Find a little bit of heaven at miniatures show, sale

By Emily DeRuy


La Jolla resident Florence Lambert will host the F/B Miniatures Collectors Show and Sale at the Al Bahr Shrine Center on May 22 and 23. The miniatures (an imitation in smaller size of some originals) will range from individual tables and chairs to exquisitely handcrafted doll houses.

Lambert has been collecting miniatures for more than 30 years.

“When I was 8 or 9, I was baptized and I wanted an altar like the one at church for my bedroom,” she said. “My father built one and that ended up being my introduction to miniatures, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. I got cloth to cover it and little candlesticks.”

Her initial foray into the world of miniatures would not be her last. Years later, she said, she and her husband were driving to Lake Tahoe and they stopped in the little town of Bishop on the way up.

“There was a darling doll house in a store window, in the Victorian style, with lots of gingerbread,” Lambert recalled. “Well, I got lucky in Tahoe, so on the way back, we stopped and bought the house. I was so excited, but then I didn’t know what to do with it.”

She brought the house back to La Jolla and soon found out about the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (N.A.M.E.), an organization of collectors and sellers.

The group provides a forum for members to exchange ideas and experiences. Lambert said she believes wholeheartedly in the association’s motto, “Only through sharing can we really enjoy our treasures.”

The show she is hosting will do just that — provide an opportunity for veteran collectors and novices alike to gather and enjoy a collection of miniatures brought from all over California and several states.

N.A.M.E. will have a booth at the event where attendees can join the organization.

“After I bought the first doll house, I just started collecting other things, and making stuff and selling it at shows,” Lambert said. “Now I put miniatures together from the things I’ve collected. You never know when you’re going to be able to use an item you’ve purchased, so I take things from over the years and I fix them up and put them together.”

Lambert eventually opened her own business, the Unique Mini Boutique. “It’s a business to support a hobby. Collecting can get very expensive,” she said.

Her show, however, will not drain pocketbooks. While some sellers will offer pieces for hundreds of thousands of dollars, her own collection of miniatures will sell for as low as 25 cents and up to $2,500.

How many miniatures has she amassed over the years? Lambert paused and glanced sideways at her husband, Brian. “Thousands,” he answered.

She added: “I don’t know why I find miniatures so fascinating. Perhaps it’s because they provide a retreat. We can preserve the past by re-creating it. We have control over a tiny world of our own, a world filled with beauty and fun.”

The show will attempt to convey that world to visitors. Some of Lambert’s favorite pieces from her collection will be on display, including an original, signed work by renowned artist Narcissa Thorne. “It’s precious, kind of priceless,” Lambert said. “It’s one of the few she did herself.”

The event will also host the work of Donald Riley, known more in the miniature world as “The Toy Maker.” Riley makes toys and miniatures by hand, and then gives them away.

He has donated work to libraries, hospitals, and children in Iraq. His piece “Arcade,” an intricate miniature with moving parts and lights, will make its San Diego debut at the event.

Also attending the show will be Gilbert Mena, a young miniaturist from Los Angeles. Lambert has served as something of a mentor to him, and she’s looking forward to seeing his work at the show.

Lambert has hosted and attended countless shows. This one, however, will be special. Each miniature will have an accompanying custom floral arrangement designed especially for the show. An opportunity drawing will generate donations for animal rescue organizations, including Chihuahua Rescue.

Lambert has an affinity for Chihuahuas, which, given her penchant for miniatures, makes sense.

“I’ve always liked little things,” she said.

Lambert has always been involved in animal welfare, serving on the board of Friends of County Animal Shelters (F.O.C.A.S.) for years. It was only fitting that she create a miniature called the “F.O.C.A.S. Board Meeting,” featuring an array of canines reclining on elaborate parlor settees. See it at the show.

If you go

  • What: F/B Miniature Collectors Show and Sale
  • When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 22; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 23
  • Where: Al Bahr Shrine Center, 5440 Kearny Mesa Road, San Diego
  • Tickets: $6 adults, $3 kids; free parking
  • Contact: (858) 454-4959