Showcasing the giant talents of Ottawa's mini-artists

Two featured artists pose next to the Ottawa Miniature Gallery, an art project started last year by glass artist Jennifer Anne Kelly.  (Christine Goodyear - image credit)
Two featured artists pose next to the Ottawa Miniature Gallery, an art project started last year by glass artist Jennifer Anne Kelly. (Christine Goodyear - image credit)

A selection of molded copper, crushed beach glass and amethyst and citrine gemstones — hand-crafted to resemble glistening geodes no larger than 2.5 centimetres by 2.5 centimetres — makes up one of the tiny art works collected by Jennifer Anne Kelly as part of her initiative to make art more accessible to locals.

Kelly calls it the Ottawa Miniature Gallery, which is now on display at a local coffee shop.

"Taking the gallery experience out onto the street or out into unusual public spaces, and showing it to people who would not otherwise walk into those spaces is a thrill," said the artist and curator.

Trevor Pritchard/CBC
Trevor Pritchard/CBC

The current exhibit is housed inside the Happy Goat on Laurel Street near Little Italy, but the project has also been spotted on Britannia Beach's bike path, in Westboro's Winston Square and at Carlingwood Shopping Centre since it began last year.

The mini gallery stands more than 180 centimetres tall with three stackable floors. It has interior lighting, hardwood floors, 12 showrooms and a sticker graffiti wall in an effort to mimic a miniature gallery space.

Inside, the exhibit features 30 artists across Ontario with two to three art pieces per room. Depending on the art, Kelly likes to space it out.

"To me, it's very important that it has that gravitas of air around it so that people can really see it featured," she explained.

Kelly says she wants the gallery to be inviting for anyone not comfortable in a traditional gallery space, who might not be "big fans of art."

"No matter the person's age, their face lights up when they look inside and see the miniature art," she said.

Trevor Pritchard/CBC
Trevor Pritchard/CBC

A not-so-mini community

In the gallery's first exhibit in 2022, Kelly, who is also a glass artist, displayed a miniature glass sculpture she created with "spindly bits on it" and a glass backdrop.

But since then, she's turned the space over to other artists who have a giant talent of making mini art. Her only guideline was the art had to be scaled to 1/12, meaning 30.5 centimetres would be shrunk down to 2.5.

Kristin Lagman, owner of a miniature clay art business called Much love, Harry & Co., said she was happy to have a place to showcase the mini crafts she's long created.

"I've always kind of had an affinity for making small things. When I was a kid, I would try to make origami, with the smallest piece of paper. I think it's just the extra challenge of trying to make something the smallest you possibly can," Lagman said.

Aaron Daniels Casey, another Ottawa artist featured in the current exhibit, said through creating his mini-work he developed a newfound appreciation for this city's arts community.

"When I saw all the miniature works assembled together in this space, it feels larger than life and you really appreciate the detail and everything that goes into it," he said, adding his mini-contribution has led him to incorporate more small work into his practice.

Trevor Pritchard/CBC
Trevor Pritchard/CBC

Kelly said anyone can create miniature art and she's always on the lookout for new artists.

"I encourage other people to try working in miniatures because you only need the teeniest little ball of clay or the tiniest little scrap of paper to get started."