!
Portrait miniatures have always been popular in Britain. They began to flourish in 16th century Europe. In the days before photography miniature portraits were a great way to introduce people to each other over distances; a nobleman proposing the marriage of his daughter might send a courier with her portrait to visit potential suitors. Soldiers and sailors often carried miniatures of their loved ones while traveling.
The first miniaturists used watercolour to paint on stretched vellum. During the second half of the 17th century, vitreous enamel painted on copper became increasingly common. In the 18th century miniatures were painted with watercolour on ivory. As small in size as 40 mm × 30 mm, portrait miniatures were often used as personal mementos, jewellery or snuff box covers.
The expression small is beautiful is often attributed to British economist E. F. Schumacher who used it in the title of a 1973 collection of essays. It is often used to champion small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as "bigger is better".
When it comes to hobbies, the British seem to love anything small. Miniature railways have been an obsession for tens of thousands of people of all ages for generations.
The same is true for dolls’ houses which can often be decorated with, and populated by, tiny works of art.
If you doubt the popularity of this hobby take a trip to Miniatura, The International Dolls' House Modelling Show at the NEC on September 22 and 23.
Some childhood fascinations, it seems, never leave you. One of those is dolls houses and all the tiny things that go in them to make the perfect miniature home.
It may be a contradiction in terms but Miniatura is one of the biggest miniature events in the world. The show features miniaturists from around the globe who painstakingly hand make everything from a £2 silk cushion to a highly detailed handmade inlaid marquetry piece of furniture worth more than £4,000.
If you plan to attend The International Dolls' House Show then now is the time to check out the Birmingham NEC hotels as they tend to get booked out before popular events.
If you want to stay in a hotel in Birmingham before or after the show you will find the city itself has plenty to offer. It is famous for its nightlife and clubs which offer something for everyone.
As well as top restaurants serving food from all over the world, there are plenty of cultural activities whatever your taste, exciting shopping and even miles of canals to explore.