Stop What You’re Doing and Look at This Miniature Massy Books

I consider Twitter to be my own personally curated hellscape of bummers: mostly global news and antiracist activism (a great thing, but also super depressing 90% of the time) and the odd local comedian’s hot take on COVID. There are very few bright lights on my feed, but I’m about to share one of them.

Writer and poet Isabella Wang just posted photos of her latest miniature project: a tiny Massy Books piled high with paperbacks from her favourite authors. The little store is the first in a series of local bookstore miniatures she’s working on. “For me, it has been so so therapeutic,” says Wang, who first got into making miniatures in an SFU sociology class. Each week, students were asked to submit a response to the reading. When the class read Roland Barthes, Wang was inspired by his analysis of miniature wooden toys.

“He talked about the miniature’s sociological effects on children—they were partly made to prepare young children for their everyday roles as adults,” says Wang. The miniature toys back then were made of wood (a far cry from the plastic most toys are made of now), which helped to connect children to their natural environment. Wang bought a miniature kit online and made a little library as her reading response, and quickly fell in love with the teeny-tiny task. 

While that first venture into miniatures was made from a kit, her Massy Books model was crafted completely from scratch. Using tacky glue, cardboard, wood, and little pieces of metal, she made an (almost) to-scale version of the store using pictures as a guide. Making a miniature requires a ton of patience and creativity—if you look closely, you can see that the bookshelves are held together with “bars” made from metal and plastic pearler beads that she painted black.

 As a writer, Wang says she felt naturally drawn to books as her miniature subject. “I am friends with writers who have put a lot into their books, and their faces light up when they see a miniature of their own book,” says Wang. She’s currently working on replicas of Iron Dog Books, Paper Hound, and Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam. She’s grateful for the work that local bookstores have done to support the community during these difficult times. “Each of the bookstores I have chosen to make are places where I have done readings at, and for some I am friends with the owners—they have a really nice vibe, and that’s where I get a sense of community the most,” she shares. 

For more of Isabella’s miniature work (and to take a small, much-needed breather from the crushing devastation of current events) you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @isabellawangbc.