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Small worlds attract many to Lexington miniature convention

This vignette, created by Kim Wood and  based on  the book "Where The Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak, was one of 32 vignettes that will be used as centerpieces and given away at a dinner at the convention for  the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts being held this weekend at the Clarion Hotel, 1950 Newtown Pike in Lexington, Ky., Friday, May 17, 2013. The conventions,  which are also called Houseparties,  are gatherings of like minded miniature enthusiasts who come together to play and learn all about the miniatures world. More than 250 people are attending his Houseparty, which is themed "Playtime Memories" . Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
This vignette, created by Kim Wood and based on the book "Where The Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak, was one of 32 vignettes that will be used as centerpieces and given away at a dinner at the convention for the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts being held this weekend at the Clarion Hotel, 1950 Newtown Pike in Lexington, Ky., Friday, May 17, 2013. The conventions, which are also called Houseparties, are gatherings of like minded miniature enthusiasts who come together to play and learn all about the miniatures world. More than 250 people are attending his Houseparty, which is themed "Playtime Memories" . Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

People, furniture and animals standing only a few inches tall are at the center of a convention at the Clarion Hotel on Newtown Pike this weekend.

About 250 people from coast to coast gathered in Lexington Wednesday to begin a weekend of celebrating all things tiny.

Workshops at the convention allow members of the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts to practice and share techniques in the craft of making dioramas. The meetups are repeated several times a year in a variety of locations.

The organization's motto is "Only through sharing can we enjoy our treasures," said Jane Justis of Lexington. "And it becomes more and more true every day."

Many attend the convention from out of state, with several from California, Florida and Maine, regional coordinator Babette Overman said.

Robin Betterley and her husband have been making miniatures as their only source of income for 38 years.

"I started this as kind of a hobby," Betterley said. "And then it kind of exploded. I didn't know there was a whole world of miniatures out there, so when I discovered it, I was smitten."

Betterley and her husband once took their creations on a two-month road trip, driving from their home in Maine to California and back. At stops along the way, they shared their love of miniatures. They also periodically tour Europe with their miniatures.

Members have a variety of reasons for traveling to create and admire miniatures, but most cite friendship as the primary motivation.

"These are sisters, and sometimes brothers," Justis said.

The youngest participant in the convention was 10-year-old Zoe Barmore of Middleton, Wis.

"I like building and making the miniatures," Barmore said. "And I like being with the people."

Building miniatures benefits children because they practice art, geometry and math, said Lesia Lenney, a Morehead State University professor.

"I've been doing this since I was 4," Lenney said. "It lets me use my creativity and express myself in an artistic nature."

Some convention participants take advantage of the opportunity to buy others' creations.

Overman and another woman once jointly paid $1,000 to buy two furniture pieces standing only a few inches tall. The pieces had been crafted by a prominent miniature artist, Overman said. Most of the items vary widely in price.

Regardless of the specific reasons for attending the conventions, most members of the association share a deep fascination and passion for creating tiny storytelling scenes, members said.

"I have a tremendous love, as all of us do, of small things," Justis said.


If you go

What: National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts regional convention.

Where: Clarion Hotel, 1950 Newtown Pike.

When: 1:30-5 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: Adults, $5; children, free.

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