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Mini hobby a huge hit

Created date

September 21st, 2010

A farm stand trimmed with pumpkins; a living room enveloping a Christmas tree and fireplace; a lighthouse along the seaside: all are scenes created by Bill Carey, who with imagination and precision plays the parts of architect, builder, and decorator. [caption id="attachment_14545" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Bill Carey stands behind shadow boxes that he builds at Brooksby Village and sells at the community s annual craft fair, held in early November. (Photo by Setarreh Massihzadegan) "][/caption] From his kitchen at Brooksby Village and the community s wood shop, Carey constructs miniature scenes in shadow boxes that he sells each year at Brooksby s Arts and Crafts Fair. It keeps the cobwebs out of my brain, Carey says of his hobby. It s an activity that requires concentration, originality, and creativity and that s all good stuff to work with.

Fascination for miniatures

Before retirement and his box-making, Carey was building model railroads. During that time, he built a dollhouse for a granddaughter and discovered the tiny furniture that went inside it. I developed a fascination for that sort of stuff, Carey says, which led him to specialize in the small trackside buildings of his model railroad sets. He then thought of making a tiny, stand-alone room similar to a dollhouse room. A lot of people don t have room for a dollhouse, but they may have room for a small room, Carey says. He began experimenting, creating 5- by-5-inch boxes depicting a baby s room, sewing room, and small kitchen, among others. Carey uses standard-size picture frames to enclose the boxes, which he makes from lattice stock wood. Calling upon woodworking skills gained from a course he took early in retirement, Carey typically fashions the tiny pieces of furniture and detailing from basswood but also incorporates toothpicks and occasional dollhouse accessories. Carey meticulously arranges each hand-painted piece inside the three-dimensional snapshot of a home.

Stumbling upon success

While Carey honed his skills, his wife, Mary, was already making cloth dolls that she sold at fairs. On a whim, he brought about seven of his boxes for his wife to sell alongside her goods at a fair. He went to get a haircut and when he returned 30 minutes later, all of the boxes had been sold. I said, Oh boy, maybe I ve stumbled upon something here, Carey remembers. The Careys were living in West Barnstable, Mass., on Cape Cod, an area he calls an absolute mecca for craft shows. The Careys went to work, creating boxes and dolls to sell in about 25 craft shows each year, a retirement business they cultivated for nearly 20 years. Now that I don t have a regular job, I can concentrate on this, says Carey, who worked as a commercial insurance underwriter in various cities on the East Coast until he retired.

Continued crafts

Though for years Carey found success in his retirement hobby, he hadn t planned to continue the work when he moved toBrooksbyfour years ago. When I came up here, I had no intention of doing craft shows anymore, Carey says, though he knew ofBrooksby swood shop. But shortly after moving in, Carey found out aboutBrooksby sannual craft fair, which raises money for the community s scholarship fund for student employees, and he couldn t resist being involved. Now Carey sells his boxes exclusively atBrooksby sfair. Next month s event will mark Carey s fourth in the community. He works about three hours a day, four days a week to amass an inventory of about 35 or 40 boxes to sell atBrooksby sfair. He has introduced newer boxes, including the popular Christmas scene, while bringing back favorites like theBrooksby VillageFarm Stand. The boxes range in price from about $12 to $50. With the experience of working on these over the years, you learn different techniques. You have to have a real liking for that kind of precision work and a great deal of patience and a good eye, Carey admits, adding humbly, I suppose I have artistic talent. Despite the hours he dedicates to his boxes, Carey also finds time to volunteer at the community s church services and in its TV studio, where he does camera, audio, and control room work.